Book Review: TITUS CROW Volume Two

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titus crow volume twoBrian Lumley

Titus Crow and his faithful companion and record-keeper, Henri-Laurent de Marigny, fight the gathering forces of darkness–the infamous and deadly Elder Gods of the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu and his dark minions are bent on ruling the Earth. A few puny humans cannot possibly stand against these otherworldly evil gods, yet time after time Titus Crow drives the monsters back into the dark from whence they came.

Volume Two of a series of collections that were released in the later part of the 1990s, containing the novels featuring Brian Lumley’s Cthulhu Mythos investigator Titus Crow–well, kind of. See, that blurb from the back of the book that I included up there? The paragraph in italics? Yeah, that one. Greatly misleading, I’m afraid. You read just that, and one expects a slam-bang couple of adventures where Crow and Marigny throw down with Cthulhu and his minions for severely cheesing off the Old One in the last collection. Nope. Sorry. Though, if you bought this for the cover art itself…I don’t blame you. It’s pretty cool looking.

The first of the two novels contained herein–The Clock of Dreams–picks up where the previous story left off, with Henri-Laurent de Marigny climbing inside the TARDIS…er, I mean the bigger-on-the-inside coffin-shaped clock device that is also a space/time/dimension hopping ship that is totally not a TARDIS, to join his friend Titus Crow and his Elder God girlfriend in Elder Gods Paradise. Only, he takes an unexpected detour when Kthanid–Cthulhu’s benevolent cousin–recruits him to take a trip into the Land of Dreams to rescue Crow and his girlfriend from the clutches of the henchmen of Nyarlathotep (gesundheit). And while Nyarlathotep (gesundheit) and his minions factor into Cthuhlu’s nefarious plans on infiltrating the Land of Dreams, ol’ Tentacle Face doesn’t really make an appearance.

The second story in the collection–Spawn of the Winds–not only does not mention, let alone feature Cthulhu, it doesn’t even mention a very much absent Titus Crow and Friends. Instead, this is a story written from a bunch of psychic transmissions from an agent of the Wilmarth Foundation whose expedition to find the dreaded Walker of the Winds led to being kidnapped by said Old One and taken to a far-off wintry planet, where they join the resistance that’s led by none other than the half-human daughter of said pseudo-deity. Again, I reiterate: there was a serious lack of Titus Crow in a story included in a Titus Crow collection. But I digress.

All pedantism aside, the two Lovecraft Mythos-inspired novels by Brian Lumley are earlier works by the British author, and are entertaining enough as dark fantasy works that plays gleefully in the Cthulhu Cycle sandbox. Mind you, the prose is an interesting shade of purple, especially in The Clock of Dreams. I don’t know if this was deliberate, keeping in the spirit of the original Lovecraft stories that inspired these, or if this just was how Lumley wrote back in the day. Regardless, I’ve read much worse, and the two novels contained were entertaining yarns and flowed pretty well with the faux-Romantic era style, deliberate or not.

And of an item of mere curiosity, it seems that, prior to finding this copy of Titus Crow Volume Two at the 1/2 Price Books, I discovered that I do actually own a 1978 first edition mass paperback copy of Spawn of the Winds that I remember picking up at another used book store in Kansas five years ago. The cover’s a bit worse for wear, but it’s to be expected. And now I realize I sound like a complete book nerd. In any case, Titus Crow Volume Two was a nice detour into Lovecraftian dark fantasy, heavy on the fantasy elements. If you can get past the false advertising of the back cover blurb, this makes for some good bedtime reading.

In Remembrance Of Jerry Donahey

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On Saturday, August 23rd, members of the paternal side of my family gathered together at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island, NE to bid farewell to Jerry Donahay. Many of us donned hunting gear and camo prints in honor of the man. He was a bit of the “outdoors-y” type, you see. But that’s besides the point. I’m writing this, because I need to. Bear with me. I’ve always been rather bad at eulogies.

Instead of telling you how he died–and forgive me for referencing a Tom Cruise movie–I will tell you how he lived. At least, my remembrances of the man.

Jerry was my cousin, older by two years, give or take a week or two. I cannot say we were close in the conventional sense, where we all hung out several times a week or thereabouts. Our families were separated by distance–such is life in the rural Midwest–but there was that tangible…thing there that’s really hard to explain in a couple of words, let alone a paragraph in a post on an obscure blog floating around the flotsam of cyberspace. “It’s a cousin things”, maybe. Though, I feel I’ve failed as a writer by defaulting to that. I digress.

I’ve come to praise Jerry, not bury him in my inane babblings, after all. Sorry, Bill. Now, where was I?

The second oldest of the overall gang of the Case Family Cousins (gads, I just realized that sounds like the name of a 1950s travelling gospel singing group), both Jerry and his brother Allan were the older brothers I never had. With Jerry, the feeling was mutual; this I knew by the way he teased and picked on me as children, as only an older brother worth his salt would do. You couldn’t have convinced me of it back then, but there was nothing mean spirited about it. He was the classic rough-n-tumble type. Me, not so much.

And like any “older brother worth their salt”, he inspired some healthy rivalry, usually inadvertently. Jerry was in the Boy Scouts, therefore I had to be in the Scouts. Jerry was riding his bike without training wheels (and laughing at mine), so gravel and sidewalk burns be darned, I was going on two wheels if it killed me. Sometimes it came that close. I did draw the line at going into the deep end with the others for a while, though. It was easier to resist an attempted dunking when you could feel the solid ground under your feet.

Over time, as is always the way, life went on. All of my memories of Jerry are always in context of with the rest of the cousins, really. Christmases, the odd summer gathering…he was always there. Late spring of 1990, I was there with everyone else when Jerry received his Eagle Scout badge, and then graduated High School the next day. He was always there for everyone in one form or another. I’m afraid I may have taken this for granted that it would always be that way.

As adults, he was a staple at the Case family reunions, whenever we could get the families together. He developed into the strong silent type, something I admired about the man, and I’m certain others did as well.

The last I ever saw of him was this year, on Memorial Day Weekend. He was spending some vacation time at our Uncle Pat and Aunt Joyce’s place in Dunlap, Iowa. Aunt Joyce invited me out to join them, and so I did. Jerry and I went out to lunch the day I arrived, just he and I, after he spent the morning helping out a bit with our cousin Rob. We just chatted as we took in the unique ambiance that only a burger n’ shake place in a small rural Midwest town can provide, talking about our jobs, how things were going with our respective lives, car restorations and all that general guy talk. I think this was one of the only times I have ever spent with Jerry one-on-one; as I mentioned earlier, it was always with the group that I knew him best.

Later that weekend, he and I both helped prepare and serve at the Volunteer Rescue pancake feed in Dunlap with our aunt and uncle, then spent a bit of time with the families of our cousins Rob and Julie, before I went back home to get back to my obligatory life. That was the last time I saw or spoke to him.

It’s the same old cliché, really: “Had I known this would be the last time” and all that. I remember the very last words I spoke to him in this life–“This is some good cake.” Hardly profound parting words.

Are there regrets? Always. Over four decades, though, the one thing I took away from this last couple of days with him this year, was the sense of mutual respect each of us had for each other. Far different individuals, yes, but still the older brother I never had.

And that last sentence was the one that hits me the hardest about writing this. Farewell, Jerry. There is definitely a hole in the world that wasn’t there before.

Sunday A’La Carte – August 24, 2014

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rogue black holeSunday again. Gotta tell you, this weekend really sucked. Sucked so hard, light could not escape its gravitational pull, kinda sucking. And there doesn’t seem to be much end in sight. So I’ll just get right to it, here.

I attended the funeral of another cousin yesterday. If I say he was far too young, it’s because he was far too young. I understand that everyone says that about everyone; in this case, he was only 42, a scant two years older than myself. And his older brother died from cancer when he was only 40, about four years ago prior. In cases like this, I always feel like it’s my civic duty (in a manner of speaking) to just be there, not really say anything and grieve the best way possible, without bringing others down around with me. I don’t try and say the right thing, because really, who can? And I certainly will never, ever use those tired old bumper sticker platitudes that people use that think mean something, but don’t. Things like, “God has a plan”, or “When God closes a door, he opens another one”, or “Here’s a casserole, I’ll just put it with the others.” Okay, maybe that last one has nothing to do with stupid pat statements said to the grieving. There’s only so much green bean casserole you can accept before things star getting awkward, though. Now I’m rambling. Sorry. Point is, goodbye Jerry. I shall eulogize you in upcoming days, give or take. Still trying to get my jumbled thoughts together on that one.

if silence looks away from a weeping angelThis weekend was also the weekend of a new Doctor Who episode. Yesterday (that being Saturday, August 23rd for those of you playing at home), after having been on holiday since the 2013 Christmas Special, which saw Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor regenerate into Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor at the end, the Eight Season had finally arrived, and Whovians everywhere gathered to watch the 80 minute premier of “Deep Breath”. I waited until today to watch it, along with my Nephew/Godson, because who else am I going to watch it with? It’s not like I have anyone special to share this interest with anymore. Overall, I found this kick-off episode introducing the new Doctor…interesting. I may have to rewatch the episode, because there was some competition coming from a younger nephew that wanted to play loudly, and a bunch of puppies still trying to be weaned off of the mama doggie. But, here’s some randumb thoughts I had:

–I wonder if the whole Clara having trouble coming to grips with the much older-looking Doctor after so much time with a much younger Doctor (the bad age makeup in The Time Of The Doctor notwithstanding) was a kind-of dig at the New-vian fangirls who were whining about Capaldi being the Doctor instead of some other hunky something-or-other? I like to think it is.
–Strax complementing Clara on her spleen. Comedy gold.
–I’m sorry, but are you two married? I’m afraid I didn’t get it the first five or six times you obligatorily said that. What was that definition of Ad Nausium, again?
–So, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there a reference some time ago that the actual weight of the TARDIS was (scientifically speaking) a whole bunch of tons? Does that “Relative Dimensions” part also mean that it somehow doesn’t translate to the exterior? I know it’s just a show, but…it’s a question that has nagged me in many episodes that feature the transport of the TARDIS, and today it made me wonder, “Why isn’t that wagon busted under the weight? And how did they manage to get it up on there without several Victorian-era hernias suffered?” I’m thinking too much about this.
–THE DOCTOR HAS A SCOTTISH ACCENT! Okay, I’ll take the Caps Lock off, now.
–an Ed Gein-inspired hot air balloon? Gotta admit, that’s kinda dark, even for me.
–it may have been the ranting speculations due to the post-regeneration madness, but I can’t be the only one thinking that the Doctor questioning how he came about this face has some kind of tie-in with “The Fires of Pompeii”, can I? Or am I over-thinking things again?
–CALLBACK TO “THE TIME OF THE DOCTOR”! That’s the last time I’ll do that, I promise.
–Huh…scary-looking crazy lady calling The Doctor her “boyfriend”. Say hello to this season’s over-arching mystery tie-in, folks.
–hey, second episode, and they’re already bringin’ out the Daleks.

like your autobiographyDidn’t do a lot of reading this week (see the paragraph at the beginning of this post), but I am going through Spawn of the Winds, an earlier Brian Lumley novel, featuring his take on the Elder Gods mythos, and his supernatural investigator-type Titus Crow. I think. So far, it’s just narration from a bunch of guys in a plane that were abducted by some nasty pseudo-deity named Ithaquoa or something or other.

loopSTUFF I’VE WRITTEN: Not too much this week, again, other than reviews of three Daniel Amos albums: Daniel Amos, Shotgun Angel, and MotorCycle. What can I say, other than my mind has been preoccupied with the goings-on and such.

STUFF OTHER PEOPLE HAVE WRITTEN: Found this rather interesting piece from the online Relevant Magazine site, about the Bible and profanity. Nicely done, gents.

kirk and spock 2014Time for me to take my leave. Get my beauty rest and all that. Another week ahead of me. So, I leave you all now with the Star Wars: The Radio Play, as it brought a much-needed laugh to my lips today, after so many days of oppressive sorrow. Cheers.


Sunday A’La Carte – August 17, 2014

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where trees go when they're badHey hey, it’s Sunday again. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a rather stressful weekend so far. The week prior has been okay, really. But the weekend? Full of good, full of bad. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I played around with skipping this week’s A’La Carte, but then I realized that doing so would probably be counter-productive. I’ll leave it at that. So, on with the post…

I don’t know about you, but Jack Chick represents probably the best in Christian Cheese. If you don’t recognize the name, you might recognize his Christian tracts, done up as little mini-comics to present his ultra-Fundamentalist views on things like the end times, Catholics, New Age, Christian Rock, Halloween, and so forth and so on. I love them in the same way I love the movie Birdemic. So, it fills me with great…opposite of despair and sorrow to learn that there’s been a live-action movie made based on the Dungeons & Dragons-equals-Satanism tract Dark Dungeons. Yup, gonna be seeing this one. Hope it’s going to get a theatrical release.

Here’s a bunch of pictures of METAL singers with hotdogs photoshopped in where their mics are supposed to be. These are awesome. Look at them, I implore you.

On Friday, before I went home, I picked up some take-out at one of the near-by Chinese buffets, and the check-out girl stuck a fistful of fortune cookies into my bag. After I just wrote that, I realized that “Fistful of Fortune Cookies” would make a great band name. Anyway, that means that I have five fortune cookie messages to riff on:
– “Unveil your ideas. Be ready to act on them.”
…and be sure to get some burn creme for the inevitable backlash.

– “An unexpected payment is coming your way!”
…I can only presume this means that something is going to happen that will necessitate me parting with money, probably in the form of fixing the Aluminium Falcon, or health reasons. Either way, was the exclamation point really called for?

– “You are admired for your impeccable tastes.”
…if by “admired” you mean “ridiculed” and “misunderstood”, then yes, you are right on the money, cookie.

– “On Friday your creative side will shine forth with exceptional ideas.”
…thanks for the warning. I’m sure the higher-ups at work will take every precaution to keep this “creativity” from messing up the flow of things.

– “Your fondest dream will come true within this year.”
…really? There’s plans of bringing back Mountain Dew Black in diet form? Excellent.

most amazing pumpkinLet’s see, stuff I wrote about this week: I reviewed albums by Vomitorial Corpulence and Inevitable End, read and reviewed the Doctor Who novel Last of the Gaderene, mused a bit about my history watching 1998’s Godzilla, and mourned the passing of a pop culture icon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do need to hit the sack a bit earlier than usual. Something tells me it’s going to be an eventful week (something I’m going to expound on a bit more, trust me). In the meantime, I leave you with a Robin Williams Video Tribute. Cheers.


Book Review: DOCOTOR WHO: Last of the Gaderene

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doctor who last of the gaderene1 doctor who last of the Gaderene2

Mark Gatiss
BBC Worldwide / BBC Books
2000 / 2013

The aerodrome in Culverton has new owners, and they promise an era of prosperity for the idylic village. But former Spitfire pilot Alex Whistler is suspicious–when black-shirted troops appear on the streets, he contacts his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at U.N.I.T. The Third Doctor is sent to investigate–and soon uncovers a sinister plot to colonize the Earth. The Gaderene are on their way…

Third book re-released in the eleven-book 50th Anniversary series, and naturally this is a Third Doctor adventure, with Jo as his long-suffering companion. Originally released in 2000, Last of the Gaderene takes place soon after the events in “The Three Doctors”, which resulted in the Doctor being released from his exile on Earth by the Time Lords. To give you an idea of the timeline, here. No pun intended. Anyway…

Last of the Gaderene has a nifty Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe going on, with a story about a village beset upon by a mysterious group who turn up out of nowhere to build an airport terminal where the old aerodrome is. They have an eerie Nazi vibe to their look and mannerisms, so World War II vet Alex “Mother” Whistler (don’t ask) contacts his war buddy the Brigadier to send U. N. I. T. to investigate. They send The Doctor–who just got back from helping start a revolutionary revolt against a despot dictator on a distant planet–and Jo, where they discover the new management of the aerodrome and their goings-on to be a bit odd. And not just because they’ve always smiling and have a Mogwai-level aversion to bright lights. What are all of those coffin-like canisters for? Why are more and more members of the community suddenly acting oddly? How does a smallish glowing artefact found by Whistler during World War II tie in? And then the Master shows up. You kind of had to have seen that one coming.

I do believe this is the first full-length Third Doctor story I’ve read. No surprise, really considering how late in the game it was when I began reading the novels. Given what I’ve seen of the shows that feature the Third Doctor, I think that Mark Gatiss really captured the essence and mannerisms convincingly in prose form. Of course, it’s not just the Doctor that is brought to life–the Brigadier, Jo and the villagers that assist The Doctor with the adventure all are given depth, and even the story’s main villains–the titular Gaderene–have moments of sympathetic depth. But only a moment. They’re malevolent, no doubt about that.

Overall, Last of the Gaderene was good, spine-tingling sci-fi thriller, very well written, and featuring classic Doctor Who favorites and a rather explosive climax. Very good pick for the 50th Anniversary re-releases. Recommended.

Revisiting Godzilla 1998

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Godzilla-1998-618x400Tomorrow, after work, I shall be joining my fellow compatriots from the Coven of Exhalted Geeks in watching the Riff Trax presentation of 1998’s Godzilla, at the Oakview AMC theaters in Omaha. The irony being that, back in 1998, I originally watched Godilla at the same theater complex on opening night, along with my friends. I went in excited and stoked, and left…less than satisfied, let’s just say. Now, here we are, set to head back to the Oakview AMC to watch the 1998 Godzilla again. Only this time, I already know what I’m getting into, and it shall be enhanced with the running quips and commentary by the Riff Trax team. That’s what was missing from the first viewing. It should be a better experience.

And in case you’re wondering: No, I am not going to be playing Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” while driving to the theater, like I did back in 1998. I’ve learned my lesson from the last time, there.


R. I. P. – Robin Williams

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robin williams good morning vietnam

Robin Williams has died. The news is all over the place, and after cross referencing with several credible news sources, it appears to be true: The man who was a very influential part of my own personality development was found dead of an apparent suicide. I do not wish to delve into the details, really. I’m still rather in shock.

I was at work when someone shared the information. My first thought was, “No, he’s not,” then “I didn’t know he was that ill.” Then later it was confirmed about the cause of death, and I was saddened even further.

Look, I’m not going to take this as an opportunity to moralize about suicide, or use this tragedy as a soapbox for some stupid theological agenda. I never would do that.

I will, however, take this time to express my sorrow at the loss of this individual, both as a pop culture icon, and simply as a human being. Say what you will, Robin Williams used his talent to touch many lives, directly or indirectly. Me, it was very much indirectly, through his stand-up, his movies, and of course Mork & Mindy back in the day. It was his role in the movie Good Morning Vietnam that led me to decide to develop my interest and talent in broadcasting and mass media dabbling, and my own voice in my own small part of the world.

I will never be as famous as Robin Williams was. He made mistakes, and he was never perfect. But he helped to show me the value of laughter and having a sense of humor in life.

Goodbye, Mister Williams. The world is now a less funny place.


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