Friday, December 18, 2009

Fiction: The After House

The After House (Mary Roberts Rinehart, Dell, 1960)
Though not exactly a household name today, Rinehart was in her day one of the most successful writers around, and her mystery novels have influenced pop culture in a multitude of ways, both direct and indirect. For example, her work and style can be seen echoing in the writings of the more famous writers Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, and her indirect and distant influence can actually be tied to Bob Kane’s The Batman.

Born August 12, 1876 to a relatively poor family in what is now Pittsburgh PA (but was then a small town called Allegheny), by the time she died in New York on September 22, 1958, she was living in an 18-room apartment at 630 Park Avenue. A forerunner of the Stephan King school of extreme daily verbiage, long before the advent of the word processor she claimed that a good day saw her scribbling up to 4,000 words. It is no wonder then that by the time of her death she had written or co-written over 50 books, numerous plays, hundreds of short stories and an untold number of articles, travelogues, poems and other such stuff. A rather auspicious final tally for a woman who supposedly originally began writing in 1903 simply as a distraction from depression, but then, she had the luck of immediate success, her first novel, The Circular Staircase (1907) being an immediate best seller (it was made into a film in 1915).

Her biggest and perhaps everlasting and most influential success came in 1920. Deciding that she wanted to conquer Broadway as well, in 1917 she began reworking the basic plot and structure of The Circular Staircase, changing the sex and job of both the bad guy/girl and various victims, the time frame as well as other aspects of the story, and with co-writer Avery Hopwood’s help, premiered the play The Bat three years later at the Morosco Theatre. A hit, the play lasted 867 performances there and has been filmed at least three times. Aside from the two versions by Roland West, The Bat (1926) and The Bat Whispers (1930), The Bat was also remade with Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price in 1959 (trailer).
And, actually, it can be argued that Rinehart’s play was more or less plagiarized by John Willard for his (today) much more famous play The Cat & The Canary (1922), which has been filmed and re-filmed too many times to count, Paul Leni’s 1927 version being the best, Radley Metzger’s 1978 version being the worst. (How much Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap owes to The Bat is also arguable.) And, as mentioned previously, it has been stated that Bob Kane saw West’s 1926 version of The Bat and was so impressed by the bat costume worn by the bad guy that he used it as inspiration for his own much more famous and influential creation, The Batman. (West, by the way, while a forgotten filmmaker today and probably only remembered—if at all—as the main suspect in the famous but still officially unsolved murder of Thelma Todd, his girl at the time, was a stylistic maestro whose current status as forgotten belies the unbelievable visual creativity and experimentation of his films, a style comparable at times to that of filmmakers as varied as Karl Freund and Sam Raimi.)
All that said, The After House isn’t really all that good. Originally published in 1914, the best thing the 1960 Dell printing has going for it is the cover painting by Victor Kalin, one of the top mystery novel cover illustrators of the early 60s. Incorporating various important aspects of the story itself, the dark, brooding cover painting is a sort of natur morte featuring an ax with a blood-red handle buried in the deck of a desolate boat, a key tied to its head, an empty liquor bottle lying next to it.
Told in retrospect by the book's nominal hero, The After House is the story of “a hodge-podge of characters, motives, passions, all working together towards that terrible night of August twelfth, nineteen hundred and eleven, when hell seemed loose on a painted sea.” Well, the description on the seventh page might be true, but it fails to mention how boring the book is, and how easy it is to spot the murderer, even if his motivations as revealed in the end are unbelievably lame.

Leslie—the manly name of the manly hero—gets himself hired for a cruise and way out at sea one crewmate disappears, two people get seriously hacked to death while a third simply gets it in the head. Who killed the four? Leslie? One of the women? The drunken alcoholic owner of the boat? The second mate? Why not the only other nominal character introduced, the super-religious sailor? Of course, everyone suspects everyone, and others try to protect others by destroying evidence. No one is likable, so in the end, the reader doesn’t even care and begins to think “come on with it, get the story over with!”

Like most of Rinehart’s stories, the killer is revealed at the novel’s end not by any subtle detection, but through a contrived event resulting in the revelation and confession of the killer. In this case, it’s via an unexpected midnight meeting between the killer, the hero and the hero’s friend aboard the boat. Talk about lame. No wonder this book never got made into a film—not only is it predictable, it bores as well.

Thus The After House reveals that Mary Roberts Rinehart also had a huge influence upon Stephan King in other ways than just verbiage.....

Images (all from the web, top to bottom): The cover of the print reviewed here; the god lady herself; another reprint; yet another reprint.

Non-Fiction: Tales from the Prom

Tales from the Prom (Elissa Stein & Daniel Mailliard, St. Martin’s Griffen, 1998)
A great idea done moderately well. Described as a selection of "the most heartbreaking, hysterical, pathetic and true prom stories ever," the book does indeed contain such a collection, and they are indeed wonderfully, embarrassingly entertaining. Regrettably, rather than concentrate on such stories, the authors pad out the relatively slim volume—actually, considering the price and type size, the very slim volume—with unnecessary and unentertaining passages containing such things as condensed synopsises of Prom related movies, pointless reinterpretations of old Prom themes and unfunny comments about Prom fashions of the past and present. Had they simply included more true stories, the book would be much, much better, not to mention much more entertaining. Prom stories—like first date stories, first sex stories and first drunk and/or drug stories—are usually so awkward and mortifying that they need no assistance to keep the reader interested.

True Crime: Silent Testimony

Silent Testimony (Roger W. Walker, 1990, St. Martin's True Crime)

"One late summer night in 1976, Florence Busacca,
a former opera singer, was reported missing."

True crime? More like truly boring. A reprint of a book that was originally printed in 1984, telling of the trial Thomas Busacca, convicted of killing his wife of 25 years despite the fact that there was no body. (The body of Florence Busacca was only found three years later, and then by accident.) Walker may have been one of the detectives working on the case, but it doesn't help him any in writing an interesting book. Most of the book is simply the trial transcripts regurgitated as dialog. Boring. No: BOORRIINNGG!!
There is little insight into the people involved, and that which is told seems gleamed only from the evidence collected or what was used during the trial. Likewise, all the photos also seem to come from police files. Input from the family members themselves must have been little, as is the book's entertainment level. In truth, the story of the family would be the interesting tale to tell. How and why the couple ever became one, how the marriage lasted as long as it did, what went on at home – that would be interesting to know, not all the boring talk talk talk that took place in court. Perhaps the case is memorable for once being one of the only two cases in which a man was found guilty for murder despite the lack of the corpse, but the book is only memorable for being unbelievably tedious.
Basically, son and daughter come home to find a bloody house, dad shows up with a bloody car and claims to have left his wife alive propped up against some fence. Sure, and I have a bridge to sell you. The trial must have been a bore, though the jury got a lot of leg exercise because they continually had to leave the courtroom while the judge and lawyers argued technicalities. This book is only for the most forgiving readers; others should avoid it at all costs.
The husband, by the way, has since died in prison.
And did I mention that the book is, like, really boring?

True Crime: The Corpse Had a Familiar Face

The Corpse Had a Familiar Face (Edna Buchanan, Charter Books, 1989 — the cover shown here is of the up-dated re-release of The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, which came out in 2004.)
One of the most readable true crime books around, despite the stupid chapter about why Edna Buchanan loves cats. Written in a style that often brings Dashill Hammett or Raymond Chandler to mind, Buchanan is not one to mince words or shy from an apt description, no matter how tasteless or shocking. But then, she has years of experience as a journalist, and her natural talent for the catchy turn of a phrase is not only apparent but has obviously been honed well.
Partially an autobiography, The Corpse Had A Familiar Face also narrates how the young inexperienced lady from New Jersey, who wants to write, ended up becoming a journalist, moving to Miami and establishing such a solid career. Not that she was taken seriously at the beginning, what with her high heels and all. But over five thousand corpses and a Pulitzer Prize later, she has a career behind her that few journalists’ can compare.
The biggest problem with the book is that she manages to refer to the most minute murder in such a way that the reader wants to learn more about how the case ended or how the murder even ended up happening, but she rushes ahead at such a speed that almost everything is covered superficially. Too much information and too little detail, so to say—at least when it comes to crime: the bits about herself are not always that much fun to read. Buchanan comes across slightly, well, damaged, as if she is unable to relate to living people on an adult level. Why she might be so she does not reveal, but somewhere along the way something must have happened to make her such a cat-loving workaholic.

The book leaves one with the impression that if she can plot half as well as she can put together a sentence, then she could probably write some killer fiction. A quick look on the web proves that she did indeed go on to write fiction: her first novel Nobody Lives Forever came out in 1990. More about her and her work can be found here at her website.

Images: Above, the cover. Below, the good lady herself. Both taken from the web.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Film: Drums of Terror - Voodoo In The Cinema

Drums of Terror - Voodoo In The Cinema (Bryan Senn, Midnight Marquee Press, 1998)
Another top notch, entertaining and interesting publication from Midnight Marquee Press, who, after untold years of producing one of the all time best film publications, has — luckily for people like you and me — gone into the production of decidedly interesting film books as well. In terms of research and writing style, Midnight Marquee Press publications usually tend to be miles above and beyond the typical Citadel Press publication, using a vocabulary and sentence structure that reveals that the authors might actually read books themselves. Regrettably, with cover prices are just as prohibitive as those of Citadel.
Bryan Senn’s Drums of Terror is no exception, complete with a cover price that takes at least 3 hours of minimum wages to earn and a literary quality that indicates a possible college education on part of the author. Senn's starting point in his study of voodoo films is that although voodoo gets a lot of bad press, it is actually a serious monotheist religion similar in structure to Christianity, "a legitimate religion born of genuine spirituality," which, because it is foreign and strange to the "civilised" western world, has an undeservedly bad rap and is seen by most (uninformed) people to be almost a form of demonic worship. Thus, most movies in which Voodoo is featured "take the form of a funhouse mirror," distorting the facts into something completely unrealistic, bizarre, horrific.
Senn then proceeds to present and dissect 39 films in depth, ranging from the Bela Lugosi vehicle White Zombie (1932) to Val Newton’s I Walked With A Zombie (1943) to Hammer’s The Plague of the Zombies (1966) to the Blackpliotation classic Sugar Hill (1974) to Mickey Rourke’s (for a long time) last good mainstream Hollywood film, Angel Heart (1987), discussing both the seriousness and truthfulness of the perspective films presentation and use of the religion and how the film is or isn’t successful in filmic terms. In addition to these essays, the book also includes two appendixes, one entitled Pseudo-Voodoo and the other Boob Toob Hoodoo, full of (not too short) short dissections of numerous other films not deemed as rating the Big Chapter Treatment.
Needless to say, few films cut the mustard when it comes to the seriousness of their presentation of the religion. Odd, how many of the films relocate the religion to various nether regions of the world, or seem to mix in indiscriminate aspects of other unrelated religions and myths with voodoo into one bubbling pot, or have the religion being headed (secretly and not) by some white person. Little can be said to refute Senn’s well researched and persuasive stance that "realism" in voodoo films is pure doodoo. When it comes to how the films succeed on a simply cinematic level, Senn comes across like everyone’s most feared high-school English teacher: a hard grader who tends to tread softly with his darlings.
Still, his respect for the classics doesn’t prevent him from pointing out the flaws of such classics as I Walked With A Zombie, nor does it prevent him from admitting that there are some forgotten treasures out there also worthy of respect, renown or at least a revised appreciation, such as The Vampire’s Ghost (1945) or Naked Evil (1966). But if Senn were only a tad less pedantic and had more of an understanding and recognition of the concept of "the guilty pleasure," he would probably be able to appreciate more of the films he denigrates — Zombies On Broadway (1945), for example, is far more enjoyable than he ever lets on, as is the laughable Voodoo Island (1957), even if they get a Double F Minus when it comes to how they represent the religion. (Going by some of the reproduced scene photos, there might be a lot of other unacknowledged guilty pleasures amongst those films Senn so seriously pans.)
Senn’s essays in Drums of Terror are always readable and informative, as entertaining as they are interesting and insightful. That the reader won’t always agree with him is a give fact known in advance, but at least Senn presents his well informed arguments logically and understandably. He stands strongest when he concentrates on the voodoo aspect, ably seeing and showing where and when the film goes far off into fantasy instead of any semblance of reality in regards to voodoo as a religion. His other arguments sometimes seem to rely a bit too much on simple personal opinion—but then, that is what all critics do.

Images (top to bottom): The cover of the copy I have; Sugar Hill & Her Zombie Hitmen poster; the cover of the reissue (?); Zombies on Broadway poster; White Zombie newspaper advert; and the author himself, in a photo stolen from his mypsace page.

Celebrity: George Raft

George Raft (Lewis Yablonsky, Signet, 1975 — The cover shown here is from the 2000 reprint, company unknown)
Written while Raft was still alive and with the man's complete cooperation, the book tends to be a bit fawning at time, with many too many people telling how great Raft is and far too few telling any dirt. Still, Yablonsky keeps his white washing brush dipped but lightly in the paint and tries to tell the complete story, just telling it in a way that always makes Raft seem misunderstood or misconstrued or simply wrongly accused.
As anyone knows who has seen a Raft film, as an actor he was essentially a one trick pony, but his trick was done well. True, he could hoof it better than many of them, but though it was his twinkle toes that brought him to Hollywood, it was his aura of gangster danger that made his career on the screen. Insecure and probably overly conscious of his own shortcomings, Raft turned down tons of films that went on to become classic Bogart projects — had Raft had more balls (instead an eternally stiff dick), he might easily have become legend instead of simply a familiar face in movies of the past. His biggest mistake was probably letting himself get tricked into marrying his wife Grace, a catholic who forever refused to let him divorce her but had no qualms about leaching money from him her entire long life. A good argument that Raft really did have no "real" mob connections is the fact that she never suffered an "accident."
A sex addict that makes even Michael Douglas seem like an alter boy, Raft is more than willing to admit that he probably was the main source of income for half the whores in Hollywood during the heyday of his career, forever cursed to lose the women he actually loved by his inability to offer them what the all wanted most: marriage. One thing that comes across in the book is that Raft had no easy life. His roots based in the tenements of Hell's Kitchen, he was a troubled youth who left home at thirteen and lived by wits, dancing and otherwise entertaining women, not to mention occasionally breaking the law. That he eventually went as far as he did is less a miracle than proof that the man was as driven as he was a "type" that was well suited for the years that he was most popular. His decline in later years is less surprising or sad than to be expected. Had he only had more common sense in regards to money and friends his last years might have been much more successful and comfortable.
But then, common sense is one of the great joy-killers of life...

Film: Shock Masters of the Cinema

Shock Masters of the Cinema (Loris Curci, Fantasma Book, 1996)
An out-of-date & out-of-print book once meant for die-hard fans of horror film who find happiness in knowing everything about everyone in the modern horror film scene. About the only question not asked is whether the given director wears it left or right. Due to the numerous typos in the text, some of which result in the reader having to decipher what is said as if it were some secret code, could make one think that this publication is foreign. But no, it comes from Florida (USA, not Uruguay), even if the writer/interviewer is indeed from Italy.... thus, the possible excuses that exist are: bad English as a second language or crappy translators.
Shock Masters is a collection of interviews made by Curci (and a variety of his friends) of 26 names, cult names, not generally known names and downright unknown names. Those featured range from the overly interviewed Dario Argento & John Carpenter (yawn) to the cult director Antonio Margheriti and some dude named Steve Johnson (who?), onwards to the fondly remembered like Freddie Francis & Jean Rollins to mainstream "names" like Kenneth Branagh. Fun reading for the indiscriminate or the fanatics, but others will find many an interview uninteresting, if not pointless, due both to the unimportance of the interviewed and the superficial, meandering questions of the interviewee.
Does one really need another interview of Carpenter, Wes Craven, Robert England or George Romero? If so, then must the questions always be so innocuous, uninspired and fawning? Not to say that numerous of those features don’t warrant attention, but the few pages given to the possibly stimulating Jorg Buttgereit, Jeffrey Combs, Frank Henenlotter, Angus Scrimm and Don Coscarelli convey little of interest, nor are they very informative, contemplative or piquant. Why interview people if you don’t give them the space to speak? Or, for that matter, ask good questions?
In the end, regardless who the feature subject is, the core flaw of this book is succinctly said in the maxim "a good interview depends not on who is being interviewed but on who is interviewing." Considering Curci’s journalistic resume, however, his lack of ability in posing questions is highly surprising. Perhaps one should blame the editor? In any event, the price of the book is better spent on the DVD of any of the given directors, and not on this poor excuse for cutting down trees.

True Crime: Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth (Jack Olsen, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1996)
For all those who have given up hope of ever finding a true crime book that is a literate read, this book exists solely for the purpose of restoring one’s faith in both the English language and in the genre of true crime nonfiction as a whole. Salt of the Earth is an engrossing, intriguing read, owing more to John Steinbeck than to the normal supermarket quickie, but then the crime — more sad than exceptional — is less the point of this book than how it affects the lives of those involved. Jack Olsen’s ability to make the mundane sound exceptional converts what is basically the simple story of the lives of white trash on the rise into a representation of all that is the American Dream, a dream that eventually gets senselessly ripped apart by a brutal murder committed by Michael Kay Green, a wife-beating, steroid-abusing, body-building loser.
Jack Olsen (1925-2002) begins the story in 1940’s Fontana, California, birthplace of the Hell’s Angels, a good generation before the deadly event itself. Starting with a detailed, colorful narration of the family histories of both the Mayzsak and Gere clans, he goes on to recount the lives of their offspring, Elaine and Joe who married in 1967 and whose lives fall apart when their first child Brenda is murdered at 12 in 1985.
Joe, who was probably out getting laid instead of doing an extra shift selling cars at work as he had told his wife he had to (his coworkers deferring that "Gentlemen don’t talk about such things" when asked by the author), spiraled downwards from the day of her disappearance, first drowning his guilt and sorrow in alcohol before finally blowing his brains out in front of his wife and two surviving sons.
As for the murderer, due to a lack of evidence and no body, Green was initially sent to jail for a variety of rapes he was tied to. Long after Joe joined his beloved daughter and just before the weightlifter was set to be released, Green was finally tried and found guilty for the crime after Brenda’s body was accidentally discovered near an area he used to go jogging.

Images: Book cover (top) & the author (below).

True Crime: Prisoners of Fear

Prisoners of Fear (Gera-Lind Kolarik, Avon True Crime, 1995)
Is anyone surprised that the story ends the way it did? Not that Connie Krauser Chaney deserved what happened to her – she didn't – but it really does seem like she walked into her own personal hell with open eyes and arms wide, deciding much too late that she made a mistake. Of course, the fact is that most people caught in an abusive relationship are unable to separate themselves from it, being, on a different level, as equally unbalanced as the abuser. Still, if you have already left a man with an uncontrollable temper who beat you more than once and then both let yourself get knocked up by him and then marry him, you are more or less digging your own grave. Of course, not all wife beaters go quiet that batty and develop such an Arnold Schwarzenegger complex that they go out and pull a Terminator job. Kolarik tries to present the story as even handedly as possible, attempting to show the events through the eyes of the two main protagonists, Connie and her husband and eventual killer Wayne Chaney. Nonetheless, Wayne seems less to be a man who suddenly lost it than a nutcase asshole from the very beginning, a psycho waiting to explode. That the Chaney family continually denies Wayne's faults and places all the blame on Connie is possibly a slight clue to his mental make-up and his inability to take responsibility for his own actions. As for Connie, once her eyes finally opened and she tried to change her situation, it was too late. Trapped in a web of Wayne's anger and hate and perverse love, her new life was a living hell of numbered days leading to a violent end that she saw coming. The law was of little help, and by the time it might have begun to be a bit helpful, she had become so disillusioned with it that she no longer bothered to give it proper attention, failing even to inform her last lawyer of everything Wayne had done in the past and the numerous legal maneuvers she had tried against him, the very information the lawyer needed to keep the unhinged ball of rage in jail where he belonged. Boom! Boom! Boom! A gun round of hollow tipped bullets later and she's dead, Wayne a wanted man. He eventually dies in a hail of bullets, but then, it seems that is what he wanted, possibly having some sort of secret martyr complex. One feels sorry for Connie, but Wayne seems is an obvious mistake from the beginning.

Non-Fiction: Men Behind Bars

Men Behind Bars (Phil Hirsch, Ed., Pyramid Books, 1962) Don’t know if Phil Hirsch is still around today, but all the way up to the late 1980’s he was still editing books with intellectually demanding themes ranging from hamburger jokes to true crime. Generally it is true of books as a whole that the older the publication, the more demanding it is in both vocabulary and sentence structure, but in the case of Hirsch, no matter when the book was published the text is never all that demanding.
The “shocking” true stories collected in Men Behind Bars were collected from those two classic publications of North American literature Man’s Magazine and Challenge For Men, as were many of the stories for most of Hirsch’s publications for Pyramid books. But unlike many of Hirsch’s cheesier collections, such as Supernatural, Men Behind Bars still manages to grab one’s attention most of the time.
True, there is one too many stories about attempted break outs and riots, but the other tales tend to be interesting despite their age. The best story is probably “Get A Rope, Somebody” by Walter R: Hecox, which tells of the last public lynching in California, that of Thomas Howard Thurmond and John Maurice Holmes in November of 1933 in San Jose’s St James Park (see photo). Hecox names no names, but he more than adequately describes what the situation was probably like, often making the reader squirm with discomfort. “They Arrested Me As A Sex Sadist” is also a gripping story, and it hardly presents the police in a favorable light. (Luckily for them, victims of police brutality didn’t sue back then. But then, nowadays, people accused of sex crimes seldom get proven innocent, inadvertently or not.)
Good reading for before one goes to bed.....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sleaze: New Additions to My Collection (Winter 2008-Spring 2009)

Sex Nuts... The Pervert Report
by Noah McGraw, Ph.D.
1969 (1st edition)
Impact Library
160 pages

Front cover text: Amazing case histories of wild sex nuts seeking erotic kicks in oral, incest, voyeur and swap depravity.
Back cover text:
Sex Nuts... The Pervert Report. Wild and degenerate sex wrapped in lust and obsession that can only be untied and sated by rare forms of erotic debasement. Smashing case histories of variations in aberrations. Clinical—authoritative, crushing.
First sentence (Preface by "Noah McGraw, Ph.D."): Since sex dwells so predominantly in the realm of the mental processes, it ought not to be either surprising or revolting that approaches, views, manifestations, like and dislikes linked to the sex drive are as manifold as the differences between individual minds and bodies.
Last Sentence:
Well, that was why we’d come to France in the first place, wasn’t it?

Turquish Delights
by Earl Rosen
1970 (1st American edition)
Photo Illustrated
UG Books
149 pages

Design & cover by Charles Barrow

Synopsis: Not a novel, but 3 longer stories, all of which mostly concerned with lesbian affairs. There’s only one man involved in the title story, who disguises as a woman and works as a masseuse.

Reluctant Pussy
by George Franklin

Torch Reader
181 pages

Introduction by Zackery Phillips, MA

Synopsis: Colleen and Brenda are about 20 and have been friends for years. They are hot young women and carefree, they live a life of drinking, drugs and sex. They are bi and quite promiscuous. One day Colleen happens to meet the local reverend and they end up in bed.
First sentence: Colleen White finished doing the dishes and, exhausted, took a shower and got into her baby-dolls.
Last sentence:
She thought for a minute, then, reaching for his prick, she said softly, “Fuck me!”

All the Wife’s Men
by Casey Ward
Midnight Reader/Greenleaf Classics
205 pages

Synopsis: (Back cover) Behind Jacques Valcartier's meteoric rise in politics there was a woman who was more a wanton than a wife! Martha Valcartier was willing to do anything to get votes for her husband - even if it meant running his campaigns from a four-poster bed, offering her desirous body to the men who would insure his election. And when the votes were in, Jacques' popularity was as smashing as his wife's success in bed! All the wife’s men – the shocking story of a wife corrupted by the shame she wrought!
First sentences: Marha Valcartier stood, apparently looking through the kitchen window, as she dried and dried again the breakfast dish in her hands. In actual fact she was seeing in her mind’s eye the masturbating scene she’d secretly witnessed the day before.
Last sentence:
It was the beginning of a long morning she was sure, and years of sexual completion ahead, as his hands pressed her passionately closer to his body.

Doctor Onan
by Jon Horn
The Olympia Press
192 pages

Front cover text: If Doctor Onan’s couch could only talk... Wow!
Back cover text: If Doctor Onan’s couch could only talk... Wow! Well it does, and here it is, real, incredible, and hilarious. A lusty book guaranteed to blow your libido.
First sentence: My consultation schedule is full up, and my Park Avenue penthouse office suit is always busy with the comings and goings of the great and the near-great, who seek me out for my special brand of “anything goes” sex therapy.
Last sentence:
And I Remained at the retreat near Kathmandu for many moons, He-Who-Dropped-From-The-Sky, reflecting on my follies and learning to praise all the things of life in the ancient tongue, as I cleaned and washed and polished the chamber pots of the Holy Ones...

Season of the Witch
by Hank Stine
Essex House
224 pages
(Postscript by Harlan Ellison)

Back cover: She was the first woman he had ever been. Andre Fuller had been convicted of the brutal rape-murder of a young woman and was awaiting the sentence of death. But this was tomorrow and concepts had changed. A human life was too valuable to throw away in a futile gesture of revenge. Rather Andre learned that he must replace the life that he had taken. He had become the woman he had killed in a bizarre and totally terrifying new approach to capital punishment. Daringly provocative, and boldly unique, Season of the Witch is a brilliant speculative novel of sexual transformation depicting, with force and compassion, the emotional struggle of a man's psyche buried in the body of a woman, and the gradual, agonized emergence of a female psyche to dominate and replace its nemesis.
According to Wikipedia: "Jean Marie Stine (born 1945) is an American science fiction editor, writer, anthologists, and publisher. Stine was born Henry Eugene Stine, becoming Jean Marie as the result of a sex change."
Season of the Witch was filmed in 1995 as Synapse – aka Memory Run – (trailer) by Allan A. Goldstein (the same man behind Death Wish V: Faces of Death (1994) and The Snake King (2005). The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (and TV) says the following about the film: "In an oppressive future, the mind of a petty thief (Makepeace) is transferred into his dead girlfriend's body (Duffy) as part of an experiment, but she/he escapes and joins up with some rebels. Confusing, cheap-looking science fiction thriller has poor writing and direction. Too bad, because the story elements could have worked and it had a better cast than most cheapo sci-fiers, particularly Morse and Bennett and Higginson (the latter two in small parts). Good costume designs. - extreme violence, sexual content, brief female nudity.- 89 min."

The Sex Tasters
by Geoffrey Kyle
Brighton Books
188 pages

Back cover: Lilli and Pete shared more than a marriage bed - each had a wild, uncontrollable need for lusty new partners: men and women able to satisfy their insatiable craving for oral sex!

The Photographer’s Model
by Donna Paradise
Dover Press/Publisher’s Consultants
188 pages

Synopsis: Ralph and Marilyn are in the erotic photography business. They live in a suburb, near a young couple, Ellen and Teddy. The two are newlyweds and pretty innocent and naive. One day Ellen watches a shooting at Ralph’s studio and gets excited. She’s no longer satisfied with Teddy’s clumsy love-making and starts an affair with a co-worker of his. At the same time she feels attracted to Marilyn.
First sentence: Marilyn rinsed the dishes quickly while she gazed out the window of her tiny kitchen at the spectacular southern Californian sunset.
Last sentence(s):
Somewhere in the distance, a coyote howled. Another rabbit had died, after falling hopelessly under the spell of his hypnotic stare. Life went on.

The Coach’s Craving
by Michael Murray
Brighton Books
190 pages

Synopsis: Peg and Marti, two teenage girls, are in the high-school gym at a time they shouldn’t be there. They are surprised by the coach of the gym team. Instead of punishing them he takes advantage of the situation and starts playing erotic games with them. Marti wants more and meets the coach again the next day. She is ready for some real sex.

The Lovers’ Crusade
by Mary Sativa
The Olympia Press
189 pages

Front cover: A legend of knights and damsels, and the roaring fires of passion.
Back cover: Mary Sativa is the author of Olympia’s bestselling novel, Acid Temple Ball, an autobiographical account of her voyage among today’s sex and drug cults—one of the very few truly authentic novels of its type. Her researches into the past have led to this wonderful evocation of a medieval world which appears strangely similar to the one being created in our own time by the New Primitive of America—the Hippies. Blind faith and pure love, ceaseless errantry, magic dreams and proud poverty are the lot of her heroes. But they belong to a time when men were giants and women princesses, and when life unrolled its course in a fiery torrent of lust and brimstone.
First sentence:
The armies moved slowly out of the great city Byzantium.

Last sentence:
He smiled down gently at the crowd as he strummed the lute strings—each note a cry against the night.
(According to Earl Kemp, Mary Sativa is pseudonym for Sharon Rudahl. (That “Mary Sativa” is a pseudonym is obvious, seeing how obvious a play it is on two names for pot.) Rudahl was amongst the few female comic artists that took part in the initial underground comix of the early 1970s. Her most recent publication is a graphics biography of Emma Goldman.

Epitaph for Brutality
by Allen Millstone
Euro Classic/Star Distributors
190 Pages

Back cover: The sexual pain and agony was beyond anything she could have experienced ever before. He enjoyed giving pain, his appetite for sensual pleasure insatiable. Women fell at his knees as if he were king, and for them he was the king of pain and pleasure. He took fiendish delight in the perverted. Nothing was too bizarre for his tastes.

The Back Door Girl
by Sterling Harkins
Brandon Books
190 pages

Original title: Her Anal Lovers

Front cover: Every man who saw Maisie wanted her —and Maisie wanted men. But her unique and selfish desires led her into an unexpected trap...
Back cover:
Maisie began to feel sensual urges when she was fourteen. They grew stronger as she grew older. And finally her needs were desperate – but so were the fears that had been instilled in her by her puritanical mother. So, knowingly and of her own free will, she became a... back door girl.

Bruce Kimley Returns
by George Kuster
Magna Classic
158 pages.

Synopsis: Not a novel but 2 long erotic stories. - Former celebrity Bruce Kimley is 60 now and newly married to Eileen. They live in a mansion in the country, looked after by the Lake couple and their son Clive. Clive succeeds in seducing Eileen and so does his father Frank, who also seduces Eileen’s younger sister Wendy. - It’s not often that Stewart takes out his young wife Wendy. One evening he does and Wendy has too much to drink. When she wakes up she is in bed with a stranger. It’s Paddy Kent, who soon pimps her out, mostly to elderly gentlemen, but also to a virile Negro and an ugly old oriental.

The Lusting Couple
by Melanie Winston
Star Books
190 pages

Back cover: They needed each other more than society could allow. Jessie and Abe are two college students with a passion that knows no bounds. They were fighting an uphill fight trying always to live down their sordid reputations. There is no act of sex they would not do with each other. Their lust rules their lives and torments their souls.

Wife In Heat
by Andy Stillman
Brighton Books
191 pages

Synopsis: Connie Minor is a hot woman. She is married to Shelby, but he’s often away and not a good lover anyway. One day she is seduced by her neighbor Jerry and from that moment on she can’t control her sex drive any longer. She starts a hot affair with a virile teenager and then takes on a number of his friends in an outright orgy.
First sentence: Connie Minor was grinding her pelvis hard, bucking up into Shelby’s hairy belly.
Last sentence: Then she reached for the telephone and dialed Daggio’s Repair Service.

Sin Girl
by Lynn Martin
Bee-Line Books
155 pages

Front cover: Fay Orchid was the hottest stripper Chicago had ever seen, and now she was her—naked in my arms!
Back cover:
She spoke his language... the language of sex! “Come here, lover,” she murmured softly in his ear. “I’ve got something for you—something you’ve wanted for a long, long time.”

Mistress of the Plantation
by Melanie Edwards
Star Original/Free Press Library
190 pages

Front cover: She was their mistress and she made the studs perform as no one else could.
Back cover:
He took her like the animal she was.

The Harley plantation was one of the best-run in that part of the South. The tobacco fields were bursting with fresh aromatic leaf, and the workers were bursting with another fruit, the fruit of their lust. The day-to-day happenings of the Harley plantation seemed on the surface to be smooth and uneventful. But underneath a veneer of propriety and caIm, the workers and owners alike engaged in wild bouts of sex.

First sentence:
”Oh, goodness, Clem, it’s so hard!” the girl exclaimed.

Last sentence:
Now she was going to get what she really wanted.

The Taming
by Count Ludwig Kronenburg
Century Books
188 pages

Front cover: The brutal story of an aristocratic young girl forced into an animal life of total slavery to another woman.
Back cover:
Marcia Morrison, my voluptuous, haughty, nineteen-year-old niece, lived in a world of cotillions and Paris finishing schools. My interest in her was far more than avuncular, but she held me, a mere commoner, in utter contempt. Furthermore, when she turned twenty-one, she would inherit the castle I'd been living in - and the money I'd been using to maintain my grand style of living. I knew I had to teach her a lesson soon, and I thought I had my answer. I knew a certain lady – Nancy - who was famous for "taming" snobbish young nymphets, and by the time this lady finished with Marcia, I felt, all my worries would be at an end. But I had not reckoned with Nancy's own ideas of enslavement! . . .

Bedroom Coach
by Lamarr McMann
Party Books/Traveler’s Companion
181 pages

Back cover: They called him Crazycock. He was great on the sportsfield, but his prowess at bedroom athletics was TERRIFIC! He called the sexual shots with woman after woman, training them to deliver the highest peak of ecstatic performance in everybody’s most beloved sport.

Lieutenant Pussy
by Curt Aldrich
Brighton Books
191 pages

Synopsis: Lieutenant Linda Brent has been assigned to a small isolated post. From the very first day on she is erotically exploited by both the commanding officer and the sergeant who does his dirty work. Linda tries to resist the degrading treatment of the two powerful men, but her own sexuality makes her submit. Before long she is in the sergeant’s evil clutches and forced to do his bidding with every horny GI on the base.

When Hubby’s Away
(no author credited)
Red Devil Books/Publisher’s Consultants
160 pages

Synopsis: Ten women tell of their erotic experiences, one after the other, each from the first-person point-of-view. The women are married, but once they’re without their husband for a time and get horny they seduce travelling salesmen, neighbors, teenage boys, whoever crosses their path at the right moment.

The Passionate Waitress
by Marna James
Bentley Library/Publisher’s Consultants
191 pages

Synopsis: Mimi Goodman works at a Sunset Strip nightspot as a cocktail waitress. Her appearance and opportunities make her yield to temptation all too many times. At first she enjoys the attention and seeks to placate her powerful young sex drives, but the longer the activities continue the more she begins to realize how empty her life actually is. She gets an education the hard way.

Battalion Broads
by Olivia Rangely
September 1965 (1st printing)
Playtime Books
160 pages

Front cover text: Army wives gone wild, getting their sex while the men were away.
Back cover text:
The Colonel was no match for the “hot pants brigade” and their frenzy of lust.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fiction: The Unhatched Egghead

(Ted Mark, Lancer Books, 1966)
Another winner from “Ted Mark", the man who brought you The Nude Who Never and A Hard Day’s Knight, not to mention I Was A Teeny-Bopper For The CIA. If it is of any relevance, The Unhatched Egghead is actually a lot better than Mark’s much more popular (and easier to find) The Pussycat Transplant – although the cover photograph is hardly half as attractive as the cover art of the latter publication.
The story is about Archimedes Jones, the son of loving and unbelievably rich parents, a young man in his late teens, a boy of genius intelligence, gifted in sciences and the arts, able to move smoothly between the world of hip young cats, big business industrialists, cerebral science and fine arts, but plagued by one problem: he’s a virgin. Revealing this to a lecherous scientist friend one evening, call girls get called to solve his problem, but before he can get both legs out of his trousers for some serious fun, a shot rings out and the story begins. His pal is dead, the call girls have disappeared and top secret papers revealing how gold can be gained from simple metals have vanished.
Archi decides to find out who killed his friend and save the gold standard (and thus the world, of course), and does so by following up the names he finds in the little black book of the dead man. Going from woman to woman, he experiences one “hilarious” adventure after the other, continually getting mere inches away from losing his cherry, but forever being stopped at the last second.
Is it funny? Well, more or less. The book probably won’t make you roll on the floor in laughter – or even laugh loudly, for that matter – but it is at least painless to read, goes at a quick pace and causes a slight chuckle on occasion. Like most of Mark’s books, The Unhatched Egghead is a dated attempt at a humorous updating of Voltaire’s Candide. Unlike most of his books, though, this Lancer edition has one fucking ugly cover photo – a cover that has little to do with the book’s contents. (As is, actually, normal for most of the cover illustrations to a Ted Mark book.)

Non-Fiction: Rascals in Paradise

James A. Michener & A. Grove Day, Fawcett Crest, 1983)
Originally printed in 1957, its reprint in 1983 had undoubtedly something to do with the author's unbridled success as a best selling novelist at the time. A perfect book for a precocious pre-teen youth who dreams of south sea adventure but gets bored by Errol Flynn movies. Other people might find it useful for learning the true events behind such legendary stories as The Mutiny on the Bounty, including the before, during and after. Modern purveyors of low culture will find the chapter on Leetag, the legendary American painter of black velvet kitsch that lived and partied in Tahiti. Easily five out of the 10 chapters of the book read as if they could make a damned exciting movie, if not a mini series. The chapters on "Charles !" and Dona Isabel make one sick to the stomach from disbelief and disgust, being yet more narratives proving that the stupid and evil always land on their feet. The stories would also make great films—though Hollywood would probably want to make Dona Isabel a nice person. The most un-understandable of all stories narrated is that of Will Mariner. Homesick or not, why a guy would want to give up all that which he managed to create on a dream island in exchange for the dull life (and death) he returned to in England defies comprehension. Well researched – as to be expected from a Michener book, non-fiction or not – with a thick bibliography, the book is an easy and informative read, both for those interested in the subject and those just looking for something entertaining to read while soaking in the tub.
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