Book Review—Tribesmen By Adam Cesare

Here’s the plot so I don’t have to write a book report:

“Thirty years ago, cynical sleazeball director Tito Bronze took a tiny cast and crew to a desolate island. His goal: to exploit the local tribes, spray some guts around, cash in on the gore-spattered 80s Italian cannibal craze.

But the pissed-off spirits of the island had other ideas. And before long, guts were squirting behind the scenes, as well. While the camera kept rolling… TRIBESMEN is Adam Cesare’s blistering tribute to Cannibal Holocaust and Lucio Fulci: a no-bullshit glimpse into grindhouse filmmaking, stuffed inside a rocket of tropical non-stop mayhem.”

Adam Cesare’s Tribemen is one of those short novels—much like the gross-out that is Cannibal Holocaust—that almost has a legend surrounding it. It was one of the first of only three titles to come out from the much-lamented Ravenous Shadows imprint that was spearheaded by splatterpunk legend, John Skipp. The books published by Ravenous Shadows—The Devoted, Die Bastard! Die!, and Tribesmen—were quick, brutal reads meant to be devoured in a two hour sitting. And then like most e-publishing operations, it disappeared along with the three published titles. It didn’t take long for Cesare to find a new home for Tribesmen with Deadite Press. But in those short months it wasn’t around, it gained a reputation as being as disgusting as the animal snuff film it pays homage to.

This, however, isn’t the case. Tribesmen is actually a cursed island ghost story and Cesare instead focuses his energies on creating a feeling of claustrophobic dread as opposed to leaning on exploitative violence. Although, Tribesmen doesn’t shy away from it, but like the most effective horror narratives, the bloodshed is kept quick and powerful, providing the illusion that the worst of the slaughter is happening off the page. (There is one scene of cannibalism that’s a bit of a stomach churner. But, you know, it’s a horror novel about people getting eaten, you just kind of expect it.) And while the whole ‘haunted island’ thing has a bit of Scooby-Doo vibe to it, the locale adds to the overall tension: There is no escape, there’s only the hunt and the vengeful sprits of the abandoned tropical island is genuinely the most sympathetic character in the novella.

For such a short book, Cesare packs a deft combination of character development and action into a very small package. The book alternates between the perspectives of the entire cast and crew of the film and the conversational flow keeps the story moving at the lighting paced urgency of a well-done 70’s B-movie; which, in turn, lends Tribesmen a bit of the cheesiness you expect from such productions. (The ending is pure 70’s cheese and feels a bit like an episode of Charlie’s Angel’s wrapping up.) Overall, Tribesmen is a classic horror thriller without a lot of fat weighing it down.

Click Here to Purchase Tribesmen

Officially On The Wrong Side Of History

I was reading Cracked.com last night. It’s not something I do all that often—Don’t get me wrong, I like the site, but the content can become a little too repetitive—usually I’ll read it when I’m bored of whatever book I’m reading, or I’ve finished my word count for the day. Or, as was the case yesterday, I was too tired to put the words down (The baby stayed home with me yesterday with some serious teething issues and the diarrhea and low-grade fever that usually accompanies it. She, of course, decided she didn’t want to nap, either.), and I just wanted to zone out and get a chuckle out of whatever I was reading.

The article I read last night was one of the site’s ’The 15 Most Insane Things Happening Right Now’ photoplay pieces. Anyone who reads them on a regular basis will know that the feature is at times hilarious, but most of the time are just flat out frightening in a sarcastic kind of way. But the picture featured on the right was something I found hopeful and encouraging for a huge chunk of the world, but utterly heartbreaking as far as the future of America is concerned.

First off, let’s completely forget about Trump and his retinue of extremely old, wealthy men. If you’re under the age of 60 or have your thoughts and actions dictated by a 2000-year-old document that’s been rewritten 200 or 300 hundred times, you know they’re a problem. But it’s the financial ideas these men cling to that make them even more dangerous (You know, other than being a bunch of fearful, hate-mongering men).

Coal and oil have been king for the last century as far as energy production is concerned, and this has been a world-wide thing. Utter and total dependence on two finite sources of lighting, heat, etc., but you all know this already. You also know that both forms of energy are filthy and detrimental to human life (ALL life, really) and it would be truly beneficial if we started moving away from these things.

But we’re not.

Instead, the U.S. is ramping up production of both while a despotic dictatorship looks to the future.

If you’ve ever seen pictures of Beijing, you know it’s a complete mess from an environmental perspective. The air quality is like 19th century London on crack, so it just flat out makes sense for them to invest in clean energy for the health of their people. But with the sheer size of the investment China is making in clean energy, they’re clearly not looking to just improve the lives of their citizens, they’re looking to become the world leaders of what is now an emerging technology, but in one-hundred-years will be the technological standard. With this $361 billion-dollar investment, China has become the future and the United States stands firmly on the wrong side of history.

In one-hundred-years, China will be the leader in the design of solar panels, wind turbines, and water desalination, and chances are, America—or what’s left of it (Sorry to be so doom and gloom with that statement, folks)—will be the nation where the products the Chinese design will be manufactured, it’s worker will be making enough to just barely exist and most likely sucking in loads and loads of coal fumes.


Before I go, here’s a big old long list of horrible shit our “government” has done to the American people in the last week.

The Senate voted 51 to 48 to….
1. End coverage for preexisting conditions, veterans benefits, and aid to rural hospitals. (This one gave me a panic attack because EVERYONE in my family, for the exception of my oldest, has a preexisting medical condition.)
2. Remove discrimination protection for women in healthcare.
3. Against the provision allowing children to remain on their parent’s insurance till the age of 26.
4. Cut off funding for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
5. Against ACA contraceptive coverage and maternity care provision.
6. Direct committees to send budget legislation to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
For those who get health insurance through work, no pre-existing conditions. Lifetime caps for coverage are back for everyone.
Real actions are being taken that will affect more than just the 20-30 million people who will lose their health care coverage and the 3 million people who will lose their jobs.
Despite their assertions of this being an action to “repeal and replace,” no viable alternative plan has been proposed.

(Hat Tip to novelist Scott Phillips for the list.)


Morning Soundtrack: Dear Science By TV On The Radio


 

Current Read: Something Rich and Strange By Ron Rash

 

Book Review—‘Patience’ By Daniel Clowes

Here’s The Skinny:

“Patience is a psychedelic science-fiction love story, veering with uncanny precision from violent destruction to deeply personal tenderness in a way that is both quintessentially Clowesian and utterly unique in the author s body of work. This 180-page, full-color original graphic novel affords Clowes the opportunity to draw some of the most exuberant and breathtaking pages of his life, and to tell his most suspenseful, surprising and affecting story yet. “

The words ‘graphic novel’ get thrown around a lot. Most of the time when media outlets use it they’re typically describing compilations of individual comics (For instance, The Watchmen). True graphic novels tend to be a rarity, and there are only a handful of artists who create them. Daniel Clowes is one of those handful of creators, and he is, perhaps, the best of them.

Clowes latest novel, Patience, is easily his most ambitious and accessible work to date and it may very well it up becoming his signature work in an already impressive oeuvre.

Since the books description lacks any real description of the actual story, I’m going to go all 10th grade book report on you and give you a bit of a summarization.

Jack and Patience are your typical young couple living in the big, bad city, where they only have each other and no one else, at least until Patience finds out she’s pregnant. Both are ecstatic, but obviously filled with worried, mostly financial. Jack makes his money handing out fliers for strip clubs and but has been lying to Patience and saying that he’s working in an office. After finding out about her pregnancy, Jack decides to come clean and start their new life as a family with a clean slate. Jack comes home and finds Patience lifeless body in their bedroom.

Jack is initially arrested and jailed for the murder, but then finally released for lack of evidence after two years and then Jack spends the next twenty-five years of his life obsessed with finding Patience killer. Luckily enough, he meets a fat weirdo through a blue skinned hooker (Remember, this is twenty-five years in the future) who’s discovered time travel. Jack tracks the weirdo down, steals the device, and goes back in time in hopes of preventing Patience’s death by icing out one of her old crappy boyfriends who Jack believes is her actual killer (And, in anyway, is).

For most science fiction fans, this is a well-worn story, with Stephen King’s 11/22/63 being the most recent example of the trope. But Clowes approach to the subject matter breaks away from the mold on several different levels thanks to Jack. Our protagonist has been so single focused for such a long time that he’s more than likely semi-psychotic. The man just does not care how his actions affect the future as long as he can save the love his life and avoid twenty-five years of torment. And because of Jack’s erratic behavior, the story takes several unusual twists and turns.

Although Jack is a fascinating character, the true protagonist of the novel is its title character. Patience is a strong young woman who has far too much weight placed on her shoulders. She is broad-minded and intelligent but is too often sucked into the petty dramas of her family and poor choices of male companionship. Even though the audience is well aware of what will eventually happen to her, you can’t help but be captivated by her story and by how two separate versions of Jack influence her life and choices.

Along with being an excellent writer, Clowes as an artist is stunning. His clean lines are rendered simply and without static, giving each panel almost an otherworldly feel to them. His most stunning drawings, however, are the psychedelic fugue states he draws as Jack’s mind and body are rocket through time and space. These drawings almost have a late 60’s Steve Ditko feel to them.

Patience is a truly excellent novel and would make a perfect gateway for readers who have been reluctant to read comics because of their perceived lack of depth or because they have no interest in superheroes. 


Morning Soundtrack: Stillness In Wonderland By Little Simz

Tuesday Night Bullet Points

The baby goes to her Grandmother’s on Tuesdays, so I spent the day in the office and didn’t think about much of anything else but work for five or so hours. It was nice. Of course, the baby came home without a nap and a touch of diaper rash, which made for a grumpy, tired evening for Scarlett and for me and Mrs. Rawson. I planned on adding a couple more thousand words to today’s work, but instead I’m just going to blog, listen to music, and read.

Here are a couple of general observations from today.

  • I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s non-fiction collection over the past week or so and I think I like him more as an essayist than as a novelist. But then again, the last novel of his I read was The Ocean at The End Of The Lake, and that really didn’t do all that much for me.
  • Most of 2016 was a Margaret Atwood year. 2017 is looking like it’s going to be more of the same. Currently I’m re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time in over twenty years; it still ranks as one of my top five SF reads of all time.
  • I watched the terrorism thriller Unthinkable over the weekend. It’s an intense flick and I think it and David Mamet’s overlooked CIA thriller, Spartan, would make a great double bill.
  • I’m finding writing with pen and paper to be agreeable with me these days. Virtually everything I’ve written and published over the last six months has started out on yellow legal pads.
  • I’m finishing up a few short stories after four or five months of novel writing. I can’t say I’m enjoying writing them, but I also think my head’s in a completely different space now. I’m sure I’ll go back to loving stories once I’m between long stories.
  • I don’t mind when people disagree with me, and I mean about any subject whether it’s art, politics, whatever. I want to hear what you think, just remember to notch the anger back a bit when you’re expressing yourself. Because, trust me, I’m not going to go on a tirade just because we don’t see eye-to-eye on something.
  • Bar none, Miles Davis was the greatest musician of the 20th  century. 
  • Have a goodnight and sleep well.

Evening Soundtrack: My Funny Valentine By Miles Davis

Picking Pepper Out Of Gnat Shit

I logged onto Facebook today, something that I’ve been doing less and less of lately largely because I’ve got way too much shit on my plate as is, and because every time I log on, I seem to run into the same arguments being discussed in a dozen different ways. Today’s argument was punching Nazi’s and whether it’s right or wrong?

Now I’ll be blunt, I’m not a pacifist. As an ideology, it’s only worked twice as a means of change in the last hundred or so years. The first time was in India, and the reason it worked there was because the British “empire” was crumbling to pieces due to simple economics and it was flat out easier for the Limey’s to give up India. The second time it was here in the states, and the person leading the pacifist charge wasn’t so much a human being as he was a force of nature, and if I was alive during the same period as he was, I would have followed him anywhere and done anything he asked.

 I actually found the Nazi getting punched funny and he fully deserved the beat down. I mean, come on, the dude’s a stupid, dangerous asshole, and the only way to stop stupid, dangerous people is using a little force here and there.

But the thing is, I didn’t really care about the arguments being made on whether the guy should have been punched or not, my beef was that the argument was even an argument.

Over the last six months, I’ll freely admit that I’ve grown tired of “liberals”. It’s not that I don’t agree with the thoughts and ideas of liberalism, I care about and value human life and all life on our tiny planet and so do most “liberals”. No, what’s been bothering me the most about liberalism is the sheer lack of focus within the “movement”. There’s so many things that the “movement” cares deeply about that none of the things that they’re so passionate about changing get changed. And the reason for it is they spend so much time arguing about minute points instead of focusing on one thing at a time.

Personally, if I had to pick just two things for “liberals” to focus on it would be women’s equality and not killing so many black folks. The first one is easy, because let’s face it, women are the majority in America. Generally speaking, they go to and finish college more than most men, and, you know, they’re able to give birth to other human beings. And because I live with three of them, I know from experience that women are just flat out smarter than men. It just seems like a given to me that women should be equal to men, all that needs to happen is for women to start exercising their obvious superiority and the whole issue would become a non-issue within a few years.

The not killing as many black folks, well, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Racism is an ingrained, animalistic tendency. It’s one human being (Or a pack of them) looking at another human being (Or a pack of them) and saying: I don’t like how you look, so I’m going to hate you and hunt you down.

Getting past this sub-human instinct is going to be a bitch.

But, there are things we can do as Americans, like training our police forces to not automatically pull their guns every time they step out of their patrol cars (By the way, before you get your panties in a bunch, I’m not anti-law enforcement, I’m just anti-death and anti-bullying. And let’s face it, most of the dudes who indiscriminately shoot black folks usually joined the police because they want to be able to push people around and pull their guns on whoever the hell they want.) and train them to logically assess a situation before resorting to force, which most police already do. But, you know, there’s always more than a few rotten apples in the bunch.

The other thing that would probably help with less black folks getting killed is creating a little financial autonomy within black communities. Having ready availability to quality educations and jobs tend to go a long way. Financial autonomy means less crime, less violence, less death. The problem is, though, there are  A LOT of human beings who still think and act like animals (Such as our current President) and the only way we’re going to get rid of these attitudes is by breeding them out of existence. And over the decades, things have been changing positively little-by-little as each subsequent generation moves farther and farther away from their baser instincts. It’s an infuriatingly slow process, but unfortunately, that’s just how nature works.

So, yeah, if I had it my way, “liberals” would focus solely on these two issues and nothing else until they were accomplished. But I know it won’t happen. I know liberalism will remain a complete clusterfuck of unorganized ideas and shitheels like Trump and Mike Pence will continue to keep things exactly the way they want them. They’ll keep America mired in the past as the rest of us spin our wheels and argue nonsensically  about whether it was right or wrong for a hate spewing sub-human to take a well- deserved punch in the jaw.


Morning Soundtrack: Oczy Mlody By The Flaming Lips

New Column and Westworld

I’m sitting in my office getting ready to type up my notes to my latest column for Gamut magazine. Over the past few months as Gamut has been ramping up, I made the decision that with Raw Bites, I was going to strip myself to the bone. I was going to dredge up all of the things about my life that still make me cringe before I fall asleep at night or during too quiet moments. It’s been work out. The piece I’m writing is definitely making me wince more than a little bit. By the way, I’ve got a new Raw Bites in Gamut #1 called “Bukowski San Pedro”.

No, it’s not about Bukowski in the least.

The piece is behind a pay wall, so if you don’t have a subscription already, you can go right here. Richard Thomas is setting the bar high with Gamut, it’s something special.

Me and Mrs. Rawson finished up Westworld today while the baby was napping. Final verdict, it was just okay.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect Johnathan Nolan and the Yu family (The show’s story editor and primary scriptwriters, Charles Yu, is one of my favorite contemporary short story writers. If you haven’t already, definitely check out Third-Class Super-Hero), but outside of Bernard (Jeffery Ross) and Maeve (Thandie Newton), I didn’t care about any of the other characters or their plot lines. There was some great acting and writing, but I don’t think I’ll be returning for season two. But then again, I’ve felt this way about a lot of multi-season, long form television shows lately. I find myself wanting shows to wrap up in a single season like The Night Of or American Horror Story.

Are any of you feeling this way about long form television lately, or is it just me?


Evening Soundtrack: Dave Brubeck

 

Espresso and Tears

I’m getting ready to write an essay about Warren Ellis. No, not the composer who works with Nick Cave, but the novelist and comic book writer Warren Ellis. Because of this, I’ve been revisiting old favorites such as Planetary and the subversive Transmetropolitan (By the way, is anyone else of the opinion that Spider Jerusalem is a thinly veiled version of Alan Moore?), and his first novel, Crooked Little Vein. I’m not really having to delve too deeply into the new stuff such as Trees, Injection, and his more recent novels such as Gun Machine and Normal (which is probably one of the funniest books I read in 2016, and one of the most prophetic). I haven’t had to delve too far into these new works because I’ve read each as they’ve come out and are fresh in my memory. And to be blunt, I don’t really have to read the old comics and books, either. I’m just doing it because I love them.

The one thing I’ve noticed in the preparation of this essay is how much Ellis has seeped into my own work over the past decade. Currently I’m working on two separate long projects (I know, I should only be working on one, but I’m the type of writer who’s been conditioned by freelance work and having to work on multiple projects at a time. Plus, the fact is I get bored, so juggling multiple projects is the best way for me to keep myself interested in writing.). Both projects are best described as science fiction, both are somewhat politically motivated (Another little something I’ve rediscovered about myself, I am very much a political creature and I tend to become more creative and motivated when I feel repressed and downtrodden. You know, being American.), but in the same breath, I don’t consider them science fiction because I’m utilizing crime and romance fiction tropes in both along with the other elements and stirring and mixing them up.

No, this is nothing new, it’s nothing ground breaking, it’s all things Warren Ellis and dozens of writers have employed over the last fifty years. But the thing is, when I read through my pages from the day before (One piece is being written entirely on the computer, the second—which I tend to work on the most—is being written on yellow legal notepads with occasional notes in a loose outline I keep stored on my hard drive.), I’ve begun to notice that the style I’m working in is becoming increasingly weirder, Ellis-esque, so to speak, and that this strange Englishman has become, perhaps, the storyteller who has influenced my work the most. And the fact is, I like it, I flat out love it because it’s encouraging me to get as weird and irreverent as I want while still crafting a highly readable story.

At least that’s what I hope I’m doing?


Current Read:

A View From The Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction By Neil Gaiman