Sunday, November 20, 2016
One of the questions I get asked the most when people find out I'm a writer is, "What genre do you write in." I always have a little trouble with that because A.I don't like labels. B. Most of what I write doesn't fit a particular genre. People usually lump me into Urban Fantasy, which my market savvy friends tell me is now known as 'Supernatural Suspense', which works better, but the three Griffin & Price novels I've written with James A. Moore are rural, not urban, and I don't have most of the trappings of UF. I've been calling it Crime-Horror, though not all of the stuff I've done has both those elements. I think editor Geoff Brown has nailed it in his recent announcement about Griffin and Price books at Cohesion Press. 'Action Horror' was Geoff's phrase. I'm going with that because pretty much all my stuff has horror and action. Thanks, Geoff. Now I know what to say.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
You say Brian Wood's emo-Conan sent you packing? That manga-style Conan art gave you hives? Is that what's bothering you bunky? Well come on back to Darkhorse Comics because CONAN THE SLAYER is good for what ails you.
Seriously, Cullen Bunn gets the character as few writers have. Perhaps because Cullen writes horror (Harrow County. Also from Darkhorse) and sword & sorcery is always always always best when it has horror at its core. SLAYER has monsters, demons, and dark sorcery.
Plus, as I said, Bunn gets Conan. There's a scene in the newest issue, number 4, where Conan walks right into the middle of a camp full of armed foes and shows them how the world works. This is how I want to see Conan. Confidant. Reckless. Maybe a little crazy. Because, hello? Barbarian.
For me the people who have done well writing Conan comics is a pretty short list. Roy Thomas. Chuck Dixon. Kurt Busiek. Timothy Truman. Well ladies and gentlemen, we have a contender.
The artwork is great too. Sergio Davila would have been right at home in the pages of SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. His Cimmerian has the right frame without being body-builder ridiculous. His Conan stalks red-handed through the pages, doling out the harshness.
You guys know I don't recommend Conan lightly. Give CONAN THE SLAYER a shot. And Crom count the dead.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Just watched the first episode of Supergirl guest starring Superman. Loved it. That's Superman, kids. Just as much heart as his cousin. Wisely the writers didn't allow him to overshadow Supergirl. It's still clearly her show, but he's an excellent visitor. And strange. And from another plant.
Monday, September 19, 2016
1. Chastel- Manly Wade Wellman
From The Valley So Low
2. The Night Flyer- Stephen King
From Nightmares and Dreamscapes
3. Murgunstrumm- Hugh B. Cave
From Murgunstrumm and Others
4. Mirage- Karl Edward Wagner
From Death Angel's Shadow
5. Hills of the Dead- Robert E. Howard
From Solomon Kane
6. The Mysterious Stranger-Annon
From In the Shadow of Dracula
7. The Room in the Tower-E.F. Benson
From The Room in the Tower and Other Stories
8. Count Magnus-M.R.James
From Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
9. Popsy-Stephen King
From Nightmares and Dreamscapes
10. When it was Moonlight-Manly Wade Wellman
From Worse Things Waiting
11. The Family of the Vourdalak-Aleksei Tolstoy
From Dracula's Guest
12. The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
From The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
13. Strangella-Hugh B. Cave
From Murgunstrumm and Others
Amazingly, it’s September. Where does the time go? It’s still warm here in Northern Georgia, but there’s a hint of autumn on the wind, and my mind is, of course, turning to Halloween and all things dark and dangerous. So it’s time for the table of contents of the eighth edition of my imaginary horror anthology, Charles Rutledge’s Book of Horror, inspired by the book H.P. LOVECRAFT’S BOOK OF HORROR. I always try and have this list out in September, so that interested parties have a chance to track down any of the stories before Halloween.
There’s a new wrinkle this year though, as this is actually a themed anthology, where I list my favorite thirteen horror stories about vampires. Also I’ll be cross-posting with another blog, that of Amanda DeWees, author of Gothic Romantic Suspense novels and quite the vampire maven. Amanda will be putting up her own list of favorite Vampire tales at her blog, which I will link to at the bottom of this post.
So let’s get started. First up on my list is Manly Wade Wellman’s ‘Chastel’ the last story to feature occult detective Judge Keith Hilary Pursuivant. The judge was far less well known than Wellman’s other two occult specialists, John Thunstone and John the Balladeer, but actually preceded both of those characters. This story was a big influence on me while writing my own vampire novel, ‘Congregations of the Dead’ with James A. Moore. The short story is very creepy and evocative and is a fine send off for the judge.
Next up is what I consider to be one of the scariest vampire yarns ever, Stephen King’s ‘The Night Flyer’. The vampire in this one is totally inhuman, smelling of corruption and the grave. Another big influence on the way I write about vampires.
‘Murgunstrumm’ is probably Hugh B. Cave’s best known story, and though it was written for the pulps more than seventy years ago, it still backs considerable punch.
Karl Edward Wager’s ‘Mirage’ is a story of his immortal warrior and hero-villain, Kane. A wounded and delirious Kane stumbles into an old ruin and almost stays there forever. The story has a weird, dream-like quality and is one of my favorites of the Kane series.
Another Kane is Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane, the Puritan adventurer and fighter against evil. Many of Solomon’s adventures were set in Africa, and in ‘The Hills of the Dead” Kane runs into a whole tribe of vampires. The Solomon Kane tales are some of my favorites, very much horror stories with some action thrown in.
No one knows who wrote ‘The Mysterious Stranger’ but it was one of the tales that came before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, and to my mine was a major influence on Stoker’s novel. The story of a group of travelers who find an old man in a castle and make the mistake of extending him and invitation. He begins to feed on one of the women in the story and as she grows weaker, he grows younger and stronger. There are many other parallels. Give it a read if you’ve never tried it. I’ve often thought of swiping the basic plot and turning it into a sword & sorcery story.
Which brings us to, ‘The Room in the Tower.’ E.F. Benson is one of my absolute favorite horror writers and this may be my favorite story of his. For years a man dreams of a room in the tower of a house that he thinks only exists in his imagination. But one weekend he is invited to a country house party and finds that the house is a real place, with a real tower room where something horrible is waiting on him. It reminds me a little of Perceval Landon’s ‘Thurnley Abbey’ which is one of my top ten horror yarns ever.
Count Magnus is one of M.R. James’ most famous stories. Here, the master of the Ghost Story turns his macabre imagination to a tale of a man who should really have been careful what he wished for.
Stephen King mentioned at one point that he wondered if the creature for ‘The Night Flyer” was the same creature who shows up in ‘Popsy’. He rather thought it was. Not quite as scary as ‘The Night Flyer’ but still a pretty nasty little tale of comeuppance.
Our second story by Manly Wade Wellman, ‘When It Was Moonlight’, is one of Wellman’s historical horror tales, where Edgar Alan Poe, no stranger to things that go bump in the night, runs into a moonlit horror.
Aleksei Tolstoy’s (Cousin to the more famous Tolstoy) The Family of the Vourdalak, is a tale of a family beset by a former relative who has returned as a vampire, and is in some ways closer to folklore than contemporary fiction. It has a very ‘real’ feel to it and is all the scarier for it.
I wrestled for a bit about including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’ because it doesn’t have a real vampire in it. But in the end I decided that it’s still an excellent creepy story, almost Doyle’s response to ‘Dracula.’
The final entry is another from pulpster Hugh. B. Cave, 'Strangella' a tale of a wrecked ship that houses a sinister secret. This one, like much of Cave's work, is strong stuff.
And there you have it. My thirteen favorite vampire short stories. Still plenty of time to track them down before Halloween. And when you're done looking at my list, go over to Amanda DeWees' blog and see what she has for you. Amanda is an expert on Vampire fiction and she knows her stuff. In the meantime, keep plenty of Garlic and Holy Water handy. You never know who might drop by.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
MAMA TRIED, The new anthology from DOWN AND OUT BOOKS came out this week. The book contains a slew of stories from a bunch of authors, all inspired by Outlaw Country Music. The brief was simple. Take the title of an outlaw country song and turn it into a crime story. We couldn’t just write the song as a story for obvious reasons. The titles were for inspiration only.
I was raised in rural Georgia, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I grew up with Country Music. Our local station WCHK, was my mom’s favorite spot to leave the radio dial and the background soundtrack of my early life is pure country. Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Elvis, Dolly Parton, and all the rest.
About the time I was entering my teenage years, the Outlaw Country movement was getting up and running. Merle Haggard. Kris Kristofferson. Waylon Jennings. Willie Nelson. Hank Williams Jr. Guys like Johnny Cash, who had always been outlaws, were grandfathered in. Spurred by the restlessness of the 1960s, and 1970s, the movement began as a reaction to the over-produced, slick sound that had begun to flow out of Nashville. As country turned pop and easy listening, the outlaws went rogue. The sound was a blend of old school country, Honkytonk, and Rockabilly, with some blues and early rock & roll in the mix.
When MAMA TRIED editor James R. Tuck suggested the idea of the anthology on Facebook, I volunteered immediately. I’d been writing a mix of crime fiction and horror in the GRIFFIN AND PRICE series with James A. Moore, and I liked the idea of using my protagonist, Wade Griffin, in a down and dirty crime story with no supernatural elements. I chose the title of the Willie Nelson hit WHISKEY RIVER as my jumping off point.
I knew I wanted Griffin to be a ‘man alone’ in this story, cut off from his usual support system of Sheriff Carl Price, advisor Carter Decamp, and significant other, Charon. I had a vague idea about hijackers, so I started Googling ‘stolen whiskey, and turned up a wealth of information about the startlingly high prices paid on the black market for twenty year old designer whiskey and even found stories about a couple of high dollar whiskey hijackings.
Armed with verisimilitude and coffee, I sat down and banged out a first draft of Whiskey River. It went darker places than I’d intended as I wrote, but that fits the theme. Outlaw Country music was often introspective and dark. Wade Griffin, former mercenary now turned private detective, has to call upon the skills he learned in life or death situations in third world countries to survive a bad night with some bad people. In the end, I was very proud of the story. I think it one of the better short tales I’ve written.
Anyway, I’m thrilled to be in an anthology with so many terrific writers. I’ve read a bunch of the other stories and there’s some great, dark crime fiction in there. The Outlaw tradition lives on.
More about MAMA TRIED here:
Sunday, August 14, 2016
If EPs have a message then this one's is hope. From the opening song LIVING IN THE MOMENT to the final cut, OKAY, Kasey sings about rising above life's problems and getting on with your life. As RISE OF THE PHOENIX says, "It's time to rise up from the ashes, take action, I don't fear darkness anymore."
Not there isn't a detour into regret. Wouldn't be a country album without it. The heroine of the song GHOST laments "And I'm still sleeping with your ghost." This is probably my favorite song on the EP, but, hey, I like sad songs.
Anyway, I'm constantly amazed at the work of Kasey Lansdale, both in her talent and in her commitment to music. She's one of the hardest working people I know of and she gives her all to every endeavor. You can get LEAVE HER WILD here:
And if you want to hear just how amazing Kasey's voice is, check out her cover of Patsy Cline's I FALL TO PIECES here: