WOOFER'S LAIR

Welcome to Woofer's Lair. Curious as to what you will see here? Well, for the most part, you will find book reviews, maybe the occasional movie review, and if you are lucky, you might stumble across one of my own works in progress. If you like what you see or what read, and even if you don't, please feel free to leave your comments. As I am somewhat new to blogging, all of your constructive feedback is appreciated. Have fun and thanks for stopping by.

Wicked Seasons

Wicked Seasons
My short story, HUNGRY FOR MORE, is included

CURRENTLY READING

CURRENTLY READING
WITCH ISLAND by David Bernstein

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What a Dick!



Don't ask what possessed me to buy Duane Bradley's Sick in the Head, because I have no idea. Maybe it was a freebie, maybe it was only 99 cents, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I did.

Detective Greg Parker, like most men, isn't exactly happy with the size of his pecker, so when he stumbles across the means of making it larger, he... well, he doesn't exactly jump at the chance because it involves eating another man's penis (we're not talking blowjob here), but when the opportunity presents itself in the former of a Lorena Bobbitt-type cast off, he takes advantage of the situation (tastes like chicken). While this "ancient Chinese secret" has the desired effect, it isn't without side effects: Parker's pecker literally takes on a life of its own. It can talk, and it doesn't always need to be attached to Parker to seek out what it wants. And since Parker, like most men, tends to think with his crotch, we all know what Seymour (yeah, that's its name) wants. The only problem is that with each sexual conquest, Seymour grows. There's no stopping it (you know where this is going, don't you?). Eventually what we're faced with is The Attack of the 50 Foot Penis. How will New York City survive? Well, I won't spoil the fun, but there is a secret weapon that is rolled out that had me literally laughing out loud.

Given the nature of the book, it's obviously not for everyone, but if you if you have a slightly warped sense of humor like I do, then you will enjoy Sick in the Head. The story is short and moves at a fast pace, and Bradley's sense of twisted humor, while sophmoric (what else can you expect when telling the story about a mobile talking penis?), is spot on. I wasn't expecting much when I started reading, but quickly found I did not want to put it down until I reached the end. If you can put your delicate sensibilities aside and suspend your disbelief (crumple it up and throw it out the window), then I would highly recommend this one.


Friday, August 15, 2014

A Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Back in July I made my annual trek to Rhode Island for NECON, a small gathering of horror writers and artists. One of the discussions I got involved in was the trend toward Monster Porn that seems to be so popular on Amazon these days. Tawdry covers and titles like Taken by a T-Rex, Raped by a Raptor, and Moan for Bigfoot. No, I haven't read them, but someone asked me if I had ever read Bear by Marian Engel, and silly me had never even heard of it. I asked what it was about and was told it was about a woman who has sex with a bear. "A werebear," says I, thinking along the lines of paranormal romance, and he said, "No, a real bear." He went on to say that it had been a bestseller in Canada and even won some sort of award. Turns out the the award it won was the Governor General's Award, the highest honor a book can receive in Canada. Curiosity got the better of me; I had to check it out. I mean, how bad can it be, right? Bestiality? I've read worse.

The novel starts off innocently enough with the Institute Lou, our central character, is employed by inherits the Cary estate, which is situated on a remote Canadian island. Lou is sent to settle the estate and catalog the massive library contained within the house, as it was requested that the library not be separated from the property. Lou doesn't quite know what to expect upon her arrival at the house; the one thing she is not expecting, however, is a bear. A tame bear. It seems the previous own kept a bear on the property, penned up and chained the way you would a dog in an outdoor kennel.

At first she wants little to do with the animal, and the bear expects nothing from her except its food, but it seems the prior owner was fascinated by the species, as were her ancestors, as there are notes written on slips of paper in just about every book Lou picks up, all revealing some cultural or historical fact about bears. It might be subliminal, but before too long she takes an active interest in the bear, taking it for walks, swimming with it, and even allowing it into the house to curl up by the fireplace while she works. With no one else on the island save for an old Indian woman, who Lou has only encountered once or twice, Lou has no social outlet unless she wants to take a trip to the mainland, so she turns to the bear as a companion. The relationship between the two progresses quite rapidly, and eventually becomes intimate, and that's when Lou begins to lose herself. She becomes more of a wild woman, living only for the bear, and it seems like she is willing to give up her previous life to stay on the island and care for the bear. The inability to consummate their relationship by committing that final act  frustrates Lou, and at first she blames the bear, but then she realizes the fault lies with her, and what she was attempting to do is wrong. She does make one last attempt to "seal the deal" so to speak, and ends up being gravely hurt in the process.

The book itself is not a bad book, and once you get past the "eww" factor of a woman performing intimate acts with a wild animal, you see what the book is really about. During the course of the narrative, we find that Lou tends to give of herself with no expectation of getting anything in return. This can be said if her work life and her romantic life. Her relationship with the bear is symbolic of  her life, and you go through it wondering when she is going to wake up and realize that what she is doing is wrong. That point does come, and with it comes that realization that she deserves more out of life.

After I finished reading Bear, I closed the book and wondered, What was so great about that? It was okay, but hardly worthy of the award and praise it has gotten. But now that some time has passed and I've had a chance to look at it as a whole, I see how amazing the book truly is and how skillfully the author was able to encapsulate all aspects of this woman's life in that one relationship. I would highly recommend it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

I didn't go to the movies a lot when I was a kid. To get my fix, I relied on the 4:30 Movie, which would have theme weeks, and at least once a month The Million Dollar Movie showed a classic horror film. And then there was always the movies shown later Saturday mornings/early afternoons. These were where I first saw movies like THEM!, The Deadly Mantis, Tarantula, etc., movies I fell in love with on first viewing, and movies I never get tired of watching. So naturally, when I saw the cover of Tim Curran's new novella, Worm, I knew I just had to read it.

Welcome to Pine Street, a typical street in a typical suburban neighborhood. It could be anywhere in the United States. It's the kind of street where, like it or not, everybody knew everybody else. The residents are your typical, everyday people. There's Tony, an unemployed schlep whose wife dotes more on the rugrat of a dog she calls Stevie than she does on him. There's the wholesome, all-American Girl Next Door, friendly and flirtatious. There's the feisty old lady, Bertie. There's Ivy and Geno, Kathleen and Pat, and a host of others, each living their humdrum lives on their boring little street. All that is about to change.

From deep underground, a stinking, black sludge starts to bubble up into the streets. It's rising up through the sewer pipes to fill bathtubs and toilets, kitchen sinks and bathroom sinks. It's rising fast, and by the time they think to get in their cars and trucks and get the Hell out of Dodge, it's too late, because not only is this sewage thick enough to bog down the most rugged of vehicles, it's also the home to hundreds carnivorous worms. Ranging in size from eels to pythons, these worms possess row upon row of needle-sharp teeth, just right for boring into some tender flesh. And somebody just rang the dinner bell, and these suckers never say no to a free meal.

Reading Worm, I was reminded of a couple of my favorite movies. It's a cross between Squirm and Tremors. It also brought to mind Keene's The Conqueror Worms, but unlike Keene's novel, which, while enjoyable, tends to have its slow moments, Curran's work is a nonstop onslaught of wormy action. But for all of the enjoyment I received while reading Worm, and for all the memories of my childhood it brought back of being glued to the television while some giant nasty laid waste to a town, I couldn't help but feel cheated after I finished. For all of Curran's thrills and chills as people fight to survive, he fails to deliver in one respect, and that's with the origin of the worms. Considering the size of the novella, there was plenty of room to expand this to a full-length novel had he he chosen to split the focus of the story between the events unfolding on Pine Street and those going on beyond this little community. We know what's happening on Pine Street is not an isolated incident, that it's happen throughout the town and authorities are in the process of evacuating people. Let's see what's happening on the outside, as well as underneath. Are these worms a natural occurrence, nature's way of striking back for all the wrongs we have committed against her? Are they a government experiment gone wrong? Or are the something dark, more sinister? Maybe even supernatural. The Devil's minions. We don't know, and it's frustrating. Had we been provided this bit of information, Worm would have been a more enjoyable read. However, since we aren't, I have no choice but to take off points.

Despite this one flaw, Worm is highly recommended. I've only read one other novel by Curran (Graveworm) before this, but I'll definitely be reading more, as Curran delivers the thrills and chills along with the best of them. He's a voice to watch.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

MMM-MMMM GOOD

Sometimes the cover alone will make me pick up a certain book, and such was the case with Cannibal Fat Camp by Mark C. Scioneaux and David C. Hayes. Remember those "taboo" Garbage Pail Kids trading cards (a bastardization of Cabbage Patch kids)? I loved them only because they poked fun of those hideous dolls every went crazy over, so this was a "must have" for that alone. The fact that Mark's name was on the cover was a plus. Not too long ago I read The Glass Coffin: A Zombie Tale and knew he was name to watch.

Meet Miles Landish. A neglected 17-year-old rich kid who makes Jabba the Hutt look like a Victoria's Secret Model. Threatened with being expelled from school after being caught red-handed breaking into lockers and scarfing down other students' lunches, his parents are at a loss as to what to do. Food is controlling the boy's life, and something needs to be done. That something turns out to be Camp Tum Tum, an exclusive fat camp for the rich and spoiled. At Camp Tum Tum, supervised by a team of Health Nazis, Mile will learn everything he needs to take control of his life. Things spiral out of control rather quickly, however, when a case of corporate sabotage elsewhere in the world has tsunami effect on this small, remote island retreat. Just how far will a group of morbidly obese teenagers go to survive? The title says it all.

Let me start off by saying that Cannibal Fat Camp is not for everybody, especially if gross-out humor is not your thing. And I mean it when I say humor. Cannibal Fat Camp is hilarious—in a sick, twisted sort of way. It's so over the top that you can't help but laugh even though the scenes  as they play out are grounded in reality (You don't think so? Remember the 1972 plane crash that left a Rugby team stranded in the Andes? In order to survive their ordeal, they had to resort to cannibalism.). Combining humor and horror is never an easy, but Scioneaux and Hayes manage to do it successfully: The news and medical reports help keep the reader's feet firmly planted in reality, even if the doctor is a sarcastic SOB; the diary and journal entries allow the reader an insight into the characters that a standard narrative wouldn't allow; the letters home that Miles writes add a subtle humor to the story (and maybe that's an age thing), as the reader hears Allan Sherman and Lou Busch's "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jjiWS__Mp0) playing through their head; and the recipes? I was howling.

Despite the humor, there are elements in Cannibal Fat Camp that ring true to the world today: childhood obesity and bullying. Society is concerned with the rising number of obese children and tries to instill in children the need to eat right, but what you don't hear is an attempt to research and resolve the root cause of the obesity epidemic. The authors touch on that here as they attempt to find out the reason for Miles' food addiction. Miles himself claims not to know why he eats the way he does, but we can see it's a cry for attention. You would think that the ridicule he receives at school would be enough to make him turn himself around, but Miles doesn't feel he's worthy of trying to better himself. When his own parents don't seem to care, why should he? Subconsciously he's hoping his parents will wake up to what's going on and extend a caring hand. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the letters home, where Miles admits to being a disappointment to them and it's no wonder they wanted to ship him off, maybe to forget about him altogether. In truth, when we first meet Miles, we don't like him very much, but as we get a deeper insight into the character, our feelings change and we end up feeling sorry for him. We start rooting for him, hoping he'll be able to turn himself. The same cannot be said for some of the other characters, one in particular: Charles York. Charles is a take-charge type, and he's quick to assess the situation, but we soon realize that he's not all there mentally. The guy's a sociopath, and the more we learn about him, the less we like him.

One could argue that the pacing of the story was off, that "civilization" deteriorated too rapidly, but when you are dealing with undisciplined, unsupervised children, is it too hard to imagine that things could spiral out of control so quickly? Think back to when you were a teen and your parents left you alone for the weekend for the very first time. What was the first thought that ran through your head? PARTY!! And consider how quickly rioting and looting break out in times of disaster. No, the events that transpire are not that hard to imagine at all.

Well written with well-developed characters, Cannibal Fat Camp is an enjoyable read from beginning to warped, twisted ending that I would highly recommend. However, if you are in any way squeamish or easily grossed out, I would advise reading this on an empty stomach, otherwise you just might be running for the bathroom. Bon appetit!


Monday, May 27, 2013

SHOULD HAVE KEPT IT IN HIS PANTS

I'm not sure what prompted me to grab Derek Clendening's The Business—maybe it was a freebie download from Amazon, I don't remember—since I'd never read anything by the author before; all I know is it's been sitting on my Kindle for like forever and I figured it was time to read it. I should have put it off a little bit longer. Mercifully, it was a short read.

Twenty-five years ago, Roland McAlister was at the top of his game. He was a championship wrestler, had money in the bank, and a wife waiting for him at home—and a "rat" in every town he stopped in... and by rat I don't mean the rodent. That's what he called his hook-ups, his mistresses, the flavor of the day, which gives you some idea of what kind of guy Roland really was. In Detroit, there was one woman, Gloria, who he claimed to really have a connection with, but when she comes to him to let him know she's pregnant, she's out like yesterday's trash. There was no way he was going to be a father to this whore's little rugrat.

Jump twenty-five years to present day and Roland is just a shell of the man he used to be. Having suffered a heart attack, he is now confined to a wheelchair. Life is good, or as well as it can be given his condition. He has a wife who loves him (wife No. 3) and a steady income from some illegal dealings (steroids) on the side. All that is about to come crashing down around him when he receives a phone call. From Gloria's son. Who, after twenty-five years, wants Roland to be a Daddy to him. And he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants, and I mean nothing. The cover gives you some idea what extremes he will go to to get Roland to be his Daddy. The guy is a real sociopath.

The story in and of itself isn't a bad story, but it's a perfect example of an author who has cranked out a story and put it up on the Kindle self-publishing platform before editing and proofreading his work, and that's where the story suffers. Typos, missing words... and the most lethal mistake an author can make, Clendening lost track of which character he was talking about. *SPOILER ALERT* Cory, Gloria's son, has just killed Rosemary, Roland's wife. Being a good kid, Cory cleans up the mess before leaving Roland to think about what he has done. Yes, Cory thinks Daddy is responsible for Rosemary's death because all the old wrestler had to do was agree to spend some time with Cory, get to know him, be a father to him. If he had a greed to that, Rosemary would still be alive, but Roland had refused. Now, sitting alone, he decides to get to the bottom of things and reached for the phone. "I hadn't spoken to Rosemary in twenty-five years..." Hello? Rosemary is dead. Your son just blew her brains all over the sewing room. If you want to talk to her, you'd do better picking up a Ouija board than the phone. Clendening doesn't catch his mistake until the next scene, so during the entire phone conversation with Gloria, he's talking to Rosemary.

The ending itself is interesting, as the conversation with "Rosemary" reveals something that throws Roland for a loop. The thing is, you have the reveal, then nothing. It ends, and it leaves you wondering... What? How?

Had the story been cleaner, more polished, it would have been a decent read, but as it stands now, it's an embarrassment to the author and I would seriously recommend he unpublish it, polish it up, then re-post it. Until that time, this is one you should pass on.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

SOLE SURVIVOR

For those who follow my reviews, you know I have a new-found love for all things zombie; however, I find my interest in the walking dead waning fast, thanks in part to the flood of zombie fiction that has flooded the market. So much of it is poorly written, cranked out with the hopes of cashing in on the current literary trend. Because of this, I went into Pied Piper of the Undead with the lowest expectations imaginable. Thankfully, they were not met.

Pied Piper of the Undead tells the story of a 13-year-old survivor of the Zombie Apocalypse. As far as Peter knows, he is the only living person in his hometown. This would be hard for anybody, but for a child, it could be particularly devastating. Put yourself in the child's position—while on a scavenging run you encounter people you used to know, people you can put a name to, people you ran into on a daily basis, maybe said hello to, and now they want to eat you. Your best friend, the girl at school every guy wanted to be with, the school lunch lady, and yes, even your parents. This is what Peter has to endure on a daily basis. When we encounter a zombie, we see it through the boy's eyes, and unlike like so much zombie fiction, they aren't The Monster, The Zombie, or The Biter, or whatever naming convention that author has assigned to his walking dead. Whetzel has chosen to assign every zombie a name, a former occupation, which is what makes Pied Piper of the Undead so emotionally jarring. It's almost as if Peter hasn't fully grasped the fact that these things are no longer the people he used to know. On one level he does, as is evidenced by the fact that he stays above ground level whenever possible, choosing to live on the platform of an elevated water tower, but on another level he seems to be in denial of those whole situation. This is particularly evident when he encounters his best friend and his parents. If you have a heart, these scenes might very well bring tears to your eyes.

Again, if you follow my reviews, you're waiting for the "But...", and there isn't one. Some aspects of the story might have some readers rolling their eyes, like how Peter knows to stay off the streets and how he successfully manages to get around town, but given the boy's fascination with hand-held video games, it doesn't come as any surprise that he has figured this out. As far-fetched as it might seem, it seems perfectly logical within the confines of the story, and something I didn't even bat an eye at. It just shows the ingenuity of a child and the extent to which his imagination can stretch in order to survive.

Given the nature of the story, I can't really say too much about it without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the story immensely and... Oh wait... I lied. There is a "but", one problem that I had with the novella that could easily be rectified if the author sees fit to humor this reader and correct the problem.

The one problem I had with Pied Piper of the Undead is the ending. While satisfactory, it does leave you hanging, and this reader wants more, so I can only hope Mr. Whetzel decides to continue the story. Other than that, no other issues. Surprising, huh? I would suggest, however, that the author clean up the language a little. Not that I'm a prude or anything, I just feel that by doing so he would make it more appropriate for a YA audience. Should he do that, and extend the story to novel length, he just might give Maberry's Rot & Ruin a run for its money. Pied Piper of the Undead is that good. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Attack of the ??? I Have No Idea

If you're a Bigfoot fan, then you are probably familiar with Eric S. Brown, author of the Bigfoot War series. He's written other books outside of the Bigfoot series, but I haven't read them. Some of them are cross-genre horror/westerns, and I'm not a fan of westerns (I'll get to them eventually, but they aren't high on my list), and others are zombies (I'll get to those, too—they're a little higher on the list), and now it seems he's branching out with novelizations of screenplays [Boggy Creek: The Legend is True (for my review, see http://www.wooferslair.blogspot.com/2013/01/theres-something-out-there.html)]. Bloop promises to be one of the latter, although is says "screen story" on the cover, which to me means it's in the works. After having read Bloop, I can only hope the film never sees the light of day. Then again, maybe it will be a rare instance where the movie is better than the book.

Bloop starts off with a group of Charlie's Angels-type mercenaries, The Sisterhood of Saint Tommy Gun (yes, I did roll my eyes at that), taking on a marauding pack of yetis. If you're familiar with the Bigfoot series, you'd expect all of these little girls to be slaughtered by the yetis, but that isn't the case. The Sisterhood wins the day, without a single broken nail or a hair out of place. Oh, and no casualties. I guess the yetis aren't as formidable as the American cousins. Battle won, the Sisterhood just disappears. Who were these masked women? We want to know more about them, but alas, the story jumps elsewhere.

Where does it jump, you ask? To the middle of the ocean, where a yacht is about to be attacked by some sort of sea monster. What kind of sea monster? We don't know. The extent of the description is that it's serpentine, has armor-like scales, and sharp teeth. Oh, and it's hungry. We learn this because no one on board the yacht survives. Really? Even Godzilla had one survivor. How else did we come to learn about the giant lizard that ate Tokyo (actually, NYC comes to mind—yes, I'm thinking about that "God-awful" Matthew Broderick film, which isn't really all that bad if you don't think of it as "Godzilla", but I digress).

The scene jumps again (I'm beginning to get a little dizzy with all this globe-trotting jumping around), this time to a college campus, where a bored professor is slurping his cold coffee while he lulls his students to sleep. Said professor is the leading authority in the hazards of environmental corruption on the natural world (we knew he had to show up sometime). An associate interrupts his class (how dare she!) to let him know the military is waiting for him (déjà vu here, folks). What could they want with him? Duh! Obviously he doesn't read the news. Oh wait! Military coverup. Gotta keep this under wraps. Convenient that no one survived. Our hero learns about this creature, whatever it is, and then it becomes a race against time to destroy the big, bad monster before it attacks again. Do they? Well, no, but then again, do we, as the reader, care? Again, no. And yes, Charlie's Angels do make another appearance, if you care to know, but I'm not going to say anything else.

Where do I begin? There's so much wrong with this book, I don't know where to begin, but I gotta start somewhere. One of the first things I noticed with Bloop is the narrative structure. We start off with a Prologue, but we never know where the Prologue ends. We have "****" to indicate a jump in the story, but we don't know where it actually starts. I was constantly on the look out for "Chapter One" or "1" or something to let me know, "Okay, folks, we're starting." That never happens, so the novella reads like one giant Prologue.

The second thing I noticed was the manuscript the lack of editing/proofreading (if it was, Brown needs to fire the party(ies) involved and get someone new). Nowhere is it more obvious than with character names... Well, once character in particular—General Waltson. Or is it Walton? It changes constantly throughout the story. Brown refers to a ship named the "Author Curry", and Driscoll even smirks at the name, as if he's in on a secret no one else is privy to. Given Brown's love of comics, I believe he meant "Arthur Curry", aka Aquaman. Elsewhere in the book, a reporter slips past the MPs to ask our hero, "Why has the military but you in on this?"

The story also suffers from a lack of detail. After having read it, I still have no idea what this creature looks like other than it's an armor-plated serpentine creature with sharp teeth. I have no idea how big it is, or what it is. Are we dealing with a genuine sea serpent? Given the environmental aspect introduced earlier with the introduction of Driscoll, are we dealing with a giant, mutated eel or sea snake? Or do we have a remnant of prehistoric times along the lines of Nessie and Champie? It's plausible, given Brown's previous works. I mean, after Bigfoot, why not tackle another legendary creature? had this been a short story, this is something I could forgive, but even then, the reader needs a little more to go on. Given that this is an attempt to take it longer than a short, but not quite achieving novel length, you need to give the reader more. In any movie that falls into this giant creature sub-genre, you always learn what the creature is and where it originated from. That's not so here.

This same lack of detail carries over into the world Brown attempts to create. Not once could I envision where I was supposed to be, and that's something I can usually do when I read. And the characters? Who cares. They are cardboard cut-outs, stock characters typically found in this type of story. There's no character development, and no back story to breath life into them. We know nothing about them, so why should we care about what happens to them? Brown's main focus is story—this happened, then this happened, then this happened, and as a result, the story suffers. The structure of the story as it is currently written doesn't even provide the element of suspense.

I know we're dealing with fiction here, so don't go jumping on my case for what I'm about to say, but where Bloop is concerned, there's no essence of reality. By that I mean the world has not become real for the reader. There are a couple of factors behind this. One is the lack of detail. The other is dialogue. If you've read Brown's work, you know he is not one to shy away from the gore aspect. Granted, it is not rendered as vividly as some authors tend to do, but it is there, so why is he so afraid of vulgarity? You will not find a single "fuck", "damn", or "hell" in his books, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but there are times it's expected. Case and point, we're dealing with military men here in a combat situation, so when one of them blurts out, "What the frag do we do now?", you can't help but laugh. Frag? Really? Who the hell says "frag"? It totally knocks the reader out of the story, which in this case isn't too hard to do. If you don't want to use the "f" word or the "h" word, leave it as, "What do we do now?" That tends to be a little more realistic than using something like "frag".

I feel part of the problem with Bloop lies in the fact that it is based on a "screen story", so Brown is probably adhering to the story as it was given to him, to the letter. He's not putting his own spin on it, adding insights to the novella (yes, folks, it's very short—this review is probably longer than the "book"), or adding any details. Had he approached this as an original work, I think we might have seen an entirely different story.  Having read some of Brown's other works, I was hoping for so much more with Bloop, but what I got does not live up to what I know Brown can do. He failed to deliver here, so unfortunately, this is not one I can recommend. You'd do better to check out his Bigfoot War series.