The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

Here is my book review for the newest novel by Charlie Huston, which I just also posted on Library Thing as part of their Early Reviewer program.

This book was disgusting. I wish I was kidding, but it really was just gross. Huston brings us into the seedy underworld of one L.A. slacker, Web Goodhue, and the crappy situations he somehow often gets himself stuck in. Crashing with tattoo artist and friend, Chev, Web coasts through life reading horror magazines, books, and doing his damnedest not to be a working stiff. That is until money becomes a serious problem and Chev pawns him off on Po Sin, a man with an interesting company… Clean Team.

Clean Team is a small company that handles big problems. And that problem is “clean up.” The worst kinds. Crime scene murders, suicides, death and decompositions of all sorts. That’s what they get paid to do. And it is, as you can only imagine, a dirty job. What Web finds out the hard way is that in this horrific niche industry—the competition is fierce.

I found Huston’s newest to be a riot. His laser-sharp dialogue, a fine mix of Elmore Leonard and Chuck Palahniuk, breathes life into what is simply a bunch of low lives. But you can’t help rooting for Web, although he can’t help but screw up over and over again. A touch of L.A. down-and-dirty mixed with excruciating detail of clean-up crew work that would make the average Joe get down on his knees and thank god for his boring existence of a cubicle day job. Just another day in the life for Web. That is until a girl shows up, and ruins everything.
I highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for one of the rising stars of modern day yet pulpy-good fiction.
P.S. I met Charlie at the first NY Comic Con a few years back, while he was peddling his work, and I left that show with a signed trade paperback of his 2004 novel, Caught Stealing. He was a remarkably cool and laid back guy; it amazes me now the twisted stuff that comes out of that seemingly normal head.


Catching up on industry news and notes

The New York Times has written a piece that captured some of the buzz last week in the comics blogosphere (mainly at The Beat), about changes major comics distributor Diamond is making this year which will affect many publishers of weekly (pamphlet) comics. Could this be the end of the weekly comic book run? It is also worth noting that Diamond laid off 13 people last week; even the distribution giant is feeling the wrath of hard times in the industry.

Also last week, DC Comics cut some DC and Mad Magazine positions, and well-respected editor Bob Schreck was let go. This certainly speaks of difficult times as he was responsible for maintaining many great DC books and I wish him all the best. I believe he'll be at the company a while longer covering various projects through the transition.

Also Publishers Weekly let go of Editor-in-Chief, Sara Nelson, as well as a few other staff positions. When I had access to the magazine back in the office days I really enjoyed reading her collums as she was keenly tuned into the central vibe of the publishing scene. I'd also see her at various events around town, and I wish her the best in wherever her career takes her next. Nowadays I catch up with the magazine online or when freelancing in various offices and see a copy lying around.

In happier news, I was glad to see Neil Gaiman win the Newbery Medal Award for his enchanting novel, The Graveyard Book, which I really enjoyed, and reviewed here a few months back. This is one of the most prestigious awards in childrens literature, and the beauty of the book is that you don't have to be a child to appreciate the story. A film adaptation is in the early works. Read more here.

That's all for now. I hope to have a few more book reviews up soon. For the few who check in regularly, if there is anything specifically you'd like to see reviewed or talked about more here, please comment below or drop me a line.


WATCHMEN lawsuit resolved. Still on for March 6

Various sites and blogs, such as ICv2, are reporting that Fox and Warner Bros. have settled the legal dispute, and the WATCHMEN film will stay on track for the March 6th release.

Details of the undisclosed are scarce at this time, but it looks as if Warner will pay Fox an up front cash settlement as well as portions of the box office take, and Fox will have no part in the distribution of the film.

Some terms of the deal are already leaking out, see the Robot 6 blog here.

What does this mean for us, the fans? Well, the movie is coming out and will not be shelved because of the studio war. The project has come along too far to see it go away now, so hold onto your hats because we're less than two months away.

Stay tuned.


Review of TONIGHT WE DIE AS MEN by Ian Gardner & Roger Day

You know, believe it or not, I was the editor of the Military Book Club for about four years, in addition to my being one of the editors of the Science Fiction Book Club, and during that time I got a chance to read some amazing military history books.

I realize I don’t talk about it much on this blog, which focuses more on my interest in comics, science fiction, and fantasy as well as my experiences this past year as a freelance editor. but I’d say that taking that job (simultaneously to running my Altiverse segment for SFBC) really awakened an interest in military history for me.

I often joked I learned about the military through a mix of army stories from my father, lots of episodes of M.A.S.H. as well as my obsession with GI Joe. I’m very pleased that this past year as a freelance editor; I get a chance to work with many of the wonderful military history publishers I used to buy books from. I hope this continues.

While at the Osprey offices in midtown recently, I saw that one of their newest titles had arrived in bound uncorrected proofs and asked if I could read TONIGHT WE DIE AS MEN: The Untold Story of the Third Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment From Toccoa to D-Day.

I found this book a wonderful addition to the literature regarding American Airborne and their participation in D-Day and the days that followed. The 506 PIR played an integral role in the huge D-Day operation and suffered monumental losses on jump day, which included one of their commanding officers. I hadn't read much about the 506 PIR, and this was a welcome addition.

The book weaves together the story of many men, and their struggles with survival and completing their missions after haphazard drops behind enemy lines. Many acted with bravery, courage, and the instinctual battlefield tact that enables ordinary men—exceptionally trained—to pull it together amid extreme circumstances. And sadly, many of them were lost during the drop.

If you’re a reader of WW II history, and looking for more about the paratrooper landings in and around Normandy, this is the book for you. Although filled with detailed accounts from the men who were there, I would have liked to see a tighter narrative pulling together the accounts, but it was an exciting read, filled with many photos I hadn't seen before, and I really enjoyed it overall.

[Editorial Note: as a disclaimer, I should mention that I have worked with Osprey, the publisher of the aforementioned title. I have a good working relationship with Osprey and also tried to present a fair and balanced opinion of the work regardless of this existing relationship.]


My review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

On a crisp Tuesday night I went to the Kaufman movie theater in Astoria to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film directed by David Fincher, a favorite of mine (loved his work on Fight Club, Panic Room, Se7en, and my most recent favorite Zodiac).

Like many people I know, I feel that Brad Pitt can be hit or miss. His work in Fight Club seemed right on, although I'm a bigger fan of some of his smaller roles such as his work in 12 Monkeys, Snatch, and another favorite, True Romance (best cameo ever). Although, I must admit I also really liked him in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

There were certain aspects of Benjamin Button that interested me. I liked the idea that the very old looking young Benjamin had to play a toddler, while the very young looking Pitt, had to play a wise, worldly man. This made for some subtle acting that really worked for me.

The movie had to me, a Forrest Gump-like feel, where I experienced this larger than life story through the experiences and the retelling of Benjamin Button's story. Not the silly feel of Gump, but the sense that life is an incredible journey and you never know what comes next.

Kate Blanchet was terrific, as the love of his life, and looked graceful as a dancer - like she'd been doing it her entire life. The other performances were well and good. Fincher did a good job of capturing the essence of each decade that the characters moved through, very subtle details that expressed the change in time. I know Fincher has affection for the 70s due to his work on Zodiac, and later in this movie you feel that he's captured that time in a bottle.

I left the theater being moved, and with that I was pleased.

I did feel the editing could have been a bit tighter, some lingering bits added to the aging theme of the film, but I felt some bits could have been cut. I do feel directors feel they have much more leeway these days as movies well over two hours have become the norm. (I feel there is always plenty of room on the DVD release for added footage, cut scenes, and outtakes).

I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10. My personal favorite scene was the desperate attack of the German submarine by the tugboat crew. An awesome bit of WW II thrown in there - nice.

DEAR CYBORGS by Eugene Lim, a little review

I had read a great little article on LitHub.com about this new novel from Eugene Lim and went to seek it out. Soon after I had acquired...