NEW ON THE BOOK SHELF! This is just a cursory glance at the books I've been reading lately. In only the last few months, I've read two books which now belong to the list of my all-time favourites; this past December it was Sterling Hayden's WANDERER and now the newest addition is Kevin A. Codd's TO THE FIELD OF STARS: A PILGRIM'S JOURNEY TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA. My recent obsession with the famous "El Camino" or "Way of St. James" pilgrimage from Saint-Jean-Pied-de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain has led me to read a couple books on the subject. Fortunately, the first one was Codd's magnificent chronicle of his own camino in 2003. It is beautifully written with a sense of immediacy and vivid descriptive style which made it a page-turner for me. Reading this book puts one right there on the road with Codd as we experience his moments of crankiness and joy from his descriptions of everything from spiritual eurekas to snoring pilgrims in the bunk above, from the vast casts of eccentrics he meets along the way to his painful battles with blisters and tendonitis. This is a book I seriously could not put down. If you've seen the Emilio Estevez-directed film THE WAY starring Martin Sheen, you HAVE to read this book! It's undoubtedly become one of my favourite books of all-time.
THE ALL-STAR COMPANION (4 Volumes) by Roy Thomas. There has simply never been a more comprehensive study of Justice Society of America: the first super-hero team in comics. And Roy Thomas may be their number one fan! After breaking into comics as a writer, Thomas eventually succeeded Stan Lee as the Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics before moving to DC in the early 1980s to launch THE ALL-STAR SQUADRON title which focused on retroactive tales of all DC's heroes banding together at the start of World War II. The four volumes of this book series chronicle the very beginnings of the JSA in ALL-STAR COMICS #3 in 1940 through the wilderness years of the fifties before their re-emergence during the "Silver Age" with their annual summer JLA/JSA team-ups in the pages of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. Basically every appearance by these heroes (from what was then known as Earth-2) is examined as well as fascinating tales of stories which were written and drawn but never published. There's tons of rare and unseen artwork from some of the greatest artists in the comic book field past and present with many different authors contributing chapters on a variety of subjects. Simply indispensable!
DOCTOR DEATH VS. THE SECRET TWELVE (2 Volumes) by Harold Ward with Will Murray is a glimpse of the glory days of pulp fiction. These two wonderful books are NOT reproductions of pulp magazines but each story from the DOCTOR DEATH MAGAZINE which began in 1935. The books do include illustrations from the pulp issues, however. Dr. Death of course is your garden-variety evil genius bent on ruling and/or destroying the world with such marvelously macabre tactics as reanimating the dead into unstoppable zombies. Volume One containts the classic stories "12 MUST DIE" (hello, Juggalos), "THE GRAY CREATURES" and "THE SHRIVELING MURDERS". How great are those titles?!? The second volume contains two stories that were never published and not known to exist until recently: "WAVES OF MADNESS" and "THE RED MIST OF DEATH". These pulps are crammed full of blood, guts and mayhem and make for a delectable read.
Aaron Christensen has put together a tome entitled HORROR 101: THE A-LIST OF HORROR FILMS AND MONSTER MOVIES VOL. 1 which is something of a primer for horror novices. The book attempts to provide a list of "must-sees" for any newcomer to the horror genre with essays on one horror film provided by a different author. Christensen compiles a group of horror films which, while providing nothing new to those of us who make horror films a study, is a fun read which will certainly come in handy to those unfamiliar with this genre and these films. From ALIEN to THE WOLF MAN, this book is as good a place to start as any.
David Pirie has updated his classic study of the British horror film with A NEW HERITAGE OF HORROR: THE ENGLISH GOTHIC CINEMA. The original book is one of the monuments of early horror film scholarship and this new edition proudly pastes Martin Scorsese's rave review on the cover: "The best study of British horror movies". If Scorsese said that about a book I wrote, I'd plaster it all over the front cover too! The author has expanded his original work and brought it up to the present day. If you've never read the original, this is your chance to get up to date!
Speaking of classic horror film books, Jonathan Rigby has brought out a new book to place alongside his classics ENGLISH GOTHIC and his more recent sequel AMERICAN GOTHIC which exhaustively examines the English and American horror films respectively. This time out he's written STUDIES IN TERROR: LANDMARKS OF HORROR CINEMA which focuses individually on 130 key horror films in the history of cinema. Arranged chronologically, Rigby devotes two pages to each film starting with THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919) all the way to OUTCAST (2009). Obviously not meant as an in depth analysis, STUDIES IN TERROR is more like a bunch of horror hors d'oeuvres served up by one of the most respected experts on horror films around today. Rigby's book is a treat. Scamper out and buy all these books, children. They're good for you and magically delicious!