Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Review: NUCLEAR JELLYFISH by Tim Dorsey

I laughed out loud.

That's right, you heard me. I laughed out loud. That doesn't happen often to me when reading a book. So when it does, I take notice.

And I didn't just laugh once. Not by a long shot. I laughed often, chuckled repeatedly, and smiled almost the entire way through.

I have a new favorite author, and his name is Tim Dorsey.

Tim Dorsey has managed to create the ultimate anti-hero in Serge A. Storms, the psychotic/obsessive/compulsive/homicidal/vengeful/chaotic force of nature that travels the lovely state of Florida with his completely useless and helpless junkie alcoholic sidekick, Coleman.

When we first meet Serge and Coleman in the book, they are staking out a bridge, discussing Lynyrd Skynyrd, and wearing diapers in reverence of a lunatic astronaut.

This alone should make you want to start reading.

Serge has decided to launch his own Travel Guide Blog to Florida, featuring handy survival tips for the Floridian Tourist, such as how to tell where the criminals are sleeping by the way the cars are parked, and how to avoid Barracuda Hookers. This quest has him criss-crossing the Sunshine state in search of the iconic landmarks littering its landscape, many of them involving Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Along the way, Serge and his Incompetent Compatriot pick up a hitchhiking exotic dancer on a mission of vengeance and tuition, stumble upon a band of diamond smuggling coin collectors, and go head to head with a blood-thirsty sociopath with a horribly botched glow-in-the-dark tattoo, all the while being chased down by a suspended detective perpetual stuck in a crime fiction noir novel, and a mysterious stranger who seems to know Serge's every move better then he knows himself.

Still not interested?

Despite all of this, Serge manages to periodically take time out to exact twisted justice on perceived predators of the everyday civilian in a myriad of inventively gruesome ways. Combining his love of Home Depot with his distaste for con-men, hustlers, predators and all-around villains, Serge exacts a MacGyver-like ingenuity with a diabolical mean streak that guarantees a high death-toll, and amusing assortment of severed limbs, and over a million hits on YouTube.

What more could you want?

Tim Dorsey manages to combine the madcap with the morose, and creates a Punisher meets The Three Stooges romp through Florida that is exciting, unpredictable, and laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Trust me, just read the book already. You'll thank me.

Book Review: SAFER by Sean Doolittle

Everyone wants to live in a town where everyone knows each other, where everyone keeps an eye out for their neighbor, a place where you always belong. But what if this idyllic community slowly turned into a Brave New Neighborhood? What everyone knew you more than you would like, your neighbors kept to close an eye on you, and when they didn't like what they saw, decided that you were no longer welcome?

Sean Doolittle takes a handful of modern paranoid fears and combines them into a tight, engaging, and suspenseful tale of abusive power and overly cautious neighbors.

When Paul Callaway follows his wife and her new job of assistant dean to a cozy little midwestern town, he already feels a little out of place. He tries his best to fit in with his new neighbors, but quickly finds himself clashing with the local community's version of John Walsh; the father of an abducted and murdered child who now spearheads civic response teams and neighborhood watches.

Paul's marriage begins to fray at the edges, and his disagreement with his manipulative neighbor turns into a full blown feud. Then he discovers that there's much more going on behind the scenes than anyone imagined, and before he knows what's happening, he's being arrested on charges of sexual misconduct with his neighbor's teenage daughter.

What follows is a journey into the substantive fears of the modern man. Exactly how much of our lives is under surveillance? How many freedoms do we willingly and unknowingly sacrifice in the the name of security? How do you prove your innocence when a minor falsely accuses you of sexual improprieties? Can one man really prevail against the system when the system has it out for him?

Everyone just wants to feel safe. But as Paul Callaway soon discovers, sometimes the Safer you feel, the more at risk you truly are.

Like any good suspense novel, the key is believability. Doolittle keeps everything within the realm of reason, and has no trouble convincing the reader to play along. The personalities are distinct but never overblown, the events that take place are always feasible, and the motivations of the characters are never questionable.

As with the best suspense novels, it is scary because you believe it could happen to you.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rallying the Troops, So to Speak...

My book Monster Rally has been officially available for nearly a month now, so I thought I would give a quick update. I'm trying to restrict most news to my author website, but a little catching up is always good.

Amazon has come such a long way from being a simple online bookseller. It is practically a social networking site in its own way, although it still doesn't have as many distractions as Facebook. As of now, not only can you purchase Monster Rally at, but you can also:
  • Browse its contents using the Look Inside feature.
  • Read and leave comments on the Author's Blog.
  • Join in on discussions specifically connected to the book (I just started one about serial killers/mass murderers and their influence on the cinema).
  • Search the book for specific topics using the Search Inside feature.
  • Create lists with Monster Rally featured in them.
Needless to say, I'm having a lot of fun with these features, and plan on abusing them regularly. I hope get a chance to swing by and join in the fun.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The times, they are a-hurtin'.

It's probably starting to become an annoying, obnoxious, and somewhat redundant sentiment to share, but I'm afraid I can't quite help myself.

Things are tough all over.

I was dining out last week, something that I have been doing a lot less of as of late. Being both a writer and a voyeur, I found myself falling into the nasty habit of eavesdropping on nearby tables. Dinnertime conversations in public places are often far more intimate and personal than they should be. Curiosity always forces my hand, and in the conversational gaps at my own table, I take in the voices filtering over from those near me.

The older group of diners to my left including a man who had just been laid off that weekend. He was two years short of retirement, and the company he worked for had cut him loose as part of a desperate attempt to keep from going bankrupt.

I know how he feels. Literally.

Last month, my full-time employer did the same thing to me. I was a senior employee with nearly fifteen years of service under my belt, great performance reviews all around. But the recession that has spent the last year building up speed hit the corporate and financial worlds hard. So hard that budgets were slashed on everything, including advertising and basic services.

The film and television industry usually survives minor ticks in the economy, as entertainment is cheap, and advertising is always connected to it. But the money disappeared from the top as well as the bottom this time, and bank accounts are lighter at both ends of the spectrum. Lets put it this way: when Soap Operas are forced to cut their budgets, you know things aren't looking too good.

But like the older gentleman at the table next to me, I'm not scared of this downturn of events. It is always easy to feel sorry for yourself, but it is even easier to turn on the news for an hour or two and realize that there are people out there in far worse shape than you. This is true now more than ever. Things are truly tough all over.

My High School science teacher used to say that all species must either Adapt, Migrate, or Perish. She ended up retiring early due to a brain hemorrhage, inadvertently proving her point and demonstrating the concept of Irony at the same time. But she had a point.

So, I'll be tapping into the Unemployment Insurance I have been paying into over the past eighteen years, and using the opportunity to go back to school full-time. I'll also be using the extra time to concentrate on my writing, promoting Monster Rally, and shopping my screenplays around.

I've got my health, my talent, and my brand new Vespa. Who could ask for anything more?