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Monday, July 20, 2015

So, Anyway... By John Cleese

If you are looking for a history of Monty Python this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a peek inside the lifelong journey of one of the great minds of comedy, British or otherwise, this book is required reading.

In So, Anyway John Cleese lets us in on a secret -- he is not an actor, he's a writer-performer, a very important distinction in his mind. In fact, as he points out in the final chapter, this was the secret to the astounding success of Monty Python's Flying Circus: Not one of the troupe was an "Actor." No inflated egos demanding screen time, no prima donnas screaming for top billing, just a group of writers dreaming up brilliant sketches and zany non sequiturs punctuated with off-the-wall animations. According to Cleese the gang would write their sketches first, revise them to perfection, then decide who should perform them.  The focus was on making the bit, from The Cheese Shop to the Fish Slapping Dance, as funny as possible, end of story.

As Cleese says throughout the book, comedy is hard work, requiring thought, effort and, yes, self doubt and second guessing. Is this sketch funny? Can it be funnier? Will people laugh? Will they laugh at the right time? So many things to worry about, so many things that can go wrong. Comedy is like launching a rocket -- ten thousand things can go wrong, only one can go right.

Thankfully John, Graham, Michael, Eric, Terry, and Terry were all willing to put in the time, to do the work, to sweat the blood necessary to bring their unique comedic twist to the world.

Thanks for choosing comedy over law, John. The world has enough lawyers but not nearly enough funny men.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Trigger Warning - Short Fictions and Disturbances

By Neil Gaiman

What can I possibly say about Neil Gaiman that you haven't heard a gazillion-and-a-half times before? That he is the great storyteller of our time? That his creativity and imagination seemingly know no bounds? That he has mastered such disparate aspects of literature from comic books to short stories to novels to poetry? It would not be too great a stretch to say Mr. Gaiman is one of the truly great writers of our day. Exaggeration? Hyperbole? I don't think so and I offer up Trigger Warning as the latest piece of evidence to back this claim.

A few of my favorites -

The Thing About Cassandra - a haunting tale of young love revisited

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains - a story of patience and long awaited revenge

The Sleeper and the Spindle - a new take on two very familiar fairy tales

The Case of Death and Honey - A Japanese bee keeper, Sherlock Holmes, and the fountain of youth

Nothing O'clock - Our favorite Time Lord and his trusty Scots companion Amy Pond take on a time-travelling nemesis bent on - what else? - world domination

Black Dog - Fresh from his adventures in Northern Scotland, Baldur "Shadow" Moon encounters the legendary ghost dog Black Shuck, the Gateway to Hell, and, of course, a ghost

Trigger Warning is sure to please fans of everything from fairy tales to dark fantasy. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Get Walking the Edge free until July 31st.

Available from Smashwords.

Use promo code SW100 at checkout.

A world exists between the known and the unknown, a dark space between what is real and unreal. There are times and places when the fine line that separates reality from unreality blurs beyond distinction.

Explore these boundaries in this collection of dark fantasies from author Curt Jeffreys.

Home by the Sea – Haunted by the loss of his own daughter, Kyle Jennings must face a nameless horror from the dawn of time to save a little girl with sea green eyes.

Eustace – When Eddie Wilkes' father died he left his son more than just a rambling old house.

Beggars Can't be Choosers – When you're the last man on earth the dating pool is limited.

Disconnected – It's bad enough to lose your only brother but it is more than Chris Jensen can handle when he discovers the truth behind Kevin's death.

A Simple Task – Reverend Peters thought he had seen the worst humanity had to offer in the trenches of war-torn France – he was wrong.

Exit Left – Power, position and wealth don't add up to a hill of beans when you find yourself trapped in the parking garage from Hell.

Signal to Noise – As Rebecca Lundrgren descends in to madness she finds it harder and harder to filter out the signal from the noise.

Dark Legacy – Gil wanted to give his wife a pleasant distraction, a few hours to escape her pain, but their day trip to the mountains goes terribly wrong as they each uncover their own dark legacy.

Gut Feeling – No one believed Greg's pain was real, not even his wife. If he was to find relief he would have to take things into his own hands.

Crawlspace – The excitement of buying and renovating their first home quickly turns to pure horror for Jeff Rodgers and his new bride once he enters the crawlspace.

Terms and Conditions – Even the Devil himself doesn't stand a chance against a woman in love.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Review of Insane City by Dave Barry

I admit it - the only thing I ever read by Dave Barry was an occasional humor column or two in the paper, mostly at the insistance of my wife. Based on that and that alone I had no idea what to expect from this book. Guess what? I liked it. Quite a bit, actually. The plot was a twisting convoluted mess that somehow stayed coherent enough to work. The characters were outrageouse yet believable and the setting, Miami, incredibly insane but again, believeable. I will definitely read Dave Barry again. A fun bit of fluff, highly recommended.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe

Robert Heilnlein must've been a curmudgeonly old fart from the day he was born. A grandmaster of SF and a founding father of the genre, Heinlein loved to hear himself pontificate on the state of the country and the ills of society. His views on voting ( voting is not a right but a privelege that should be earned ) are particularly worrisome. As Isaac Asimov said, any system where a voter must prove himself worthy is problematic - just who decides whether you are worthy enough to enter the booth? But all this is beside the point. Heinlein earned his place in the pantheon of great SF writers and this collection offers one more glimpse into the stories that raised him to that high estate. Definitely worth the read for those interested in the early years of science fiction.

Review: Isaac Asimov Presents The Greatest SF Stories Volume 2 -1940

Since childhood I've believed I was born too late. I missed out on all the major innovations like the invention of radio, first flight, the digital computer, the Golden Age of Science Fiction. This little book is a prime example of the latter. To have been present during the formative years of SF, to have known young Asimov, Fritz Lieber, Lester del Ray, etc., would have been incredible to say the least. I found this little book only a few days ago at my favorite used book store and inhaled it with great relish. I searched out and have ordered two more in the series - 1939 and 1941. I will continue searching until I complete the collection. Highly recommended for lovers of vintage SF, for the stories themselves as well as Asimovs' commentary on each.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review - JD Robb's Delusion in Death

Delusion in Death (In Death, #35)Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like to research what works and what doesn't in publishing so when I saw this on the B&N bargain table I grabbed it. I'd seen the name JD Robb but had no clue she was actually Nora Roberts. I don't think I would ever read Roberts even for research since she writes for a market I have no interest in. However her writing as Robb is interesting to me. She has created a believable near-future world and populated it with interesting characters coping with interesting problems. Not hard SF in any way, her stories are more character driven than tech and that's fine by me. That's the way I tend to write.

I knew when I started reading that I was jumping into the middle of a series but that didn't bother me; most authors will drop enough hints and tidbits of back story to let you catch up. I assumed the same for Robb but was disappointed - while she did refer to previous events she did so assuming everyone would know the story. I didn't so I was lost. Big problem.

I also found her attributions confusing at times. I read along assuming I knew who was talking only to discover several sentences later I was wrong. I had to go back then and re-read the dialog so it would make sense. Not something you want or need when immersed in a story.

The story itself was well told, the plot believable, the characters engaging. Perhaps someday I will go back and read the previous books and pick up what I missed.

If you like soft SF thrillers I recommend Delusion in Death.

View all my reviews