Saturday, January 17, 2009

Judge Them By Their Covers

Never judge a book by its cover. Bullshit!

I read Hallahan's "Keeper of the Children" after I'd read "Misfire", a terrific novel about the US government's failure to adequately equip the military. No doubt about it, the "Keeper..." artwork is top notch and highly evocative. It is also misleading artwork, suggesting a novel about killer toys. For me, it recalls some of the bizarre Zebra Books artwork from the 80's, which I adore, although it's slightly more polished.

"Keeper Of The Children" is a must-read for anyone who appreciates a yarn well spun.
Alabama-born writer Michael McDowell died of AIDS in 1999, and his death was a terrible loss to literature.

One of the most underrated writers of his generation, most of his novels are now out of print. Avon published first edition paperbacks of his work beginning with "The Amulet" and concluding with "Blackwater", a mini-series of six connected novels. Not only did Stephen King cite McDowell for greatness in his "Danse Macabre", he followed McDowell's lead when he released "The Green Mile" in series form.
The Boston-set "Katie" focuses on the homicidal rampage of a young woman who kills her mother's customers with a hammer. It is exquisitely grotesque and odd, and elevated to art by McDowell's amazing facility with language. What a rotten, awful thing that he is no longer with us.

Avon's marketing line, "Katie never killed with kindness", perfectly captures the macabre, darkly humorous tone of McDowell's language.

No writer personifies "pulp fiction" more than Guy N. Smith, the legendary storyteller from Shropshire, England, whose "Night of the Crabs", "The Slime Beast", and "The Sucking Pit" are unequaled for sheer, bloody brilliance.

With almost 100 horror novels to his revered name, Smith is a one-man horror industry.

The setting for "Manitou Doll" (Hamlyn Paperbacks; '81) is a mysterious fairground, that becomes an arena for rape, dismemberment, and mass murder.

Smith writes with the confidence of a man who doesn't give a fuck whether he offends you, scares the shit out of you, or rattles your sensitivities. What he does care about is keeping your eyes riveted to that page.

I intend to write a lot more about Smith. For now, track down a copy of "Manitou Doll". It's as good as its gleefully fiendish cover.

Few writers create unease with the subtlety of TM Wright, whose "A Manhattan Ghost Story" (Tor; '84) sent Hollywood producers into a flurry. They shelled out $2 million for the rights and paid Sharon Stone $6 million to star in it; Sharon got paid, the movie didn't get made (not yet, anyway).

Set in Manhattan, it's the tale of a parallel society of the dead, and a man who infiltrates its corners.

The back jacket of the Tor paperback establishes the novel's tone succinctly:

"They're waiting for you. Around that dusky corner, beyond that unlit window, in the next office you visit.

"You're alive, aren't you?

"They want revenge for that. And they'll get it."

My initial encounter with Wright was "Strange Seed" (Everest House; '78), the first of a mind-bending series about a race of humans who are, literally, the children of Mother Earth. In "Danse Macabre", Stephen King identified the book as one of his favorites of all time.

Wright has a unique, powerful voice, and the ability to create a rhythm with language that remains in the psyche like a tattoo.


  1. Hi...

    I am roxane A. White-Wright, TM's wife. We are thankful for your interest and appreciation of TM's writing. TM enjoys having me read your blog to him. He's happy you enjoy his writing. He'd post himself, but is having cataract problems and cannot see the monitor that well.

    Please feel free to contact him at his website, He'd love to hear from you.

    Thank you again.

    Roxane A. White-Wright

  2. Dear Roxane and TM,

    I am totally humbled by your wonderful message.

    Thank you so much for writing. I am sorry to hear about the cataract issues.

    If there is anything else I can ever do to shine greater light on your brilliant work, please let me know. I sincerely mean that.

    When I was quite young, you showed me a type of creativity that inspired several endeavors of my own. There is such a purity of voice and intention in your work, and no concession to anything but your own person integrity. There will come a day when your work will be widely recognized for its originality and ability to transport the reader in carriages rarely driven.

    I will drop by the TM website shortly and say hello.

    Thank you for adding such sunshine to my day.

    I wish you both well.

    PhantomofPulp (Mark)