Bad Books for Bad People: Armageddon Rag and Gilded Needles

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.

Listen to the episode here.

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Around the Web: Roadburn, Black Metal Design Sorcery, and Tackling Extremism

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.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 9: Sax Rohmer Double Feature

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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 [1913], as well as the first Sumuru novel, Nude in Mink [1950].

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.

Find us at BadBooksBadPeople.com, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our reading list.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 8: Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis

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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.

***Spoilers Abound***

Intro/Outro music: “Pictures of Betrayal” by Nosferatu.

Find us at BadBooksBadPeople.com, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our reading list.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 7: The Incal

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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.

Around the Web: Hanns Heinz Ewers and Neofolk Britney Spears

Steffan Eggeler – “Louis XV” from Hearts of Kings

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.

Read the review.

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!

Bad Books for Bad People: Episode 6 – Alraune

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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.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 5: R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps

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In the mid-1990s, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series was a sensation, creeping out kids across the globe. The phenomenon of kid-friendly horror fiction is hardly a new one, so Kate and Jack tackle three Goosebumps titles and see how they stack up against the terrifying stories of their childhoods. Bring on the haunted houses, possessed dummies, and nightmarish theme parks!

This month’s guest reader is Aunt John from Kindertrauma, the long-running website dedicated to all things childhood-horror-related.

How weird are the Goosebumps books? Why do people love them so much? How do you say Goosebumps in Dutch? What highly inappropriate Freudian subtext can our hosts insert into their conversation about these stories for young readers? All these questions and more will be answered in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 4: To the Devil a Daughter

The latest episode of Bad Books for Bad People features the 1953 occult adventure novel To The Devil a Daughter by British pulp author Dennis Wheatley. Come for the promise of a devil-possessed young lady, stay for the heroic interior decorator and many, many stops for cocktails and hearty meals! Charmingly stuffy, undeniably weird, and quite ludicrous indeed, this yarn tracks a mystery author and her interior decorator son who get enmeshed in an occult conspiracy when they delve too deeply into the life of mysterious young lady who becomes their neighbor on the French Riviera.

We’re joined by Kristen Korvette, the dynamic and wonderful founder and editor of Slutist, who reads a passage about black magic, gross monsters, and … Stalin.

Why does possession by the devil turn our imperiled heroine into someone vastly more awesome? Will a mutual hatred of taxes bring the novel’s heroes into an understanding with the villains? Are our hosts secretly Dennis Wheatley villains themselves? How is Stalin involved in this whole mess? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 3: My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews

mysweetaudrina-bbfbp-cover

Can you believe I managed to avoid the books of V.C. Andrews for my entire life? For whatever reason (prejudice against popular girls, a love of gay vampires, and/or getting into general Goth kid mischief), it took me to this advanced age to be coerced into checking out My Sweet Audrina, Andrews’ horrifyingly claustrophobic tale of womanly trauma.

Jack and I tackle this title on the latest episode of our podcast, Bad Books for Bad People, where we delve into what makes this book so effective as well as why on earth tween girls went bonkers for these gothic novels.

Click here to listen, or find us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or in your podcast app of choice by searching for Bad Books for Bad People.

About the episode:

The potboiler Gothics of V.C. Andrews were beloved by adult women… and their tween daughters. Both Jack and Kate are new to the author’s infamous tales of female woe, and they discuss what it’s like to read her work for the first time during this discussion of Andrews’ 1982 novel My Sweet Audrina. This claustrophobic tale of a girl raised with family secrets in the shadow of her dead sister proves to be a surprisingly traumatic experience for Kate who is forced to confront some of her darkest fears, including the horrors of inheriting someone else’s kids.

Here to read an especially sensational passage from the book is Wendy Mays, hostess of Pet Cinematary, the podcast dedicated to taking a deeper look at the role of animals in film. This is her first time reading the work of V.C. Andrews as well, and it turned out to be a much more difficult task than your hosts imagined to find a woman unfamiliar with these macabre little novels.

How does the domestic nightmare world of My Sweet Audrina effect your hosts? Did V.C. Andrews’ life experiences add to the intensity of her stories? What were your hosts reading as tweens? Why did tween girls love these depressing forays into mental illness and isolation so much? Find out all this and more on this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.