The Denbrook Bible

By Mike McGee

Originally Written August 2002

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This is the first run-through of the “city planning bible” for Frontier’s shared-world imprint. I haven’t done any editing. You’ll notice a lack of things like: “Monkey City: A place where monkeys RULE!!” I want it to come across as much like a real city as possible. As I see it, there aren’t any superheroic/supernatural/science fiction elements in this world until we introduce them in the actual series.

It’s about the size of Chicago. Like Chicago, it’s unofficially divided into halves – here, it’s a matter of the West and East sides. The Union City Bridge – a bridge not unlike the Golden Gate (albeit smaller) – connects them: The West end spills you out into a seedy little neighborhood called with apparent irony Greater Denbrook, and the East leads you to downtown.

Don’t ask me why a city called Denbrook has a bridge called Union City. It makes sense if you think about it, but only then…like a lot of things in Denbrook.

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Anyway. Before we get into that. The Union City Bridge stretches over Hopkins River…it’s a sheer hundred-foot drop into some very cold waters. Hopkins feeds into Lake Erie, accessible from Denbrook’s north shore. Cross the lake, you’re into Canada, which is useful info if you’re the kinda guy who does things like flee from the police. Business types use the lake for fishing, off-shore coal mining, things like that…there are some pretty big boats out on the water, though fewer yachts and the like. Denbrook isn’t the kind of city that attracts folks with disposable income, and that water is too frigid and choppy even in summer to be all that much fun. Still, there are sparsely populated beaches here and there – the lake is fine to swim in, though no one trusts the river. That current’s a bitch and toxic dumping made it poison for decades. It’s clean now, but…

Okay, remember the bridge? Cross it headed east, but instead of going downtown, take a left and head back the way you came…this time headed down a downward-slanted street called Hopkins Drive. This’ll lead you into the Barrens. There used to be a lot of industry here in Denbrook, and this is where most of it was located – on the banks of Hopkins River. The burned-out shells of factories, ancient rusting hulks of iron mining machinery…it’s all still here, and picturesque in an urban decay sort of way. But this isn’t why you’re here.

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See, you have to drive a mile or two before you come up on the old industrial sites. Between you and them, you have what citizens think of when they think of The Barrens – which is to say, bars, night clubs, strip joints, the whole nine yards. The river runs alongside all of it. People come here to party. During the week, it’s kinda nice; Friday through Sunday, The Barrens are flooded with weekend warriors, a lot of them kids from the suburbs. Every now and then, someone gets drunk, hits their head, and falls into the Hopkins. Sometimes they get pushed.

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Motor back up Hopkins Drive and you find yourself on Superior, a great big street that takes you straight through downtown Denbrook. I’ll point out some stuff along the way…

First, to our left, a street branches off Superior at a right angle to The Barrens, Matheson Avenue.  Matheson is the gateway to the Warehouse District, which is –you guessed it- composed of warehouses.  Most of those have been converted into apartment buildings.  This is a fairly high-income area, but the give breaks to young professionals and the like.  You find a lot of yuppies, a few bohemians and a scattering of senior citizens who are not pleased by the weekend activity in the slightest.

Head up Superior another three blocks and on your right you’ll spot Denbrook Tower.  You can’t miss it.  It’s the city’s second tallest building.  Built in 1902, it was home to several department stories in its heyday.  That heyday was back in the ‘50’s when the subway got put in…see, the Tower was conceived as Denbrook’s hub, and the crisscrossing subway trains that traverse West and East Denbrook are all accessible from a train station in the basement.  But more and more folks tended to (a) drive and (b) stick to the suburbs, so the Tower went to seed.

But in the late ’80’s, some billionaire industrialist or other bought the place, gutted it, and more or less turned it into a seven-story shopping mall. Thirty stories of offices above that mall are still mostly unoccupied, but the shopping center thrives. The train station and the two floors above it are both underground, which means the stuff on the fourth floor is actually at street-level. Anyway, you’ll find a lot of chain retail/restaurants on the lower floors, and swankier stuff the higher up you go.

Drive up Superior another block, and you’ll see the main branch of the Denbrook Public Library. I know, you’re like, what the hell? But check it out: We’re talking one gorgeous, ornate building constructed in 1905, connected to a 1999-era glass-and-steel monster by means of an underground passageway. Kinda really fucking huge for a library, don’tcha think? The ’99 leviathan was built out of necessity: Denbrook’s collection is among the largest in the country, probably on the planet. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here…friends, it don’t exist. The newer stuff you’ll find the new building. The old stuff…some of it quite old indeed…you’ll find in a variety of collections scattered throughout the other one. You want a library card.

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Six blocks up, we come to Cathedral Street, on our left. The Cathedral of Saint Paul the Apostle, built in 1855, jumps out and says hi. Look past it a block or so, and you’ll see a glass-and-street enclosure that looks a bit like a hothouse: This is City Center. Every bit as appropriate as calling a slum Greater Denbrook. Basically, City Center is yet another big shopping mall, built in 1987. But when the Tower re-opened a month later, that was effectively the end of City Center as a profit-making entity. City Center does a brisk lunch trade, but that’s about it. Its four stories contain about eight businesses, and all of them struggle. City Center cost about fifty mil to erect. This is what’s known as a white elephant.

So who goes there for lunch? Folks who don’t wanna walk all the way down to the Tower. .. i.e., folks who work here, in the business district. The side streets from E. 10th to E. 22nd are all banks, office buildings, corporate headquarters, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Scattered in there you’ll find a few pizza shops, a bar or two, but for the most part…Corporate America.

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From E. 23rd to E. 26th, we’re in the Theatre District. Like the Tower, the Theatre District is yet another tale of resurrection: Denbrook’s grand old movie palaces were the rage for decades, but fell into disrepair in the ’60’s and ’70’s. The last of them – a third-run movie house by then – closed its doors in 1983, as a result of roughly 875 fire­code violations. But in the late ’80’s, all of the old places were bought up, renovated to a state approaching their original magnificence, and were re-opened as playhouses (and one opera house) in the early ’90’s.

On E. 28th, you find Howard Phillips University. Huge. A college with a host of controversies, it’s really the only game in town for those who’d like to obtain a four-year degree. The campus occupies four blocks and has a student-operated radio station – WHPC, at 88.3 FM. Its student paper is the Vanguard.

Hop on the shoreway and let’s buzz through the East Side real quick …

Coming off E. 55th, you’ll notice a ghetto that looks a little more like Beirut.  If we were gonna slow down a minute, you’d notice that no one seems to be on the street. That’s because this whole area of town was bought out by corporate interests. Eminent domain, though I can’t imagine the residents were really all that sad to go.

Los Angeles To Allow Homeless To Sleep On Sidewalks

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You run out of East Denbrook at E. 185th. Out past here, you’ve got Denbrook Heights, a suburban community that gets richer and more lily-white the farther you get from the city. If you’d left East Denbrook and gone northeast instead, you’d have found yourself in Ruckerville, a pretty dilapidated community that’s high-crime, low-income. Neither Ruckerville nor Denbrook Heights are part of the city proper, but a lot of Denbrook’s workers commute from these areas.

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Cross through downtown Denbrook, back over the Union City Bridge, and now here we are, back in Greater Denbrook. Denbrook’s west side is more blue-collar, homier, and (as far as its East Siders are concerned) totally devoid of culture. Greater Denbrook’s homes date back, most of them, to the early 1900’s, and this whole section of town has the Historical Preservation Society all over it like white on rice. Brave yuppies have moved here for the architecture and because Greater Denbrook is cheaper than the Warehouse District, and the neighborhood is a sometimes uneasy mix of races and incomes, of newcomers and those raised here. The wealthy tend to head to the suburbs when they have kids…but not all of them. This can be a rough place to live, but it’s more welcoming.

But let’s back up for a minute. If you leave the Union City Bridge headed west and keep driving straight down Superior, you’ll take in Greater Denbrook in its entire splendor; but instead, let’s turn left and head down W.25th. This is a long block of pawn shops, secondhand stores and mom-and-pop retail. It terminates at the W. 25th Market, a lovely old brown brick building erected in 1911. On the street, there’s an open-air fruit and vegetable market. Head inside, and you’ll find various meat-market stands. The yuppies get a real kick out of how quaint it all is; the longtime residents have shopped here for generations.

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Head past the Market, make another left, and trundle downhill over a few small, rundown bridges with no names. The main street is Violin Road; somehow that became the name of the whole place. This little community – just a few miles around, and still a part of the city – was once populated by folks who made their trades in the factories and mines. Now there’s nothing left but the bars … at least four on every block. The current population is a mix of old-timers who barely get by and young bohemian types who’ve come in from other communities. Wild dogs roam the overgrown park at night, and homeless people and runaways live under those bridges.

Turn around and head west. The neighborhoods between W. 25th and W. 117th are mostly unremarkable:  Largely poor, all pretty much the same. At W. 117th, we enter Blackwood – not quite another town, not exactly an official part of Denbrook proper. Middle-class, mostly white but increasingly integrated, Blackwood does curiously have its own police force…a police force that is notoriously unfriendly to “outsiders.” But in fairness, Blackwood is a safe place to raise families, and quiet; a slightly more urban alternative to a truly suburban community. And it doesn’t completely lack for excitement.

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Downtown Blackwood is a haven for Blackwood’s youth culture scene, mostly an odd combination of kids into hip-hop and the kind of kids who look like the ones who shot up Columbine. Both types congregate at Ground Zero, a large coffee shop. There’s also a smallish venue for (mostly local) music: The Arcade. The Arcade’s second floor is a concert hall; its ground floor (accessible through a back door) is a goth dance club called the Mausoleum. A ton of smaller clubs and bars dot the landscape, as well as an occult bookstore or two.

Head further west. The paved streets will lead you out of Blackwood, but take a right at Hiassen Road. This isn’t a shortcut – this is the scenic route. Hiassen runs downhill into the Valley: Several miles of forest. Officially, the Valley is a public park, but there’s no real question about it – you’re in the woods. By day, there are hikers and picnickers and bicyclists; by night, you can be arrested if you’re seen wandering around outside of a moving vehicle. But even in Blackwood, that’s not much of a concern … you aren’t too likely to encounter a cop down here. Your headlights are reflected back at you from animal eyes in the trees: There’s a gigantic deer population, despite the seasonal efforts to hunt them down to a more manageable level, and an unusually high number of owls make the Valley their home.

It takes about ten minutes to get from one end of the Valley to the other. The road leads uphill to Bankcreek Lane, and now you’re 1n Westfall. Like Blackwood, Westfall is a semi-urban area, but this is definitely a suburb. This part of Westfall is also youth-oriented, and not much different from the place we left previous to our journey through the woods, albeit a bit more … dirty.

Beyond Westfall, the cushier suburbs – but you don’t want to live there. Not really. Not when you’ve got the city…

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Update For October 2019

October? Really? Already?

Damn.

Seems like it was just last month that I was shoveling snow off the sidewalk in front of the house and Patricia and I were popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I honestly think this must be a symptom of getting older as just about everybody around my age says that it seems as if time is speeding up. All I know is that years ain’t lasting as long as they used to so I better stop being lazy and get busy.

How have you been? This is another one of my updates which are supposed to be a regular thing but usually end up being in the nature of me doing it when I look at the date of my last post and go, “Holy shit…has it been that long?” So here I am to catch up to date on what’s going with me and what you should be on the lookout for as far as my work goes. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Hopefully by now you should have your copy of STRAIGHT OUTTA DEADWOOD, the Weird Western anthology edited by David Boop. The story I have in there; “The Relay Station at Wrigley’s Pass” was one that I originally had written for my collection of Sebastian Red stories; “The Trail of Sebastian Red” which will collect the following stories:

“Of All The Plagues A Love Bears”

“The Tale of The Baron’s Tribute”

“Storms of Blood and Snow”

“Sorrowful Are The Souls That Sleep With Gold”

“The Cost of Employment” by Brent Lambert

“The Bloodstained Trail”

Most of those stories have appeared in the “How The West Was Weird” anthology and most of you guys reading this have read them. I wanted to have at least two or three new stories in the book to make it worth getting for those who already have all the “How The West Was Weird” volumes. Brent Lambert was good enough to offer to write a story as he’s a huge Sebastian Red fan and a marvelously talented writer so I’d have been worse than foolish to not take him up on it. The downside is that it’s taken me so long to get this book together the brother has probably forgotten he wrote it. But never fear, I’ll make sure I do the right thing.

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So anyway, I had “The Relay Station at Wrigley’s Pass” all done and was in the process of finishing up “The Bloodstained Trail” which is definitely going to be the longest Sebastian Red story to date. At least until I get around to writing “The Seven Guns of Sebastian Red” which is going to be a “Magnificent Seven” homage. Don’t ask when I’m gonna do that one. I’m trying not to lie to you guys. David Boop contacted me and asked me would I like to contribute something to the anthology and I jumped at the chance. I actually had to cut the story down considerably due to word count restrictions and that took me about a week.

So now my dilemma is this: should I go with the stories I have ready and publish “The Trail of Sebastian Red” or write another story in place of the one I gave David Boop?

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By now I hope you’ve discovered SUPERHERO CINEPHILES, the podcast I’m co-hosting with Perry Constantine. If not, look to the right and you’ll see a link there in the sidebar that will take you there. We’re going to be talking about, dissecting and debating about our favorite superhero movies. So far we’ve tackled “Superman: The Movie” 1989’s “Batman” Wes Craven’s “Swamp Thing” from 1982 and “X-Men” is coming up soon.

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Already I’ve got people asking me via email and on Skype; “Why aren’t you guys doing the MCU or the DCEU movies?” There’s a simple answer to that: we didn’t want to. At least not right away. You can find hundreds of podcasts about the current wave of superhero movies and eventually Perry and I will get to them. But we wanted to have some fun with revisiting old favorites that essentially laid the foundation for the superhero movies we’re enjoying now.

As for myself, I’ve been having more fun than I thought I would have and that’s a good thing. For awhile now I’ve had the urge to get back into podcasting but I had no idea what I wanted to talk about or what my podcast should be. It was a blessing that Perry came along at this time so that I could ease back into podcasting and exercise that particular set of creative muscles. I’m still thinking about doing my own podcast and my wife Patricia and I have talked about doing one together as well. I’ll keep you posted on that as well.

But in the meantime, I’ve been doing some 20-30-minute audio posts on my Patreon. I’ve done three so far and there will be more to come. There’s no real structure to any of ‘em. They’re just thoughts I have about my stories and my work. Just some insights into how I think about what I do. If you’re interested, again, just look to the right. And the three serials over at Patreon are still going strong; “Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde” “Shadows Over Cymande” and “One Night In Denbrook”

Speaking of Dillon, there just might be a new Dillon Christmas story this year. It’s an idea I had last year but it involves another character belonging to another writer and I had to get his permission to use him. We’ll see. I’m also thinking of giving the Dillon website a whole new facelift and update. There’s information there that badly needs updating and the best time to do it is when I’m in the mood. And right now I’m in the mood. So there.

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What else? Oh, I’m also working on a new Bass Reeves story for the latest volume in Airship 27’s BASS REEVES-FRONTIER MARSHAL anthology series. I missed Vol. III but Ron was good enough to invite me back for Vol. IV so be on the lookout for that.

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I guess that’s it for now. All my contact information is over on the right if you want to get in touch with me as well as links to everything I do online so feel free to check out everything else I’m doing. As always, I thank you with all my heart for your kind attention and support. It sustains me in more ways than you can imagine. Until next time, watch some good scary movies and be good to yourself and others. Take Care and God Bless.

From The “Making An Impression” File by Sean E. Ali

So, FINALLY, Tommy Hancock over at Pro Se has done his reveal of three author imprints where I got to do the initial logo designs…

The plan was to reveal them over the weekend at the convention that hosts the annual Pulp Factory Awards in Chicago.

Not that I’ve ever been, but I’ve won one to my complete surprise.

So the three authors involved with this part of the reveal were Kimberly RichardsonFrank Schildiner and my good friend and partner-in-virtual crime Derrick Ferguson. All three are authors in something called “New Pulp” but really that’s kind of a narrow definition of their particular brands of storytelling. All three are well regarded, they’re unique in their own rights, they all have their followings who eagerly await their latest projects and all of them have happened to be offered a chance to exercise their prodigious imaginations under their own brands with Pro Se.

And lucky me, I get to contribute by building the first part of that brand with these imprint logos…

So, though you’re probably not asking, how does that work? Well I’m glad you didn’t ask, let me tell you the intricate planning that went into each one of these and the meticulous work we in the independent publishing game go through to make our talent shine…

Last weekend, Tommy hits me up on Facebook with no warning whatsoever and says he needs some author imprint logos for this show in Chicago: “can you do it?” I ask for details because obviously I’m just getting to a party already in progress, and he kicks out the rough ideas for Kimberly and Frank…

…which, BTW, for a guy so full of ideas and stories and plans was woefully light on details just generalities, and he turns me loose after I inform him I’ll talk to Derrick who had already contacted me. Derrick and I do all our stuff more like a couple of guys shooting the breeze on the front stoop on a Sunday afternoon. Yeah we work, it’s just more of a relaxed thing where we kick back and chat and at some point we, usually accidentally, hit on the right thing. I love our process because when we do chop it up, I never fail to end our conversation without a smile at the end and at least two good belly laughs from the soul.

Which is pretty much how his brand POWER PLAY! was done. I, in the course of our discussion run an idea of what I’d like to use as his look and he shows me the very thing I had in mind, which in an odd bit of coincidence was sitting on his desk: a gold clenched fist with that 1960s/70s Soul Brother/grindhouse film vibe as the logo. In my head, what you see as the POWER PLAY! logo was a black light velveteen poster stuck to a ceiling between some mirror tiles with a fish net full of fake starfish.

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It was the 70s, you had to be there.

So he was easy and POWER PLAY! was done in one. There are colored variants and, as a last minute thing, I added the tag line “Old School New Pulp” which is what Derrick does. He’s got an updated Men’s Adventure/Action Hero/Thriller feel to a lot of his projects, so it felt right.

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Now Kimberly’s came with the most detail from Tommy. Crossed guns, gothic mansion, emboss this, something something that…

So I did that first and like an old “Men On Film” sketch: “Hated it!” It didn’t matter how many ways I crossed the 20 pistols I put together, none of them looked right. So instead I went to work on the manor house bit and abandoned the guns. Nice… but generic. The house was sitting on a cliff, so I pulled the cliff, threw in a really basic shield, colored it all black… better, but still needed something. I uncrossed the guns, used them as a frame and was there.

But then I wanted to make it hers. Any schmuck could build a lady a house but it needs to be HER house. So I took a look at the lady I was building the house for since I’ve never had the pleasure IRL or online of getting to know her. First thing I noticed, which is the first thing I notice about a lot of women in photos, were her eyes…

…that, kids was the hook, she’s got great eyes. I stared at those eyes and attempted to be as accurate as I could be despite simplifying them for an illustration. Stared at them for so long, I think I owe her dinner and one failed rom-com running through the airport scene. I tossed an oversized moon in the background added the eyes and I was in love…

…with the final product.

So PULP GOTHIC gave me the Lady of the House, a touch of Stephen King in the mansion, got the guns in and it all was an echo of the old paperbacks that used to come with the mapback covers telling you about the location of the story.

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Last, but not least, came Frank Schildiner. His was done first, I really didn’t like it but I took Tommy’s rough idea too literal. Frank and I aren’t online running buddies, but he and I enjoy decent fight techniques, he’s a martial artist and instructor (in addition to being an author) and I’m immensely impressed by his focus and skill. Unfortunately the logo I came up with didn’t really reflect Frank or his work. It was sort of a hero shot that reminded me of a rejected logo for the old fitness guru Jack LaLanne. It was passable, but it wasn’t Frank. As Friday rolled around I still wasn’t happy with it and it’s hard to put out something I’m not in love with as I send it out. Tommy’s looking for logos and I’m one short. But it was also something Tommy said that sparked an image early on: “Frank’s work goes everywhere.” The image that invoked was pure Jack “The King” Kirby. If you don’t know Jack and his work in changing the face of comics as we know them with Stan Lee…

…move out of that cave so I can get you some help.

So the image I came up with was a complete re-do which is inspired by guys like Kirby and the late Darwyn Cooke and we had something worthy of Frank in particular and his work in general.

And I FINALLY learned how to DIY the famous “Kirby Krackle”…

…yeah, whatever, it’s a big deal to me.

So SCHILDINER’S WORLDS final look is probably more due to Tommy’s summation of Frank’s work than anything else. I had the image in my head, but thought I had to do the other thing based on his explanation of what he said the look should be.

So I did what he said over what he asked.

I submitted both though, as I did with the manor only version of PULP GOTHIC, because you should give a guy options…

I’m glad he chose the ones he did.

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Bet you’re wondering where that planning aspect went that I mentioned at the start, right?

Tommy and I refer to this as the “Butch and Sundance”…

If you’ve ever seen how BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID ends for them, you’ll get it.

Sometimes we just have to take a leap, man…

So, if you follow these folks and missed Tommy’s press releases…

…big things are coming from some of your favorite folks…

Get ready to have your minds blown.

The rest of you, as you were…

…and move out of that cave so I can get you help.

Be good to yourselves and each other.

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…LISA MARIE BOWMAN

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

 

Literary Pulp: Why It Makes Sense and How To Write It

“Just because a section in the bookstore is called literary fiction doesn’t mean the books there are better than everything (or even anything) else in the rest of the store. Nor does it mean it’s intrinsically good at all. Literary fiction is based on a set of rules for storytelling just like genre fiction is based on a set of rules for storytelling just like comic book writing is based on a set of rules for storytelling just like… Well, you get the point.”

Featuring Derrick FergusonPerry Constantine, and Barry Reese.

Bounce on over to The Writing Blog of Sean Taylor for the full story

 

Literary Pulp—Why It Makes Sense and How To Write It

35 Writers Who Have Influenced Me

1: Piers Anthony

2: Steven Barnes

3: Leigh Brackett

4: Ray Bradbury

5: Edgar Rice Burroughs

6: Stephen J. Cannell

7: George C. Chesbro

8: Clive Cussler

9: Samuel R. Delaney

10: Lester Dent

11: Alexandre Dumas

12: Will Eisner

13: Harlan Ellison

14: Ian Fleming

15: Dashiell Hammett

16: Chester Himes

17: Robert E. Howard

18: Langston Hughes

19: Joel Jenkins

20: Joe R. Landsdale

21: Stan Lee

22: Robert R. McCammon

23: Walter Mosley

24: Larry McMurtry

25: Michael Moorcock

26: John Ostrander

27: Ishmael Reed

28: Mike Resnick

29: Joshua Reynolds

30: Charles Saunders

31: Jim Steranko

32: Andrew Vachss

33: Jules Verne

34: Cornell Woolrich

35: Roger Zelazny

Mystery 170