Saturday, December 31, 2011

Let's Read Comic Books!

ITEM! Folks, an interesting little book has come across my desk that I have been remiss in telling you about sooner. One need only a passing familiarity with mainstream superhero comics to be aware of the major clusterfuck that is continuity. Even given the different laws of physics, time, and space within the fictional universes of both Marvel and DC Comics, attempting to define and clarify just what is happening when is nearly impossible. Personally, I've just given myself over to it at this point--The red Hulk is in Vegas fighting Blackheart and Operation: Hell on the Earth, and he's also been captured by Norman Osborn's new blend of A.I.M. and H.A.M.M.E.R.? Sure, why not?

But another method, one I take my hat off to, has been enacted by the good folks over at the Collected Editions blog, your trade-wait headquarters. Probably the best thing to happen to the comics industry over the last decade or so has been the proven popularity of the collected edition, known as the trade paperback within the biz. Not only does this open up the market for people too lazy to hassle with the single issues (or in the case of my lifemate Cameron and his fellow Australians, people unable to pay the inordinate cover price those down under are forced to contend with when it comes to "floppies"), it allows even the most hardcore collectors an opportunity to experiment and sample books they may otherwise have let go by the wayside.

But in both cases, there is still the tricky business of keeping the trades straight. There may not be as many of them as there are single issues, but there are still a whole lot to keep tabs on. So what Collected Editions has done to assist you in these matters is put together this handy little e-tome, The Unofficial DC Comics Trade Paperback Timeline, Vol. 1. Modestly priced at a mere .99 cents, this book takes you from 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths, which has been the de facto starting point of DC continuity since its publication, up through the recent Flashpoint crossover, the final nail before the New 52 started up. As thorough an attempt at this sort of project I've certainly ever seen, the book also contains many editorial footnotes to nudge the reader through the tangled net of superhero continuity, while still allowing one the fun of discovering the history of this multi-faceted storyland. Personally, I've always been a Marvel guy, and though I've been told there are no plans as yet to produce a similar volume for that company's storied publishing past, we can keep our fingers crossed. But in the meantime, follow the link above over to Smashwords and shell out the less-than-a-buck for your own copy today.

ITEM! Speaking of DC and its New 52, the fallout from that grand experiment has mostly settled by now, and from this vantage point, I declare it to be mostly a success. This may have a lot to do with the fact that, as mentioned, I'm not nearly as into DC as I am into Marvel. So really, my own purchasing patterns of superhero books have not been largely thrown off. Basically, any high emotions this most sweeping change in editorial and publishing policy may have evoked in me have gone back to a general apathy for the Distinguished Competition. Except!

Jonah Hex was easily the best book DC had published in years and, for me, ever. The character has long been a favorite of mine, and usually the under-use of such characters doesn't give me a problem, especially when abortions like the 1980s title Hex are the result. Written by Jonah Hex mainstay Michael Fleisher and drawn (for a good chunk of the run, if not the run entire) by one of my long-standing faves, Mark Texeira, Hex actually sounds at least halfway interesting on paper: the Wild West's most fearsome bounty hunter is ripped from his own time and placed in a dystopian 21st century. I own the whole run, if for no other reason than a completist impulse and a hipster's sense of post-irony, but the book just sucks. Full-on horseshit Road Warrior rip-off, as was so popular in the '80s.

Even after DC let Joe Lansdale run wild with the character a bit in a few Vertigo mini-series, I was still very much in the market for a serious, straight-forward western starring this beloved scarface. And I finally received such a book beginning in 2005. Jonah Hex as written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti was like a spaghetti western in comic-book form, and it quickly became the only DC book that I highly anticipated every month. Convinced nothing this good could last, I had prepared myself for a solid 12- or maybe 24-issue run, only to get spoiled by an unprecedented 70 issues before the book got the ax, along with every other last year.

Still, I realize all good things must end and have definitely come to appreciate the rare ending to a superhero saga. Also, Palmiotti and Gray were to continue their work with the character in All-Star Western, which has proven to be an even bigger disappointment than I am to my parents. Taking Hex out of the west and putting him down into Victorian-era Gotham City, though it smacks of a pussified attempt to bring the book into a more Bat-friendly arena, was not a bad idea. But the book is simply boring, which is an unforgivable offense. All the little touches and flourishes found in Jonah Hex are gone, and I am forced to assume editorial interference has killed this golden goose. Besides my theory as to the setting, I also feel that the bigwigs over at DC felt the book needed to have any perceived rough edges sanded off so that it would fit better into the New 52, even on "The Edge" with the other non-superhero-y books (real edgy, fellas).
Whether I'm right or wrong, you still couldn't convince me this book isn't just a big snooze (not that you were trying to), even without the previous book's shadow looming over it.

TL;DR: Fuckin' bring back a real Jonah Hex book, man. Bad enough the Human Target was left out of this reboot entirely.

ITEM! Speaking of making mine Marvel, a couple books in particular have been knocking me out from the House of Ideas lately. Firstly, Journey into Mystery had been one of those books of which I honestly cannot say why I started picking it up, beyond just that collector/completist impulse. It started up for the third time in conjunction with Fear Itself, and these days when it comes to Marvel crossovers, I just give in and buy all the tie-ins, since I'm already regularly buying most of them anyways. But even though Dougie Braithwaite stopped drawing it, I kept right on buying it, and the current story, "The Terrorism Myth," has dispelled any passivity I had towards this book. Kieron Gillen made his first big splash as a comics writer with the Image book, Phonogram, with artist Jamie McKelvie (whom it seems Gillen has managed to get in over at Marvel lately, as well). I've heard nothing but good things about Phonogram, from such luminaries as Warren Ellis and, more importantly, my buddy Frank, but to be honest, it looked like it was about music and the scene and all that, and I am way too overexposed to that sorta thing, as tragically hip as I am (please kill me). But I'd dug Gillen's work on Thor (no small feat, following JMS) and Generation Hope enough to stick with this book. It's been well worth it, babies.
"The Terrorism Myth" features a couple of my favorite Marvel C-listers, the Son of Satan and Nightmare, and it really feels to me like the first arc that Gillen's really let his playful side out to romp around. The guy has, in my mind, superseded such masters of cute-yet-unobnoxious dialogue like Brian K. Vaughan. So yeah, you wanna pick this book up.

Wolverine and the X-Men was a no-brainer, since it featured Wolverine, for whom I am still an unabashed (well, maybe lightly abashed) fanboy, and is written by Jason Aaron, whose work I will never not read.
The nice surprise here is that, as consistently bowled over as I am by Aaron's more serious and gritty stuff like Scalped and PunisherMAX, Wolverine and the X-Men is another great example of a fun book that doesn't make me wanna kill myself. As an inveterate asshole, the notion of "fun" in comics garners at the very least an eyeroll from me--this is serious, stuff, man, not fuckin' kiddie books! I think that might largely come from the general corniness that comes from "fun" books like a lot of silver age stuff or fuckin' Archie and the old Star line, shit like that. But no, you give "fun" material to writers like Gillen and Aaron, and you can take those scare-quotes off fun. Wolverine and the X-Men more heartily rings of the best Claremont/Byrne era stuff since Ed Brubaker's run on Uncanny X-Men a few years ago. So really, it's no surprise that a writer as versatile as Aaron should be able to write books of massively different tone; I guess I'm just surprised I don't have my head so far up my ass as to not notice and appreciate that.

Relative newcomer Nick Bradshaw is the artist on Wolverine and the X-Men, and surprisingly (a real surprise, this time), the kid's growing on me. Bradshaw is obviously hugely, hugely influenced by the work of Art Adams, and hey, why not. Adams is without doubt one of the finest artists to come out of the '80s, but at first Bradshaw's work rubbed me the wrong way in this regard. It wasn't that his style so readily called Adams to mind--it was never for me an issue of homage vs. rip-off. It was mostly, I think, that it just wasn't very good. I dunno if Bradshaw's work has just gotten better in the very short time I've been reading it or if I've just developed a taste for it, but I still very clearly remember thinking he drew like Adams if every character Adams drew had the mumps. Ugh, I'm losing my thread: basically what I'm getting at is Nick Bradshaw is either a better artist that I thought he was even a couple weeks ago, or that I am not as astute a comics-art critic as I might want you to believe. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide or, what is more likely, to have stopped giving a shit paragraphs ago.

Oh, babies, I'd love to write more, but I fear we're both getting tired of this post, n'est-ce pas? So just a few quick endnotes here:

-Make mine Marvel.

-Also make mine Atomic Robo.

-I might have to drop glamourpuss. I still love Dave Sim, despite (because of?) how out of his mind he is, but this shit is just getting boring. Get to the fuckin' car crash already, Dave.

-Recently bought and read the final issue of Marvel's U.S. 1 from 1984. Comics are weird.

-Also, please dig the latest webcomic from my buddies over at R Squared, Yva Starling: Troubleshooter. You won't regret it.

-Did I say, "Make mine Marvel"? I did.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Everybody Just Calm Down

So it looks like plagiarism is still something of a hot-button topic, at least enough to get me to dedicate a blog post to something other than comic books or my own raging ego. I won't get into specifics because I'm assuming if you're reading these words, you're probably at least passingly familiar with the weeks-old controversy, or barring that, you know how to work the Google. Aside from that, my take is less about the act itself than it is people's reactions to it. Babies, your Uncle Jimmy loves you and he wants you to be happy. Part of that is just calming the hell down.

To begin with, plagiarism is a big deal. When one plagiarizes another's work, it is an attempt to earn monies from efforts that are not one's own. This is not cool, no matter how you slice it. The good news is that since it's such a big deal, the likelihood that one is going to get away with this specific act of getting something for nothing is almost nil, since people simply won't stand for it.

Plagiarism is an abstract offense. Like homophobia or racism, it stems from a selfish and insecure mindset that can hurt others and is ultimately self-destructive. Unlike homophobia or racism, though, it has never been socially acceptable in the western world, not to my knowledge. When one plagiarizes, one is guaranteed to be caught in the act and vilified, ousted from any formerly friendly community. This is good news, my loves. It means that there are still some things people just won't put up with, and we should take that to heart. This is not to say we should be lax in our attitude towards the act of plagiarism, but it does mean we should all breathe easier knowing it will never get far enough to do any real damage to the victims nor make any gain for the perpetrators. So, just chill, huh?

Like I said, plagiarism is abstract. It is not cut-and-dried theft, to which I've heard a lot of people compare it. It's related, yes, and if left unchecked, can be just as damaging to one's physical well-being as the theft of one's wallet or Social Security number. But as established, it doesn't go unchecked, at least not for long. A writer for whom I have deep respect and admiration said recently on his Facebook something to the effect that a writer stealing another writer's words was the same as if he came over and stole your car because his wasn't working. It's a tempting analogy: his point was that a writer's stock-in-trade is words, and to have some dickhead come along and take a writer's words and slap his dickhead name over them and set about collecting cash and glory for the work that the original writer put into those words is as good as taking food out of the writer's mouth. But it ain't. I mean, it's almost the same, but if I come steal your car, you no longer have that car, unless the cops can beat me to the border (and given my geographic location, that's only a 50/50 shot). If I "steal" your words, you actually still have them. And thanks to the Internet-age, it's a lot easier for concerned citizens to track me down and bring me to justice than it is for the fuzz to outrun me to Tijuana. It's not only easier, but folks out there are much more invested in this sort of thing, even more than the police are in chasing down car thieves.

Plagiarism is not stealing. Stealing is stealing. Let's not let our love for metaphor and figurative language cloud our rationale here.

Now, for those of you out there who think I'm some sorta wise-ass po-mo apologist, well, you're half-right. I'd never even heard of the concept of post-modernism until I was 25, and it opened some pretty marvelous doors for me. No longer do I have to struggle to justify my love of Looney Tunes or Batman to anybody, because now I have the tools at my disposal to make effective arguments for the textual relevance of seemingly shallow "pop" artifacts. This is good. However, I do not have near the grasp on these concepts to attempt to explain away plagiaristic acts as something other than a form of something-for-nothing. This doesn't mean it's impossible, however, and I would plead with you darlings out there to whom this might apply to not only relax as regards your rabid anger towards plagiarists, but also don't allow yourself to be closed off to other avenues of intellectual pursuit just because you think it might be some backhanded college-boy way of screwing the little guy outta what he's worth. Anti-intellectualism of this stripe still runs rampant in the good ol' U.S. of A., but seriously, I think all our dads have got a handle on it. Let them get incensed at people smarter than they are; it's one of the few things they're really good at.

But speaking of post-modernists: you guys are a buncha fuckin' dicks. Seriously. Despite what I just said above, I think the reason a lot of people are anti-intellectuals is because a lot of you intellectuals think you know everything and are not shy about it. I get it, y'know, antipathy breeds dissent and girls in high school were less attracted to you than they were your intellectual inferiors, but dude, we're a long way from homeroom now. When this latest plagiarism story was breaking, I read a lot of comments on a lot of articles that could be summed up as: "You people just don't get it." That might be so, but are you at all familiar with the flies and vinegar/sugar conundrum? If the po-mo-fos out there could manage to phrase their arguments so that they weren't so pretentious and antagonistic, they might find that they'd actually change some minds, which in the long run they'd likely find more satisfying than proving (once again) that they're pretty fart smellers. All's I'm sayin'.

And finally, I'd like to address my brethren and sistren in the writing field, especially those of you down here with me in the largely-unpublished trenches. To be blunt, nobody gives a shit about us. Still. This issue only affects us distantly, if even that. The most vocal contingent in this whole teacup tempest seems to be guys and gals at about my level of experience and expertise in the biz, who are incensed that somebody would steal a writer's work; meanwhile, we can barely give ours away. I read a lot of comments along the lines of "I've been busting my ass to get a writing gig, and this guy gets one by stealing it." Well, yeah, that sucks, but it only sucks as much as me busting my ass at a shit-job while some other jerk robs a bank. It sucks, but the good news is if the guy gets caught, he's really fucked. And as established, when it comes to plagiarism it's not a matter of if one gets caught, but when. The plagiarist in question here got busted and how. You and I and the other poor wordsmiths have got our entire careers ahead of us; this guy is gonna be shining our shoes, if he's lucky. Some have conjectured that Johnny-Come-Plagiarize stands to gain in other ways, that this newfound notoriety is actually just what he wanted. Yeah, that's irritating, but so what? It's just as bad as those Jersey Shore or other reality-TV types being famous for being douchebags. It's a fact of life, the way of things. Doesn't mean you have to like it (I sure don't), but you're gonna have an aneurysm over it? Take that energy and put it into your work and you'll be fine, I promise you.

Okay, I think that's everything. I gotta go illegally download some movies and then steal a car. I'll talk to you guys later.

James Dean Callaway
c. 2011
On pain of death

Friday, October 21, 2011

Criminal Fucking Complex

Oh, babies, it has been too long. Where has your Uncle Jimmy been this whole time? Well, the big top-secret project that I couldn't mention all summer finally jumped off like a successful bank-job. Yes, loves, Criminal Complex has arrived and is kicking you right in the teeth.

For those of you paying attention, since about a year ago I've been writing (ir)regularly for a little site known as Gestalt Mash, which itself is part of Back in May or June of this year, Jay Tomio, one of the main men over at Boomtron World Headquarters, asked me if I'd be at all interested in running a crime-intensive wing of Boomtron--all the latest and greatest news and features about crime fiction: movies, TV, books, comics, games, noir, hard-boiled, action, thrillers, chillers, and Phyllis Dillers.

Naturally, I said I'd be all up for something like that, since the whole working-for-a-living thing has not been going all that well for the past 16 years or so. So I rounded up my crew, the finest writers that I know: Cameron Ashley, Josh Converse, and Matthew Christian Funk. I say something like the finest writers I know, and it can sound like I'm blowing smoke, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even before the site went live last month, these three guys have worked their asses off so we could make this site the best it can be, and I wouldn't have thought I could be closer to them as friends and as colleagues.

And if there's any doubt, the proof is in the eating: check out Converse's piece on the clusterfuck that is the John Gotti bio-pic project. Dig Ashley's on-going series on the frantic panic of Japanese crime fiction. And Funk has written what has rightly proven to be our most popular article yet, "5 Terrifying Crime Films That Actually Happened."

And these are just our main corps. We also have featured such delights as Keith Rawson and his tremendous interview with Drive author James Sallis. The nation's most-incarcerated reprobate, Johnny 99, gives us the Lonely Planet of prisons with his Wrought-Iron Round-Up. And yes, your Uncle Jimmy aims to be the Pete Rose of this team, acting as player/manager as well as betting on his own team. My biggest editorial indulgence is my on-going recap of NYPD Blue, "NYPD Blog." And honies, allow me to remind you that this is a daily enterprise. Monday through Friday, me and the Double-C boys are working our fingers to the bone(r) to bring you all-new material. So check the site and check it often. And if you ain't already, why not follow us on Twitter @CriminalComplex, like us on Facebook, and encircle us on Google+? It's good for what ails you.

Well, Satan knows I've been a busy boy these days, and not just with the ol' Double Cranch. My fiction these days has been focused on longer, more substantial pieces than the flash-fictions I often crank out. So with luck, 2012 will see a lot more stuff from yours truly. But aside from the rash of anthologies I told y'all about last time, I've got another story in yet another antho for youse out there. America's sweetheart, Alec Cizak, has gathered together the motliest crew possible for the debut issue of Pulp Modern, including art by my dear friend Brian S. Roe and stories by some of personal favorites as Dr. Glenn Gray, Garnett Elliott, and Lawrence fuckin' Block. Yeah, I have a hard time believing it as well, but it's true: I am sharing page space with none other than living legend Lawrence Block, whose works include the Hitman series as well as the Matthew Scudder books, one of which, Eight Million Ways to Die, I count as one of my bigger personal influences, on writing and in life.

If that's not enough to entice you to buy Pulp Modern #1 (and who are you then, the fuckin' Queen of England?), perhaps I can help sweeten the pot. If you buy this issue, I will send you one (1) 80-minute mix CD, fat-packed with my near-flawless taste in music. All you gotta do is buy an issue, read it cover to cover (which will be no sweat), and then write up a little review over at Amazon. Then just send me the link to it and your mailing address to, and bada-beep, bada-boop, one CD for you. A few lucky fuckers have got CDs incoming, though I've yet to send them. But send them I shall. So get cracking, kiddies.

And if you thought I was neglecting this blog, it's been months since I've been able to get it together for one of the exploitation film bloggy-woggys. Fortunately for me and you, there are a few more-than-competent individuals stepping up to the plate. Why, just today in fact, the above-mentioned sweetpants Alec Cizak turned in this piece on the 1982 euro-slasher, Pieces. Sadly, Alec feels he has not been able to find the perfect slasher movie, and is thus retiring from slasher-crit as a reigning champion. Bad news for us, I know, but the good news is Mr. Cizak assures me that he is likely to write elsewhere for the Let's Exploit Everybody! quartet. Take, for example, Let's Fight Everybody!, which has been doing some very brisk business these days. Newcomer to these pages, Garrett Cook, delivers an excellent reading of the Vincent Price classic, the 1971 film The Abominable Dr. Phibes. From all the way down under, Crime Factory's own Andrew Nette brings us the even more hardcore Australian version of Hardcore, 2008's The Horseman. And New Jersey's own Thomas Pluck has not one, but two entries where revenge is the only argument makes any sense: Shane Meadows's 2004 flick Dead Man's Shoes and the 2007 Jodie Foster vehicle The Brave One. Woof, it's a big pallet of high-end and low-brow film criticism, the brand of which your Uncle Jimmy simply loves to bring you. Enjoy, my darlings, enjoy.

And with that, my loves, I bid you a fondue. I hope to have another entry up in here pretty quick, but even if I don't, I want you all to take care of yourselves and come back and hang out later. Yeah?


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

An Anthology of Anthologies

Hey there, kids. Pull up a seat, set a while.

No, not there. That's the broken chair.

So, your uncle Jimmy's been hard at work along with his co-conspirators on The Project That Cannot Yet Be Named. But August has been quite the month for me, fiction-wise. Though I haven't been able to write a whole lot of it these days, I sure as hell have had quite a chunk of it become available for public consumption lately.

But before we get into that, let's address some celluloid, shall we? Firstly, that workhorse, Alec Cizak, has got a brand-new entry over at Let's Fight Everybody! about 1982's Fighting Back. If you're even passingly familiar with the good Mr. Cizak's critical writings, you know he's not one to pull any punches, and this entry is no different, giving the Reagan years the kick in the balls they deserve, even after (especially after?) all this time. Meanwhile, over at the Crimespree blog, they've been running a li'l series on the guilty pleasures of various and sundry writers, and yours truly was recently asked to confess to his own. Like so many, I tend to feel one shouldn't feel guilty for anything that gives them pleasure (unless one takes pleasure in rape or cutting me off in traffic). In fact, I was hard-pressed to think of any of the stupid, goofy movies I do love as really guilt-inducing. And then it hit me: 10 Things I Hate about You. Yeah, there's no getting out of that one, is there?


A few months back, Chris Rhatigan and Nigel Bird wrote me to ask if I'd like to be involved with a little e-book they were putting together, an anthology based around the soundtrack to that ol' crime-film stand-by, Pulp Fiction. Naturally, my answer was a resounding affirmative, and the title assigned me was "Misirlou," which suited me right down to the ground, hardcore Dick Dale fan that I am. Rhatigan and Bird truly knocked themselves out, rounding up such big-name contributors as Gary Phillips, Hilary Davidson, and Allan Guthrie. And finally all that hard work paid off in the form of Pulp Ink. This little bastard of an antho is now available at the Amazon Kindle store (and if you're reading these words over Labor Day weekend 2011, it is right now a mere 99 cents)(!), and also at Smashwords for all your non-Kindle e-reader needs. This antho also includes stories by such close, personal friends of mine as Matty Funk, Jason Duke, and AJ "Billy Bob" Hayes. So get to downloading. You bring your pair of pliers and blowtorch, and we'll supply the rest.

At last year's Bouchercon in San Francisco, California, I had a hell of a time meeting and greeting so many writers whose work I enjoy. Meeting these folks in the flesh was a tremendous, booze-soaked blast, and had that been all that came of my experience, these friendships and bouts of partying, I'd have been pleased as punch. But something else came of this wild weekend as well. See, Greg Bardsley and Kieran Shea were already favorite writers of mine, and within minutes of meeting them, they'd become swell drinking buddies as well. But as we sat around the hotel bar with the above-mentioned Messrs. Funk and Duke, as well as my hive-mind roommate, Cameron Ashley, Greg and Kieran hipped us to this anthology they were putting together, an anthology wherein all the stories would be based around America's 46th vice-president. Naturally, we were all put into paroxysms of giggles, but then these two nuts asked us if we wanted in on this action. I daresay I needn't tell you what our collective answer was. It's been nearly a year since that fateful eve, but it has arrived: D*CKED: Dark Fiction Inspired by Dick Cheney is now available for your Kindle, your Nook, and even in glorious old tree-killin' print. Not only need I thank Greg, Kieran, and the luscious Jed Ayres for including me in this fine collection of patriotic fiction, but especially to Mr. Greg Bardsley, my heartfelt and sincere thanks in getting me to really punch the ending in. The original draft was suitable, but Greg felt I could do better, and goddamn if he wasn't right.

Hey, I'm glad you mentioned Greg: not long ago, that stalwart monolith of the publishing industry, Publishers Weekly, previewed an anthology that Mr. Bardsley is to be published in. This particular anthology is entitled Crime Factory: The First Shift, and the reviewer has some very kind words for some of the stories, like Dave White's and Dave Zeltserman's. But as for that Greg Bardsley's "Microprimus Volatitus," "revolting" is the watch word of the day.

Now lest you think I should agree with this assessment, allow me to assure you that I absolutely do, one hundred percent. In pure point of fact, after reading the above-mentioned story, I immediately wrote to Mr. Bardsley and informed him that he was (and I believe these were my exact words) "a sick fuck." I also then expressed my continuing envy of his body of work and how I greedily anticipated more.

Oh, did I mention that I too have a story in this self-same anthology? And did I also mention that I, in fact, am co-editor of this book, along with Cameron Ashley and Keith Rawson? I must be slipping, in which case allow me to mention here that Crime Factory: The First Shift is now available for pre-order in anticipation of its official release later this month of September 2011. So order now and prepare to revel in all of its revolting glory.

Now, I know and you know that Christmas is for suckers. But I also know as you must that to refuse to participate in the yearly Christmas shopping season will only contribute to our fair nation's continued economic decline. So as long as it falls upon your shoulders to keep the country--and by extension, the very world!--from further financial collapse, why not buy one or all of the books mentioned above? You'll keep America financially strong yet still add to its cultural downward spiral. Everybody wins!

See you next month, my children.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Life Ain't Nothing but a Big Ol' Con

Oh, babies, July has been non-stop, lemme tell ya. Probably the biggest, most time-consuming aspect of it was San Diego Comic-Con International 2011 (or Con, as I call it, having known it long enough to be on a first-name basis). You'll be able to read all about my adventures there this year forthcoming at Gestalt Mash, but suffice it to say, it was a doozy. Aside from all the great comics I bought and wonderful creators to whom I spoke, I managed to snap off a couple shitty camera phone pictures. Firstly, Adam West of TV's Danger Theatre was on hand at the Fox Broadcasting Network's booth to sign glossies from his hit film, Zombie Nightmare. I know it's hard to tell from these shots, but he's the one in the middle background, in the yellow sweater with the seemingly unironic sense of grandeur.

But even better, my loves, was getting to see in the flesh the greatest professional wrestler known to man and Winnipeg's favorite son, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. He seemed really friendly and approachable, but I was still too big of a puss to go up and shake hands with him. Ah, well.

What else is going on in Callaway-land? Well, we've had three exploitation bloggies go up this month, which is the first time that's happened in a while. Over at Let's Kill Everybody!, Eric "Beets" Beetner gives us the scoop on 1982's Basket Case. Brian S. Roe (the "S" is for "sexy") pours us three fingers of 1945's The Lost Weekend over at Let's Drink Everybody! And Kevin "Bunny" Dillon subjected himself to the soft-core tortures of 1979's Malibu High just for you at Let's Fuck Everybody!, so I think you owe it to him to go read the hilarious (for us, anyways) results.

My fiction output has been spotty at best lately, and it may stay that way for a little while, I'm afraid (as regards the secret thing I mentioned last month that I still can't talk about). But fret not, my small wonders, for I have a couple new bits for you to chew on all the same. First up is this little paean/piss-take to Brian K. Vaughan called "Why the Last Broad" over at The Flash Fiction Offensive, in whose fine pages I have not appeared for a little while. And then we've got one out of the vault called "Food Is Other People." You know I wouldn't lie to you kids, so I'll tell you straight up that I am pretty damn sick of zombie stories. But when A Twist of Noir's own Christopher Grant started up this new site, Eaten Alive, dedicated to that sub-genre and invited me to contribute, well, my ego and I just couldn't resist. Had I been required to write a new story, being as fed up as I am with the zombie glut, I may have had to refuse. But as it happened, I'd been sitting on this particular story since around about 2004, quite literally unable to give it away. And despite everything, I think it's not a bad little story. So I am as always eternally grateful to our Mr. Grant for giving this bad boy a home. Take a look for yourself and see if you agree.

And finally, I've got another little cinematic adventure for you. After the release of Black Heart magazine's NOIR issue (co-edited by me and still available for download here), Laura asked if maybe the boys and I wouldn't wanna knock together a little book trailer. Of course, we acquiesced, but time was of the essence. So I quickly wrote it at my day-job (don't tell my boss), Chuck knocked together a shot list, and we filmed it in my living room with our buddy and sometime-bowling team member, "Dangerous" Dave Swain, who can often be found touring with punk-rock legends The Queers. It came out pretty well, which only matches the reception of the issue itself, especially if Chris Rhatigan has anything to say about it. So dig the trailer, dig the issue, and then dig your way back here next month for another few shovels. Sweet dreams, jellybeans.

Monday, June 27, 2011

From My Black, Black Heart

Big doings this month, you beautiful fuckers.

First off, the long-awaited and oft-fellated noir issue of Black Heart magazine is now available right here. For a lousy three bucks, you get a couple dozen short-short stories and poems that are so suicide-inducing, you'll want to live forever. Published by the lovely Laura Roberts and guest-edited by the not-quite-as-lovely me, this issue features more than a double fistful of your personal favorites, such as Kieran Shea, Cameron Ashley, Keith Rawson, Matthew C. Funk, Nik Korpon, Jonathan Woods, Dan O'Shea, Josh Converse, and many, many more exclusive hits by the original artists. With a cover designed by those RSquared cats, Brian Roe and Ronda Pattison, you know you can't go wrong, especially at the cost of an average comic book. Now, get some!

Second off, the celluloid trashcan continues to overflow over at the Let's Exploit Everybody! quartet. While all four are not banging away on all cylinders at the same time like a well-oiled machine, we've at least got a couple pistons pumping. In one of those rare instances of timeliness at Let's Kill Everybody!, Alec Cizak serves up this piece on 1981's Graduation Day, just in time for dad or grad. And then your humble editor and narrator, James Dean Callaway, touches on a subject near and dear to his heart--nerd persecution--and finds that 1984's Revenge of the Nerds is less about revenge than it is about justice in this month's Let's Fight Everybody!

Third off, I had another book review go up over at the Pop Matters and found out my objectivity has kind of a double edge. See, I wrote a fairly favorable review of Shann Ray's debut collection of short stories, American Masculine, and I still stand behind it. The stories in the book are a serious, no-frills look at the state of masculinity in this country today, a subject I feel goes overlooked far too often. When my friend and yours Matt Funk read the review, he became convinced he would also find this collection to be satisfying and phoned me up to ask if he could borrow my copy. Thing of it is, even though I gave the book 8 out of 10 (which I fucking hate doing by the way, rating stuff like that. I give the act of rating stuff 1 star out 900,000), I still didn't bother holding on to my review copy, having that day sold it on Amazon for six bucks. So even though I highly recommend it, I can't be bothered to keep it. Yeah, I dunno what I'm on about either over here.

Fourth off, I've shown you loves out there a handful of short films now featuring myself and my bowling team, but--and how rude of me--I've never bothered to introduce them. So before I present to you our latest effort, "Pig's Ear," allow me to correct this oversight on my part. E. Charles Jensen, Jr. (or Chuck, as we call him [give him a screen credit and he thinks he's DeMille, this guy]) have known each other since high school, when we bonded over professional wrestling and shitty movies. For a while, Chuck pursued an education in film, but pragmatic as he is, he switched over to a business major when we went back to school (and to be fair, the film program at SDSU is pretty lame, it would seem). But Chuck continued to keep film as a hobby, and has got this really nice camera, editing software and stuff. It'd be a shame to waste all that, hence the shorts. Pretty boy Eric "The Roc" Rochester is another original member of the gang going back to our high school days. Since hurting his shoulder a while back, Rochester had to totally change up his bowling style from a straight ball to more of a curve, but it works for him most of the time. Since he's so easy on the eyes, Chuck and I often write him into leading parts (that or I'd just rather play guys that get killed each time). Chris Fields didn't go to high school with us, but he may as well have. When we all started going to punk shows every weekend, we often went to see local favorites Jon Cougar Concentration Camp, of which Chris was the leader. Over time, we got to know him and discovered our mutual love for The Twilight Zone and beer. Soon enough, our buddy Dave Swain was playing in Jon Cougar and Chris was inextricably linked to a bunch of goofs from Granite Hills High for the rest of his life. That'll learn him. Also featured in this new short are Amanda and Max Macke, two absolute dear hearts who are also in fact newlyweds. When Chuck came up with this little script, I figured (correctly, as it turned out) that our meager acting talents paled to our bowling skills, and what we'd need for this project are a couple who have actually done some legitimate acting. Also, this was the first time I'd gotten to hang out with either Max or Amanda in years, so that in itself was worth the effort of putting this thing together. Anyways, enough of my blah-diddy-blah. Ladies and gentlemen, the Fighting Unicorns bowling team presents to you: Pig's Ear

Fifth off, stay tuned to this station for a fairly big-deal announcement next month. I love you all dearly and sincerely hope that all your dreams come true, except for the ones where I get run over by a bus.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Here Comes the Summer

Hey there, dumplings. Don’t seem like there’s a whole lot to go over for May. Most of my work this month has been in progress, and as such, I don’t have a whole lotta links for you. But let’s see what I do have.

First things first, the Let’s Exploit Everybody! quartet keeps a-trundlin’ along, thanks to my threadbare motley crew of writers I’ve got making class-A contributions across the board (and of course, there are spots for the lot of you: get a hold of me at for all the deets). First up, Alec Cizak takes 1981’s The Burning to task, and the irony is not lost on me how well he deconstructs its supposed deconstruction of the sub-genre. Matthew C. Funk sent me this here next piece on the 1974 soft-core flick Emmanuelle a few months back when all this Charlie Sheen nonsense was burning up the charts. Being a regular ol’ stick-in-the-mud, I tend to shy away from anything smacking of a distinctly topical flavor, but I’ll be goddamned if the Funkster didn’t nail this particular topic right on the head. If anybody could, it’d be that guy.

Reviews are always fun, except when they’re not. Fortunately, the couple I had go up this past month were. Over to the Pop Matters, I read Betty White’s latest book, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t). When you get right down to it, the book is just kind of a fluff piece, and were I even more cynical, I would say it was clearly published really quickly in order to capitalize on that actress’s new-found resurgence in popularity. But as you can see from my review, I find Betty White to just be too damn nice for me to be that cynical. Plus I’ve enjoyed her work my whole life, so that buys her a whole ton of slack, as far as I’m concerned. Also, my good buddy Brian Roe has started running comics reviews over at the RSquared Studios blog, and he was sweet enough to ask me to pony one up. So read my review of Brian Clevinger and Juan Doe’s Marvel one-shot Iceman & Angel here, and then dig the other reviews and neat stuff featured at RSquared.

Holy cats, I almost completely forgot: new Crime Factory, kids! Issue #6 features such highlights and lowlifes as Jed Ayres, Libby Cudmore, Tony Black, as well as Eric Beetner, who gives us a story with my favorite title of the week, "My Asshole Brother." Punch the clock, you workin' stiffs.

Last but very far indeed from least: Chris Rhatigan recently opened up his own bloggyspace to short reviews of crime fiction on the web, and that old softy AJ Hayes recently contributed this little number about Luke Nineteen Twenty-Seven, the collaboration by Cameron Ashley and me that is available for your reading pleasure at Plots with Guns. As you might imagine, Cameron and I are flattered beyond description to be recognized by one of our esteemed colleagues in this way. I’ll tell you, kids, though I’m sure you don’t need me to: this writing gig can be a pretty rough one at times, and a lot of those times, it has to do with self-doubt. Y’know, it just feels like you’re talking to yourself after a while, and sometimes, it’s as though you’re shouting into the void. It can make your throat sore, I don’t mind telling you. So when work you’ve done manifests this sort of recognition, it’s a very welcome salve.

Jeez, I just don’t feel like I’ve given you kids enough to read. Luckily, the back files have got us all covered. Last year around this time, Laura Roberts of Black Heart magazine (for those of you keeping score at home, yes, this is the same lovely lady for whom I am guest-editing Black Heart’s upcoming noir issue) had planned on running a feature including some summer reading lists from writers whose tastes she trusted. I was summarily delighted that she asked me to contribute, but alas, the feature itself never saw the light of day. So, seeing as how it’s just about summertime again, I thought I’d share with you dearhearts of mine this little ol’ list I knocked together which, as per Laura’s request, consists of books that hold rebellion as a central trope in some way, shape or form. I leave you with this, my babies, and I’ll see you all back here in thirty or so...

Hey, kids, it’s your uncle Jimmy here. That sultana of the sultry, Ms. Laura Roberts, asked me to add my five cents to your summer reading list, focusing on a theme of literary rebellion. And as my track record clearly shows, I never refuse the request of a well-read woman. So get them library cards out and them bifocals on, we got some book learnin’ to do this summer.

1. Catch-22 by Joesph Heller—If you’re over the age of 25 and still haven’t read this, now is the time to correct that woeful misstep in your life. Largely based on Heller’s own World War II experiences, this novel does little to add to the romantic rose-colored visions of that ever-popular war that permeate our culture. Yossarian, the novel’s protagonist, is far from a typical hero; if anything, he’s a total coward. But the anti-establishment themes set down by this book were indispensable to the anti-war movement in America that soon followed the book’s original 1961 release. And speaking in strictly literary terms, this book defies normal expectations, creating a decidedly non-linear narrative that will leave you in the dust if you don’t pay attention. Trust me, you’ll look a lot smarter on the beach reading this rather than Jacqueline Susann or anything like that.

2. The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski—Speaking of non-linear narratives, do yourself a favor and check out this 2005 crime novel by one of the neo-masters of the neo-genre. A crime novel full of anti-hero types with nary a sympathetic character in sight hasn’t exactly been a fresh concept since George V. Higgins wrote The Friends of Eddie Coyle in 1972. But Swierczynski puts a new spin on the whole she-bang by writing in a Mustang-paced, quasi-vignette style, with plot twists that’ll break your neck if you’re not wearing protective gear while reading. Double up with Swierczynski’s non-fiction history of bank-robbing, This Here’s a Stick-up!, and you’ll never wanna have to work for a living again.

3. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain—Even thirty-five years later, despite everyone’s best efforts, punk rock is still the most rebellious form of the already rebellious rock and roll music the kids like so much these days. Of all the reading one can do on this subject, Please Kill Me is the only book I know of where the entire story is told straight from the horses’ mouths, with no framing questions or agenda aside from giving the straight dope (pun very much intended). Since McNeill was on the ground floor of the original New York scene of the late ‘70s, you won’t get a whole lot in here about the burgeoning west coast scene of the same time period. But you will get to read all about the misadventures of the Stooges, the New York Dolls, the Ramones, the Dictators, and many, many more of the biggest names in music that your grandparents hate.

4. The Devil and Sonny Liston by Nick Tosches—Muhammad Ali is still widely considered to be the greatest boxer who ever lived. But ask Beowulf: what’s a hero without a villain? Charles “Sonny” Liston was at one time officially the greatest boxer in the world, although few concerned wanted such a mean, mad giant of a man to be the representative of the sweet science. From his murky beginnings as the son of a sharecropper to his mysterious death in the early ‘70s, Liston’s true story is painstakingly crafted here by Tosches, one of my personal writing idols. Tosches clearly sympathizes with Sonny and his tragic life, but this does not prevent him from keeping an unflinching look at the man’s life and career, including charges of dive-taking and sexual assault. Sure, Ali may be a symbol for the civil rights movement, given his conversion to Islam and refusal to fight in Vietnam. But you want a rebel? Look no further than Sonny fuckin’ Liston.

5. The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey—It don’t get much more rebellious than this, children. Really wanna make your parents re-think sending you to public school? Then bring this slender black tome to Aunt Sally’s to read before Sunday dinner. Originally published in 1969 by little Howie LaVey, this book proves the hippie era wasn’t as totally boring and lame as most of its hold-overs are. The detailed rituals towards the end are kind of a snore, and a lot of LaVey’s philosophy is pretty much the warmed-over Nietzsche his detractors claim it is. But it’s got Satan! Read this, and then go read Paradise Lost again and try and tell me Satan ain’t the hero of that story.

All right, my loves, that’s all for me. While you’re all out playing in the sprinklers and counting your mosquito bites, I’ll be in my room, digging for more literary gems for your perusal. You’re quite welcome, indeed.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Very First Crush Was on April.

April Haines. Mrs. Levinson and Miss Kropko's 3rd grade class, Cyrus J. Morris Elementary School, 1985-86. I'll never forget her. Blonde hair, freckled cheeks. Or, wait, was it "Haynes"?


Hoo boy, April's been a big month, kiddies. For openers, I had a short story, an article and a niece all come out in the space of a day. Three's the magic number, as De La Soul tells us.

About a year and a half ago, my hetero life-mate Cameron Ashley wrote me and said we oughtta collaborate on a tribute story to Lee Marvin, our surrogate father. We went back and forth for a few months, each writing a few pages at a time, until we got this monster, "Luke Nineteen Twenty-Seven." It's a wild west ride through Smashley's and my hive-mind, and I'm proud and pleased as punch of the story and of my name right there, next to one of my best friends', on the site that really started it all for me. It's a bit on the long side, but I think you'll find it worthwhile. Also, dig the layout of the whole issue: that's me on the "cover" being strangled by Lee Child. Also, you'll find photos of some of my other buddies being assaulted by our crime-writing superiors, like Cameron getting the sexiest chokehold ever from Christa Faust.

About three years ago, I read a little book called I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski. In those pages, I was exposed to Dudeism, the religion dedicated to taking it easy. Since I'm a follower and not a leader, I joined up right away, taking my certificate of ordination in the Church of the Latter-Day Dude and hanging it in my work station. It was mostly a lark, y'know. Kicks. But after a rough few years, I found that some actual spiritual guidance might be just what I need. Sure, I still have the X-Men, and my allegiance to my dark lord Satan is as steadfast as ever. But after much thought, much soul-searching, much bowling and many White Russians, I realized that the path of Jeffrey Lebowski was the righteous path, the mellow path, the path that hates the fucking Eagles as much as I do. Over at Gestalt Mash is this essay, "Takin' 'er Easy for All Us Sinners," outlining the gospel of the Dude. Enjoy, my brother shamuses.

And oh yeah, new baby. My little sister, Tracy, finally got married last year to her long-time beau Adam (fun fact: Adam is the eldest son of basketball legend, Bill Walton), and they wasted no time in getting in the family way. The kid was supposed to get here last Friday, but she only just showed up today: Avery Rose Walton.
My list of candidates for nicknames for her are so far: Tex Avery, Fred A-very, Rose Nylund, and Smushface.

What else is going on in the world? Ah, yes: exploitation. Once I began accepting submissions for Let's Kill Everybody!, John Carpenter's 1978 film Halloween was high on the list of requested assignments. At first, I was selfish enough to wanna keep this honey for myself. But after it became clear I wasn't gonna get around to it anytime soon, I put it back on first-come, first-serve status, and good ol' Matthew C. Funk, everybody's favorite Orange County cupcake, snapped it right up. So after you read it here, despair not. I know some of the kids were a bit disappointed that Funkster beat 'em to the punch, so here's what your uncle Jimmy's gonna do: submissions for the LEE! quartet are still wide open, and if someone's done a film to which you feel you could add a new spin on, by all means, take that bessie to market. This is to say, if you wanna do Halloween, then make like Joe Don Baker and go ahead on.

But I digress. My other special guest stars this month include Eric Beetner, co-author of One Too Many Blows to the Head and its brand-new sequel, Borrowed Trouble. When Beets sent me this write-up of one of my faves, Steven Soderbergh's The Limey for Let's Fight Everybody!, my immediate internal response was, "Man, this is too short." But as I read it and re-read it, I realized Eric had absolutely nailed the essence of the film and its inherent study of revenge in a simple, precise manner--a manner I rarely exhibit, for certain. So then, naturally, my internal response was one of envy and cold fury. I'm kidding, of course--Eric's a sweetheart. Go buy his shit. Speaking of buying his shit, Pete Risley (whose Rabid Child I talked up last month and which should still be number one on your list of things-to-do-today-already) sent me this little number on Red Roses of Passion for Let's Fuck Everybody! Now I dunno if you noticed, but my grasp on the scope of sexploitation films is not all that firm (har). So it's not only a pleasure to further expose (har har) you to such great writers as Pete, but it's a distinct load off my editorial shoulders that such great writers as Pete are able to supply my site(s) with the insight I sorely lack. And now I place that load onto you (but, y'know. In a good way).

The book reviews over at the Pop Matters this month have taken on a nice(?) polarity. First up is this real stinkburger, AC/DC in the Studio. When my editor over at PM sends 'round the list of books available, my eyes always drool at the massive selection. Of course, I want them all, but I restrict myself to one book at a time. On a particular list a couple months back were more than a few real eye-droolers, but this AC/DC book caught my attention first, and so I figured it must be kismet (or the alphabetical order of the titles. Either way). To say I was sorely disappointed would be the understatement of this sentence. I like to think I kept the review itself objective, but between you and me and the fencepost, I really wanted to rip into this one, and not kindly and scholarly. It's there if you read between the lines, of course, especially if you read between my index and ring fingers.

Happily, my other book review at the PM was a sheer delight. Nathan Larson made a name for himself in the NYC punk scene of the early '80s (though I sheepishly admit here that his work of that time was unbeknownst to me until just lately), and then went on to a fine career scoring music for many feature films. No grass growing under this fella's feet, however, as he now has his first novel published, and I am a lucky sum'bitch that I got to read it even before it was released for mass consumption. Go read my review of The Dewey Decimal System, and if that doesn't entice you to read the book itself, well. You suck. It's about that simple.

Oh, sugars, that's all quite a bit, isn't it? Just a couple last little things before I'm off to beddy-byes: first, my most recent contribution to Rejected by Covered is actually my first attempt at drawing since high school, this little reinterpretation I did of Two-Fisted Tales #18 before I even knew Covered or any of its satellite sites existed (hell, they may not even have existed then). And then second, that perennial sweetface Chris Rhatigan had a couple nice words for me and certified lunatic, Matt McBride, over at his bloggy-house, Death by Killing.

And there is plenty more where all of that came from, you gang of beautifuls, you. Your time's about up to submit to my guest-edited issue of Black Heart, which means you'll have a faceful of noir soon enough, courtesy of myself, the lovely Laura Roberts, and the army of worthy writers we are to unleash on your unworthy selves. Plus I'm gonna be appearing in at least three (3)(!) anthologies this coming year, so more updates on those as they occur. And then of course, there's the series of stand-up comedian profiles I'm putting together for G-Mash as well as the next in my Punisher essays for that site, more book reviews, more flash-fiction, more writery words than you can shake a stick at.

But now, bed.

Well, some comics and then bed.

Good night, my angels. Sleep well.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lord Loves a Working Man

Hey there, my angel-faces. It sure seems like March was a less productive month for your uncle Jimmy, but it could just be that I cranked a shitload of stuff out during February, which is the shortest month of the year even (ooh, lookit me, I can read a calendar). Regardless, I've still got all the Callaway vittles from the last four or five or nine weeks here for you, in easy-to-swallow gel-cap form. Let's watch, won't we?

First off, if you have yet to submit to me, there is still time. On the off-chance you haven't heard, my good buddy Laura Roberts, she of Black Heart Magazine and also of general awesomeisms, is gonna start themes for that aforementioned e-rag, the first of which is "Noir." It is a most certain honor and privilege that she has asked me (me!) to be the guest-editor on this maiden voyage for her lovely site. Already we've had many grand submissions from all kindsa make-out-with-able writers and artists, but that doesn't mean the rest of you can slack off. You have until the end of this month--April the 30th, 2011 anno Domini--to get your submissions in via the Submishmash account Laura has set up here. Specifically, we're looking for flash fiction of up to 800 words (give or take), poetry (3 submissions per author, please), and any and all artwork that pertains to that ever-delightfully suicide-inducing theme of noir: booze, broads, bullets, and all their attendant peaks and valleys. Again, you've got about three weeks from the time of this posting, so get cracking.

Over on the Let's Exploit Everybody! front, things have slowed a bit. I dunno if you've noticed, but I've constantly got a shitload of projects going at once, inspiring one of my man-meat mates, Brian Roe, to once quip that I write like a plate-spinner on Ed Sullivan (to which I was heard to retort, "Only slightly less culturally relevant." Oh, aren't we droll)(No). Anyways, it's occurred to me that the effectiveness of this approach can often be outweighed by the mental toll it takes. More direct to the point, I am too pooped to pop with this movie bloggity project these days. However! This means not that you (as I've mentioned) may slack off in submissions (which you may--nay, must!--send to Why, just this month I received a handful of plum analyses from such scions of sub-text as Matt Funk and Pete Risley (whose recent debut novel Rabid Child should be in all your TBR stacks. Along with my other favorite debut novels of late, Benjamin Whitmer's Pike and Michael Harris's The Chieu Hoi Saloon, Rabid Child will challenge you in places you'd really rather not challenge yourself. These are novels that should be required reading in schools and also will never, ever be required reading in schools. Those without balls can go read something else [a challenge to your masculinity oughtta get you to do what I want, right?]). And although my own entries for March are yet to go live (though I am halfway through my write-up of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, coach, I swear), over at "Let's Fight Everybody!", you can--right this very minute!--read Laura Roberts's ('member her from before?) take on Fight Club (which is not technically a revenge movie, but Laura's write-up from that point-of-view is just too good to go ignored), as well as that delightful old softy Alec Cizak's take on Bad Lieutenant at "Let's Drink Everybody!" It does an everybody good.

Book reviews! Or as I like to call 'em: "I can't believe they just gimme these things for free and all I gotta do is write about 'em." Yes, Pop Matters continues to not get wise to my scam, and so I have another book review for you to peruse and delight(?) at. It's one I actually forgot to mention last month, and it's the official biography of Roald Dahl. Although it has been a few years since I've read or re-read anything of Dahl's, it would not be inaccurate to say the guy is one of my earliest influences, and he remains the yardstick by which I measure my or anyone else's short stories. It may have to do with my age at discovering the man's work, but I maintain the guy did more for the short-story form in the 20th century than anybody, except maybe Joe Lansdale. Anyways, the book is called Storyteller and it's written by Donald Sturrock, who was fairly close enough to Dahl when he was alive to get some nice insight into the man and how he works, but not too much so that it colors his objectivity at all. The book is really, really long, and kind of a slog at times, but overall, I found it to be pretty enjoyable. But you don't have to take my word for it (or no, wait, you do).

My latest couple of entries over at Rejected by Covered went up, which I believe means there's only one left in the hopper. And so that also means I need to finish up the one I've been working on so Covered can reject it and I can send it to those RbC boys. Anyways, this first one here came about fairly organically: I drank a pot of coffee and then a twelve-pack of Natural Light, all while The Big Lebowski played in the background not once, but twice. I think that all shows here. And my other entry here is yet another of my interpretations of the work of Evan Dorkin, 'cept it's drawn instead of written. And yes, I think I'll stick to the writing.

On the fiction front, Crime Factory released their special two-fisted edition entitled Kung Fu Factory, available here in either PDF or print-to-order formats. I am tickled a deep shade of pink to be featured in this special edition, not only because it'd been a while since I'd worked a swear word into a title, but--are you serious?--I get to share space with such names as Christa fuckin' Faust and Duane fuckin' Swierczynski, who are such names that I feel the need to rechristen them with swear words in the middle (now those are names). And those are just the headliners; we also have such dear hearts as Anthony Neil Smith, my matey Cameron Ashley, the kid Liam Jose, and a fuckload of others. Hi-yah.

And finally, I opted this year to get back to that ol' rock and roll a bit more than I have over the past few months. My dear, dear friend of many years, Hadi Fever, started up a little synth-punk combo called The Stalins of Sound last year, and I recently joined their ranks as drum machine operator/keyboardist. The fact that I don't know how to play keyboards has only been a minor obstacle, and we debuted this most current line-up this past Saturday at San Diego's own Tower Bar. It went really well, if this vicious cramp in my neck is any indication. You can direct yourself over to the MySpace here--even though it hasn't been updated in forever (and probably won't be), you can hear a couple of the tracks Fever banged out by himself before he got me and Dave to back him (it's really Fever's show; I'm just glad to follow him in this regard), and then you can go over to the Faceybook page and like the shit outta us.

All right, I think that's it, my loves. Flowers and orgasms to all of you.

Don't ever trust Whitey.

See a doctor and get rid of it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

All Creatures Great and Irregular

Hey there, honey-pies, how have you been? A lot's been going on since we spoke last, so let's get right to it.

Y'know, as I began my foray into this wacky world of writerliness, I certainly did not bargain on meeting and befriending as fine a group of people as I have, and most definitely was not prepared for the huge talents these folks would have. Take Daniel Ames, for instance. I first "met" this handsome fella when he participated in Dan O'Shea's Let Us Prey flash-fiction challenge last year, and I was quite blown away by his entry (although I sadly can't find the link to it now--hey, Ames, what up with that?). And now I find that not only does the guy crank out hardcore hardboiled, but he's a poet as well. Now, to my chagrin, I admit that what I don't know about poetry, you can just about squeeze into the Hollywood Bowl. But I got here in my hot little hands an ARC of Dan's forthcoming poetry collection, Feasting at the Table of the Damned, and lemme tell you kids, it is really something else. Dan's poems effortlessly slide back and forth from beautiful imagery to bitter humor back to beuatiful imagery. It's really something to behold, and I don't mind telling you, more than a couple of these poems choked me up more than a little bit. Then he would turn around and make an Animal House reference. So when this book is released this April, do your eyes a favor and pick one up.

On the electronic front, Chuck Wendig, whom I had the pleasure to meet and hang out with all too briefly in San Francisco this past fall, has put together a collection of his own short fiction called Irregular Creatures. Again to my chagrin, I don't read that many e-books, although publishing on the web is my own bread and butter. I suppose after spending hours at a time working on my own stuff and dicking around on Facebook, I get a real bad headache trying to get any further reading done on this here monitor. But Wendig proves that this format truly is the future of publishing, not only by making Irregular Creatures a steal at 3 lousy dollars (sorry, publishing industry, but you've been lining your own pockets for too long. Say hi to broadcast radio for me), but also by delivering short stories of the highest quality. Wendig's stories tend to hover in the arena of magic realism, and as such they do Gabriel García Márquez proud. The lead story, "Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story)," really hit close to home for me, seeing as how it's all about the artist's responsibility to his/her muse, a subject which I've given a lot of thought and energy lately. But all of the subsequent stories follow this lead excellently. Wendig has got a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, and his plots are astonishingly original. Get this now.

Speaking of get this now, Anthony Neil Smith--the man, the myth, the main catalyst to my own publishing career--has been a busy boy himself lately with two new e-books available. One, co-written with X-Men scribe Victor Gischler called To the Devil, My Regards, which you should buy just for the title alone, and a shorter solo effort entitled Choke on Your Lies. In conjunction with the above-praised Mr. Wendig, Mr. Smith lovingly shot a video depicting the average day in the life of a scumbag writer. Ladies and germs, Anthony Neil Smith:

"Jimmy," you say, "Clearly, you have very talented and sexually attractive friends. No one is disputing that. But what about you, what have you been doing with your own very talented and sexually attractive self?"

Well, first of all, you're too kind. Second of all, what I've been doing with myself couldn't be less interesting. But what I've been doing with my writing could be.

Firstly, allow me to direct you to one of my rare forays into the graphic arts. I don't draw that often for much the same reason I don't get laid that often--I usually get frustrated about halfway through and give up. But Robert Goodin started up this site, Covered, which I simply could not resist. Sadly, it could resist me. Unsadly, Josh Blair and J.B. Sapienza began the aptly-named Rejected by Covered and were kind enough to host one of the handful of my own rejects here, with the promise (threat?) of more to come.

Speaking of comical books, over at Gestalt Mash is an essay of mine on writer Garth Ennis's work on Marvel's The Punisher, entitled, "Run, Micro, Run." Ennis is hands-down my favorite comics writer, and The Punisher is, in Ennis's own words, the character he was born to write. As a late-'80s/early-'90s kid, I've always loved the Punisher, but it wasn't until Ennis took over the book in the late '90s that I saw just how much potential the character had and how little that potential had been met before, even by greats like Mike Baron and Chuck Dixon (not that their runs weren't phenomenal). In this essay, I talk about The Punisher's former sidekick, Micro, and just how Ennis deconstructs that whole notion of sidekick-as-conscience. This will definitely not be the last of this sort of essay from me.

As always, the Let's Exploit Everybody! quartet of movie criticism bloggies I run have been churning out the smart-ass pop intellectualism the kids all rave about these days. Brian Roe salutes the recently-late Charles B. Pierce over at Let's Kill Everybody! Chad Eagleton brings the sexiest quest for vengeance in the Old West to Let's Fight Everybody! At Let's Fuck Everybody!, we go through the pervy looking-glass with Alec Cizak. And we go south of the border with Josh Converse at Let's Drink Everybody! And not to be outdone, I have my own entries for the past two months here, here, here, and here. And as always, I still need submissions, so fuckin' get on that already, jeez (Hayes, Long, Elliott: I'm looking in y'all's direction...):

Last month, I mentioned that that Scottish flower, Donna Moore, had issued a flash-fiction challenge based on the musical stylings of the Ramones. My own entry was entitled, "The KKK Took My Baby Away," and not long after banging it out, I got together with my bowling team and we made a short film of it, which was a lot of fun to do and not just because I got to play a Bruce McCulloch-esque flirty secretary. So without further ado, Attention, Children is proud(-ish) to present for your viewing pleasure, The KKK Took My Baby Away:

Despite what the above may imply, I have a deep and abiding love for comedy and vastly enjoy its study--how it works, how it's done, how it gets girls to make out with me. Over at Pop Matters, one of their blogs is named Mixed Media, and it's a nice little outlet for quick but fun analyses of various forms of media (video, audio, not so much olfactronic). A few months back, I began a little series I like to call the Comedy Vs. blogs, beginning with this one about the Kids in the Hall. Then, over this past month, I've had three more go up about Mystery Science Theater 3000, Monty Python, and Mr. Show. It's a fun way to wring all the fun out of fun.

And speaking of comedy jokes, another article of mine that went up on Gestalt Mash this month is something of which I am quite proud. Jordan Brady, former stand-up comedian and perennial fave of mine, recently made a documentary about stand-up called I Am Comic. Now, I have sought out and devoured every sort of media I can concerning this heavenly enterprise, and I think I may have finally found a real milestone in this film, as a fan, as a critic, and as somebody who enjoys a good laugh more than even a bean-and-cheese burrito or the doggy-style position. But most importantly, I Am Comic reinforces the theme I seem to be hovering around most in my writing these days, fiction or non: there is no greater enterprise than to create art. Please read my piece on this here, and please enjoy the trailer for the film below:

All righty, home stretch now, gang. On the fiction front, I, as usual, have a million things going at once. But since these are all works-in-progress and/or stuff I'm not quite at liberty to discuss yet, you're just going to have to take my word for it. One thing I can most definitely talk about is Crime Factory. Since my buddies, Keith Rawson, Liam Jose and Cameron Ashley re-booted this rag last year, it has consistently been a solid collection of fiction and fact revolving around the joyous world of crime lit (and I'm not just talking about the stuff I wrote). I recently had occasion to read the CF anthology that will be coming your way, and boy, are you in for a treat. Kids, I read a whole lotta anthologies, and trust me when I say, this is going to be the best bang for your buck. Not a dud in the bunch, and I mean it when I say that. Stay tuned for updates as they occur.

On top of that, yours truly has recently been asked to officially join the editorial staff of stated e-mag, and suffice it to say, I am near to bursting with pride to inscribe my name on that particular door. As I was saying before, I never dreamed I would find myself so utterly surrounded by so many lovely and talented people, hanging out with them, reading and re-reading them, and now working with them as well. It does a body good, I'll tell you.

And with that, I leave you now with this: Patti Abbott, that mère fatale, recently threw down another flash-fiction gauntlet, the Scarry Night challenge. I now invite you, dear reader, to enjoy my own entry, a little story I like to call "Nueva Localización."

Kisses for all your faces.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The New Trend

Hey, baby-dolls, your uncle Jimmy here. So I've been giving it a think, and I realized that the reason I ground this bloggity to a halt last month wasn't just that I've got quite a few other projects going at once over here, but it was also that I've just kinda run out of things to talk about concerning comical books. See, back in 2007, 2008, when I first turned my jaundiced eye to comics criticism, I did so with a fairly specific purpose in mind. I wanted to simultaneously bolster the more serious, more academic side of comics criticism--especially as regards superheroes--while keeping a distinct tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about the whole affair, y'know, keep it readable. And if I may pat myself on the back, I think I pretty well hit that target. But after a little less than a couple of years now, plus the comics writing I've been doing for other sites, I'm just plumb outta stuff to say. I'm sure that'll change after a while, but for now, that vein is fairly played out.

But I still have found it handy to keep this blog as a home for myself, a showcase of all my other writing out there. So what I think I'll do here during the duration is once a month keep all you cats and kittens out there up to speed on where you can read your fill of Callaway good(?)ness. For the three of you who aren't on my Faceybook, this'll be a good way to keep track of the various articles and short stories I crank out like a bad counterfeiter.

So first and foremost, we have the four bloggies I run that are collectively referred to as the Let's Exploit Everybody! quartet. First at Let's Kill Everybody!, we have my favorite guy, Cameron Ashley, and his excellent take on 1978's The Toolbox Murders, with one of my other favorite Camerons, Cameron Mitchell. Then yours truly attempts to dig the revenge angle out of the 1975 kung-fu scorcher, Master of the Flying Guillotine, but has to settle for just the kick-ass action scenes (which is just fine, as it turns out), in December's Let's Fight Everybody! entry. Over at Let's Fuck Everybody!, Laura Roberts goes boldly where no man has gone before (wink wink, nudge nudge) with 1968's Barbarella. And finally, I again marvel at the power of comedy with the 3-B classic 1983 film, Strange Brew. So like, okay, go check 'em out, eh?

And yes, submissions for all four blogs are now more wide open than your mom on a Tuesday night, so please for the love of God, send some stuff in. I have a few in the hole from our regulars like Brian Roe and Laura Roberts, and some exciting stuff from the newest kid on the exploitation block, Alec Cizak. But seriously, I need subs for these bad boys. This means you!

Over at Pop Matters, where I've been writing for the past year or so (mostly about comics), things have slowed a bit. But I'm still regularly contributing book reviews. My latest was on a book entitled Toilet, which is a quite interesting social study of the public restroom and all of its attendant politics (that is politics attendant to public restrooms, not the heated elections for head men's room attendant at 4th & B). Check it out, even if only to reminisce with me about that one Mr. Show sketch.

Over at Gestalt Mash, I recently wrote about a subject that's been on my mind much over this past year, and that is artistic responsibility. Or should I say, the perceived irresponsibility of artists. I feel strongly that artists should only be responsible to their muse, whatever form she may take. Bill collectors and ex-girlfriends whistle a different tune. But if you watch The Goonies, you can see clearly why they should, each and every one of them, go fuck themselves if they don't like it. I ain't riding up Troy's Bucket.

The end of every year means the beginning of a buncha no-names contributing their lists of the top ten (or so) consumables of the year. So why should I be any different? Over at Day Labor, the blog for the web-zine Crimefactory, I pony up my top ten books that I read this year (obviously, not even close to the actual number of good books I read this year). And over at Chris Rhatigan's Death by Killing, I offer five of the finest stories I read within this little on-line community of scumbag crime writers (a number even less close to the actual number of searingly good crime stories posted this past year). So by all means, check these out and read and support these highly talented (if somewhat pained and borderline psychotic) writerly types.

Also, over the past year Nigel Bird has been running a series of interviews called "Dancing with Myself," wherein authors ask themselves a few questions. My aforementioned fave Cameron Ashley and I were flattered to have Nigel invite us, but we also both felt that we were each close enough to schizophrenia that engaging in this activity might finally push us over the edge. But since Cameron was gonna be state-side this past fall, we instead interviewed each other as I guided my 1993 Ford Probe down the 101 from San Francisco back to sunny(-ish) San Diego. Nigel then ran the really, really long result in three parts under the not-overly-romantic title "Dancing Cheek to Cheek." You can read the first part here, and then figure the rest out for yourself (I can't read it, though, I fuckin' miss that guy too much)(how gay).

Why were we driving back from San Francisco? Well, aside from the obvious gay jokes you can make here (go ahead, I'll wait), Smashley and I were in attendance this past October for BoucherCon, that yearly conglomeration of mystery/crime writers and readers and the booze that loves them. Of the many, many grand things to come out of that trip, one of them arrived in my P.O. box yesterday. Yeah, your old uncle Jimmy finally got something printed on paper and ink that was not a public retraction. The most recent issue of Crimespree (#39, for those of you keeping score at home) features an article aptly titled "Jimmy's First BoucherCon!" So get on over to the ol' Crimespree website and see about wrangling yourself up a copy or six.

Jesus, does it ever end? The answer is yes. My short fiction output seems to have taken a minor downturn, but believe you me, I got a lot in the hopper. Lately, most of my fiction has popped up over at Title Fights, with such titles as "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," "Use Your Mighty Wisdom," and "The Large Majority of Normal Women." I also took part in Donna Moore's Ramones flash challenge with my effort, "The KKK Took My Baby Away" (which is also currently being made into a short film by my bowling team and I). And over at A Twist of Noir, the 600-to-700 challenge marches on, despite poor Christopher really getting the short end of the stick in his personal life lately. My work will be bookending these one hundred stories, starting here with "Six Hundred," and ending in a couple months (I would guess) with "Seven Hundred," which I sent off to our esteemed Mr. Grant just a few weeks ago. In the meantime, you can catch up with all the other stories, including those by such heavyweights as Chris Benton, Eric Beetner, and my favorite New Year's date thus far, Matthew C. Funk.

As always, the above links as well as links to just about every other single goddamn thing I've written in the past couple years are just to your right (no, your other right).

All right, enough of my yakkin'. Let's boogie.