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This Just In....News from The Agony Column

06-08-03: Al Franken Versus Bill O'Reilly at BEA Redux

Franken-O'Reilly Dustup Repeated

No cover yet for the Liars!

Those who read Pat Holt's hilarious description of the Franken-O'Reilly dustup last week at BEA but were not fortunate enough to catch it on CSPAN-2, have another chance to catch it today: 2:30 p.m. PT/5:30 p.m. ET Sunday (that's today, June 8, 2003 on CSPAN-2, on "Book TV". If you miss the repeat, look at Ms. Holt's column next week. It's definitely worth reading.

06-07-03: Seeing Red with Bob Truluck

Coming Soon from Dennis McMillan...

Yowza! Dennis McMillan's cover possee strikes again.

Dennis McMillan sent me a copy of the cover of his forthcoming publication of a novel by Bob Truluck. Truluck has a story in this years' best mystery stories (see below), and between that and this cover, I believe I'm ready to read this. Even if it's not illustrated -- oh the humanity!

06-06-03: Name Your Poison with D'Ray & Pals

Is This the Most Beauteous Anthology of Last Year?

This anthology is a beauty to behold and this DJ is nominated for an Anthony award.


Frankly, I don't give damn. Some addictions -- food, water, books and breathing -- are worth holding on to. And if you, like me, love a great book that has heft, is tightly bound and best yet contains oodles of good writing and illustrations, then you'll owe it to yourself to dig up this probably hard-to find gem from Dennis McMillan.

Store this bottle in reach of your impressionable children to effectively poison their minds.

D'Ray's 'Measures of Poison' is already sold out, post mortem, find it via one of the ubiquitous search engines, but by all means find it and you'll absolutely believe the publisher when he says that his books are the most collectible and the best investment out there. Investment, hell -- this is something you'll never, ever want to sell, period once you get it in your hands. But at least you can tell your spouse/mate/other half/partner that these books are an investment. You show them this kind of quality, they'll believe you. They call that "enabling behavior".

This is the "morocco" bound edition.

D'Ray told me about the morocco editions. I must admit that I was completely clueless when he used the term "morocco", but by all means I'm not clueless anymore. It's always nice to learn some new facts about books. It makes it seem as if you're doing something useful, educational, not just spazz-out compulsive buying behavior. Just show them this and say, "Look honey, it's an encyclopedia."

Trust me, as nice as the illustrations are, you're not buying this publication for the articles! This illustration is from a story titled 'Johnny Heartbreak'. What more can one ask than Bikini Girls With Machine Guns?

..And since the bottom line with any book, from the rattiest paperback to the toniest limited edition is the contents, here's how you judge 'Measures of Poison', in D'Ray's own words:

" far, four of the stories from it [those by Pelecanos, Scott Phillips, Crumley, and Christopher Cook] have been chosen for Houghton-Mifflin's BEST MYSTERY STORIES 2003, and the book's dust jacket and a short story [Bob Truluck's "A Man Called Ready," which he whipped out for me in a week, when I asked him at the last minute if he'd like to be in the book] have been nominated for "Anthony" awards.."

But wait -- there more!

This includes an unpublished, never seen 100+ page screenplay that was quashed by a Chicago newspaper ("You'll never shoot a movie in this town again if you shoot that screenplay"), as it had more than a little to say about a subject we're now front-page familiar with, that being journalistic ethics.

There are plentiful line illustrations, an example of which is shown above. They're perfectly in keeping with the tone and look of the volume.

Why else should you be hunting down this volume? Because in New Yawk -- or anywhere else -- you aren't going to find a reprint by any major publishing house. Apparently, major publishers are suffering from a glut of money, because, clearly, their inability to connect with readers is demonstrated by their disinterest. Paging Otto Penzler. Please pick up the white courtesy telephone.

The lesson here is fairly simple, at least for this reader. Haunt the website, buy the books in advance. Put them someplace where your enabling half won't see them.



06-05-03: Catching up with the Latest Magazines, New Bookstore and Ziesing's Latest, Ghost Price reaches $25K

Locus v Cemetery Dance, Round x

Ramsey Campbell is interviewed in the latest CD.

Charles De Lint is interviewed in the latest Locus.

Well, they both get my vote, which is why I subscribe. Though, admittedly, I can only gaze glancingly at lots of Locus, as I'm disinclined to read reviews of books in my queue, and just about every book in my queue is at least mentioned if not reviewed in Locus. I loved Gary Raisor's story in CD; and was sorry I missed the the Locus party. Anyone who wants to read a lot of fascinating SF history is recommended to spend some time in the Gardner Dozois article.

New Ziesing Catalogue

He's getting covers nearly as good as his comments inside, but to my mind nothing will ever match them.

Book readers know that Ziesing's catalogues are a hoot, and his latest is no exception. And yes Mark, I'd love to spend about a grand on those Conan books, but the rent is preventing me. Robert Goddard, Meet Mr. Product -- I could go on, but food is preventing me.

Bella Luna Books

A pretty damn good ripping bookstore is found.

Searching for the Christopher Moore titles, I found this bookstore and the package they sent me made me take notice -- you should as well. You can find them via their website, and you can call them up and talk to them. Very nice folks, nice catalogue, rather different from my usual shtick. These are clean first eds of literary and more mainstream books, fairly priced, great condition. The selection may just surprise you. They sent me three nice little catalogues, a nice color cover letter and a copy of 'The Bloomsbury Review'. the books all came in BroDart covers. All in all a good find, and another bookmark for the book-obsessed. They themselves claim to be book addicts, and will give you lengthy descriptions of books that are not in fine condition. In these days of Internet sales & surprise, that's very nice.

Ghost Price reaches $25K

As of this morning, the Ghost price for the jar below hit $25K, and E Bay issued a warning about bids issued and then retracted. Yikes! $1900 is gullible -- $25K is Weapons of Mass Destruction gullible! What, there's a nuke in that jar?

Well, if nought else, the hits the above comment will bring in from the gubermint sites will look good on the graph.

06-04-03: Ghost for Sale, in Jar

Another E-Bay First

What he found.

Where he found it.

If you're feeling particularly flush and rather gullible -- currently around $1900 gullible, then read up, get out your Visa card and bid on this ghost in a jar, now for sale on Ebay. Anyone who has read Tim Powers knows about ghosts in jars. So in case you don't have enough bad juju in your life -- I now turn the column over to our fearless Ghost Salesman....

"I don't have enough space here to tell the complete story behind this, so I will briefly go over it. Back in the early 1980's, while out metal detecting, I came across and old abandoned cemetery with the foundation of a homesite or Church or something nearby. While searching around the foundation, my detector indicated there was something in the ground close by the southwest corner of the foundation. After digging down about 2 feet my shovel struck a wooden box that had nearly rotted out. The metal hinges and hasp were about all that was left of it. I thought I had discovered a fortune! Boy, did that ever turn out to be wrong!! There were 2 jars and an old journal in the box. The jars had some strange writing and symbols on them. While getting the jars out of the ground, I dropped one and it broke. A black mist or something seeped out of it. I should have known something was wrong right then and covered the find back up but being young and foolish I didn't. I left the broken jar with what looked like a candle in it there where it fell and took the other one (see the pictures) and the old journal home. What I was able to read in the journal before the pages crumbled made the hair on the back of my neck stand up! That night, I had my first visit from what I can only describe as "The Black Thing". While lying in bed, this "thing" fell on me and it felt like I was being pushed down thru the bed and the floor, into a pit if you will! I struggled with it and managed to somehow escape its clutches. Since that time, I have been attacked twice more and both times the unopened jar was in the close vicinity. I and others have caught fleeting glimpses of a black shadowy thing out of the corners of our eyes as it would pass from one room to another. I finally talked to someone who is versed in these things and was told that the only way to rid myself of this thing was to pass the unopened jar on to someone else. Therefore, I am offering to you, if you dare, the "Ghost in the Jar". With it I am sure you will be getting the "Black Thing" also. If you are brave enough to want this, bid to your hearts desire! I am going to start the bidding at 99.00 and put a rather high reserve on it so only those with a real desire and want to will be able to purchase it! What you will recieve for your money is the jar pictured along with some of the original black and white photos depicted here and others. You will also recieve a complete written version of everything from the original finding of the jars and to the best of my recollection what was contained in the old journal. I will also tell you what I was able to find out about this from the person who told me to pass it on. Be advised that once you buy this it is yours and I will have nothing ever again to do with it! ALL SALES ARE FINAL! You must contact me within 24 hours of the close of the sale to make payment arrangements and to arrange for delivery which the buyer is liable for. This can NOT be shipped thru the Post Office. Either UPS or pay me to deliver it! Payment must be made within 7 days of the close of the auction. P.S. As to the photos running with this, please note the one with the what looks like figures in them at the cemetery. I discovered this after turning them in to be processed. I WAS ALONE AT THE CEMETERY THAT DAY! This too will be gone over in the written "Diary" which comes with the purchase. Remember, DON'T bid unless you are seriously wanting to own this as I WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS ONCE THE TRANSACTION IS COMPLETE!

On May-26-03 at 17:59:20 PDT, seller added the following information:

Due to the high amount of emails I've recieved concerning this item, I am going to try to answer some of your questions here. Number 1, No this is NOT a hoax, it is real. Yes, I have tried re-burying it but it did not work, it only made "The Black Thing" more active until I dug it back up. Yes, I COULD either give it away or sell it for a buck or two....I've had many opportunities over the years to do that very thing with friends or acquaintices. But, as I said, I want this thing to go to someone with either a knowledge of these things or to someone who is into the occult or whatever who might be able to control it or have some knowledge of what to do with it or do something with it! NOT someone who just wants to play at it! I feel that the best way to do this is to set a very high reserve so only someone SERIOUS about it can "OWN" it. As far as more of the story, the winning bidder will get the entire story, all the details including encounters others besides myself have had with it and what was told me about it and what to do to get rid of it! Some of you have emailed claiming to know what it is and some have called it an evil spirit, some a poltergeist, etc. I don't care what it is, I just want RID of it! Some of your emails I will try to answer personnally as soon as I have the time. Thanks for looking."

OK ladies and gents, wallets out!

06-03-03: Christopher Brookmyre News & Reading Selections

"...this for a Game of Soldiers"

I wrote Christiopher Brookmyre to see how whe was doing and asked him for some reading suggestions for The Agony Column. His news and his selections were very bracing:

"I've finished the new book, "Be My Enemy (or, Fuck This For A Game Of Soldiers)", with just some minor revisions to undertake over the summer. It will be published on February 4 2004.

As for recomendations, I've recently been on holiday (unwinding after the new novel) and it's a testament to their enchantments that I got through the entire "His Dark Materials" trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman in two weeks in between bouts of chasing my son around the beach. They were among the most enjoyable and rewarding books I have ever read: made me feel like I was thirteen again in terms of sheer, escapist excitement, while engaging the intellectual and philosophical faculties of the adult who was turning the pages.

My standard recommendation to people is Neal Stephenson, principally for his collossal Cryptonomicon, but also for Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. It's an indictment of the critical snobbery that dogs anything with a whiff of SF about it that Stephenson is not lauded among the great writers of our time.

And one other, slightly unusual recommendation is "From Hell" by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. It's a graphic novel, which took about a decade to write. It's ostensibly about Jack the Ripper (the bare bones of the story formed the basis of the Hughes Brothers' Johnny Depp / Heather Graham movie), but in fact delves into premises so rich, deep and varied that I would do them an injustice to attempt to summarise or even list them. An unforgettable and humbling work."

Thanks Christopher -- it's no surprise that you have such a following of science fiction fans.

06-02-03: A Bolly Good Time with Thackery & Friends

VanderMeer's Disease Guide Art

John Coulthart's flavor-aged cover for the Lambshead Guide.

Over at NightShade Books they're posting some art for the upcoming Lambshead Guide. While I can no longer pretend to be completely impartial -- I'm a contributor -- I can be utterly ecstatic about this art, and who wouldn't? It's gorgeous and Coulthart has some flavor-aging process down pat. For those wise-minded enough to buy in advance, you'll be pleased to know that your trade paperback has now been upgraded to a hardcover. The rest of us will be thrilled enough just to get a hardcover. I can assure you that this collection is one of the funniest and wildest you'll ever see.


This looks like one of my scans of an old Ace Charles Fort release!

Incredible artist John Coulthart haw crafted some incredibly great covers for the history of the guide within the guide. You can see more of his art at his website.

An illustration and entry from the forthcoming VanderMeer anthology.

The Guide appears to be a lot lusher than even I took it to be. Readers know I love a good illustrated book. This one will be crammed with goodness. Please help us and order it from your local bookseller. As of today, they're on the front wave saving freedom of speech. Freedom in this c ase will set you back the price of a good hardcover. See all this and even more updates at the discussion board for the book over at NightShade.