A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Day Keene

Monday, August 13th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_KeeneGander“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

“The Bloody Tide” appeared in the June, 1950 issue of Dime Detective. John D. MacDonald (my favorite writer) also appeared that month. Both men had stories in the May issue as well, with JDM scoring the cover.

The story opens with Charlie White being released from a Florida prison after serving three years for smuggling. He’s given some advice by another inmate on Death Row to go straight and stay on the outside. Get back to working on the water, even if it’s a menial job. Wouldn’t be much of a story if that’s how things go, though, would it?

White’s lover (not his wife) is waiting outside for him and drives him to a secluded beach cabin. He’s going to get back into that fast life again. While he was in jail, $1,000 had been deposited monthly into his bank account, presumably by the ‘big man,’ who he felt had cast him to the wolves.

‘The Devil came up behind me and pushed. To hell with Beth [his wife]. To hell with everything, I thought. To hell with trying to kill Senor Peso. In his way the guy had played square with me. Why should I try to goose into his grave an egg who laid so many golden pesos?’

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The Complete Carpenter: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Saturday, August 11th, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


“I think, therefore you are.”

—Sutter Cane (Do you read Sutter Cane?)

John Carpenter’s career couldn’t have taken a sharper turn than to go from the impersonal director-for-hire Memoirs of an Invisible Man, targeted toward a mainstream date-night audience, to In the Mouth of Madness, a highly personal film aimed at the narrowest and most specific audience of horror lovers possible. Of course, In the Mouth of Madness was a financial failure — the biggest at that point in Carpenter’s career. And, in a familiar pattern, it’s now revered and widely considered John Carpenter’s last great film. (I hope this turns out to be false, because Carpenter is still alive and I want him to direct again. Still, the odds of him turning out something better at this point … yeah, wouldn’t take that bet.)

I analyzed In the Mouth of Madness for Black Gate in 2014 for its debut on Blu-ray. As cosmic fate would have it, this next entry in my John Carpenter retrospective falls right at the release of a new special edition Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, giving me an opportunity to make a few new observations. Not that I might run out of things to talk about when it comes to a layered, strange, cerebral, and unapologetically nerdy flick like In the Mouth of Madness. This one will drive you absolutely mad!

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: The Phantom Crook, Ed Jenkins (Erle Stanley Gardner)

Monday, August 6th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_GardnerPic“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Erle Stanley Gardner is well-remembered as the creator of Perry Mason, star of over eighty novels, radio and tv. The famed defense attorney (portrayed by Raymond Burr) started out as something of a hardboiled PI in the first ten or so novels before settling into ‘lawyer mode.’

And Gardner also wrote thirty novels featuring Bertha Cool and Donald Lam (who you know ALL about from reading this post and this post here at Black Gate!). Gardner was the definition of a prolific pulpster, writing over one million words a year for over a decade: while working as a lawyer!

After many rejections, Gardner finally made the pages of Black Mask (under the name of Charles M. Green). in the December 15, 1923 issue of Black Mask with “The Shrieking Skeleton.” His seventh story to make the magazine was “Beyond the Law” and it featured Ed Jenkins, ‘The Phantom Crook.’

Jenkins appeared seventy-two times from 1925 to 1943 and made Gardner one of the Black Mask mainstays, alongside Dashiell Hammett, Carroll John Daly and Raoul Whitfield. He brought Jenkins back in the sixties for the short novel The Blonde in Lower Six in Argosy, which was owned by his old friend, Harry Steeger.

Jenkins almost didn’t make it to print. In early drafts, Jenkins committed a cold-blooded murder. Assistant editor Harry C. North wrote to Gardner that heroizing such a man wasn’t the sort of thing that he felt the magazine should be publishing. The author responded accordingly.

“Hell’s Kettle” was the second of a linked trilogy and appeared in the June, 1930 issue of Black Mask. “The Crime Crusher” was included in the May issue and “Big Shot” wrapped things up in July. The June issue also included the fourth and final installment of what became Dashiell Hammet’s novel, The Glass Key, as well as Carroll John Day’s “Tainted Power,” which featured Race Williams and The Flame.

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When Is A Spinoff Not A Spinoff?

Friday, August 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

BuffyIt’s impossible to talk about remakes of any kind, as I do here, here, and here, without eventually having to consider spinoffs. I want to start by saying that by “spinoff” I mean that an existing character is given their own show, either after the end of the original series, or concurrently with it. And by TV franchises, on the other hand, I mean two or more different versions of the same show.

Aside: I think movie franchises are more a species of sequel. Star Trek? That’s tricky. Are they spinoffs? Reboots? Franchises? All of the above?

It looks as though comedies are the most likely type of TV program to be successfully spun off. If we go back to the early 1970’s we’ll find that All in the Family (1971-1979) was spun off into two series, The Jeffersons (1975-1985), and Maude (1972-1978). What people often overlook, is that the series Good Times (1974-1979) was actually spun off from Maude. Making All in the Family a kind of grandparent program.

These new series were all true spinoffs, going by my definition. Both George Jefferson and Maude Findlay were recurring characters on the original series who captured the interest of the audience enough that they were given their own shows. The same was true for Maude’s maid/housekeeper Florida, whose home life was spun off into Good Times. You’ll notice that there was a considerable amount of overlap in terms of TV seasons between all 4 shows.

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Verne – The First Federally Funded Robot

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

The Mechanical Man – Texas Centennial 1936

In my last column I talked about the hugely exciting and popular Sinclair Oil robot dinosaur exhibit at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition. As an aside I mentioned that the exhibit traveled to the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936.

Few people remember that the Texas Exposition had another robot exhibit. This one was quite a contrast. What would qualify if you wanted to imagine the most boring robot exhibit ever devised? C’mon, you might say, a boring robot exhibit is an oxymoron. Not for the government. They rose to the challenge. The U.S. Department of Labor choose to build a talking robot to justify machines taking away jobs from people. In the middle of the Depression. Triumph! Let’s go, gang! The sarsaparilla’s on me!

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Birthday Reviews: July Index

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by David Christiana

Cover by David Christiana

Cover by Mel Odom

Cover by Mel Odom

Cover by Oscar Grand

Cover by Oscar Grand

January index
February index
March index
April index
May index
June index

July 1, Genevieve Valentine: “ From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premier at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)”
July 2, Kay Kenyon: “The Executioner’s Apprentice
July 3, Michael Shea: “Fast Food
July 4, Peter Crowther: “Cliff Rhodes and the Most Important Voyage
July 5, Jody Lynn Nye: “Theory of Relativity
July 6, John Langan: “The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn’s Balloons

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Into the Night: She Is the Darkness by Glen Cook Part 2

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

0812555333.01.LZZZZZZZI think this reread of She Is the Darkness (1997) took me so long because I subconsciously remembered how disappointing it is. The first half (reviewed last week), despite a bunch of problems, is all right because of Cook’s usual talent at creating cool characters and sticking them into tough situations. It also had some epic battle scenes. As the Black Company inched its way toward the Shadowmaster’s fortress, the good managed to outweigh the bad. This was not the case for the book’s second half, despite some crowning moments of awesome. Not at all.

We left off last week’s post with the siege of Overlook about to begin. The Taglian legions raised and trained by Croaker and Lady invest the fortress. The great castle eventually falls not to starvation or the walls being thrown down, but to a coup de main. Overlook is so vast and so undermanned that Lady and her most loyal troops were able to secretly bore their way into its foundations and operate from within. After much planning (and magical scouting by Murgen), Lady is able to capture Longshadow.

Back in Taglios the Prince’s sister, the Radisha Drah, starts hunting down the Black Company’s allies. She has always feared the Company; now that Longshadow is defeated the time is ripe for its destruction. Having assumed a betrayal would come (as it always does for them), Croaker has readied the Company for the for the final trek to Khatovar.

The road to Khatovar lies to the south of Overlook, through something called the Shadowgate. From the gate come the shadows — deadly spectral things Longshadow and the Shadowmasters could control to a certain extent. Beyond the gate lies a great barren circular plain. From the gates (turns out there are more than one) are roads leading to the plain’s center, like the spokes of a wheel. And there stands a ruined fortress even greater than Overlook. Its inner courtyard measures nearly a mile across.

Certain the answer to where or what Khatovar is lies within, Croaker leads the core of the Black Company, along with its most important prisoners, — Longshadow, Howler, and Soulcatcher — into the ruins. But instead of answers, what lies behind the broken walls is a devastating trap. The book ends with the most important military commanders and veterans of the Black Company in stasis, and Soulcatcher racing back to Taglios in order to unveil some yet-undescribed scheme.

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Modular: Pathfinder Planar Adventures

Sunday, July 29th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Planar_AdventuresFor as long as it has existed, Dungeons & Dragons (and its spin-off game, Pathfinder) have not been about a single world, but a multiverse of different worlds and dimensions. The entities that exist within these realms can be good or evil, or sometimes merely strange and exotic. But regardless of their precise nature, they are distinctly other than us, because these different realms and dimensions are governed by rules different than event he fantasy rules that govern the main adventuring worlds.

As Pathfinder First Edition begins slowing down its cycle of new rules releases, paving the way for the upcoming Pathfinder Playtest starting at GenCon and, ultimately, the release of Pathfinder Second Edition at GenCon 2019, it’s good to see that their final First Edition hardcover rulebook release, Planar Adventures  (PaizoAmazon), provides a mix of setting material that will be broadly applicable to any game set within the multiverse that contains the Pathfinder world of Golarion.

Following a general tradition within Pathfinder rulebooks, the first chapter focuses on characters. There are a dozen new planar-related archetypes, such as the Azatariel (Swashbuckler champions of Elysium), the Gloomblade (a Shadow Plane-influenced Fighter), and Progenitors (Druids with powerful bonds to the First World of the fey). Character options include new feats, spells, and magical items related to travel throughout the planes.

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Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018) — Good Science Fiction, Not Great Godzilla

Saturday, July 28th, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Godzilla-City-Edge-Battle-Roadshow-PosterLast week was a significant one for the Big G. The first trailer for 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters was unveiled at San Diego Comi-Con, displaying staggering scope and beauty set to the improbably perfect sound of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de lune.” Meanwhile, as fans salivated in anticipation of the next installment in the US Godzilla series after 2014’s Godzilla, the next Japanese Godzilla film made a quiet debut in North America via Netflix — Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (Gojira: Kessen Kido Zoshoku Toshi). It’s also a second installment: part two of a trilogy of animated Godzilla films from Toho Animation and Polygon Pictures that started with Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.

I was roughly satisfied with Planet of the Monsters. It explored the theme of Godzilla as a deity and introduced intriguing science-fiction concepts, but it never found a solid adventure throughline for its apocalyptic Earth setting and left the potential of an animated Godzilla largely unrealized. City on the Edge of Battle makes forward strides as it deepens its SF backstory, now freed from having to go through the set-up that was necessary in the first movie. But as a Godzilla film, it still doesn’t work, and this makes me wonder exactly who the movie is targeted at. Godzilla fans? Anime fans? Science-fiction fans not-otherwise-specified? The last group may be the most satisfied, but I predict general dissatisfaction all around.

For those who came in late (and there’s no way to keep up with this movie unless you’ve seen Planet of the Monsters), here’s how events stood at the conclusion of Part One:

The remnants of the human race, in exile among the stars after Godzilla drove them off the Earth, choose to return to their homeworld and attempt to reclaim it from the monster. Although twenty years have passed on the refugee spaceship the Aratum, over twenty-two thousand years have passed on Earth. Over the millennia, Godzilla’s biology has radically altered the ecosystem into a bizarre and hostile environment. With the assistance of two humanoid alien races, the mystical Exif and the technological Bilusaludo, the humans mount an offensive to destroy Godzilla. The plan of young Captain Haruo Sakaki succeeds — then immediately fails when it turns out the monster they killed (Godzilla Filius) was only an offspring of the original Godzilla that ravaged the planet (Godzilla Asu, “Godzilla Earth”). The true Godzilla emerges, grown in size and strength over thousands of years to unimaginable power. So was the fight all for nothing?

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Birthday Reviews: John D. MacDonald’s “Ring Around the Redhead”

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

BG_MacDonaldOtherWorldsEvery so often, I prove that the Black Gate firewall needs some serious tightening up by jumping in and putting up a post where I don’t belong (many readers and fellow bloggers believe that would be the entirety of the Black Gate website…). So, if you’re reading this, the crack web monitoring team hasn’t seen it yet. Don’t tell Steven Silver. He might gnaw through the restraining chain around his ankle and crawl over to my desk in the cellar…basement…journalist’s suite to thrash me.

John Dann MacDonald, my favorite author and one of the best writers of the twentieth century – in any genre – was born on July 24th, 1916. MacDonald, Harvard MBA and a lieutenant colonel in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, was thirty years old when he began writing for the pulps in 1946. Through hard work and talent, MacDonald quickly became successful, selling to the mystery and sports magazines.

He graduated to the slicks more quickly than most pulpsters and he began writing paperback novels in 1950, mostly for Fawcett Gold Medal and Dell. And in 1960 he created his famous non-private eye, Travis McGee, in The Deep Blue Goodbye. MacDonald wrote over 400 short stories and five dozen novels.

It’s less well-remembered that in the late forties and early fifties, MacDonald wrote a great deal of science fiction: over fifty short stories and two novels. He tired of the genre and essentially quit cold turkey in 1952, writing only seven more stories and one novel (The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything, which was made into a movie with Robert Hays and Pam Dawber) in the final thirty-four years of his life. He wrote that he tired of science fiction and simply quit writing it.

“Ring Around the Redhead” appeared in the November, 1948 issue of Startling Stories (His “Shenadun” had been in the September issue). It was anthologized in 1953 and again in 1967. I read it in Other Times, Other Worlds, a collection consisting entirely of science fiction stories by MacDonald.

Bill Maloney, an inventor, is on trial for murdering his next door neighbor. There’s no body, just some brain and hair bits. Anita Hempflet, the classic nosy neighbor (you know, the kind that says “I don’t mind anybody’s business but my own” and then proceeds to gossip like it’s an Olympic event) weighs in with her nose in the air, saying that Bill has been shacked up (remember: it’s 1948) with a pretty redhead who seems to be deaf and was wearing some odd, metallic clothing when she appeared.

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