while i am currently reading more than a handful of others, these are the books i've finished in the first three months of this year so far. i highly recommend all of them. each is brilliant with their own unique voice and style. from sheer pull the covers over your head leave the lights on terror to mind warping mystery to modern retelling of centuries old fairy tales to brand new fairy tales for the modern world. it's been a good year for reading. what's on your nightstand these days?
i have been "tagged" as the ever unpopular "it" by my "friend" Clayton Smith to play his "game" that is supposedly "fun" for authors. here are the list of "rules" i am now required to "abide" by:
i believe i will be revisiting my "requirements" on what "determining factors" are to be considered a "friend". until that "document" has been "updated", i am "afraid" i must abide by the current "friend" obligation of fulfilling his request. as such, here "are" my eight terrible titles:
upon further consideration, some on this list might not be such terrible titles. therefore, Clayton will remain a "friend" and will not be discarded to the riff and raff of society to be used as fodder in the upcoming squirrelpocalypse.
i now "tag"/"dare"/"nominate" my "friends" Robert "Chazz" Chute, AJ Aalto and Gordon Bonnet
you are all now..."it"
of all the books i've read this year, here are a few of my top favorites...
now for the comics & graphic novels i've been really digging...
A few years ago, my friend Zack told me he and some friends were filming a documentary about haunted houses. They were taking a road trip in order to find the scariest, most terrifying haunt in America. He asked me if I would compose some music for the film. I said yes and sent some tracks that were inspired by the early footage they were thinking about using. The next time we spoke he told me they were going to keep searching for that Holy Grail of terror. I haven’t heard from him since…
The second Tuesday of every month my best friend and I would rush to Continental Comics after school to wrap our grubby mitts on the new mags filled with super powered heroes and their feats of daring do saving the world one demented mastermind at a time. If you told me back then that the Avengers and X-Men would become two of the biggest money making film franchises and superhero culture transformed from geeky, pimple faced backroom bully escapism to mainstream acceptance and even coolness, I would have scoffed in disbelief.
Yet here I am all growds up with a wife and kids of my very own. Watching my boys become fans of these spectacular characters out in the open with no fear of being stuffed into a locker or head swirlied in the locker room toilet. Comic book heroes are everywhere in pop culture. Of course they’ve been popular for decades, but looked down as childish and unsophisticated. Get caught with a comic book and be prepared to get your head noogied by the entire Varsity football team. Not so in these more modern accepting times. No longer the campy SMACK, WHAM, POW of the original Batman series, these stories have depth and impact far beyond what my father used to dismiss as immature and “not valid reading material.”
While on a visit to the local library, I scanned through the titles on the New Release shelf as I am known to do. Bold and eye grabbing, the titular word hooked me at first glance. I slid the book from between it’s counterparts and read the back cover description:
“In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.”
I don’t know why, but I didn’t quite get that this was about mutants. No laser shooting eyes or wings sprouting from shoulder blades, no weather manipulation or control over every piece of metal. These powers are much more subtle and believable. Forget the spandex and played out secret code names, these characters are you and me. (Just throw in some bonus talents we only dreamed we could have in real life!)
Cooper is your average ex-husband, father and cop. Only he’s not. He can read where your punch will land before it’s thrown and make sure he isn’t there when the fist arrives. He knows where you’ll shoot by watching how you move and the bullets will only find empty air. Not a bad talent to have if you’re tracking down the world’s most wanted terrorist and his extremely deadly henchmen.
Erik Epstein is good with numbers. So good in fact that he topples the stock exchanges of the entire world. Over night he is a billionaire. He purchases enough land from the government to create his own country. A country for “Brilliants” and “Twists”. People us normal humans are afraid of. We are afraid of them because of the chief terrorist John Smith. The ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to take the world away from typical, not advanced humans.
Spectacularly believable characters placed in high energy, dire situations with world altering consequences from every slit second decision. Heart racing action pulling against taught suspenseful strings with all the twists and turns of data streams floating through the air in bright fluorescent colors. Unable to put it down, my family could tell by my wide unblinking eyes not to interrupt me until I took a breath. Equal parts thriller and sci-fi futurism, Brilliance throws a tremendously written net unwilling to release you until long after the final word of the last page.
When I found out that a sequel is coming in a few months and possibly more after that, the tension released in my chest and I felt the pure joy of my childhood visits to that comic book shop with my friend. A new book is coming and this time I don’t need to wait for my mom to drive me to Van Nuys! I just have to ask my wife.
I’m not interested in reading books by slightly less known authors simply for obscurities sake. I read a lot of bestsellers too. Stephen King, Dan Brown, Dean Koontz and many other NYT A-listers line my shelves right along side. I don’t think there’s much point in covering ground that you can easily find reviews and publicity about in national publications and countless other blogs. My literary, musical and tastes in film honestly lean more in the direction of the independent voices and those are the artists I’ll spend most of Dancing About Architecture talking about. Not to say some of them won’t be distributed by major outlets. Today’s subject has been releasing books for decades and has achieved widespread recognition and acclaim. I am coming to learn how well deserved it is. Though he might not be instantly recognizable to many, his talent looms as great as most of the best known and more familiar household names…
I’d seen his name on bookstore shelves for years. Dozens of titles with covers that resemble fleeting images from dissolving bad dreams. A few years ago I found a book called “The Burning” and frankly I’ve been a little timid about reading more of Bentley Little’s work. Yes. It was that frightening. For me, that is a task extremely difficult to achieve. Summoning my intestinal fortitude, I decided to try a little of Little again and see what sharpened teeth he revealed in his gaping maw hunting through the shadows close on my heels.
“The Collection” is a rather obviously titled gathering of thirty two short stories. Bentley Little’s tales residing on these pages however, are anything but. “The Washingtonians” dips a brush in gore to repaint a version of American history where our nations father crawled from depths far deeper than battlefields of the Revolution. Equally lusting for blood and freedom.
I will Skin your Children and Eat Them.
Upon Finishing, I will Fashion Utensils of Their Bones.
“It's authentic,” Davis admitted. “It was written by George Washington.”
-from “The Washingtonians” by Bentley Little
Good old papa George Washington. The legend of the Cherry Tree. “I cannot tell a lie.” Little finds a way beyond the dentures to see what that mouth might have decided to feast on. What if those false teeth weren’t made of wood, but of bone? What if he craved the meatier portions of his constituents more than their flocks of cattle and sheep? What if that secret were discovered and his descendants continued his vile traditions and would go to any length to make certain the secret were never revealed?
(Funny enough, I was informed recently that my cousin is a direct descendant of George Washington. Let’s just say when he was at our house last weekend, I kept a closer watch on my kids and made sure not to walk too closely to him.)
Another nightmarish re-visioned history is revealed in the story“Colony”. Did we win the war? Does everything the history books teach us the truth or is it wool slipped over our collective eyes to make a more pliant, controllable servitude? Are the United States really free from British rule? It’s such a fantastic concept I longed for the tale to continue beyond the confines of a short story.
“But independence is the bedrock of our national character. We pride ourselves on not only our national independence but our personal freedom. Our individuality is what makes us American.”
“And we encourage that. It is why America is our most productive colony.”
-from “Colony” by Bentley Little.
Maybe that’s why we’re so interested in Will and Kate. I don’t think I’ll ever view Queen Elizabeth in quite the same light again. As an Anglophile very interested in the rich history of our cousins across the pond, this story rattles nearly every perception I’ve created in my mind of the small, mystic island that somehow managed to rule over the entire world for so many years. If history truly is written by the victor, whose to say they haven’t tweaked the facts just enough to manipulate everyone into believing what they want us to believe?
“I have not uttered a single intelligible word since 1960…I guess I’ve been afraid.”
-from “Estoppel” by Bentley Little
If my words had the power this gentleman’s contained, I don’t believe I would speak either. With power to alter the course of the universe simply be speaking, other characters in Estoppel happen to be very lucky that the main character has a heavy conscience. Making some very poor choices while discovering is ability, he comes to the conclusion quickly that in order to protect himself and the world around his he must take drastic measures. Definitely brings cause for much philosophical self-introspection. Made me think more tan twice about what I would do were I faced with a similar discovery about my own vocalizations.
The Collection contains many chill inspiring stories of incomprehensible evils and skewed views of our society that brought me new perspectives on how I see the world. I hold a special place for this book on my shelves where I know I will revisit the pages often. It is a terrific introduction to Bentley Little’s work. I greatly look forward to finding what new terrors waiting to leap from the ink drawing the stories of his many other books. If you enjoy your horror mixed with dashes of the political and philosophical, this is a wonderful anthology to begin with.
I read a lot. I watch too much TV. Netflix, the internet and movie channels are pretty much always running in our house. Since I live in the boonies, I need to shout from my rooftop when I finish a good book or see a movie that inspires me. In order to prevent future ER visits from falling off the steeply slanted top of our duplex and possibly breaking my coccyx, I’m going to shout from this space in the 1’s and 0’s every Monday. Stop by and hopefully you’ll find out about some goodies you might not be familiar with!
“Every Shallow Cut”
“The Last Kind Words”
A little late to the party, I only recently discovered an author who is now one of my new favorites. Tom Piccirilli is what you might refer to as a modern literary stud. He’s won the International Thriller Award twice, was a finalist for the 2009 Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allen Poe Award, a final nominee for the Fantasy Award, and not only did he receive the Bram Stoker Award, he won it four times! Oh, yeah. One of those times was the first given in the category of Best Poetry Collection. You could say he knows his way around using these word thingys.
I knew nothing of Piccirilli’s achievements when I first became aware of his name. A few mentions in chat groups where people discussed their favorite horror or thriller books. His name came up often enough that I figured I should take a look and see what all the hub bub was about. Little did I know that not only does the man have more than a few awards on his shelf, the guy has a bibliography to rival the Stephen Kings and James Pattersons of the world. Nearly fifty books come up when you look for him on Amazon! With so many to chose from, I had no idea where to begin.
As luck would have it, my son loves frequenting one particular thrift store that carries the old VHS cassettes he loves so much. Next to the movies stand shelf after wonderful shelf of glorious books. Children’s books, cook books, history books, theater books, science fiction books, romance books and (much to my dark side’s chittering glee) horror books! I scrolled my greedy limited budget fingertips along the spines when suddenly, a name appeared in white on black that I did not expect to see. Tom Piccirilli. I immediately snatched the book, read the back cover blurb and put it on the very top of my son’s pile of Willy Wonka and A Bug’s Life tapes.
“Laughter and early spring winds breezed past his ear as the words fled across his hands, running like blood.”
-from “The Deceased” by Tom Piccirilli
After dinner that evening, I sat on the couch and opened the cover. I fell into the surreal and brutal universe of “The Deceased” only rising for a gasp of air and the occasional “Huh?” as I responded monosyllabic-ally to my family’s attempts at gaining my attention. Thus began a treacherous journey into the deep and vital imagination of Mr. Piccirilli. I finished “The Deceased” the next day. A whirlwind of ghosts, axe murders, incest, lake monsters, forest magic all drawn out in nightmarish haze. An atypical ghost story throwing daggers of scares often as discomforting as they are primal.
“I was three days into my life as a homeless loser drifter when they broke my nose and dropped me on the street in front of a nameless pawn shop. I hit like two hundred pounds of failed dreams.”
-from “Every Shallow Cut” by Tom Piccirilli
With the final page turned, I needed more. Piccirilli went fishing and dangled the hook right in front of me. Over the next few days I not only devoured one more of his books, I consumed two. First came the unflinchingly merciless tale of a man’s decent into hopelessness called “Every Shallow Cut”. A swift jab to the solar plexus, I succumbed to the powerful blow of this entire book in one night. Not remotely intended for the faint hearted. An already depressed man falls further into despair until nothing remains but a search for the end. His life falling apart around him, he painfully realizes how quickly and easily you can lose everything. Then... he buys a gun. I would describe the events further, but to do so would be to give away all that will squeeze your knuckles white while gripping the small paperback.
“He had less than two weeks to go before they strapped him down and injected poison into his heart. I knew Collie would be divided about it, the way he was divided about everything. A part of him would look forward to stepping off the big ledge. He’d been looking over it his whole life in one way or another.”
-from “The Last Kind Words” by Tom Piccrilli
The next round in the .357 Piccirilli chamber was a true masterpiece of modern noir called “The Last Kind Words”. This is the first in what will apparently be a series of books about Terrier Rand. Terrier is from a family of thieves who unhappily is summoned home to visit his brother on death row for murder. Vividly cast with brilliant portraits of scratched Polaroid family members each naturally named after a breed of dogs. Dialog bites and growls from the pages. Personalities so unique and often loving, I found myself rooting for them despite their unlawful and sometimes downright nasty intentions.
I have the Terrier Rand sequel “The Last Whisper In The Dark” on top of my wish list, so hopefully I’ll be able to dive into that one soon. For now, all I can say is go find some books by Tom Piccirilli and read them! With so many available in nearly every genre you can think of, there is bound to be something you will really enjoy. For me, I am very happy to know that it will be quite a while before I run out of Mr. Piccirilli’s words.
something interesting about me goes right...here