You know that old saying, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”? Nothing could be closer to the truth when analyzing the year that was 19...moreYou know that old saying, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”? Nothing could be closer to the truth when analyzing the year that was 1995 within the World Wrestling Federation. Prior to their massive spike in popularity that would arrive in 1998, Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire was crumbling in the face of a determined young upstart by the name of Eric Bischoff with his Ted Turner financed wrasslin’ company, WCW. Author James Dixon looks at the budget cutbacks, decreased wages and stagnant programming that plagued the global entertainment juggernaut as its promoter Vince McMahon struggled to find a way to compete as well as increase the company’s fledgling audience.
While mainly concentrating on 1995, the book also delves into the WWF’s various lawsuits of the early 1990s, the steroid trial initiated by the United States government and McMahon’s struggle to compete with WCW signing away his brightest stars. There’s even a portion dedicated to the long rumored Randy Savage/Stephanie McMahon scandal, calling attention to whether or not anything actually transpired between the two. Hard evidence is given through quotes from those who were backstage during the time and an eerily specific rant given from Savage himself seemed to give it credence.
For hardcore fans like myself, there may not be much in here you don’t already know. However, it does reinforce how horrific the morale was among the workers backstage. A group known as “The Kliq” comprised of top stars Shawn Michaels, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, Sean “1,2,3 Kid” Waltman and Paul “Triple H” Levesque continually occupied the top of the card, thus receiving large payouts and creating a glass ceiling of sorts for those hoping to ascend to main event status.
Of those comprising The Kliq, Shawn Michaels was without a doubt the worst of the bunch. If the man hadn’t been so undeniably talented, there’s no way he could have gotten away with half of what he did. Seemingly all of the events that occurred within the company during that period either ended or started with Michaels “losing his temper”. The gang would terrorize others backstage, sabotage matches if they happened to be working with a performer they didn’t like as well as constantly having the ear of McMahon lobbying to remain on top. The atmosphere became so bad that a rival group was formed under the guidance of locker room veteran Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway, whose chief job would be to police the Kliq making sure things never came to the point of violence.
Dixon’s book is tightly researched taking content from shoots (interviews with a performer out of character), podcasts, memoirs and documentaries (all of which are cited in the rear of the book). Dixon even had Jim Cornette, a man at the forefront of the madness in 1995, write the foreword. Recommended to me through what could be considered an excellent companion podcast, The New Generation Project Podcast, “Titan Sinking” is a great look at a difficult time for what is now the gold standard of wrestling.
“Time makes everything mean and shabby and wrinkled. The tragedy of life … is not that the beautiful things die young, but that they grow old and mean...more“Time makes everything mean and shabby and wrinkled. The tragedy of life … is not that the beautiful things die young, but that they grow old and mean.”
Marlowe befriends a down-on-his-luck war hero roaming the streets of California. A few months after Marlowe cleans him up and sets him on his way, the man is standing on Marlowe’s doorstep, holding a gun and asking for a ride to Mexico. While Marlowe refuses to hear out the reason for this request, it’s revealed that the man’s wife has been murdered and it may or may not be by his new friend’s hand.
With those rather shady circumstances still hazing over his head, Marlowe is approached by a publisher asking for his assistance in figuring out just what exactly is throwing their prized writer off his rocker. Marlowe initially disagrees but before long, he’s pulled in by the author’s stunning wife. Can Marlowe narrow down the reason for the writer’s madness? Are the two cases connected? Is Marlowe in over his head?
While there’s still another novel to follow (Playback), The Long Goodbye is widely considered Raymond Chandler’s swan song to arguably literature’s greatest detective. Often cited as the gold standard in crime fiction, The Long Goodbye snapped up the Edgar Award for best novel in 1955, is listed on countless “best of” compilations and has influenced a generation of mystery and crime writers.
Chandler wrote The Long Goodbye during a very difficult time in his life. His wife was terminally ill and he was suffering from bouts of depression and alcohol abuse. It’s been noted that a few of the characters in the novel were used as a way for Chandler to clear his mind. He used them to express his innermost thoughts on the state of society, his frustrations as a writer and his internal struggle with whether or not he should commit suicide.
It’s been said before – by myself and others – that the plot in Chandler’s Marlowe novels can almost be considered secondary to the author’s writing. As usual, Chandler is in top form here as he calls out society’s apathetic trend, the hypocrisy of the police force and the power of money.
There’s so much to love about this novel and in my opinion, it’s the finest of the series. Given the circumstances surrounding its creation, it’s hard to ignore the personal nature of the writing. At heart, both Chandler and Marlowe are very cynical people and Marlowe literally offends every person he comes into contact with. I suppose that’s nothing new but it reflects Chandler’s state of mind at the time. You almost wonder if Marlowe couldn’t care less whether he lives or dies at the end of the day. He’s a solitary individual who could give a damn what you or anyone else thinks of him, all that matters is the truth. That’s a very dangerous man and that’s the best kind of detective.
After coming into a small fortune, a quiet closed accounts registrar named Mr. Berger decides to pack it in and retire. At only thirty four years of a...moreAfter coming into a small fortune, a quiet closed accounts registrar named Mr. Berger decides to pack it in and retire. At only thirty four years of age and with countless years ahead of him, Berger decides to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.
After a particularly frustrating evening with pen and paper, Berger embarks on a walk to clear his mind when he witnesses a young woman throw herself in front of a speeding train. However, a spotless track and lack of evidence leave both Berger and the authorities dumbfounded.
Several weeks later, the same woman appears again and when an identical scenario threatens to repeat itself, Berger prevents the woman from doing so, chasing after her until she enters a large non-descript building. What Berger discovers inside will change his life forever..
Winning the 2014 Edgar Award for best short story, Connolly’s Museum of Literary Souls (or the alternate title ("The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository") reads like a love letter to literature. Connolly writes about the power of fiction and how truly great works can bring a culture together. Readers can often identify with certain characters, speaking about them as if they’re real people.
My only gripe is given how deeply Connolly immersed me into the story, I was disappointed in how quickly the ending snuck up on me. While I have a deep appreciation for short stories (Hell, I even wrote a few), truly great ones always leave the reader wanting more. Don’t take this as a criticism but rather just a self-entitled reader whining.(less)
Buying and reviewing single issues of comic books isn’t something I normally do (I think Locke & Key has been the only exception). I’m the kind of...moreBuying and reviewing single issues of comic books isn’t something I normally do (I think Locke & Key has been the only exception). I’m the kind of reader that would prefer to wait until the trade paperback is released and read it all in one shot. However, seeing as I have the opportunity to get in the ground floor of a Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips project, why not give it a go?
The dynamic duo of noir return with The Fade Out, a story about murder most foul in post-war America. This time around, the creative crew have taken on a research assistant in an effort to make this tale as historically accurate as possible as well as an editor (a first for the collaboration in nearly a decade) to assist in smoothing out any bumps along the road. For a team as talented and ambitious as Brubaker and Phillips, this can only be good news.
With Phillips’ perfect penciling and Brubaker’s grim and gritty storytelling, The Fade Out could prove to be their most polished and remembered work yet.
When the top agent for the spy organization ARC-7 is murdered, all evidence points to Velvet Templeton, the unassuming organization’s secretary. She’s...moreWhen the top agent for the spy organization ARC-7 is murdered, all evidence points to Velvet Templeton, the unassuming organization’s secretary. She’s innocent but capturing her is proving difficult and those hot on her trail are meeting the true Velvet, the retired secret agent with the skills to pay the bills.
While recently on vacation in Ottawa, I dropped into The Comic Shoppe to pick up Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips new noir series The Fade Out. I couldn’t find it so I asked the clerk if he had any available. When he came back with issue one, he asked if I had already picked up Brubaker’s new trade, The Velvet. Even though everyone on Goodreads had been raving about it, it had somehow slipped my mind. I went in for one issue but came out with two books! It was like comic book Christmas.
Image is putting out some of the best work in the industry right now (Saga, The Fade Out, Fatale, The Walking Dead) and Velvet is no exception. Ed Brubaker’s razor sharp writing paired alongside Steve Epting’s beautiful artwork combine to create a compelling vision of mid 20th century cold war hysteria. There are enough twists and turns in here to keep its audience engaged and it certainly doesn't hurt to have such jaw-droppingly gorgeous visuals either.
I can’t wait for volume two. Write, Brubaker, write!
Lynn Denton’s The Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman is the Forrest Gump of wrestling books. The man may not have been known on the world stage, but...moreLynn Denton’s The Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman is the Forrest Gump of wrestling books. The man may not have been known on the world stage, but he was around during one of the biggest eras in wrestling interacting with some of the biggest names in the industry.
Although he worked with household names like The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, Jake the Snake Roberts and Goldberg, he didn’t achieve super-stardom in the big leagues (World Wrestling Federation or World Championship Wrestling). His true success came within regional territories like Mid-South Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and Don Owen’s Portland territory.
You get the sense that Denton’s a very humble man who shows no signs of ego, he’s appreciative for all the opportunities he’s had and offers candid opinions on those he worked with. The book has a very conversational tone, almost like Denton is telling you his life story over a beer.
The book is filled with great stories about working for Stu Hart up in Calgary (a great Owen Hart story as well), performing in front of forty thousand plus fans in the New Orleans Superdome and his time as booker in Portland, Oregon (wrestlers can be a temperamental lot). There’s a lot crammed into these nearly three hundred pages and not once did I feel it really dragged.
Coming from someone who considers himself a big fan of the industry, I’d never heard of The Grappler before picking up this book and I’m glad I took the time to sit down and read his story. While it doesn't have the built in audience Bret Hart, Mick Foley or Chris Jericho would have with their books, it deserves a look from any wrestling fan who is interested in a career spent outside the grip of Vince McMahon.
Tragedy strikes the United States and in an effort to rebuild society, terrifying new measures are implemented, stripping women of their rights as hum...moreTragedy strikes the United States and in an effort to rebuild society, terrifying new measures are implemented, stripping women of their rights as human beings. No longer permitted to work, own property and their identities erased, women have been reduced to their most basic function - carrying life. If they’re unable to conceive, they’re shipped off to the heavily polluted colonies to assist in the cleanup of nuclear waste; a guaranteed death sentence.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale follows Offred, a woman serving under a man known only as The Commander. Having difficulty conceiving, she fears for her safety. Struggling to adapt to her new “life”, Offred tells of her past, how society crumbled and her desire to break free and be reunited with her daughter.
Atwood keeps the reader in the dark for most of the novel when it comes to the pivotal event that caused society’s downfall. While I was initially frustrated (I need to know now!), it proved to be a great technique in keeping me reading for long periods at a time, waiting for that one sliver of information to leak through so I could bring it all together.
However, it turns out that it doesn’t matter. What’s important is the repercussions following the event. There are probably more than a few conservatives who would think this is a logical plan - and that’s what makes Atwood’s novel so frightening. It’s deflating when the pursuit of equal rights in society can often be labeled as “feminism” when in an ideal world, feminism is something that shouldn’t even exist. I know it’s shocking for some to hear this but we’re all equal.
As riveting as The Handmaid’s Tale is, Atwood’s story sadly remains relevant nearly thirty years after it was first published. It’s frustrating to think that in 2014, there are still unnecessary roadblocks set up to keep one sex on a lower plane than the other. I didn’t expect to get on a soapbox here but it’s almost impossible to avoid doing so. While I’m not saying anything you haven’t already heard, neither is Atwood. That fact that it needs to be said again and again is the issue.
My thoughts on Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster novel have been marinating in my brain for the past few days. I’ve written, erased and rewritten this revie...moreMy thoughts on Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster novel have been marinating in my brain for the past few days. I’ve written, erased and rewritten this review several times struggling to come up with what to say while cautiously tiptoeing around spoilers.
Amy Dunne is missing, her home torn apart. Standard protocol in the event of a missing persons case is to rule out the spouse. Unfortunately for Amy’s husband Nick, evidence continues to pile up against him and the fact that he’s less than honest with the police isn’t doing him any favors either. What does Nick have to hide? Can Amy be found?
Oh my God, the hype! I initially kept my distance from Gone Girl because I just assumed it couldn’t possibly live up to the heaps and heaps of praise placed upon it. After turning the final page, I felt like quite the fool. Flynn not only crafted an expertly paced thriller but she succeeded in knocking me on my ass with a plot twist I haven’t seen since the likes of Chuckie P’s Fight Club.
Opting to present the book through dueling narratives, Flynn creates structurally sound characterizations of both Nick and Amy as each chapter offers up a he said/she said dynamic. One chapter will spotlight Nick’s struggle in navigating through the media circus that develops following Amy’s disappearance while another chapter takes us back to the beginning of their relationship through Amy’s early diary entries.
I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my disappointment with the ending. It’s not like it didn’t make sense given where the story had taken me but I had my own thoughts on where it should have headed and while that’s no fault of the author, it left me feeling underwhelmed. Supposedly it’s been rewritten for the upcoming movie adaptation so I’m interested to see if it goes in the direction I had initially predicted.
Gone Girl was a pleasant surprise given it’s a book that has produced such polarizing opinions. I can certainly see some of the valid reasons behind the negative reviews but it’s hard for me to agree with them given how immensely readable I found her prose. I was hooked on this from the beginning and once that shift happens in the middle, it was pedal to the metal straight to the end.
Career criminal Parker is double crossed and left for dead but they didn’t confirm the kill. After surviving an attempt on his life, Parker’s search f...moreCareer criminal Parker is double crossed and left for dead but they didn’t confirm the kill. After surviving an attempt on his life, Parker’s search for the scumbag responsible has led him to New York City. While finding the man may prove difficult for Parker, one thing is for sure, he’ll get his revenge or die trying.
While I’ve read all of Darwyn Cooke’s tremendous graphic novel adaptations as well as watched the late 90s movie “Payback”, I’ve yet to check out the original source material - Stark’s acclaimed Parker novels. Given that I’m immersing myself deeper and deeper into the world of noir and crime fiction, I figured it was about time that I checked out one of the genre’s standards.
This is truly textbook noir - despicable people doing despicable things to other despicable people. Sure, you can root for Parker to succeed but he’s no better than any of his adversaries. He’s a tough bastard who wouldn’t think twice about taking you out if you got in his way. He’s a man driven by his own sense of what’s right in a world where everything is wrong. His relentless pursuit for what he feels is rightfully his, by his own admission, is crazy and it makes him a great character. Everything he does in The Hunter makes sense - I didn’t find myself questioning his actions or the actions of others.
Both the writing and the dialogue are sharp and precise, like a surgeon’s scalpel. The tight 198 pages it takes to the tell the story are used with precision. Nothing is wasted and there’s no sense of filler.
I’ve got a long road ahead of me (about 24 books in total) but I’m strapping myself in for the ride. Why oh why did I wait so long??
Ian Doescher’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s take on the original Star Wars trilogy has come to an end. Hopefully Doescher stays away from the...moreIan Doescher’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s take on the original Star Wars trilogy has come to an end. Hopefully Doescher stays away from the prequels – if not, I’d fear Shakespeare could rise from the dead to keep his name far from that garbage.
Luke Skywalker and the rebel alliance are getting ready to make their final stand against the tyranny of The Empire. The second Death Star is fast approaching completion and the good guys must find a way to regroup following the events of The Empire Striketh Back. I could go on but if you’re not aware of the Star Wars saga plot, why are you reading this review? Come on!
All the creativity that Doescher has shown throughout his time adapting the “holy trilogy” once again shines in the final chapter. While he closes out the series on a simplistic note keeping things very by-the-book, he still assigns himself a challenge in working with the Ewoks. While he mainly stuck to the script in the first two installments in leaving many characters’ alien vernacular untranslated – he did something different with the Ewoks, offering up a sort of pseudo-English which expands upon their roles in the story. Very nice.
Overall, I liked it. It’s clear that Doescher had a vision from the very beginning and throughout the whole journey, he didn’t lose his creative edge nor phone it in. Quirk Books seems to have cornered the market when it comes to these cross-over experiments. More!
Following Deadpool’s murderous rampage through the Marvel Universe, he decides to jump into the classic tales that inspired the comic book crusaders o...moreFollowing Deadpool’s murderous rampage through the Marvel Universe, he decides to jump into the classic tales that inspired the comic book crusaders of today. With a hit-list consisting of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Captain Ahab, Mark Twain and many others, Deadpool is set to wipe the classics from literature’s illustrious history.
Deadpool is easily one of my favorite comic book characters and why wouldn’t he be – he’s Deadpool, the merc with a mouth! He consistently breaks the fourth wall, his verbal jabs are hilarious and he’s got a sweet skill-set that would put any adversary to shame.
In this slim four issue collection, Deadpool runs the gamut of literary greatness, wasting everyone in his path. This leads to cool visuals, some hilarious moments and the usual air of originality that accompanies the character. While I enjoyed most of it, it was a little on the short side and I was really disappointed with the lack of time given to A Christmas Carol. It also falls short when compared to the very funny and creative run that both Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan are on as the current series writers.
All in all, Deadpool Killustrated is a quick read that feels like it finished too early.