Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review of Adam Cesare's Tribesmen

I admit to Googling Adam Cesare just before he was a guest on our online writer’s chatroom. “American horror writer of novels, novellas, and short stories,” his Wikipedia entry reads, and lists ten books in the genre, all published within the last two years, with Other People’s Money. Wikipedia was unable to classify another work, Leprechaun in the Hood: The Musical: A Novel, which I found intriguing. So– the guy is young, prolific, and has a sense of humor.
He does. Adam was a very affable chatroom guest who fielded our questions with charm and offered door prizes just for attending. I won one–Tribesmen ((Deadite Press, 2014)–and received a print copy with a nice inscription within a few days. Despite the author’s charm, articulation, and wit, given the gratuitous bloodshed prevalent in so many contemporary horror novels, I still feared Tribesmen would be a gore fest that I would have difficulty finishing.
No need to worry. I read it at one sitting and found it delightful. Yes, it’s gross, but the gore makes sense in the believable world Adam has built. The plot involves a low-budget film crew on a tropical island that–well, it hardly matters. Because what a novel should do is pull you along, no matter what the plot is. There are marvelous turns of phrase and even poignant moments in this tale of sad spirits, cannibals, madness and survival. There will be images you cannot get out of your head, from the relentless attackers in the Prologue to the old woman’s backwards feet and the naked grinning man with the machete. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point-of-view and zips along. The language barrier among the international crew adds a refreshing layer of complication.
The novel also has this feature to recommend it–horror master John Skipp did not just provide a cover blurb–he edited the story.
Tribesmen adheres to the number one criteria I demand of a novel–it allowed me to stay in it. The voice is consistent and edges into literary territory. There are no author intrusions. And that is an amazing effort for a debut novel. Tribesmen is a fast, fun read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Reader Goes Hollywood

I don’t have movie stars playing my characters—I don’t even have actors.

I don’t have a director dictating the action, or a DP or camera crew following it—the only action is the reader turning pages or swiping his screen.

I don’t have a sound track, or background music, or sound effects—I have no audio at all.

I don’t have art directors, sets, wardrobe, makeup, or special effects—I have no design crew whatsoever.

I am dependent on my reader’s imagination alone to produce my movie in his head. It is up to me to provide him, through my words, the sensory, emotional, and informational input he needs to create the action I want him to experience. I am competing with television, films, video games, and the Internet, and my reader is my entire cast and crew.

Is it that way for you?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Flo Stanton Mini-Mystery #2


It is not presumptuous to call on Peggy Clegg-Reagan without invitation—she assumes that when those in her circle are not in her immediate presence they are talking about her, or thinking about her, or aching to see her and will naturally drop in unannounced on occasion. As the family attorney and executor of her father’s estate I am granted audience anytime. This visit, however, was precipitated by a message from Charlotte, Peggy’s personal maid, who for a small pourboire keeps me apprised of all things Clegg-Reagan.

Probate concluded less than a month ago and, according to Charlotte, the daughters of the late Reginald Clegg-Reagan applied themselves assiduously to spending their inheritance as rapidly as possible. Winifred, the older sister, having exhausted several wealthy husbands, had a ways to go before depleting hers.

Some wag advised Peggy to invest in a collection, so she settled on the acquisition of Royal memorabilia. In three weeks she had become an expert on all things Windsor and with typical American cheek called the Royals by their Christian names. She purchased a riding crop that once belonged to “Anne,” a book of Byron inscribed to a Cambridge classmate by “Eddie,” and a piece of “Wills and Kate”’s wedding fruitcake.

With a nod Charlotte ushered me to the living room where Peggy hovered over a pink cell phone. “What do you think of Victoria’s silk bloomers?” she asked. She had always been small, even petite, except for a melon-sized bulge at her middle.

“I think they would be too large on you,” I said.

“No, silly,” she said, “for my collection. They’re available again. So is one of Diana’s dresses.”

“Could be a good investment.” I tread lightly. The Clegg-Reagans remit our fees on time.

“Already done. Something came up today, too. I got this from Alec this morning.” She showed me her phone. Alec Redwing was the dealer in Reading who “facilitated” some of her European acquisitions, reported Charlotte. They were fast becoming the best of friends. “Here.” She was a bit breathless. “This—”she zoomed up the image—“has just been found. Very exciting. A letter from Elizabeth—Elizabeth the first, mind you—to her sister Mary. It’s not Windsor, it’s Tudor, Alec says.” I saw a yellowed manuscript in close handwriting and could make out a date of 1554. “You went to Oxford, what do you think?”

She didn’t wait for my reply. “Alec’s note says, ‘there’s a few punctures, some wear to right margin, general light speckling.’ Zoom in on it. Look, you can’t tell the difference between the esses and the effs. And look at the swirls under her name, coming off the ‘z’ and the ‘R’.”

“What is he asking for it?”

“Five thousand pounds. To start.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“There is another interested party.”

“Of course.”

“No, seriously. Winifred.” She sighed. The ever-present older sister. I was well acquainted with the ancient rivalry between the two daughters of a very absent father in addition to their financial status. Winifred could buy and sell Peggy a dozen times over.

“I found out she started collecting the Royals, too. After I did, of course.” Her phone trilled. “It’s Alec. He says, ‘The other party is ready’—what do you think?”

After a moment’s thought, I said, “Bid on it.”


“Go ahead. Make your bid.”

She punched her phone. After a few moments she said, “Oh, she’s gone up to seven!”

“Go eight.”

She did. “Now it’s nine!”

“Keep going.”


She tapped again.

“She’s jumped to thirteen!”

“All right, stop.”

She clicked off the phone and slumped back on the settee.

“She’ll always outbid you, Peggy. She has the resources to do it.”

Charlotte came in with tea. I poured. “Your sister is now the proud owner of a letter from Elizabeth the first to her sister Mary.”

“I know!” She snatched a scone and tore into it with sharp teeth. “Why did you take Winifred’s side of it?”

I ignored that remark. “Princess Elizabeth.”

“Yes, so?”

“Princess Elizabeth. At the time.”

“Yes, so?”

“Princess Elizabeth to her sister the queen.”

“I wish you would make your point.”

What is the sticking point?

See you in the Comments for the solution!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Flo Stanton Mini-Mystery

Caveat Convivium 

“I hate going to Mavis’s parties,” Viv moaned.

“Caviar too salty?”

“I wish. She’s gone green–-organic only now. Tofu this, quinoa that. Awful tasting stuff.”

Joe sipped his gin and tonic. “Wine, too?”

“Better not. Everyone we know is a lush or close to it. No, I hate going alone. Will you take me? The Queen attended one year and I missed it. Herman had just died.”

“Freddie Mercury’s Queen or…?”

“Queen Elizabeth and entourage. I should have gone anyway. Well, I was a new widow, didn’t know there’d be two more just like him. Peggy Clegg-Reagan was there and I never heard the end of it.”

“Why do you have to go at all?”

“Are you insane? Everybody’s going to be there. Bill and Hillary–-if they’re speaking to each other. Andy Blankenbuehler, Cyndi Lauper, Fareed Zakaria. Sting might play. My dress from Iris came yesterday and I’m dying to wear it.”

“Then, back to my original question–-why do you hate going to these things?”

“Oh, Mavis is always begging for money for some worthwhile cause or other. It’s like she makes you pay for the opportunity to meet the best people. Disgusting.”

“How much are you expected to donate?”

“I always write a check beforehand for five hundred so I won’t be tempted to outdo Peggy. Last year it was anti-poverty. Now Mavis has got that solved, it’s something else. Just think of it–-Sting! Of course it doesn’t beat Sir Paul. He played at Wendy Whitworth’s fiftieth, you know. For the minefields or something or other. Everyone sang ‘Hey, Jude.’”

“And what is Mavis’s latest cause?”

“The environment, naturally. Everything’s green. She’s got the founder of Fight for Flight lined up. Save the birds and all that. He’s got a live feed from a condor nest set up to put even more pressure on. I saw the feed at St. Swithin’s bash last year, just before the little ones pecked their way out. What a coup for Mavis if those chicks hatch during the party! We’d never hear the end of it.”

“Well, my dear, I wouldn’t mind escorting you to the party, especially if Fareed Zakaria will be there, but keep your checkbook in your Louis Vuitton bag. This fellow’s a fraud.”

Why does Joe claim Mavis’s latest cause is a scam?

(See comments for solution)