A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Andrew Salmon on David Montrose

Monday, October 14th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

A FRIEND IN TEED – The Lost World of Montreal Noir

Montrose_DorvalEDITEDThoughts of hardboiled fiction’s history conjure Mike Hammer’s New York or the sunny California of Sam Spade and Lew Archer. But the rich tradition of the genre along with Noir has expanded immensely, yielding rich gold mines in Berlin Noir and Dublin Noir to name two of many.

And yet there is a closer example of the universality of mean streets all over the world laid out in grimy exuberance in a hardboiled tale well told – and it is not a recent offshoot. I’m talking about the little known, until recently, forgotten hardboiled Canadian noir of the 1950s.

These were paperbacks to be found on spinner racks on both sides of the border. Issued by small printing houses in small print runs for the much smaller population of Canada, the pulp yarns churned out by a host of writers was long forgotten and scarce hardly sums up their availability. They aren’t collectible offerings from big names in publishing. The books came and went to molder in attics, landfills and to find second use helping to start fires on cold Canadian nights. Lost to time.

Until Ricochet Books, an arm of Vehicule Publishing, decided to pick up the gauntlet laid down by Hard Case Crime Books (among others) and began hunting up these lost gems. The books are widely available now in new editions with the old, classic covers and I urge you to look them up.

For the sake of this piece, however, I’d like to focus on a trio of novels that best fit the hardboiled school. Author Charles Ross Graham, writing as David Montrose, produced three Russell Teed novels between 1950 and 1953. Teed’s a former reporter turned private eye and in typically understated Canadian fashion works insurance claims and other non-violent crimes.

That is until the first book, The Crime on Cote Des Neiges (1951), which has him thrown into the investigation of a bootlegger’s murder. The police are convinced the widow is the guilty party and Teed has to get her out from under before it’s too late. What follows is an engaging mystery the hard drinking Teed weaves his way through amidst an entertaining presentation of Montreal when it was the Sin City of the North.

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Accessible Dark Fantasy: An Interview with Carol Berg

Sunday, October 13th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg

BergCate_IllusionOfThieves BergCate_2

Let us welcome Carol Berg (and Cate Glass)

Carol Berg majored in mathematics at Rice University, in part so she wouldn’t have to write papers. But while earning her mathematics degree, she took every English course that listed novels on the syllabus, just so she would have time to keep reading. Somewhere in the midst of teaching math for a couple of years, raising three sons, earning a second degree in computer science at the University of Colorado, and a software engineering career, a friend teased her into exchanging letters written “in character.” Once Carol started writing fiction, she couldn’t stop. Carol’s fifteen epic fantasy novels have earned national and international acclaim, including the Geffen Award, the Prism Award, multiple Colorado Book Awards, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. She has been twice voted the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Writer of the Year.

Carol’s newest work, written as her alter ego Cate Glass, is a fantasy adventure series called Chimera about a rag-tag quartet of sorcerers who take on missions of deception and intrigue in a world where magic earns the death penalty. The first book, An Illusion of Thieves, was released in May 2019 by Tor Books (A Conjuring of Assassins is due out Feb 2020). Carol lives in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with her Exceptional Spouse. She routinely attends conventions and was recently a special guest at the 2019 GenCon Writer’s Symposium.

Carol Berg makes dark fantasy fun and accessible, a perfect candidate for our interviews on “Art & Beauty in Weird Fantasy” (see previous interviews listed below). Most authors who produce horror/fantasy are (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven by strange muses. Let’s tap the mind(s) of Carol Berg and Cate Glass.

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Vintage Treasures: King of Morning, Queen of Day by Ian McDonald

Sunday, October 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

King of Morning Queen of Day-back-small King of Morning Queen of Day-small

British novelist Ian McDonald burst onto the scene in 1988 with his science fiction novel Desolation Road, set in an oasis town on a far future Mars. It won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in the same category. He followed that with Out on Blue Six (1989), the tale of pain criminals in a civilization where pain and unhappiness are illegal.

His third novel, and his first fantasy, was King of Morning, Queen of Day. Like his first two, it was published by the most prestigious SF imprint at the time, Bantam Spectra (which is now dead). It was nominated for the Locus Award, and won the Philip K. Dick Award for Best Novel. In her insightful 2009 review at Tor.com, Jo Walton observed that the book is about “the need to make new myths, dream new dreams, to have a new future. Astonishingly, it does this in Ireland, a country full of old myths, and it uses those old myths to wonderful effect.”

King of Morning, Queen of Day is, however, definitely fantasy. And it’s urban fantasy too, it’s set in modern Ireland between 1913 and 1990, and is about five generations of a family who have a propensity to “mythoconsciousness,” bringing archetypal mythic creatures into reality. It wasn’t part of the current wave of urban fantasy, and it would sit a little oddly with it. I don’t know if it was an influence or a precursor to it — it’s hard to think of it as influential when it seems as if only six people have read it and they’re all friends of mine, but maybe it was a stealth influence, a zeitgeist influence. Certainly this is a magical secret history, set in our world but with magical things going on below the surface.

The book falls into three distinct parts. The first section is set in 1913, in the Desmond family home of Craigdarragh. This part of the story is told in the form of diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings. Teenager Emily Desmond sees and photographs fairies while at the same time her father is convinced that aliens are approaching riding a comet. There’s all the background of 1913 Ireland, Yeats, paranormal investigators, the stirrings of independence, Freudian psychology, and a sepia photograph of Emily’s mother a generation earlier marked “Caroly, Wood nymph…” What the book’s really about is the need to make new myths, dream new dreams, to have a new future. Astonishingly, it does this in Ireland, a country full of old myths, and it uses those old myths to wonderful effect. This is a book that could only have been written by someone steeped in the culture and the country and the folk-mythology. McDonald has always been brilliant on sense of place—there’s a description here of Liverpool as a foreign city that’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. He makes the place and time entirely alive and three-dimensional. This is mythologically significant Ireland, but it is deeply rooted in the real changing growing country and the real Twentieth Century… This is a story about the dreams of the real Ireland, and they’re not pretty, even though they’re always beautifully written.

King of Morning, Queen of Day was published in June 1991 by Bantam Spectra. It is 389 pages. priced at $4.99. The cover is by Heather Cooper. See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.


Golden Age of Science Fiction: Scientifriction #11, edited by Mike Glyer

Sunday, October 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Scientifriction #11

Scientifriction #11

The Fan Activity Achievement Awards, or FAAN Awards were founded in 1976 by Moshe Feder and Arnie Katz. Created to highlight writing in fandom, they differed from the Fan Hugos in that they were voted on specifically by fanzine fans. The original awards were presented at various convention. Following the 1980 awards, the awards were on hiatus until 1994 and have been presented each year since, with the exception of 1996. Mike Glyer won the last of the original run of FAAN Awards for Best Fanzine, Single Issue for Scientifriction #11. The first winner was Outworld #21/22, edited by Bill and Joan Bowers. The category was not revived after the hiatus, being replaced by the Best Fanzine category.

While Mike Glyer’s File 770 can be considered a newszine of the science fiction fannish community, his zine Scientifriction could be seen as an opinion related work, although it contained far more than simply opinion pieces. In issue 11, Glyer opened up with an inside-baseball discussion of a proposal to add a Non-North American zone to the then current three zone rotation for Worldcons. At the time the Worldcon would rotate between the Eastern US, the Western US, and the Central US, with foreign worldcons being allowed to bid for any year. The proposal would have added a fourth zone, limiting when foreign worldcons could be held, but ensuring one would be held every fourth year. The proposal raised quite a bit of debate, including the opinion that the change would actually further cement worldcon as a US event.

Glyer also published his own article on the game Hell is High, which he would later rework for the second issue of my own fanzine, Argentus, published 23 years later. Glyer’s description of the game mechanics, camaraderie, and rivalry make the evenings spent playing Hell Is High sound like a wonderful place and time to have been able to experience.

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Create Your Character Backstory with Style: Call to Adventure from Brotherwise

Saturday, October 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I attended Gen Con for the first time in roughly fifteen years this year, and let me tell you, it was an experience. Wandering the massive Exhibit Hall — which quite literally took me three full days  — drove home for the first time just how truly enormous the modern board game market is. 50,000 excited attendees packed the halls and pathways connecting over a thousand vendor booths, displaying thousands of new releases and tens of thousands of games. It was so packed it was sometimes impossible to move.

For a gamer whose very first gaming convention (CanGames in Ottawa in the late 70s) had maybe 250 attendees, it was a revelation. Fantasy gaming — like comics, role playing, and fantasy films — has gone mainstream in a big way. The tiny hobby I was once a part of is now a multibillion dollar business. Fantasy and Science Fiction were the dominant genres, but there were plenty of family games, wargames, and strange unclassifiable titles.

But it’s still about the games. I realized early that it would be impossible to take in every new title of interest, so instead I started at one end of the Exhibit Hall, taking pictures with my iPhone. I  made my way methodically up and down each aisle until I arrived, three days and many hundreds of photos later, at the far end, with a record of every new game of interest. I can’t cover them all of course, but I can discuss a few here on the blog. And I’ll start with one of the first games I ordered as soon as I returned from Indianapolis: Call to Adventure from Brotherwise Games.

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Of Phibes and Androbots I Sing

Saturday, October 12th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

phibes 5Phibes 4Dr. Phibes is far more than the evocation of the great thriller characters of its creator’s childhood; he is a character that stands proudly alongside Dracula, Moriarty, Nikola, Fu Manchu, Fantomas, and Mabuse as an equal in inventiveness and execution. William Goldstein, as screenwriter and novelist, created an immortal as only the best storytellers do. Phibes is a character who transcends his era, defines his own archetype, and is firmly established in his own mythology to pass from one generation, century, and millenium to the next. The best news for fans is The Master’s work continues with the fifth and latest book in the ongoing series, The Androbots – Book I of The Dr. Phibes Manifest.

Those who have read the first four books in the series or, at the very least, my other Black Gate articles covering these titles, are aware there is a significant tonal difference between the two Vincent Price Dr. Phibes films of the early 1970s and William Goldstein’s novels. The books retain the films’ eccentricities, but are far more tragic than comedic. I do revere the two AIP releases. Director Robert Fuest and his production crew imbued both pictures with a sardonic touch that allowed Vincent Price and several of his co-stars to turn in subdued performance that carefully balance extreme bursts of horror, tragedy, and comedy. One never knows quite what to expect as one scene ends and the next begins when watching the films.

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New Treasures: The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan

Saturday, October 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wolf's Call-smallAnthony Ryan arrived with a splash in 2012 with his debut Blood Song, the opening novel in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. A little slow on the uptake, I didn’t discover the series until the second volume, Tower Lord — and even then mostly because of the title. For a week after I spotted it in the bookstore, I wanted to add a turret to our house and have all my children address me as Tower Lord. The books in the series were:

1 Blood Song (2012)
2 Tower Lord (2014)
3 Queen of Fire (2015)

I see now that Ace has released The Wolf’s Call, the first novel in a brand new series featuring Vaelin Al Sorna, the legendary blademan of Raven’s Shadow. In a comment on my Tower Lord article, Rogue Blades mastermind Jason M. Waltz said, “I read Blood Song last summer, enjoyed it, want to read Tower Lord. Not revolutionary but definitely fills the heroic-Gemmell-like niche.”

That’s enough of an endorsement for me. Here’s the description for The Wolf’s Call.

Peace never lasts.

Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. He won titles aplenty, only to cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.

Yet whispers have come from across the sea – rumours of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.

To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honor and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he may not be strong enough to win.

The Wolf’s Call was published by Ace on July 23, 2019. It is 414 pages, priced at $28 in hardcover, and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Cliff Nielsen.

See all our recent New Treasures here.


Goth Chick News: Universal Studio’s HHN 29; The Real Horror Was the Cost

Thursday, October 10th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Universal Halloween Horror Nights 2019-small

Last month I told you how I was hopefully looking forward to having another look at Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN for you cool kids). I say “hopefully” because my last visit there three years ago pretty much put me off what had been one of my all-time favorite Halloween events. Lack of adequate crowd control, lousy foot-traffic patterns and an event that was way oversold, took what should have been thrilling haunted attractions and turned them into real nightmare for anyone not enamored of being pressed against a lot of other sweaty bodies in 93-degree-plus heat.

But this year’s offering was too tempting to pass up and I decided to give HHN 29 another go at the end of September. Now remember, Universal has been doing this for 29 years and with attractions themed off Stranger Things and Ghostbusters, anticipation was high.

So, how’d it go you ask?

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Giving People What They Want: James Nicoll on The Traveler in Black by John Brunner

Thursday, October 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Traveler in Black John Brunner-small The Traveler in Black John Brunner-back-small

The Traveler in Black (Ace Books, 1971). Cover by Diane Dillon and Leo Dillon

Outside of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock, the 20th Century didn’t produce a great many enduring Sword and Sorcery series. Which is why we cherish those we have, like John Brunner’s The Traveler in Black.

The Traveler in Black first appeared in a short story in Science Fantasy in 1960. He was a captivating and enigmatic figure, and he proved popular enough that Brunner returned to his creation four more times in the next two decades. The first four tales were collected in The Traveler in Black, a 1971 paperback original from Ace Books, part of Terry Carr’s famed Ace SF Special series. James Nicoll turned a fresh eye to them this summer, saying:

Chaos is losing its grip on reality. The Traveller in Black does his humble best to accelerate the process. In most cases he does this by using his power to warp reality to give people what they want — at which point they find they didn’t really want it after all…

There are parallels between the Traveller stories and Tanith Lee’s later Flat Earth books. While Brunner might have influenced Lee, I think it more likely that both are playing in a sub-genre of fantasy now unfashionable, in which fantastic worlds evolve towards the mundane.

Where Lee’s Flat Earth revels in decadence, the world of the Traveller in Black is one in which one finds a sardonic pleasure in watching people get their just desserts. The delight is redoubled in that one can predict a catastrophe, but one cannot predict just HOW foolish choices will backfire. If that’s the way your sense of humour rolls, you’ll enjoy this book.

It’s always great to read a thoughtful review of a nearly 50-year old S&S vintage paperback (and it’s especially great that we’re not the only ones writing them.)

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Future Treasures: The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Ruin-of-Kings-medium The Name of All Things-small

You can learn a lot about the publishing industry by watching what they spend money on. And this year Tor is spending a lot of money and energy promoting the debut fantasy novel by Jenn Lyons, The Ruin of Kings, released this February, and its sequel, The Name of All Things, due in bookstores in three weeks.

It seems to have paid off. The Ruin of Kings scored a rare quadruple crown, with starred reviews from Library Journal (“Stunning”), Booklist (“Dazzling”), Publishers Weekly (“intricate epic fantasy”) and Kirkus Reviews (“Un-put-down-able”). Kirkus calls the new installment “top-notch adventure fantasy written for a 21st-century audience.” Here’s the description.

You can have everything you want if you sacrifice everything you believe.

Kihrin D’Mon is a wanted man. Since he destroyed the Stone of Shackles and set demons free across Quur, he has been on the run from the wrath of an entire empire. His attempt to escape brings him into the path of Janel Theranon, a mysterious Joratese woman who claims to know Kihrin.

Janel’s plea for help pits Kihrin against all manner of dangers: a secret rebellion, a dragon capable of destroying an entire city, and Kihrin’s old enemy, the wizard Relos Var. Janel believes that Relos Var possesses one of the most powerful artifacts in the world― the Cornerstone called the Name of All Things. And if Janel is right, then there may be nothing in the world that can stop Relos Var from getting what he wants.

And what he wants is Kihrin D’Mon.

The Name of All Things is Book 2 of A Chorus of Dragons. On her website Lyons says that, if everything goes according to plan, “Tor will be releasing a book in the series every nine months or so. Two this year, one next year, two the year after that.” That’s a grueling publication schedule, but it should keep fans happy. The Name of All Things will be published by Tor on October 29, 2019. It is 587 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Lars Grant-West. Read a lengthy excerpt at Tor.com.


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