Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Original Blue And Lonesome

Blue and LonesomeOne of the best selling albums in 2016 was Blue & Lonesome, The Rolling Stones' cover album of electric blues songs. Now these aren't the typical blues songs that one is used to hearing on blues-rock albums; there is no "Crossroads," no "Hideaway," no "Driftin' Blues," or "You Shook Me," to name just four, on Blue and Lonesome. So unless you are a follower of blues music, most, if not all, of the twelve songs on this album will be new to you.

According to the Stones' website:
"The album was produced by Don Was and The Glimmer Twins [aka Mick Jagger and Keith Richards] and was recorded over the course of just three days in December last year [2015] at British Grove Studios in West London, just a stone’s throw [pun intended?] from Richmond and Eel Pie Island where the Stones started out as a young blues band playing pubs and clubs. Their approach to the album was that it should be spontaneous and played live in the studio without overdubs...."

As I said, Blue and Lonesome is a cover album; all of the songs were previously written and recorded (not always by the same person in each instance) by blues greats during the 1950s and '60s, with one track dating to 1971. Here's the 12-song tracklist for the 2-LP vinyl edition:
SIDE A
1. Just Your Fool
2. Commit a Crime
3. Blue and Lonesome

SIDE B
1. All of Your Love
2. I Gotta Go
3. Everybody Knows About My Good Thing

SIDE C
1. Ride 'Em on Down
2. Hate To See You Go
3. Hoo Doo Blues

SIDE D
1. Little Rain
2. Just Like I Treat You
3. I Can't Quit You Baby


My goal with this blog post is to introduce you to the original recordings (or as close to the original recordings as the internet, and YouTube, will allow) of these twelve songs, to provide you with a wee bit of a feel for the musical influences on the Stones as a band, and the Glimmer Twins in particular.

I'm not going to bore you with a lot of facts and details, so I'm linking each artist to his biography on the AllMusic website. If you want more info on the likes of Little Walter or Howlin' Wolf or Lightnin' Slim or whomever, you can simply click on their linked names to read their AllMusic entry. From the biography page you can click to their discography, read reviews, etc. Also, the tunes that I am providing below are audio files only, but each is posted as a video on YouTube simply because that's how YouTube works. The video for each entry might be just a static picture, or pictures might change throughout the length of each song -- just keep in mind that there really is no video per se associated with each of these entries. The whole point is to listen:

Side A, Track 1: "Just Your Fool" was originally written and recorded in 1960 by Little Walter:


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale

Hap & Leonard: Blook & LemonadeSo, as I stated at the beginning of my previous post, while I was absent from blogging, life still moved on...other projects were completed, books were received....

One of the projects that I worked on is the new Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade novel by Joe R. Lansdale, his ownself. This title, forthcoming in March from Tachyon Publications, will coincide with the premiere of season two of the SundanceTV series Hap and Leonard. (Check out the SundanceTV site for some H and L season two trailers, if you're not already familiar with this series.)

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is actually a "mosaic" novel. A mosaic novel is comprised of a number of related stories that are tied together with new connecting material; occasionally the author will even tweak the beginnings and/or endings of some of the stories so that the book flows more cohesively from one story to the next. If you have read Ray Bradbury's classic The Martian Chronicles, then you have read a mosaic novel. Back in 2005 I acquired and edited a mosaic novel for Golden Gryphon Press entitled From the Files of the Time Rangers by Richard Bowes. The San Francisco Chronicle, in its review of Time Rangers, described the mosaic novel as "something more integrated than a simple story collection but not confined to a singular, linear narrative structure."

Here are the 14 stories that comprise Blood and Lemonade:
"Parable of the Stick" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"Tire Fire" - original to this volume

"Not Our Kind" - first appeared in Hap and Leonard (Tachyon Publications)

"Down by the River Side" - original to this volume

"Short Night" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"The Boy Who Became Invisible" - first appeared in The Bleeding Edge: Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers, edited by William F. Nolan and Jason V. Brock (Cycatrix Press)

"Blood and Lemonade" - original to this volume

"In the River of the Dead" - original to this volume

"Stopping for Coffee" - original to this volume

"Apollo Red" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"Coach Whip" - original to this volume

"The Bottom of the World" - original to this volume

"Squirrel Hunt" - original to this volume

"The Oak and the Pond" - first appeared in Hap and Leonard Rides Again (Tachyon Publications)

The stories are primarily from Hap's point of view, while he's hanging out with Leonard -- often when they are driving in Hap's truck, occasionally hanging out at the local Dairy Queen; a few of the latter stories take place at Hap's house, in the presence of both Brett (Brett Sawyer, Hap's on-again, off-again girlfriend) and Chance (Hap's daughter).

We learn how these two disparate individuals -- Hap Collins, a liberal, typically non-violent white boy (who spent time in federal prison as a young man for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War), and Leonard Pine, a gay, black, Vietnam vet (and a Republican) -- actually meet, and not only become partners and friends, but brothers.

In his review of Blood and Lemonade on Dangerous Dan's Book Blog, Daniel Schwent writes: "Lansdale's beer and tailgate style of storytelling gives him a unique voice and feels like it was written specifically for my ears. There is comedy, fist fights, and even some horror in the form of a ghost story, showing the depth and versatility of Lansdale's style."

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is available direct from Tachyon Publications, and always through Amazon.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book Received: Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

Pirate UtopiaSo while I was absent from blogging, life moved on...other projects were completed, books were received....

One such book is Bruce Sterling's Pirate Utopia, a beautifully crafted hardcover from Tachyon Publications.

In addition to the *starred* Publishers Weekly review I posted on October 16 last year, here are excerpts from a few more reviews:

1. From author Michael Swanwick's blog Flogging Babel:
Bruce Sterling has always had a complicated relationship with science fiction. He has a particular brilliance for writing the stuff and a noted loathing for its conventions. This explains much about Pirate Utopia, which is almost not SF and yet should prove eminently satisfactory to genre readers.

The Free State of Fiume was a real thing. Fiume was a port city which was seized by troops led by the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. Very briefly, it became an attempted Futurist utopia.

The novella explores this strange phenomenon through the lens of the single worst member of the new government, exposing along the way the seductively poisonous appeal of fascism. At the end, after the inevitable has played out, Harry Houdini appears with two alt-historical pulp writers to implicate science fiction and fantasy literature in the whole mess.

It really is quite brilliant.

2. From Locus magazine's review by Gary K. Wolfe:
One can be reasonably suspicious of a novella whose alternate history is so obscure, contorted, and bordering on the absurd that it needs appendices to help us draw the connections, but the overall effect of Pirate Utopia is more chilling than comical...

The idea of a brutality as policy crops up repeatedly in the many discussions that make up the intellectual heart of the story, and you can't help but read forward a century or so to see how such ideas persist even today. In his interview with [Rick] Klaw, Sterling relates his tale to Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here and notes that, as Lewis said, fascism in the US "would arrive wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross under American circumstances." Pirate Utopia may seem to be about an ancient and almost forgotten struggle between Italy and Yugoslavia, but its themes are as relevant as this year's presidential politics.

3. From author Cory Doctorow on boingboing.net:
Sterling's Pirate Utopia captures both the excitement and the shabbiness of Futurism and fascism, the sense of trembling anticipation and the terror of merciless technocratic rule where corruption is considered efficient and meritocratic. For all that this is a very cerebral story -- much of the prose is distant and precise, like a Futurist's oiled machine stamping out words -- Sterling masterfully winds in all manner of blood and love and sorrow into the story, not to mention the odd belly-laugh.

This novella is a beautiful object, with the most amazing super-modernist black and white interior illustrations and a cover that beggars belief.

4. And lastly (though there are many more very fine reviews available on this novella) from Max Booth III on LitReactor:
This is a very short book occupied by an impressive cast of characters—most of them grabbed straight from history, although used in ways you might not entirely expect. This is a Futurism novel that looks at the past rather than the future. It's an alternate history clusterfuck of brilliant, whacky world-building and hilarious, bizarre characters. I am not going to discuss the plot, but I will tell you that, in the world of Pirate Utopia, Hitler passed away while saving someone's life in a bar, Lovecraft works not only for Houdini, but is also a member of the U.S. spy delegation—oh, and Mussolini has evidently been shot in the cock, which is of course wonderful. This is a book about piracy and Futurism. Building a world while stealing everything in it. When you have an oxymoron for a title, there's really no way to predict what awaits you, and Pirate Utopia exceeds all expectations. Also, make sure you stick around afterward for the impressive special feature essays and interview with Sterling. They'll help you make sense of what the hell you just read.


In his review, Cory Doctorow refers to the "most amazing super-modernist black and white interior illustrations and a cover that beggars belief." [Note: other reviewers have mentioned the artwork as well, but I simply didn't include that in my excerpts.] All the illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who has written a very enlightening 1,000-plus-word essay entitled "Reconstructing the Future: A Note on Design" that you'll find at the end of the book. You can read my blog post on my initial work on the novella, published on June 10, 2016, with a link to some of the interior illustrations (scroll down to the end of the blog); and a follow-up blog post on July 14, 2016, with additional examples of the illustrations.

Pirate Utopia is available direct from Tachyon Publications, and always through Amazon.com.


Monday, January 9, 2017

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross: Laundry Files Book 8

The Delirium Brief
Tor.com cover
Okay, okay...so I haven't been the world's best blogger these past few months (though I did try to keep you entertained on occasion with quotes, vids, etc.).... Blame it on the run-up to the presidential election (and of course the aftermath, sigh....), but then again that excuse is only good through the beginning of December.

For the past nearly four weeks I have been working on the latest installment of Charles Stross's Laundry Files series: volume 8, entitled The Delirium Brief. This new novel will be published in July 2017 in the U.S. by Tor.com and by Orbit Books in the UK. [*]

So while I slaved away working on The Delirium Brief, the publishers were, naturally, shut down for the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Orbit UK cover
But I'm not really complaining, honest: one of the best Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa presents I could ever ask for is the opportunity to work on a new Laundry Files novel. (Also, I'm always pleased to have work in front of me -- any work, at any time!)

According to the content blurb provided by the publisher (available for your reading pleasure on Amazon.com) -- and I quote, though not in its entirety:
"... following the invasion of Yorkshire by the Host of Air and Darkness, the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British government looking for public services to privatize. Inch by inch, Bob Howard and his managers are forced to consider the truly unthinkable: a coup against the British government itself."

So, what we know here is that the British government is outsourcing a number of its services, which obviously includes the Laundry... But the real question is: Why?

I will warn you right now that to answer that question without giving away the entire punchline I will still have to yield to a few "mini" spoilers. So if the idea of knowing any spoilers whatsoever for The Delirium Brief, regardless of how small, offends your better judgment, then you had best close this blog post window now!

On the other hand, if you are still reading, let me provide a caveat: If you are fairly new to the Laundry Files series and haven't read all the prior volumes, then you just may want to stick around to learn which volumes you will need to catch up on before The Delirium Brief is published six months from now. (Or maybe you have read all the volumes but it's been years for some of them and, well, the memory ain't what it used to be....)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Gandalf Quote

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

― J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings