Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back From The Dead

Forget talking about nonstop work to the point of just under a hundred hours in ten days. What free time I had I was writing an essay on cyanide for Salem Press and doing an interview with David Bainbridge for DOORWAYS magazine. See that book cover up there? That was the first time I got killed off, I was a cop named Whitey Sallee. Jerry Williamson, rest his soul, wrote a ton of books and was a decent fellow at conventions in the 90s. This is another book that deserved better notice, as it involved a guy who had a curse put on him so bad shit rained down on him at high noon, not in the middle of the night. Kind of a cool idea, if you think about it. But. I want to talk more about the Caponegro book. I had not finished it when I made the original post, and at the point that Chapter 28 rolls around, it becomes somewhat ludicruous. But only part of it, more involving the main character of the book, Sandy. Or Cassie, depending on who is stalking her. And the book jumps in time, whereas the first half of the book is just a few weeks in July, the ending goes from November into March. As I have said, it can be skimmed, the writing is what was expected in the 1980s and, sadly, even now when you get the WTF? in your head when you find some schlockster won another Stoker award. But there is so much bizarre imagery involving the odd undead and their torture of those stranded on the island. Its the kind of thing Rob Zombie does with bhis remakes of the Herschell Gordon Lewis films like 2000 MANIACS. And the ending is one of the most disturbing and deplorable moments I can recall in anything I've read. Its hard to critique writing of any sort when one writes for a living (insert canned laughter here), but tarnation, mud and thunder. THE BREEZE HORROR, badly named, terribly described in the cover copy, likely given a two week shelf life before one of the Big Four drooled out their next novel, is an experience I hadn't expected to read from start to finish. Something I can no longer say about many of the Big Four's novels....dead on my feet, Wayne


Michael Fountain: Blood for Ink said...

As you say, it's hard to critique another man's writing when we know how hard it can be (his ideas are fair game, though). But I think you're talking about what a jazz musician would call "chops", the technical skills to craft prose that's worthy of the premise. I'll never forget when Esquire, in its smartass, glory days, asked a mess of writers to name an author who was overrated and someone who was unrated, and only Tennessee Williams-- the only writer in the article, by the way, with any immortality in him-- said very softly, that he thought Carson McCullers and another name I can't think of were under-rated, and then: "I cannot think that any writer of serious intent is over-rated".
As for the Big Names, they've fallen victim maybe to the publishing business making everything they do into a NATIONAL BESTSELLER-- i.e., an EVENT-- like a product, or a new car-- ANNOUNCING: THE 1997 model _____(fill in author's name here)___ -- pause for breathlessness... because we spent a million dollars to publish this goddamn doorstop i mean MASTERPIECE by the MASTER OF ____(fill in genre here)________.
Bog Almighty, look at some of the shit igloos manufactured by the late publicity hog Norman Mailer (a biography of Marilyn Monroe? anal rape in Ancient Egypt?) that were advertised-- and reviewed, multiple times (why do the few surviving book revews all review the same handful of authors?)-- as if New York had been waiting up nights to hear Norman tell them what happened to Little Nell.
So a lot of $tuff gets publiShed by a few big name$ that probably could have been better spent publishing a hundred lesser names. Some of them are even timed for Christmas giving.
In the Big Writers' defense, there once was a time when they could write a bad book now and then (John D. MacDonald, for example, thought his own Dress Her in Indigo was "pretty god-damned awful"), but that's okay, because another book was coming out, and another, and you keep throwing stuff at the altar on Parnassus until some of it sticks. Now the business has so much money tied up in these big contracts, that the promotion machine turns every mousey-squeak from the Big Name's fundament into ROLLING THUNDER. Michael Chabon, bless him, seems to be avoiding this trap, with no pretense that the two little books between Adventures of Cavalier and Clay and The Yiddish Policemen's Union were anything more than enjoyable little books. Neil Gaiman, by contrast, has become a Big Name, i.e., Brand Name, and even his repackaged short story collections are promoted into EVENTS.
Lucia hump (Mrs)

Charles Gramlich said...

One of my favorite "finds," a book virtually unknown but which I thought was truly excellent, was "Where the Chill Waits" by T. Chris Martindale.

Steve Malley said...

One of Basic Capitalism's cruellest mechanisms: the Land Grab.

When something's hot, everyone jumps in, good, bad or indifferent. The market floods until the customers turn their backs, and the Land Grabbers move on.

Horror really suffered in the 80's. The Land Grab was so thorough, so complete, that twenty years later the earth there remains salted and barren...

Anonymous said...

Geeze! Rest up, hon!

James Robert Smith said...

Sometimes those crappy horror novels are fun. So bad that they're a laugh. I'll never forget reading one many, many years ago called FERAL. About an army of stray cats. There's a scene at the end that was so (unintentionally) funny that I was roaring with laughter as I read it. Still and all, despite rampant silliness, it was well written and kept my interest to the end.

I used to know a writer who was very angry that his novel got bumped out of a slot that a publisher had to kind of fill in a gap--the kind of situation where they just buy something that comes through the door to keep the presses rolling. They don't promote it, they don't pay much for it, and it sinks out of sight and is remaindered almost as soon as it leaves the printer's.

Which brings up something curious that I saw at a giant book warehouse while on vacation this week. I was looking at the many shelves of blow-out books, and was mystified to see dozens and dozens of titles from Leisure Books--titles that are supposedly still "hot", and yet here they were being blown out for bargain basement prices. What gives? Are those zombie novels not selling anymore? Or is the Big L up to some kind of publishing hanky-panky?