I’ve been remarkably bad at reminding you all that I cohost a podcast, so here’s a post sharing the two latest episodes. Want to subscribe and not have to rely on reminders from me? Great! Do so on iTunes or by visiting our webpage at BadBooksBadPeople.com
For the first mini episode, Kate and Jack tackle the book that is the origin story of the podcast. Sure, a George RR Martin novel about the dark and violent side of the 60s focusing on ritual murder and a band called the Nazgûl sounds amazing, but is it? No. No it is not. Armageddon Rag has taken on borderline symbolic value to your hosts as the quintessential work of wasted potential.
How sad is it when middle aged people worry about “sell outs?” Are all young people doing counterculture wrong, or are hippies just the worst? How many uncomfortable sexual elements are incorporated into the plot? Why would anyone name their magazine The Hedgehog? Find out all this and more in the first mini episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Michael McDowell’s Gilded Needles is a captivating tale of two families from dramatically different circumstances, engaged in a bitter feud set against the backdrop of late 19th Century New York City. This grimy vision of the metropolis, populated by opium addicts, thieves, and lesbian brawlers, could easily have earned the moniker Fear City long before the first stag reels flickered onto the screen of a Times Square grindhouse. Get to know the Stallworths, a family with wealth and political ambitions, and the Shanks, a clan of criminal women who have found their place in lower Manhattan’s Black Triangle. How do these families’ lives overlap, why do they loathe each other, and what are the consequences of their battle?
Jack and Kate have kept this episode spoiler-free in an effort to encourage others to seek out McDowell’s under-appreciated thriller.
Upon seeing my name mentioned recently in the context of film writing by the exceedingly talented Heather Drain, it struck me that I haven’t actually written about film in a long time. I’m not sure how much the following list counts as breaking that streak, but I will take a minute to talk about some of the more memorable titles I’ve watched recently.
I’m consistently shocked at the excellence of the selection at Shudder.com. We live in a beautiful world where $50 a year gets you access to titles like The Devils, Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and His Women. Selling me on a “horror streaming service” is a dicey proposition, since I’m more incidentally interested in horror. It’s not so much the horror-ness of a movie that attracts me, as it is that stories classed as “horror” are reliable sources of the kind of bizarre and thrilling things that I enjoy. As such, here are a few Shudder titles I can recommend.
Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion: DELICIOUS fashion, bad behavior, duplicitous women, and really awful personal decisions combine to make this Italo-thriller sizzle. So long as you’re not at 101-level gore-seeker status (and if you are, why are you reading anything I write?), this is a keeper.
Play Motel : OH MY GOD there’s a bouncy, soft-rock theme song that references the title of the movie and this was made for a dollar ninety-nine and I feel like I’m coated in a thin sheen of something slimy and disquietingly organic after accidentally stumbling into a sex party and then staying because dude, it’s a sex party–what am I going to do, LEAVE? Perfect, perfect, perfect. You, too, will be havin’ fun at the Play Motel, but you’ll feel super-gross about it afterwards.
Lust for a Vampire : Ralph Bates has gone on record saying this is “one of the worst films ever made,” which makes me sad. That the actor who is Hammer Films’ answer to Crispin Glover failed to see the beauty of this ode to lesbonic passion in a continental girls’ school where the heavy-bosomed students traipse about performing pseudo-Grecian dances while giggling is one of the great mysteries of cinema.
Amazon Prime Video is a reliable source for weirdness dredged up from god knows where, often with dubious-quality prints. All of this makes their pristine streaming copies of vintage Shaw Brothers movies even more of a treasure. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but Human Lanternscan’t be rivaled for sheer Grand Guignol monstrosity. You’re gonna have a bad day after watching this martial arts revenge film whose “surprise” is right in the title. That is either a recommendation or a warning depending on your personality. Also: if you’re not watching movies starring the Venom Mob, then I just don’t know what you’re doing with your life. These martial arts masters make it all look so damn easy, capable of doling out serious ass whippings even when wearing bespangled, chest-baring satin outfits. Check out Flag of Iron, Five Elements Ninjas, and of course Five Venoms and prepare to be amazed.
I finally watched Fatal Attraction which is a wry comedy from the point of view of a middle-aged office worker who imagines himself to be an object of unbearable sexual desire, like some darkest timeline Walter Mitty (unless I’m reading this movie incorrectly…?). Following closely on the heels of this absurdist romp, I figured it was high time that I checked out Basic Instinct. The latter title was, if anything, even more bananas than I’d been led to believe. Sure, at one point in my life Basic Instinct was just a cultural artifact that brought me great pleasure when denying its rental to teen boys during my stint as a video store manager. I used to dismiss these 1990s erotic thrillers as aesthetically weak-sauce knockoffs of giallo, and while younger me was not entirely wrong in that assessment, I was very mistaken to think that this particular brand of bad taste was meritless as a result. Twenty-five years after its release, Basic Instinct has aged into a surprisingly heady brand of grotesque charm.
Speaking of grotesque charm, I blind-watched The Devil’s Mistress, a 2016 Czech docu-drama about actress Lída Baarová’s affair with Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and walked away satisfied. Have you ever wanted to see a telenovela-style love scene featuring a close-up on Goebbels’ leg brace set to Wagner’s Tannhäuser? Well, if you do now, you can head to Netflix and sate your curiosity.
I went to the Roadburn music festival in the Netherlands for the first time this April, and it was an absolutely stunning experience. Degtyarov wrote about his experiences at Black Ivory Tower, and I provided color commentary as well as some sketches. As someone who’s found music festivals to be a mixed bag in the past, I’m a convert to the Roadburn experience and will be making a return trip at some point in the future.
I’ve been a fan of extreme music aesthetic powerhouse Valnoir of the design studio Metastazis for some time now. I spoke to Valnoir for Heathen Harvest about his artistic inspirations, the use of unusual materials in art, and his time in North Korea with Laibach:
The artist edition of the book is limited to fifty copies and they are all signed with the palm of my whole hand. For this, you need more than a few drops of blood, so I went to see a nurse. She took a pint of my blood at her place. The device she was using was not set correctly and at one point it just blew up. The syringe popped out because she was forcing it too much and the blood started going all over the place. Her dog was there and it started jumping around and licking up the blood. She started pushing the dog away and at this point I almost fainted because it was too much information. So now I have this pint of blood and I didn’t use all of it, so I put it in the freezer just in case it can be useful.
Feral House specializes in publishing works by writers with brash voices who express big ideas. Howard Bloom is no exception to this rule, and his profoundly disturbing book During a stroll around Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, I spoke to BloomThe Muhammad Code takes an apocalyptic view of the impact of Islamic extremism. about the development of his philosophy and how it explains the violent potential of mass human behavior.
When I was twelve, I realized I was an atheist. I had a bar mitzvah coming up, and I knew that meant there were going to be presents, so to admit to myself I was an atheist at that time was very bad. I held out until I had finished with my thank you notes and then fully admitted I was an atheist. The High Holidays came around in September and when my parents dragged me to synagogue, I refused to go inside. There they were, trying to pull me by my ankles out of the car, and I had a realization. There were no gods up there and no gods down there, but where were the gods? They were right there in my parents who were busy pulling on my shoes and shredding my socks to get me into temple! I had read enough anthropology at that time to know this is true of people all over the world, that they have a link to the gods through the ancestors. I knew about science, too. Galileo’s trick was taking an existing piece of technology, the lens, and turning it in a new direction by looking up. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek turned that lens in an entirely different direction: down, to look at pond water and see the microorganisms living there. My job was to take the lens and turn it inwards to look at the gods inside of us.
Author Leanna Renee Hieber has created an alternative Victorian London that merges ghost-hunting, Jack the Ripper, capital-R Romantic love, and a healthy dose of post-Harry-Potter magic in her novel Strangely Beautiful. Originally published as two books in 2009 and 2010, Hieber’s story features a beautiful, innocent young woman raised in a convent and dropped into a supernatural battle that will change the course of her life. The author describes this book as “Victorian Ghostbusters” and seeks to create a new brand of Gothic with a modern sensibility within its pages.
How will Jack and Kate react to this fanciful new spin on tried-and-true suspense tropes? Why does Kate loathe the male lead more than any other character from any other book they’ve read so far? When does a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a teenager become a horror story for a middle aged person? And how do Jesus, Snape, and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS figure into all of this? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Intro/Outro Music: “What Is Love” by Death in Rome
British pulp author Sax Rohmer built a career on depicting the threat posed to the Western way of life by the Demonic Other. His most famous creation, Dr. Fu Manchu, is infamous not just for the hideous violence he wreaks on his enemies, but also for being a dreadful racist caricature. This formula of depicting the horrors of the non-British enemy worked so well for Rohmer that he would revisit it numerous times, even substituting “Asian” for “feminist” when creating his sexy supervillainess Sumuru. In this month’s episode, Jack and Kate discuss the first Fu Manchu novel, Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu , as well as the first Sumuru novel, Nude in Mink.
What will they make of Rohmer’s brand of phobic suspense? Do any of the characters stop mid-action to grab a cozy fish dinner? How does the author use smoking to convey character? How much more awesome are Fu Manchu and Sumuru than the bumbling protagonists who attempt to foil their plans? Just how inept are British men in dealing with beautiful, sexually available women? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Beginning with her smash hit debut novel, 1976’s Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice has spent a career detailing the lives, loves, and melodramas of a sprawling cast of supernatural characters. In interviews where she’s discussed 2016’s Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, Rice promised a whole new spin on her beloved Vampire Chronicles. The concept of blending gothic vampires with new age science fiction is an appealing one, but does the author deliver on her promise? Jack and Kate dive into this latest offering from the queen of modern gothic horror.
How many of the Vampire Chronicles books have our hosts skipped? Will Kate’s dreams of lots of characters she doesn’t recognize meeting up with ancient aliens come true? Will we learn the vagaries of vampire science? Isn’t a ghost with a body just a dude? How is Lestat doing after all these years? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Intro/Outro music: “Pictures of Betrayal” by Nosferatu.
After failing in his quest to find financing for his 18- to 24-hour-long film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo and Santa Sangre) partnered with French artist Moebius to create a science fiction graphic novel titled The Incal. This epic, first published between 1981 and 1988, takes its hapless hero John DiFool across strange galaxies while providing a platform for Jodorowsky to explore his esoteric ideas, which blend shamanism, the tarot, Freudian psychoanalysis, and theater. As you might gather, there’s a lot going on here.
Jack and Kate break down how Dune‘s DNA exists within The Incal even though its creators take the tale in a direction that’s far more madcap, alchemical, and… well, French.
Can a work of art succeed at being both serious and light-hearted at the same time? Why are women so goddamn allegorical? Is there such a thing as an unfilmable graphic novel? Who is Kill Wolfhead and why is he the best? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
I have nothing but good things to say about Ajna Bound, the esoteric publishing arm of media company Ajna Offensive. Issuing carefully selected titles in the realms of the occult, underground music, and alternative art, they create keepsake books that are like catnip to folks like me. Their recent publication of Hanns Heinz Ewers’ The Hearts of KingsI take a look at this new English translation over at Heathen Harvest, a short conte cruel by the German master of the weird, is another lovely addition to their catalog:
The work of German author Hanns Heinz Ewers depicts the grotesque, erotic, and philosophical in elegant language, often dosed with poisonous wit. Best known for his novel Alraune, the decadent and blackly humorous tale of an artificially birthed femme fatale, Ewers’s Romanticism would lead him to join the most deadly cult of German exceptionalism, the Nazi Party. This three-year-long affiliation would ultimately find the freethinking bisexual artist ousted from the group in 1934 with virtually all of his works banned, but this did not occur until after he had penned the propagandistic novel Riders in the German Night and had written a screenplay and biography of Nazi martyr Horst Wessel. As a result of these political beliefs, many scholars of the fantastique have been hesitant to champion Ewers’s horror writing. He is a complex figure; the same man who joined the Nazi Party also had a fascination with occult theory that led him to develop the concept of a “cultural nation” that transcended geographical boundaries by spiritually uniting creative thinkers. Recent years have seen a reassessment of Ewers’s writing in the English-speaking world. Through independent publishing services, translators have made the author’s short stories, novels, and essays available to adventurous readers. One of the most jewel-like of these new editions is Ajna Bound’s 2015 hardbound volume of Ewers’s 1922 short story The Hearts of Kings, published alongside the etchings by Stefan Eggeler that accompanied the text in its original printing.
A few months back, I reviewed Death in Rome’s Hitparade, a delightful collection of pop songs covered in neofolk style, for Black Ivory Tower. The mysterious gentlemen behind the band appreciated the article, and in an extraordinarily generous move, gave me the opportunity to select their next cover song. I chose “Toxic” by Britney Spears, imagining the potential for some sort of Baudelairian comment on excess, but Death in Rome went in a more nihilistic direction altogether. The resulting track is–dare I say it–a dark dancefloor banger. The YouTube video features my cover illustration of Britney serving champagne to nihilist philosopher Emil Cioran. Enjoy!
Celebrated on the 15th of February, Lupercalia is thought by some historians to be the origin of Valentine’s Day (which itself is a Catholic feast day for multiple Saint Valentines, but that’s a whole ‘nother zine). My handmade, fully illustrated mini zine explores some of the ways we can take a page from the Ancient Romans to spice up our own romantic celebrations.
Carisa Swenson, the artist behind Wormwood and Rue, has created a black and gold enamel badge bearing the image of a fascinum, a winged penis amulet that represented everything from victory in war to good luck to protection against the evil eye. That’s some pretty intense juju for a winged penis!
For a limited time, orders will be shipped with a button showing my illustration of the god Faunus, an Ancient Roman nature spirit.
Hanns Heinz Ewers’ 1911 novel Alraune is part horror, part science fiction, part decadent prose, and absolutely of the most extreme femme fatale stories ever written. Kate and Jack tackle Ewers’ complicated personal and political history and why this German author’s weird tales deserve to be read alongside the work of other horror luminaries.
Kate and Jack selfishly take on the role of readers this month, highlighting the author’s luridly beautiful writing.
Explore sexy funtimes dekadentenstil with bloodletting, gender bending, and attempts to scientifically identify the sluttiest woman in Berlin. What on earth is a German fencing fraternity? Why should we bring back dueling for satisfaction? How can reading out loud be an effective pathway to getting laid? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.