Sunday, November 4, 2007

Let's Go Get Ripped

Ramble House is releasing a book it published back in 2005, this time with an introduction and index to make it handier for anyone interested in serial murder. The book, RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES, is a collection of newspaper articles from the London Times and the New York Times between 1888-1895 dealing with the Jack the Ripper murders of Whitechapel and it now has an excellent introduction by Ripperologist Don Souden. It also has an index of all of the last names that appear in the articles for easier reference for Rippernuts the world over. The first edition had a flaky introduction by Norbert Tudwallow that seemed to celebrate his lack of knowledge about all things Ripperian. This new edition is much better.

The articles are interesting reading even for general readers because they allow you to compare the journalistic styles of the two newspapers. It's also fun to compare the journalistic styles of the late 19th century and today's. In the 1880s it was apparently important that the height of all of the people concerned be known. And often only the last names of the people were given. Go figure.

There are dozens of books written about Jack the Ripper and some even claim to reveal the identity of the fiend but this is one that sticks to the facts -- as they came into common knowledge. The articles are arranged in chronological order and it's almost like being there, living in a rat-infested hovel in the cobblestoned lanes of Whitechapel, and buying each day's Times with a feeling of impending dread and doom.

The cover, showing an obvious crazed slasher who looks suspiciously like Gavin O'Keefe, was designed by, uh, Gavin O'Keefe.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hitting Close to Home

I had planned to post reviews of books I'd read on this blog -- and have been doing a piss-poor job of it -- but today I saw a show on TV that ripped me out of my world of books and made me want to jump back in my second life -- when I was a slugabed bar musician. I had recorded it on my DVR yesterday and started watching it this morning, thinking I could see it all before I went for a free lunch at the hospital, a seminar about sudden heart attacks. The show was a documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM.
It was terrific. But after two hours the show had only progressed from 1973, when the band formed, to about 1980. I was thinking the show must only be about the early years. Then I noticed that the show was four hours long! Wow! A fantastic show about a super band and the damn thing is four hours long! This is a class production all the way. So I watched the last two hours of the show toight.
I've liked every song I've ever heard by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers but I've only really heard two or three of the albums. It wasn't like with the Beatles, where I know practically ALL of the songs, words and chords. But after seeing the documentary I can see that I want to hear all of their songs. Why? Because that band is almost an exact replica of what my bands were like back in the 60s and 80s -- except on a MUCH grander scale. I guess I should say my bands were like Tom Petty's, except on a MUCH smaller scale.
Which was probably good. I've never been ambitious and being in an always-working band in town was always the extent of what I wanted out of music. I mainly didn't want a day job -- and never had one until 1987 when I turned 40 and my body insisted that my brain take over for a while. But even though we were in a different league I found Tom and his band eminently inspiring. They were a band that wanted fame and fortune and girls and dope and to meet the Beatles but they had to do it honestly -- even if it meant they wouldn't get to meet the Beatles. They played short songs with original but straightforward lyrics and music. They knew that surfin' music and rockabilly was the basis of guitar rock -- not the blues -- and weren't afraid to let the guitar harmonics ring out. They didn't feel they had to go back before Buddy Holly and the Byrds for their lyrics and sound.
They were exactly of my age and they played like my bands wanted to play. I just didn't know it at the time. With this documentary I see that we could have been a lot better if we'd listened to more Tom Petty back when I was playing five hours a night, six nights a week in the bars.
There aren't many rock shows I like these days -- at least among the ones shown on IFC or Sundance Channel -- but RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM makes up for it. Only THE LAST WALTZ comes close to it for showing great musicians playing their classic songs. And telling the story of a band that knew how a guitar band was supposed to live and play.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tiresias, a new novel by Jonathan M. Sweet

Jonathan M. Sweet is the author of several books and the proprietor of Smoking Cat Productions. He has quite an interesting Wikipedia page, too. Check it out and you'll find some background information about how TIRESIAS was conceived and written. It's partly autobiographical and that's a little disturbing, since the book I would compare this to is Robert Bloch's PSYCHO. It begins with a sort of mistaken identity situation which escalates to murder and a much more dangerous identity crisis. The book had me guessing even though I thought I knew where it was going because I had read about it in the Wikipedia post. It will puzzle and disturb you too.
Sweet knows how to write and handle dialect in the southern style and he has some axes to grind. I believe we've encountered the most dangerous loon yet in our sanctuary. You won't forget this book. It's $18 through or the Ramble House web site.

The Naked Trocar

The First Knees Calhoon Novel Est!
Knees Calhoon has been many things: a snooker player, a rock&roll band, a Commodore 64 programmer, an evil clone, and now he's a slugabed detective. With THE NAKED TROCAR as the debut novel in what purports to be a series of mys-adventures in the Farmington New Mexico area, he uses his penchant for the inappropriate phrase to foil murderous villains, and yet never passes up an opportunity to wolf down a onion-laden enchilada plate or take a few hits off his trusty one-hitter. In his first case he was just minding his own bidness at the Avery Hotel when Molly and Wally, corrupt cops about town, give him a ticket for parking too far away from the curb. What follows is a almost true story, replete with possible factoids about real people from the tumultuous 1980s, factoids that will rip the lid off the seamy underbelly of the mortuary bidness of San Juan County. Get ready for a roller-coaster ride down Harper's Hill when you read THE NAKED TROCAR, available from Ramble House.
The book also contains another short story about Farmington as it was back in 1899. Subtitled "A Sort of Western", THE BEST REVENGE features an odyssey across Colorado by a young man who is caught between two warring centuries and technologies and the evil cowboys who killed his father and didn't even know it.
"If you only read one book this year, then you're probably too busy listening to the Rush Limbaugh show to read THE NAKED TROCAR. Don't bother." -- Fender Tucker