Sunday, July 26, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: Critters (1986)

Unfairly labelled a Gremlins clone upon release, Critters is a quirky horror film with a talented cast and groovy special effects.  It borrows from several movies but remains original and entertaining from start to finish.  At times it is a little creepy, at times it is certainly thrilling, and there's a lot of humor sprinkled throughout.  The plot finds a handful of alien furballs with lots of teeth terrorizing a likable family at their farm.  There are a pair of alien bounty hunters who can look like anyone hot on the trail of these borderline cute/decidedly vicious furballs.  The critters roll around and wreak havoc at the farm with glee, while the somewhat dimwitted and extremely destructive bounty hunters damn near ruin the entire town looking for them.  The humans caught in the mix include Scott Grimes (who recently nailed a decent part on the final season of Justified) as Brad, a mischievous young boy who digs firecrackers.  His mother and father are played by Dee Wallace Stone and Billy Green Bush, and they make the most of their parts.  There's also Don Keith Opper as the crazy guy who helps out at the farm and the always reliable M. Emmet Walsh as the baffled sheriff.  Those viewers who are expecting a bloody romp may be a bit disappointed with the minimal body count, but anyone expecting a lighthearted picture will be taken aback by the violence and language.  It's a kooky flick and it may be underrated simply because it's hard to determine exactly what audience the filmmakers were aiming for.  Critters is a bit too rough to be kiddie fare and many adults will find it too silly to enjoy.  However, those who like a zany creature feature and anyone who shares my enthusiasm for 80s horror movies will have a blast with this one. 

Final Grade: B+
Dee Wallace Stone shows some range, going from loving mother to
scared mother before finally arriving at angry mother/critter-slaying machine.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't Blame Vince for True Detective's Woes

Full Disclosure: I'm a big Vince Vaughn fan.  I believe he has serious chops in addition to his obvious gift for comedy.  I thought he was really good in both The Cell and Return to Paradise and I definitely have a lot of love for Clay Pigeons.  When it comes to the comedy, I probably dig this dude more than anyone else in the laugh business these days, but that's another story.  All of this brings me to the second season of True Detective on HBO, which has been a moderately entertaining disappointment thus far--and we're skating downhill at this point.  Now, I saw this coming, so I'm not as distraught as some of the show's biggest critics.  Did anyone really think there was anything they could do to top last year's kooky Bayou blitz?  I sure as hell didn't.  That plot was golden and we got Woody Harrelson at his steady best getting absolutely blown away by Matthew McConaughey as he hit new levels of creepy cool.  There was no way that Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch were going to match that shit.  Now, Farrell has been awesome as a slimy cop on the take, McAdams has excelled with her sex-obsessed hothead detective, and Kitsch isn't necessarily mucking things up as a gay homophobe with a death wish (if you don't like my description of the character, please give me a better one).  Yet at their very best, none of these cats stood a chance of going toe to toe with Mad McConaughey. 

Anyway, the show hasn't lived up to expectations and I've read a lot of bad press regarding Vince Vaughn as the heavy.  Some seem to think that he is largely to blame for the fact that this season is a far cry from the glory of that marvelous first season, one of the best seasons of television ever produced.  Look, whatever shortcomings the show has, it isn't on Vince.  Some of his dialogue has been a bit overwrought (his basement monologue was certainly uneven in spots), but I think he's killing it.  There's definitely a The Long Good Friday vibe to his mobster who wanted to go legit only to get forced back into the game in a big way, but the role remains fresh and I think his arc is the best thing about this season of True Detective.  I like the cops, but I would watch this show if it was strictly centered on Vaughn's character.  Frank Semyon is a manipulative bastard who is fully capable of getting his hands dirty, but he's mostly successful at masking his destructive prowess, and at his best he is actually a warm and charismatic human being.  As his best laid plans continue to unravel, I find myself rooting for the guy even though he deserves exactly what's coming to him. 

In closing, the second season of True Detective isn't as good as the first one.  It isn't really all that close, but shame on those who thought that wouldn't be the case.  Regardless, it's a solid show and the talent is delivering the goods, particularly Vince Vaughn, who is stealing the show in a rare non-comedic role.  Dude is money.  That's my take, anyway.  Let me know if you disagree.

Short Attention Span Review: The Relic (1996)

It's an old story: a great book goes to Hollywood and becomes the basis for a lesser movie.  What can I say?  The best stories are told on paper and they can't always be transferred to the big screen without losing a little something along the way.  Sometimes they lose a lot.  Yet there are cases--like The Relic--where the book is so incredible that even a lukewarm adaptation makes for an entertaining show.  While it is surely a far cry from the book, to include the absence of the novel's main character and a far less impressive conclusion, The Relic still works in a variety of ways.  The mood and the sets are top-notch and the very idea of setting a creature feature in a museum (which is poised to debut a new exhibit entitled "Superstition") gives the picture a slick and creepy vibe.  The cast (Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore are the stars, and the wonderful Linda Hunt makes the most of her role) is on point and the direction c/o Peter Hyams is equal parts ominous and exciting.  Stan Winston provided a stellar design for the monster and most of the effects are solid.  The Relic also benefits from holding off on showing us the beast that roams the halls of the museum until the closing reel, generating a lot of suspense on the way to the grand finale.  Unfortunately, the biggest failing from the effects team comes during the climax of the picture, . . . and that's a real bummer.  Honestly, if there were no book to compare this film to and the final confrontation with the fearsome creature that causes so much havoc along the way wasn't bungled, this would be classic horror fare.  As it is, it's well worth a watch in spite of its flaws, and viewers who dig horror should be able to sink their teeth into this one.  It's not the horror movie equivalent of a good steak, but a decent burger will do in a pinch.

Final Grade: C
Great sets are among the movie's many strengths.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Journey of the Dead by Loren D. Estleman (from 2011)

Journey of the Dead is an interesting take on Pat Garrett's later years that aims to be something more.  Entwining Garrett's tale with the story of an aging alchemist in pursuit of the fabled Philosopher's Stone, Estleman tries to elevate the famous lawman's inevitable decline into a meditation on time and destiny.  To some extent the author succeeds, but I could have done without it; I don't feel that the alchemist subplot was necessary for those themes to be featured in the book.  In truth, the alchemist's role in Estleman's novel is exceptionally minor, and while Estleman is able to wring some thoughtful and hauntingly poetic moments out of this character's presence, it seldom feels like more than a gimmick or a distraction.  This is Garrett's story, glossing over his early years and his fateful date with his poker buddy Billy the Kid in favor of exploring his efforts to live up to his monumental reputation as he aged and society evolved.  When the book focuses on Garrett (as it does for the bulk of the tale--I would say that Book of the Dead is 95% Pat Garrett and 5% nameless alchemist), it is intriguing and complex, expertly depicting a man whose greatest skills are becoming less relevant as the times change even as his ambition grows.  He grapples with guilt and his own wants and desires, which are frequently foolhardy and self-destructive.  All the while, he remains compelling and likable.  I enjoyed Book of the Dead and I would recommend it to fans of this material, but I think I would have given it a better grade if it was a more direct exploration of Pat Garrett's waning years.

Final Grade: B-

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: Kingsman (2014)

Is Kingsman the best film that was released in 2014?  I'm certainly willing to entertain that notion.  This is a movie that will provide viewers who aren't easily offended with a plethora of thrills, chuckles, and some of the zaniest and most visceral action sequences ever seen.  It comes c/o gifted English filmmaker and producer Matthew Vaughn and boasts a number of stars (Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong) as well as a number of spunky new arrivals (most notably Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson).  The picture is somewhat of a James Bond satire on speed, complete with a maniacal villain (Jackson) armed with an evil plot that threatens the world (bonus points: he also has a badass sidekick), a clandestine agency with a wealth of high-tech gadgets, and some of the most inventive action bits you're apt to see.  There are plenty of laughs and surprises in the mix, and though Kingsman frequently pays homage to the pictures that inspired it, it remains fresh and exciting.  There isn't a dull moment to be had and viewers will find themselves absorbed in the colorful plot and invested in the characters and their efforts to save the day--or remake the planet in their own image.  Colin Firth's dapper gent is an ultimate badass.  Samuel L. Jackson's demented madman can't stand the sight of blood.  Taron Egerton is a plucky street kid who knows a good pug when he sees one (well, kind of . . . ) and this unlikely hero may just have to save the world in the closing reel.  To say that I enjoyed Kingsman immensely would be a bit of an understatement.  I honestly felt that the picture was rather sublime; it isn't often that you see something that is charmingly familiar yet so bold and different--or something  that is fun, vibrant, and absolutely thrilling in equal measures.  Kingsman is a splendid effort that shouldn't be missed.  After all, you don't want to piss off Colin Firth, do you?  Trust me: you don't.

Final Grade: A+

Colin Firth loses his cool in what may be the most violent
action scene ever filmed.  Yes, you read that correctly. 
People underestimate Colin Firth at their own peril.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: Machete (2010)

I know, I know, I'm doing this backward.  Yesterday I reviewed Machete Kills and today I'm reviewing the first Machete.  I'm a writer, so funny things happen in my brain.  Forgive me.  Anyway, while the sequel brought some seriously silly sci-fi antics into play, Machete is an ode to those hardcore action movies of the 70s and 80s that made guys like Charlie Bronson and Sylvester Stallone superstars.  While it takes the notion of a parody to such bizarre heights that it borders on being too ridiculous to engage the audience, it ultimately succeeds in providing viewers with a cheeky and exciting experience that is equal parts bonkers and badass.  If you're looking for a genuine action film, look elsewhere--satire is as important to Machete as gratuitous violence and outrageous amounts of gore.  Robert Rodriguez pushes the envelope at every turn, and he gets quality performances from everyone involved.  Robert DeNiro appears to be having the time of his life, Don Johnson is great, and Jeff Fahey is fucking phenomenal.  Michelle Rodriguez rocks, Lindsay Lohan is actually tolerable, and perhaps only Jessica Alba seems a bit out of place, though she is smoking hot and it's not like she's terrible or anything.  Steven Segal is hilarious as the villain, giving us perhaps the funniest death scene of all time, and it truly feels like everyone in the cast had fun making this blood-soaked romp.  The score is on point, the effects are appropriately cheesy, the gore is obnoxious, and Machete scores a direct hit for fans of this sort of material.

Final Grade: B
Danny Trejo is at his badass best in Machete.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Short Attention Span Review - Machete Kills (2013)

The first Machete from 2010 was a dark and gruesome nod to hardcore 80s action films, which were equal parts hardcore and ludicrous.  Need proof?  Take another look at Stallone in Cobra, a film which is damn near as silly as anything Robert Rodriguez could ever dream up.  Surprisingly, this sequel is more of a send-up of James Bond's sci-fi adventures--though the outer space intrigue is surely cross-pollinated with that 80s action vibe that the director is so fond of.  Bolder, far more obnoxious, and ten times as absurd as its predecessor, Machete Kills is an utterly ridiculous motion picture that nearly crumbles under the weight of all the insanity splattered across the screen.  Yet everyone involved is clearly having a blast, and viewers who don't expect anything more from Machete Kills than a goofy good time will surely be entertained.  Note: if you're expecting something more from Machete Kills, that's a you-problem, not a Machete Kills-problem.  I don't know where they found that Carlos Estevez guy, but he was awesome as the president, and Mel Gibson was a terrific villain.  The best part in the picture may have belonged to Demian Bichir as a schizophrenic who constantly veers from noble good guy to crazed villain as his various personalities rage across the scene.  Of course, Rodriguez has always been down with girl power, and Michelle Rodriguez and Amber Heard are both incredibly badass (and hot) in this action/sci-fi mash-up.  The score is fantastic, the laughs are frequent, and while the picture is totally bonkers, it somehow manages to keep the viewer interested while gleefully going overboard with cartoonish violence and loads of gore.  I loved Grindhouse, I dug Machete (was Fahey badass or what?), and Machete Kills was another fun flick from the modern master of grindhouse filmmaking. 

Final Grade: B

Bonus Points: There was a brief homage to The Road Warrior that made me stand up and applaud.

Everyone has a good time in Machete Kills.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dragonfly by John Farris (from 1996)

The fact that John Farris doesn't garner more appreciation in the realm of literature is an unforgivable crime in my humble opinion.  Farris is a superb author with a gift for crafting compelling stories and yanking the rug out from under his readers on a consistent basis that is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  No one is better at springing a massive twist upon readers; Farris frequently delivers jarring shocks in a most casual fashion, totally reshaping the narrative at hand with a subtle shift that is impossible to predict.  At a certain point, I had read enough of his books to know that the twist was coming, yet he almost always managed to take me by surprise at some point.  With this in mind, it's a bit of a surprise that Dragonfly is one of my favorite offerings from this captivating artist, as it is relatively straightforward.  Now, that doesn't mean that it lacks intrigue or that it doesn't offer up a plethora of thrills, but it surely isn't among his most startling books.  Yet it is gripping from start to finish and it boasts some fine characters and a seductive plot.  Essentially, Dragonfly is about a con man whose latest scheme places him squarely of the midst of an even bigger con.  He also develops genuine affection for his mark, and soon he must choose between the girl or the scam.  This is a tough decision to make, for he's really choosing between an easy score and putting his ass on the line to save someone who probably won't be all that fond of him should his criminal past come to light.  Again, it's a far cry from this author's most wildly inventive works, but it's so damn solid.  The prose is rich and inviting and there are several incredible setpieces that are truly magnificent.  There is one sequence near the end where our hero (who has been drugged) most survive an assault from a professional killer during a tropical storm that ranks among my favorites from Farris.  In closing, I strongly recommend any of this author's books to those who many not have experienced his writing, and I'm placing Dragonfly at the very top of my list so far as thrillers are concerned.

Final Grade: A+

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Short Fiction - One Night at the Titty Bar (Explicit Content)

This short story features characters from my novels
Trailer Park Trash & Vampires
and Dirty Southside Jam

One Night at the Titty Bar (Explicit Content)
by James Wayland
It was a hot and humid night, the kind that some might call muggy and others might call miserable.  The ones who pegged it as miserable were the ones to ask a question of if an honest answer was desired.  Mosquitos were hard at work, doing their best to make the soggy heat and the damp funk a bit more unbearable.  Wet clothes clung to flesh while faces dripped sweat, but none of this was uncommon for Tallahassee in the burning heart of summer.  Those who had endured some of the worst summers on record here wouldn’t have been impressed at all, but a boy from Bogut might think that he had stumbled into the seventh circle of hell.
Speaking of which, Billie Boyd, better known as Blue, was trying hard not to spray the interior of Bama’s prized ‘67 Nova with the contents of his stomach, but that had precious little to do with the heat.  No, the heat hadn’t made him queasy, but it damn sure wasn’t helping with the situation and Blue was thinking that he was probably going to lose this fight before the night was over.  There would be puke, and Blue really hated puking.      
His long hair was held back with a pink bandana and his eyes were bloodshot.  There were dark circles beneath those eyes and his weary gaze aged him beyond his years.  His clothes weren’t doing much better.  Blue’s tropical shirt might have made Magnum P.I. proud when Tom Selleck was in his prime, but it was now a relic.  It benefitted some when compared to the pair of cutoff jean shorts laced with holes and stains hanging low on Blue’s waist.  The stoner lurched forward, clamping a hand over his face to stop the vomit, but it was only a dry-heave.    
Bama eyed him with some concern. 
The big bastard was clad in a little tank-top, but the heat hadn’t stopped him from wearing his leather pants.  Per his custom, Bama had enough gold on to turn a rapper’s head, and he was dressed entirely in black.  Bama gave the wheel a spin, sliding his Nova into the parking lot.  The car was a vision in cherry red, a true classic that Bama loved more than he could ever love any person. 
Neon lights washed over them, reflecting a garish scene on the purring Chevy’s waxed hood and gleaming windshield.  The bar’s sign featured a naked woman twirling a lasso over her head, her proud breasts boasting enormous green dollar signs for nipples.  This garish pink, blue, and green monument to stripping only added to Blue’s discomfort.  He was not a fan of this sort of joint, but Bama practically lived at places like this.
Strip clubs weren’t all bad, but Blue preferred the nicer establishments where he didn’t find himself dwelling on germs and disease.  When he was surrounded by naked women and he couldn’t think of anything but hand sanitizer, well then, what exactly was the point?  He wouldn’t mind jumping some of the strippers at the classy clubs, but they weren’t dishing it out, and the dirty strumpets who were ready to go at these tawdry affairs weren’t getting anywhere near Blue’s jewels.  That was just the nature of the game.  Spending more for less gave him peace of mind.  Some say a single battle with scabies can change the way a man thinks, and two can scar him for life.
Occasionally, Bama took him someplace nice, but more often than not they found one of these tawdry places out in the boonies.  If Blue had to take a dump at some point, he was certain to use enough toilet paper to line the walls in his efforts to cover the seat.  It was either that or hover, and he had learned that drunk men don’t hover well.
 “You all right?”  Bama wondered.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You look like you’re pondering some heavy shit over there.”
Bama thought this over for a moment while massaging the steering wheel with his big mitts and squinting.  “What?  You don’t want to talk about it?”
“I said I’m fine.”
The big man shrugged.
Blue was learning a lot about the hard bastard sitting beside him, a brute who could be one mean son of a bitch.  Yet Bama was capable of many things, and for the most part he was a genuinely likable fellow.  He was warm and he could be surprisingly generous.  It was easy to forget that he could sink to deplorable lows with ease, just like he was shifting gears in his beloved car. 
Bama scared Blue because the wiry stoner knew the big man could commit any crime and spend the night at the bar without so much as a twinge of remorse.  He could go places that scared the fuck out of Blue and it didn’t bother the big mother.  It didn’t bother that fucker not one iota.  That was frightening.
Of course, that wasn’t all Blue was figuring out, he was also learning that he himself wasn’t cut out for this sort of life.  Truthfully, that was no surprise, and it didn’t count for much, seeing as how he had no way out that didn’t involve an anonymous grave at sea. 
It was a damn shame. 
He hadn’t asked for any of this, he had stumbled headlong into the life.  He had put his toes in the muck, thinking he would be able to wash it off, but it didn’t work like that.  He had been consumed by it, and ever since he took the money and his first lonely step down this wicked path, his luck had soured.  He had suffered one bad break after another, and the time had come when he clearly felt that he was on the cusp of execution.  Yes, he was in a bind when he took up with the big madman who was now parking his beloved Nova, but sometimes it seemed that the noose had actually grown tighter during the last several months. 
Bama checked his reflection in the mirror, using both hands to tidy up his unruly black mane.  “Lookin’ good, baby,” he purred.
The big man chuckled as he exited the sleek vehicle, pausing long enough to run his hand across the Nova’s smooth finish.  “This is my kind of night,” he said as he started forward, his boots echoing on the asphalt.  He was obviously feeling it.  That was one of Bama’s gifts.  The man could always find his groove quickly.  “Care to drown your sorrows, amigo?”
Blue had no choice but to follow, so he did. 
 “You sure you’re okay?”
“Biscuits and gravy.”
The big man stopped, frowning.  “What the fuck does that mean?”
“It means I’m just fine and dandy,” Blue answered, offering up a shit-eating grin. 
Biscuits and gravy.  That’s fucking retarded.”
The two men started walking again.
Bama put his arm around Blue’s shoulder, pulling him close.  “Listen up, kid, ditch the shit.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  We’re going to have a good time here.  This is a cool joint.  Lighten up, my man, you know, live a little bit.”
“Sure thing,” Blue mumbled.
“I’m serious.  There’s a girl who works here, Blue, her name is Cindy, and she has the goods, my friend.  She has the goods like no other broad you could imagine.  I’m telling you, this woman is unbelievable.  Smokin’ hot!  If she’s out there working the floor, you have to get a lap-dance from her.  I demand it.  Unbelievable, this chick is, just amazing.  And if she likes you, she’ll bite your fucking cock right through your pants.”  Bama arched his eyebrows.
“That’s just what I look for in a woman.”
The big man laughed, shoving Blue away.  “Sometimes you can be a real asshole, you know that?”
For an instant, Blue thought the moment had arrived, and he braced himself, knowing that he was about to throw up.  The moment passed, and Blue almost managed to grin.  “Yeah, well I ain’t the only one here with a card to that club,” he said at last.
“Shit.  I’m not an asshole, Blue.  I’m the big winner.” 
Four beers later, Blue was definitely in a better mood, and he was no longer feeling the urge to vomit.  He still felt a little off, but he was fighting through it.  What else was there to do? 
He was ready for another frosty, but he wasn’t keeping pace with Bama.  The big guy was truly in his element surrounded by booze and cheap broads, rubbing shoulders with hoods and swindlers who enjoyed the life just as much as the killer in black.  He hit every girl who passed with a line, an insult, or a little pat on the rump.  He gave every man who dared to give him a second glance an earful.  Basically, he was the baddest man in the building and he knew it, so he behaved as such.
Blue drifted in his wake, looking down when crooks eyed him with disdain or approached as friends.  He made nice with the ladies (this wasn’t the appropriate term for women who worked at this dump, but Blue was raised proper) and he didn’t dare put his hands on any of them.  He was a country boy at heart, but he wasn’t just being a gentleman.  He was thinking about his personal hygiene as much as anything else.
A wisp of a girl with a haunted gaze and a colony of fever blisters just below her nostril told him that she would “party down” with him for sixty dollars.  He told her that he wasn’t feeling all that hot, which was the truth, and even added a “maybe some other time” with no real effort to be convincing.  She uttered a bored goodbye and set off in search of another mark.
The music was loud, an aggressive thump that was devoid of style or grace.  It seemed appropriate for the girls gyrating on the stage, but the combination of the electronic rumble and the strobe lighting made Blue queasy all over again. 
He closed his eyes and saw that poor bastard they had deep-sixed this afternoon, unable to shrug off the frumpy little guy’s pleading eyes as he begged them to let him go, going on and on about his wife and his little girl.  Blue wanted to forget all about it; he didn’t want to keep picturing Bama humming nonchalantly as he trussed the crying man up and dumped him overboard with a cement block for company, but he couldn’t help it.  Blue was having a hard time tearing his thoughts away from that grim scene, and he kept coming back to that one little detail that unnerved him more than anything else.  Bama had hummed.  He had hummed while the poor guy begged.  He had hummed the whole time.  He had clapped Blue on the shoulder when it was finished, still humming, and he had hummed while Blue sat mute during the return trip to shore.     
He didn’t know if he was going to be able to drink it away this time, and he knew he wasn’t cut out for this kind of life, but he didn’t have any choice.  Maybe he would keep faking it until he was no different from the savage killer who had taken him under his wing, if such a thing was possible.  Maybe he was damning himself to hell with every second that passed.
Maybe he was already there.
“There she is,” Bama said, taking him by the arm and directing his attention toward an absolute beauty with short blonde hair that appeared white under the bright lights.  Her body was a marvel in the flesh, her face was fit for an angel, and she moved with a sense of purpose.  Her sure gaze suggested that she owned the men she was dancing for, and her charisma was impossible to ignore. 
Well, maybe it was possible to let the grim scene from this afternoon go.  For a little bit, at least.  “Holy shit.”
Bama winked at him.  “That’s what I’m talking about.  She’s hotter than two mice fucking in a furnace on the sun.”
Blue had to admit that the woman was a particularly unique specimen.  He couldn’t tear his gaze away from her.  Cindy’s shapely hips and her delicate naval made his heart race, and her feline power was only enhanced by her wanton gaze and the tantalizing sheen of sweat glistening on her taut skin as she swayed before him.  She was a woman who knew just what she was capable of, and she appeared capable of damn near anything. 
Blue wiped his chin to make sure that he wasn’t drooling.
Her eyes found him and she delicately chewed her bottom lip.  Blue instantly fell deeper under her spell.  She was a goddess. 
“Save me,” he pleaded.
            Two hours later Blue was definitely drunk, and he was definitely having a good time.  He was no longer dwelling on the dead man and the wet grave that poor bastard had inherited.  Blue felt great, and for the time being, he liked this place—and perhaps even this life—almost as much as Bama did.
            He had already bought two lapdances from Cindy and he was eagerly awaiting a third.  She had indeed bitten his cock through his pants, and he had enjoyed it.  The second time she danced for him, she had also draped her legs over his shoulders, slid her pink thong aside, and fingered herself inches from his face.  Her shiny stiletto heels had pressed against his back while her spiky hair had poked his groin as she deftly arched backward, her slender form growing taut as she contorted her luscious body and her finger plundered her wet slit, her strong right hand gripping his thigh for support. 
Then she had turned and slid to the floor with all the grace of a serpent, giving him a sublime view of her gorgeous behind that he would remember for the rest of his life.  After that, she stood and leaned over him, pressing her breasts against his face.  Her nipples were so hard they were like pink pebbles adorning those sublime mounds, and Blue actually found himself growing faint as she eased into his lap once more.  Perhaps she giggled as she ground her pelvis against him--he was feeling too warm and fuzzy to know or care.
Two other girls had approached him as Cindy had made her rounds, and while he had paid one of them for a dance, it had been a poor substitute for the work of the goddess who had enchanted him.
Yes, Bama had been right about Cindy, that much was certain.  The woman was an angel who had descended from heaven and taken a job at one of the sleaziest clubs in Florida.  She had apparently come to alleviate all of his concerns with her heavenly face, incredible figure, and her amazing skills, and thus far the mission had been a stunning success.  She was perhaps the finest finger-banging agent of the lord he had ever happened upon.
“Fuckin’ A,” he said to anyone who was listening.
Even as he reflected on her considerable prowess, she approached him again, smiling, her sultry gaze immobilizing him.  His dick got hard as soon as she placed her hand on his shoulder.  “I like you,” she said.
“I like you too.”
She laughed.  “You’re cute.”
“You’re cuter.”
“They say the third time is the charm.”
“I’m all yours,” Blue answered, awash in a sea of pure bliss.  Perhaps this life had never been better.
She leaned in closer and nibbled his ear just as someone screamed from somewhere within the club.  This sudden interruption was no playful shout or raucous catcall either, it was a bloodcurdling howl.  Cindy paused as another wretched shriek cut through the thumping club music and the unruly murmur of conversation.  Blue shoved the heavenly stripper aside, his blood turning cold.  A rush of fear every bit as massive as a roaring wave crashed into him even as he rose, his mouth hanging agape. 
There was another cry, this one a pitiful moan, and now just about everyone was taking notice, scanning the torrid scene for any potential threat.  There came a final pitiful whelp and a gangly man with a long beard came stumbling out of one of the private rooms. 
The man’s face was wet with blood and his eyes were fiery pits of malice.  He was stumbling like a drunk, caught in the grip of a strange euphoria, but he quickly regained his composure, eying those who gawked at him with disdain.   
            A stout bald man with a multitude of tattoos and an impish whore in a flimsy gown who must have been companions rushed to join the man with blood dripping from his tangled beard.  Now several people were screaming and some were already shoving their way through the crowd of onlookers transfixed by the unlikely scene playing out right before their very eyes.
Even as a bulky bouncer with a face like a pitbull stormed through that impromptu gathering, demanding an explanation for the outburst, Blue watched the outlandish trio led by the man with the dripping beard confer.  He saw the man with the bloody beard’s eyes flicker like a flame and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. 
“What’s going on?’  Cindy asked, gripping his arm.
He pulled away.  She tried to cling to him and Blue shrugged her off.  “Get out of here,” he said.
“Why?”  Her power had evaporated in the face of her terror.  Whereas she had owned this space only minutes before, now she was like a frightened animal looking for comfort and reassurance.  She looked older, and weaker, and Blue suddenly felt sorry for her.  Surely she wanted more from this life, but there was no time for that now.
 “Get out of here,” Blue hissed.
            He was drunk and he had always been paranoid, but he had also been in his fair share of scrapes, and he was quick to recognize trouble.  This was trouble of the highest order.
            He looked for Bama and saw the killer in black making his way back from the bar toting a couple of mugs.  He was watching the crowd that was inevitably gathering around the bouncer and the three weirdos, but hotshot that he was, Bama was still going about his business in his usual nonchalant manner.  He didn’t believe there was anyone here who posed a threat to him. 
            “What the fuck is going on here?”  The big bouncer with the pitbull face yelled, his beefy chest swelling as he confronted the curious trio.  As the onlookers closed in, Blue could no longer see past the strippers and lowlifes who had crowded together to watch the coming melee. 
There was a loud grunt followed by a vulgar tearing sound.  The crowd seemed to ripple as someone screamed, and then there was an abundance of screaming and everyone was running.  They fell over one another, writhing and clawing, howling as they sought escape, blindly stampeding toward the exits.
            Bama dumped the mugs and grabbed Blue by the arm.  “Fuck me running,” the killer shouted.  “Let’s bail.”
            “Damn straight,” Blue readily agreed.
            He and Bama slipped into the mob running for the door, riding the surging tide of hustling bodies.  Even as they fought their way forward, something hurtled above them and landed in their midst. 
Now the people in front of them were screaming as well.  A bloody body tumbled into Bama and he shrugged it off.  The stripper in front of Blue, a tall redhead with pale skin and a cobra tattooed on her lower back, abruptly turned and plowed into him, causing both of them to fall. 
            “Get off of me,” the stripper shouted, her knee finding Blue’s jaw as she scuttled across him in her panic.  Her heel jabbed him in the throat as she surged to her feet and then she was gone.
            Bama was reaching for Blue and then there was a blur that could have been movement and the big man was no longer there.  Blue turned his head and saw Bama’s bulk slamming into the wall ten feet away.  Bama came crashing down on the floor with a groan and then Blue lost sight of the big mother as the unruly mob pushed him forward. 
            Blue was very drunk, but he thought he saw the man with the bloody beard grin at him before a dark shape crashed into him at amazing speed, tackling him.  He was slammed into the floor, the air violently forced from his lungs, and Blue began to gag and cough as a dark shape straddled him.  Now he puked, splattering the bloody shape that had assaulted him with an abundance of vomit.  There were so many screams echoing off the walls now that it sounded like he had stumbled into a nightmare.
            He saw teeth in his face and Blue screamed, loosing himself in raw terror.  At once the mayhem was shattered by a thunderous gunshot.  The banshee wail of a chainsaw filled his ears and then Blue clearly saw the fiend straddling him, a monster with gore dripping from his bearded chin.  As this gruesome figure drew back, trying in vain to shield his face as another shotgun blast rang out, Blue began to tremble.  The bloody lunatic was flung away in a splash of crimson, rolling across the floor with a whimper. 
Blue rotated his head and beheld a tall man with a heavy mustache wielding a sawed-off shotgun.  This angry savior had a black headband on and his eyes were shimmering pools of heat.  Stubble lined his chin and his lips were compressed into a thin line.
A lithe young man sporting a manic grin bounded around the man with the mustache and this quick-footed daredevil came racing toward Blue with a chainsaw rumbling in his grasp.  Blue screamed as the young man easily leapt over him and he turned to watch this warrior plunge his roaring chainsaw into the writhing fiend who had tackled him only a moment before.  The lithe man destroyed his adversary with a few twists of his bucking weapon, a crimson mist staining him red as he deftly beheaded the bastard.  He kicked the bloody head across the floor, chuckling when a stripper whose shapely legs had been splashed with blood began to sob. 
Then the impish whore Blue had seen with the bearded man earlier slammed into the young man, knocking his chainsaw from his grasp and sending him sprawling.  People were still grappling toward the exits and Blue was violently shoved aside, but he continued to watch as the little woman advanced on her prey.
“Shit,” the lithe warrior muttered, quickly drawing a knife from his belt, but she took hold of his wrist as he tried to strike.
Blue sensed movement from behind, and even as his head swiveled in that direction, the tall man hurtled him and closed the distance in three loping strides.  He was pulling the trigger even as he thrust his shotgun into the bitch’s face.  Her skull exploded, her brains splattering everything and everyone within a ten-foot radius.
The young man was now drenched in gore.  “Thanks,” he muttered, his hair matted to his head with blood that wasn’t his own.
His tall cohort smiled and helped him up.  “You’re welcome, T.”
Blue heard more chainsaws and he turned to see a sleek figure with long black hair holding the stout bald man and his fascinating array of tattoos at arm’s length.  The man was fighting to free himself, twisting left an right while he lashed out wildly with his feet, but the sleek figure didn’t seem to notice.  While the stout man was suspended in mid-air, two young men who resembled one another enough to be brothers dismembered this third member of the sinister trio, their buzzing chainsaws ripping through flesh and scattering limbs. 
There was blood everywhere, and once the men with chainsaws finished their gory demolition, there was no sound save a whispering murmur of disbelief.  Bodies littered the floor and the club was now filled with faces that spoke of shock and dismay.  People were still scuttling out through the exits.
Blue didn’t see Bama anywhere.
The sleek figure with long black hair and the young man were leading the tall man with the shotgun and the two men with chainsaws toward the back door, and without knowing why, Blue followed them all the way out into the parking lot.  They were moving quickly, so he had to run to keep up with them.  As he trailed them across the asphalt, the tall man with the shotgun turned and took aim at him, stopping him in his tracks.
“Take me with you,” Blue said, surprising even himself.
The tall man didn’t respond.
The young man had doubled back as the others climbed into a hulking black van, and this blood-soaked warrior sized Blue up quickly.
“He said wants to come with us,” the tall man advised.
            “Bring him along for the ride,” came the cheerful reply.

Author's Note: 
This short story is a follow-up of sorts to my novels Trailer Park Trash & Vampires and Dirty Southside Jam.  It also serves as a bridge to what comes next for these unlikely heroes.  Stay tuned for more on that front.  For more on those books and my work in general, please visit

Marvel's Darth Vader Comic Series

I like to keep you peeps informed when it comes to what I'm reading, watching, and listening to these days.  Comics are frequently part of this discussion, and you probably know that I'm a Marvel fanboy at heart by now.  If DC liked Swamp Thing as much as I do, I might enjoy their line a bit more, but it's hard to keep your more unique titles going when you feel the need to churn out 716 titles featuring Batman each and every month.  All that aside, I felt the need to let everyone know that right now my favorite comic is the Darth Vader series from Marvel.  I was a little skeptical about the Star Wars line when it was originally announced due to the fact that I didn't really enjoy the Star Wars stuff Marvel dropped on me back when I was a chap.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it, and I wasn't sure if this current line would be any different. 

Well, either I didn't know a good thing when I saw it thirty years ago or this line is a vast improvement.  I greatly enjoy the actual Star Wars series, but the Darth Vader series is nothing short of awesome.  Darth is no hero, but throw a supreme prick like The Emperor in the mix and it's easy to root for him.  Set shortly after the events of A New Hope, the title finds Darth and Palpatine at odds as the latter blames his protegee for the destruction of the Death Star.  Vader wants to learn more about the pilot who destroyed that infamous vessel of carnage and he must uncover the Emperor's secret plans--which may include efforts to replace the iconic villain who serves him.  The plotting is stellar, the art is great, and the way the series explores unknown elements of the Star Wars universe while meshing perfectly with existing material is both intriguing and exciting.  I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a cool read--and those who sometimes enjoy rooting for the bad guy in particular.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Short Attention Span Review - Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Since I recently reviewed the first two movies in the Terminator series, I decided to take another look at Terminator 3 this weekend.  While it's vastly inferior to its predecessors, it's also vastly superior to Terminator: Salvation, and I do enjoy it.  Some people probably hate all the humor, but that's one of my favorite things about this one.  That and the ridiculous car chase.  I'm not so keen on Nick Stahl as John Connor, though Claire Danes is always a joy to watch.  I definitely think that Kristanna Loken killed it as the T-X, the anti-Terminator Terminator.  The downbeat nature of the piece doesn't mesh well with Arnold constantly winking at the camera, and some of the later action scenes are a bit underwhelming.  So Terminator 3 is a bit of a mixed bag and it never ventures anywhere near the greatness of The Terminator or T2, but Arnold does his job well and most of the action is worthwhile.  It's not must-see entertainment, but fans of this sort of material should get a kick out of it. 

Final Grade: C
He's back!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Marvel's Secret Wars (2015) - Issue #4

Finally!  Those who have been waiting for the 2015 version of the Secret Wars to kick some serious ass have an issue to celebrate.  Look, I've been pretty hard on this event thus far, but this issue may have saved the day.  Not only was the issue itself full of action and dramatic developments of the highest order, but it ends with a worthy cliffhanger that finally has me longing for the next chapter.  In truth, most of these issues have ended at a point that merely left me hoping for a better story the next time out, but issue #4 is a gripping read with some massive carnage.  Additionally, it may have benefited from all the exposition that I've been bemoaning, as I can't deny that there was a bit of gravity to the proceedings that is often lacking in such events.  A classic rivalry took center stage and one of my favorite heroes was given a stirring moment of redemption that really set this one apart from the pack.  Now, I still don't know if there's any way for the 2015 Secret Wars to truly rival the 1984 Secret Wars, but at this point I can't consider it a disappointment any longer.  Big things are happening, and even if it may not be on the same level as the greatest crossover of them all, this is surely a storyline worth digging into.  Keep it going, Marvel!

Final Grade: A+

Grades and Links for My Reviews of the Previous Issues:

Issue #1 - Final Grade: D- - read the review  here.
Issue #2 - Final Grade: B - read the review here.
Issue #3 - Final Grade: C - read the review here.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King (2015)

The latest from Stephen King is the second entry in a new trilogy.  It boasts the unlikely trio of heroes who saved the day in the slick and entertaining thriller Mr. Mercedes, though they don't show up here until the second act is well underway.  This novel is really more about a teenage boy who bites off more than he can chew and a sadistic lunatic whose love for prose is only rivaled by his penchant for dishing out brutality with a total lack of remorse.  Oh, he also has a knack for blaming his mother and an old friend for every sick mistake that he makes in a life that is filled with such mistakes.  This book is tied to its predecessor in more ways than one and a creepy subplot serves as an intriguing bridge to the next chapter in this blood-curdling saga.  I liked Finders Keepers a lot; it's a genuine page-turner and the good guys from Mr. Mercedes are some of the most interesting heroes that King has provided us with in a while.  Yet I wasn't as keen on young Peter Saubers, the gutsy hero of Finders Keepers, though the villainous Morris Bellamy was equal parts compelling and utterly repulsive.  Peter was a bright lad who was capable of fine moments that clearly displayed the presence of grit and intelligence, but there were a few too many times when he made incredibly stupid decisions for my liking.  Sometimes panic or stress were to blame, but some of these miscues seemed necessary to advance the plot.  Of course, Peter was young and maybe I expected too much from him.  Additionally, I should note that even the best fiction is often reliant upon plot devices to a certain extent.  Regardless, Finders Keepers is a gripping read with a wealth of tension, some truly abhorrent moments, and several well-defined characters at its disposal.  It's not top-shelf Stephen King, but a good book from this titan trumps a great book from most authors.

Final Grade: B