Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Five Stars For Carl!


First review of the KOLCHAK DOUBLE FEATURE on Amazon. Allow me to share it with you:

FIVE STARS
By A. Craft on May 3, 2016

I've been a loyal reader of the Kolchak output from Moonstone. The quality has had its ups and downs (more ups than downs). The two stories in this book are among the best that Moonstone has published. The first story is an outstanding story dealing with some supernatural happenings that involve Charles Manson. The story is structured in the fashion of the TV movies and the TV series; as a long-time fan of the movies & show, I very much enjoyed the comfortable structure of the story. There are even cameos by a couple of villains from the TV show.
 

The second story is a fun story featuring the villain from the original TV movie. It's an exciting (and at times nicely creepy) tale that involves time-travel and vampires.

My only complaint is that the book could have used a few illustrations, perhaps at the chapter breaks. All-in-all, a fun read and I hope that Mr. Miller revisits Kolchak and provides us with more stories.

GET IT HERE:
 

http://www.amazon.com/Kolchak-Dreadful-Double-Feature-Stalker/dp/194401702X/

Friday, April 8, 2016

Centipede '63

A bit of the work in progress, Centipede '63. Introducing a new character!



March 31 - April 1, 1963

“I been looking forward to this,” said Stan Bartowski. “That sonofabitch has had it coming for a long time.”

“Uh-huh,” I replied.

“After everything he done,” Stanley added.

“Absolutely,” I said.

“I can’t wait to watch him fry.”

“Mmmm.”

My friend gave me a mild scowl. “You’re not very talkative tonight, Centipede. I haven’t seen you since I retired nearly four years ago. You used to talk up a storm if we had gone a week without seeing each other. What gives?”

“Oh, let him alone,” said Captain Marla Bartowski, Stanley’s daughter and head of the City of Zenith Unusual Crimes Task Force. “This is a goddamn execution, not a fraternity mixer.”

Yes, that’s what we were there for, a goddamn execution. The three of us, along with a few reporters and other ghouls, sat on folding chairs in the witness room at Winnemac State Prison, staring through a thick glass window at the electric chair, waiting for the guest of honor.

Adrian Countenance.

If my mood was subdued, it was not because I wasn’t eager to see him go. I was.

It was because I truly wondered if that was what I would be seeing.

Adrian Countenance. The worst, most bloodthirsty criminal of his generation. For decades he had hidden behind a carefully-constructed veneer of respectability. He smiled and smiled and, oh my God, was he ever a villain! He was crafty, canny, brilliant, and unbelievably malevolent. He was much too clever for the justice system, and entirely too lucky when it came to me. I recognized him for what he was early on, but he eluded me time and time again.

Yes, he was a genius-- but so am I. He shouldn’t have been able to beat me once, much less a dozen times.

How had he done it? He was lucky. Every single time, he was outrageously, impossibly lucky. Luckier than could be accounted for by the laws of probability, no matter how far you stretched a point.

Frankly, I was there to see how Countenance was going to cheat the chair.

“Language, little girl,” Stanley said, only half-seriously.

“Dad, I’m thirty-seven,” she replied with good humor. “I think I’ve earned the right to use bad language. And the closer I get to forty, the more of it I’m going to be using.” She rubbed her right elbow, the one that had been injured during Countenance's arrest two years previously. It still gave her trouble.

“Wait’ll you turn sixty,” said Stanley. “Ain’t that right, Centipede? I don’t even know how old you are, but you’ve got to be at least fifty. It ain’t much fun when those mysterious aches and pains set in, huh?”

I was, in fact, sixty-two. But if you had taken a look at the face behind my mask, you wouldn’t have thought so.

“Yeah, I’ve got ‘em too, Stanley,” I enthusiastically lied, playing the part of a man who has good-naturedly accepted the vicissitudes of middle age. I knew that the jokes and the flippant attitude were just a buffer to shield the mortal psyche from the inevitable deterioration and death to which all flesh is heir.

Except mine.

So far.

“So I have plenty to look forward to,” Marla said.

“More than Countenance does,” Stanley offered. Though possibly true-- if my misgivings were mere paranoia-- his remark seemed irrelevant in the present context, and I doubted that it was much of a comfort to Marla as far as the looming ravages of time were concerned. It did seem to perk her up, though, on general principles.

“That’s for sure,” she said with a wolfish smile. “Ten years I chased after that bastard, starting when I was still in uniform. And, Dad, you and the Centipede were after him for longer than that.”

“Twenty-six years, all told,” I said. “And, in the end, you made all the difference, Marla.”

“Nooo,” she said modestly.

“Don’t start that,” Stanley said. “It’s the truth and you know it. If it weren’t for you, he’d still be out there.”

He was right, and it was obvious that he was proud of her. I was too, to be honest. I had known Marla since she was seven years old. We had a closer relationship than her father ever knew. And no, I’m not talking about that. Jesus, get your mind out of the gutter.

One evening not long after I made my public debut back in the 30s, Stanley invited me to dinner with him and his wife and daughter. Mrs. Bartowski, Minnie by name-- a sincere and stalwart woman, if a bit colorless-- didn’t quite know what to make of me, but little Marla and I hit it off immediately. It seemed that something in me mirrored something in her. Shortly after I met her, she started calling me “Uncle Centipede.” This persisted until she finally realized how silly it sounded, around the time she turned thirteen. She dropped the “Uncle,” which seemed to recast our relationship. By then, I had come to realize just how much she meant to me. I didn’t really think of her as a niece-- more like the devious and brilliant little sister I never thought I’d have.

Marla Bartowski was already fiercely independent on the day she was born, I’m quite sure, and it only intensified as she got older. She was without a doubt the smartest child that ever attended PS 164 in Zenith. She was also, for many years, the tallest and most awkward girl in the place, a confirmed tomboy with a taste for thrills and challenges.

She had as rocky an adolescence as one would expect such an exceptional girl to have, and then some. The trouble started just as she hit puberty. She rebelled against her parents, and even started looking askance at my own wise counsel. I went, almost overnight, from friend and confidante to just another grown-up oppressor.

She fell in with a bad crowd, as they used to say-- then she took the crowd over and made them even worse. She ditched school on a regular basis, and even when she did bother to show up, she might as well have stayed out, for all the good it did her. She got into petty theft, then into theft that wasn’t so petty. She became arrogant and intractable. She was headed for reform school and then adult jail, where her education would be taken over by darker and more sinister “professors.”

I worried that she had taken all the wrong lessons from the example I had set for her over the years. She had absorbed my disdain for the establishment and run with it-- in the wrong direction. 


Had I been unwittingly laying the groundwork for the emergence of yet another arch-enemy? 


Whether it was conscience or vanity I cannot say, but I resolved that she would avoid such a fate if I had anything to say about it.

On Marla’s fifteenth birthday, I took her as fully into my confidence as I had ever taken anyone. I shared most of my secrets, and gave her the run of my  headquarters  in the stately Benway Building. By giving her an important role in the running of my day-to-day operations, I hoped to show her that if she wanted to live outside the law, she didn’t have to be a criminal to do it.

It was touch-and-go at first, but she eventually learned to channel her aggressive intelligence and love of conflict into the never-ending battle against the likes of Doctor Almanac, Professor Necrosis, Irma Demnity, the Mercy Killers, Jill the Ripper, Phoebe Pazuzu, and so on and so forth.

Her parents never knew. And as long as she had it in her head that she was secretly rebelling against them, she was more inclined to adhere to the code of conduct I had established for her. One provision of that code was that she not only continue to attend school, but that she excel. That wasn’t undue pressure on her, since it only required ten percent or so of her brainpower to ace any class. It was all about discipline and priorities. And it worked because I made it into a dare. She never passed up one of those.

I kept her behind the scenes, never out in the field-- except for one or two or a dozen occasions when she slipped the traces and took a more personal hand in one of my cases.

On the day she turned 21, she announced her intention to enroll in the Zenith Police Academy. While I might have been a little uncomfortable with the thought of a cop who knew my secrets, I had to admit that the city couldn’t help but benefit by employing a police officer who had been trained by the Black Centipede.







***

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Okay, maybe it COULD happen here...

Now available!
FROM MOONSTONE BOOKS
http://moonstonebooks.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=1167

AND ON AMAZON:
http://www.amazon.com/Kolchak-Penny-Dreadful-Double-Feature/dp/194401702X/

In "Penny Dreadful," Carl Kolchak teams up with private eye Domino Patrick to investigate a series of murders that appear to be copycat crimes based on the 1969 Tate-LaBianca killings. The trail leads to one Penelope Anne Hilligloss, a former member of the Manson Family who now seems to have aligned herself with an even darker power. Kolchak's quest for the truth, and the means to stop "Penny Dreadful," takes him to San Quentin State Prison for a face-to-face meeting with the one man who might have the information he needs: Charles Manson himself.

"The Time Stalker" finds Kolchak in Las Vegas, the city where he once destroyed a vampire named Janos Skorzeny-- or did he? When Skorzeny reappears and begins another murderous rampage, Kolchak must solve the riddle of the vampire's impossible return. Does a mysterious, accidental time-traveler named Zero hold the key? Can Carl put Skorzeny back where he belongs without being arrested by the Vegas P.D. or fired by Tony Vincenzo? With the help of an old, estranged friend from his original Vegas days, and a conspiracy-minded young reporter named Gail Karen, Kolchak once again tackles his first, most terrifying supernatural foe!



Friday, March 11, 2016

From THE RETURN OF LITTLE PRECIOUS


GET IT HERE: http://www.amazon.com/Return-Little-Precious-Moriarty-Vampires-ebook/dp/B01BJDVFPA/

CHAPTER FIVE: THE VANISHING CURIO SHOP

Down in the office the next morning, I found Dana standing in front of her desk frowning at an envelope that must have arrived in the early mail. She held it in her hand as though it were an ugly little animal that might bite her if it got a chance.

"How come you're standing there frowning at an envelope?" I asked.

"It's from my cousin Louis," Dana said. "Why is he writing to me?
 The whole family avoids him-- myself included. He's been involved in any number of shady things. Last I heard, he was in the vanishing curio shop business."

"Vanishing curio shop?" I repeated. "What the hell is that?"

"Oh, I'm sure you've heard stories about them. Some poor, hapless schmo-- call him the mark-- is walking around in a part of town he's unfamiliar with. He spots a strange-looking little curio shop and feels irresistibly compelled to go inside. The proprietor is some strange old coot who gives the mark the creeps. The mark notices an exotic object of some sort, and expresses an interest. The proprietor spins some yarn about the object and what it can do-- grant wishes, bestow great personal power, whatever. The mark purchases the object-- usually for a ridiculously low price--takes the object home and uses it for whatever purpose he has in mind. Things are fine at first, but the whole deal quickly goes south. Remember that story, 'The Monkey's Paw?' 

"So, the mark returns to the curio shop, hoping the proprietor can help him undo whatever he's done. But when he arrives, he finds an empty lot or an abandoned building that looks nothing like the shop he remembers. A quick canvass of the neighborhood reveals that the building or the lot has been vacant for as long as anyone can remember; there is not, and never has been, a curio shop there. The mark returns to the mess the power object has made of his life, and either dies or loses his mind and gets locked up in an asylum for the rest of his life."

"Jesus," I said, "that's messed up. Why the hell would anybody do a thing like that to people?"

"Practitioners of the Dark Arts claim it increases their personal power by a factor of five every time they fleece a mark. Of course, pulling jobs like that is pure hell on the karma, but that's what they want. Dark Arts practitioners have a thing called anti-karma. They rack up so many demerits they could never possibly atone for them, even if they were reincarnated a thousand times. Once you hit that level, the question becomes moot. They never reincarnate because they never die. Death itself won't touch anybody with that much stink on them. And there's really no point in them dying if they can't come back in another form. They've sabotaged their whole cycle of life and death, and so become untouchable. Basically, they're written off the ledger. They can go on for centuries that way. It's actually pretty elegant in its simplicity, but it's an absolutely repugnant practice, and only the lowest of the low go in for it."

"Like your cousin."

She sighed. "I'm afraid so. I guess you could say I was closer to him than anyone else, because I only disliked him intensely; the rest of the family hated him or worse. But what little I had to do with him was years ago, when I was a kid. Why the hell is he writing to me now?"

"People typically answer that kind of question by opening the letter and reading it," I advised her. "It's always worked for me."

"Shut up, Jack," she said absently as she tore the envelope open and extracted a single folded sheet of paper. She unfolded it and read it. Then she read it again. She was going for a hat trick when I snatched it away from her. 

"He has nice penmanship for a fiend," I remarked as I glanced over the thing. "Seems very polite, too. Calls you Dearest Dana in the salutation-- you don't see that very often these days. He inquires about your health, expresses the hope that you are well... Ah, here's the punch line. He hates to bother you and would not dream of imposing on your good nature-- oh, that's a hot one!-- but wonders if you could look into a little matter for him. Sounds like a case of retail theft to me. Some mysterious someone swiped some mysterious something from him-- he says what it is, but I can't pronounce that word..."

"It's pronounced exactly the way it's spelled," Dana said. 
"Cauliodanbannasertopsis."

"Oh yeah," I said. "So, anyhow, a mysterious somebody swiped his supercalifragilisticexpialiwhateverthefuck, and he needs help getting it back. He thought of you immediately because you're one of the smartest people he knows and one of the most adept sorceresses in the world. Boy, he lays it on, doesn't he? And look how he closes it: 'Yours in Christ.' What the heck? I thought he was irredeemably evil!"

"He is. I can only assume that he's had some kind of a scare thrown into him and he's trying to hedge his bets. Sort of like a politician who gets caught committing adultery, or a serial killer with a death sentence. First thing they do is leap blindly at Jesus. Well, he won't help them-- not under those conditions."

 "I assume, then," I said, "that this is going straight into the circular file?"

"I don't think so," Dana said. "I'd ignore it if it were anything but a Cauliodanbannasertopsis. I can't explain why, but I think this has something to do with the Little Precious business."


"Refresh my memory," I said. "What is a wopbopaloobalopalopbamboom again?"


"Something that has the potential to be a very, very dangerous thing, if it falls into the wrong hands."


"Okay, so you're just gonna sit there, then," I said, "and not explain it to me, is that the program?"


"No, of course it isn't. But it's difficult to explain a Cauliodanbannasertopsis..."


"Say," I interrupted, "is there, like, an abbreviated version of that word?"


"That is the abbreviated version."


"Ah."


"It has the power," she said, "to blur the lines between what is and what is not. That which exists and that which does not exist. In fact, it can breach those lines, and allow people and things to pass from one state to the other, and back again. There are places that don't exactly exist, as such. The concept is pure magic-- it cannot be expressed mathematically, it cannot even be theorized about in any school of purely scientific thought. And there are also places that have been magically sealed in one way or another. Sometimes the entrances to the non-existent places fall into that category. Dad used to do a lot of that, but I haven't... 


"Well, a Cauliodanbannasertopsis is a sort of magical skeleton key-- it can be used to gain access to such places."


I didn't like the sound of that.





GET IT HERE: http://www.amazon.com/Return-Little-Precious-Moriarty-Vampires-ebook/dp/B01BJDVFPA/