Friday, March 31, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 018: We Must Remain Focused When Waiting for Thunder”

Jesse Reno – We Must Remain Focused When Waiting for Thunder (2008)

I first discovered the artwork of Jesse Reno (who, last I heard, lives in Portland, Oregon) at The Lunar Boy Gallery in Astoria, Oregon, which was my favorite gallery, EVER, and therefore had to close. Anyway, my wife and I drug the kids into this cool gallery near the coast, coincidentally during an exhibition of Reno’s paintings. We were immediately struck by how expressive and creepy these paintings were, and were very pleased to find a book of Reno’s work right there in the gallery, so we scooped it up that instant.

The images in this book have a Native American aesthetic, but haunted, corrupted, and dipped in extract of Basquiat, with a side order of Cy Twombly sauce for spice. Most of the paintings have a central image that is part animal, part human, part ghost, and/or part plant, with extra limbs, multiple faces, arms that end in snakes, horn, or some other chimerical morphology. Reno uses acrylics, oil pastels, pencil, and collage bits, usually on a wood support, to create a multi-layered, masterfully collaged (almost quilted, at times) look, and the creatures in the paintings ALSO have this same multi-layered feel: part Native American / part modern hipster / part Nature / part spirit world.

In addition to the central creatures, there are also many repeated symbols peppered throughout the works: the bird, the sun (sometimes fractured in two), flowers, snakes, squiggles, stars, and written words that both complicate and compliment the images. The titles for the paintings (sometimes scrawled into the images themselves) add to the feeling of each piece, creating a magical incantation, and a hypnotic, haunted feel. That’s probably the best word for all of this work, even the images that are smiling or swimming in light colors: haunted.

I’m willing to admit that I’ve stolen a lot from Reno in my own artwork (although I’d never pretend to having the depth or complexity of what he accomplishes.) If you are a fan of modern artists like Jean Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, or Robert Rauschenberg, or if you like your Native American art with a touch of the grotesque and bizarre, then a book by Jesse Reno might just be the thing for you!

---Richard F. Yates

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 017: Spy vs Spy: Casebook of Craziness”

Mad Magazine was a staple of my childhood. I didn’t read it regularly, but devoured every issue that I did get my hands on. I loved the fake adverts, the parodies of popular films, the back cover that you could fold over to reveal a NEW picture that you couldn’t really see even though it was right before your eyes, and the great comics by Sergio Aragones, Don Martin, and (my favorite of all) Antonio Prohias.

Antonio Prohias – Spy vs Spy: Casebook of Craziness (2014)

If you’ve never read Mad Magazine, or played any of the Spy vs Spy video games, or happened across the animated shows, or seen the board game or blah blah blah, (seems unlikely, but you never know) here’s what the story is all about: deception. Prohias (who was born in Cuba) chronicles the escapades of a pair of spies who look exactly alike, except that one is always dressed in black, one always in white, who are constantly trying to find new and inventive ways to do each other in. By the end of every strip, one or the other of them is usually shot, stabbed, poisoned, mauled, or blown up, but neither spy is ever the clear “winner” of the war.

Imagine Wile E. Coyote mixed with Rube Goldberg, in a series of black and white, pantomimed, Cold War espionage films. The comics are violent, but not gory---sadistic and ironic for certain---and often stretch believability to the breaking point, but they are also downright fun, and oddly, there doesn’t seem to be any clear GOAL to the attacks beyond outwitting and destroying the other guy. (And, like Kenny from South Park, they always come back to life ready to be killed again in the next adventure.)

This collection has very few words in it (other than some sound effects and the occasional label on a button or package), and can be flipped through fairly quickly. Some of the gags are a bit corny, and anybody bothered by violence probably wouldn’t like it, but for fans The Three Stooges, Rube Goldberg, or of Mad Magazine, it’s not a bad little compilation of Prohias’s late-70s / early-80s material. Just make sure you check the book for ticking noises or strange, protruding wires before you open it!

---Richard F. Yates

Sunday, March 26, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 016: Howl and Other Poems”

We got the Beat!

Allen Ginsberg – Howl and Other Poems (1956/2006)

Back in 1956, this book was put on trial, accused of being pornographic. OH, HOW THE TIMES HAVE CHANGED! Anyone who watches your average HBO or Netflix program, and then reads “Howl” expecting the same level of naughtiness is going to be disappointed. There are a handful of body parts mentioned in the text, one or two references to Ginsberg’s homosexuality, and perhaps a few four-letter words, but I think our society has caught up with The Beats, in terms of cultural tolerance.

What our society hasn’t caught up with, or perhaps has lost completely, is Ginsberg’s ability to evoke a mood and an atmosphere in just a few words. He had an uncanny ability to conjure ghosts with a shake of his pen---and the first ten or twelve lines of “Howl” are an absolute fireworks display, a flash-bang-pow, that illuminated an entire underground culture. This book was first published in the mid-50s, when America was supposedly a straight-laced, Leave It to Beaver country (it wasn’t), when Ozzie and Harriet ruled, and when MEN WERE MEN and women belonged in the kitchen… And then suddenly CRASH! this book descends from outer-space and invades the popular consciousness, with its talk of drugs and homosexuality, exposing the fragile and false PRIME TIME fa├žade of American life---it must have been pretty shocking. Ginsberg possessed a stunning ability to paint a phrase in alien colors, and (at the time) Howl was a total freak-show that terrified the mainstream, at least enough for them to ban the book and put it on trial.

The poems in this collection are also interesting (to poetry fans and scholars, at least) because they show the TRANSITION of Ginsberg from a Romantic to a Mystic. The earliest works included here, written between 1952-1954, were clearly created by a self-conscious young man who could turn a pretty phrase. They are fragile and sweet and shy. However, by the time we reach the verses from about 1955 or so, Ginsberg begins to EXPAND. He becomes a mouthpiece for cosmic energy, and his poems become stronger, stranger, more like magical chanting that exposes us to candid glimpses into the world BENEATH the normal. What allows the poet to pull this off are Ginsberg’s skills and his economy of language, and his choice to mix the mundane with the magical. In lesser hands this could be disastrous, but Ginsberg’s vision is unique---and it works. He has a headache, he doesn’t feel like writing today, he’s just going shopping in a supermarket---and then he starts fantasizing, and imagines Walt Whitman browsing in the cold cold cuts and eyeing the stock boys.

Ginsberg is one of my favorite poets, and this short book is one of the best and most important of his works. I really wish people would take the time to read poetry again. We’re losing the ability in this culture to think in metaphor, to play with language, to imagine the ridiculous mixed in with the mundane, and to chant magical incantations when we’re expected to keep quiet. I would recommend that EVERYONE read this book, even if you hate poetry---especially if you hate poetry. It’s short, brilliant, freakish, and funny, and it’s time we brought a little magic back into our everyday lives…

---Richard F. Yates

Thursday, March 23, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 015: Martian-American War”

Full disclosure: the book that I’m about to review was written and drawn by friends of mine. Hopefully, I have enough integrity to be objective. We’ll see if that’s the case...

Daniel T. Foster & Michael J. King – Martian-American War (2005)

Martian-American War is an illustrated short story in the “dime novel” style (text with illustrations). Dan Foster spins this yarn, which reminds me of a classic pulp adventure in the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vein. Meanwhile, Michael King, who drew the line art, seems to be channeling the detail work of John Tenniel (most famous for his Alice in Wonderland illustrations) or maybe (the sadly recently deceased) Bernie Wrightson.

The tale takes place in an alternate timeline in which Thomas Edison is president, Tesla has designed weapons for the military, and space is full of ether, upon which flotilla ships travel to other planets. When an Earth ship is destroyed, and Martian weapons are discovered in the wreckage, Teddy Roosevelt heads to Mars with the troops to protect the human way of life. Dan Foster’s writing is strong, and the adventure is fun, while King’s artwork fleshes the tale out, giving life to the characters---and his cover for the book is a true masterpiece.

One knit-picky bit: the version that I have suffers from a couple of typos, including one repeated paragraph, but I’ve read a great many independently published books (not to mention some books made by the BIG BOYS) and most of them have had a few typos and glitches. (I believe the newer editions of Martian-American War have corrected the errors, but I haven't seen them to be certain.) With that one minor complaint, I did enjoy the book, and would recommend it for fans of “Golden Age” science-fiction, pulp adventures, and “alternate history” stories. I am also looking forward to reading the sequel (already available), which stars Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, and supposedly has more of a Lovecraftian mood!

---Richard F. Yates

P.S. – Unfortunately for most folks, finding this book in a store will be difficult unless you live in the Pacific Northwest (USA). If you attend the Rose City Comicon (Portland, OR) or Jet City Comicon (Tacoma, WA), you can grab a copy from the Art-Horse Studios booth. Or, you can check out their Faceboot page by going HERE!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 014: Krazy & Ignatz”

George Herriman – Krazy & Ignatz (2002/2004)

For those of you who may not be familiar with Krazy Kat, it was a long running newspaper comic strip created by George Herriman, not liked by many “normal” folk, but adored by William Randolph Hearst (who kept the strip in HIS newspapers for something like four decades, despite constant complaint letters and requests, even from other editors, that he drop the comic.) Apparently, according to the introduction to this collection, the series was loved by the elite artists of the day: Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, and that whole crowd. Maybe they just liked an underdog? Anyway, this particular book collects two years (1925-1926) worth of Sunday comics in one handy, and very nicely put together package. A+ for presentation, but Fantagraphics is usually great for quality.

The STORY in Herriman’s comic is a different beast than our usual, modern tales. It’s somehow wonderfully simple, always LOOKS great, but is also bizarre and a bit creepy at times. Here’s the skeletal version of what’s going on: Krazy Kat, who is sometimes referred to as “he” and sometimes as “she,” loves Ignatz the mouse. Ignatz mouse seems to hate Krazy Kat and spends most of each episode trying to figure out how to crack Krazy Kat in the back of the head with a brick. Krazy, who is clearly a masochist, sees these blatant attacks on his/her person as messages of love from Ignatz. (Whenever a brick “zips” from the mouse’s hand and bashes the kat’s skull, Krazy sees hearts instead of stars.) A third party in this love affair is Officer Pupp, who clearly loves Krazy Kat, and tries to stop Ignatz the mouse from assaulting the feline, and subsequently many of the strips end with Ignatz being carted off to jail either for bashing the cat’s brain or for attempted brain bashery. And that’s it. Mouse attacks cat with brick. Cat loves mouse. Dog loves cat and arrests mouse for assaulting him/her. Let the mutations on this formula begin!

The first time I read this collection, about 10 or 12 years ago, I was a little put off by the hand-drawn lettering (not always easy to read) and by the fact that Krazy Kat talks in a comical (but sometimes difficult to decipher) dialect. There are also some rather un-P.C. moments of racial stereotyping and offensive name calling (it was the 1920s.) This time, however, I was better prepared for the dialect, and found the experience to be extremely enjoyable. Herriman’s art is exceptional. His characters are simple and cartoony, but still expressive, and his backgrounds are evocative and dreamlike. The situations are absurd and, if you go along with the joke, can be very fun. The whole FEEL of the series is unearthly, bizarre, and freakish---and that’s just what I’ve been in the mood for lately. Overall, if you want to see where newspaper comics came from, like surreal situations and humor, or just like seeing someone smashed in the head with a brick, this might be the book for you!

---Richard F. Yates

Saturday, March 18, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 013: Getting Even”

One of my earliest movie-going memories (and I don’t think my parents realized that a four-year-old would be able to recall a random night at the drive-in) is from Woody Allen’s film, Everything You Want to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). In the final segment of the movie, a giant, disembodied---uuummm---breast goes skooching across the countryside milking people to death. That visual, that CONCEPT stuck with me, for some reason. Body parts with minds of their own… The man responsible for that film (and that memory) also wrote books. This is one of them.

Woody Allen – Getting Even (1971/1978)

I’m a fan of absurdism (if that isn’t obvious), and one of the most expert and prolific proponents of this style is Woody Allen. Yes, I know his personal life, as reported in the scandal-obsessed media, has caused more than a few eyebrows to twitch, but his movies are often quite enjoyable, and can even be on the border (or full-fledged citizens) of genius. Love & Death, Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Zelig, Deconstructing Harry, What’s Up Tiger Lily, Bananas, Small Time Crooks, Midnight in Paris---I could go on---are some of the greatest comedies ever put on film, and I will always love and appreciate these movies, whether their director is a sicko or not…

Now this book, Getting Even, is a collection of early writing from Mr. Allen’s career, with some of these pieces first seeing publication as far back as 1966. Interestingly, some of the gags and concepts that would later show up in films like Bananas and Love & Death were first worked out in these intriguing tales. It’s a fact that the full blue-print for Midnight in Paris (which wasn’t released until 2011) can be found in one of Woody’s ancient stories, present here as “A Twenties Memory,” which was published a solid 40 years before the movie came out!!!

Movie anecdotes aside, the stories in this collection are all short, usually focused on a single theme (organized crime, literary criticism, psychiatry, Count Dracula…), and all pack a joke into about every third line. His humor here, as in the early movies, is farcical and ridiculous, and it really does hold up well in written form. I still laughed loud enough to bug my wife while reading this book in bed over the last few nights, and I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who’s seen the funny films a hundred times, loved them, and wants some new(ish) jokes to chew on in Woody’s unique style. A very fun book, but if you don’t like Woody Allen, or stories that are genuinely clever and funny, you might want to look elsewhere.

---Richard F. Yates

Friday, March 17, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 012: All This and Snoopy, Too”

In 1989, (or was it 1990?), I bought about a dozen Peanuts collections at a library book sale for 10 cents apiece. Every now and then, when I get in a specific mood, I grab one of those books and give it a read. Like most people from the “T.V.” generation, I grew up watching The Great Pumpkin and the Charlie Brown Christmas specials every holiday, and I still enjoy them today. I would read the newspaper comics, I wore the tee-shirts, I bought the VHS tapes, I even had several Peanuts Pez dispensers, and I loved my Snoopy and the Red Baron Viewmaster Slides. Despite all this nostalgia and cultural familiarity, how does a Peanuts book hold up today?

Charles M. Schulz – All This and Snoopy, Too (1962)

According to the cover, this book is a selection of cartoons from a previous collection, which seems weird to me, (why make a collection out of another collection?) Neither am I exactly certain when these cartoons were first drawn. I can tell from how Snoopy is presented that this is not a 1950s collection. In the earliest comics, Snoopy was drawn with a smaller nose, which looked almost like a real beagle’s. In the much later renditions, from the 1970s on, Snoopy’s personality changes and he becomes almost a human character: riding motorcycles, using a typewriter, cooking food, wearing sunglasses, etc. However, in this book, his nose is big and bulbous, but he doesn’t really do much that would count as human. He mostly sits on his doghouse and thinks thoughts to himself.

I actually really like Snoopy’s personality as it comes across in his monologues. It’s a shame that he’s made mute in the animated shows because we lost a lot when they took away his voice. He’s easily my favorite character in this book. Besides Snoopy being funny, I also noticed that there are several jokes in this collection that would later show up in the Christmas Special (which came out in 1965) and other animated shows. And, most interesting to me, I was surprised to (re)discover that Lucy’s Psychiatry Booth was actually the punchline to a lemonade stand joke! Lots of history here in this little book, if you’re a fan of Peanuts.

Is the collection worth reading beyond the history lesson? Yeah, it’s not bad. It’s a quick read, some of the jokes are still pretty funny (although some are a bit dated---but jeeze, these cartoons are over 50 years old!), and like I said, I like Snoopy. I probably wouldn’t pay an arm and a leg for it, but if you find it used for cheap, and you already like Peanuts, it would probably be worth grabbing. (If you DON’T already know Charlie Brown and his dog, if that’s possible, then this might not be the book for you.)

---Richard F. Yates

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 011: The Crying of Lot 49”

[Originally posted 13 Mar. 2017. ---RFY]

Thomas Pynchon – The Crying of Lot 49 (1965/2006)

Thomas Pynchon is a critically acclaimed, but somewhat mysterious author, (he doesn’t allow photographs, and he appeared on an episode of The Simpsons wearing a bag on his head!) who crafts odd, humorous, haunting, and disturbing books that leave their readers feeling uncomfortable and ill-at-ease, but entertained. This book, which is brilliant, is his shortest (many of his books being massive tomes that take extreme effort and a serious time commitment to get through), but at only 150 pages, even someone who reads as slowly as I do can finish this one in just a few days.

I’ve read this book at least four times, and each time I read it, I get something new out of the experience. Equal parts mystery-thriller, slap-stick comedy, and extreme social critique, The Crying of Lot 49 centers around Oedipa Maas, a woman trapped in the suburban Hell of southern Californian Tupperware Parties and fondue affairs, who inexplicably finds herself wrapped up in a hunt for proof of the existence of a centuries old secret society that just might point to a hidden network of underground misfits and world-wide, murderous conspiracies—or it might all just point to Oedipa herself, going slowly mad. Evidence piles up, supporting characters get taken out, and Oedipa wonders whether she’s really building a strong case, or just making connections where none really exist. Is it all a practical joke perpetrated by her dead, billionaire ex-lover?

Pynchon’s writing is poetic, but easy to read. The book is full of repetitions, symbols, booze, drugs, fake rock stars, bullets, death, dreams, and psychosis, and is very funny, sharp, and entertaining. I would recommend it for intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals who want to appear more intelligent by having it on their coffee tables, drug users, and for fans of books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Less Than Zero, and most Beat Generation lunacy! A great book.

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 010: Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret”

[Originally posted 10 Mar 2017. ---RFY]

Michael Kupperman – Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret (2000)

This book is shear genius. I first discovered Snake ‘n’ Bacon at a cut-out bookshop in Seaside, Oregon (USA), probably about ten years ago, and I’ve repurchased this book once, because I keep loaning it out to different people (to try and spread the insanity), and forgot who I loaned it to. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!

With this book, Michael Kupperman has created an absurdist masterpiece. In these pages is a series of very short (usually only a page or two long, sometimes as short as two or three panels), very bizarre, often nonsensical stories featuring odd characters, like Love’s Tiny Robot, the Rabid District Attorney, Underpants-on-His-Head-Man, Sherlockules (a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Hercules), and The Mannister (the superhero who can turn into a banister and stop people from falling down stairs.) Kupperman also works a number of historical figures into his stories. Picasso, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Roger Daltrey, and Edgar Allan Poe all make classic appearances. There are comic book parodies, literary parodies, advertising parodies, mystery parodies, and lots of just plain old strange shit.

And speaking of strange, the main characters, Snake and Bacon, appear in numerous weird little stories in the “cabaret,” but regardless of what is happening around them, Snake only hisses, and Bacon says something like “Put me in a cheeseburger” or “Use a paper towel to wipe off excess grease.” Like I said: GENIUS!

Kupperman’s art is also great, often mimicking whatever style of story he’s making fun of, and at times the art is almost as detailed as an old fashioned wood-block print, similar to the illustrations for some of the old Alice in Wonderland books I’ve read or ancient prints of witches being tortured by the Church. In a very real sense, some of his images can actually be quite haunting, and would be super creepy if the stories around them weren’t so crazy.

I love this book, and I’ve read it at least six times, and I’m sure I’ll read it again before the year is out. It’s crazy and creepy (and not very kid friendly), and I recommend it for anyone who loves comics, who loves to hate comics, who enjoys Monty Python style cleverness, or who wonders what it would be like if Salvador Dali teamed up with the Three Stooges and Mighty Mouse to make a series of comic strips about dating and dream interpretation. A nearly perfect creation…

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 009: The Willows”

[Originally posted 8 Mar. 2017. ---RFY]

Time for some classic horror!

Algernon Blackwood – The Willows (1907)

The Willows is either a longish short story or a shortish novella by Algernon Blackwood, who is one of the absolute masters of horror. (He even inspired H.P. Lovecraft, and that’s saying something!) This story is about a couple of friends who are canoeing down the Danube and find themselves in the midst of a flood and washed into a strange, marshy area. The water is rushing, the wind is howling, and the sun is about to set, so the travelers decide to make camp on a sandy island covered in bushes and small trees. Events quickly turn creepy, however, as strange noises are heard without sources, odd things float by in the floodwater, the island itself starts to crumble into the rushing waters, and the campers start feeling an unexplainable, unearthly sense of dread.

This is a great, creepy tale, despite being over a hundred years old, and it doesn’t suffer as much as some older spooky stories do in the language department. I know people who think Lovecraft can be a slog to get through, and I personally had a rough time finishing both DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN because of the language, so I get it. (I DID finish them both because they are CLASSICS, and it felt weird having not read two of the foundational texts of the horror genre, when I consider myself a horror scholar. I didn’t really care for either book, but now I HAVE read them…) Blackwood is a solid writer, and this particular tale is very well told.

And not only is the story good, but I was also able to find the book as a free download for my e-reader through Amazon! (As local department store owner, Tom Peterson, used to say, “Free is a very good price!”) I would definitely recommend this one for fans of supernatural horror, for people who are interested in older tales (but who don’t want to spend a month reading a true Gothic novel: Wilkie Collins’s THE WOMAN IN WHITE is over 500 pages long and VARNEY THE VAMPIRE is more than 800—but it’s such fantastic, purple prose, penny-dreadful crap that it’s almost worth it!), or perhaps this book might be just the ticket for people who really don’t like camping and want a good excuse to stay home!

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 008: The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky”

[Originally posted 7 Mar. 2017. ---RFY]

Susan K. Putney & Berni Wrightson – The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky (1986)

Berni Wrightson is one of my favorites. I used to have some of his haunting Swamp Thing comics, as well as a trading card series featuring his art, but I’ve lost most of my things over the years in various moves (and attempts at fleeing from whatever agency it is that keeps trying to kill us. WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!!!) So when I was handed this little graphic novel by my older daughter, I was very pleased.

The story itself (written by Susan K. Putney, a name I don’t recognize) is a strange, dimension-hopping fairytale focused on a 200-year-old little girl who lives in an eternal summer that she has created in a pocket universe, but who is now being attacked by a magical, morphing creature bent on destroying her. Oddly enough, she finds Spider-Man beating up some petty criminals while she’s shopping for supplies in New York, and invites him to come back to her universe and fight the creature with her. One of the great mysteries about this book, for me at least, is WHY this is a Spider-Man story at all. Doctor Strange or Silver Surfer or Son of Satan or even Howard the Duck all seem more in tune with fighting magical morphing beasts in alternate dimensions than Spidey does, but whatever. It’s a Spidey story.

The mood is pretty kid friendly, more fairytale-like than the gritty, violent books that seemed to dominate the comic shops when I was visiting them in this era, and Wrightson’s artistic abilities are somewhat underutilized for much of the book—until we get to the CREATURE, and as soon as the nasty shows up, we get to see Wrightson go to town! I won’t give away too much, but let’s just say, if you are a Berni fan, you will be happy with what you get. Hell, the cover art alone is worth the $12 or $13 this book sells for now-a-days. So that’s my overall take on the book: starts a bit slow, has Spider-Man in it for no particular reason, Wrightson kills it with the monsters, and the story might be too tame and kidsy for our modern, jaded readers, but for the price, it’s not a bad book.

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 007: Doctor No”

[Originally posted 5 Mar. 2017. ---RFY]

For my Double-O-7th review, I felt I HAD to do something with Bond… James Bond…

Ian Fleming – Doctor No (1958/1964)

Doctor No is Ian Fleming’s sixth adventure thriller starring the ever popular agent with the license to kill, James Bond. I grew up watching James Bond movies, mostly of the Sean Connery or Roger Moore varieties, but I wouldn’t really call myself a big FAN. (My favorite Bond film is Moonraker, which might even disqualify me as a Bond fan at all.) In addition, this is the only Fleming novel I’ve ever read—and I only really read it because I had it laying around the house and I wanted to review a 007 book for my seventh review!

So let’s start with the bad, because there’s a lot of bad in this book. The unmistakable horror of racism is the foundation upon which the entire narrative is structured (and possibly by which the world turned back then. I’m not sure.) The story takes place in Jamaica in the 1950s, where the benign British government have set up shop on the island to help make sure the good natured but essentially lazy and dim witted islanders use the rich natural resources to the fullest benefit. Into this loving and ideal relationship comes the evil Doctor No, of mixed Chinese descent, and his army of ethnic killers… This is pretty dark stuff. It turned my stomach, to be frank.

In a sick way, a novel like this does show the progress we’ve made in the last hundred years, (prior to the rise of the Trumpster’s lot, that is). However, the sick specter of eugenics is still pervasive in this novel, which is less than sixty years old, and it was a popular novel that was already in it’s 16th printing by 1964. It’s awful. Truly. Sexism is also rampant in the book, plus there are some rather unpleasant descriptions of torture in the tale (a large chunk almost reminds me of the Saw movies), and Bond appears to be a massive alcoholic, but somehow these issues seem less depressing because they aren’t the KEY ELEMENTS by which the narrative turns. The racism, however, is foundational to the plot and character development throughout the entire story.

With that said, and I think it had to be said, there are a few things that I did like about the book. For one thing, and unlike the glamorized films, Bond is a very human character in this tale. He has doubts, he gets scared, he makes mistakes… He isn’t all dash and perfection. For me, this made the unpleasant situations that he had to endure more effective. Things stick to Bond in this book. There are consequences to his miscalculations. I actually kind of liked him, as a character, and you certainly root for him to pull through. Interestingly to me, I didn’t really think of him as any particular ACTOR, either. I’ve never seen the film version of Doctor No, so that might have helped, but as the character is suffering through a giant centipede crawling up his leg as he lays in his hotel room bed at night, I didn’t imagine the creepy crawler making his way up Sean Connery’s leg—it was BOND’s leg.

So I’ll give Fleming his due. He is a strong writer who can certainly create an engrossing tale. It’s just unfortunate that he was writing during an era where racist conceptions were so pervasive. Do I think others should read this book? Maybe. Fleming can definitely craft a thrilling narrative, but be aware that you are dipping into a dark time when racism was alive and well, spewing from the faces of every character, good and evil, and when men where men and women were toys, and when your main character could chug booze like he’s in a contest at a frat party while ON DUTY as a spy for the British government and in the midst horrifying, life threatening situations. Oh, and the villain in this book has metal clamps for hands, which was pretty cool. There you go…

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 006: Dead Until Dark”

[Originally posted 3 Mar. 2017. ---RFY]

Charlaine Harris – Dead Until Dark (2001/2008)

Perhaps you are surprised to see a “paranormal romance” book in my list. Maybe you’d be even more surprised to discover that this was the 3rd or 4th time I’ve read it…but maybe you shouldn’t be. I originally bought this book (when it had a different cover) a decade or more ago when my daughter was having surgery to remove a “thyroglossal duct cyst,” but as I’m phobic about hospitals, truly terrified of anything to do with illness or medicine, I was completely unable to focus on the story, only made it a few pages into the book, and then set it aside and forgot about it…

Flash forward a few years, and a professor of mine and I start working on a paper discussing the process by which vampires went from scary, soul destroying monsters to sparkly heroes (which we presented at a conference in Colorado Springs, and which was later published in the conference proceedings! That’s right, I am officially a VAMPIRE SCHOLAR.) Meanwhile, this new t.v. show appears called TrueBlood, which my wife and I both enjoy, and I spot that the show was based on that book series that I’d started and forgotten about. At that point, my wife and I dove into the books, bought them all and read them, buying each new book as they came out, and loving them, until Harris ended the series with book thirteen. (Fitting.) My wife and I have both read the books a couple of times now. They are easy to read, fun, a bit disgusting, and a bit steamy.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the show or read the books, here’s the low-down. The premise is that vampires have “come out of the coffin” and presented themselves as real to the people of the world. An artificial blood drink has been produced that allows vampires to live without harming humans, and they want to be treated like normal people (who have a strange allergy to the sun and silver and garlic.) Sure. Our main character for the series is Sookie, a mind reading waitress, who falls in love with a civil war era vampire named Bill. And then the fun begins as Sookie is introduced to the vampire world, and strange creatures start popping out of the woodwork.

Truthfully, this book fits most securely in the MYSTERY genre, as the primary story line is about a series of murders that take place in the small town where Sookie lives, with the police wanting to blame either her vampire boyfriend or Sookie’s brother, who seems to have had vigorous relations with all the deceased women. And I should mention that this series is swimming in (necrophiliac tinged) sex. It is a sweaty romance series, as well as a mystery series, as well as a supernatural fantasy series.

But why do I like the book? Like the Harry Potter books or Watership Down or even the Supernatural t.v. series, it’s the familiar characters and the fun/intriguing situations that keep me coming back. Sookie is a girly girl, which sometimes gets on my nerves, as Harris will spend pages talking about the clothes that Sookie is trying on, the shade of lipstick, the way she’s doing her hair… But then something hilarious will happen, like when Sookie uses her psychic abilities and the vampire asks her what she is, and Sookie replies, “I’m a waitress.” To me, that’s funny.

So if you can handle urban fantasy with explicit undead sex, bloody murder scenes, and a sly sense of humor, then this book (and this series) might be for you. And YES, the books are much better (and make a tiny bit more sense) than the t.v. show.

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 005: The Atomics: Spaced Out & Grounded in Snap City!”

[Originally posted 1 Mar. 2017. ---RFY]

My older daughter recently had to have emergency surgery for an appendicitis, and our medical insurance is through a different state (because my wife works for a certain medical university that bought her formerly hometown eye clinic) which meant several freeway drives to and from the hospital. Anyway, she’s better now, and on the way home from a post-op appointment to see how her surgery wounds were healing, we stopped at her favorite comic store, I Like Comics, in downtown Vancouver, WA. While we were there, to “say thanks” for all the driving, she bought me two books. This is the first one:

Allred, Bone, Clugston-Major, Marvit, and Ontiveros – The Atomics: Spaced Out & Grounded in Snap City! (2003)

This is a collection of four basically unconnected, or very loosely connected, stories, all written by Mike Allred, but illustrated by different artists: J. Bone, Chynna Clugston-Major, Lawrence Marvit (with Mike Allred), and Martin Ontiveros. Two of the stories were straight up, Saturday morning matinee, serial space operas, along the lines of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, or Commander Cody. One was a Plastic Man type story, and the last was a teen-romance / superheroes in a band type of thing.

I’ve been a fan of Allred for a long, LONG time, since I found an issue of Graphique Musique in a 50 cent bin at a comic show in Portland, OR, back when my younger daughter was still in a stroller. (She’s 19 now.) Allred’s storytelling is always quirky and fun, and this book was definitely both of those. However, the non-space opera tales felt a bit like I was dropped into the middle of some continuing situations that required prior knowledge to fully understand. I know that The Atomics was a regular series in the early 2000s, but I only read a couple of issues WAY BACK THEN—and apparently didn't read enough to remember who-was-who or what-was-what. With that one complaint, the book is fun. The slam-bam space adventures were enough to keep me interested, and the art was solid throughout. Might be something that fans of The Atomics series get more out of than I did, but it was still worth the read!

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 004: The Gashlycrumb Tinies”

[Originally posted 28 Feb. 2017. ---RFY]

A decade or two ago (I’m bad with time), I ran across the name “Edward Gorey” while reading a comic book by Jay Stephens. Stephens had cited Gorey as a massive influence, along with other names, like Maurice Sendak who was my favorite-favorite, so I had to check the dude out. What I discovered was genius.

Edward Gorey – The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963/1991)

Gorey writes and draws strange, quirky, often very creepy, very unsettling little books, which can easily be mistaken for childrens’ literature, if one isn’t careful. They LOOK almost cute, at first glance, but do pay attention to the WORDS before giving a book like this to little Sally or Billy. Here are the first two lines of this particular ABC book:

“A is for Amy who fell down the stairs. / B is for Basil assaulted by bears.”

That’s right, it’s an ABC book of different ways that children can die, and with Gorey’s beautiful, detailed, sweet, and very dark art style, some of the depictions get quite gruesome. I love this dark, chilling, and freaky book, primarily for the art, and it was definitely a gateway into a new, exciting world. Gorey became an obsession for me (although being POOR, I couldn’t afford to obsess much), and I quickly bought a book of his interviews, two biographies, and several collections of his works (which I will reread and post as RDBs soon enough.) If you haven’t read Gorey, but have a love of the eerie and macabre, then RUN, right now, to a book store and get busy. I guarantee he will not disappoint.

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 003: This Ain’t No Disco”

[Originally posted 27 Feb. 2017. ---RFY]

Jennifer McKnight-Trontz – This Ain’t No Disco: New Wave Album Covers (2005)

As an artist, I have to admit that New Wave album covers (and music videos) were some of the most important influences on me as I was growing up. Brash colors, strange images, geometric designs, and creative juxtapositions combined with a futuristic sensibility, the whole package really appealed to me, visually and ideologically, as a kid. This book by McKnight-Trontz, which nobly covers this freakish and often misunderstood era in music history, is a fabulous resource, particularly for a visual artist. It has a short intro talking about New Wave style, then it dives right into a couple hundred album covers, ranging from around 1970 to the mid-1980s.

Gary Numan, Duran Duran, XTC, Adam and the Ants, the Go-Go’s…some absolutely iconic images find their way into this book, and, as a record collector who specializes in New Wave albums, I was fascinated by the fact that the book’s compilers found SO MANY New Wave albums that I didn’t already own! Combine the variety of design styles with the sheer number of albums, plus the little trivia and notes peppered throughout the book, and you’ve got a collection worth flipping through, over and over again. I would recommend this book for art and design fans, for music lovers, and for anyone who was either too young or too sheltered to have run across the great New Wave aesthetic when it was in full blossom. (I’m tearing up, here…)

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 002: Dada: The Revolt of Art”

[Originally posted 26 Feb. 2017. ---RFY]

As usual, I’m reading four or five books at a time (one in the car, a few on the e-reader at night, some in that good, old pulp format on the coffee table…), but I did just yesterday finish rereading a decent book on Dada. The Dada phenomena is one of my KEY touch-points (along with punk, horror, science fiction, folk mysticism, etc.) and one that I inevitably return to when I need a psycho/spiritual recharge.

 Marc Dachy – Dada: The Revolt of Art (2006) [Translated by Liz Nash]

This particular Dada book is short—VERY short—but a good survey of the subject, with lots of great photos, and enough words about each of the key players (Tzara, Duchamp, Arp, Janco, Hoch, Schwitters, Man Ray…) to remind me why I love them. In addition, there is a short section of poetry excerpts towards the end of the book, which is very enjoyable to read. (To be fair, even Tzara—the best Dadaist of them all—is tough to read in a book length manuscript, but the little, bite-sized bits that Dachy chooses to represent the poetic aspects of the “movement” are very effective.)

If you’ve never read anything about Dada, or only seen short articles online, then I do recommend this book as a starting point. It will get your feet wet, (the concepts behind the movement are convoluted enough to drown in), and the book should only take the average reader a day or two to get through. If what’s presented is interesting to you, then there are a hundred different, OTHER books on Dada that you can find and read—but be warned, every person involved in the movement seems to have had a different take on what happened, and none of them seem to agree on even simple things, like who came up with the word “Dada” or what the point of the entire thing really was. All in all, reading about Dada, scanning the poems and journals, hearing about the hijinks, seeing all the collages and paintings and sculpted objects and masks and puppets, these things really just make me happy!

—Richard F. Yates

“Read a Damn Book – 001: Scientific Progress Goes ‘Boink'”

[This was the first post in my “Read a Damn Book” series of individual book reviews. It was originally posted 19 Feb. 2017 at The Primitive Entertainment Workshop. ---RFY]

New feature here at the P.E.W., and like most changes, this one was born from tragedy. As long-time readers know, I had a series of reading lists posted on this site covering the materials I’ve been reading over the last few years, but sadly, I LOST my last four months’ worth of materials in a reformatting accident. To pick up and move on, I’ve decided to start a new series where I write about each piece I’ve read, individually, as I finish them. Here’s the first:

Bill Watterson – Scientific Progress Goes ‘Boink’ (1991)

For anyone who doesn’t know Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson’s classic comic strip was about a hyper-imaginative kid and his stuffed tiger (that he treats as if it were a real, living tiger) and the adventures they have together. They travel through space and time, terrorize the babysitter, find creative methods for avoiding homework, and try to manipulate Calvin’s parents. Calvin himself is a wicked, hyperactive, insubordinate, beast of a child, who Watterson makes feel VERY real and, somehow, endearing. You root for Calvin, and often get caught up in the magic spells woven by his sugar-fuelled imagination.

I’ve been a fan of Watterson’s comics for decades, and I’ve read this particular collection several times, but I needed something fun to help me through some rough circumstances, and it proved to be just the ticket! If you’ve never read Watterson, you should give him a try, (all of his collections are entertaining), and if you have read him before, then it just might be time to read him again.

—Richard F. Yates

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

“Reading List #12” by Richard F. Yates

[Originally posted 31 Jul. 2016. This was the final “Reading List” that I posted. I had been compiling titles and reviews for a 13th episode, but I lost it all in a reformatting error. When this happened, I decided to take my reviews in a new direction… ---RFY]

“The Adventures of Richard F. Yates: Reader – Episode 12!” by Richard F. Yates

Reading List 12:

(3 Mar. ’16)
Although I just read it in December, I reread Michael Kupperman’s SNAKE ‘N’ BACON’S CARTOON CABARET, again. I can’t get enough of the surreal, meta-textual, hilarious, horrible comics in this collection---so funny! I keep trying to share the brilliance with my coworkers by reading sections to them, but none of them get it. (Don’t be like my silly coworkers! GET IT!!! or die trying…)

(5 Mar. ’16)
Read Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s BATMAN THE LONG HALLOWEEN. My older daughter read it recently and asked me to read it, too. I’m guessing that it was a pretty big influence on THE DARK KNIGHT movie, particularly the Harvey Dent storyline. Worth a read if you like Batman and gangster stories.

(5 Mar. ’16)
Finished reading Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s SILVER SURFER NEW DAWN collection. I always enjoy Allred’s art, and this book was no exception, and the story was—passable. I’m a fan of silly and weird (love DOOM PATROL and FLAMING CARROT and such,) but this was a bit clunky. The jokes were kind of funny, but the dialog was stiff, and the well known characters, like Hulk and Dr. Strange, read as very flat and mostly unnecessary. Not unhappy I read it, mostly for the artwork, but not sure if I’ll be buying volume two any time in the near future.

(5 Mar. ’16)
Finally finished reading H. P. Lovecraft’s THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD from THE COMPLETE COLLECTION megapack. It was a pretty fun story, with maybe a few too many “unnameable” and unsaid incidents occurring that we probably should have witnessed in order for the story to move forward. Still, it was pretty fun, and I would recommend it for fans of psychological horror, mystery, and for people who like to imagine impossibilities.

(20 Mar. ’16)
Read Jeff Lemire’s THE UNDERWATER WELDER graphic novel. It was recommended to me by my daughter, Frankie, and her boyfriend, and it was pretty good. Strange and haunted, a bit like a ghost story or a psychological thriller. Not too bad at all.

(29 Mar. ’16)
Finished reading the second Sherlock Holmes novel, THE SIGN OF FOUR, by Arthur Conan Doyle from THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES (HERITAGE EDITION) megapack. It was slightly amusing, but mostly racist and sexist and a bit tedious. Maybe they get better as Doyle improved as a writer, but so far, the two Sherlock novels that I’ve read have been pretty underwhelming.

(8 Apr. ’16)
Finally finished reading “The Door into Infinity” by Edmond Hamilton from THE OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. It’s a pretty badly written, long-ish short story or shorter novella (maybe a novelette) full of cliched descriptions, terrible metaphors (guns “coughing” instead of firing, etc.,) and tedious and wildly unbelievable action. Despite all these things, which could be assets in the right hands, it was mostly just dull, and offensively racist in several spots. Not my favorite.

(5 May ’16)
Finished reading “The Ghost That Got the Button” by Will Adams from the HUMOROUS  GHOST STORIES collection. Excruciatingly racist and not very funny. Avoid. (How come everything I’ve read lately has been racist???)

(4 Jun. ’16)
Finished reading the DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by a whole bunch of people. This comic was suggested to me by my older daughter, who is just getting into comics again, and she loved it. I thought it was pretty good, a name-drop-fest, intended to be the relaunch point for DC’s new comics lines, but what I’m questioning is WHY??? Why do ANOTHER reboot? Why not just write some good stories? Why hype the shit out of everything when you COULD just tell a solid tale? I suppose I’m just getting old and grouchy, but this book (which I really didn’t mind reading) didn’t make me want to go out and buy every issue of every story-line it touched on. On the contrary. It made me think that I’ve seen it all before, and that I should look elsewhere for my future entertainment. (Although lately I’ve been so tired after work that I haven’t even been reading much at all… Or writing… Or painting… As the world turns…)

(7 Jul. ’16)
Finally finished reading Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s THE GOLDEN APPLE, book two of the Illuminatus Trilogy. It’s  pretty fun, with lots of conspiracies and twists and ambiguity—just like the “REAL WORLD” of today, which is so wacky it almost matches the craziness and paranoia of a 70’s satirical conspiracy theory novel… This series will be required reading for the new SECRET SOCIETY that I’m creating…

(15 Jul. ’16)
Finished reading “The Specter Bridegroom” by Washington Irving from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. Not a bad tale at all.

(21 Jul. ’16)
Finished reading “The Specter of Tappington,” which was supposedly “compiled” by Richard Barham, from the HUMOROUS  GHOST STORIES collection. This one was pretty clever and fun (and only a tiny bit racist, picking on the Irish servant—but us Irish types can take it.)

(31 Jul. ’16)
Finally, after four or five months, finished rereading Mikhail Bulgakov’s THE MASTER AND MARGARITA. It’s a fantastic book (in both the literal and colloquial senses of the word) in which Satan and a cadre of demons and vampires descend upon a 1920s Moscow to cause mayhem, murder, madness and all manner of entertaining hijinx. The book was banned in Russia for decades, and although it’s somewhere near 70 years old, the story feels incredibly modern. Such a kooky and evil story…a real pleasure to read (if, perhaps, a bit gruesome, blasphemous, and nightmarish for some.)

And that’s about it for this list!

—Richard F. Yates

“Reading List #11” by Richard F. Yates

[Originally published 8 Feb. 2016. ---RFY]

“The Continuing Adventures of Richard F. Yates: Reader (Episode 11)” by Richard F. Yates

Well, I suppose it’s that time once again, where I share my influences and recent enjoyments. As any regular viewer of the Workshop might know, I’m a bit of a horror fan, so most of my reading falls into that lovely little category, but not all. Not all.

Reading List 11

(20 Nov. ’15)
Reread, for the first time in at least ten or fifteen years, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” from THE COMPLETE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE VOLUME 2. It’s a short tale, a bit icky, but with very simple and VERY effective descriptions. I have always loved the quick, creepy description of the murder and still aspire to that level of directness (when I’m trying to be concrete.) Great story.

(23 Nov. ’15)
Finished reading Paul Brian McCoy’s MONDO MARVEL VOLUME ONE, a series of articles written about the first few years of Marvel Comics with each article focusing on a single published comic book issue and looking at them in chronological order… (Wipes brow…) I read the first ten issues of FANTASTIC FOUR recently, so I remember some of what McCoy is talking about, and his analysis is fairly funny and, mostly, dead on. Comics were silly in 1962, and he points this out, but there were also some deeply disturbing elements to these books. Worth the read, particularly if you are a fan of early Marvel.

(25 Nov. ’15)
Finished reading Adrian Cole’s “Dark Destroyer” story from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. It ACTED like it was a huge, epic, deep, serious story, but very little actually occurs in this tale, and in addition, it frequently felt like a lot of stuff was happening “off stage.” A bit stilted and clunky, but I’m glad I read it.

(30 Nov. ’15)
Finished rereading H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” story from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. It’s a solidly told, entertaining story, although not as creepy as some. Definitely worth the read, and if you like cheesy films, the movie version with Dean Stockwell is hilariously terrible in a fantastically enjoyable way.

(2 Dec. ’15)
Finished rereading (for the first time in over 20 years) H. P. Lovecraft’s “From Beyond,” this time from THE COMPLETE COLLECTION megapack. The story was much shorter than I remembered, but still fun.

(5 Dec. ’15)
Finished reading John Glasby’s “The Dark Boatman” from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Not sure how old this one is, as the atmosphere and pacing were nicely gothicized, aside from the automobiles and electricity. Unfortunately, however, the climax/shock moment was pretty stupid. It was confusing, left far more annoying questions than it answered, and was far, FAR from scary. Not my favorite….

(5 Dec. ’15)
Read John P. McCann’s “Dagon and Jill,” also from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. This one, however, was clever and funny. Not only was it fun to read, but it was also the final story in this particular megapack. I’ve been chipping away at this dang thing for a LONG time. Two years? Maybe longer. I can’t remember, but it was definitely worth the meager $3 or $4 bucks that I paid for it. Highly recommended.

(8 Dec. ’15)
Finished reading Ruth McEnery Stuart’s “The Haunted Photograph” from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. This was a pretty fun story, not really shrieking uncontrollably and wetting your pants funny, but a good story.

(15 Dec. ’15)
Finished reading “The Phantom Hearse” by Mary Fortune from THE OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. The story was okay, but had no likable characters and an abrupt ending. However, the descriptions of the one ghostly scene were pretty good. (Not very “occult” though…)

(21 Dec. ’15)
Finished rereading Clifford D. Simak’s “Hellhounds of the Cosmos” story, which I got as a freebie download from A-zon. The story is okay, fairly well told, but gets pretty hokey once it starts in on the whole multiple dimensions thing. Plus, there really aren’t any hellhounds in the story, at least there aren’t any in the part of the story that the reader actually reads. Still, if you like clunky, post-Golden Age sci-fi, you might like it.

(25 Dec. ’15)
Finished reading “Aylmer Vance and the Vampire” by Alice and Claude Askew from THE OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. Not a very long story, but pretty fun and enjoyable. Also not the most original take on vampirism, but so what? Happy to have read it.

(26 Dec. ’15)
Reread Charles M. Schulz’s IT’S RAINING ON YOUR PARADE, CHARLIE BROWN. Silly and kinda funny. I must have read it 24 or 25 years ago, but I still remembered many of the jokes. Loved Peanuts comics when I was a kid.

(27 Dec. ’15)
Finished reading THE NEW YORKER BOOK OF DOG CARTOONS, which I got at this year’s Christmas party from work. It’s not REALLY the kind of book that I’d buy, but it did include cartoons by Gahan Wilson, James Thurber, Charles Addams, and a few other good ones. Quick read, too.

(28 Dec. ’15)
Finished rereading, for the 4th or 5th time, SNAKE ‘N’ BACON’S CARTOON CABARET by Michael Kupperman. It is brilliant and hilarious and bizarre. Highly recommended for anyone who likes strange, nonsensical humor.

(28 Dec. ’15)
Finished reading (probably rereading) Charles M. Schulz’s FUN WITH PEANUTS collection. I didn’t remember this one as much, but it was still pretty funny.

(10 Jan. ’16)
Finished reading Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s THE EVIL GUEST, a Victorian murder / mystery / manners / madness tale. Since Le Fanu was the creator of the vampiric Carmilla, I thought this one might have some supernatural elements to it, but it didn’t. Still, not a badly told story, and the descriptions of the murder scene where enjoyably gruesome. Might be a bit stuffy for some, but I liked it.

(19 Jan. ’16)
Finished reading Michael Azerrad’s OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE – SCENES FROM THE AMERICAN INDIE UNDERGROUND 1981-1991. Interestingly, though I’ve never really cared for several of the “big names” that Azerrad covers in this book (The Replacements, Minor Threat, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr [HATE], or Black Flag [excepting the brilliant, Keith Morris era with tracks like “Wasted” and “Nervous Breakdown”]), I still found this book to be a fascinating read. The development, from the bare bones up, of an indie underground is a remarkable story, and the fact that this underground eventually BECAME the mainstream is stuff that I myself remember living through, which makes it maybe more interesting for me than for the average, under 30 music fan. I worked at music stores and night clubs and wrote zines and booked shows and scouted talent and DJ-ed parties and radio shows and got comp-ed into concerts and negotiated with labels and collected records and made mix-tapes from the late 80s through to the early 2000s, and I remember when a lot of what gets talked about in this book actually happened. (Though, truth be told I prefered most of the “enemy” music [British post-punk, straight up new wave, techno] to the stuff covered by Azerrad. Still, I would recommend the book for anyone interested in rock, punk, alternative lifestyles, or D.I.Y. creation philosophies. It’s well written and a lot of fun to read.

(20 Jan. ’16)
Read “The Conflict” by Ilya Varshavsky from PATH INTO THE UNKNOWN – THE BEST SOVIET SCIENCE FICTION, a 1960’s paperback collection I found at a library book sale about a year ago. The story was short, easy to read, and deals with personality conflicts between a human and an A.I. robot. Pretty interesting…

(5 Feb. ’16)
Finished reading Gaston Leroux’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Part of my project of going back and reading all the horror classics, I’d seen several films, I’d heard the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, I loved PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, but I’d never read the original. Now I have. It’s much funnier and more clever than I thought it would be. Far easier to read than DRACULA or FRANKENSTEIN, if you ask me…

And that’s it for this reading list! Hope you had fun looking over my shoulder!!!

—Richard F. Yates

“Reading List #10” by Richard F. Yates

[Originally published 20 Nov. 2015. ---RFY]

“The Adventures of Richard F. Yates, Reader: Episode 10!!!” by Richard F. Yates

Once again, it’s time to share all the junk I’ve been reading with all you humans. The reason I keep doing this is, partially, because people always ask me where I get my ideas—I steal them from stories like these—and partially because I have a terrible memory, but if I write down what I’ve read it sometimes helps me remember it, a bit, or at least enough of it to know if I should read something ELSE by the authors that I’ve read.

AND because I read weird things that most people don’t read, I’m hoping to spread the love…or blood…or creepiness…or whatever. Enjoy!

(4 Sep. ’15)
Finished rereading Junji Ito’s MUSEUM OF TERROR -TOMIE 1 collection. (Probably my third or fourth time.) Some seriously freaky stuff here, in which a seemingly immortal creature named Tomie, who has the appearance of a beautiful, young girl, bewitches men into falling in love with her, and then they lose their minds and become murderous psychopaths who inevitably end up trying to kill everyone around them, especially Tomie, who they feel compelled to chop into bits. However, each of the bits then regenerates into a full Tomie who heads out into the world to cause more nightmares. It’s ghoulish and freaky and unsettling, but fun. My favorite storyline is when a girl gets a kidney transplanted from one of the Tomies—and hilarity ensues!!!

(6 Sep. ’15)
Finished rereading Junji Ito’s MUSEUM OF TERROR – TOMIE 2. Disturbing, yucky, sick stuff. Very good. I bought these two volumes over a decade ago at a comic convention, and I would love to read volume three—but it currently sells for about $140.00, second hand, on A-zon… Crap. Oh well. I’ll just wait a few years and read the first two volumes again. Maybe they’ll reprint the series in the interim, and I can buy a new printing for $20.00 or so. (I’m too poor for collectible horror.)

(14 Sep. ’15)
Finished reading the short story collection, THE KING IN YELLOW by Robert W.  Chambers. Started strong–supernatural horror tales–but about halfway through the book it shifts and drops most of the supernatural elements in favor of war and romance, which I find less interesting.

(17 Sep. ’15)
Finished reading Darrell Schweitzer’s “The Eater of Hours” from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Pretty trippy story in the “stream-of-consciousness-because-the-narrator’s-dead” vein. Not bad.

(24 Sep. ’15)
Finished reading “Ubbo Sathla” by Clark Ashton Smith, another one from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Not too teribble.

(28 Sep. ’15)
Finished reading “The Space-Eaters” by Frank Belnap Long, also from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. This one was fun and even a tiny bit creepy. I think I’ve been reading this megapack collection for, what, two years? Maybe? A few stories here and there, and I think I’m finally nearing the last dozen or so tales. Great stuff. A bargain at the 3 or 4 bucks I paid. I recommend it, if you can still get it!

(6 Oct. ’15)
Finished rereading Arthur Machen’s longish short-story (or shortish novella) “The Great God Pan,” which is available through A-zon as a solo download. It’s still a fun supernatural horror tale, very polite, but attempting to hint at great, ancient mysteries that have intruded into the present time (although the story is from the 1890’s, so the “present” is a bit of a subjective term…) The story is worth reading, if you like Victorian era ghost stories—and I certainly do.

(8 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” from THE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLEN POE – VOLUME 5. Odd little story suggesting something sinister or supernatural, but really only hinting at it, rather than smearing it all over your face. Not bad, but not the best thing I’ve read from Poe.

(10 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading “The Fire of Asshurbanipal” by Robert E. Howard from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Lurid, un-subtle, sensationalistic, and disgustingly un-P.C. (offensively racist), like everything I’ve read by Howard, but as entertaining as a bad, 80’s, exploitation, sword and sorcery flick.

(10 Oct. ’15)
Read “The Last Ghost in Harmony” by Nelson Lloyd from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. I liked this one—silly and just a bit sad, but clever. Almost had a Twain feel to it.

(15 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading H. P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK! Not too shabby!

(16 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading KEITH HARING by Alexandra Kolossa, a book published by Taschen. (I have many Taschen books on artists like Basquiat, Duchamp, Warhol, Manray…) This one is pretty good, if a bit short. Has a variety of Haring art in it, which is both good and bad. I like his line work, vibrant color choices, and several of the more stylized and repeated images, but I am a bit too prudish to care for his uninhibited, sexual, often orgiastic works. A bit too grossly physical for my delicate sensibilities.

(18 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading Lin Carter’s “Something in the Moonlight,” from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. This one was pretty darn good. Some silly names, and tons of Lovecraft references, but a fun and well told story.

(18 Oct.’15)
Read “The Salem Horror” by Henry Kuttner, also from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Another fun, creepy story. I’ve read Kuttner before. Good at establishing a solid horror mood.

(22 Oct. ’15)
Finished rereading “The Colour Out of Space” by Lovecraft, this time from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Still pretty fun. Creepy and eerie, but primarily from suggestion. Nothing explictly occurs-it’s all just hints and evidence.

(24 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s DOOM PATROL VOL. 1: CRAWLING FROM THE WRECKAGE collection. Fun, Surrealist inspired psycho-hero comic—part of the DC Comics Vertigo invasion of the late 80s and early 90s. Great stuff.

(25 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading Robert M. Price’s “Down in Limbo” story from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Not bad…

(26 Oct. ’15)
Finished reading “The Ghost of Miser Brimpson” by Eden Phillpotts from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. It’s  an okay, kind of clever, almost humorous story. Not too bad, really.

(29 Oct. ’15)
Read “The Dweller in the Gulf” by Clark Ashton Smith from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. It has a spooky premise and a good monster, but the language is so obtuse and ridiculously overblown that it gets in the way of the story—and the ending was pretty unsatisfying. Oh well. They can’t all be winners, I guess.

(31 Oct. ’15)
Read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Ambitious Guest” from TWICE TOLD TALES. Not really a supernatural story, but well told and a bit creepy in one or two places. Worth reading.

(31 Oct. ’15)
Read H. P. Lovecraft’s (extremely) short story “Azathoth,” (from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK.) This thing is soooo short, I’d say that it barely counts as a story at all, more like a prose-poem. Still, not too bad.

(1 Nov. ’15)
Read Lawrence Watt-Evans’s “Pickman’s Modem,” also from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. This was a short, but quaint and funny tale apparently written at the dawn of dial-up internet surfing, I’m guessing from the days of message boards and newsgroups. Silly, and not actually based on Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model,” but pretty fun.

(4 Nov. ’15)
Finished Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Hunters from Beyond,” another story from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Not bad.

(7 Nov. ’15)
Finished reading Brian McNaughton’s “Ghoulmaster” from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. This one was macabre and disturbing. Quite good.

(14 Nov. ’15)
Finished reading (or rereading—I thought I had read this story in a lit class ten or twelve years ago, but most of the story was new to me) Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” from THE PIAZZA TALES collection. About as racist as you can get, the story is about a ship transporting slaves, but more than this, almost every description of the people of color in the story involves a comparison to an animal or some equally condescending comment. There is a tiny bit of horror / thriller action in the story, but the language is so uncomfortable that I don’t know if I’d recommend this one to people just looking for a fun read. Maybe leave it for the scholars to discuss.

(16 Nov. ’15)
Finished reading “The Spawn of Dagon” by Henry Kuttner, another fun filled romp from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK.

That’s it for this time! I’m reading a bunch of other stuff right now, too, but it felt like the right time to share…

—Richard F. Yates

“Reading List #9” by Richard F. Yates

[Originally published 3 Sep. 2015. ---RFY]

“The Adventures of Richard F. Yates, Reader: Episode 9!!!” by Richard F. Yates

Seems like a smaller list than the last few, but there are some pretty LARGE books down there.

(4 May 2015)
Finished rereading Hans Richter’s DADA – ART AND ANTI-ART. I love Dada (if that isn’t obvious) and I consider this to be one of the strongest and most enjoyable considerations of that particular experiment. I will undoubtedly read this book again (and again…)

(9 May 2015)
Read Howard Cruse’s graphic novel, STUCK RUBBER BABY, which was a very well written and somewhat crushing book about racism and homophobia in the American South in the 1960s. Excellent, although very unsettling, book.

(22 May 2015)
Reread J. K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE for the third time, I believe. Still fun. I felt the need to revisit somewhere familiar…

(28 May 2015)
Finished reading “The Transplanted Ghost” by Wallace Irwin, another story from Dr. Dorothy Scarborough’s HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. An okay story. Nothing special, though.

(31 May 2015)
Finished reading OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles, (probably rereading, although if I did read it before it was 20 or 25 years ago, and I’d forgotten the whole thing.) Not a lot happens in this play, on stage anyway. Thrilling occurrences left and right (kidnappings, rescues, wars, divine raptures, etc…) but none of it happens on stage.

(1 Jun. 2015)

(9 Jun. 2015)
Finished rereading HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. Humming through the books this time. Fun, and it’s surprising how many details I’ve forgotten since last time!

(20? Jun. 2015)
Forgot to record the actual date, but somewhere around the 20th, give or take a day or two, I finished HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE.

(7 Jul. 2015)
Finished reading “The Uninhabited House” by Mrs. J. H. Riddell, which is either a VERY long short story or a very short novel. I read it in the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK, edited (I believe) by John Betancourt. (He’s listed as “publisher” in the credits, but no other editor is listed, so there you go.) The story was okay, more of a romance with a ghost in it than a horror story, though.

(12 Jul. 2015)
Finished rereading HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. I enjoyed it, again.

(26 Jul. 2015)
Finished reading “The Whisperer in Darkness” by H. P. Lovecraft, from THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK, which I’ve mentioned in several other reading lists. This wasn’t a bad story, but not my favorite Lovecraft by any estimation.

(5 Aug. 2015)
Finally finished reading the last book in Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER series. Killed off the tower itself just a few minutes ago. It took me YEARS to read all seven books (eight books, actually, if you count book 4.5—and I do), but it didn’t take me as many years as it took King to write them all. There are some silly bits in the series (improbabilities piled on improbabilities), and the ending is a tad anticlimactic, and I’m not a big fan of King’s made up sayings and “regional” dialects that he likes to stuff down the readers’ throats throughout, BUT with those things said, I did enjoy the series. Part western, part horror, part science fiction, part fairy tale, part autobiography, and all King. I usually find his writing easy to read, and he certainly is adept at creating mood… My recommendation: if you have the time and don’t mind an ultimately dark and tragic tale, Roland the Gunslinger is a worthwhile traveling companion—especially if you want to read about some shit getting shot to pieces. Overall: I liked it.

(5 Aug. 2015)
Finished reading the H. P. Lovecraft novella, HERBERT WEST – REANIMATOR from the H. P. Lovecraft THE COMPLETE COLLECTION megapack. Fun stuff, and far less disgusting than the REANIMATOR film.

(17 Aug. 2015)
Finished rereading HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. Still a good story, even with the sad funeral ending… (I’m not much of a fan of sentimentality.)

(2 Sep. 2015)
Finished rereading J. K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. I’m pretty sure it was my third time reading this series, and I do still enjoy the books. There are a few moments of strained logic and some weird “rules” for the use of magic, but if you just GO WITH IT, the stories are fun. And there are a LOT of monsters. I’m positive that I’ll read them again in a few years.

And that’s it for this episode! Come back (in a couple of months) for another list of more things that I’ve read!!!

—Richard F. Yates

“Reading List #8” by Richard F. Yates

[Originally post 29 Apr. 2015, and this appears to be the first appearance (by me) of the phrase “Read a damn book!” Historical! ---RFY]

“The Continuing Adventures of Richard F. Yates: READER! Episode 8!” by Richard F. Yates

Below, you will find chilling documentation of the last four months of my reading habits. (Not for the faint of heart or those easily offended!) What isn’t included in the list are books that I am still working on but haven’t finished yet (MYSTERIES OF THE UNEXPLAINED, Mark Twain’s INNOCENTS ABROAD, Mikhail Bulgakov’s THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, Hans Richter’s DADA: ART AND ANTI-ART, and a few others. I read lots of books all at the same time so that I make sure and get them confused…)

But none of that is important, right? The real reason most of you are here is to look at silly pictures! Here’s one of those!

Reading List 8

(2 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading, for the first time since maybe the late 1980s, Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost.” It was the first story in the collection HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES (1921) edited by Dr. Dorothy Scarborough. It’s a fun story with a slightly sappy ending, nowhere near as dark as SALOME or THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

(4 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading Gelett Burgess’s “The Ghost-Extinguisher,” which is also from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. Early (1905) GHOSTBUSTERS type story (not very humorous and not at all politically correct by modern standards.)

(5 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Herman Melville’s “Bartleby,” which I’ve always remembered as being titled “Bartleby the Scrivener,” but that is not the case in this collection, THE PIAZZA TALES (1856). Still a weird, disturbing, darkly humorous, if ultimately tragic story. I like it.

(5 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Fitz-James O’Brien’s “What was It?” This time it was part of the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK that I found on Amazon. (Last time I read this story was probably in AMERICAN SUPERNATURAL TALES or some other history of horror collection.) Short, short story, but creepy and well told (with an ending a LOT like “Bartleby”!!!)

(14 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading ASCENDING PECULIARITY – EDWARD GOREY ON EDWARD GOREY, a collection of interviews with Gorey edited by Karen Wilkin. Good shit. Gorey is one of my most important influences, and rereading this book reminds me of why. Brilliant man.

(14 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading Bayard Taylor’s “The Haunted Shanty,” another tale from the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. This was an odd, slightly too moralistic tale about a “living ghost.” Today, we in the supernatural trade (I have a Ph.D. in parapsychology from Thunderwood College) would call this an Out of Body Experience tale.

(16 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading Darrell Schweitzer and Jason Van Hollander’s “Those of the Air” from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. It was okay, but certainly not the best story in this collection.

(17 Jan. ’15)
I just finished the most horribly racist, offensive, un-P.C. story that I’ve ever read: “Dey Ain’t No Ghosts” (1911) by Ellis Parker Butler, from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. If this tale isn’t the source of every trope perpetrated against African Americans by the early 20th century entertainment industry, then it’s at the very least a perfect example of how terrible the abuses were. The story is written in stereotyped vernacular (with “ob” instead of “of” and so on), shows all African American characters as superstitious and child-like, uses the “N” word—the entire gamit of offensiveness. I read a few lines to Mariah, and she suggested I just skip reading it, but I couldn’t. It’s such a perfect trainwreck of offensiveness… (Plus, I’m a completist. If I’m going to say I read a book, I have to read the ENTIRE book.) In a sense this story shows how far our society has progressed in the last hundred years, but I was still shocked by the content.

(20 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading the play, A SLIGHT ACHE, by Harold Pinter from a collection called THREE PLAYS. It was odd and creepy and funny, but very short. In the Absurdist tradition, I’d say, and hence, well worth the read!

(21 Jan. ’15)
Finished reading “The Transferred Ghost” by Frank R. Stockton, also from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. This story has the oddest and least likely explanation for ghosts and hauntings I’ve yet come across, but it wasn’t particularly funny or entertaining.

(23 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading (yes AGAIN) Edward Gorey’s AMPHIGOREY collection. It’s alway fun and always inspirational. Everyone should read it three times per year.

(24 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading THE WORLD OF EDWARD GOREY by Clifford Ross and Karen Wilkin. In a way, it’s a sad book. It starts with an interview with Gorey, then it continues discussing his work in PRESENT TENSE, suggesting that he was still alive when the content was compiled, and although the copyright on the text is 1996, there is a chronolgy of Gorey near the end of the book stating that he died in 2000 at the age of 75. Still, this is a good overview of Gorey-ness and well worth the entry price for the large number of included drawings, many in color!

(25 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Edward Gorey’s AMPHIGOREY TOO collection. I don’t read it as often as the first collection, but it does still have some fantastic (evil) stories…

(30 Jan. ’15)
Finished rereading Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT; OR, WHAT YOU WILL. Still pretty funny, although I had a harder time than usual believing that a brother/sister pair of twins, even if identical and with the female twin dressed as a man, could be mistaken for the same person. Mariah reminded me that Shakespeare often stretched that suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. I suppose…

(5 Feb. ’15)
Finished rereading Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Green Tea,” this time as part of the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. (I can’t recall where I read it last time, probably some horror or supernatural collection.) Great descriptions in Le Fanu’s writing, but the silly metaphysical explanation of the cause of the victim’s suffering is so ridiculous as to be almost offensive. Oh well. Not a bad story, other than that.

(9 Feb. ’15)
Finished rereading Richard Sala’s MAD NIGHT for the 4th or 5th time.This is such a creepy, bloody story, hilarious and disgusting, that I like to read it once or twice a year. Gigantic bodycount, crazy characters, gratuitous (cartoon) nudity, and silly gore all over the place! Brilliant…

(19 Feb. ’15)
Finished reading Theophile Gautier’s “The Mummy’s Foot,” another story from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. Witty. Not a bad little tale, but no Mark Twain.

(22 Feb. ’15)
Finished reading “The Rival Ghosts” by Brander Matthews. It was a bit sexist, and played a tiny bit with stereotypes, but these things are so common is the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection that they hardly even surprise me anymore.

(11 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE FANTASTIC FOUR, VOL. 1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The writing was surprisingly clunky, with massive, glaring plot holes and bizarre, illogical twists, but with that said, it was still fun to read. (I can certainly appreciate some entertaining nonsense.) The book, which I bought as a Kindle edition, collected the first ten issues of F.F. and introduced many of the major characters in the series. All told, not a bad way to spend ten bucks. I will definitely be buying more comics in this format.

(14 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading John Kendrick Bangs’s “The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall” from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. It was alright…

(16 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Mr. Justice Harbottle” from the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGAPACK. Not a bad story. There were a few spooky moments, but the end was somewhat anticlimatic.

(17 Mar. ’15)
Finished rereading Henry Kuttner’s “The Graveyard Rats,” this time as part of the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. (I think the last time I read it was in a collection of American horror stories, but don’t quote me on that.) It’s an uncomfortable, claustrophobic tale full of panic and fear. Very effective.

(19 Mar. ’15)
Read Mark McLaughlin’s “Toadface,” another story from the CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Contemporary sounding story set in Lovecraft’s Innsmith, and not too bad, but it loses something in the mood of the piece when you take it out of Lovecraft’s tone. Just seems much more silly than chilling.

(21 Mar. ’15)
Read a 2014 freebie edition of DETECTIVE COMICS #27, which included the original eight page Batman story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, as well as a couple of more modern interpretations. I prefer the clunky writing and blocky drawings of the original, personally. Most comics today, for some reason, bore me—too slick, too color enhanced, too pretentious (they are COMICS for Bob’s sake), and not very much fun. Notable exceptions: works by Richard Sala, Alan Moore, Mike Allred, Michael Kupperman, Bob Burden, and the weirdos and freaks that do underground stuff like Tykes, Yikes, Land of Nod, and that type of thing. And horror comics. I still like horror comics…

(23 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading JONAH HEX AND OTHER WESTERN TALES, a “DC Blue Ribbon Digest” from 1979, edited by Ross Andru. I’m not much of a western fan, but Jonah Hex usually qualifies as “weird western,” and a friend found the book and gave it to me, so I gave it a try. Not too bad, I reckon.

(25 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading an anonymously written story called “Back from That Bourne” from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collecton. It was okay, but a bit dull and rather forgettable. I didn’t laugh, either…

(28 Mar. ’15)
Finished reading the comic collection FANTASTIC FOUR – NEW DEPARTURE, NEW ARRIVALS by Fraction, Bagley, and Allred. Not too shabby. I enjoy Mike Allred’s art style, so the sections he drew were great, and the other bits weren’t too bad.

(28 Mar. ’15)
Read Matt Fraction and Mike Allred’s FF VOL. 1 – FANTASTIC FAUX collection. Very enjoyable. Fun, funny, and entertaining. I will look for another collection by this team. Like!

(8 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck’s (Kirby and Heck drew the artwork) MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS MASTERWORKS VOL. 1, which collects the first 10 issues of the AVENGERS comic. Again, very silly but fun.) Jack Kirby drew the first 7 or 8 issues, then Don Heck took over, but to be honest, I didn’t even notice until I spotted the credits page at the start of issue 10!

(10 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading the story, “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft from a megapack called H. P. LOVECRAFT – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. There is no publication info about who compiled the stories or when this collection was published. Oh well. Lots of Lovecraft!

(16 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading Richard Middleton’s “The Ghost Ship” from the HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES collection. Not a bad tale, silly and almost fun, without all the nasty racism that some of the stories in Dr. Scarborough’s collection have been plagued by.

(28 Apr. ’15)
Finished reading the Dark Horse Comics digital reissue pack of CREEPY Vol. 1, which collects the first five issues of the series. Ghoulish but silly horror comics, very much in the E.C. vein of things like TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Good enough for a laugh, and maybe even fun enough to inspire me to buy the next volume sometime.

That’s all the junk I’ve finished in the last few months. Went on a bit of digital comics kick there for a bit, and I was surprised at how well the not-too-large screen on my e-reader presented a comic book page. I’m sure (once I’ve got a few extra bucks again…maybe in September or October…I’ll buy a few more collections!) Thanks for stopping by! Now go read a damn book!!!!

—Richard F. Yates

“Reading List #7” by Richard F. Yates

[Originally posted 1 Jan. 2015. ---RFY]

It’s that time again! Here is a list of what I read over the last few months of 2014. It occurred to me that I also read a number of magazine articles, blog posts, and other bits throughout the day, which up until now I’ve never bothered to catalog. If it’s possible, I’ll try to include more of THAT stuff in my next reading list. For the record, I’m currently reading a bunch of stuff, but I don’t add anything to the OFFICIAL list until I’ve finished it. (Just a rule I made up for myself, but it seems to be more fair!) Anyway, on to the party!!!

Reading List 7:

(4 Sep. ’14)
Finished reading Edith Birkhead’s THE TALE OF TERROR – A STUDY OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE (1921). Many names that I didn’t recognize, which is what I was hoping for, but Birkhead likes to drop a lot of spoilers as well. Luckily, my memory is bad enough that I won’t remember what she said about most of these stories by the time I get around to reading them.

(17 Sep. ’14)
Finished reading John Wyndham’s THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. Pretty fun. I haven’t seen the film in decades, but the book seemed to have a lot less to do with the triffids than the movie did. This was much more about social commentary than monster plants. Oh well.

(6 Oct. ’14)
Finished rereading Stephen King’s WOLVES OF THE CALLA, book five of THE DARK TOWER series. This was the first Tower book I read, years ago, and it’s not a bad book. However, it is a LONG book, and I don’t know if I’m quite ready to move on to book six yet.

(12 Oct. ’14)
Finished reading KLF – CHAOS MAGIC MUSIC MONEY by JMR Higgs. It is a wild and humorously written biography of the creation and destruction of the techno-pop band, The KLF, but it also involves the connections between punk, Dada, Alan Moore, rave culture, Robert Anton Wilson, Situationists, art, magical thinking, conspiracy theories, Dr. Who, and so much more… Very fun.

(29 Oct. ’14)
Finished rereading William Shakespeare’s THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH. Still funny! Plus is has ghosts and witches and powerful supernatural creatures and weird spirits and psychosis and hallucinations and MURTHER! (That’s the way old Will liked to spell it, so it’s good enough for me.)

(2 Nov. ’14)
Finished reading Stephen King’s SONG OF SUSANNAH: THE DARK TOWER VI. Not bad. A fairly qick read for 500+ pages, but it does feel like the “warm up” before the story gets going more than a tale in its own right. Oh well. The next book is the end. Not sure I’m ready to start that one just yet.

(9 Nov. ’14)
Finished Fitz-James O’Briens tale “The Pot of Tulips” from the OCCULT DETECTIVE MEGA-PACK, which I found on A-zon. (Edited by a big group of people, according to the intro.)

(10 Nov. ’14)
Finished reading Frank Belknap Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos,” another story in THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK.

(27 Nov. ’14)
Finished reading Robert Bloch’s “The Faceless God” from THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK.

(1 Dec. ’14)
Finished reading “The Children of Burma” by Stephen Mark Rainey, which is also part of THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK.

(3 Dec. ’14)
Finished rereading David J. Skal’s DEATH MAKES A HOLIDAY – A CULTURAL HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN. Still good, even if it’s getting to be a bit dated. (It was published in 2002.) Lots of “culture” has happened since then…

(15 Dec. ’14)
Finished rereading H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” this time as part of THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Not sure if that’s my third time reading this story or fourth…

(16 Dec. ’14)
Finished reading John Glasby’s “The Old One,” and yes, it is another story from THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK.

(18 Dec. ’14)
Finished reading Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s THE EYE IN THE PYRAMID, which is the first book in THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY. The book I read about that band, The KLF, inspired me to read this series. Book one was pretty fun.

(19 Dec. ’14)
Finished reading Herman Melville’s “The Piazza,” the first story in THE PIAZZA TALES collection. Sure. Why not? It’s an okay tale.

(20 Dec. ’14)
Finished reading Tim Krabbe’s THE VANISHING. It was loaned to me by a friend (Shane), and the book was very short but extremely creepy, unsettling, and believable. (Nothing supernatural, just insane and sick.) I enjoyed the style and story, but it was VERY unsettling. [And contributed wildly to my travel anxiety while spending a week in Las Vegas with my younger daughter!]

(21 Dec. ’14)
Finished reading “The Holiness of Azedarac” by Clark Ashton Smith from THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK. Much more of a fantasy story than a horror tale, if you ask me. (Not really my favorite.)

(26 Dec. ’14)
Reread Gary Larson’s first collection of THE FAR SIDE. Read it while sitting at the airport waiting to get on a plane to Vegas. Still a fun read.

(31 Dec. ’14)
Finished rereading Richard Sala’s THE CHUCKLING WHATSIT. Creepy, noir, graphic novel, mystery story. I’m a huge Sala fan, and this weird book, with lots of Dick Tracy style characters and a massive body count, is a classic!

And that was it! Maybe there’s a story or book in that list that you might want to check out!

—Richard F. Yates