Sunday, September 28, 2014

REVIEW: Lucky's Girl by William Holloway

Cosmic horror isn't always easy to pull off.  The stories get convoluted and writers tend to focus on insanity more and character development less.  William Holloway does it right. 

The novel Lucky's Girl is really the story of people living hopeless lives Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  The UP is one of America's poorest areas where unemployment, alcoholism and addiction run rampant.  It's a place where hope is hard to find or non-existent, and the area is ripe with potential for con-men and charlatans. 

In the dying town of Elton Township, the lives of various people collide in the misery of all that malaise. 

Lucky is the guy we all wish we could be in some way.  He's more than just charming, he's mesmerizing and can put somebody under his spell.  His father, the Reverend of the local church in Elton Township, had high hopes for his son.  In fact, some whispered he was a prophet. 

But this isn't a happy tale.  Holloway's novel isn't about happiness.  Lucky is a dark figure that nobody recognizes for what he is until it's too late. 

Kenny was Lucky's best friend until something happens that makes Kenny realize just how dark his best friend truly was and how evil were his intentions.  But Kenny was a product of Elton Township and even though he left all of that behind, twenty years later he finds himself back at his uncle's cabin with two traumatized children. 

Jerry was is fat, drunken cop that might die before he retires, or is forced into retirement because the poor township can't afford to pay his salary.  Even twenty years ago, he was a fat drunk, but he was present enough to know Lucky was evil.  And now Lucky has come back. 

Holloway does an amazing job illustrating how important hope is for a community and how the complete lack of it can be a great weapon to be used by Evil.  His characters are believable and fresh, their actions are their own and the events that unfold are original.  Most of these cosmic horror stories are the same but not this one.  This has a certain crispness to it I really appreciated. 

More to the point, I honestly felt the horror and felt bad for the characters.  It's been a while since I read a story where I cared about the people and in Lucky's Girl, I found myself empathizing with them. 

In the final events, I really understood exactly what Holloway was describing, which is very difficult to do in cosmic horror.  Holloway's writing is spot-on and exacting, making the impact of this book far more powerful and ultimately, enjoyable. 

I can see this book being nominated for a number of awards.  It really is that good.  I would say it's a must-read for horror hounds and anybody who likes that feeling you get when you turn off the lights and wonder what waits in the shadows. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Toe Aroma!

I guess it's time I tell this story. 

It's a dumb one, I'll grant you, but still...I just can't resist. 

Back when I was a kid, magazines were how we got our porn.  Sometimes my friend's dad would leave one behind and while his parents were out we'd watch it for a bit.  That was big news back then.  The VCRs were all 80 lbs and huge.  Only one store in town had tapes.  Half the store was BETA, the other half VHS.  There was one small section for video disks--which is what my dad bought because the technology was crap and it was being phased out, so his great idea was to buy into it as it became obsolete.  Great deals to be found in dying, obsolete technology! 

But when I was a freshman in high school, I worked at a news and magazine store.  They had porn magazines in the back.  Once in a while, I'd sneak through and borrow a couple.  Because I had to be quick, I never really looked at what I was taking, and wouldn't know until I got home to see the score. 

One time I accidentally grabbed a fetish magazine about foot and nylon fetishes.  It was called Leg Show and let me say this--it was the funniest damn thing I'd read in a long time.

Pictures of women's feet and legs.  Pages and pages of feet.

I didn't get it.  I didn't get any of it.

There were pictures of fat, hairy guys being stood on by women in heels.  And they were ugly women, too.  The kind that hang out in those shitty old people's bars and wear tons of make-up.  These women were in their 40's and 50's and dressed in early 1960's styles.  One had a woman sucking her own toes.

My friends and I had a great laugh about this.  We'd drag our feet through the hallways at school and say we were jacking off.  We didn't have a clue and that made it all the funnier to us.  One time, Mrs. Wade in math class asked us why we kept shuffling our feet while we sat at our desks.  We couldn't stop laughing the rest of the hour. 

But the cartoons were the best.  This magazine had cartoons of leg teasing and foot fetish fantasies.  One of these had a woman teasing some guy in a city park and at one point, he sniffs the air and then looks down at her feet while exlaiming, "Toe Aroma!"

Toe Aroma!

The cartoonist even drew a picture of the women's toes with those little squiggly lines coming off because apparently they stunk.  And this guy was totally digging that so much, he had to exclaim, "Toe Aroma!"

That became our battle cry in high school for a while.  Toe Aroma!

Have a bad day?  Toe Aroma!

Teacher was stupid?  Toe Aroma!

That girl I had a crush on was making faces at me like I was the most disgusting piece of shit she'd ever seen?  Toe Aroma!

After a while, the fun stopped and we moved on to other things, mainly because we were getting our driver's licenses soon.  That sort of inside humor never lasts long anyway.

But every once in a while, I feel the need to exclaim loudly, "Toe Aroma!"

Life is absurd and makes no sense.  Toe Aroma!

The people we fall in love with are terrible for us and the ones we cannot stand care about us.  Toe Aroma!

The more you care about somebody, the worse they are for you.  Toe Aroma!

We work stupid jobs that really shouldn't be jobs that pay money.  Telemarketer?  That can't possibly be profitable.  You call people all day and annoy them while giving your company a bad reputation as annoying and intrusive?  Toe Aroma!

The people you want to throttle and slap the shit out of the most are the ones who offer the most to lose.  Toe Aroma!

Maybe that was our version of Douglas Adams Hitchhikers series.   Our need for surreal humor just so we could get through the horrors of being trapped in a Catholic high school surrounded by snobby shitheads who had known each other since kindergarten.  Myself and only a few others were new to that system and would never fit in.  We needed something so our brains didn't explode. 

Shouting gibberish out of a porn magazine seemed to really do the trick. 

So I'll leave you with that truth--when things are stupid and don't make sense, shout, "Toe Aroma!"  It won't help anything be more easily understood but it will help you not care. 

And as I get older, not caring is just as important as understanding. 

Toe Aroma! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Secrets to a Successful and Fun Wedding

This weekend I performed my first wedding.

It was an honor and a privilege to have been asked and trusted enough to do such a thing.  In truth, things went off with barely a hitch.  The bride and groom looked great, their families were awesome to meet and get to know better, the weather was far better than predicted.  We were supposed to get a bunch of wicked storms and aside from a brief sprinkle in the morning, it was dry and we had blue skies by the early afternoon.

All told, the wedding and reception were both excellent.

As for my role in this affair, I judge my successes in life through the eyes of others.  I always have.  So while I'm very critical of what I did and did not do, the others who were there said it went off very well.  Short, sweet, and to the point. 

I cut a lot out of my little sermon.  It was hot and humid, we got a late start, and the groom was so nervous it seemed almost cruel to prolong the event.  So I cut it short, said the words and BANG!  Two people were legally married in the State of Wisconsin.

But it wasn't the wedding I wanted to perform.

First of all, there was no mention of Satan, Lord Lucifer, The Ancient Serpent Deceiver anywhere in the entire ceremony.  I couldn't mention him because the bride said her family would freak.  Why, I have no idea.  They seemed cool enough.

The groom's family were all ministers themselves and I was certain they would totally respect another man of faith, regardless of where that faith was placed.  I mean, worship is worship, right?

Second, I wasn't allowed to use a pentagram anywhere in the wedding.  That didn't stop me for hiding one someplace.  I mean, tradition is tradition, and a wedding without tradition just won't do! 

Thirdly, everybody looked great.  The bride, the groom, the bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Everybody looked good.  Even I wore clothes.  Frankly, I thought it should have been a skyclad wedding.  It was hot anyways, so why not?  A bunch of naked people during an emotionally-charged religious ceremony is always a good idea.  Always.  And if we had taken the drugs I'd suggested, even better.

But nooo!  I had to wear clothes.  Pants, too.  And not the goat leggings I had picked out.  To be fair, I looked great in my suit, but the goat leggings would have offered a certain authenticity to the whole affair.  Besides, had the ceremony been held at midnight around a bonfire, we could have done the Goat Dance around the fire while wearing our goat leggings.

If you've never seen a bunch of naked people wearing nothing but goat leggings do the Goat Dance around a bonfire at midnight, you've lead a sheltered life and I feel sorry for you. 

We never had the blood fountain set up.  A blood fountain is critical in a wedding.  It represents all the blood of your future enemies that will fertilize your wealth and prosperity as you slice, hack, and rampage your path through life together.  By washing your hands in the blood and laying your hands on each other, the couple shows their zealous devotion to each other and willingness to lay waste to all enemies that come between them.  This is also why having a naked wedding is best.  This way that pretty white dress doesn't get blood stains all over, which granted would look fucking awesome, but blood stains are hard to get out of certain materials.

To the best of my knowledge, none of us did a round or two of heavy drugs before the ceremony.  Frankly, I don't understand this choice.  Even magic brownies would have helped calm folks down.  But full-on hallucinations while making a life-changing decision are important and needed, because only when you see black and purple rats crawling on the guests can you truly understand what life is really about. 

But nooooo!  No heavy drugs.  None.  In fact, I think a few of the key people were even sober.  The horror of it all!

Skipping over the fact the bride AND groom both stood there on their own volition, and neither of them needed persuasion with firearms, knives, rope or any pointy implements, they both seemed to genuinely care about each other.  She was even conscious during the whole thing.  Horrible, horrible.

They even omitted the dozen little persons in robes carrying torches to open the ceremony.  What's a wedding without torches?  

Perhaps the most glaring deletion from the whole stripped-down affair was the lack of a goat sacrifice.  In fact, that was what people first asked about.

"Where's the goat sacrifice?"

"Lucifer will never bless with wedding now!"

"That alter sure looks bare without the entrails decorating it!"

And all I could do was shrug my shoulders and say, "I know, I know...let's just get through this, okay?"

The important thing to keep in mind about this weekend is how the bride and groom were happy to make due with what they had instead of allowing me to give them the full-on ceremony such a commitment deserves.  Their wonderfully normal families were happy, too.

And talk about normal!  Nobody pulled a single gun during the entire thing.  Nobody showed up drunk, covered in blood or smelling of feces.  In fact, they looked happy to be there.  Happy!  A hot, muggy August day, sober and wearing clothes.  And they were happy!

I'm going to put this horrid affair behind me and prepare for the next one coming up.  I have already informed the next bride that we fully expect the cops to arrive several times during this event and to have a lawyer on retainer.  I'm not taking any more chances with these kinds of things.