Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cinema Sewer volume III - my own personalized copy has arrived!

Got my personally dedicated copy of Cinema Sewer Volume III in the mail this week!

I used to be sort of scared of Cinema Sewer.  Robin Bougie does not hesitate to go into some of the nastiest corners of the grade B movie world.  On the contrary, he jumps in with both feet.  Some of the movies he talks about are way too harsh or gross for even my depraved tastes.  But I finally broke down when I found Volumes I and II at some great discount while waiting in line at Fantasia.  Once I started reading them, I realized what I had been missing:  tons of awesome information on all kinds of crazy movies delivered with a rocking attitude and beautifully laid out and designed.  Since I devoured the first two volumes, I've been following Robin's awesome (and definitely NSFW) blog and waiting impatiently for volume III.

Robin also has a tradition of doing a dedicated drawing to each person who buys the book directly from him.  His pictures are bonkers, possible quite offensive even.  You can see them over at his blog.  I was quite excited to get my own dedication drawing.  The drawing itself showed up on his blog this summer, but it wasn't until last week that I got the actual book. Wow is it ever gorgeous.  And just so stuffed with info.  Bougie hand-letters each page himself and there is a ton of text.  When I first looked at it, I was sort of intimidated by the amount of text, but once I got into it I am having a hell of a time putting it down.  This is the kind of book you want to just sort of jump around from article to article, but it's so engrossing that I am almost tempted to just start at the beginning and read it straight through (it does have a great opening essay on the origins of obscenity).

I have mixed feelings about the dedication drawing I got. On the one hand, I really appreciate the effort that was put into it and in real life, the quality of the art is really impressive.  It's just that I think I may have gotten the tamest image of them all!  It's an elegant little piece, but it feels almost absent when you see the insane robots and aliens and amputees in dripping, stretching sexual acts that everybody else got!  It is entirely possible, though, that I may have asked for him to not go too gross on mine when I ordered my book.  Nevertheless, I treasure my dedicated drawing and am just loving the book itself.  I already read a great piece on "southern discomfort" movies by contributor Don Guarisco (who has his own SchlockMania blog here) that led me to Race with the Devil which we watched last night as part of a Halloween double feature.

Thanks Bougieman!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

55. Eighty Million Eyes by Ed McBain

I literally found this book in a pile of garbage in an alley here when walking the neighbour's dog.  It wasn't total "garbage" but a bunch of stuff left over from someone who had moved out.  This happens often here in Montreal, people move out and then just dump all the shit they didn't want to take with them into the alley or the street in front of their apartment.  It can be a disgusting mess but you can also find some cool stuff (I've found several beautiful old tools in the past).  In this case, there were several garbage bags filled with old paperbacks!  I really thought I'd hit the motherlode.  When I started to go through it (and I was not the first, so maybe somebody got to the good stuff), I realized that whoever owned these books had the worst taste.  It was almost entirely terrible 80s schlock.  Thick wannabee bestsellers with embossed and fold-out covers.  Crap like Lawrence Sanders and a bunch of those epic romances.  I did find this one McBain book and even though the cover is super 80s, I felt I needed to find something.  McBain, in my experience, pretty much always delivers.  He's not awesome, but he is solid and you get a great look at police procedure in the city.

Eighty Million Eyes is two simultaneous and unconnected investigations.  One is about a really scary psycho guy who is stalking a woman.  The other is about a successful comedian and talk-show host who dies mid-show of poison.  Both were compelling and the one about the stalker was actually quite brutal and scary.  It had one part that I would almost say fell into the exploitative, but just by a smidgen.  It definitely freaked me out as I was in the middle of biting into a mayonaissey burger at the time of reading and it was all about a woman who after being brutally beaten discovers an even more horrible thing on her stomach.  Yuck!

This book also had cool artifacts, like an actual sketch drawing of the suspect, a classified ad (faked by the cops to draw the suspect out) and a complain report.  I guess that gave it more of a realistic, procedural feel.  I wonder if McBain did that stuff himself or if he had people lay it out for him.

Monday, October 24, 2011

54. The Freebooters by Robert Wernick

I picked this one up warily, early on in my Maritimes trip.  I hadn't yet really made any great finds, so was a bit less choosy.  I loved the cover and it was in beautiful condition, but it looked more like one of those literary-type war books rather than one with lots of ass-kicking.  Well it turned out that my hunch was correct, but it was nevertheless kind of an enjoyable read.

It takes place near the end of the war, immediately after the allies have liberated Paris.  The narrator is one of those too intelligent, too cynical soldiers who spends most of his time drinking wine and reflecting on humanity and doing it in that weird pseudo-beat, pseudo-hemingway writing style which seems affected and mildly annoying in the gleaming of the noonday light against the metal ashtray while a prostitute screams from above.  Fortunately, this style was applied relatively lightly so it never became cloying.  The book details his adventures with a special unit.  Unfortunately, these adventures never involve actual combat, but because he and his two partners are fairly crazy, they keep getting into all kinds of romantic or criminal trouble.  The book flows from one weird post-war situation to the next.  Seeing the locations and the characters was quite enjoyable and somehow it all flowed together, even ultimately I couldn't really get the point of the book or care about anybody.

So a nice-looking cover and an okay read, but not one I would strongly recommend except for readers particularly interested in philosophical post-WWII books.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

53. The Break in the Line by Berkely Mather

My reading consumption has slowed down to a trickle, thanks to a major renovation project I am overseeing at work.  This will kill what was going to be a record-breaking year, but I still have a book going at all times.  This is an important lesson.  Even if you get swamped and barely have any time to read, don't stop reading altogether.  You'll be surprised how many books you get through without even really realizing it during very busy periods.  The trick is to pick books that you can pick up and put down without forgetting too much of what is going on or which character is which.

The Break in the Line attracted me because it is one of the Fontanas with the same look to the Desmond Bagley's I first saw as a kid.  I particularly like the use of the green in the cover title.  Berkely Mather had a whole series and I guess was a well-enough respected military espionage writer that his name got to be much bigger than the title.  

The story takes place in cold war southeast Asia.  The protagonist, cynical and self-effacing, screws up what was supposed to be a pick-up mission upriver into Burma.  He sort of hopes he'll get fired and can get out of the game altogether.  Instead, his superiors corner him into taking a more risky job (both personally and professionally) of following a double agent from Calcutta far to the north, across the Himalayas (dangerous) and into China (super dangerous) in the hope of finding "the break", the point where the Chinese were meeting with their agents.

It was a gripping story, especially when they get into the mountains.  Both the espionage stuff and the outdoor adventures stuff was good.  The former had lots of tense stops at small mountain villages where they had to try and not stand out too much (or be hidden entirely by allies).  There is a cool part in Tibet where the monks are basically fascist thugs, no friends to the Chinese (though possibly with informers among them), but very scary to anyone else.  My only complaint was that the protagonist had that tendency to be a dick to everybody as well as constantly down on himself.  You see this in these British books of the 60s and 70s and I've never quite understood the appeal.  It makes them not likable at all, which I guess was part of the point.  Ultimately, the portrayal of the political reality of his situation makes it quite believable that he would be a stressed-out dick, so at least it wasn't forced. 

Another funny thing happened when I was reading this.  There is a map at the beginning (which I always appreciate), but it's weirdly oriented and badly labelled.  It's a section of southeast Asia, centered around the northeast corner of the Bay of Bengal.  What was driving me nuts was that it showed Pakistan to be south of Bhutan and east of India!  I couldn't believe that they could have made a mistake so I finally started looking into it and it turned out that there used to be two Pakistan.  Rather, Pakistan was divided into two after Indian independence, I guess because there were Muslim communities on either side of India.  Eastern Pakistan felt neglected by their more powerful western counterpart and eventually there was a war of independence and eastern Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971.  The Break in the Line was published in 1970.  Kind of cool that it caught that little geo-political window in history where Bangladesh was part of Pakistan.