Monday, September 29, 2008

Crazy Music Playing in the Morning Light

As you might suspect, writing b-movies can be a lot of fun. Today I got an email from a producer with a script breakdown in it that included the following: France is blown up around pg 45.

Speaking of B-movies, tomorrow, the Polonia Brothers Fan Club is celebrating the cult-movie director twins' birthday, dampened this year to be sure by John Polonia's passing. Rent Monster Movie on DVD and watch the tribute to John as part of the extras, which I have a small part. Of course I am partial to Among Us and The Da Vinci Curse/Dead Knight, but my faves that I had nothing to do with include Dweller, The House That Screamed 2, and the original cult classic Feeders.

I went to a book sale on campus this morning and found the V For Vendetta TPB for 50 cents, and Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys for the same go away price. Almost as exciting as discovering "Weird Tales Magazine" again.

In that vein, it looks like I'm going to go check out Mid Ohio Con this Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. Anybody want a hitch over?

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Got To Have A Jones For This, Jones For That

Last night I was happy to send off the second draft of a sci-fi script I did under a nondisclosure last year that's bubbling back to the surface. To celebrate I took my wife and my Little Brother Harold to a good Mexican restaurant in my hometown of Muncie, Indiana. This local honky-tonk way on the other side of town is notorious for being the site of one of the great culinary mishaps that I am known for; the time I tried to chew through some Tamales without realizing you had to take off the corn husks until a horrified waitress rescued me.

This time I ordered the enchiladas.

My spirits were only slightly dampened by seeing my lead-footed Colts let another slip away.

My next project has to be building those cornhole boards for my kids like I promised.

Thinking about taking a peek at this.

Here's what my pal Christopher Sharpe is up to.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Slanted "Monster"

I got my copy of the Polonia Brothers' MONSTER MOVIE in the mail yesterday. Of course I am a bit biased, but here are my thoughts.

As usual I watched all the extras first. There is a funny little "Making Of," a couple of deleted scenes, and the John Polonia tribute which is very touching and a bit hard to watch. I was happy to see that I have a small clip in there, and that some of my still photographs from AMONG US and THE DA VINCI CURSE were used.

The movie itself is pretty light, with a loose improv feel, and the monster is fun. A lot of familiar faces and places for fans.

The commentary track is one of the best parts, as usual. There are no funnier critics of the Polonia Brothers' work than the brothers themselves.

John Polonia's last movie is the exact kind he liked to make, which is nice. I have a feeling HALLOWEEN NIGHT, which Mark Polonia has been shooting from some of John's earlier writing, will be in much the same vein. You can get updates here.

Until later, catch me at

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Monster" To Hit Streets

Tomorrow the Polonia Brothers' latest horror feature MONSTER MOVIE streets. Although I was not involved in this one it is notable as the last project prolific b-movie filmmaker John Polonia worked on before his untimely death. It is a great shame as I know for a fact he left behind a lot of scripts and a lot more ideas still percolating. There is a tribute video as an extra on the DVD that (I think) I am a part of, so I am eager to grab a copy. You can start here to see what I was thinking about John at the time of his passing, but this tribute by Bill Gibron is probably my favorite.

Though I wish it weren't true, after my own name, John's name comes up second in search engines leading to my site. I try to keep news about his projects updated here when I know about them.

Until later, catch me at

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sheriff John Brown Always Hated Me

Nothing makes me happier in life than to find good paperback book sales. Over the last week or so, I have gathered up--for the price of a shiny quarter apiece--a couple of Ace Double Westerns, a Merle Constiner western paperback, a Donald Hamilton (creator of Matt Helm) western paperback I didn't know existed, a thick anthology of 50s sci-fi and "Moneyball," which I always wanted to read sometime. With everything being a google away these days true finds are--well, harder to find. Gone are the days where one might debate away a few evenings on whether the Beatles were actually Klaatu or not, and trying to remember the complex origins of various members of the Justice League.

Perhaps something in me isn't wired up right, but that is how I always envisioned my success; being discovered for the first time, at the throwaway price of a quarter, on a dusty shelf in the middle of nowhere by a dreaming kid.

It seemed as if last weekend shut the door on summer. We had a big cookout for my father-in-law's 70th birthday which I celebrated by being quiet and concentrating on beating the other team in cornhole as he told me. If only the Colts had done the same the night would have ended nicely for him.

And now Fall is falling quicker than ever. I started teaching a new class in video production at Indiana University East, and the day job is also quite busy. I am determined to finish a rewrite on a sci-fi screenplay (that I wrote under a nondisclosure last year) before the end of the weekend.

Speaking of screenwriting, I have added a new proverb to my short list of life lessons. First, I believe you should never use a psuedonym. Secondly, and in relation to the first proverb, you should always be proud of everything that leaves your keyboard. Third, you should never open your mouth while pouring salt into the water softener. And my newest proverb: If you go to a new barber, and he is watching Fox News, you are probably going to get a High and Tight.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Neither Tarnished Nor Afraid

I have always said to be a good writer you have to read a lot. To prove that point, I write a column called Book Beat for the Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence magazine, associated with the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference. Here is my latest installment:

Excellent genre-bender from Michael Chabon (whose The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay remains one of my modern-era favorites), about a washed-up cop who takes umbrage at a junkie's murder in the very flophouse he resides in. With his reluctant partner, and his ex-wife/commanding officer breathing down his neck, he unearths a wider conspiracy.Against this background, with its noir conventions tracing a direct line back to Raymond Chandler, is an alternate future based on a real WWII-era plan to create a Jewish homeland in Sitka, Alaska. Chabon does some intricate and compelling world-building that again recalls Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.
An excellent read, whether one is a fan of mystery, sci-fi, or contemporary lit.

THE WHEAT FIELD by Steve Thayer
A small-town deputy in rural Wisconsin finds himself the main suspect in a double homicide that leads him to become an unwilling accomplice to a larger conspiracy in Steve Thayer's riveting thriller The Wheat Field.I picked this up on a whim found myself an instant fan of Thayer, an author I had not heard of before. Deputy Pliny Pennington is a resonant character, a dark angel with sexual hang-ups and killing urges but his own moral code. The early 60s locale is strongly rendered as well. There are plenty of shocks in the storytelling, both pleasant and unpleasant. I enjoyed Thayer's writing style, probably most reminding me of Jim Thompson or James M. Cain.I would strongly recommend The Wheat Field to thriller fans and will be nosing around for more of Thayer's writing.

LIMITATIONS by Scott Turow
Drowsy legal thriller from Scott Turow, whose Presumed Innocent was an early, and perhaps best-known, work. Turow has been hammering out solid mysteries featuring lawyer protagonists ever since, including this one, which was serialized for a magazine and then expanded into a novel.A judge is hearing arguments in a brutal gang rape, and soon begins to recall some repressed memories of an incident he was involved with himself in college. Meanwhile, his wife is fighting cancer and a mysterious stalker is sending the judge threatening emails.Despite the description, the storytelling doesn't retain a lot of dramatic tension, though is certainly interesting (and, for fans, features characters and situations from earlier Turow novels). Probably more for followers of Turow (which I have been one, more or less) and of passing interest to others.

BANGKOK 8 by John Burdett
An incorruptible Thai cop, following his own rather bent Buddhist code, goes on a quest for vengeance through the ultra-seedy underbelly of Bangkok after the death of his partner.John Burdett's edgy police thriller Bangkok 8 is an uneasy mix of philosophy and cold-hearted violence, veined with dark whimsy (if there is such a thing) and brought to an absolutely chilling denouement. I found the milieu Burdett created fascinating and his lead character's outlook unique. Although obviously not Thai, Burdett has spent time there and I felt (having traveled some in Asia myself) that he seemed to have a good eye for the details. I will look for more in this series.

MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust
A former porn star stumbles into a secret, illegal side of the sex trade and winds up--after a murder attempt--seeking revenge against those responsible.
Christa Faust's Money Shot is a contemporary tale in the Hard Case Crime series, a pulpy paperback line which, for the most part, features lost noir classics with retro covers. Faust's storytelling stands up well alongside her peers and is even more hard-nosed than some; and in the Hard Case Crime line, that's saying something. Like most of the line, Money Shot is not for the faint-hearted, but is well worth reading.

ZERO COOL by John Lange
A doctor at a European conference is forced to perform a mysterious autopsy, then spends the rest of his trip outrunning a bevy of bloodthirsty pursuers in John Lange's Zero Cool, part of the superior Hard Case Crime series of pulp reprints.John Lange is Michael Crichton’s pseudonym from the late 60s. Zero Cool is a surprising departure, not nearly as dense or intense as his later, more well-known work.
Our physician protagonist is as quippy as any PI of the time, is accompanied by several mysterious women and a strange, colorful supporting cast of baddies, and jetsets around several exotic locales. The combination reminds me of the James Bond movies of the era more than any sort of medical thriller. A pretty fun read overall.