Richard Matheson I Am Legend Creator Dead at 87

Richard Matheson I Am Legend Creator Dead at 87

Thirteen for 13 an Introduction to Larry Underwood’s Short Fiction

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I made the acquaintance of Mr Underwood on Facebook via mutual friends (like you do) and I noticed the other day that he’d gotten one of his stories, an excellent piece of Western horror flash-fiction, promoted by Amazon.com as a limited freebie.

I love free anything and I immediately shot over to the Amazon sellers and found that it was not free on the UK site. I sent Larry a quick line to say so. This generous and talented gentleman sent me a personal  copy and on top of that, he sent me copies of two more of his short stories.

All three are part of an ongoing project of his called, Thirteen for 13.

All three of these tales were different and entertaining.

Terror on the Plains deals with an Indian legend.

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Hiccup is a time travel tale with a sense of humour.

The Clothes Make the Man is just brilliant.

There is another story that is part of this project entitled Dreams. I have not read it yet as I wanted to quickly jot down my thoughts on his work thus far.

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The wonderful thing about all Larry’s work is its “visual” texture. I literally felt like I was “reading” episodes from some classic anthology program like The Twilight Zone or Ray Bradbury‘s Theatre. Any one of these stories would make a great adaptation to the small screen and I’ll be very surprised if that doesn’t happen.

The fact that all of the books are horror related should come as no surprise, if you read his Author’s Bio on Amazon. In case you haven’t seen it, I’ll pop it (in its entirety) below:

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Larry Underwood is best known as an award-winning TV horror host in the Middle TN area where he introduced late-night creature features for 13 years as Dr. Gangrene. He has written articles for various magazines including Scary Monsters and Outre. He lives in Hendersonville, TN with his sons and four dogs. He can be found online at drgangrene.com 

All four of these tales are available on Amazon and worth the time spent reading them. 

Check them out!

Author Larry Underwood.
Author Larry Underwood.

 

Skull Full of Kisses by Michael West: A Short Story Stradivarius

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Skull Full of Kisses is a ten story collection of Michael West’s short fiction. I can tell you know, that if you go to read this collection, you will find no two stories alike. Each and every one is different, unique and damned scary.

There is a short story in there for everyone.

Interested in Japanese culture? Fascinated by the Yakuza and Japanese Demons? Well Jiki will be right up your alley or basement, in this case.

West gives us glimpses of the horrific haven of Harmony, Indiana and a look at the Lovecraftian village of Colonial Bay; where you definitely don’t want to ask the question – What’s a nice girl like you, doing in a place like this?

There’s a great little place that’s just out of reach in the desert unless you take Einstein’s Slingshot; a one-way ride into the realm of nightmares and things that like human flesh.

If you ever dreamed of being an astronaut, you’ll want to avoid the story To Know How To See, which feels like a Twilight Zone episode with tinges of The Outer Limits.

While I’d love to set here and give little “teasing” clues about what is in the book and the themes of each story, I won’t.

What I will do is urge you to read these…quickly…while with friends…and in the daylight. If you attempt to read these alone, slowly, or at night, you might just have bad dreams. Or more correctly nightmares.

When Michael West tells a scary storynothing can be considered safe. Not even your loving girlfriend who never wants to let you go (For Her).

At the beginning of this post, I said that all the stories were scary. I will hold my hand up and  admit that this is a lie. I will not divulge the title of this particular tale. I’ll let you stumble upon as I did, by reading this collection. It is, I think, my favourite and no, it is not scary in the traditional sense, but is it very good.

West has a little “afterward” in his collection where he talks about what gave him the idea for each story and when it was originally published. It is a fascinating look into the mind of a horror writer. He warns about not reading this section before you read the stories as there could be spoilers hidden there.

I would listen to him. If you skip to the back, he might find out. And, I don’t know, you could wind up in one of his stories.

Now where I might find that entertaining (there’s nothing worse than one of those people who jump to the back of the book) if you are one of those people, I cannot think of a better punishment. Because as much as I love being scared by West’s scary denizens in his stories, I’d hate to have to deal with them.

Another great addition to the Michael West collection I already own and I will now wait (not so) patiently for his next offering of terror.

A real 5 out of 5 for creative and non-repetitive horror. If this collection was a musical instrument, it would be the Stradivarius of its peers; playing with a deeper and more resonant sound than other stories in the genre.

Read it.

Author Michael West and a fan.
Author Michael West and a fan.

You Can See the Signpost up Ahead, Next Stop Post 500

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Yes, I did crib some of the intro from the Twilight Zone. I also used a bit of poetic license on the post 500. I posted my 495th blog post today, despite being up all night with some sort of mysterious tummy ailment, that I don’t even want to talk about or think about.

But as I posted number 495, I had a thought: “What should I blog about for my 500th post?” I feel like such a momentous occasion should not consist of my usual blog post blathering. I am probably blowing the significance of this event wildly out of proportion to its actual importance. (Wow that sounded impressive didn’t it?)

Based on my usual practise of submitting 2.5 posts per day, I don’t have a lot of time before the magic 500 is reached. My “normal” practise (as if anything in my life could be referred to as normal at this point in time) is to watch a film, or to re-visit a film watched; or to read a book, etc, etc etc… Luckily for me, my blog does not just talk about film.

Because I am predominantly lazy, I choose not to manifest multiple blogs that I can upload posts to on varying subjects. I sort of liken myself to the cook who likes to prepare everything in the same pot. There is less to clean up and it keeps the pot choices to a minimum. So despite the title of my blog (and just in case you’ve found yourself here by accident, it’s called MikesFilmTalk only because I did not know that I could put spaces between the blog title, NOOB!) I write about a lot of other things besides film.

But I am, as usual, digressing; as I sit here looking out at the, finally, melting snow and listen to my tummy growling and rumbling, memories of last night, I am trying to figure out if I do indeed need to do anything special about my 500th post.

Should I just post as usual but include some sort of meme that has fireworks or some cute furry frolicking animal on it?

Should I include a picture of me holding a sign that says, “Will blog for money?”

I really don’t have any idea of what I should do, if anything, on my big 5-0-0. So, I thought, why not open it up for discussion?

Do any of you have an idea of what I should do? All suggestions will be considered (apart from sit down and shut up ya old fart) and I’ll try to pick the one that seems most appropriate. Maybe you liked my Arkansas Razorback stories and would like to see another one. I could also write about another “event” in my past…

But really, as you can no doubt tell by the extreme shortness of this post, I haven’t got a clue.

So, answers on a postcard please; just kidding, if you want to tell me what you think I should post for my 500th let me know via the comments. *ruder ideas should probably be submitted via my email, thereby making it easier for me and my daughter to take the piss out of the sender at our leisure*

If I don’t hear anything I will still do my 500th post, so lack of participation will not have the desired result of no post.

All kidding aside, I have had fun doing this and meeting so many special people (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way). Folks who have made me laugh, think and smile a lot. Folks who have taken the time to support my little old blog and through so doing have helped me to work my way through a pretty damned difficult patch in my life.

Thank you all, who follow, read and take the time to comment or like my posts. You make my day!

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William Shatner, the Twilight Zone and My All-Knowing Mother…

Stewardess! May I have a dry pair of pants, please?

While writing about an experience I had with my over-active imagination I remembered another incident where television scarred me; for life. I pushed the event to the back of my mind until Marilyn over at Serendipity commented on my post with her story of the Fantasia dinosaurs who lurked in her closet when she was about 4.

I replied that I too had a closet monster, but unlike Marilyn, I can’t remember what it was that lived in the closet. Only that if the door was closed by either one of my parents, it could not get out and I could sleep in relative peace. *Of course the door being closed did not prevent me from having nightmares. A nightly occurrence that usually ended with me screaming hysterically for either Mom or Dad or the both of them, I am sure that both my parents gave a heart-felt sigh of relief when the nightmares became less vocal.*

Even though I had a huge imagination, television could be counted on to aid and abet my fertile thinking ground. I was continually banned from watching certain shows on the telly. Once I was banned from watching Rowan and Martin‘s Laugh-In. Not because it gave me nightmares, but because I found it hysterically funny when Dick Martin called a woman a “broad.” My imitation of this feminine nickname ended with me getting my mouth washed out with soap and being banned from watching the show for a year. To this day, I do not as a rule call any female person a broad, unless of course they annoy me; then all bets are off.

Other television program related incidents are equally memorable. The peg legged killer on Get Smart (I wrote about that in my previous post), and an episode of Johnny Quest that had to do with an “invisible” monster made up of electricity and rage. The Johnny Quest cartoon banning was the most painful. I adored this program and had a Johnny Quest puzzle and colouring book. It took me ages to convince my mother that I could start watching this show again.

(Mainly though the type of blackmail that only a child can come up with; I would sit colouring my JQ colouring book and sniff back imaginary tears. After a couple of weeks of this my mother relented. Not because she was soft, but I honestly think the sniffing was driving her crazy.)

But the incident that I remember the most clearly, as if it had only happened yesterday, was the William Shatner episode of the Twilight Zone. Now Shatner only made two episodes for the series and one was about a fortune-telling machine. The episode I watched was called Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. I could give you an actual summary of the plot, but what I’d rather do is give you the show’s story as understood by the seven-year old me.

*This episode of the Twilight Zone should be required viewing for cinema students. The suspense that director Richard Donner builds up in the moments before the climatic “unveiling” of the gremlin is exquisitely painful. Horror film directors take note, suspense should build, not bore.*

Shatner was a pilot, or something like a pilot, and he’d had a nervous breakdown while flying. His psychiatrist makes him fly to face his fears. Shatner is a nervous wreck and clearly terrified. At one point he looks out the window and sees something on the wing of the plane. It appears to be tearing metal off of the wing.

Freaked out, Shatner buzzes for the stewardess and demands she look out the window. Of course, she sees nothing and tries her best to calm Shatner down. Shatner sees the creature again and again. Suddenly this thing notices Shatner looking at it. It doesn’t seem too happy about this turn of events and it starts moving toward the window that Shatner is looking out of.

At one point, someone, closes the curtain on Shatner’s window and he cannot look out. He wants to though. Oh Yeah, he is dying to look out the window. With agonising slowness he gets his face closer and closer to the window curtain. He is at the point where his face could rest against the glass of the window. Suddenly he grabs the curtain and whips it open! This hideous creature has its face pushed up against the glass! Shatner screams.

My cue to run screaming from the room…

I screamed when Shatner screamed. I jumped up from in front of the television and ran screaming out of the “new” den where the telly was. I forgot in my panicked rush from the den that there was a short step leading out of the room to the kitchen. BAM! When my foot connected with the step I simultaneously face planted the kitchen floor and scraped about a foot of skin off my right knee.

I got up, still screaming, and ran headlong into my mother. She grabbed me and held me still while checking the huge knot on my forehead and the blood welling from my knee. When I had calmed down enough to stop screaming and breathe normally. She took one look at my ashen face and said, “You’ve been watching the Twilight Zone haven’t you.”

My heart stopped. How could she have known? She was way back in the bedrooms clear across the other side of the house. You couldn’t hear the TV in the kitchen. I had the sound turned down super low so she could not hear me watching the show.

I had already been banned from watching the Twilight Zone on principle. My parents had watched the program and decided that it was way too scary for my big old Boeing 747 of an imagination. I was watching the show during an afternoon “repeat.” A pretty common practise when I was growing up. I remember a few years later rushing home after school to watch the previous day’s episode of Dark Shadows before the current show started. *I don’t think Mom knew what the show was about or I would not, in all likely-hood have been allowed to watch it. With its company of werewolves and ghosts and vampires in a creepy old mansion, there is no way she’d have stood idly by.*

The end result was that it was many years before I would be allowed to watch the Twilight Zone and literally years before I could approach a window with the curtain drawn without feeling a sense of dread. To this day I cannot nonchalantly whip open a closed curtain. I also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mother was all-knowing and all-seeing, like God only living in our house and keeping an eye out on me.

This fact was rammed home years later, when I had walked miles of country road smoking a huge forbidden cigar. I made sure the wind was blowing away from me and the second I got home I brushed my teeth, gargled with mouth wash and put on cologne. I walked through the house confident that my crime had been concealed. I met my mother in the living room who took one glance at me and said, “You’ve been smoking a cigar.”

Forget the smallest sparrow shit, this woman saw and knew everything. She probably still does.

Rod Serling had no idea…