In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash (Mania.com)

By:Denise Dumars
Date: Friday, December 15, 2000

Cash on the Barrelhead
What did I tell you kids about buying books with credit cards and checks? Always pay cash for your copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, galdang it! In a crystal meth lab in Denver, a couple of books were found on how to make drugs (doh!) and now the cops want the Tattered Cover Bookstore to turn over receipts for everyone who bought those titles. So far the bookstore owner has refused, and the court backs herto a point. It looks as though a judge may decide that the search is in order. The awful thing is that if the search does take place, innocent people who are only exercising their right to free speech by purchasing and reading these books might have the cops bust in on them. Or to put it another way, yes, I have a copy of the Qu'ran in my house, but that doesn't make me an Arab Terrorist. Jesus, people, let's protect our civil rights. Kudos to Joyce Meskis, owner of the bookstore, for not immediately caving in to scary guys in jackboots with guns on their hips.

Fiction Forever

Anyone notice how my headers for this section keep devolving? Are we not men? We are Devo. Oh well.

Our first sacrificial victim is Canyons by P. D. Cacek. In this supernatural mystery, Cat Moselle is a reporter for a Weekly World News type rag. So she reports on all kinds of strange phenomena, all of which she and her colleagues believe is pure fiction. Then one night she is rescued from a mugger by a real werewolf, and the plot, as they say, thickens. How's she gonna explain this to the boys back at the office? Looks kinda fun, and hey, we can always use a new werewolf book.

Nextand for comprehending by a completely different part of your brainis Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis. Landis is a rocket scientist who has worked on Mars stuff for NASA, so this is genuine 'hard' speculative fiction. The plot revolves around a mid-21st century Mars mission that has a terrible accident, and the survivors have to hike halfway around the planet for help. I bet this is very good, and I'm always stoked when people are interested in Mars. Keep it up!

The weirdest thing on the horror shelves is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The canard here is that the book reprints this mysterious manuscript reprinted called The Navidson Record about a documentary film (yeah, where've we heard this before?) So this has lots of weird stuff in it: crossed out passages, passages in different languages and in mirror-writing. Looks like a scrapbook, and is probably worth hours of fun decoding while your holiday visitors are watching football and complaining about the gov'mint. For the Umberto Eco fan on your list, definitely, and while I'm on the subject, what's Eco been up to lately?

Another Wiccan sleuth! I remember when Rosemary Edghill was the only mystery writer with a Wiccan amateur detective, in her wonderful trilogy of Bast novels. Now I hear about them all the time. The latest is Harm None by M. R. Sellars, which has computer consultant Rowan Gant called in by a detective friend to answer questions about the Craft and a murder that has taken place. Gant explains the Wiccan code of 'harm none' and helps solve the crime. There's big buzz already on the second book in the series, Never Burn a Witch, which is not due out until May of 2001. A chance to get in on the first book in a series, for a change, Denise!

Nonfiction Noisettes

I really like Matthew Fox. He's the former Dominican priest who got kicked out of the Catholic Church for his unorthodox beliefsmany of which appeared in his first book, Original Blessing. I guess you can sort of tell by the title where he and the Church parted company. He has a new book out, and the great thing about it is that it would be appropriate for anyone on your gift list, no matter what their religion is. One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths puts Sufi mystics with Aztec poets with quotes from the Zohar et al. It is subdivided into topics such as art, ritual, and sexuality. The best all-around spiritual book for the holidays I've seen.

Another pleasant surprise was finding The Book of Shadows: The Unofficial 'Charmed' Companion, by N. E. Genge. This book is a mix of stuff; it has, of course, lots of info on the TV show Charmed but also has a pretty good elementary grimoire for aspiring witches, including an herbal guide, ideas for ritual tools, etc. Kind of an interesting combination, and more fun than the usual TV tie-in title.

Finally! A reference book that talks about the great underrated late '70s SF TV show Quark. The Sci-Fi Channel Encyclopedia of Television Science Fiction by Roger Fulton and John Betancourt has everything you ever wanted to know about your favorite SF TV show, and more. Would make a great gift for the SF TV addict. And for those who don't remember, Quark was a spoof of Star Trek created by Buck Henry and starring Richard Benjamin and Tim Thomerson. It was slightly raunchy and very funny, and I think I'm about one of about twelve people who ever watched it.

Writer Rumblings

SF author Greg Bear won the Endeavour Award for his novel Darwin's Radio. I seem to recall someone recommending this book to me. Anyway, the Endeavour Award is for the best SF novel or story collection by an author from the Pacific Northwest and hey, there's a lot of them up there so that's saying something.

Some news on editor Paula Guran: the second issue of her new horror fiction magazine Horror Garage is now available, and so is the erotic horror anthology she edited called Embraces: Dark Erotica. And speaking of Paula Guran, in her newsletter DarkEcho she had a cow over Amazon.com's 2000 Editor's Choice for the 10 best horror titles of the year. First of all, several of their selections were published prior to 2000, and one of their titlesStephen King's On Writing is nonfiction. I don't know about you guys, but I never take those 'editor's picks' in bookstores or from online booksellers seriously, as I always assume publishers have paid for the books to be on the list. Caveat emptor, as usual.

Barnes and Noble hasfor those of you with suitably enabled computersstreaming video clips of interviews with authors, including horror writers Anne Rice and Stewart O'Nan, the man whose name always cracks me up for all the wrong reasons. Check it out if you can at http://www.barnesandnoble.com.

The subtitle of this week's column, by the way, comes from a collection of stories by Jean Shepherd, the man who gave us the wonderful film A Christmas Story which is, for my money, light years ahead of sappy holiday crap like It's a Wonderful Life. Shepherd's collections are available in most libraries and his stories are as funny as the film.

Shopping Update

As of Friday, December 15, 2000, there are six more shopping days until the Winter Solstice; eight until Hanukkah; ten until Christmas; and eleven until Kwanzaa. So get busy, already!