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From The Blog
September 27, 2016
God’s Garbage Men, A Trust Betrayed, and Hominy Grits
Lisa Turner
September 23, 2016
Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Angie Barry
September 22, 2016
Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic
Peter Foy
September 21, 2016
Page to Screen—Rebecca: du Maurier vs. Hitchcock
Angie Barry
September 20, 2016
From Gore to Grave Robbing: The History of Medicine as Inspiration
E.S. Thomson
Showing posts by: Angie Barry click to see Angie Barry's profile
Sep 23 2016 3:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

THE SUBGENRE: Cartoon noir.
THE HERO(ES): Private eye Eddie Valiant and the eponymous Toon.
THE VILLAIN: The mad Judge Doom.
THE LOVE INTEREST(S): Loyal “Girl Friday” Dolores and femme fatale Jessica.
THE SETTING: An alternate 1940's Hollywood.

1947, Hollywood. It's a familiar setting to any fan of noir.

This Hollywood, however, is different in one very significant way: there's a strange neighborhood on its fringe called Toontown. It's a Technicolor dream world with inhabitants that are downright animated...

Private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) has a chip on his shoulder the size of Gibraltar when it comes to Toons: those brightly-colored, two-dimensional characters that routinely smash through walls, break plates over their heads, and burst into frequent song and dance numbers—anything to make people laugh. 

[Don't hit me! I'll hit me! Cause I'm craaaazzzyyyy...]

Sep 21 2016 1:00pm

Page to Screen—Rebecca: du Maurier vs. Hitchcock

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...”

It's a haunting opening to a gothic romance often mentioned in the same breath as Jane Eyre; natural, given both stories follow young, inexperienced women falling in love with remote, brooding, dangerous men. 

But while Jane had an inner core of adamantium to guide her, the heroine of Rebecca is far more vulnerable and adrift. 

Our narrator, barely twenty-one, finds herself in the orbit of the wealthy and mysterious widower, Maxim de Winter—a much older English aristocrat. Following a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo, the two marry. 

This second Mrs. de Winter is deeply in love with her distant husband and assumes her situation will only improve—she no longer has to work as a companion for a tiresome old woman now that she's the mistress of Manderley, Maxim's sprawling English estate. They will go back to England and settle into a comfortable life together.

[But wait, there's more!]

Sep 8 2016 1:30pm

Review: The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd is the 8th Bess Crawford Mystery that sees the Great War nearing an end, but not without plenty of murder, mystery, and mayhem in its final throes.   

He crawled as far as the shattered tree and lay there, faint from the effort. But he knew he had to keep moving. When he stopped, when the sweat dried on his skin, he'd begin to shiver again, wracking his body until his teeth chattered. There wasn't enough left of his uniform to keep him warm, and his captors, God help them, had taken his boots. Good English leather. He'd stolen them himself from a corpse.

He grimaced, afraid to look at his torn feet. He'd lost too much blood from his other wounds. The one in his leg had mercifully stopped bleeding, and the cut in his hairline had clotted over, but the damage had been done. He was light-headed from lack of food, finding it hard to concentrate. A crow couldn't find enough to eat in this countryside after four years of war. He'd be dead soon if he didn't reach his own lines.

To his left the firing was heavy. Rifles and machine guns. An assault under way. But in which direction? He could see the flashes, but they told him nothing. Which way...?

In the final days of the Great War—October 1918, to be precise—Bess Crawford, a nursing Sister on the front lines, helps save the life of an unusual man. His feet are horribly lacerated from walking miles without boots and his French uniform is in tatters, but when he shouts out in pain, it isn't French he's speaking: it's German. Fluent German, in fact.

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Shattered Tree...]

Sep 2 2016 3:00pm

Review: Curioddity by Paul Jenkins

Curioddity by Paul Jenkins is a quirky, fast-paced debut novel that is as peculiar as it is fun to read (Available August 30, 2016).

Wil felt so desperately, desperately tired. ...He had been metaphorically shot at, spat on, shut in, and spat out since the moment he'd left for work, and the thought of enduring any more of this particular Monday was more than any man had any obligation to bear. He'd been hired by a man dressed like a cartoon to find a box full of a substance that seemed as likely to exist as a good Canadian table wine; he had visited a museum full of space junk on a street that didn't exist, been yelled at in body language, and, worst of all, he'd ordered a large cup of coffee by describing it as “oversized.” 

...At this point in his day, Wil formally and officially surrendered.

Wil Morgan is a private eye.

Wait—I know what you're thinking. You're probably picturing a fedora, a weathered trench goat, a gun holster under the arm, and a smoky, chiaroscuro office where empty whisky bottles litter the desk. 

Wil, however, is pretty much the complete inverse of the stereotypical gumshoe. He's never touched a gun. Femme fatales aren't coming to him half-clothed and in tears. No one is exchanging bullets or quips with him down dark, dangerous alleys. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of Curioddity...]

Aug 26 2016 2:30pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Mouse Guard

The Series: Mouse Guard by David Petersen.
The Heroes: Warrior mice who patrol to keep their fellow rodents safe from predators.
The Ideal Format: An animated series—hand-drawn, not CGI, to better emulate Petersen's original designs.

The natural world has always been a brutal place. “Red in tooth and claw,” as the poets say. Plenty of capable, healthy, smart humans die while enjoying the outdoors every year.

Imagine how much harder it is to survive when you're only a couple inches tall and have very little in the way of either teeth or claws. When just about everything around you would like nothing more than to swallow you whole. 

Life is never easy on the lowest link of the food chain, and it's hard to imagine a creature more helpless than a mouse. 

[Read more about Mouse Guard...]

Aug 25 2016 1:30pm

Waking the Dead and Baking Pies with Pushing Daisies

In the lovely little town of Coeur de Coeur...

The word “necromancer” brings to mind a very specific image: black robes, black nails, black teeth, maybe some ravens and unlucky black cats, dribbly candles (black, of course), and ebon shadows (continuing in the black-ish theme).

Heavy on the grim, dark, and evil, basically.

There was a very unusual restaurant run by a very unusual baker...

So when Ned the Piemaker appears onscreen in “Pie-lette”—the only thing black about him being his fitted t-shirt—that preconception is pretty much dashed to bits.

Because gangly, awkward, handsome Ned (played by the ever-charming and tree-tall Lee Pace, before his was a more recognizable face), with his floofy hair and puppy eyes, his earnest sincerity and his aw-shucks smile, is a necromancer. Albeit, one who'd much rather just bake pies and who raises the dead through a natural fluke rather than in dark magic ceremonies, but a necromancer nonetheless.

[He's actually quite the Necromantic...]

Aug 22 2016 4:00pm

Review: Waking Up Dead by Nigel Williams

Waking Up Dead by Nigel Williams is both a screamingly funny cozy mystery and startlingly strange ghost story asking the question: What would you do if you could bear witness to your own demise? (Available August 23, 2016)

On the morning of Jessica Pearmain's ninety-ninth birthday, her eldest son—George, a retired bank manager aged sixty-five—wakes to some terrible news.

It appears that, at some point in the night, an intruder broke into his Putney home, where several generations of the Pearmain clan have gathered to celebrate their matriarch's momentous milestone, and murdered the birthday girl.

George's wife, Esmerelda, discovers her on the kitchen floor surrounded by blood and broken glass. The house promptly descends into outraged chaos. A chaos that only becomes more confused and strident when Esmerelda rushes upstairs to tell George...

[Read Angie Barry's review of Waking Up Dead...]

Aug 15 2016 2:30pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting The Mummy (1999)

THE SUBGENRE: Supernatural adventure.
THE HEROES (WHO HAPPEN TO BE LOVE INTERESTS): Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan and French Foreign Legion soldier-turned-convict Rick O'Connell.
THE VILLAIN: Imhotep, high priest and murderous mummy.
THE SETTING: 1920's Egypt.

All her life, Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) has dreamed of exploring ancient tombs and proving her worth as a serious Egyptologist. But, in the 1920's, a lady has to really fight for recognition, especially when those pesky Bembridge Scholars keep rejecting her applications because she “doesn't have enough experience in the field.”

[The classic “I can't get a job because I don't have experience, but I can't get experience because no one will give me a job”...]

Aug 12 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.10 Season Finale: “This Little Light” Episode Review

A freshly-possessed Megan’s (Wrenn Schmidt) musings over her new body—and dead husband—are interrupted by daughter Holly and niece Amber (Madeleine McGraw), who promptly drop their chocolate ice cream and flee screaming.

When Kyle (Patrick Fugit) and Anderson (Philip Glenister) arrive, they find a house of horrors. There's a huge hole smashed in the glass of the back door. Mark’s (David Denman) body is cooling on the bathroom floor. Bloodied handprints mark the walls, the stuffed animals, the closet door... 

That is gonna be one monstrous cleaning bill.

[I couldn't live in that house anymore...]

Aug 5 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.09: “Close to Home” Episode Review

In this penultimate episode of Season One, we pick up in the woods—where Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) is busy picking up the shattered glass from her recent “therapy session.” 

Her initial destruction may have been a bloodless alternative, but in the aftermath of the recent revelations—husband Mark’s (David Denman) police brutality against Douchebag Donny and subsequent suspension from the force, the ensuing blackmail and fracturing of their family—is it any surprise when she inflicts some physical pain on herself to manage the emotional?

Boy, I sure hope that blood and broken glass doesn't become a motif for this episode...


Aug 5 2016 12:00pm

Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is the first in an epic new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author (Available August 9, 2016).

She looked the knife over, this way and that.

“Should I give it a name?”

“You could, I suppose. But what's the point?”

“It's this bit.” She touched the blade's tip. “The part you stick them with.”

“O, bravo. Mind you don't cut yourself on a wit that sharp.”

“All great blades have names. It's just how it's done.”

“Bollocks.” Mercurio took back the dagger, held it up between them. “Naming your blade is the sort of faff reserved for heroes, girl. Men who have songs sung about them, histories spun for them, brats named after them. It's the shadow road for you and me. And you dance it right, no one will ever know your name, let alone the pig-sticker in your belt.

”You'll be a rumor. A whisper. The thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the nevernight. The last thing you will ever be in this world, girl, is someone's hero.“

Mercurio handed back the blade.

”But you will be a girl heroes fear."

Mia Corvere is an assassin. 

By ten, her entire family has been either publicly executed or imprisoned for treason, leaving her the sole survivor. The kind of survivor who will risk life and limb—her own and any who cross her path—in order to achieve revenge. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of Nevernight...]

Aug 1 2016 3:30pm

Review: Miss Dimple and the Slightly Bewildered Angel by Mignon F. Ballard

In Miss Dimple and the Slightly Bewildered Angel by Mignon F. Ballard—the 5th in the Miss Dimple mysteriesguardian angel Augusta Goodnight, an earlier series character, suddenly finds herself assigned to Phoebe Chadwick's rooming house in the small Georgia town of Elderberry. (Available August 2, 2016).

...Bob Robert gripped his hands to keep them from shaking. He had seen dead people before, even helped lay some of them out, but this was different. He had never just come upon somebody like that. Crazy woman had no business in that steeple anyway!

“Bob Robert. Are you alright? You look like you've seen a ghost.” Phil Lewellyn, the local druggist, paused in the doorway and took him by the arm. “I think you'd better sit down.”

Mr. Phil! He would know what to do. Bob Robert wanted to hug the man. “The steeple — she's at the bottom of the steps in the steeple, and no use calling a doctor,” he said. “Don't know how long she's been there, but she's way past helping now.”

It's fall in the sleepy Georgian town of Elderberry, and everyone is gearing up for Halloween. But, amidst the grinning jack-o-lanterns and crepe-paper decorations lurks a bona fide murderer.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Miss Dimple and the Slightly Bewildered Angel...]

Jul 29 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.08: “What Lurks Within” Episode Review

This week, we get a better look at Evil Data/Sidney—and any lingering feelings of fondness we may have held onto thanks to actor Brent Spiner's turn as a beloved android in Star Trek: TNG goes straight out the window when we see that, unlike some of the others who have been possessed, Sidney has never been a nice guy. 

Child predators are absolutely the sort of people you'd expect to see hosting evil demonic entities. 

While Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) is busy arresting Sidney, the Reverend (Philip Glenister) sees the very real toll caused by his public outburst when Sunday services are attended by exactly... 

No one.

[Notta. Zilch. Nothing...]

Jul 29 2016 3:00pm

Review: No Pity for the Dead by Nancy Herriman

No Pity for the Dead by Nancy Herriman is the 2nd Mystery of Old San Francisco (Available August 2, 2016). 

She'd barely dipped her spoon into the mulligatawny when someone pounded on the front door.

“Not another patient at this hour!” Addie called out from the kitchen before hurrying though the dining room on her way to the foyer. “I'm turning them away, ma'am. You're closed.”

It wasn't a few seconds before she heard Addie scream. Celia jumped up and rushed through the parlor. 

“Stay there, girls,” she told Barbara and Grace, shutting the parlor doors on their startled expressions.

Owen Cassidy stumbled across the threshold, gasping for breath. He was covered in coal dust and dirt from head to toe; the only pale parts on him were the whites of his wide green eyes. 

“Och, lad,” chastised Addie. “Dinna even think of coming inside—”

“Ma'am! He's dead!” he cried, gaping at Celia. “He's dead!”

“What nonsense are you blathering?” asked Addie.

“The fellow in the cellar! He's dead!”

Celia Davies leads an interesting life. Newly arrived in San Francisco, the English nurse has only recently opened a free medical clinic for women and is often called out to attend to saloon girls, prostitutes, and immigrant mothers. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of No Pity for the Dead...]

Jul 25 2016 3:30pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Dick Tracy (1990)

THE SUBGENRE: Comic book noir.
THE HERO: Hardnosed detective Dick Tracy.
THE VILLAIN: Crime boss Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice.
THE LOVE INTEREST(S): Loyal “Girl Friday” Tess Trueheart and gangster's moll Breathless Mahoney.
THE SETTING: A 1920's metropolis.

Pulp fiction gets a bad name in my opinion—no, not the Quentin Tarantino flick where Travolta jams a giant needle into Uma Thurman's chest and Christopher Walken has the creepiest speech ever about a watch.

When I talk about pulp, I'm talking about a brand of story that jumped straight off of 20th-century magazine shelves and WHAM!-ed and BAM!-ed their way across the big screen.

Gruff detectives, flying aces, adventurers, and early superheroes abound in pulp flicks. There are a lot of fedoras, trench coats, goggles, and impressive boots on display. Our hero carries a pistol or a knife, maybe even a magic ring or jetpack.

They travel to exotic locales or prowl dark city streets, ever on the watch for an innocent in need of saving, a damsel in need of smooching, and a baddie in need of a swift punch to the jaw.

[POW! Right in the kisser!]

Jul 22 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.07: “The Damage Done” Episode Review

Anderson (Philip Glenister) is cleaning up the aftermath of his bloody encounter with Evil Data/Sidney (Brent Spiner)—good God, talk about a bathroom of horrors—when Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) arrives for their standing poker game. 

But, it's difficult to keep your mind on the game when there's a pentagram still oozing on your chest. It's even harder when Giles provokes Ogden (Pete Burris) into some light fisticuffs over the card table; afterwards, the good Reverend has no choice but to reveal what happened to the Chief, who is understandably frustrated that he didn't come directly to him.

What's the point in having a BFF on the police department if you don't call him when a demonic psycho breaks into your church to carve arcane symbols on your body?

[Lay down your soul to the god's rock n' roll...]

Jul 22 2016 2:30pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Rat Queens

The Series: Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Sejic.
The Heroes: A team of hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, fun-loving, totally asskicking female mercenaries.
The Ideal Format: A live-action series with a serious budget for the necessary magical SFX and prosthetics—HBO or Starz would be a good fit, given the mature subject matter.

When you hear “Dungeons & Dragons campaign,” your mind probably conjures up a dank basement, a card table, and four or five pimply boys with nasal voices and smudged glasses.

In truth, the D&D community is full of women, college students, and fantasy geeks of all ages and stripes who love to tell stories and enjoy a sense of community. The parents'-basement-dwelling social outcast is more an outlier than an apt representative of the collective whole. 

In my own personal experience, I've known over a dozen lady D&Ders to every one man. That's a helluva ratio.

Which is why Rat Queens is so damn important: it's essentially a D&D campaign driven by women. The heart of the story follows the eponymous mercenary team, a brash quartet who know what they want and just go for it.

[I know what I want, and I want it now...]

Jul 15 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.06: “From the Shadows it Watches” Episode Review

I don't know about you, but there are few things I enjoy more than a night in with a glass of booze and a stack of movies. 

The VHS tapes Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) has selected for the evening's entertainment, the ones chronicling dozens of past exorcisms, aren't what I'd usually go for. But, to each their own, I guess.

....Has anyone else in this crazy town been at all concerned about the sheer VOLUME of people being possessed in such a small backwoods area??? Just speaking from a law-of-averages viewpoint here, this number seems unusually high to me. If your population is under 10k and you're having dozens of people climbing the walls speaking Latin in reverse, maybe you should think about ringing up the Pope.

Just saying.

[Don't leave me hangin' on the telephone...]

Jul 15 2016 2:00pm

Review: Day By Day Armageddon: Ghost Run by J.L. Bourne

Ghost Run by J.L. Bourne is the 4th installment of the Day by Day Armageddon series (Available July 19, 2016).

...The lock flew off; a tiny piece of steel struck me in the forehead, right between my mask and hood, splattering a few droplets of blood down into the fray below.

The undead went beserk.

I jammed my boot down blindly, striking bone and teeth, loosening the creature's bear-trap grip on my foot. Without looking, I threw myself upward, hitting the hatch with the back of my head and spilling light into the darkness below. Resembling strange deep-sea plant life, an ocean of hands reached up in unison to somehow will me back down the ladder and into their arms. One of them emerged from the array of limbs...

I took the shot down the hole, sending the thing back into the sea of waving hands.

Our narrator is Kilroy, a former military commander turned ultimate zompocalypse survivor. It's been over two years since the undead arose and the living fought back with nuclear bombs, reducing much of America—and probably the entire world—into a wasteland that’s both radioactive and teeming with hungry zombies.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Day by Day Armageddon: Ghost Run...]

Jul 8 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.05: “The Road Before Us” Episode Review

In the wake of last week's revelations about the demonically afflicted in Rome, West Virginia, Kyle (Patrick Fugit) is in something of a tailspin of worry about his estranged wife, Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil). He desperately wants to talk to her, face to face, and assure himself that she's no longer a threat to herself or their daughter Amber.

The only problem? It's technically illegal for him to do that. Given his recent stint in prison and Allison's restraining order, even setting foot on his erstwhile property could land him in jail again. 

The Reverend (Philip Glenister) humors him to an extent, driving him to the curb so they can—somewhat creepily—watch the house for a while. Word to the wise: if you want to convince your wife that you mean her well, maybe don't lurk outside her house at night staring up at the windows?

[Every breath you take, every move you make...I'll be watching you]