Monday, October 31, 2011
MY HALLOWEEN WEEKEND
Happy Halloween, my bloggy fiends. Though I find myself somewhat
lacking in the Halloween spirit this year, I did spend much of the
weekend reading or viewing scary fare. Of course, nothing was more
scary than when I checked out a book at one of my local library’s
self-checkout machines and it informed me I owed a library fee of
Okay...I don’t actually owe the library nearly 19 million dollars.
This is a glitch that shows up on the checkout machines every few
months. The first several times it happened, the librarians were
as amused as I was. The comedy has worn off for them as it happens
again and again.
My reading material this Halloween weekend consisted of two Sanctum
Books volumes published by my pal Anthony Tollin: Doc Savage #51:
“The Land of Fear” & “The Fiery Menace” and The Shadow #53: “Garden
of Death” & “The Vampire Murders” [$14.95 each]. The reprinted
pulp magazine tales in these two books were chosen to go along with
this Halloween season.
The Land of Fear [June 1937] is by Harold A. Davis, who authored a
dozen Doc Savage novels before becoming the first managing editor
of Newsday. The “skeleton death” utilized by the story’s villains
is sufficiently eerie to justify its inclusion in this Halloween-
themed volume, but, as a modern reader, I found another element to
be equally scary. Davis writes glowingly of a community in Africa
formed by Southerners fleeing to that continent after the Civil War
with what are said to be their “faithful retainers.” Even today, of
course, there are some who would honor as some proud heritage a way
of life built upon the enslavement of others. Given the acceptable
racism of the 1930s, it’s somewhat less scary in a Doc Savage yarn
than in modern politics. My discomfort aside, Davis still spins an
Written by Lester Dent, The Fiery Menace [September 1942] is much
more to my taste. Unlike most Doc Savage stories, this one finds
the Man of Bronze and his aides at odds with the police, a leftover
from a previous novel. The book’s “vampire” killer is gruesome and
mysterious. “Frenemies” Monk and Ham are in especially fine form in
this one. Also, Pat Savage, Doc’s beautiful and feisty cousin, has
a major role and that’s always a good thing.
My energy levels were sort of low over the weekend, so I watched a
lot of television. Besides channel-surfing between various horror
movies - AMC was showing Halloween and all its sequels, Antenna TV
was airing a selection of Hammer Films movies, Comedy Central had
Shaun of the Dead, Turner Classic Movies had chilling classics like
Them and In the Good Old Summertime, to name a few - I watched the
first episodes of three different fantasy and/or horror series and
caught up with Supernatural.
Re: Supernatural. For me, the jury’s still out on this “Leviathan”
story arc, but the three episodes I watched were of my preferred
“monster of the week” variety. They included a star turn by Jewel
Staite as “The Girl Next Door” from Sam’s past, a ancient Egyptian
god who was less holy and more ass-holey, and the marvelous reunion
of James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter as married witches going
through a rough patch. The Staite episode promises to have serious
consequences for the Winchester brothers. Good stuff.
ABC’s Once Upon a Time stars Jennifer Morrison as Rose Swan, a skip
tracer who is drawn to a village whose inhabitants are transformed
fairy tale characters largely unaware of their true natures. Yes,
it’s uncomfortably close to Bill Willingham’s Fables in some ways,
but the pilot episode was intriguing enough for me to add the show
to my Sunday recording schedule. However, right from the get-go,
I’m seeing this as a one-story series that shouldn’t run more than
12 or 13 episodes. Unless ABC is looking for something as boring
as Lost quickly became.
On Friday nights, NBC’s Grimm also attempts to dine on Willingham’s
lunch. A police detective discovers he is the last in a long line
of monster-hunters with the ability to see these creatures as their
true selves when they let their guard down. Now I love me my cop
shows, especially when they have a quirk to them, and I’ll continue
watching this for a while. However, it does bother me more than a
little that the Big Bad Wolf - an accountant who has disavowed his
wicked ways - is the hero’s unwilling informant and sidekick. Too
close to Fables for comfort.
On Wednesday nights, BBC has Whitechapel. Rupert Penry-Jones plays
a stuffy and inexperienced police inspector whose rise through the
ranks is politically motived. His first case with detectives who
have little regard for his finery is the brutal slaying of a young
woman, but, by the end of the first episode, it’s clear some modern
mastermind and monster is duplicating the Jack the Ripper murders.
Absolutely gripping television.
Getting back to Sanctum Books...
I’m only about 70% through The Shadow #53: “Garden of Death” & “The
Vampire Murders,” but I have finished the first of the two novels
it presents. Garden of Death [September 1, 1942] is now one of my
favorite Shadow yarns, a terrific thriller with a truly diabolical
villain, all sorts of clever bits and great roles for the Shadow’s
supporting cast. In the hands of author Walter B. Gibson, the
“Garden” itself becomes a fascinating character. Wonderful stuff.
The Vampire Murders [September 8, 1946], which I’ll finish today,
has a sprawling “haunted” house, a gathering of would-be heirs to
a family fortune, sinister servants, and a prowling vampire. The
vampire is likely not the real deal, but the fun this yarn has been
delivering is genuine.
Backing up the two novels is “Vampires Prowl by Night,” the script
to a Shadow radio thriller from 1946. It’s written by Gibson Scott
Fox. Extras like this and the historical essays by Tollin and Will
Murray make Sanctum’s Doc Savage and Shadow books must reading
for fans of the characters, of the pulps, and of old time radio.
I recommend them all.
If all goes as planned, I will be handing out candy here in Medina
tonight with Sainted Wife Barb. I hope your own Halloween is safe
and full of frightening fun.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2011 Tony Isabella