Wednesday, May 31, 2017


The first of a series of classic Gothic reprints from Valancourt, this is certainly amusing, if sometimes a chore. Published in 1798, it's probably a good example of the Gothics of the period, which were consumed like popcorn.

Set in France in the Dark Ages, it involves....well, a lot. You've got peasants on the run. You have corrupt nobles. You have good nobles in exile. You have a femme fatale in the form of the wicked Brunchilda. You have a haunted castle with a mischievous skeleton cutting capers.

It's full of plot and counterplot, and to try to recount it would be pointless as it's all a mad jumble. That being said, it's a FUN mad jumble, so utterly berserk and over-the-top that it's hard to take all that seriously. In fact, there's a vein of black comedy running through much of the supernatural doings, which I understand was fairly rare for the genre.

But at the same time, there's a lot that's interesting. It's free of the Catholic-bashing that so many Gothics indulged in; in fact, the clergy are quite heroic in this story. There's also a lot that's probably fairly typical of the genre, with people showing up in disguise, people lamenting their fates, characters dying because the author probably doesn't know what to do with them and/or needs to motivate his other characters, and an ending where the wicked are punished and the good rewarded. It's a mad tumult, fitting a lot into a dense 108 pages.

So, if you're interested, check it out. It's available in paperback and as an ebook. The Animated Skeleton

Sunday, May 21, 2017


The fifth in Popular Library's 1970's reprinting of selected de Grandin stories, this is the usual assortment of tales featuring the dashing French phantom-fighter.

There's not much of a running theme here as there was in the last volume, but it's still fun pulp nonsense. Interestingly, two tales in this volume, "The Great God Pan" and "Mephistopheles and Company, Ltd.," are mundane mysteries with the trappings of the supernatural. "Pan" has de Grandin coming across a Greek revival cult with a criminal at its head, and "Mephistopheles" has him assisting a woman being victimized by fake psychics.

Of the supernatural tales, there's "The Devil-People," about a Malaysian woman being pursued by the Rakshasas of Indian folklore. It's an OK story but there's some mild racism and religious chauvinism that taint the enjoyment somewhat...but you have to accept that as part of the pulp canon, the nature of the beast.

"Restless Souls" is a vampire story, but better than Quinn's previous assays at the creature. In this one, a young, newly-made vampire is under the control of an older vampire, and must do their bidding, including luring a lonely man to his destruction. It's a good plot, if a bit overly romantic and dramatic (but hell, it's pulp) and holds together well.

"The Wolf of Saint Bonnot" is a bit of a problem. There's a seance at a weekend house-party, and of course something hideous is raised that victimizes one of the participants. However, it comes out of nowhere...there's no connection and no reason given for why the seance raised that particular spirit. It just does, randomly. I wasn't quite down with that...I do like a tidy logic to things like this, rather than someone being tormented by a spirit from another time and place simply at random. It's not good storytelling, if you ask me.

"The Hand of Glory" is probably the best of the lot, a tale of supernatural rivalry as an archaeologist is planning to raise an ancient goddess, but must also combat a rival who wants the relics for himself. It's enjoyable fluff, with some darkness as it becomes clear one of the main characters is more than happy to sacrifice a loved one to achieve his aims.

All in all, not bad, and I always enjoy de Grandin. And wouldn't you know it...just as I finished this, I found out that now all of Quinn's de Grandin stories, the entire canon, are to be reprinted, with the first volume out now. Dangit! More money to be spent!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May at the Phantom Cabaret!

Between two shops, one selling martial arts supplies, the other a sub shop, is a narrow passage with a tiny sign indicating some sort of establishment lies back that way. Only the most discerning know of it...well, really, quite a few know, but few actually make the trouble to go there. We're going there tonight, in hopes of some good drinks and good music.

It turns out to be a lovely and elegant place, and with surprisingly reasonable prices. The staff greet us warmly and give us a good table where we can see the stage. The drinks and good and there's some unique creations on the menu. And then....the entertainment!

The music is impressive and we have a great time. We actually have a chance to chat with the performers (who, luckily, have access to a back entrance so they don't have to negotiate that narrow passage...).

And who are those folks at that other table, looking at us? Should we start a conversation?