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October Happens!

By Denise Dumars     October 06, 2000

I begin this week's worth of books already in horror saturation...I tried very hard to come up with some science fiction books, butalasevery one I touched turned out to be either (a) hard SF espousing some right-wing ideology; (b) cyber-bunk espousing Japanophilia; or (c) fantasy. Fortunately, I already had a pre-pub copy of HOUSE HARKONNEN, the second in Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's prequel trilogy to DUNE. Expect a full review later on this month, but it stands to reason that the dark and bloody Harkonnens will make for good Halloween reading.

And what could be scarier than...well, how about the title of Sharyn McCrumb's latest mystery featuring forensic anthropologist Elizabeth MacPherson, THE PMS OUTLAWS? In this book McCrumb takes on (much as she took on SF fandom in BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN and ZOMBIES OF THE GENE POOL) our society's culture of beauty, and what our obsession with it does to women. The book promises 'beauty as a weapon.' I know I'm scared. Time for those botox shots!

Margaret Atwood, a novelist and poet who manages to be considered both a literary writer and a genre writer, has a big new novel out...at least that's what all the front-page reviews seem to think. It's called THE BLIND ASSASSIN, and it manages to embed a science fiction novel into the story of a murder mystery set in the 1940's. It's gotta be a rare day when a book comes out that will appeal to fans of noir fiction, SF, and whatever that stuff is they call literary fiction. It's a story of two sisters, one of whoma science fiction writerdies under mysterious circumstances. The book recounts both the character's posthumously published SF novel, called, appropriately enough, THE BLIND ASSASSIN, and the protagonist's search for the truth about her sister's death.

It's also a great day for fans of Patrick McGrath, perhaps the single best reanimator of the Gothic novel writing today. His latest book, MARTHA PEAKE, is the story of the daughter of a man who was horribly disfigured in an accident. She is taken in by an anatomist who is fascinated with her father's spinal deformation. It's subtitled 'A Novel of the Revolution,' so we soon see Martha, ravished and pregnant bywell, I won't tell by whomin the middle of the American Revolution. With this novel McGrath continues to write about a morbid devotion to medical oddities andwell, that's why we love him.

I call Joe R. Lansdale the Master of All Genres because I've read his work since his small-press days, and have marveled at how he's taken what is essentially a horror writer's view of the world and turned it towards mystery, science fiction, Westerns, fantasy and yes, even occasionally horror fiction. Joe has two new books out right now. HIGH COTTON, billed as 'twenty-one stories for mature audiences only!' has a really groovy cover by J. K. Potter best befitting Lansdale as the originator of the term 'cowpunk,' a tongue-in-cheek 'subgenre' of stories of Western horror. HIGH COTTON reprints some of Lansdale's best and most down-and-dirty horror stories, all of which are recommended for those over 17 years of age, just so Congress doesn't call me on the carpet for pushing this stuff to kids. Joe also has a new novel: THE BOTTOMS is a very much revised and enlarged version of a dark suspense story that appeared in the not-so-earthshaking but nonetheless Stoker-winning anthology titled 999. It was one of the best things in that antho, and we'll see if the novel version tops it. I plan to talk to Joe later on about these books and other stuff so watch for an interview and reviews.

Speaking of ratings above and beyond R, I just got film director Mick Garris's first collection of horror stories. Garris is the director of SLEEPWALKERS and THE STAND. With an introduction by Stephen King, an afterword by Tobe Hooper, cover art by Clive Barkerwell, I guess you could say the title of A LIFE IN THE CINEMA is appropriate. This collection, thematically, harks back to the brief ascension of the vomit-comet school of writing known as Splatterpunk, so I guess we're in for a wild ride. I'll strap on the barf bag and review it.

There's some fun non-fiction on the stands now too. Just in time for Halloween, a new biography of Aleister Crowley, the man who made it cool to be evil, is on the stands. DO WHAT THOU WILT: A Life of Aleister Crowley, should be well worth a look since it is by Lawrence Sutin, author of the very insightful DIVINE INVASIONS: a Life of Philip K. Dick. Sutin is also a professor in an M.F.A. program, but we won't hold that against him. This book looks really good, but I found the photos disappointing, since none of them is new to me. Oh well, I'm sure they'll be new to someone whose first occult reading experience was TEEN WITCH.

Also on the non-fiction aisle is the Millennium edition of the DARK SHADOWS ALMANAC. Edited by Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jim Pierson, with a foreword by David Selby, this great-looking book has scads of fun photos and lots of great behind-the-scenes info on everybody's favorite supernatural soap opera. New articles by former cast members enliven the prose. I can't help it; I just love this kind of book!

King Alert!

Stephen King's new novel DREAMCATCHER isn't even out yet, and already it's been optioned by Castle Rock (no surprise) and, so the grapevine says, the screenplay will be written by William Goldman (surprise!) Goldman is probably our, well, greatest living screenwriter, and so this film will be highly anticipated, but I can't help feeling a bit sorry that Frank Darabont isn't going to write this script. Still, if you're not familiar with Goldman's work, let me direct you to WHICH LIE DID I TELL? More Adventures in the Screen Trade, Goldman's latest book, which is a follow-up to 1983's ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, a Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting. Both these books are highly recommended for those who want to know the true story of what writing for the Hollywood screen machine is all about, so I guess you could call them horror stories of a sort. If you're not sure of Goldman's genre credentials, bear in mind that he adapted the screenplay for MISERY and wrote both the books and the screenplays for MAGIC and THE PRINCESS BRIDE. That latter s the fantasy tale which contains the immortal line, 'My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.' Oh well, maybe you had to see the film.

And Now the Screaming Starts

This past weekend I visited the Pagan Day festival in Los Angeles, not to be confused with the much larger and more, well,Pagan Pagan Pride Day some weeks earlier. Pagan Day was somewhat on the order of a more ecumenical book fair, serving as it were the diverse needs of Wiccans and neo-pagans, Satanists, horror fans, Hindus and just plain weirdos. None of the food vendors showed up, but several bookstores did, and what variety! Dark Delicacies paraded horror in all its versions, along with some Teen Witch stuff for THE CRAFT fans; Amok brought its most disreputable krap, including neo-Nazi skinhead punk recordings, books on serial killers, et al; Neo-pagan authors Gerina Dunwich and Raven Grimassi had booths of their own, autographing their latest titles; The Museum of Death, relocated from San Diego to Hollywood, enchanted everyone with books about the funeral trade and a rather lively-looking taxidermied dog; Raven's Flight showed why they're the San Fernando Valley's preeminent Wiccan bookstore; and last but not least PanPipes, the Hollywood occult shop owned by actress Fairuza Balk ofyes, that's right kidsTHE CRAFT, sponsored the event but, oddly, sold only t-shirts.

Well, I gave up waiting for Fairuza to show up and left, but not before buying a copy of Dunwich's new book THE PAGAN BOOK OF HALLOWEEN and purchasing some incense from the Hindusdevotees of Kali, they were, which seems appropriate. My intrepid photographer, Lori Cadena, did indeed run into Craftstar Fairuza Balk later on during Pagan Day. Mistaking her for a college coed who just wanted to chat about witchy stuff, she failed to get a photo before La Balk rode off on her broom into the sunset.

All in all it was an odd mix of Goddess worshippers with Phd's, Goth kids, guys who looked like ex-cons wearing inverted pentagrams, and upper-class Orange County-ites into Eastern religion. Oh well, it must be October. Just keep telling yourself, 'At least people were buying books; at least they were buying books...'

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