Derrick Ferguson: Who is Michael A. Gonzales?
Michael A. Gonzales: Born on June 23, 1963, I’m a kid from Harlem who has been interested in books, movies and comics since I was a small boy, and knew I had to figure out a way to make those things a part of my life. I grew-up on 151 Street between Broadway and Riverside. My biological father lived in Westchester while my step-dad, a Puerto Rican barber/hustler, lived on 7th Ave and 123rd Street, so I always tell folks I had the best of both worlds.
DF: Where do you live and what do you do for a living?
MG: Currently I live in Baltimore. I write full-time, but I’ve had all kinds of jobs including working as a NYC foot messenger in the early 80s, working at a coffee shop restaurant, a clerk at Tower Records and, my longest job, was working at a NYC homeless shelter for a decade. I started out mopping floors, but a few years later worked in the recreation department with the kids. That was trip, believe me. It was also the height of crack, so the shelter could get wild. It was a family shelter…the first one I worked in was in Brooklyn in the middle of Fort Green Projects while the second was on Catherine Street on the Lower East Side. Needless to say, it was an adventure, but I was writing for various newspapers and magazines during that time as well.
DF: You have an interesting background. Tell us some of it.
MG: Growing-up in NYC in the ‘70s was a great adventure. Our block and building was full of kids, so I had a lot of friends. I was raised by my mom and grandma, but my biological father as well as my stepfather was a big part of my life. My stepfather adopted me, which is why my last name is Gonzales. His name was Carlos. My “real” father was named Lafayette Dixon and he came from down south. For most of my young life I went to private (The Modern School) or Catholic (St. Catherine of Genoa) school and was a kind of shy as a boy. I went to Rice High School for a year, then my mom moved to Baltimore in ‘78. Our NYC neighborhood crew went to the movies together every week, so I saw a lot of films as a boy. Also, my mom was a big reader and film lover. My mom was (is) the coolest and exposed me and baby brother (two years younger) to museums, concerts, Greenwich Village and all kinds of arty stuff. I was also a TV junkie and watched EVERYTHING from “The Brady Bunch” to cartoons to PBS.
DF: How long have you been writing?
MG: My mom said she used to put books and magazines in play pen and I would look at them like I was really reading them. I had a cool German godfather whose family came to NYC when Hitler came into power. Uncle Hans was a writer and one day, out of the blue, asked me to dictate a story to him. My mom had just taken me to see a movie called “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight”, so I stole the plot for my own story that Uncle Hans typed up. I was eight years old. When I saw the collected pages when I was finished, I was hooked. That same year, Uncle Hans bought me an Olivetti typewriter and that was that. But, many years later, it was my late girlfriend Lesley Pitts who believed in my work and told me she would support me until I finally broke through. I wrote about her in my essay “Love in the Age of Prince.”
Love in the Age of Prince: https://catapult.co/stories/love-in-the-age-of-prince
DF: What have you learned about yourself through your writing?
MG: Besides the fact that I spend too much time living in the past, I’m not sure.
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? IS there an audience for Michael A. Gonzales?
MG: That’s an interesting question, because I’ve been blessed to have written for a wide variety of publications from New York magazine to a ghetto-lit collection edited by Shannon Holmes to various erotica and crime fiction anthologies. I love telling stories, all kinds of stories, and always hoped my stories reached everyone from the b-boys on the corner to the be-boppers in a jazz club, from the around the was girls to the Spellman College grads. Also, while I write from an obvious Black perspective, I hope the stories can be appreciated by folks of all races.
DF: The first thing of yours that I read was “Jaguar and The Jungleland Boogie” in the BLACK PULP anthology. An improbable mash-up of Hip-Hop, New Jack Swing, Blaxploitation and Pulp, after a single reading it became one of my favorite stories in the book. What’s the origin of the story?
MG: Oh, man, thank you. I had started writing that story years before Black Pulp but asking to be a part of that book gave me the courage to finish it. Really, I wanted to write a hood version of Batman and Robin with a little bit of the Shadow mixed in. Growing-up, I loved Batman, the TV show and the comics. As a kid, my favorite Batman artist was the late Marshall Rodgers. In 1978, he and Denny O’Neil did a weird mash-up of comics and fiction called “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” and I was so inspired by that. Comic Book artists and writers (but mostly artists) are a big influence on me and I channel their work when I’m writing those kinds of stories. Guys like Howard Chaykin, Michael Kaluta, Alex Nino, Berni Wrightson, Jim Steranko and, of course, Jack Kirby.
“Jaguar and the Jungleland Boogie” excerpt http://www.egotripland.com/jaguar-jungleland-boogie-michael-gonzales
DF: How familiar were you with Pulp before you wrote the story?
MG: I’ve been a pulp fan since I was a boy. I used to order old Shadow radio shows on records, I watched Flash Gordon serials on PBS and read Byron Preiss’ Weird Heroes series of paperbacks. I think that was when I first heard the word “pulp,” but I’ve been a fan since childhood.
DF: Having dipped your toes into New Pulp waters, do you plan on diving in again anytime soon?
MG: I hope so. I wrote a second Jaguar story that hasn’t been published. It was done for BLACK PULP II, but I have no idea what is going on with that project. I really like writing pulp stories and, if given the opportunity, I’d love to write some more.
DF: Your musical knowledge is extraordinary and you are perhaps best known for your articles and essays about music. How important has music been in your life?
MG: I’ve been buying records since I was a kid. Growing-up uptown was the best music education because I heard everything: jazz, salsa, soul and pop. I grew-up listening to WABC-AM as well as WWRL and later WBLS. I was a major rock fan too, which got me teased, but I didn’t care. I loved Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, but also Elton John and Queen. My mom took me to see Little Anthony in Central Park when I was kid. Her friend Chucky played drums with the group and we went backstage after the show. I was about six or seven, but that changed my life. I couldn’t sing or play an instrument, but I knew I wanted to be in music somehow. Later, music critics Lester Bangs, Greg Tate, Nelson George, Barry Michael Cooper and other became my guides.
DF: Your opinion on the current musical landscape?
MG: I’m going to be 55 this year, but I try to stay somewhat current. I don’t listen to as much new rap, but I’m down with guys like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. Still, I am very much an old school head…still blasting the Super Fly soundtrack like it came out yesterday.
DF: I’ve read the term “culture writer” applied to you. Does that fit? Exactly what is a “culture writer” anyway?
MG: I stole that tag from my critical writing hero (and now friend) Greg Tate. In the ‘90s, when I was on staff at both Vibe and The Source, I was writing about music, but also books, films and old school NYC life…to me, cultural critic best described my beat. I did stories on Snoop Dogg, Lauryn Hill, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, The O’Jays, Barry White (spent a few days in Europe with him), Curtis Mayfield, Kool Herc and many others. I also co-authored a book about hip-hop called Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture, published by Random House in 1991. I wrote it with my buddy Havelock Nelson.
DF: I’ve read a few of your articles where you describe your movie going experiences back in the 1970s/80s and I’m convinced that you and I must have been in some of the same 42end grindhouses at the same time back then. How important have movies been in your life?
MG: Very, though I must admit I didn’t start going to Times Square until I was an adult. Our hood had some great movie houses…the Tapia (which was The Bunny when my mom was a teen and later became The Nova) was my childhood spot. There was also the Roosevelt on 145th and 7th Ave, the RKO Coliseum on 181 Street and Broadway, and The Olympia on 107 Street and Broadway.
DF: How much of an influence do movies have on your writing?
MG: Man, I don’t even know where to begin. The movies I grew-up with, from “Across 110th Street” to “Annie Hall” “The Mack” to “Network”, have perhaps influenced me more than any books. Then, as a teenager I discovered foreign films. I think “The 400 Blows” was the first one I saw and I was hooked. I’ve written a few essays about my love for film and its influence on my work, but “Into the Cinema, Onto the Page” is perhaps my favorite.
Into the Cinema, Onto the Page: https://catapult.co/stories/into-the-cinema
DF: What are you working on now?
MG: Well, I have a new book column I’ve been writing for a site called Catapult. The column is called The Blacklist and it explores out-of-print books by African-American authors. I have a heist novel called Uptown Boys that I’m ready to dust off and try to sell. I also want to revisit a few short stories I have in the can. I have an essay of New York City graffiti coming soon in the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap as well as an essay about the Gordon Parks/XXL magazine collaboration A Great Day in Hip-Hop, which will be published in Contact High edited by Vikki Tobak. Also, my essay on the book Hog Butcher, which was adapted into the film “Cornbread, Earl and Me”, will be published later this year in Sticking It To the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1956 to 1980 edited Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre.
The Blacklist: https://catapult.co/editorial/topics/the-blacklist/stories
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Michael A. Gonzales like?
MG: I need coffee first thing in the morning. Strong Bustello. It used to be coffee and a joint, but now it’s just coffee. I try to write every day. I’ve been blessed to having never had to deal with writer’s block, because, usually if I get stuck on something, I jump to something else. Also, if I get stuck I usually watch a movie, watch cartoons, listen to Miles Davis or the speeches of Malcolm X. Also, reading the Beat poets including old LeRoi Jones also helps.
DF: For anybody wanting to know more about you and your work, where should they start?
MG: My most recent short story a weird semi-gothic joint called “Roses,” that The Root published earlier this year. Fiction wise, I’d love folks to check out my erotica in the Brown Sugar series and other collections. One of my favorite non-fiction pieces that combines music and crime is called How Cool C and Steady B Robbed a Bank, Killed a Cop and Lost Their Souls, about these Philly rappers who became bank robbers and killers. I’ve also published some cool music pieces at Soulhead.com, Complex and Wax Poetics, where I did major articles on Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone and D’Angelo.
How Cool C and Steady B Robbed a Bank, Killed a Cop and Lost Their Souls : https://medium.com/cuepoint/how-cool-c-and-steady-b-robbed-a-bank-killed-a-cop-and-lost-their-souls-d24d404f120a
Wax Poetics: http://www.waxpoetics.com/author/michael-gonzales
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Michael A. Gonzales: I could go on and on, until the break of dawn. But, this is cool. Thanks for the honor.
Derrick Ferguson: Who is Sean Taylor?
Sean Taylor: He’s just a man whose circumstances got beyond his control, beyond his control. I’m Kilroy. Okay, maybe not.
I’ll drop the official bio instead:
Sean Taylor is an award-winning writer of stories. He grew up telling lies, and he got pretty good at it, so now he writes them into full-blown adventures for comic books, graphic novels, magazines, book anthologies and novels. He makes stuff up for money, and he writes it down for fun. He’s a lucky fellow that way.
He’s best known for his work on the best-selling Gene Simmons Dominatrix comic book series from IDW Publishing and Simmons Comics Group. He has also written comics for TV properties such as the top-rated Oxygen Network series The Bad Girls Club. His other forays into fiction include such realms as steampunk, pulp, young adult, fantasy, super heroes, sci-fi, and even samurai frogs on horseback (seriously, don’t laugh). However, his favorite contribution to the world will be as the writer/editor who invented the genre and coined the term “Hookerpunk.”
DF: What do you do to keep the creditors away?
ST: I’ve been everything from a corporate media strategist to a local newspaper editor, and I’ve written comics and short stories and even a novel thus far, but for the day job at the moment, I edit for several places as a freelancers/contractor to keep the bills paid. It’s a dirty job, as they say, but someone’s got to love it.
DF: How long have you been writing and what have you learned about yourself through your writing?
ST: My first magazine article was in 1991, a marketing article about doing a summer reading display for a bookstores to highlight summer book sales. It was a hit, and I kept doing it. My first short story was publishing in 1995 in O’ Georgia: A Collection of Georgia’s Newest and Most Promising Writers, and I caught the bug and haven’t stopped yet.
What have I learned? Well, I’ve learned how to survive close to the poverty line, that’s for sure. Writing and editing is one of those comes and goes industries, and in an economy as volatile as the U.S. one has been during the years I’ve been a writer and editor, it’s bounced up and down several time. But what I learned from all that is that writing is something I make time to do whether or not it’s paying the bills. It’s more a calling than a career choice.
DF: What Next Big Project are you working on now?
ST: My current projects are a few short stories I have to knock out in order to get to the Next Big Project. I’ve got a Golden Amazon, Phantom Detective, and Secret Agent X story for Moonstone, then a novella for my Spy Candy property at Pro Se. After that, I’ll finally be free to get back on my Armless O’Neil novel for the Pulp Obscura line. That one’s going to be so much fun. I love Armless so hard. He’s more fun to write than just about any characters I know. I’m also in the process of releasing a book of essays on writing and reading, along the lines of the kind of articles I write for my blog. I did mention my blog, right? Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action. (www.badgirlsgoodguys.com)
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Sean Taylor?
ST: That’s a tough one because I have my hands in so many writing pies. On the one hand, I write a lot, a big whole lot, of New Pulp tales. Then I also can’t quite pull myself away from horror. And I got my start in lit fiction and super-hero prose. Ultimately, I guess, I’m writing for an audience that likes a sense of adventure and wonder to go along with interesting characters. I think somewhere deep inside me is a magical realism writer who likes to paint the edges of my work with extraordinary stuff from time to time.
DF: What is the one book or story of yours you would recommend to somebody to start with who is not familiar with your work? And why that particular book or story?
ST: Ouch. Which child will best show off my Roman nose? Hmmm… I suppose the truest picture of who I am comes through the stories in Show Me A Hero, my collection of super-hero tales from Cyber Age Adventures/iHero Entertainment. But if you want to see the newer me, you’ll need to read The Ruby Files. That one really hits on all cylinders of who I am too. A little bit of lit (that holds on doggedly), and a lot of action and character, with a bit of mischief in taking the truth of history (racism, sexism) and dragging it into the light to try to make a point about today too.
DF: How much room in your head do you allow critics and criticism to occupy?
ST: Just what is needed. You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and then you have… Well, not The Facts of Life, but something you can use to improve. If it doesn’t help me improve my work, then there’s no room for it up in my head.
DF: This has been a good year for Rick Ruby. Tell us the origins of the character.
ST: Good ol’ Rick Ruby came about when I suckerpunched Bobby Nash in The Pulp Factory Yahoo Group list. We had talked about a Richard Diamond anthology very vaguely, and then the idea of taking that idea, tweaking the hell out of it, and making it all ours hit me one day, and suddenly I posted in the group, dragging Bobby into my madness, and like the wonderful partner in crime (and writing) he is, he just ran with it.
Jump forward a few weeks or so, when he and I are in a Golden Corral, putting together a story bible for the character. Between bites of steak and chicken, we talking about bloody murders and bad guys and stealing diamonds and putting meat on Ruby’s back-story. To say that the other patrons looked at us funny would be an understatement.
When we fleshed him out, we knew most of all that even though folks like Spade and Diamond and even Hammer were our starting point, we wanted something different. And that’s where the idea of a white man in two worlds, the black, other side of the tracks, world and rich white uppercrust world of the ’30s, came from. We wanted a man who was a sort of pure-hearted louse because the world didn’t give him any other options.
DF: What else have you got planned for Rick Ruby? Comic books? Graphic Novels? TV show?
ST: At this point we’re just riding the wave with our three (yes, that’s right—THREE) Pulp Factory Awards for The Ruby Files Vol. 2. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some awesome plans for Rick and his cast. For starters, we’re working on Vol. 3 for a release date early next year, and you’re going to be a big part of that one, which I can’t wait to read. After that, there will be a Rick Ruby novel, and then even further out, we’ll get into Rick’s legacy when I write the adventures of his grandson in something tentatively titled The Ruby Legacy.
I’d love to see comics and TV, but baby steps, Bill Murray, baby steps.
DF: What are your thoughts on where New Pulp is at today?
ST: I just wrote an essay on this for my upcoming book Giddy and Euphoric: Essays on Writing and Reading (And Ray Bradbury). I think New Pulp is in a pretty enviable spot right now. Now that it’s outgrown its source material and can play with style instead of just characters or settings, New Pulp is literally being made and remade every day.
We have the freedom to tell new stories about nostalgic characters and legacy characters we can add to their stories. We have the freedom to create new characters that share their type and tone. And we have the freedom to simply use the style of those stories to create something even more new and original than either of those.
In a lot of ways we New Pulp writers are just laying claim to the summer reading adventure or crime novel and taking them back home to the stuff that influenced them in the first place. Only we doing it with bigger settings, more varied characters, and lots more panache.
DF: Is New Pulp going anywhere? If so, where is it going? If not, why isn’t it?
ST: Man, I really hope so. I think it’s probably becoming more broad in its definition, like I hinted it above. One publisher has even already embraced the term “Genre” rather than “New Pulp” for its catalog, and I think that’s probably a good thing. I have no problem with New Pulp being more a movement than a genre, because it’s about tone and style and influence than it is about a marketing term or creating a new section in the local Barnes & Noble.
DF: In what direction do you think your work is going?
ST: Make that “in what directions” do I think my work is going, because I’m always moving in about three different directions.
I’m pretty sure at this point that my stories are settling into one of two camps: pulpy tales and horror stories. In my pulp stuff I’m starting to move mainly into just novels and will be weaning myself away from the short stories, except in a few, rare cases. As for my horror work, that’s going to always be short stories. There’s very little I enjoy writing more than horror short stories. That’s an art form I’ll never be able to leave behind.
DF: Netflix calls you up and says they’re going to spend fifty million to turn one of your books into a twelve-episode series. They’ll let you pick the book and one director for all twelve episodes. Which book and which director?
ST: As much as I’d love to see a Fishnet Angel series based on my iHero Entertainment/Cyber Age Adventures tales and the Shooting Star Comics comic book, I think at this point, I’d still have to zero on in Rick Ruby. I think an ongoing series with an underlying C-plot (a la Longmire) would be something that could really make Ruby a hit visually. Besides, I like very few things more than a good period piece on TV.
DF: What’s a typical Day in The Life of Sean Taylor like?
ST: As the old saying goes: Shit, Shower, and Shave, only often without all that pesky shaving nonsense. I’m a contract editor by trade right now, so if there’s work in my inbox, I’m off to the Grayson Coffee House to put lots of red marks all over the pages I’ve been sent. If I have that rare day off, I’ll usually be writing at either the coffee house or my home office. Wash, rinse, and repeat, with occasional Netflix, Amazon, or anime binges thrown in for relaxation.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Sean Taylor: I once had to break a date because I fell down an elevator shaft, and no, she didn’t believe me either. Which was a bummer. She was cute.
I lost a job one because of a pair of thong. Long story, but it involved Cafepress, a requested item for a friend, and a national religious organization. And a friend in my corner who wished he had a baseball bat at the time. But everything’s good now.
I have two new books coming out pretty soon.
One will be a collection of essays about the art and craft of writing and reading— Giddy and Euphoric: Essays on Writing and Reading (And Ray Bradbury). Anyone who follows my work will know how much I love to pontificate about the craft. What can I say? I’m a wordy fellow.
The other will be a collection of horror stories I’ve written, and it’ll be called A Crowd in Babylon and Other Dark Tales. I’m really looking forward to that one too because, like I said earlier, I love horror stories, and done right, I don’t think there’s a much better American art form. It’s the jazz of genre stories, I think.
I’m going to be straight up and honest here. Whenever I hear about a movie or a book being described as “Pulp” or “Grindhouse” or being in the tradition of those genres, I kinda tend to roll my eyes and give out with a little groan. Because usually they end up being a disappointment. They do. Most people who think they know what Grindhouse is actually have no idea. They think it’s just a lot of crazy shit happening and a bunch of wacky characters that it’s happening to. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez understand Grindhouse. Joe R. Lansdale understands Grindhouse. Robert R. McCammon understands Grindhouse. Mike Baron understands Grindhouse. They speak the language and understand the elements that go into Grindhouse backwards and forwards. And so does Derek Slaton.
SMOOTHEN SILKY: DEMON FIGHTING PIMP is such an entertaining piece of Grindhouse/Pulp Fiction that I hardly know where to being to describe it. First of all, if the title doesn’t grab you then go on back to your Jane Austin and leave this one alone. But if you’re a fan of 1970s/1980s Grindhouse Movies then you’re definitely the audience for this one. You’ll know exactly where Mr. Mason draws his influences from and you’ll go along for the ride.
Smoothen Silky is not just a Pimp. He is The Pimp of All Pimps. And he’s got a holy mission to protect humanity from the demon hordes that would conquer mankind. In Derek Slaton’s universe, demons don’t want to destroy humanity. If they did that then who would they have to torment and exploit? The ambitions of the demons in this universe are much more base and carnal. And then who better to combat them than The Pimp of All Pimps and his A-Team of Ho’s? Most of them have the benefits of higher education since Silky insists on it. He not only has the finest ho’s in the world, they’re also the smartest, easily equal in brain power and skills to Doc Savage’s Iron Crew or Buckaroo Banzai’s Hong Kong Cavaliers. But with way more to offer in other areas. If you know what I mean (nudge nudge wink wink)
Silky works for The Agency, an organization devoted to battling demon incursions and along with veteran agent Rose and rookie agent Kerr he and his A-Team of Ho’s find themselves up against their greatest challenge; to prevent The Princess, a demon Beauty Queen from performing a mystical ritual that will bring back to our dimension The King of The Beach, a Demon King who will plunge the Earth into an unending and eternal Summer Break.
Yes. You read that right. And if after reading that you don’t want to read this book then there’s nothing else I can say.
Well, in fact there is a few more things I can say. Derek Slaton understands that if you want to write a Grindhouse novel then you have to write it in a visual, cinematic style and he certainly does so. It took me a while to get through certain scenes because while I visualized Silky as looking like 1970s Isaac Hayes I kept hearing his dialog in the voice of Katt Williams. I was laughing so hard I kept losing my place and had to go back a page or two to resume reading. That’s how good he is with dialog. Silky, Rose and Kerr all have their own distinctive speech patterns that are easy to follow and never once was I confused as to was talking to whom. Derek Slaton even makes sure that he gives each one of Silky’s Ho’s their moment to shine so that they’re an integral element of the story and not just there for the sexual innuendo (although that certainly don’t hurt.)
He also understands action scenes. I despair at the number of writers who desperately want to write action but have no idea of how to do so. They have to be put together so that a reader can cleanly visualize what is going on and who is hitting/shooting/punching/kicking/whooping ass on or taking it from. Again, Derek Slaton knows how to do this.
Me going on any further would entail me having to describe more about the plot and characters and a lot of the fun of reading SMOOTHEN SILKY: DEMON FIGHTING PIMP derives from you finding it out for yourself who these characters are and how they relate to each other and how they join together to save the world. Reading SMOOTHEN SILKY: DEMON FIGHTING PIMP gave me the same feeling I get when I watch a really good B-Movie and that’s probably the best recommendation I can give it: it’s the best B-Movie I’ve read in quite a while. Enjoy.
I suppose that out of the many reasons that I’m not yet rich and famous, the fact that I’m notorious lousy at promotion is either #1 or #2. I seem to have this unreasonable faith/belief that those who want to find my work will find it, one way or another. That includes my Patreon site. While you may know I have one you may not know exactly what content is available to you there. Okay, we can take care of that right now and hopefully the information I’m about to impart to you will assist you in making an informed decision as to you becoming a Patron of mine or not.
Let’s start with the crown jewel of the lot, shall we? If you’re a Dillon fan and haven’t yet signed up to check out Dillon and The Prophecy of Fire then you’ve been missing out on a story that’s got a lot of significant events in Dillon’s life and career that you haven’t been previously privy to. The story is a direct sequel to “Dillon and The Night of The Krampus” and has Dillon taking his longtime friends/sidekicks Reynard Hansen and Wyatt Hyatt along with their newfound friend Professor Ursula Van Houghton to someplace we’ve never seen before: Dillon’s Pennsylvania estate, named Coppereye (an all too obvious homage to Ian Fleming’s Caribbean estate, “Goldeneye”).
As you can imagine, Reynard and Wyatt are surprised to find out that Dillon has a permanent residence all this time that they’ve never even suspected existed, complete with staff, mind you. But they don’t have much time to catch up before they’re thrown into a mystery involving a sinister cabal of scientists whose dangerous research project involves Vril Energy. Something that Dillon knows far more about than he’s comfortable with.
The first ten chapters of the story are up now and the conclusion will be posted soon. Then the entire thing will be up until June when a new Dillon serial; “Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde” will take over. More about that over at the Dillon blog here where I did an entire entry about the genesis of “Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde.” Enjoy.
Diamondback I: It Seemed Like A Good Idea at The Time is a novel with a pretty long history. It’s my attempt to write what I call an “Urban Western.” Which simply means that instead of riding nags and blasting away with six-shooters, the good guys and bad guys drive BMWs, Jaguars and Lamborghinis and shoot each other with automatic weapons. A more detailed description and breakdown of the story can be found here.
One Night in Denbrook is a work in progress going back to 2009. The origins of the story are mainly because I wanted to see if I could do a prose version of a 1980s Action Movie. That’s all. My aspirations as a writer on this particular piece really don’t go any further than trying to put a movie on paper. Most of you who have been following me for a while and know that I usually say that I consider myself a frustrated film director so One Night in Denbrook is my shot at writing a story visual as I possibly could, throwing in all kinds of off-the-wall characters and situations.
The plot is simple: Denbrook’s criminal element is hunting for the heart of Toulon The Magician, Denbrook’s #1 crime lord and one of the main characters of Diamondback. Some characters who appear in Diamondback also appear in this one as the events of One Night in Denbrook take place before the events of Diamondback. The heart of Toulon falls into the hands of one J. Cadwallander, a cab driver who turns out to have an eclectic and incredibly lethal skill set that no respectable cab driver should have and he spends one wild night trying to stay alive while everybody and their mother is trying to kill him for the heart.
The city of Denbrook was created by one of the most imaginative and creative writers I know. Mike McGee is flat out brilliant. That’s the best I can say about him. I truly appreciate the fact that he created the city of Denbrook and then just turned it over to a bunch of writers to use as we please.
So that’s it. That’s what up there right now. From time to time I throw up a short story I dig out of my digital files just as a treat and I’m thinking of offering a freebie every now and then just for the fun of it. By all means, if there’s something I can do that would entice you to sign up and become a Patron of mine, by all means let me know here or by email: DerrickFerguson@gmail.com
As always, I thank you for your time and kind patience. Blessings on you, your household and all that live there. Talk to you later.
Derrick Ferguson: Who is Lisa Marie Bowman?
Lisa Marie Bowman: Lisa Marie Bowman is a writer, a dancer, a dreamer, a film lover, a history nerd, a loyal friend, a thankful sister, a loving daughter, and a pop culture fanatic. For the longest time, I used to tell people that I was “just a sweet little thing with morbid thoughts.” Seeing as how my thoughts are a lot less morbid now than they were 10 years ago, I probably need to revise that description but to be honest; I like the way it sounds.
I also used to tell people that “I can be your dream or I can be your … NIGHTMARE!!!!” but I was just quoting The Perfect Teacher, one of my Lifetime movies.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
LMB: I live in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. I have a degree in Art History so, of course, I work in office administration. In general, I try to tell the IRS as little as possible.
DF: Tell us as much about your background as you’re legally allowed to.
LMB: I was born in Texas. I’m Italian/Spanish on my mother’s side and Irish on my father’s side. My family moved around a lot so, by the time I was twelve, I had already lived in six different states but I’m pretty much settled into Texas now. I’ve got three older sisters, a boyfriend who I love, a cat that I spoil, and more DVDs and Blu-rays than I really have room for.
DF: How long have you been reviewing movies?
LMB: Forever and ever! Well, I guess it really depends on what you mean by reviewing movies. Even before I ever sat down and wrote my first film review, I was always the person who you would see walking out of a theater, loudly explaining why the movie she had just seen either sucked or was the greatest thing ever. Eventually, I moved from annoying people in theaters to annoying people on the IMDb message boards. (I miss those message boards so much!) And, of course, when I joined twitter in 2009, almost all of my tweets dealt with movies. Well, movies, cats, and some other things that I probably shouldn’t mention but that’s another story…
Anyway, it was in 2010 that I started to seriously review movies. That was when my friend, Arleigh Sandoc, asked me if I would be a part of the entertainment website that is now known as Through the Shattered Lens. Originally, I was brought on to review old grindhouse and exploitation films. In fact, the very first review that I posted on Through the Shattered Lens was of an old blaxploitation film called “Welcome Home, Brother Charles”, which is about an ex-con who magically strangles people with his penis. That review got such a good response that I was like, “Hey, I might have to do this regularly.” Then, a few months later, I published a post entitled “10 Reasons Why I Hated Avatar” and that caused so much controversy that I was pretty much hooked from that moment on.
So, in other words, 8 years
DF: Why do you love movies so much?
LMB: For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved movies. I guess you could argue that, no matter what else was happening in my life, the movies that I loved were always there. It didn’t matter where I was living or what was going on in the real world, I could always sit down and watch one of my favorite movies. Movies provide stability in an occasionally unstable world.
Also, I’m a totally unapologetic history nerd. I’m fascinated with stuff that happened before I was born. I guess that’s one reason why I love old movies. A lot of them – especially the low budget B-movies that tend to get unfairly dismissed by some critics – are about as close as you can get to owning a time machine.
DF: Where so many movie reviewers come off as snarky or determined to prove how smart or how funny they are in their reviews, yours are very relaxed and friendly as if you’re having a conversation with the reader. Is this a style you’ve refined or are your reviews an extension of your personality?
LMB: For the most part, that really is my personality. At the same time, it’s also definitely a style that I’ve worked to refine. There are so many people out there reviewing movies now that, if you don’t have your own unique voice, you’re going to run the risk of just disappearing in the crowd. Myself, I’ve never really been a fan of the bitter (but woke) nerd persona that so many online critics seem to adopt. To them, I would say, “Just tell me what you thought about the movie and save the Devin Faraci imitation for another time.”
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your reviews? Is there an audience for Lisa Marie Bowman?
LMB: It’s interesting. When I first started writing reviews, another blogger checked out my work and told me that I was making a huge mistake by not specializing in only reviewing one or two genres of film. His opinion was that, instead of trying to review every single movie that I saw, I should just focus on either horror films or sci-fi films or new releases or whatever. He was particularly confused as to why I had recently reviewed “Test Tube Babies” an obscure exploitation film from 1948. His response reminded me of one of my former creative writing teachers who once told me, “You’ve got talent but I get the feeling that you mostly write to amuse yourself.”
But here’s the thing. I have no interest in limiting myself. I appreciate many different genres and therefore, I’m going to review many different genres. I don’t see what the problem is with reviewing a blockbuster one day and then, the next day, reviewing some cheap movie that was shot on an iPhone and uploaded to YouTube. I mean, who says that you can’t watch both “Citizen Kane” and “Degrassi Goes Hollywood” in the same night and have a good time doing it? Certainly not me!
The audience I’m trying to reach is made up of people who not only enjoy watching movies but who are also constantly on the search for new movies to discover. The best compliment anyone can give me is to let me know that one of my reviews either inspired them watch a movie for the first time or to take another look at a previously viewed movie. That’s my audience.
(Of course, I’m also hoping to reach people who really love “Degrassi” because seriously, that show is the best!)
Hopefully, there’s an audience for me. I’ve been doing this for 8 years so if there isn’t, I have to wonder about the hits that my sites have been getting. Hopefully, the views are coming from people and not a cat randomly walking across as keyboard.
DF: What are the elements of a good movie review?
LMB: It all comes down to sincerity. Lately, it seems like too many film reviewers are more concerned with making sure that they give “the right” opinion, as opposed to actually reviewing the film. Right now, a lot of critics are more concerned with establishing their woke credentials (or, in the case of some critics, their unwoke credentials) than in actually considering whether a film is good or not. A film can be made with very best of intentions and still not work as entertainment. A film can be made by your favorite director and still not work. A film can totally conform to every single political or cultural belief that you may hold and still not work. Not admitting that doesn’t do anyone any good.
I also think that, sometimes, film critics fall into the trap of reviewing the film that they wish they had seen as opposed to the film that they actually did see. This happens a lot with online film critics. For instance, so many people wanted “The Dark Knight Rises” to be the greatest film ever that they kind of ignored the fact that the actual movie is a bit of unwieldy mess. A more recent example would be 2016’s “Ghostbusters”, which was far more forgettable than a lot of us were willing to admit at the time when it was released. It’s always interesting to compare the way that people talk about a movie like “Ghostbusters” to the way they talked about it after it was first released. Of course, on the other side, you have films that are criticized just because critics don’t want to run the risk of being the only person to admit they liked that film. That happens frequently with the horror genre, though the success of “Get Out” would seem to indicate that maybe critics are finally willing to admit that movies can be both scary and good.
Basically, my number one rule for film reviews: If you didn’t like the film, say you didn’t like it. If you liked it, say you liked it. Be open about your biases. If, for some reason, you have a natural tendency to like movies where Adam Sandler performs open heart surgery, then your readers need to know that before reading your very positive review about the latest movie to feature Adam Sandler performing open heart surgery. What it really comes down to is just being honest about the film and not worrying whether the rest of the world agrees. Those are the reviews that will remain relevant in years to come.
DF: What is it with you and Lifetime movies?
LMB: Heh heh. I just really enjoy them. I always love a good, over-the-top melodrama and the best Lifetime films usually are a bit more self-aware than they’re usually credited with being. That said, I’m a little disappointed in the current direction that Lifetime seems to be heading. I’m not a fan of the celebrity biopics and the overly morbid true crime reenactments. I prefer my Lifetime films to be silly, melodramatic, and preferably Canadian.
DF: Do you have any aspirations of getting into the movie industry yourself? Scriptwriting? Acting? Directing?
LMB: Scriptwriting, maybe. I’m involved in some projects right now but I don’t want to say too much about them until I have something more definite to share. (If Marvel needs someone to write a Black Widow movie, I’ve got a few ideas.)
DF: Okay, you knew this was coming. Your 10 Favorite Directors, Actors, Actresses and Movies. Go.
LMB: This is always the most difficult type of question for me to answer, just because there’s so many movies that I love that it’s really difficult for me to narrow it down to just ten. Here are the ten of my favorite films, listed in alphabetical order. I should note that these are the ten films that popped into my head today. Ask me tomorrow and you might get a totally different list! (I’ve also tried to limit myself to one film per director, though you’ll notice below that I did cheat a little.)
1: ALL ABOUT EVE directed by Joseph Mankiewicz
2: CASINO directed by Martin Scorsese
3: THE GODFATHER TRILOGY directed by Francis Ford Coppola
4: THE THREE MOTHERS TRILOGY directed by Dario Argento
5: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE directed by Frank Capra
6: LOST IN TRANSLATION directed by Sofia Coppola
7: MULHOLLAND DRIVE directed by David Lynch
8: THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTED directed by Jean Rollin
9: THE RULES OF THE GAME directed by Jean Renoir
10: UPSTREAM COLOR directed by Shane Carruth
As for my top ten directors, the same rules apply. Off the top of my head: Dario Argento, Andrea Arnold, Mario Bava, Sofia Coppola, Ang Lee, David Lynch, Jean Renoir, Jean Rollin, Martin Scorsese, and Joe Wright.
Again, following the same rules, here’s my current top ten actors: James Franco, Donald Glover, Tom Hardy, William Holden, Robert Mitchum, Bill Murray, Gary Oldman, Chris Pratt, Jimmy Stewart, and Denzel Washington.
And, finally, my top ten actresses with the same rules applying: Amy Adams, Vera Farmiga, Greta Gerwig, Audrey Hepburn, Scarlett Johansson, Veronica Lake, Saorise Ronan, Edie Sedgwick, Mia Wasikowska, and Naomi Watts.
DF: Have you ever written any fiction? If so, where can we find it. And if not, why not?
LMB: I have! However, in the past, it’s been stuff that I usually just wrote for myself and a few intimate friends. But, who knows? Maybe I’ll start sharing some of it soon. I also used to write extremely emo poetry that didn’t rhyme. (My pen name was Pandora DeSaad.)
DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Lisa Marie Bowman like?
LMB: When I was in the 5th Grade, our teacher had us do one of those things where we divided our day into three 8-hour blocks and then you had to write down how much time you spent on certain things during the day. So, it was like – 8 hours of school, 8 hours of sleep, and then, because she assumed we’d spend two hours studying and one hour eating dinner every night, that left us with only 5 hours of free time. That not only taught me how little time there is in the day but it also totally freaked me out. So, as a result, I not only try to cram as much as I can into a day but I’ve also trained myself to only need two or three hours of sleep a night. I also start every day with a to-do list. Usually, I save my to-do lists even after I’m finished with them, which I guess is kind of obsessive behavior on my part. Oh well!
So, a typical day for me is: I wake up from my nap, I go to work, I either go shopping or dancing (depending on the day), and then I watch a movie or two and I usually schedule a few reviews to post the next day. On Saturday nights, I usually watch a bad horror or science fiction movie with a group of friends of mine. (Every Christmas, we watch “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians”.) One good thing about becoming an adult is that I no longer feel like I have to go out and do something crazy every single night. I’ve come to appreciate relaxing.
DF: Where can interested parties find your reviews?
LMB: There’s a few places:
Through the Shattered Lens – unobtainium13.com
Horror Critic – horrorcritic.com
SyFy Designs – SyFyDesigns.com
PrimeTime Prepper: The College Career of Zack Morris — primetimepreppie.blogspot.com
Reality TV Chat Blog – realitytvchatblog.wordpress.com
Big Brother Blog – Big-Brother-Blog.com
I also share daily music at Lisa Marie’s Song of the Day (lmsod.wordpress.com) because who doesn’t love music?
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Lisa Marie Bowman: Follow me on twitter at @LisaMarieBowman! Since I start a new project every other day, that’s the best way to keep up.
When last we saw Garvey Dire, he was doing pretty well for himself. Oh sure, his mission to Mars had gone wrong, leaving him near death. But then found himself miraculously transported 50,000 years into the past. And in that past, Mars is not a dying planet. Indeed, it thrives with life including the Muvari tribe which is mostly populated by warrior women. The males of the tribe are few and are guarded as they assure the continued survival of the tribe.
Garvey survives a number of harrowing adventures to rise to a level of prominence in the Muvari tribe as well as marrying the gorgeous and deadly Ntashia, the finest swordswoman of Mars. Garvey even managed to prevent World War III back on Earth in his native time period and save the life of his best friend. Salt-N-Pepa could very well have been talking about Garvey in their song “Whatta Man”
When we catch up again with Garvey Dire he’s facing an army of Galbran. They’re a rival tribe of cannibals who have an old score to settle with Garvey and an older one to settle with the Muvari. And while he’s trying to hold off this army in a remote outpost with but a handful of Muvari warrior women, he’s also trying to figure out how to handle the Muvari custom of a man having more than one wife. It’s not as hard one might think since his first wife Ntashia has made the arraignments for the marriage and is actively encouraging it. It’s custom, y’know and when on Mars…hey, do as the Martians do.
It’s almost a relief for Garvey to discover that his old rival and fellow Earthman Arnold Stechter survived the events of “Dire Planet” and is alive and well. He’s lost his memory of his life on Earth and doesn’t recall that he and Garvey are bitter enemies. But Stechter hasn’t forgotten his ambition and desire for power. He has gathered together outcast warrior women from a dozen different tribes and forged them into a savage, bloodthirsty army. And with these EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET he intends to conquer and rule Mars. But it’s a plan that has to begin with the overthrow of Ledgrim, the hidden Muvari capital city. And it’s Garvey Dire who will unwittingly help Stechter achieve that goal…
If you’ve read and enjoyed “Dire Planet” then you’ll certainly want to read the sequel. Not only does Joel continue to explore and reveal new layers of his Martian culture but he also gives us new layers of his protagonist. Garvey’s naturally hesitant about entering into another marriage when he’s already got a wife he’s perfectly happy with. Garvey Dire exhibits more maturity in this multiple marriage thing than you would expect from a hero in this genre. Garvey’s still learning his role and place in this world and he sometimes wishes things would go a little slower.
One thing he’s not slow at is facing down the hordes of enemies thirsting for his blood in this one. If this book doesn’t have the highest body count of any of Joel’s books, its right up there in the top three. Just the first fifty pages of the book has a higher death rate than most complete novels. And this is before Garvey finds out about Stechter and his army of exiles.
EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET is an enjoyable book as well as a demanding one. Joel seems determined to give readers more bang for their buck and while he certainly does that it also means that there’s a lot more you to pay attention to attention to and keep track of. The only complaint I have with the book is that in order to get in as much information as he can, Joel will occasionally have characters explain some aspect of Martian life and culture to Garvey, even during scenes where it seemed to me that concerning themselves with surviving whatever is trying to kill them should be of paramount importance. Also, there’s the character of Naegrik the Galbran. While he provides Garvey with a sidekick who’s just as much of an outsider as he is, Garvey’s acceptance of his conversion from full-blown cannibalism to bosom buddy and lifelong pal is a bit too quick for my taste. But I liked how the other characters kept an eye on Naegrik when he was around and constantly reminded Garvey that this guy grew up eating people.
But the main thing here is the adventure and Joel delivers it with great style and tight control over the half dozen subplots he’s got going. And EXILES OF THE DIRE PLANET ends with a cliffhanger that will demand that you get the third book in the series; “Into The Dire Planet” to find out what happens next. And for my money that’s exactly what Pulp, whether Classic or New is supposed to do. Enjoy.
You can find all the books in the “Dire Planet” series and many other fine books by Joel Jenkins HERE