Dec 032018
 

Ramsey Campbell is a grandmaster of horror. He has been around for ages and has been writing the entire time. He got his start writing Lovecraft Mythos books, creating his own corner of cosmic terror in England. Most Call of Cthulhu fans know him for his early work but the guy has kept writing and only gets better.

Personally, I am a little burned out on Lovecraft and the problematic issues that come with reading his stuff. When I heard that Campbell has returned to Lovercraft style stories with “The Searching Dead,” I was motivated to seek it out. A rave review convinced me otherwise and now I am glad I have read it.

The Searching Dead is about a young boy, Dominic, in Liverpool in the 1950’s. England is still rationing, neighborhoods are still devastated from German bombing and people are getting awfully worried about Communists.  Dominic has two best friends that he formed a little child detective group with when they were younger. He writes about their fictional adventures, much to the embarrassment of his male friend.

One day, Dominic overhears his parents talking to a family friend who is convinced her church can raise ghosts. Dominic’s parents think spiritualism is a crock, but Dominic experiences a few strange incidents and becomes convinced that not only are ghosts real, but the church that is raising them is up to no good. To investigate, Dominic enlists his friends.

Now, this sounds like British version of “It”, or maybe a Hardy Boys Meets a Shoggoth, but the thing that elevates this book is the hyper-realism. There are weird things going on, but they are subtle, so obtuse, so damn-near-mysterious, that you would have to be a lunatic (or a reader) to assume any of this weird stuff is real. Empty coats look fuller than they should. There is a whisper in Dominic’s ear. A bunch of kids have bad dreams on a field trip. This is the kind of evidence that would make Fox Mulder roll his eyes and declare it swamp gas. Dominic believes, but his friends, parents and school does not. Dominic is truly alone in this really creepy situation.

And ghosts and cultists are not Dominic’s only concern. He goes to a religious school that already thinks he’s a walking sin machine. His parents really wish Dominic would not find out about any terrible conspiracies because that means they would have to do something and that would endanger their social standing as normal good citizens. Other adults are looking for commies and labor organizers with the zeal that should be reserving for cultists. Quite frankly, Dominic lives in a scary restrictive dystopia and its called the 1950’s.

Which is why I enjoyed the book so much. Sure, the creepy mystery and cultists were cool, but the setting is the real horror. It captures a weird moment in time and marries it with the helplessness of being a kid. Oh, and throws in some really creepy theories about death and the soul.

This is the first book of three, but it ends with a satisfying conclusion. Dominic solves the cultist church problem with a mixture of cleverness and pre-teenage tantrum-throwing.  There is a final scene where Dominic witnesses something truly mind-blowing that is too creepy to give away here. This book is going to stick me with for a long time and I can only imagine what the other books will be like.

 

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Nov 282018
 

One of the first erotic books I ever read was Sex Mates of a Chess Mistress. It was part of my step-father’s porn collection that was barely hidden in the attic. I found the book and read it even though I was far too young to be reading porn. I barely knew what sex was, and the exploits described within baffled me. There was a scene where a woman covered herself in french toast batter and then cooked under a sunlamp until the batter became a yummy crust that another woman ate. It gave me the impression that all sex was a rather complex affair.

My step-father confiscated the book at some point but the memory of it lingered. For one thing, I recalled that it was about a secret agent who was protecting someone. I remembered something about Russians. And I never ever forgot about the weird deal with the french toast.

Years later, I tried looking for the book but I couldn’t remember the name. “Spy porn with chess and french toast” doesn’t help your internet searches. Still, off and on I kept trying and this past year I got lucky. I found this book on Amazon and instantly recognized the rather lovely cover. I bought it instantly and read it as soon as possible.

So what is Sex Mates of a Chess Mistress? first of all, it is a comedy, something I didn’t realize when I read it as a teenager. Regina Blue is a former prostitute who now works for a private agency that does government work.  She is tasked with protecting Barbie Flounder, a young nymphomaniac who is also a chess genius. Barbie is scheduled to play the greatest champion of chess, a Russian man. The Russians want her dead, as do the anti-feminists, the Checker fanatics, and about a dozen other groups. When Barbie is nearly killed, her sex drive dies and so does her chess skills. It is up to Regina to respark Barbie’s sex drive while also protecting her.

So yeah, not exactly a book that a young person should be taking sex education from.

I will say that this book is far funnier than I expected. Comedy in the 70’s is usually terribly racist or misogynistic but this book avoids those traps. A flaming gay guy does get raped by Barbie but since we find out about it through a deposition written by conservative Southern cops, the result is hilarious without ever crossing over into mean. The groups out to kill Barbie are ridiculous and worthy of a Mel Brooks movie. There is an assassination attempt by a kangaroo for crying out loud.

There is less sex than I remember, which helps keep the story moving.  Being the 70’s, there is a sex scene with a llama, but for the most part, the other sex scenes are pretty inventive.  The scenes with a rather tiny endowed gigolo would be memorable in any book that didn’t include french toast sex.

Sadly, this book is the second book of a series about Regina and there never was a third. It is a shame because the comedy and sex are still worth reading today.

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Nov 262018
 

Some books make you ache from the beauty inside. They take you somewhere unearthly where there is equal parts cruelty and wonder. You know that it is a place where you would surely perish but the experience would be worth it.

Night’s Master is a fantasy book in a very loose sense of the world. Sure, there is a Flat Earth where man goes about their business with uncaring Gods above and very-caring Demons below, but this is not a Tolkien-inspired world with their endless gibberish names for everything and multiple fantasy species. This is a fantasy world closer to the Arabian Nights with greedy kings, arrogant wise men, and heart-broken women. There is no learning curve here because it is about people and all of their faults.

Another thing in common with the Arabian Nights is the structure of the book. It is comprised of three main stories, and those stories are made of smaller stories. The end of one story chains directly into the start of another. Instead of cliffhangers pulling you along, you are drawn to the next story to find out what happened to the widow, prized necklace or forgotten child of the previous story. The end of the book chains back to a theme of the beginning of the book; which creates a wonderful cycle of fiction.

The stories are told like fables, with an executive-summary approach. Years pass in a sentence and entire interactions are summarized briefly. That might irritate some readers but for me, I appreciated the brevity. Other stories would tell of a beautiful necklace but in this book, it is THE most beautiful necklace and capable of causing spouses to murder each other in order to posses it. A wicked Queen is not merely evil, but so terrible that she will never be forgotten. The realm of Demons is described with such wonder that I refuse to spoil it for you here.

The most magical part of this book is Azhram, Prince of Demons. A darkly handsome being with vast powers, he amuses himself with humanity. He can be kind or cruel on a whim, and the best you can hope for from him is indifference. He is the prime instigator of the book, either taking center stage in a story or being the cause of some terrible or wondrous thing that is happening to others. In no way is he a hero, or even an anti-hero, but there is something refreshing about a primal force that does not seek any sort of redemption.

Of course, being wicked means that he does things that are highly problematic. He adopts a human baby and has him as a lover when he turns 16. A crippled women is graphically raped. Injustices are visited on many people. The fantasy fable approach to the stories lessened the impact for me, but I completely understand if others are unable to enjoy these stories.

Which is a shame, as I truly feel that Night’s Master might be one of the most wondrous fantasy novels ever written. It is the first book in a five book series and I am greatly looking forward to them.

 

Nov 232018
 

I love the pulp era of fiction from the early 20th century. At least, I love it in theory. I like the idea of smart men fighting evil, exploring strange areas and wrestling with both science fiction and magical enemies. I like plucky sidekicks and reporters who don’t know when to quit. I am super fond of sexy killers who are usually not evil, just working for their mastermind father.

What I am not so crazy about is the actual stories from the period. Quite a few of them are racist as fuck and the less said about the treatment of women, the better. So what does a person do when they want to capture the flavor of the era but with modern tastes?

In search of that flavor, I came across Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont. The premise reads lick a gimmick, the writers of Doc Savage, the Shadow and a pre-Messiah L. Ron Hubbard, team up to investigate the mysterious death of H.P. Lovecraft. Along the way, they discover a plot that threatens all of Chinatown!

Yeah, that almost sounds too goofy to read but Malmont makes it work. for one thing, it is a very grounded story about some remarkable writers. Lester Dent and Walter Gibson are fascinating people in real life and it comes across in this story. Gibson was a pioneer in stage magic books while Dent had a fatherly interest in teaching young boys as much as about science as he could. These two are the stars of the book and their adventures are believable.

The plot itself is also rooted in reality. It involves some poison, some Chinese history and an interesting take on H.P. Lovecraft that makes him sympathetic without sugarcoating the man’s really horrid racism.

Other famous writers make cameos but I won’t spoil them here. As good as the adventure was, I found the discussions about pulp fiction to be the highlight of the book. If you are a fan of the pulps, or just curious about them, this functions as a really good primer and proof that their form of writing has a lot to offer the world.

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Oct 052018
 

Amanda Clover has written many, many stories of proud women in a fantasy world getting captured, seduced and fucked silly by all sorts of monsters. The world that she wrote about suffered from these horny monsters until the events of “Escape the Island of Eldritch Lust”. In that book, the Mother of Monsters was defeated, monsters were leaderless and humanity brought about an age of peace.

That is until the events of this book, Savage Lust of the Orc Gladiator. This is the first part of a new series, Princess to Pleasure Slave Chronicles, where the monsters begin their comeback. Fortunately, you don’t need to read any of the previous books if you want to dive into hot orc gladiator on human action. It is also a stand alone book in case you don’t want to make a commitment to a full series.

Written by Amanda Clover and Jay Aury, this novella has surprisingly sympathetic characters. The orc gladiator, Ghostheart, would be a hero in any story despite the fact that he is a brutal killer. The heroine’s father owns Ghostheart and makes him fight in the arenas and fuck prostitutes for the amusement of his party guests. The heroine feels sympathy for Ghostheart but also a dark craving for the killing machine’s cock. It is kind of a love story actually, while also exploring themes of the fascination with the abomination. It all leads to a great climax, pun intended, and the promise of greater things to come.

 

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Sep 242018
 

Fallout Girl: Omnibus Edition by Amanda Close collects the five stories of the wasteland heroine, Kelly Killjoy. Known as the Fallout Girl, Kelly is a regenerating, sexually hyper, super-strong and fast mutant who looks like a hot chick with red dreadlocks. Utterly fearless, she is part of a poly family that runs a theater that shows old per-apocalypse action movies and porn movies they make themselves. when audience attendance is low, Kelly goes out into the wasteland to earn money by taking mercenary jobs.

There is a lot going on in this series but it all works together in wonderful ways. The poly family might be my favorite part as it provides the base motivation for Kelly’s adventures but also shows her more human and affectionate side. The family’s interest in 80’s action movies means there are a lot of pop culture references but not in an overwhelming way.

The wasteland is pretty interesting if a bit reminiscent of a blend between the Borderlands and Fallout games. Like all the best wastelands, there are a wide range of threats from raiders, to zombies, to mutants to a dread organization from humanity’s past. It is like a kinkier version of Mad Max and I am so down for that.

The adventures are pretty awesome and over the top. The writing is brisk and funny. Some of the scene transitions made me laugh out loud as the writer understands you want to get to the good parts. There is no filler in these stories.

As for the sex, it is almost always as harsh as the wasteland itself. There is a lot of dubious consent but it is softened by Kelly’s insatiable mutant sex drive. Even the sex among her poly family is rough with elements of domination. If you like your sex scenes rough and brutal, this book has you covered.

I enjoyed this series a lot. It is another rare example of good apocalypse erotica. I recommend it.

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Sep 172018
 

Back in the 1980’s, I devoured interactive fiction books. The granddaddy of them all was the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series with its non-linear stories and rather murderous outcomes. A lot of series tried to cash in with different gimmicks and I love them all for their many, many flaws.

One of my favorites was the Be An Interplanetary Spy series. You played a spy for an agency that came across the ultimate law enforcement organization in the universe. While you sometimes pretended to be someone else and infiltrated somewhere, more times than not you were just a hero chasing down a bad guy. It was less Tinker, Tailor, Alien, Spy and more like Spock Bond, Agent of GOOD.

The science fiction angle was different from more interactive fiction but what really set the Spy series apart was the reliance on art. Most interactive books might have a picture every couple of pages but the Spy series was illustrated like a comic book. There is a lot of art crammed into these books and they help create the really trippy and fun worlds that they were depicting.

Now, because of the heavy amounts of art, the book relied on visual puzzles as your main obstacle. These puzzles were often pattern or shape recognition based, where you might get an outline of a power cell and then be asked which of the two slots fits your odd-shaped cell. Other puzzles would give you a sequence and then ask for the next number, shape or direction in the sequence.

The amusing thing is that you got a puzzle for just about anything you would do. There you are, a top spy for a secret organization and to turn on the engine to your own damn space ship, you needed to solve a five-shape progression puzzle.  Want to turn on the food machine to eat? Find the panel that has the same symbol for your species or else you will eat poison alien food. Want to tie your own fucking shoes? Well, I hope you are ready to solve a connection puzzle where you hit all six stress points with the least amount of lines.

You might think I am kidding but I am not. There are puzzles for everything and because the books are linear, you either solve the puzzle or you DIE. That means the books are actually quite long as you will go through every single puzzle to reach the end.

And let me tell you, as a pre-teen, these puzzles were brutal. Being a goody-two-shoes, it never occurred to me that there were only ever two answers for each puzzle and if I randomly picked one and if killed me, I could just go back and take the other choice. No, my Lawful Good ass would break out the scratch paper and work these puzzles like the fate o0f the universe depended on it.

Which is why a few years later when I was taking intelligence tests for high school, I used to get perfect scores on them. They were mostly the same kinds of puzzles, or in many cases, EASIER versions of the puzzles I solved as an Interplanetary Spy. One year I got a perfect score and the school made me take the test again because they thought it was a fluke.

I’ve been collecting these books on ebay and I have been surprised at how affordable they are. For a little over 10 dollars, I have been able to play my favorite Spy missions again as well as quite a few new ones.  The stories are gloriously goofy where every alien race has puzzle based technology and there are a lot more evil robots. I will say, these books have so many great sci-fi ideas crammed into them that if you are a gamer or writer, you are bound to get at least a dozen unique ideas for your own projects.

There are eleven books in the series and they were also recently reprinted. I suggest you try at least one of them for their silly fun.

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Sep 142018
 

Back in July, I told you about the dull adventures of Cherry Delight in the book, Silverfinger. If you have blocked that from your memory, just know that Cherry is a the name of a redhead secret agent that fights the mafia with her gun and her high sex drive. In that book, she helped a family that was being blackmailed by the Mafia. The only thing that made the book memorable was a random Black Mass held by the peasant Satanists in the area.

I was so disillusioned by that book, I have skipped ahead four years to 1977 when the series gets rebooted into the All New Cherry Delight. Cherry no longer works for NYMPHO (NEW YORK MAFIA PROSECUTION AND HARASSMENT ORGANIZATION) but now works for DUE (Department of Unusual Events) Cool beans! The series has fully embraced the fringe elements of the 70’s and will now deal with demons, cults, monsters and maybe UFO’s! Shit is about to get freaky!

At random I picked “The Devil to Pay” which has a really nice Hammer film inspired cover. Will Cherry go up against the Devil himself? Will she have to break out the crucifix, the holy water and maybe the fingernail of a saint? Will she fuck the Devil and have trippy demon sex? Maybe!

In this book, villagers in France are blackmailed by the local Satanist gang to either pay them money, or have their attractive daughters kidnapped for a Black Mass orgy and then sacrificed. The Satanists are rough farmer types and the “Devil” turns out to be a horny old guy wearing a goat’s head and walking on stilts. Cherry has sex with her boss, a handsome French painter and unfortunately, gets raped by the guy in the goat mask, but the rape is mercifully brief as she uses the chance to stab him multiple times with a knife.

Sweet Vincent Price, it is the same story that Silverfinger was, except the Mafia has been swapped for devil-worshipers. Instead of one Black Mass, we have like three or four. There is no spooky lore or even a half-assed attempt at a mythology. In fact, there are bits recycled from Silverfinger about how peasants are drawn to Satan parties because their lives are so boring and a Black Mass is a good excuse for an orgy.

The only upside to this book is that it is paced better than the previous Cherry Delight books. I swear, the Mafia books just putzed around until the author hit a certain word count and then he would wrap everything up abruptly in 20 pages. This book had an organic ending that didn’t feel rushed, even when I would sometimes wish the book would hurry up and end.

Gang, I’m starting to get the feeling that I am not enjoying the Cherry Delight books.

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Sep 102018
 

Barbarella began live as a French comic strip in 1962 but most people are aware of it because of the 1968 movie starring Jane Fonda. I read a translation of the comic a few years back and I have a hard time remembering any of it. I am not sure why it didn’t click with me though it is a bad sign when I don’t even remember disliking it.

Dynamite has created a new comic series starring the space adventure heroine and I am pleased to report that it is quite good. The art is lovely and Barbarella is charming, but what really hooks me is the science fiction. In the first issue, Barbarella has a mission on a planet run by religious zealots and as soon as they capture her, they remove her vagina to prevent her from acting out on her impure thoughts.

Now, I am not exactly sure how that works, but it doesn’t matter. It is a frightening/fascinating idea and one that stuck in my mind for quite a bit to come.

The whole series is like that. There was an story about a mystery on a freighter hauling planets. Another story dealt with claim jumpers on a world where they literally mine Time itself. The current story involves aliens who live inside stars. I miss when science fiction used to bring the wonder and Barbarella does that every week.

That is not to say there isn’t sex. There is plenty of sex to be had, but never in an unbelievable way. It is a science fiction story first, with the sexy bits added as garnish.

If you remotely like my Vaquel stories, then you should really check out the new Barbarella comic.

 

 

Aug 272018
 

So there I am, browsing the erotic fiction section on Ebay when I come across what looks like a Western. At first I thought the book was in the wrong category but that title, “Head Hunter: Hard-Riding Posse” sounds like the kind of stuff I would pull. It is from 1988 and written by EJ Hunter.  Let’s check the back of the book and see what it says.

“When Concho Bill Baudine leaves a stagecoach full of corpses in the Texas Panhandle and hightails it to Kansas, Charity Rose is after him like a shot out of hell. The auburn-haired vixen has been hot for Bauldine’s blood since the sidewinder slaughtered her father, and she’s npt going to let him slip from her grip this time.

As she heads north, she runs into a caravan of traveling tarts en route to the nearest bordello. When their rat-faced boss tries to add Charity to his stable, he ends up with a few pieces missing and Charity ends up in charge of the soiled doves. Then Charity leads the band of buxom beauties in an explosive attack to bring down Baudine, making them the hottest posse the West has ever seen!”

Hmm. I still couldn’t tell if it was porn. The cover proudly proclaims that this come from “the author of White Squaw!” which made me wince but hey, this might be western theme action porn. I had to try it.

After reading the book, I am still not sure if it is porn. It is a pretty good Western story that happens to have sex scenes. The sex is short and a bit flowery. How flowery? At one point I had to re-read a paragraph to make sure penetration happened.

I will say, the plot was more interesting than the sex. There are a county where two towns are fighting over who gets to be the county seat. Whomever has the county records at a certain date is declared the seat, so the towns keep stealing the records form each other in a weird game of Capture the Flag. It is a neat idea and one I would love to steal for a role-playing game.

But if you spot the Head Hunter series in the wild, don’t fall for the lovely cover and promise of “Adult Western Fiction” tag. It has less porn than an average HBO drama.

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