Junior Mad Scientist – Lab Notes

Book Review: Bye, Bye, Baby

August 15th, 2011 by Weber


Sometimes, private eye Nathan Heller is about as hard-boiled as a Cadbury Creme Egg. He’d never admit to harboring a soft spot for his teenaged son (especially to the boy) or letting leak a drop of sweet and gooey center for the right kind of woman. But like all the best knights-errant, it’s there, under all the armor. Before long, somebody is dead, the crack gets sealed  with thick, dark chocolate, and Heller is off to serve justice Chicago-style .

Bye, Bye Baby — the 13th book in the Nathan Heller Memoirs — is no exception. This time out, a middle-aged Heller is in LA checking up on the A-1 Detective Agency’s West Coast operations, spending time with his son, and helping his old friend-with-benefits, Marilyn Monroe, a girl for whom it’s damned near impossible not to be sweet on. Between her problems with 20th Century Fox and the silk sheet shimmy she’s doing with each of the Kennedy Brothers, Marilyn’s life has become . . . complicated. So she asks Heller to tap her phones; she wants to keep a record of the ongoings. Heller agrees –– only to find the lines already tapped and the rest of the house bugged. But who, exactly, is listening? The goons at Fox? Hoffa? Sam Giancana? FBI? CIA? And why?

Through Heller, Collins examines the many questions regarding Marilyn’s death. He shows who could have benefited and why, and maybe even how she was offed.  There seems to be a raft of evidence that she was killed elsewhere in her house and was later moved to her bedroom where the tableau was set. He also makes the argument that Marilyn was a victim twice-over: being murdered then having no one stand up for her. Which (according to the book) would have been tough to do when so many parties were vested in squashing any investigation and pushing the official story of ‘suicide.’

The interactions between Heller and the early 1960’s celebrity set ring with authenticity. Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Bobby Kennedy –– usually portrayed as caricatures instead of characters or people –– are given nice depth, as is Marilyn. In fact, Marilyn is probably the most fully realized character in the book, even more so than Heller. Collins clearly has a thing for Marilyn, an affection for the doomed star and a longing to somehow retroactively save her from maltreatment and bitter fate. She’s the ultimate damsel-in-distress; always will be.

And while the plot is more of an unveiling of events than a mystery to solve, Collins’s solid writing and unorthodox take on the particulars make for compelling reading. Indeed. I sat on my ass flipping pages instead of taking care of things that needed my attention. (Special thanks the neighbors for calling about the burning barbeque grill.)

All in all, a good book worth reading. So good, in fact, that I am compelled to get my hands on Nate Heller’s other memoirs and catch up on the few I missed, including “Kisses of Death” –– the story in which Heller and Marilyn first rubbed . . . er . . . elbows.

If you haven’t read any of the Heller books, you’re in for a lot of time well spent. There is a reason they are award winners.

Bye, Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins goes on sale August 16th at fine bookstores everywhere.

And for a further bit of good reading, Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories will be available starting October 4, 2011.

 


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Pardon Our Dust

August 15th, 2011 by Weber


 Special thanks to Webmaster MIKE for doing all the background schlepping to get the JMS site up to current codes and standards.

A few things are still in the works (e.g., formatting) and MIKE says he wants to mess with the design. The site’s look is already four years old (the horror!) and needs some updating. Or so he says.

I sez it’s a classic and don’t need no messing. Trying to argue with MIKE is futile, especially about Web stuff, so he’s got free reign, as usual.

So, stay tuned for tweaks and adjustments. We’ll be surprised together.


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Book Review: The Big Book Of Adventure Stories

August 1st, 2011 by Weber


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Special thanks to Agent Joe for picking this one up for me. He said that when he found this while wandering though a St. Louis bookstore, he figured, “I must be in the Brad section.”

I showed it to my wife and she said, “Where’d he find this — the Brad section?”

And here I thought the Brad section was full of unread Anger Management books . . .

The Big Book Of Adventure Stories is the third collection of pulp-era/pulp-flavored goodness from the folks over at Vintage Crime/Black Lizard. The other two on your local bookstore shelves are The Black Lizard Big Book Of Pulps and Big Book of Black Mask Stories.

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The tropic-toned cover art sets the right atmosphere for these golden-age adventure tales. And having finished only three of the book’s 47 stories —“After King Kong Fell,” “The Golden Anaconda,” and “The Slave Brand of Selman Bin Ali” — it’ is easy to say the collection lives up to its name. Plus, the fact that these are short stories lets me finish one, at lunch or before bed, without being compelled to stay awake all night or not being able to get back to work on my own writing.

The Big Book Of Adventure Stories was edited by Otto Penzler, the same guy who did the other two. He does a fine job of briefly introducing each story and its author, then letting the reader get on with the action. The forward by adventure/thriller author Douglas Preston adds an interesting fillip, especially his thoughts on the dates most significant to the adventure genre (1853 through 1922). This one far and away satisfies all three of my copyrighted Three Best Things Anybody Can Ever Say About A Book*:

I would pay full cover price, including applicable sales taxes.
I would give this book as a gift.
It was worthy of the time spent reading it.

Per some data on the book’s final page, two more Vintage Crime/Black Lizard collections are on their way: Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and Agent Of Treachery: Never Before Published Spy Fiction form Today’s Most Exciting Writers. (UPDATE: Agents is in bookstores now!)

One can only hope there is a Big Book of Western Stories slated for the very near future. Because if there is, I’m getting one.

P.S. — if ever a publisher’s logo deserved its own t-shirt, it’s Black Lizard: black shirt, lime green lizard, Web address printed underneath. Just sayin’ . . .

*The Three Best Things Anybody Can Ever Say About Any Book is copyright/Keep-Yer-Grimy-Hands-Off-My-Intellectual-Propertied 2011 by Bradley James Weber. The broadcast, re-broadcast, use or invocation of the listed listing device, its title, or any variation thereof without prior written authority from, and excessive payment to, Bradley James Weber is strictly prohibited.


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Ugly Dolls to the Big Screen

June 17th, 2011 by Weber


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We at Der Weber Haus have, for many years, been fans of The Ugly Dolls. I saw my first one, Ice Bat, at Chicago Comics back around 2002 or so. And when I got word that Kidzilla was on the way, I went ahead on put an order in for Babo. Babo is cool — kinda shy but plays well with Chauncey the monkey, Morris the rabbit, Lucky Dog, Sally Cat, and our resident twin elephants, Didi & Gogo.

Now comes word that the Uglies will be jumping to the Big Screen:

Illumination Entertainment, the company behind “Despicable Me”, is planning to turn the Uglydoll collection of toys and books into an animated feature film reports The Wrap.

David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim created the characters in 2001 and their company has sold a wide range of branded products, including dolls, books, calendars, clothing and coffee mugs.

“Little Fockers” scribe Larry Stuckey will write the screenplay while Christopher Meledandril will produce. The company is based at Universal which will distribute and hopes to turn into a major franchise.

The excitement of seeing the Dolls brought to life is cooled by the fact the first run at the script will be done by someone who penned the latest (and hopefully last) Focker film. Let’s hope Illumination Entertainment decides to steer clear of 3D CGI.


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Now on Facebook

November 7th, 2010 by Weber


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No, not me. This guy.

A couple of months ago, I posted the various versions of the Tinwerks 2009 holiday card. Little did I know Joe and Dave had installed Tinny as their FaceBook icon.

Better check it quick, though. They ordered a complete redesign — the final for which I delivered at the end of October. sThere are some fun plans for Tinny and his new look. Friend Tinwerks on Facebook and you’ll probably find out about the launch before I do.

After Tinny 2.0 goes live, I’ll be free to do some show-n-tell with the prototypes.


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Tools for the Zombie Apocolypse

October 6th, 2010 by Weber


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Found this beauty while researching USMC bolo machetes for a little project that’s in the works.

You’re looking at the Condor CT-5 — a 22-inch machete cut from 1095 spring steel. (The good stuff, or so I read.) Figure in the full tang and overall length is 27.5 inches. Just the kind of quality instrument one best have when dealing with the undead. Or heavy jungle. Or Whatever.

My 6-year old was next to me while I was looking these over so, naturally, I had to explain what a machete was, how it was different from a sword, and why I wanted one.

The wife tells me, “You don’t need a machete.”

The kid tells her, “Sure he does!”

That’s my girl . . .

Also found something called a bush cutlass, which looks like a cavalry saber for ninjas. The knuckle guard is nice . . . so is the point. Good for getting at the brain through the eye socket. But will the narrow blade hold up against zombie skulls?

Guess there’s only one way to find out.

Look for more edged weapons and other survival gear here:

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Just click the image and you’ll zip right over.


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Lauren Richer — Someone You Should Know

October 5th, 2010 by Weber


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Meet Lauren Richer — photographer, graphic designer, writer.

Talented? Oh, yeah.

Home base = San Diego.

The Scrabble ads are especially well done.

YOU GO NOW!


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Got my mime on my money & my money on my mime

October 4th, 2010 by Weber


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Tried posting this seemingly simple question over on Yahoo!’s “Group Of The Living Dead,” a few weeks ago but it’s never appeared. So what, right? Their loss. Anyway, here it is:

If a mime became a zombie, would it moan at the living?

Discuss.


Posted in Weridness, Zombies | 2 Comments »

Night of the Living Trekkies — book review

September 7th, 2010 by Weber


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“I’m dead, Jim.”

Today’s the 7th, so I can officially unleash my review. Read on. Contest details at the bottom.

Night of the Living Trekkies is a fluffy book, like popcorn or cotton candy, or a tribble, I suppose. There are no real surprises here. It is good, old-fashioned comfort reading.

The story has the rhythm of any modern zombie film, keeps all the necessary beats. But instead of a rag-tag group of strangers desperate to save their individual skins, this is a rag-tag group of sci-fi geeks applying the Star Trek philosophy of “a better world though friendly cooperation” to their survival. And it works, for the most part. There are also a handful of the usual narrative standards: Reluctant Hero Rises to his Destiny, Saves His Friends, Defeats the Enemy and Gets The Girl. We know they’re going to get out of this; it’s just a matter of how.

The guys who wrote Night of the Living Trekkies certainly did their homework. Trek references and inside jokes abound, especially in the first seventy-or-so pages of set-up. And keeping with Star Trek’s overall target audience, NotLT seems to have been penned for a PG-13 crowd. The zombie action is light and, keeping with the property’s sci-fi trappings, the weapons of choice tend toward Tasers and blades. Guns are used, though sparingly.

While the story skates to the beat and rhythm of a zombie movie, the overall story traces a parabola consistent with any of the Star Trek shows and/or films and nearly all the right people are alive by the end. The chapters are short, the action is fast, the writing is serviceable — all work to keep the pages flipping. (I finished it in about five hours and I’m a slow reader.) The characters are generally likable, even the Jerk who eventually devolves into The Bad Guy. But even so, he is not despicable. There is a wide line between being an ass and being evil, and in this book, that line never gets crossed.

Night of the Living Trekkies has plenty of enemies in it, but no real Villain, which may be this tale’s missing ingredient. The zombies have no motive other than to consume and infect. They are simply the Enemy. The Jerk who turns into the Bad Guy does so mainly because he is infected and taken over by the thing creating the zombies. The one guy who might serve as a Villain is explained too late for him to have been effective and a lot of air is let out of his balloon when it’s realized he’s not in control of his own actions, anyway.

The story wraps up nice & tidy, all loose ends cut or cauterized, with the Hero and his pals facing a Bright Though Uncertain Future. They are us and we are them. The same could be said for the zombies. But this is, after all, a Star Trek story.

So — time to apply my patented evaluation device, ““The Three Best Things Anybody Can Ever Say About Any Book”:

Was it worthy of the time I spent reading it? — Oddly, yes. Like I said, the pages turned quickly and I was entertained for pretty much the entire story.
Would I pay full cover price, including applicable sales taxes? — For myself, no. If I was buying it as a gift, sure.
Would I give this book as a gift? — Yes.

CONTEST! WIN A FREE BOOK AND POSTER! TWO LUCKY WINNERS!

Books are books and should be given freely. Share a book and share yourself.

Or something like that.

So, rather than make my faithful readers do anything untoward, I figure to just give the book/poster combos to the first two who comment on this post.

Don’t put your address in the comments! I’ll get back to you via email and work out how to get you the goods.

Good luck and thanks for reading.


Posted in Book Reviews, Zombies | 3 Comments »

Immortal Words on Mortality

September 7th, 2010 by Weber


As reportedly said by playwright Tom Stopppard:

“I have a spasm of envy for the person that was killed by a falling bookcase, as long as it doesn’t happen prematurely. [It] would be a good way to go. You went when you were in a good frame of mind and you were doing something pleasant and interesting. A lot of people would say, ‘I would rather have a heart attack at the height of sexual passion.’ On the whole, I would prefer to be killed by a bookcase.”

Presumably, the case is full of books. Death By Empty Bookcase would seem to be pointless.

Can’t help but wonder what books Mr. Stoppard wouldprefer fill the homicidal shelves prior to their collapse?


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