The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Get Hard Cased (with Charles Ardai)

Monday, November 28th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ardai_fiftyCharles Ardai co-founded the internet company, Juno. That success gave him the opportunity to start his own publishing imprint, Hard Case Crime, which both reprints forgotten pulp novels and also publishes new novels in the genre. The roster of Hard Case Crime authors is beyond impressive: Lawrence Block, Max Allen Collins, Lester Dent, Erle Stanley Gardner, Stephen King, Wade Miller. Richard Stark, Donald Westlake and many more.

Hard Case Crime has found several “lost” books by some big names, including James M. Cain and Gore Vidal. While Erle Stanley Gardner is best known for Perry Mason, he put out 29 books about a mismatched duo of detectives, Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. The Knife Slipped was to have been the second in the series but it was cancelled by the publisher. A week from Tuesday, on December 6, a veritable treasure goes on sale. Hard Case Crime is printing, for the first time ever, that unpublished Cool and Lam novel. I’ll be writing ab out Cool and Lam right here, next week. But today, I’ve got a Q & A with Charles Ardai!

A never before published Cool and Lam novel. Wow! How in the world did you get your publisher hands on that?

Jeffrey Marks, a biographer in the mystery field who has written about Craig Rice and Anthony Boucher among others, was working on a bio of Erle Stanley Gardner when he came across references to an unpublished Cool and Lam novel among Gardner’s papers. He brought it to my attention, and my reaction was roughly the same as yours: Wow. With the assistance of Gardner’s grandson we got a copy of the typescript from the University of Texas, where Gardner’s papers are held, and I read the thing, hoping against hope that it hadn’t remained unpublished for 75 years for good reasons. And far from deserving to be unpublished, I found it was easily one of the most enjoyable books in the series!

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Reverse-Turing Testing the Editor of Black Gate, or How I Said Goodbye to My Spam Followers

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

56043582This week, my friend Marie looked at my website because I didn’t know what I was doing. You may recall that one of the reasons I blog at Black Gate magazine is because I assume no one would ever read anything I put on my personal web page.

So far I’ve been with Black Gate about three years and love it here. But I haven’t lavished the same love on my own website.

So Marie looked at it and found I had literally hundreds of comments! You can’t imagine the shock and delight I experienced for 2.75 seconds.

Until she said “I think these are all spam comments.” Personally, I thought she was suffering from sour grapes, because she didn’t have 137 comments on her posts.

“But they’re engaging with me!” I said. “They like my posts!”

“No,” said Marie (continue imagining sour grapes). “It’s almost all spam. You have a couple of real people though.”

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My Top Ten TV Series Adaptations

Friday, November 25th, 2016 | Posted by Violette Malan

true-bloodNot long ago I posted about my top ten novel-to-movie adaptations, (see here) and it spurred a flurry of opinions and alternate suggestions. Today I’m thinking about TV series and the difference here is that TV are just as frequently adapted movies as they are from novels. The requirements of this kind of adaptation are different from those of novel-to-movie. For one, the source material has to provide an ongoing story line, what’s called “series potential.” Obviously, that’s most easily done from something that’s already a series to begin with. But there are other criteria.

huff-debtAs Goldman says about adapting novels for film, the TV series should retain the intention of the original material, but perhaps the issue of length isn’t as problematic. On the contrary, the more of the original source’s complexity that can be kept, the better, as TV adaptations can explore avenues and characters in ways a movie can’t. On the other hand, series requirements sometimes lead to unexpected changes to the source material.

Here, in no particular order, are my choices.

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The Limits of Wargaming #2: Betrayals, Surprises and Strategic Advantage

Thursday, November 24th, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page

(Click to buy print)

The King’s forces have fortified themselves into a bend in the river. (Click to buy print)

10th July 1460, near Northampton, England. Battle of Northampton. It’s the Wars of the Roses. King Henry VI — well His Grace’s advisers, anyway — the Lancastrians, if you must — versus the Yorkists led in this case by the Earl of Warwick .

The King’s forces have fortified themselves into a bend in the river.

They’ve got a ditch, wooden stakes, perhaps carts, certainly cannon.  They’re gearing up for a rerun of the Battle of Castillon (an English defeat so utterly embarrassing that the swords of fallen English men-at-arms are a scholarly category in their own right!)

Warwick’s men advance into a hail of armour-piercing arrows, cannon balls and crossbow bolts. It looks as if he’s going to try to grind through the defences — the battle will be down to killing power and morale.

Except it doesn’t turn out that way.

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Into the Maelstrom: Berserker: Shadow of the Wolf by Chris Carlsen

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2231022c1px60owRobert Holdstock is best known for his Ryhope Wood series that started with the 1981 novella “Mythago Wood,” later expanded into the 1985 World Fantasy Award-winning novel of the same name. He would go on to write another six books in the series before his untimely death in 2009. I have only read the novel Mythago Wood, but recommend it highly. It is a fascinating excursion into England’s myths, Jungian archetypes, and damaged familial bonds.

Many readers of the Ryhope books, a series lauded for its psychological depth and poetic style, don’t know that Holdstock wrote at least fifteen earlier novels under various pen names. As Richard Kirk, he contributed to the bloody Raven series (the first of which I reviewed here). His Night Hunter horror series, written as Robert Faulcon, ran to six books. Today, I’m going to look at Shadow of the Wolf (1977), the first of the Berserker trilogy of swords & sorcery novels set in historical Europe, and written under the name Chris Carlsen.

Harald Swiftaxe is a young Norse warrior raiding Ireland for the first time. Despite participating with nearly as much fury and relish as the rest of the warband he belongs to, he lets a monk live out of an odd sense of mercy he doesn’t understand. When he doesn’t rape a woman and kill her child, one of his companions nicknames him “the Innocent.”

Harald is a bit of an innocent, at least as innocent as a red-handed brigand can be. He may be a Viking at heart, primed and ready to kill and pillage, but he also longs to return to his father’s comfortable steading and Elena, the girl he plans to marry.

After leaving Ireland’s shores, Harald heads first for Elena’s town. Instead of a place of warm welcomes, he finds it destroyed and its people slaughtered. While he doesn’t discover his beloved’s body, when attacked by a wounded Berserker he does learn who annihilated the town. Even wounded near to death, Harald’s assailant almost proves too tough for him, but the young Viking survives and kills the raider.

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Haunted: Always, Sometimes, Never

Friday, November 18th, 2016 | Posted by Thomas Parker


Haunting — The old fashioned way

Many years ago, in the days of my misspent youth, I toiled for four years at California State University, Long Beach, as a theater major. As such, I of course spent most of my time on and around the department’s two stages. What with the vicissitudes of costume fittings, lighting adjustments, and walking on saying, “What ho!” twenty or thirty times until the director was satisfied, I often found myself in the building quite late at night, which led to a discovery — theaters are damned creepy places. They are, in fact, haunted. (The clunks and thumps and creaks and pops I heard were not from causes as mundane as the huge building setting or from the big glass windows cooling and contracting after the heat of the day — absolutely not.)

On reflection, I have come to think that all places, of any sort, fall somewhere on a supernatural sliding scale — always, sometimes, or never haunted. Indeed, this realization has led to a family game that my children and I often play — naming a place and stating its haunted status and, in case the others disagree, making a persuasive argument for your position. I know it sounds like an odd way to pass the time, but you get tired of Yahtzee after a while.

What are the factors that influence the likelihood of a place being haunted? If we’re talking about buildings, then function is very important, especially if the structure has any intrinsic relation to death or the supernatural. Thus it is far easier for a funeral home or church or morgue to be haunted than it is for a factory that exists for the purpose of extruding plastic into molds for Star Wars toys. (Now if two or three workers should fall into a vat of molten plastic, well, their co-workers might get a little uneasy walking around the isolated areas of the building alone at night. Just how uneasy would have to be determined by several other factors.)

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Seeking Solace

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

howard-zebras-smallWhen assembling the first round of Black Gate bloggers one of the few rules I laid down was that we keep our personal politics and religion out of our posts. John and I both wanted to create a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes could come together to discuss the genres we love.

Over the last week I’ve never found that admonition more of a challenge. You see, I’ve been grieving. Not for any one person’s loss, or even because the side I backed lost, but because it feels to me that an ideal has vanished. That ideal may not have been flawless, but I shudder at the manner in which the leading proponent of a replacement movement conducts himself. And for the first time in my life I’m not just disheartened by an election result contrary to my own wishes, I’m a little frightened.

I believe I’m in the letter of my own law still because I’m not here to proselytize. The preceding paragraph is solely for context so you’ll understand what it is that’s upset me. If, like me, the depth of your own grief and your anger and fear surprise you, you’ve probably been wondering how to cope. I wish I could give you a good answer. I can tell you that one of the things I’ve done is distract myself with the genres I love. The other was to create some art. That is one (and not the only) way I mean to act.

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October Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1554130bqieq2j7October brought another nice batch of heroic fantasy magazines to my electronic doorstep. Among them were regulars Swords and Sorcery Magazine and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. A newcomer was the old-school paper-and-ink fanzine, Scrolls of Legendry (two issues in fact) from the hands of Swords of Steel maestro, Dave Ritzlin.

I am not sure I have ever heard mention of Swords and Sorcery Magazine outside this column or the blogs of the authors it publishes. While it hasn’t the professional look of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly or Beneath Ceaseless Skies, its commendable dedication to the genre deserves respect and recognition. For nearly five years now, Curtis Ellett has published two new stories each and every month and for that I am very grateful.

Issue #57’s first story is shy on swordplay, but heavy with poetical sorcery. “Ephemera” by David Bowles depicts a magical contest between a Mexican princess and a Japanese monk. In an alternate timeline, Japan has been conquered by the Aztec Empire. The story occurs during the celebration of Tanabata, the Star Festival. The event is a showcase of powerful Aztec magic, held in order to deter encroachment by the Ming Empire and inspire the inhabitants of Nippon.

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Oz’s Bag of Holding: Stephen King Edition featuring A Brief Guide, Fear Itself (with an essay by Fritz Leiber!), and Danse Macabre

Monday, November 14th, 2016 | Posted by Nick Ozment

danse-macabre-originalI have here a bag of holding. I am going to pull some things out of it now…

First up is:

A Brief Guide to Stephen King: Contemporary Master of Suspense and Horror by Paul Simpson (2014)

Funny how I came across this one. I was perusing the bookshelves in The Dollar Tree — all those overstocks and remaindered copies now relegated to the fate of being sold for a dollar.

Every once in a while I make a “find,” but on this occasion, it was looking like there was good reason none of these books had sold for their original double-digit cover prices. The thought actually went through my head, “Too bad you never come across a book by Stephen King in here.” A moment later, King’s name caught my eye! Turns out it was a book not by but about King. Still, it was too much of a sign to ignore, so I bought it.

A Brief Guide is as advertised: a brief, workmanlike bibliography of all King’s work through 2014, with synopses of each. Opens with a short bio. Not a must for shelves of diehard King fans, but I actually found I had plowed through the whole book in two sittings — so it succeeded in its professed purpose as a succinct overview of the author’s career. Every King book, film and TV adaptation, and comic book is covered (indeed, even tie-ins like video games are included). While the synopses are quite short, the author livens it up a bit by including tidbits here and there relating a work to events in King’s own life at the time or King’s opinion or the reaction of critics.

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Oz’s Bag of Holding: An Introduction

Monday, November 14th, 2016 | Posted by Nick Ozment

bag-of-holdingI have here a bag of holding. I am going to pull some things out of it now…

This is my introduction to an occasional series of blog posts under the heading “Oz’s Bag of Holding,” in which I will briefly comment on random books and films I draw from my bag’s interdimensional space (it is, for detail wonks, a Type I bag; it can hold up to 250 pounds and 30 cubic feet of material but will never weigh more than 15 pounds).

Call it a bit of housecleaning: Books I’ve recently read, films I’ve watched, about which I might have a thought or two but not enough to string them together into a full-fledged review. I’ll share my impressions in the casual way one might in the course of a broad-ranging conversation with friends predicated by the question “So what have you been reading/watching lately?”

With the help of my Bag of Holding, I think this approach will be liberating for me. I absorb so much media, so many stories; and every time I close a book or eject a Blu-ray, I think, “Well, I should write up a review of that for Black Gate.”

But they pile up, falling out of focus as they recede in the rear view mirror, superseded by the latest book or film or comic or game I’m visiting. This way I can blurt out a pithy opinion or two about a work before it fades completely into the background in my cluttered head. No more guilt about having not reviewed something — instead I’ll grind out grist for multiple threads of comment and conversation.

What piques your interest as it emerges from the bag? You can skim, pick and choose — That’s just fine, because we are all afflicted with a touch of ADD out here in this world of cyber.

My first installment of “Oz’s Bag of Holding” will follow this introduction in a second post. Two posts today, to keep the Intro separate. Incidentally, I happened to notice that this marks my 116th post to Black Gate. Man, I wish I hadn’t let post 100 slip by without some sort of hoopla!

Well, here’s to 116 more. And, hopefully, they’ll come more frequently now that I have this trusty Bag of Holding by my side.

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