DarkEcho Horror
The New Dollar by Rick Berry
BOOK REVIEWS: October 2000
By Paula Guran

Robert Weinberg
Collectors Press/ $60 / 256 p ISBN: 1-888054-42-5

book cover Even at $60, this oversized (10"X13" and weighing between four and five pounds) 256-page book is a bargain. Its 450 full-color illustrations do justice to the featured movie posters and pulp, magazine, hardcover, paperback, and comic covers. Lurid or quietly artistic, gory or eerie -- they are here in delicious abundance. But, most importantly, the text -- often an afterthought or less in a book so full of graphic images -- is thorough, well-written, and accurate. (There are points one might quibble over here and there -- but history is to be quibbled over.) For once, the horror writer is the focus. Illustrators, publishers, actors, filmmakers, and others are definitely included, but Weinberg gives the written word the central role. Weinberg knows his stuff and he knows more of it than just about anyone else can imagine. (Much of the pictured material is drawn from his personal collection of over 25,000 genre-related items.) But he delivers in straight-forward popular culture voice without fanboy gush, jejune academic-speak, or the overbearing rant of a zealot. Whether summing up The CASTLE OF ORONTO or summarizing horror's boom ("Numerous American authors made horror pay in the period from 1975 to 1990.") or its bust ("Horror fiction wasn't killed in the mid-1990s. The field committed suicide.") -- Weinberg is dead on. As much as I love the pictures, I'd also love to see the text published as an easy-to-handle history to consult and enjoy on its own. Easily one of the best nonfiction books of the year and a must-buy for libraries and serious aficionados, not to mention a great gift.

Andrew Vachss
Knopf/ $25/ 334 p
ISBN: 0375411216

book cover The strength of the Burke series lies in both its ferocious passion and with the development and growth of the central character. This latest entry starts with one of Burke's closet allies being killed and Burke himself comes as close as one can to being killed. He is, in fact, literally "dead and gone" to the world, and any death is transformative. He starts a quest for revenge that turns vastly complex and Burke can sort it out only with the aid (as usual) of his "family" as well as several more well-delineated characters including a good Chicago cop named Clancy, Gem -- a survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields, and one of his oldest friends -- the brilliant Lune, who finds order in chaos. To solve the mystery Burke also must both confront and reveal even more of his personal and spiritual pain and a new man begins to emerge. The near-assassination slows Burke down to a more middle-age physicality and he forms a relationship with a woman that hints at permanence. [Burke is, in many ways, similar to his creator. Certainly Andrew Vachss, an advocate and attorney for children, offers no more mercy for those who prey on children than does his fictional counterpart. In this novel -- another stand out in the series -- more parallels emerge. Burke loses sight in one eye (as has Vachss) and makes at least a temporary move from New York City to the Pacific Northwest (as has Vachss).] Not that the hard-boiled Burke is turning soft. Both Burke and DEAD AND GONE are still as as tough and sharp as dog collar spikes.

Peter Atkins
Stealth Press/ $24.95/ 244p
ISBN: 1588810003

book cover Although originally published eight years ago to rave reviews in England with subsequent paperback release in the U.S., MORNINGSTAR is probably a new title to most readers. Its author, Peter Atkins, is now better-known for his screenwriting than his literary forays. Although occasionally betrayed by debut novel flaws, MORNINGSTAR is an accomplished, intelligent, and even witty look at the vampire archetype. Mixing surrealistic (and highly cinematic) dream sequences with mythic archetypes and fascinating characters, Atkins creates an entertaining and highly original read. A serial killer is on the loose in San Francisco. He turns out to be a man haunted by and therefore hunting down those he is convinced are vampires. But vampires themselves play no real role to advance the story, as San Francisco hard-boiled journalist Donovan Moon tries to sort out who the good guys and who the bad guys are. A not entirely immaculate birth and divine intervention of a sort tie up the plot although the author intentionally leaves some thought-provoking ties enticingly undone. It's a shame -- especially for readers who love to see new twists of the old fang -- this one got lost a few years, but it's great to see it re-published it in a beautiful new edition.

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