Sunday, October 28, 2012

Roger Hodgson Live at the Rancho Mirage Agua Caliente Casino
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Since Roger Hodgson began touring with a full back-up band, he has selected venues nearly 200 miles from Los Angeles, usually Indian Casinos located in desert towns. As such, we have a two hour plus drive to arrive early enough to enjoy a buffet dinner, a few drinks, and find our seats before the 9:00 pm starting time. This is not a complaint. It is a cry of joy. Roger Hodgson is live in concert!

By Palm Springs, we find the Rancho Mirage Agua Caliente Casino, the venue for Hodgson’s October 26th show. The atmosphere was one of celebration and reminiscence, old friends gathering to recapture the progressive rock hits of Supertramp from the 70s, the years when Hodgson was part of the band he co-founded. And by “old”, I do mean mature. The young ones in the crowd were in their forties; the older ones in their sixties. Some fans brought their grandkids, many of them under ten years of age. But every one was here to party like it was 1979.

The venue before the fans arrived

The concert started sharply at nine. Hodgson and band opened the show with  the Supertramp hit, Take the Long Way Home, an ironic comment, no doubt, on the long journey most of the fans had taken to reach the casino. Supertramp used to play this same song to send the crowd off at the end of the show. Hodgson welcomed the nearly sold out audience with the song. When he addressed the crowd after the opening numbers, he pointed out that it would be a night of his personal history as seen through his music from early in his career and onwards, and he didn’t disappoint. He reached back to the rarely played Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second LP, and sang one of my favorites: Rosie Had Everything Planned, about a jealous girl who kills her faithful boyfriend in a suspicious fit. He also dug into his solo work and played In Jeopardy. One of the highlights for me especially was the song Death and the Zoo. Hodgson has never played this song at any of the concerts I’ve attended and it was a rouser, complete with jungle animal sounds and a spirited beat framed by a solemn story about lost love being a choice between “death or life in a zoo”. He played Lady, another rarely played song from Supertramp that he wrote, and we could see that he and the band were having the time of their lives playing this wide range of songs.

And their joy and fun on stage was infectious. The crowd joined in with the music (never overwhelming the songs as is wont by some bands these days); instead, the fans complemented the music, for instance, on Easy Does It, where the crowd whistled along with the band members. At a few points in the show, Roger Hodgson would suddenly stop the song and comment to his mates about opening notes or asking coyly if they were ready. On Dreamer, the bass player closed out the number with a deep voiced pah-pah-pah pahm, and Hodgson remarked, “Isn’t that the best pah-pah-pah pahm you’ve ever heard?” The band laughed as loudly as the crowd. It was that kind of night.

There were a few hiccups during the evening: Some crowd members addressed Hodgson directly between numbers and nearly ruined the momentum of the show, but Roger was the consummate professional and rolled with the minor interruptions (although Security had to escort a few fans back to their seats a few times); also, Hodgson’s keyboards lost their sound a few times, but again, Roger quipped while the roadies fixed the problem and the music didn’t miss a beat, just a few notes.

The crowd was invited by Hodgson to the front of the stage for the final number, Give a Little Bit, and they obliged, dancing and swaying like twenty-year olds. Then the lights went on and the show was over. The fans left humming their favorite tunes from the show. This reviewer was invited backstage to meet Roger Hodgson and take a picture with him. He asked me if I enjoyed the show. I told him that Death and a Zoo was the highlight for me as I was a big fan of his solo work and hoped that he could work in more of these songs into his future shows. He said, “Little by little.” Then I was whisked off by Security as the next VIP was invited to meet the voice of Supertramp, Roger Hodgson.

As usual, my friends were pleased with the dozen or so hits from the Supertramp era, and I was happy with the handful of Hodgson solo songs. But one thing’s for sure: Everyone drove home satisfied and ready for the next show. 

King of the Hill—Pigmalion Season 7, Episode 9
Directed by Dominic Polcino and Klay Hall
Written by Jonathan Collier

Off Kilter TV: Where Horror Rears its Ugly Head on Family Television
Television shows have always been predictable. Lucy gets in and out of trouble. Archie Bunker faces daily events with his bigoted point of view. Mulder and Scully track down monsters and government conspiracies. But every once in a while, an episode will sneak by that doesn’t follow the pattern: Little Joe finds a ghost town full of real ghosts; a hunter on the island tracks Gilligan to kill him as a trophy; George Costanza finds a club that only exists at night. These are some of the unpredictable episodes that I call Off Kilter TV.


This article deconstructs the episode Pigmalion in an effort to describe the “gothic” elements inherent in its plot; thus, the beginning, middle and ending are discussed in some detail, so it is assumed readers are King of the Hill fans who have already seen the episode or non-fans who simply like to read the Off Kilter TV column. Thank you.
Typically, King of the Hill revolves around the Hill family. Hank, the patriarch, has trouble with the family or with the propane business where he works; Peggy, his wife, the intellectual manqué, has to deal with her substitute teaching responsibilities or her modest newspaper column where she is her own best reader; Bobby, their son, is an outgoing young preteen whose growing pains aggravate Hank and challenge Peg’s mothering skills. And then there’s Luanne. She is the niece of Hank and Peggy; she is attractive and either late teens to early twenties. She has trouble finding work and keeping a job.

Which begins our episode for today.

When Peggy hears the restaurant manager scolding Luane, who works there as a waitress, she bullies Luanne into quitting.  Then in typical Peggy fashion, she enrolls the girl in a Learning Annex class on setting up your own business (the joke here is that Peg takes these fly-by-night classes verbatim over college courses, which would be the better choice for the university age girl). The teacher of the class turns out to be Trip Larsen (voiced by Micheal Keaton), owner of Larsen Pork Products. Trip is attracted to Luanne in a strange way that we will discuss later, but for now let’s just say he asks her out on a date under the guise of asking her to interview for a job. They soon become a couple.

The seduction begins

Peggy, of course, tries to break them up, and Trip responds by first trying to kill Hank, who is ignorant of the attempt, and then leaving a headless pig carcass on her doorstep. She is aghast, but Hank and his friends are grateful for the gift of free meat. Peg realizes Trip is crazy and devises a way to keep him away from her niece. Peg’s ploy backfires on her, and she unwittingly drives Luanne into his arms and into his home. She moves into the mansion.

The pig Trip longs to be

It is about here that we see the Hitchcockian elements emerging. There is the older professional man of mystery falling for the naïve and innocent girl who is intrigued by the worldly and wealthy man. He lives in a gothic mansion, where pigs run freely. The slaughter houses are about a quarter mile from the mansion. Trip’s requests to Luanne become more and more threatening as his voice waivers between soft and demanding. In Vertigo tradition, Trip begins to remake Luanne into the image of some bygone lover or someone. He starts with the hair-do, pig-tails of course, then the hair color, (wickedly red in a scene where Luanne awakes to find her head covered with the bloody colored dye), but it isn’t until he forces her to dress in a milkmaid’s outfit that we realize that Trip has been turning her into the Larsen Pork Products Girl (sort of a knock-off of the St. Pauli Girl).

 Hair in pigtails and you've got the Pork Girl

The Pork Girl was created by Trip’s grandfather, and he has obsessed over her since he was a child. Dressed as a pig, and utterly mad, Trip attacks Luanne. Peggy and Luanne run into the slaughter house and turn on the machines in an effort to lose Trip. As he stands on the conveyor belt headed for the bolt device, shaped like a metal stake that pierces skull of the pig before it enters the area for butchering, Trip passes through a Jacob’s Ladder strand of electricity designed to shock the pig before it is killed. When Trip is shocked, he regains his sanity and wonders where he is. Here the story could have ended. Trip is okay. He asks Luanne’s pardon. Peggy says I told you so. End of a regular episode. But this is an Off Kilter TV episode. The conveyor belt kicks in and carries Trip into the killing bolt. He is then chopped to bits. 

The transformation begins...and ends
Note the bolt that kills pigs behind Trip

In a Hitchcock movie this would be normal, but for an episode of KOTH, it is murder. It does not fit the happy-go-lucky pattern we have come to expect from our comedy show. Peggy does a whoops joke, but it’s too little, too late. The punishment was way too out of proportion to the crime. He was obsessed with a cartoon label; he remade Luanne in its image. So he was killed in a gruesome manner befitting a pig to the slaughter. Get it: Pigmalion. In Pygmalion, the old rich gentleman turns the poor uneducated woman into a “lady.” In Pigmalion, the old entrepreneur turns Luanne into a mascot, and he in turn is turned into a pig, as in pig meat. It’s funny, if you’re Uncle Fester.

Transformation of Luanne complete

By now, you might recognize the Gothic elements of the story, things not out of place in an Ann Radcliffe or Daphne du Maurier page-turner: The mysterious mansion, the crazed older man of the house, the young mistress taken by the elder gentleman, and a secret hidden behind love and conspiracy. Author Jonathan Collier, who wrote this episode, has much experience dealing with mysteries as he has written for Bones and Monk, two detective shows that revolve around death and crime investigation. How he got his ending to Pigmalion into the show is probably a mystery worth solving. But the gothic intent and humor is pretty clear in the final words of Luanne and Peggy:
[Luanne's crazed boyfriend has fallen into the pork processing machine]
Luanne: Well, at least Trip seemed happy, and now he's in a better place.
Peggy: Honey, Trip had a mental breakdown and is now a sausage. That's not a better place. But you learned to defend yourself.
Luanne: So, it’s a happy ending after all.

Uh-huh! Thanks for joining us again for another episode of Off Kilter TV. We have more on the way. If you have any suggestions about off-kilter shows you'd like reviewed, email me at Till then, keep the TV on in the dark. 

The next US airings of Pigmalion:

Thurs    Nov 8     9:00 pm      Toon Net 

Fri        Nov 9     5:00 pm      Toon Net

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished Softcover (2012) 
By Rocky Wood with David Rawsthorme, Norma Blackbum and Alan M. Clark.

The paperback edition of "Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished" (2012) is out. "According to books by Tyson Blue (The Unseen King), Stephen J. Spignesi (The Lost Work of Stephen King), and Rocky Wood et al.(Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished), there are numerous unpublished works by Stephen King that have come to light throughout King's career, including novels and short stories, most of which remain unfinished. Most are stored among Stephen King's papers in the special collections of the Raymond H. Fogler Library at the University of Maine, some of which are freely accessible to the library's visitors, while others require permission from King to read. Additionally, there are a number of uncollected short stories published throughout King's long career in various anthologies and periodicals that have never been published in a King collection." Rocky Wood discusses these numerous works and creates a canon for King fans to acknowledge the existence of these stories that have not seen print in book form. Fans who have not been able to afford the hardcover edition can now read Rocky Wood’s collection and reviews of rare and hard to find works by Stephen King, including:

1959 Charlie (unpublished short story)

1960 People, Places and Things (unpublished short story collection)

People, Places and Things is a self-published magazine sized collection of short stories written in 1960 together with his friend Chris Chesley and published using their own press. It comprises a mere 18 stapeled together pages. Copies were sold to school friends for about $0.10 to $0.25 each. The original collection consists of 8 short stories by Stephen King, nine by Chris Chesley, and one co-production; according to King only one copy of about ten is left – he owns it himself. The Stories:

The Hotel at the End of the Road - Two gangsters, Tommy Riviera and Kelso Black, find rescue in an old hotel whose ominous proprietor doesn't want money. He wants the men themselves – as part of his private museum of the dead.

I've got to get away - It's like waking up, but the dreamer remembers nothing, not even his name. Shocked, he realizes that he's working at a conveyor belt and knows only one thing: He's got to get away. But he is immediately arrested by guards who reprogram him – for the dreamer is nothing but a faulty robot who seems to lapse into humanhood from time to time.

The Thing at the Bottom of the Well - A small boy enjoys torturing animals: He tears out the wings of flies, kills worms or maltreats a dog with needles. One day, he is lured to a well by a strange voice and climbs down mesmerized. When his body is found, his arms are severed from the body and there are needles in his eyes.

The Stranger - A thief and murderer is waylaid by the Reaper himself.

The Cursed Expedition - Two astronauts land on Venus, finding an Earth-like atmosphere and believing to have found Eden. There is delicious fruit, the temperature is perfect. But when one of the crew is found dead, the survivor is too late in realizing that the planet itself – or at least its surface – is alive, finally swallowing him and his rocket.

The Other Side of the Fog - A mysterious fog serves as a door between dimensions. Pete Jacobs involuntarily travels into the future (the year 2007) and eventually to a world inhabited by dinosaurs. Helpless, he wanders from one dimension to the next, searching for his own.

Never Look Behind You - The short story written together with his friend tells about a mysterious woman killing in a most peculiar way.

1963 The Aftermath (unpublished novella)

1970 Sword in the Darkness (unpublished novel)

1974 The House on Value Street (unpublished and unfinished)

And lots more. (Thanks to Wiki)

There’s a misconception among many purchasers of this book that it contains actual reprints of stories by Stephen King. Let’s be clear so that buyers who don’t read the liner notes carefully understand: "Rocky Wood, who has also written 'Stephen King: The Non-Fiction' (Cemetery Dance) and 'Stephen King: The Literary Companion' (McFarland), which won the 2011 Bram Stoker Award, reviews, analyzes and discusses the works of King; he does not reprint them. You are purchasing the work of Rocky Wood, the author of 'Horror! Great Tales of Fear and Their Creators' (McFarland), a graphic novel illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, which was shortlisted for a Black Quills Award; and 'Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times' (McFarland), with Lisa Morton and illustrated by Greg Chapman.

He has spoken at numerous conventions, including the SKEMER Con in Estes Park, Colorado (2003); Continuum 3 (2005) and Continuum 4 (2006) in Melbourne; Conflux 3 in Canberra (2006); the 2nd Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Festival in Bangor, Maine (2005), the World Horror Conventions in Salt Lake City (2008 and 2012); the World Horror Convention in Austin (2011); the Bram Stoker Award Weekends (Burbank, 2009 and Long Island, 2011); Worldcon in Melbourne (2010); and has even addressed Stephen King's hometown Historical Society about the author's works and motivations. He has undertaken seven research trips to Maine, rediscovering many previously lost or unknown pieces written by King. He served as a Trustee of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) from 2008 to 2010; and was elected President of the HWA in 2008, and re-elected in 2010). He is also a proud member of the Australian Horror Writers Association. He has published non-fiction worldwide for over thirty years, and is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on King's work."

So, now that that’s cleared up, go buy a copy of the softcover edition of his latest exposition on Stephen King by clicking the link below and get to know a side of King as only Rocky Wood can show it.

Also pick up a copy of RAGE AGAINST THE NIGHT. “Under the onslaught of supernatural evil, the acts of good people can seem insignificant, but a courageous few stand apart. These brave men and women stand up to the darkness, stare it right in the eye, and give it the finger. These are the stories of those who rage against the night, stories of triumph, sacrifice, and bravery in the face of overwhelming evil. Rage Against the Night features the megastars of dark fantasy and horror-including Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Scott Nicholson, Nancy Holder, Sarah Langan, Alexandra Sokoloff, and many, many more. All proceeds will be donated to Rocky Wood, author and President of the Horror Writers Association, who is battling motor neurone disease.”

Click below for your copy:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Demona Mortiss: Hollywood Goth
By Anthony Servante

I like Demona Mortiss. It is a New Wave Goth band bringing elements of Industrial Metal with orchestral arrangements common to the fashion of dark attire and elements of horror, S & M, and vamp. Their sound is unique, although there are elements of other musical genres at work here. But what most fans (and non-fans) take away with them from a DM show is the bloody vision of Elena Vladi, lead singer and founder of the group.  “Formed in Los Angeles, 2006, the band currently consists of Elena (vocals, keys), Grey Soto (guitar), Derek Jochmann (bass), and Francisco Zamudio (drums). Demona Mortiss defines hypnotic sound — a darkly sensual and cinematic fusion of heavy guitars, dark atmospheric synths, female growls and ghostly vocals featuring occult symbolism in lyrical content.”

This article has been a trial for this writer. Ms. Vladi would forget me from one day to the next. On a good day, she’d remember me and contribute some great background to the daily workings of the band; the next, she’d ask me who I was. Sort of like Dory the fish from Finding Nemo. With the Halloween issue of the Servante of Darkness getting the most hits ever since I started the venture, I knew a piece on Demona Mortiss would be a perfect fit with the horror fun this time of year brings. DM and their Industrial Goth sound give us Halloween all year long. A treat for horror readers and music lovers all.

So, let’s get to the music.


The Interview

It's been an interesting 6 weeks talking with Elena Vladi, model and musician. Although I've gotten to know the girl behind the make-up, I couldn't capture that person for this article. A last minute effort to have Ms. Vladi write an introduction for this piece to promote her band did not arrive in time for this piece to go live. Maybe I'll add it later--if it comes. Rock and Roll is a series of hits and misses. Bands must balance creativity and promotion with the skill of a diplomat. Some are better suited to it than others. The Servante of Darkness will drop in on Demona Mortiss now and then to catch the latest song or CD or tour, and I will try to take it all with a grain of salt. Meanwhile, if you'd like to help the band out, donations are being accepted at the link below. Check back with us for updates on Ms. Vladi and the group. There is music here worth the wait.


The NEW novel by Anthony Servante is out!
Just CLICK the link below!

Anthony Servante has just released his new novel, EAST LOS. Set in 1970 East Los Angeles, a serial killer known to police as the Azlan Assassin is killing young boys dressed like gang members. A drunkard sobers up to look for the killer with the help of a Sheriff's Deputy. As the community deals with student protests and walkouts, a rally that will draw thousands of people approaches. County deputies join with city police to try to stop a potential riot. As the drunk detective closes in on the killer, the memory of the events that drove him to drink begin to surface. Social turmoil, murder, gang violence, racism, and demons in a bottle are set to collide. Read EAST LOS by your host, the Servante of Darkness. Now available on Kindle.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Billie Sue Mosiman Interview
Conducted by Anthony Servante

Billie Sue Mosiman:


Anthony: With us this Halloween month, we have Billie Sue Mosiman. Thank you for being with us.

Billie: I'm happy to be here and appreciate the opportunity. 

Anthony: Can you tell our readers about yourself and your work?

Billie: I am a thriller, suspense, and horror novelist, a short fiction writer, and a lover of words. In a diary when I was thirteen years old I wrote, "I want to grow up to be a writer." It seems that was always my course. My books have been published since 1984 and two of them received an Edgar Award Nomination for best novel and a Bram Stoker Award Nomination for most superior novel. I've been represented by the William Morris Agency, belonged to many professional writing organizations, and wrote columns and reviews in magazines. I have been a regular contributor to a myriad of anthologies and magazines, with more than 150 short stories published. My work has been in such diverse publications as Horror Show Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. I have one collection of my short stories called DARK MATTER in hardcover and several e-book collections. For a while I taught writing for Writer's Digest and for AOL online, and gave writing workshops locally in Texas.

Recently I've sold short stories to the anthologies SCARE PACKAGE edited by Franklin E. Wales, SPLINTERED MIRAGES edited by Trent Zelanzy, and UNCOMMON ASSASSINS edited by Weldon Burge. These anthologies will be released later in 2012.

I was born in Alabama and live now in Texas on a small ranch.

My work has been predominately suspense thrillers, but I also wrote a western historical, a trilogy of vampire novels, a travel memoir, and, of course, many short stories. My latest novel is BANISHED, a dark fantasy horror novel involving fallen angels. Most of my work has been made available at for the e-book reader, including my Stoker-nominated novel, WIDOW, and my Edgar-nominated novel, NIGHT CRUISING.

I love to read (especially on my Kindle), paint, take photographs, and travel. I can name two inspiring persons in my life. One was my grandmother, Naomi, who by simply loving me unconditionally gave me faith in myself--and, every day and forever, my husband, who has lived this adventure with me.

Because of my love of storytelling, I've been fortunate enough to make a lifelong investment in writing stories and novels.

News of my e-book publications can be found at:

Anthony: What are the genres that inspire you to write?

Billie: I've always loved suspense. I also love horror, but suspense is the genre that I like to read most and it's what I've mostly written, especially in the novel form.

Anthony: Are there any themes that you try to tackle or avoid?

Billie: There are very few themes I avoid. Obviously there is subject matter that bothers me and I just stay away from it, but I don't think any subject should really be taboo or the writer is limited. The themes I seem to tackle the most are how a person's actions affect those around him. I also tackle addictions, psychoses, and the abnormal mind that causes people to perpetuate crimes against one another. I write about damaged human beings and have realized just about every human being in the world is damaged or weird or freaky in some way or other. There is no such thing as "normal."

Anthony: What is your view on Noir today? Is it evolving for the better?

Billie: I don't see a lot of it written, but what I have seen has been splendid. It's a very old style, but I love the heck out of it. One of my favorite things to do is read old noir novels or watch old noir movies. They're so relentlessly dark and unapologetic about it.

Anthony: How about Horror? Improving or stagnating?

Billie: I think horror is entering a heyday. There's one trend that's come along, maybe because of the popularity of the TV series THE WALKING DEAD, and that's zombies, that has been overwritten in my opinion. I mean it's like back in the 1950s when there were all those creature features at the theaters until the public tired of it. Then all the wackadoodle science fiction movies in the 1960s that quickly went sour. Then of course in the 80s and 90s there was the vampire invasion both in books and film. Yawn. That's how I see zombie fiction now. (I know there are a lot of fans of zombie fiction and they're going to hate me for this, but it's a trend, folks, that's all I'm saying, and all trends end.) A subgenre gets overwritten and gets old. On the other hand, there are some writers doing other kinds of horror that is really interesting. I love it when a genre inspires new writers and new ideas. That's happening now and it's great.

Anthony: Let’s put the books aside for a second. What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing?

Billie: I like to watch movies, old black and white movies, when I get a chance. One of my pleasures is watching great SF movies. Things like MINORITY REPORT, INCEPTION, and the like. I like to garden, paint, take photographs, travel, and make quilts. I like to listen to talk radio (Coast to Coast AM) late at night. They have on crazy people and conspiracists and those folks are fun, but they also talk to scientists and authors and...heck, it's a habit I've gotten into listening to that show.

Anthony: When you are writing, do you have any preferences for background noise? TV or music or such? Can you give us some examples?

Billie: I don't mind any noise going on around me. I don't seek it out as in turning on the TV or my iPod, but I trained myself as a young novelist raising two children to be immune to background noise or interruption. So, no, I don't deliberately have music playing or anything. I just go off into my own world of the story and then nothing going on in the real world interferes.

Anthony: I’m a carrots and celery sticks man when I write? What’re your munchies when you’re pounding the keys?

Billie: Honestly, I don't eat when writing. Sometimes I've written all day long without eating a bite. I drink pots of coffee. I get sick of coffee, I drink tea or cola or water. I just don't eat.

Anthony: Who are the biggest influences on your writing and inspiration to write?

Billie: There were so many. It started when I was a girl reading Somerset Maugham, continued into my teens and twenties reading F. Scott Fitzgerald and Steinbeck, continued into Flannery O'Connor and Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, on into Phillip K. Dick and Jim Thompson and John D. MacDonald. Then I began on the modern novelists and particularly the ones in my field of suspense/horror. I read every book Stephen King ever wrote, many of the other horror novelists of his ilk. These were my influences and inspirations. The old novelists did some things modern novelists didn't even know. Modern novelists did things never thought of by the great authors of the past. They all taught me something.

Anthony: Who are the writers we should be keeping an eye on for the future of Horror and Noir?

Billie: Trent Zelazny. Kealan Patrick Burke. Michael Collingwood. Scott Sigler. Then there are some real up-and-comers who have less of a presence, but they're going to make their marks one day. I'm keeping an eye on them. The ones who come to mind are Franklin E. Wales, Bryan Hall, and Jeffery Kosh. They have the fire in them.

Anthony: What projects are you working on that fans can look forward to?

Billie: I've started a new suspense novel, untitled right now. And I'm toying with returning to the trilogy I want to write for my fallen angels who are in the first book about them, BANISHED. I have half of the next book about them written and I hope to finish it this coming year.

Anthony: Can you give a few words to upcoming writers who are having it tough?

Billie: First of all I'd say it's always tough. It never stops being tough. This isn't a profession that goes easy. It was said only 5% of all working and publishing authors made a living. It's probably lower today. Don't expect this life as a writer to be easy. I'd say you have to believe in yourself because if you're looking for validation from the world, it may not come for some time. Today with self-publishing some new writers are getting early validation, but they're going to have to really depend on themselves and their burning need to write to sustain them over the long haul. I've been writing for about forty years and the only thing that kept me going was me. You can't depend on publication (in any form), awards, reviews, your mama, your daddy, your husband or your friends. Each writer is alone in this profession and if you want to be good at it and make it a real profession that will mean something, you have to keep your faith in yourself. This means practice, practice, practice. This means not publishing or submitting to publish unless it's the best you can possibly do and even then think about it twice or ten times or fifty times before you do it because most writers need years of experience and practice in order to be as good as they can be. Writers do not leap whole and skilled from the forehead of the Muse. They are made one day at a time, one piece of work at a time, millions of words, years of effort and dedication. That's the word I'd give to writers--Dedication. Do it for yourself. Do it the best you know how. Step back and compare it against the best books or stories you've ever read in your entire life and if it can't stand beside those works, keep practicing.

Anthony: Thank you for being with the Servante of Darkness this Halloween month. It’s been a pleasure having you.

Billie: Thank you, Anthony! Happy Halloween!

Stay tuned for my review of Billie's book, BANISHED.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

End of Watch (2012): From Dragnet to the New Centurions
By Anthony Servante

The depiction of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) has long been romanticized by Hollywood in an effort to capture the realism of the streets and provide a positive view of the officers that risk their lives for the people of the City of Angels in the performance of their duties. In the early days of television and on radio, the LAPD was depicted as business-like investigators. Later, when TV went color, the officers’ personal lives were melded with their work routines. When an ex-LAPD officer wrote a semi-autobiographic book about the psychological effects a rookie goes through to become a veteran, he stretched the daily grind of police work to include the grotesque and gory aspects of violence commonly seen in the early 60s in the “minority” sections of L.A. This started a trend in TV for more personal and violent police shows.

Jack Webb with LAPD Sgt. Dan Cook and Dragnet producer Bob Cinader.
The propaganda machine is set in motion. 

“Dragnet was perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in media history. The series gave millions of audience members a feel for the boredom and drudgery, as well as the danger and heroism, of real-life police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers” (Wiki). Sgt. Joe Friday and partner Ben Romero were a white and Mexican-American police duo, a team-up that for 1949 was far ahead of its time. And the focus wasn't on the ethnicity of the characters but on the crime stories they investigated. Jack Webb continued to try to capture the realism of the streets as seen through the eyes of actual police in other Dragnet shows and movies, but it wasn't until he created and produced Adam-12 that he explored the private life of the officers, not just the business side.

Cops become buddies in the 60s. 

“Adam-12 is a television police drama that followed two police officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, Pete Malloy and Jim Reed, as they patrolled the streets of Los Angeles in their patrol unit, 1-Adam-12. Created by R. A. Cinader and Jack Webb, who is known for creating Dragnet, the series captured a typical day in the life of a police officer as realistically as possible. The show ran from September 21, 1968 through May 20, 1975, and helped introduce police procedures and jargon to the general public in the United States of America” (Wiki). In Adam-12 the personal lives of the two officers is explored and we get a new perspective of the LAPD. The realistic crime drama is still there, but with the introduction of this new side of the officers, the suspense element intensifies as the viewer is now personally invested in the characters, something the radio listener did not share with the Friday and Romero characters because we knew they were all business (although Friday lived with his mother as we know from the Mad Magazine parody when Friday’s partner interjects “How’s your mother?” every other caption). We now saw the police officers with personal problems reacting with emotions not commonly experienced with the depictions of Friday and his partners. The streets were still gritty, but the emotional level of the men in blue had become grittier.

Stacy Keach and George C. Scott: a new breed of violent cop. 

At the height of Dragnet and Adam-12’s popularity, Joseph Wambaugh wrote The New Centurions in 1971. Wambaugh, ex-LAPD, decided to up the edginess and grittiness of the police procedures in his book and added a new element: the cops were now open to becoming victims of the streets they patrolled. They were also subject to the emotional consequences of their stressful jobs. They had divorces, alcoholism, drug dependence, and they sometimes released their stress with a bit of police brutality—something not covered by the Jack Webb productions. With Webb, it was an us and them story-telling; with Wambaugh, we and they suffered the same emotional and tragic consequences of the streets. The edgy author influenced many “cop” shows that focused on gory shootings and deaths, personal breakdowns of officers, and corruption (think Hill Street Blues and The Shield). The age of the romantically depicted policeman was teetering on the edge of stereotype. But then this movie arrived that returned the romance to the LAPD, albeit with a horrific edge.

More action than three gang neighborhoods can muster. 

End of Watch carries on the tradition set in motion by Jack Webb. “[It] is a 2012 American action-drama film written and directed by David Ayer. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as Los Angeles Police Department officers who work in South Central Los Angeles. The title of the movie takes its name from a euphemism used within the law enforcement community for an officer (or officers) killed in the line of duty” (Wiki). Two police officers patrol the dangerous streets of Los Angeles; we get to know their personal lives and their friendship on and off the job. It is still a procedural drama, but the backstory is kicked up a notch. The villains are exaggerated gangstas (cartel soldiers), in the midst of stealing territory from the black gangs of South Central. Our officers unintentionally step on the bad guys’ toes and there is a vendetta placed on their heads.

Officer surrounded by gang members—no civilians in this flick. 

Between their routine calls to grotesque crime scenes, we get to meet their girlfriends, hear about their trips to Santa Barbara for the weekends and the Quinceañeras “common to every Mexican family”. EOW’s officers bask in the racial differences between the two comrades; it takes elements of Dragnet, Adam-12, The New Centurions and adds an exaggerated gruesomeness usually found in horror movies. We get the bromance between beheadings, a knife in the eye, an officer’s head crushed in by a brutal beating, and there’s still time for a party or two, some speeches about partners on patrol being brothers of the badge. This is extreme police procedure with business and blood in equal amounts. We hear the proper police chatter and cop-speak/jargon, but we also get some of the goriest scenes a cop can come across in his short career on the force. Forget the notion that an average officer never fires his gun throughout his career; in EOW, we get killings followed by awards for heroism. Even the fire and the rescue of kids are claustrophobic and played for emotional impact. At its heart End of Watch is still basic LAPD propaganda, but damn fine entertaining propaganda. Grade of B.

Here is the red band trailer for End of Watch; you need to verify your age to see it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Looper (2012) Review
By Anthony Servante

Looper (2012) is an American science fiction action film written and directed by Rian Johnson. The film stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. “In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.” There are peripheral elements to the plot that need expansion. Crime is rampant. There doesn’t seem to be any law enforcement at all present. Even the homeless sport guns. The future (2044) is overcrowded with people literally filling the streets.

 (note crowds in background, ignored by loopers)

            Housing is a luxury for the employees of organized crime boss (Jeff Daniels). These corrupt workers fill positions as Gat Men (hit men), prostitutes, or drug peddlers (a eye-drop concoction designed to heighten the senses, but is highly addictive). The wealthy drive hovercrafts and antique muscle cars. Because bodies are so difficult to dispose of in the future (2074), the mob sends their targeted victims to the past so the Loopers can dispose of them for a payment of silver bars taped to the back of the targets. However, when a loop is closed, it means that the looper must kill his own future self for a retirement payment of gold bars. And this is what the trailers are selling, that this will be a movie about young Joe tracking down old Joe who escapes being killed by his doppelganger looper. Instead, we get a much better movie.

(best waste of steak and eggs ever)

            Old Joe escapes the future mob and deliberately returns to the past to kill the crime lord Rainmaker of the future who is killing off old loopers and causing a “reign” of terror. This can only be accomplished by finding and ending the life of the child who will grow up to be the future mob boss. Young Joe merely wants to close his loop to get in good with the mob again (loopers who don’t close their loop suffer creative tortures as a means of transferring the mayhem to the future targets—cutting off a finger of the present self causes the future self to lose a finger, for instance). Both young and old Joes’ stories center on the child Cid who may or may not grow up to be the Rainmaker, the crime lord of the future (’74). And the binding element throughout the movie is the fact that telekinesis is common in part of the population, but no more than an inkling, just enough to keep a quarter coin afloat. The TK angle comes center stage to the story and the multiple plotlines converge as we learn that the Rainmaker just might be a super TK.

 (protective mother)

            Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears enough prosthetics to actually look like a young Bruce Willis, and Willis in turn looks like his old action hero self (think Die Hard with a few more wrinkles). After his terribly stiff turn in Expendables II (2012), this role for the old actor shows that he might have one more Die Hard film left in him. Emily Blunt steals the second half of the movie as the strong mother of the young target old Joe just might be gunning for. She can wield an axe or tame a tantrum with a firm hand, depending on the size of the tantrum, that is.

(willis still got it)

            The science fiction is comparable to 12 Monkeys or Blade Runner, where the gadgets of the future are as fallible as any new technology with the bugs still not worked out (which is why young Joe prefers an old automobile rather than a hovercycle). What starts as an action thriller about sf hitmen turns into a bigger loop about life and death, parents and children, nature versus nurture. As we learn, to make things right, there is more than one way to close a loop. If you’re looking for a thinking person’s sf movie, this is the one to attend this week. Get yourself in the loop.