Monday, July 25, 2011


If you are a writer, you owe it to yourself to watch the movie, HOWL. There’s no way around it. Allen Ginsberg’s masterpiece was pivotal to differentiating the difference between art and obscenity. Without his pioneering work, the literary landscape would be made up of a lot of boring tripe.

This movie advertises itself as being about the famous obscenity trial HOWL underwent back in the day, but it’s really a portrait of Ginsberg. Do you remember when James Franco starred as James Dean a while ago? Do you remember the insanely awesome job he did? Well, he’s done it again, this time for Ginsberg. He looks EXACTLY like a young Ginsberg, and his performance is so spot-on, one has to wonder if he’s actually channeling Ginsberg’s ghost.

Franco’s not the only perfect imitation. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman went out of their way to find the perfect actors for Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. It’s hard to look at their performances and not wonder if you’re really watching a documentary.

In fact, this movie was based on court records, interviews and even the title poem itself. As Franco reads “Howl” to a coffee house audience, the poem is portrayed through a series of trippy animation sequences. Normally, this kind of thing is difficult to credibly pull off, but considering the subject matter, there is no other way to do it. Here, it works against the odds, and it’s a sheer joy to watch.

It pulls no punches, and neither does the rest of the movie. All too often, homosexuality is portrayed in film to shock its viewers, and while that impulse is clearly a part of the directors’ motivation, the scene where Ginsberg gets caught giving Cassady a blowjob is also honestly portrayed. And when the two are in bed together, Ginsberg’s shy nature and Cassidy’s tender encouragement is actually kind of beautiful.

But HOWL reaches its true awesomeness with the trial scenes. With MAD MEN’s Jon Hamm as the defense lawyer and David Strathairn as the prosecuting attorney, things get interesting very quickly. They play off of each other so perfectly it’s easy to get lost in their scenes. They get even better when they’re cross examining each others “expert” witnesses. Treat Williams, who can be pretty forgettable in many of his roles, shines here with his humble understanding of Ginsberg’s work. The best, however, is when Hamm absolutely destroys Jeff Daniels on the stand. Daniels plays a character who thinks he knows everything about art and is very dismissive of “Howl.” To watch Hamm take him apart is the highlight of this movie. The only weak link here is Mary-Louise Parker, who plays a prim and proper critic of “Howl.” Her screen time is so brief her talents seem wasted here.

On a side note, Carter Burwell does the score. It’s always good to see he’s still getting work, even though the Coen brothers seem to have stopped using him for their movies. He captures Ginsberg’s shy sadness perfectly, but that’s no surprise to anyone who has seen BEING JOHN MALKOVICH.

Early in the film, Ginsberg talks about how he never expected “Howl” to be published. If he had, then he would have been a lot cleaner. After all, he didn’t want to offend his father’s sensibilities; he wanted the old man to be proud of him. As a result of thinking he would slip under the radar, he was free to write about whatever he wanted to. To write about how things really were. To write the way people really talked when they were among friends.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why Ginsberg was so important. We have a lot of freedom in the way we write these days. We can publish all of George Carlin’s Seven Words, we can publish scatological humor and we can publish sex scenes. All of these things are worthy artistic pursuits, and they are things we couldn’t do in, say, 1931.

Thank you, Allen Ginsberg, for helping us reach this freedom. And thank you, Epstein and Friedman, for portraying this struggle so well.

Written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Produced by Oscilloscope
84 minutes

Friday, July 22, 2011


Welcome to another feature here at Tales of Unspeakable Taste that I want to try out on you guys. Every once in a while, an awesome comic book comes along, but no one pays much attention to it, and it fades from memory. I want to tell you about a few of them.

The first book to get this treatment is EL DIABLO from the early ‘Nineties. It ran for 16 issues (not counting an appearance in SECRET ORIGINS). And in case you’re wondering, no, it’s not related to the WEIRD WESTERN TALES hero, El Diablo. That’s what I thought at first, which is why I bought the book. In fact, as the story goes, editor Brian Augustyn originally wanted to update the old WWT hero, but get rid of the original gimmicks that made the first character so intriguing. He got writer Gerald Jones and artist Mike Parobeck to tackle this task.

They did the smart thing and eliminated the connection to WWT immediately. This El Diablo would have nothing to do with the paralyzed avenger of the west. This guy would be a costumed crime-fighter (big surprise there) operating out of a shitsplat Texan border town.

Surprise, surprise, Jones and Parobeck managed to throw together an important book that takes on controversial issues.

Meet Rafe Sandoval. He’s a city councilman looking after a particularly bad neighborhood populated with Mexican Americans. He tries his best to take care of his people, but others in city hall view him as the token Mexican, and shit just doesn’t get done. The injustice of it all comes crashing down on Rafe, so he does what any respectable DC character would do: he puts on a costume to fight the crime he can’t handle at his day job. He becomes El Diablo.

Why the devil? An odd name for a hero, right? According to SECRET ORIGINS #45, young Rafael Sandoval heard a story from his father about the old country, where very bad people hung around a very bad cantina. One day, a handsome rich man arrived for a few drinks, and everyone was his friend so they could mooch off of him. Two men decided they wanted all of his money, though, so when he left, they followed him out of town to murder him. The man turned out to be the devil, and he tore the would-be murderers to pieces. The next day, all of the money the devil had spent in the cantina had vanished, and the sum was so considerable that they went out of business. “So you see, Rafael?” asks old Mr. Sandoval. “The Devil, he helps God sometimes, to punish the sinners.”

And things are never simple. EL DIABLO was published in a time when people were starting to question the nature of being a superhero. Long before KICK ASS came along, Jones decided to show what an ordinary guy trying to be a vigilante is really like. El Diablo doesn’t always win. Sometimes, he gets his ass handed to him. He fucks up his quips during fighting. And later, he remembers something he should have said instead that would have been much cooler.

But the most interesting parts of this book are the political moments. When city hall, where Rafe is the only non-white politician, decides to hold a parade for a Mexican holiday, they get all the details wrong. When Rafe tries to correct them, they ignore him because this parade is not about Mexican pride, but about symbolism. Then, despite all of this, they try to get him to be the face of the parade, to remind the people that all of these crusty white people give a shit about them.

And when El Diablo is not hunting down drug dealers, he’s trying to quell the race riot that breaks out because a man is going around the barrio murdering children. The police don’t make much progress, and the people decide that it’s because this killer is merely murdering Mexican children. If he went after a WHITE kid, well . . . .

But the true heart of this book is when El Diablo goes after a coyote who sometimes abandons his immigrants when the law finds him. More often than not, his wards wind up dead. It’s a heartbreaking story, folks. Maybe if some of these Minutemen could read this book, they’d change their mind about how much they hate Mexicans.

The one questionable part of EL DIABLO, though, is the addition of Los Diablos, the group of teenagers who help El Diablo out whenever he needs it. Yeah, it sounds like adding Robin to Batman, which was pretty lame. But here it actually works out because these kids aren’t just gophers. Sometimes, they lose faith in El Diablo. They fight with each other often over what their mission is. And despite all of this, they’re actually pretty effective. Without their help canvassing the neighborhood, they would have never found the child killer, for example. And without them, the race riot would have been ten times worse.

In short, this could have been a very important book in the history of comics. While Rafe Sandoval is far from the first Hispanic hero in the DCU, the topics tackled in his book should have been a hotbed of controversy. In fact, I wonder what would happen if this book had been published now. All in all, not bad for a couple of white guys (Jones and Parobeck, that is). Sure, they fucked up their colloquial Spanish a lot (and one look at the letters column would show you how many readers wrote in to correct them), but they got the heart of the matter right, and that’s really the most important thing.

Why did the book last a mere 16 issues? As usual, it didn’t have enough readers. But those who did peruse its pages every month were very loyal. In fact, EL DIABLO was supposed to have been canceled after the 12th issue, but DC believed in the book so much that they gave Jones and Parobeck a few extra issues to close out the storylines. So, while there could have easily been much more, all loose ends were tied up. It has a satisfying conclusion.

If you can find these issues, you should give 'em a try. It’s worth the hunt to spend some time with Rafe Sandoval, Mayor Tommy, liaison Dixie, and of course, Los Diablos.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

COOL SHIT 7-21-11

G.I. JOE: COBRA CIVIL WAR: SNAKE EYES #3: Snake-Eyes captured by Khallikhan?! Alpine seriously wounded? Helix versus impossible odds? And Iceberg trying to get Alpine down the mountain before a bunch of snow vipers kill them? Khallikhan’s interrogation of Snake-Eyes alone is worth the price of admission. And what with Slice and Dice hanging around in the shadows, anything can happen. Hell is coming down on these characters. Get in while the getting’s good!

THE TRANSFORMERS #22: Dude! Dude! DUDE! How many times have we seen Optimus Prime face off against Megatron? No matter how bad the repercussions, we all know how it’s going to work out. Nobody is going to permanently die. But this time, it’s different. It’s far more interesting than it’s ever been before because IT’S NOT A BATTLE TO THE DEATH. It’s a fucking conversation, perhaps one of the most important to ever happen in the Transformers universe. We finally get down to the differences (and some of the similarities) between the two mortal enemies. In fact, at some points they almost seem like friends reminiscing about the damage they’ve done to each other. If you were ever a fan of the Transformers, you need to read this issue. We even get to look into the past, to see a young Megatron more interested in peaceful rebellion, more interested in rhetoric, more interested in reasonable solutions to intolerable problems. I can’t tell you how much of a hard-on I got from this book.

LOCKE AND KEY: CLOCKWORKS #1: Just as things are coming to a head, writer Joe Hill brings things back to the past, back to revolutionary America, to the root of the Locke story. Finally we get a glimpse of how things started, how things got so crazy, at Keyhouse. And finally, the Lovecraft connection is complete, with references to Shub-Niggurath, the Goat of a Thousand Young. Things are quickly coming to an end in the world of this series. Now’s the perfect time to get on board (especially since the TV show is coming out pretty soon).

Friday, July 15, 2011


I’m not a religious man, not even in the slightest way. As most of you probably know, I’m a hardcore atheist. I don’t believe in any of the mumbo-jumbo, and I don’t believe in souls. However, I believe there is something that sets us apart from one another, something that makes us individuals rather than walking, rutting pieces of meat. I don’t think that whatever that is carries on after we die, of course. It definitely dies with us. But for the time being, let’s call it a soul.

Also, let’s pretend God exists, if only so we can pretend the devil exists, too. What if you found yourself confronted by the prince of darkness, and he was ready to make a deal with you? What would you want in return for your soul?

I used to think about this situation a lot. If the devil really appeared before me and offered me a deal, I thought I’d just take it as a sign that I’m wrong and God exists. Therefore, Hell exists, and who would want to be tormented in its fiery pits for eternity? I’d turn Splitfoot Nick down.

But things have been pretty rough for me of late. Two years ago, I didn’t think life could get worse for me. Then, 2010 happened, and I couldn’t possibly imagine myself in worse shape. And now, 2011 is kicking the shit out of me in the grimmest of ways. It has shown me many things, and I finally have something I would sell my soul for.

I would let Mephistopheles have the ragged old thing for the price of me living a perfectly healthy, normal life. In other words, I don’t ever want to have abdominal pain ever again. I never want to spend an entire day puking my guts out ever again. I want to go on existing as a fully functional human being for the rest of my days. And I don’t even care how long I live. I’m not looking for quantity; I’m looking for quality.

I know what you’re thinking: just eat right and exercise, and you’ll be fine. Wrong. I do exercise (as surprising as that might seem to many of you), and it’s too late for me to eat right. Even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t do it. Only a masochist would. I like things like meat, cheese and bread (to say nothing of booze), and I’m not going to give them up.

Think about the other things such a deal would entail. For example, I would never suffer an irregular bowel movement ever again. They’d all come out clean and solid, and I wouldn’t even have to wipe. (I’d still give my butthole a once-over, for good measure.) I’d never get sick again. I’d never have a runny nose, and I’d never have problems trying to get to sleep because I’m all congested. No more pimples, no more abscesses. My diabetes would be gone, as would my hypertension and high cholesterol. I’d never have to go in for regular checkups because I would never get, say, cancer or a heart attack. I could sleep with whomever I wanted to, because I’d never get STD’s. I’d have a hard-on whenever I needed it, no matter what troubles and distracts my mind. I’d never have an annoying rectal itch ever again. And if I suffered a cut, I would never get infected.

All of a sudden, that’s sounding like a pretty good deal, huh? But there’s more. I think perfect health involves a lot of other things that the devil would have to undo. For example, as many of you know, I lost a tooth recently and had an implant put in. The devil would have to put my old tooth back in there and make it perfectly healthy. In fact, he’d have to make my teeth white and in perfect shape. Hell, to be perfectly healthy, I’d need them all to be straight instead of crooked and unevenly spaced, as they are now. My gums have receded, so he’d have to fix that, too. And my teeth would have to be indestructible, so they can’t get knocked out and make me imperfectly unhealthy.

He’d also have to fix the stretch marks I have on my arms from when I used to lift too many weights in high school. And the stretch marks I have on my stomach from when I weighed 306-fucking-pounds. While he’s at it, that stint as a fat guy also gave me a lot of extra skin. Doctors advise that I should fill up all of that space with muscle from working out, but I don’t want to do that. There’s so much loose skin that I’d look like one of those pro-wrestling idiots when I was done, and that’s just too much muscle. It’s good to look ripped, but when your legs are as thick as an elephant’s, it’s just not attractive. I don’t want to look like I’m smuggling a python under my skin, I just want to look normal.

I also have a lot of scars that the devil would have to erase. And it would be nice if the nails on my little toes would grow out instead of up. Come to think of it, it would be nice to not have flat feet. My forehead has been mottled and lumpy ever since I got out of the hospital the first time, so a good complexion would also help.

The devil would also have to fix my deviated septum and my esophagal hernia. And since age tends to make people infirm, I would have to remain youthful in appearance and practice for the rest of my time. No wrinkles, no loss of hair, no falling and breaking my hip, none of that.

I’m not asking to be beautiful. I’ve never been pretty, and I never will be. I just want to live the rest of my time without having to go to the ER for anything. I never want to spend another night trying to sleep with an IV hooked up to my arm. I never want to have to send a check to Elmhurst Memorial ever again.

Is that too much to ask?

All right, folks. Confession time: what would you sell your soul for? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

COOL SHIT 7-14-11

CAPTAIN AMERICA #1: All right, maybe you’re not surprised to see me spouting off about how awesome Ed Brubaker is, but I know you motherfuckers are unaccustomed to me bringing up conventional superheroes in Cool Shit. My love of Garth Ennis’ anti-supe stuff should help you figure out where my loyalties lie. In fact, I wouldn’t even be reading Cap if Brubaker wasn’t doing it. This issue, by the end, didn’t do much for me. But the beginning! What an awesome opening! We find a thoughtful Cap on his way to the funeral of an old lover, wondering about his nature as a “man out of time,” someone who lived as a kid in the Depression, grew to be a man in WWII, and should by all rights be a bent over old guy by now. Then, of course, the shooting begins, and the stuff everyone else likes starts going on.

LADY DEATH #7: Shit has finally hit the fan. Hope finally knows who Death Queen is, and she finds herself in a rather sticky situation. For as long as she could remember, she’s been fighting to rescue her mother from the clutches of Hell. Now, she finds to her horror that her number one enemy is actually her mother in disguise, bent on revenge for being abandoned in Hell. Now our fair lady must figure out if she wants to save or kill her mom. Mommy dearest isn’t making the decision hard for her, either; Death Queen wants to use Lady Death’s soul to murder everyone in the world who doesn’t bear a special mark.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT: NIGHT, AGAIN #3: See? I told you guys! This story is picking up like a motherfucker! The guy in the torpedo? Not a vampire after all. Ever see an old silent picture called DER GOLEM? It is easily one of my favorite non-talking films. It’s good to see the old myth pop up in the pages of a vampire book. It’s also good to see what happens when a vampire goes up against a FUCKING POLAR BEAR. Didn’t see that coming, did ya? If you’re not reading this book . . . why not?!

 (Sorry for not having a picture of each book.  For some reason, Blogger would only let me use one.  Since this one's the most aesthetically pleasing, I went with 30 DAYS OF NIGHT:  NIGHT, AGAIN.)

Friday, July 8, 2011


All right, Illinois has been in some financial trouble for quite some time. It’s no secret that the state I call home is pretty close to going bankrupt. Governor Pat Quinn is looking anywhere he can to find a place where he can tighten the proverbial belt. A lot of shit’s getting cut, and one of those things frankly surprised the shit out of me.

It’s official: high-schoolers in the Land of Lincoln no longer need to pass writing exams on everyone’s favorite annual standardized tests. According to Schools Superintendent Christopher Koch, “Writing is one of the most expensive things to assess.” How expensive? By the government’s calculations, they think they’re going to save $2.4 million with this move.

Okay, that’s no small number. But is the cost to education worth the sacrifice? Let’s think about this for a second. As a writer, my first impulse was to condemn this action because it’s inexcusable that many adults don’t know how to put a complete sentence together. And these are people who supposedly passed the aforementioned writing exam when they were younger. Writing is a very important skill to have, even if you’re not crafting a best-selling novel. Communication is key in this world, and if you can’t use the written word, you’re going to be left behind.

But then the selfish part of my mind took over. I realized that if more and more people were going to make it to adulthood without knowing the essentials of writing, then I would have a lot less competition when it came to selling stories in the future. Yeah, I know. I’m not proud of that thought. But I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t occurred to me, and that’s one thing I’ll never do to you here at EVERYONE’S GOT ONE. (If you don’t believe me, wait until you read next week’s installment.)

I’m not Captain Grammar (even if a lot of people think I am). I end sentences with prepositions all the time. (But you can’t accuse me of dangling participles. I don’t use ‘em, not a one.  And I haven't misplaced a modifier in 25 years.) Yet when you get down to it (and check it out, I began a sentence with the word “yet,” and that’s a big no-no), putting words together into sentences and then stringing said sentences together into a paragraph that not only means something but also MAKES SENSE is an important skill and always will be.

My biggest fear is that the decision made by the State of Illinois will breed a lot of people who think “lol” is a word. Let’s face it, people HAVE to type, whether it’s a simple text to a friend or an email to your boss or an update on your Facebook. Right now, text shorthand is in fashion. No one can ever “be right back.” They BRB. As a result, I don’t think it’s out of the question to believe that we can look up LMAO in the Oxford Dictionary, say, ten years from now, and find a proper definition and etymological history.

But at the same time, like I said before, people with grammatical skills will always be needed by our society. Someone’s got to write text books, for example. And can you see your boss hiring someone who uses emoticons on his resume? Considering how Joe Average rapes the English language every day, it’s surprising we’ve made it this far. With this in mind, I can’t help but think that we’ll survive this ridiculous school cut. Because while people like me will always be needed, people like me will find ways to make love to the written word, rose pedals, candles and all.

So I’m not worried about the future of the written word in the State of Illinois. No matter how hard people try to kill writing skills, they will never die. You can kick the shit out of them, sure, but they will never jump off this mortal coil. Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below. (See? I ended a sentence with a preposition, and I’ll probably do it again.)

Friday, July 1, 2011


Hands down, my favorite writer of all time is Joe R. Lansdale, and if you’ve never encountered his work, then you probably don’t know why. Anyone who has delved into his stories can’t deny the power of his mojo storytelling. And now is the perfect time to be a Lansdale fan, considering how many tales he’s already put out this year.

I remember when I first stumbled upon him. I was in college at the time, and I was looking to expand my horizons a bit. Back then, I had only read horror classics, like Lovecraft, Poe, and the like. I’d also read a lot of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice, but that was about as modern as I got. I wanted to know more about what was happening in the genre here and now, so I went to Borders and perused their horror section. I bought a number of things (all of them were excellent purchases), and one of them was MUCHO MOJO by Joe Lansdale, hisownself.

I didn’t know it was part two in a series. If I had, I would have gone for SAVAGE SEASON instead. But as things turned out, I soon found myself lost in the world of Hap and Leonard. When you got down to it, the book was more of a crime novel than a horror book, but who fucking cares? All I knew was shortly after finishing MM, I went out in search of more Lansdale.

One way or the other, I probably would have encountered him. Because of his stint on JONAH HEX, which I read shortly after MM, I would have undoubtedly found him. But I’m glad it happened this way.

I found it all. Every book he’s ever written. Most of his stories. I can’t tell you how much time I spent at his website, reading his weekly free stories before I tracked them all down in print form.

It is a surprising body of work. He’s dipped his brain in just about every genre there is. His SF work is few and far between, just the same as his fantasy, but believe it or not, he’s even written military novels and pornographic material (under pen names, of course). I’m not going to make the bold statement that he created the weird western tale, but he sure as shit made it a popular thing to write.

Some of you who are unfamiliar with Lansdale are probably wondering who the hell he is, as you are probably the kind of person who pays more attention to movies rather than books. To you, I say, “Who do you think wrote BUBBA HO-TEP?” Oh yeah. And if you know about the short-lived Showtime series, MASTERS OF HORROR, he wrote “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road.”

Now that we’re on the same page, what is it that makes him so special? It could be his batshit crazy stories. Take a look at ZEPPELINS WEST and all three DRIVE-IN books and tell me that a sane mind was responsible for these things. Maybe it’s his startling imagery. Back in the ‘Eighties, he was known as a splatterpunk. I’d disagree with the label, but considering stories like “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” and novels like THE NIGHTRUNNERS, it’s a position not easily defended. Perhaps it’s his sense of humor. “Godzilla’s Twelve Step Program” and “Bob the Dinosaur Goes to Disneyland” stand out as testaments to this. He can also be a nostalgic guy. Think THE BOTTOMS and A FINE, DARK LINE.

One thing it definitely is, is his voice. It can’t be mistaken. Take his name off of a piece of work, and I guarantee you can identify him as the writer within the first page. In fact, it’s a lot like Hunter S. Thompson’s voice, in a way. Once it gets in your head, you start thinking with it. How many writers have tried imitating both of these guys? I know that Lansdale had an effect on my own work for the first few months after I first discovered him.

So . . . to the new Lansdale disciple, where does one begin? It’s hard to say. I’ve never been let down by the guy, and I can’t say that about a lot of writers. You’re good jumping in at any point. Let me tell you about his newer stuff, since that’s probably the easiest to find.

There’s a movie being made out of CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD, so you’ll probably want that one. Calvin has survived the zombie apocalypse, and he’s been getting by in the world, working hard at surviving and trying not to think about the family he lost to the undead. But dammit, he wants some normalcy back in his life. This year, he doesn’t care about the zombies. Nothing’s going to stop him from putting up the Christmas decorations. The movie is being adapted by Lansdale’s son, Keith. (On a side note, Lansdale’s daughter, Kasey, is a country singer well worth looking up.)

Want something a bit crazier? Look up CLASSICS MUTILATED, edited by Jeff Conner. Lansdale’s story, “Dread Island,” is a continuation of Huck Finn . . . if Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and Jim wound up facing off against monsters on a haunted island.

But I know one thing for sure: everyone loves Hap and Leonard. You should probably start with SAVAGE SEASON, but I started with MUCHO MOJO, and nothing bad ever happened to me. Hap and Leonard can’t possibly be any different from each other, but they’re closer than blood, and they kick ass through several gut-wrenching mysteries. In HYENAS, they get hired by a guy who wants to save his brother from getting involved with the wrong people. It sounds simple at first, but as with most things when it comes to Hap and Leonard, things get complicated fast, and everything goes off the tracks by the end. But HYENAS is a bit hard to find, so you might want to go with DEVIL RED, their most recent mass release. This time, our unlikely duo finds themselves pitted against the most deadly assassins in the world, and to make matters more ridiculous, Leonard has taken to wearing a deerstalker cap.

Then, to top it all off, he also edited a book this year called CRUCIFIED DREAMS. His taste is impeccable as displayed by these reprints. Some are tried and true classics, like King’s “Quitters, Inc.” and Harlan Ellison’s “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs,” but there are a lot of hardcore winners in here. My favorite is David Morrell’s “Front Man,” followed very, very closely by Tom Piccirilli’s “Loss.” Norman Partridge and Lewis Shiner also contribute incredible tales, but would you expect anything less from them?

What more can I say about Lansdale? I think I’ve said it all. Well, there’s one more thing. While I’ve never met him, I do have a bunch of signed books by him. The most money I’ve ever spent on a book was for the lettered edition of FOR A FEW STORIES MORE. I think it was $150. That should tell you a lot about my regard for this man.

There’s one more thing to say. When I first started hunting down his harder to find stuff, I discovered that a friend of his, a guy named Dale, was selling some of his books. I got in contact with him and ordered a metric shit-ton of them, including some instructional videos he made (he created Shen Chuan and teaches this martial art in his hometown of Nacogdoches). Then, one day I got a phone call, and the caller identified himself as Joe R. Lansdale. At first I thought it was a joke, but he started talking about the books I’d ordered from Dale and I realized this was the real deal. He said that he no longer had some of the books I was looking for, and he wanted to find some suitable replacements for me. One of the books in question was a signed, limited reprint of TEXAS NIGHT RIDERS, which he’d written under the name Ray Slater.

When my package arrived, I saw a first edition of TNR, signed with both real name and pseudonym. On the inside cover, I saw the stamp of a used bookstore. All of a sudden, I realized that he’d gone through the trouble of going to this store and buying a copy of his own book so he could send it to me. There were also a lot of other goodies in there, stuff that would make any collector very happy.

So not only is he very accessible, he’s very interested in making his fans happy. And over the years, he’s made me very, very happy. For example, many of you know that I wound up in the hospital for three days recently. I would not have made it through if I didn’t have DEVIL RED on my night table. Hap and Leonard kept me sane through a very difficult period of my life.

Mr. Lansdale, I thank you. You have increased the quality of my life, and I can think of no better compliment to give.

So . . . how about all of you? Who’s your favorite writer? Doesn’t matter if he writes books, songs, comics, plays, or even if he is a he. Let me know in the comments below.