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Jun 30 13

Dig that retro cover. It’s just one of many things I like about Stephen King’s latest novel, “Joyland.” (If I’m not mistaken, this book is only available in paperback and audio.) I’ve long been a fan of King’s dark fiction, but I must admit that I haven’t enjoyed much of his work over the last ten years. I’ve never held it against him, though, and I always give him the benefit of a doubt. To be a prolific writer for so many decades, how could he not begin to have creative burn-out? To me, many of his mammoth novels seemed bloated for no good reason. I still haven’t finished “Duma Key.”

Published by Hard Case Crime, “Joyland” is less than 300 pages long and is, perhaps, an homage to the old-fashioned pulp novels of yesteryear. Set in 1973, it’s a pleasing mix of genres: part murder mystery, part ghost story, and most definitely a coming-of-age tale.

Our narrator is jilted college student Devin Jones, who decides to leave New England for the summer and take a job on the coast of North Carolina at an amusement park called Joyland. He’s hoping the distance away from home will help heal his broken heart. He fits in with the carny crowd much better than expected, and soon learns about the ghost that haunts the Horror House. Four years before, a young woman named Linda Gray was viciously murdered on the ride, her body dumped next to the tracks. Sometimes people see her standing there, bleeding, dressed in the clothes she died in.

I walked down the double-S, thinking it would not be beyond Eddie to hear me and shut off the overhead work-lights as a joke. To leave me in here to feel my way past the murder site with only the sound of the wind and that one slapping board to keep me company. And suppose…just suppose…a young girl’s hand reached out in that darkness and took mine…?

Devin finds plenty of trouble when he starts digging and realizes a series of similar murders had occurred elsewhere before Linda Gray was killed. Playing detective can be hazardous to one’s health. (Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances – it only makes you root for them harder.)

Reading this book gave me a warm, fuzzy, familiar feeling – like how it felt when I first began reading King’s early stuff (including certain short story collections). I enjoyed the superb characterization, interesting, believable dialogue, the suspenseful atmosphere – even the humorous, sad, and sentimental moments. And, in case you don’t know me very well, I absolutely cannot resist a ghost story. Ever.

However, I will confess that I guessed the killer’s identity less than half-way through the book. But seeing how it all played out was fun.

The characters are all colorful, and most of them have an important role to play in twenty-one year old Devin’s life: The fake fortune teller who isn’t such a phony, a dying child with psychic abilities and his beautiful mother, Devin’s two college friends who will help him at any cost. The blurb on the back flap says, “This story is about love and loss, growing up and growing old – and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time.”

“Joyland” also reminds me of King’s short story “The Body,” in that it’s told in retrospect by a sixty-something narrator looking back on the summer and fall of 1973. Really, in my head the character of Devin was King himself, being reflective and nostalgic. And what’s so bad about that?


Jun 13 13

Tomorrow I leave for New Orleans to attend the World Horror Convention and the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend. And I still haven’t packed everything! (Taking a deep breath and a break to post this new blog.)

I hope to see you there for tons of great programming and activities. I’m very excited about the special guests for the convention this year: Amber Benson (actress/writer), Ramsey Campbell (writer), Glenn Chadbourne (artist), Jonathan Maberry (writer), Caitlin R.Kiernan (writer), Robert McCammon (writer), and many more!

Here is the link to the official website:  http://www.stokers2013.org/

Also a reminder that my eBook, “The White Death & Other Ghastly Ghost Stories” is still available online at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBook Store, etc.:


I’ve visited The Big Easy twice before, and it never gets old. The convention will be held at the famously haunted Hotel Monteleone in the heart of the French Quarter. There are many local ghost tours offered of the Quarter and of the unique cemeteries in the area.

The last time I was in New Orleans, I crept over to St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery to visit the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (see photo below). If you plan to attend, don’t forget to have beignets at the Café du Monde. And if you run into me, I’ll buy you a Hurricane. Laissez les bon temps roulez!!!!





Jun 1 13

Probable spoilers ahead. As far as I’m concerned, director J.J. Abrams has succeeded in making a superior sequel with Star Trek: Into Darkness. I liked it even better than the first film. The action sequences are spectacular and the plot moves along at a breakneck pace that barely gives viewers a chance to take a breath. Seriously, those two hours and ten minutes flew by at warp speed.

One thing that has us Trekkies so excited about this franchise reboot is the fact we don’t know exactly what will happen next due to the “time travel fallout” that took place in 2009’s Star Trek, when an alternate timeline was created, changing each character’s future. Expect to see familiar events from the old movies given new twists and turns.

As this film begins, James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is back as the young, brash captain of the Enterprise, leading a mission on the class-M planet Nibiru. (The opening scenes in the red jungle are visually stunning.) A volcano is about to erupt and destroy the primitive species, and First Officer Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is hurled into the inferno to neutralize the problem. But when do things ever go as planned for the crew of the Enterprise? Kirk once again violates the Prime Directive in order to save his friend, and must face the consequences back home.

He barely has time to deal with the shock of his severe punishment when all hell breaks loose on Earth: Terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is determined to destroy Starfleet at any cost.  As a result of an attack on Starfleet headquarters, Kirk suffers a terrible loss. It’s up to him, Spock and the rest of the crew – Bones/McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) – to go after Harrison when he flees to the Neutral Zone to hide out on the Klingon planet Kronos. Yes, we finally get to spend a little time with the violent Klingons, who are still archenemies of the Federation, at this point. My favorite villain in this flick (there’s definitely more than one), is the terrorist John Harrison (an alias, by the way). The brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame, is deliciously menacing as the British Baddie, and not entirely unsympathetic.

Also along on the mission to help capture Harrison is Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve). An early interlude between Kirk and Carol, in her underwear, had some viewers crying foul, saying the scene was gratuitous. I thought it was excusable because 1) it was so brief, 2) Abrams was trying to remind the audience that Kirk is a womanizer, and 3) perhaps the encounter served a purpose by foreshadowing their future involvement (if that’s going to happen in this universe).

Even though we’re served up plenty of action in this latest installment, that does not mean we don’t get to see heartfelt emotion between the main characters as their relationships evolve. Fans will enjoy the familiar humor of Bones’ observations and Scotty’s lamentations. Spock still has to struggle to control his human side, as his romance with Uhura and his friendship with Kirk become more complex. All of them will be tested, and lessons will be learned when it comes to breaking the rules – defying orders to follow one’s heart instead of one’s head.

I’m not going to say this was a flawless, perfect film. But I believe Trekkies will be extremely satisfied with it, and science fiction fans, in general, will find it entertaining. If you choose to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, take my advice and don’t drink a lot of soda beforehand. You won’t want to miss one breathtaking minute. Oh, and if you don’t like movies that cause you to leave the theatre with uplifted spirits, then go see Les Misérables.

Live long and prosper.