Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Fritz Leiber – “A Defense of Werewolves,” “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes,” “In the X-Ray,” Joe R. Lansdale – The Two-Bear Mambo, The Nightrunners plus

Posted by Mike on November 19, 2007

I’ve been managing to get quite a bit of reading done of late and rediscovered the local library system as well as the Link Plus system that allows me to borrow books etc from libraries throughout California and Nevada. I’m particularly pleased that one of the libraries has the full set of Jack Vance’s Integral Edition books, which was a subscription series way out of my price range when it was available. Needless to say it’s going to fill in some holes in my Vance reading.

Also great is that I’ve had access to Joe R. Lansdale and Fritz Leiber stories I haven’t had before and while a lot of is lesser work, the stories are pretty short. Hopefully I can try remembering what all it was I’ve been through of late. With Fritz in particular, I’ve been hopping all over the place. While going as chronologically as possible through the stories at first (including this smaller batch), I’ve managed to read all the stories in the rare and out of print “Leiber Chronicles” collection that I didn’t already own elsewhere, as well as the Gummitch series of stories in “Gummitch and Friends,” and have also started the Change War series (other than “The Big Time” which I’d read a while back). But more on those later.

“A Defense of Werewolves” is unusual in that it’s hard to tell if it’s fiction or just an unusual paeon to fantasy (it was originally called “Fantasy on the March.” It’s only a few pages and tends to read strangely in several different parts and I felt like I was missing context with it. The language is ornate and meant to be inspirational, but it all comes off as a bit of a mess.

“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” is one of Leiber’s more important works, having had at least one movie made from it. It’s a story of a photographer who meets a strange young model who has a supernatural effect on the people she meets. It’s a solid story, if a bit dated at this point. “In The X-Ray” was another short piece that I barely remember without the text in front of me, but it seemed inconsequential at the time.

Lansdale’s The Two- Bear Mambo I borrowed as it’s out of print, although it’s still pretty affordable. It’s the third in his Hap & Leonard series about the friendship between a straight white Democrat and a gay black Republican and the best one up to this point. Hap’s ex has disappeared into a small town in East Texas known for its Klan population and a cop who had been dating Hap’s ex lets Leonard off for another crack house arsony charge to go after her. The town is something out of the recent, racist past and the duo’s first foray ends badly. Everything here is strong from the solid plot to the cracking dialogue, which rings laughs off of every page. Even at the halfway point of the series (by this point), I can barely wait to read the others. I can usually get them done in a couple of days.

I also managed to read quite a few minor Lansdale stories and articles from the books God of the Razor, Fist Full of Stories (and Articles) and Writer of the Purple Rage. God of the Razor is a collection from Subterranean that is something of a deluxe reissue of Lansdale’s second published book “The Nightrunners.” This is a story I found heavily reminiscent of Richard Laymon’s “The Cellar” in the way both sets of protagonists are trying to keep away from brutal murderin’ types, but in the Nightrunner’s case it’s about what drives the evil where in “The Cellar” it ended up being about the protagonists and their pursuer meeting a third thread. As can be told from the collection name, this story inspired quite a bit beyond it including several stories by Lansdale and others.

Of the remaining stories not many were major, except I finally read the “Bubba Ho-Tep” novella, which I’d seen as a movie with Bruce Campbell. I didn’t like the movie as much as the novella, which is quite a bit leaner, without the long tangent of how Elvis switched his life with an impersonator, which to my mind jolted the ambiguity of not knowing whether your protagonist Elvis was really the Elvis. But the story’s in a nursing home where Elvis and another resident discover ancient Egyptian evil in cowboy boots.

I thought Lansdale’s best non-fiction was included with the Electric Gumbo collection, the rest of Fist Full didn’t do much than mildly amuse. The better stories from this collection and Purple Rage are in Bumper Crop, for when I get to it. The other Purple Rage stories I did read included another Wild Bill Hicock story with “Man with Two Lives” (in a way he’s part of The Magic Wagon), the very icky “Love Doll: A Fable,” the slightly Flowers from Algernon-like and experimental “The Diaper,” and the slightly different and fun play/theatrical version of his classic “By Bizarre Hands” story. Before High Cotton and Bumper Crop this appears to be the collection to have had.

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