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BOOK REVIEWS: March 2000
By Paula Guran

RUN
Douglas E. Winter
Knopf/$23/ 288p.
ISBN: 037540838X

book cover You get jaded in this business, kid. You read, you write about it. But after awhile, no matter how much you love the stuff, you rarely get so wrapped up in a book you read it cover-to-cover. To be so enthralled by a first-time novelist is rarer still. But it happened with RUN. Stylistically electrifying, this sucker isn't paced -- it's a flat out dead heat from first page to last as narrator/protag Burdon Lane is transformed from a smooth operating gunrunner to a man fleeing practically everybody. Lane, a member of an illegal (and highly lucrative) white suburban gun running business, is on a fairly routine run from Virginia to New York City to supply a shipment of guns to an inner city gang. The run turns into an assassination, a massacre, a mini-war, a massive fire, and a whole lot more. Warily partnered with black gangster Jinx, Lane is then on his own run. Using firepower, wits, and his ability to blend in with the rest of a forgettable crowd, Lane escapes death over and over in a world in which, suddenly, nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. Along the way he confronts more than duplicity and conspiracy, he confronts himself and his perceptions of reality. Although the plot weakens in places, the essence of the story never falters. The novel's frequent violence is dense, chaotic, and realistic, not romanticized. Vivid street vernacular imbues its dialogue with a tense verisimilitude. Horror? What monster threatens us more than our all-American culture of the gun? What demon demands more sacrifice? Winter attacks his monster with the criminal edge of Elmore Leonard, the passion of Andrew Vachss, the redemptive grit of John Shirley, Dennis Lehane's hip, and joins George Pelecano in making Washington, D.C. the capital of crime -- but with a voice that is uniquely his own. RUN takes the crime thriller in a new direction and, as an amoral allegory for our times, helps redefine horror.

THE ESSENTIAL MONSTER MOVIE GUIDE
Stephen Jones
Edition Reviewed:
Titan Books/16.99/ 448p.
ISBN: 1852869356
Edition Available for Purchase:
Watson-Guptill Pubns./ $19.95/ 448 pages ISBN: 0823079368

book cover
book cover
Creature feature lovers will find this one exactly what its title promises: essential, as in basic, indispensable, necessary, etc. It's also complete: more than 3000 reviews, ratings, the obscurest of background notes, cast and crew names, alternate titles, remakes, sequels, hundreds of mini-biographies...everything you always wanted to know about movies that most sane people don't want to know about but we do. From the sublime (FRAKENSTEIN: "...Some original release prints were apparently tinted green. Universal filmed two endings, and, following previews, decided to use the one where Henry survives...") to the ridiculous (TEENAGE CAT GIRLS IN HEAT: "...filmed in Austin, Texas. Keshra, a 4,000 year-old Egyptian Cat Sphinx, transforms cats into topless women with feline characteristics. They have sex with men and then kill them in an attempt to rule the world. It's terrible.") -- a great reference as well as a fun read. Published by Britain's Titan Books, this one is worth the trouble of converting pounds sterling. (This book is now available through Watson-Guptill in the U.S.)

DARKER THAN YOU THINK
Jack Williamson
Tor/ $14.95 / 288p.
ISBN: 0312869924

book cover Tardy (the book came out last November) but sincere kudos to Tor/Orb for putting a genuine classic -- a pivotal point in the literature of lycanthrophic fiction -- back into print. Re-publication of DARKER THAN YOU THINK also demonstrates just why Jack Williamson should be recognized as a master of terror as well as an sf pioneer. That they have done so in a strikingly well-designed tradepaper format with highly appropriate and atmospheric illustrations by David G. Klein is also to be commended. Williamson -- still actively writing and publishing at age 72 -- first wrote DARKER THAN YOU THINK for the pulp magazine UNKNOWN where it first appeared in 1940 as a 40,000 word "complete novel." It was later expanded and published in book from by Fantasy Press in 1948. Protagonist Will Barbee represents the illogic of the imaginative pitted against the cold rationality of science -- a science that has discovered the answer to the question: "Why...is evil?" Science is personified in Barbee's former mentor/professor and his team (all of whom were once colleagues of Will's.) Between the two lies the dark fantastic embodied by a seductive, shapechanging "witch." DARKER THAN YOU THINK is packed with pulp action, a noirish milieu, a sensuous redhead, a slew of ghastly murders, the revelation of a long-hidden enemy of humankind, a variety of were-beasts, a messianic mystery, and the unleashing of untold evil and violence, The writing is far from Williamson's best, but it still should work for most modern readers. In fact, the Barbee's ultimate amorality and the horrific ideation inherent in the novel (that evil comes from within as opposed to attacking from the outside) will be far more readily understood and accepted by contemporary dark fiction readers than it was sixty years ago.


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