Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Big huge mass of reviews, oh baby!

I dare you not to, after you read all this!

By Ron Fortier

Chuck Miller is emphatically one of the bright new voices in the New Pulp Fiction movement and last year burst on to the scene with this book.  It introduced the world to his truly mondo-bizarro hero, the Black Centipede.

Describing Miller’s twisted, odd and vibrant style is a challenge in itself.  Unlike traditional classic pulp writers, his work is a hodge-podge blend of history and fiction and told from way too many different perspectives.

Written in first person narrative, the Black Centipede is a young man who crosses paths with the infamous Lizzy Borden of Massachusetts and through her encounters a mysterious being calling herself “Bloody” Mary Jane Gallows; the supposed spiritual creation of Borden and Jack the Ripper.  If that wasn’t twisted enough, our hero is saved from being murdered when his own body is possessed by another alien entity representing itself in the shape of an ugly, creeping black centipede.  Once this merger occurs, he finds himself capable of many super human feats of strength.  He becomes, like Will Eisner’s Spirit, virtually impossible to kill.

From that point on his adventures have him crossing paths with real life figures such a gangster Frank Niti and newspaper tycoon, William Randoph Hearst who wants to turn the Centipede into a popular “real life” pulp hero in his own magazine.  Then there are villains like Doctor Almanac, voodoo fighter Baron Samedi who battle across Zenith City, each with his own perverse agenda and little regard for the citizenry caught in the middle.

It’s fanciful stuff indeed but this reviewer wishes Miller would make an attempt at sticking to one point of view.  Towards the end of this first outing, we are given an entire chapter told to us by a police officer who was on the scene.  Supposedly this is necessary because the Black Centipede was on the other side of town when the incident took place. Still paragraph after paragraph of hearsay is as deadly in a novel as it is in a court of law.  Writing rule of thumb, Mr.Miller, show us, don’t tell us.

Still as this is his first book, that one flaw is easily overlooked for the overabundance of originality infused in this book.  With “Creeping Dawn,” Chuck Miller clearly establishes himself as a voice to be reckoned with.  We predict a truly brilliant future for both creator and his one-of-a-kind hero.


5.0 out of 5 stars Move over Shakespeare, October 3, 2011
By C. Hahn

I have read numerous books in my long history and the number of authors I seek out to read again and again can be numbered on both hands. It is time to graft on a new finger because the world of literature has a new shining light.

With a gift of language and a eye for detail Chuck Miller spins a delightful web that draws the reader in and doesn't let them go.


5.0 out of 5 stars
The odd becomes reality in this pulp character, April 14, 2013
By Darkendale "Raven"

Enter the Black Centipede, a crime fighter of a decidedly different cut. When the person who will become the Black Centipede is introduced by being involved with the likes of Lizzie Borden, the tale can only grow stranger from that starting point. Then we are introduced to Bloody Mary Jane, a very much alive and deadly thought creation, a tulpa, brought into this world through the minds of Lizze Borden and Jack the Ripper!

The Black Centipede is both in love and in danger with Bloody Mary Jane. She bounces in and out of the story, which presently reads like a Shadow magazine with various gangsters all vying to become boss of the underworld. The Black Centipede is a dark avenger, much like the Shadow, as he has no compulsions against shooting gangsters to death.

But along the way, the Centipede encounters FDR, and is directly responsible for saving the President's life. Action packed beginning to end, this book is a must read for every fan of the modern pulp.


5.0 out of 5 stars
February 20, 2012
By Doctor Panic

I enjoyed the Black Centipede. I loved the dark side he has, and I think the way the book was written speaks volumes to the author stepping outside the box a little with the writing style. He ties in some famous...or maybe infamous characters into a pulse pounding story that makes you want to turn the page over and over. The book as i said has a dark undertone, but i think what the author came out with was brilliant!


5.0 out of 5 stars
"Creeping Dawn" Twists and Turns Like its Multi-Legged Namesake, February 5, 2012
By Don Gates

Chuck Miller's take on classic pulp vigilante tropes first came to my attention through his blog, where he's been posting bits and pieces of his writing for some time. The Black Centipede isn't the only character Chuck's been working on, but it's the one that grabbed me personally due to my love of Shadow-like pulp heroes and after reading the short stories on the blog I eagerly anticipated the full-length Centipede novel. I was not disappointed with the novel, and was actually very pleasantly surprised: I was familliar with what Miller did that made characters like Centipede and his world unique creations, but wasn't prepared for what the sustained reading-experience of a whole novel would be like.

If you are expecting an untarnished hero with a heart of gold pitted against plainly obvious "eeevil" characters, you may be disappointed. There are no blacks and whites in this book, only shades of gray. It sounds like a cliche, but it's true... it's also true that Miller pulls it off in ways I've never seen a writer do it. For an example, start with the Centipede himself: a wry and sardonic narrator who channels the croaky "voice" (among other traits) of William S. Burroughs into a Spider/Shadow hybrid- a master of skills both martial and esoteric and who seriously enjoys cracking the skulls of criminals. There are quite a few times that the Black Centipede's witty and conversational narrative made me chuckle out loud... it's been a while since a character- especially in a pulp- made me do that. The Black Centipede ultimately comes off as human (even though his skills are often obviously fueled by something more) and it's this humanity- with all the pitfalls and shortcomings that being human includes- that makes him a terrific character.

The Centipede's world is also a unique creation: from the phantasmagorical origin sequence involving Lizzie Borden and eldritch forces to the strange parallels of the JFK assassination that come later in the book, "Creeping Dawn" is a funhouse mirror of figures from our histories both real and imaginary, infamous and legendary. There was quite a few times I thought "Wow, I can't believe he's doing this" in regards to people or events referenced. Many writers squeeze in events from history or fiction into their works, but none of them do it in this particular way... it feels both natural and weird, and by "weird" I mean "weird in a good way" since weirdness is a key element in the story.

And what of the story? Well, it's hard to discuss it too much here without giving away some of the finer plot points, but it involves an eternal dance of death and love between the Black Centipede and his friend/lover/enemy Bloody Mary Jane Gallows, an entity not quite of this earth yet not entirely otherworldly. The story also involves the rise of a mysterious criminal mastermind in the nowhere/everywhere city of Zenith, a man known as Doctor Almanac who echoes (to me, at least) some of the earlier Batman villains. Lastly, much of the story also deals with the public's perception of the Black Centipede himself, as he rises from "masked-nut" to unacknowledged force for good to media-darling and "sanctioned masked-nut". It's these threads, Centipede's place in them, and the movers and shapers behind the threads that make this a fun read.

I can't find too much wrong with the book. Modern pulp books are often fraught with typographic errors within their pages, but this book has almost none that I was able to find. If I had to find any fault with it, it would be with the climax, or rather the series of climaxes in the story: one of these is related to Centipede via one of the supporting character's flashbacks. This technique makes for a bit of an unusual feeling that I'm not used to when it comes to a pulp's boiling-point of action. Then again, this book is a unique experience all around and this just goes to add another special twist to the book's storytelling.

I can't recommend "Creeping Dawn: Rise of the Black Centipede" enough. It may not be for everyone, but if you want to experience a truly unique and one-of-a-kind pulp novel then give it a shot.


4.0 out of 5 stars
Interesting new, neopulp character, November 3, 2011
By Michael R. Brown

This is another original "new pulp" or "neo pulp" character. While set in the 1930s, the author doesn't trying to imitate the style or characteristics of that period. This can be either good or bad, depending on your tastes. do you want something totally in the style, or are you willing to accept a modern work set in that period).

Chuck Miller has for some time been working on his "Black Centipede" character and the world he lives in thru his blog [...]. This then is the first book length appearance of the BC.

Overall, the BC is a mixture of crime/pulp heroics/weird menace. Real characters from the period (HP Lovecraft, Amelia Earhart, Lizzie Borden, and others) are mixed in, along with fictitious characters and places.

All center around the hero of the piece, the Black Centipede. What is interesting, is Chuck works in that the BC has a biographer who writes and publishes highly fictionalized versions of his exploits. So there is in that world a fictional BC and the real one. Also, the occult does play a part in this series, something that was not true for most original pulp heroes.

This work serves as the original and beginnings of the Black Centipede.

I do hope we get further volumes of this character and his world.


5.0 out of 5 stars
Creeping Dawn... The beginning of a New Pulp Legend!, June 4, 2012
By Bittergreen

This is going to be the most unusual book you'll read for quite a while. If there is one thing Chuck Miller does well, it's turning convention on its ear in the most entertaining way. You're not going to find your hero as clear cut or stalwart as expected, and neither are your villains pure evil incarnate. That would be the expected norm in most pulp stories, but this is something very unique. Against a big swash of noir background, and with a wry sense of humor and acute timing, Chuck Miller gives us his take on the reluctant anti-hero, and the completely incredible but somehow believable world he exists in. It's not just an enjoyable read, it's a romp through history as viewed in a cracked and distorted mirror. Half the fun of devouring this page-turner is seeing what famous or infamous individual is going to show up next. Creeping Dawn is a book you're not going to forget soon, and bits and pieces of this tale are going to stick with you. This reader is very much looking forward to whatever Chuck Miller serves up next, because if his debut novel is any indication; The Black Centipede--as well as his creator--are here to stay for the long haul. You don't want to miss this introductory novel of what is destined to become a New Pulp legend.


By Voice Spider on April 26, 2013 :   
'Creeping Dawn: The Rise of the Black Centipede' is a book that I both highly enjoyed, and one that also made me want to set it aside and forget about.

The intro to the book is wonderfully done, the way that Miller introduces the Centipede from his fictional roots and then goes into his actual roots was interesting to read. Some elements, such as Lizzie Borden, were both unusual and yet very engaging. It actually had me reaching for Google to refresh my memory.

The first half, if not first three quarters of this book are well done. Elements flow easily into each other, the action is handled well. Not too detailed yet not too glossed over. There's an element of danger, mystery, and the hunt for Dr. Almanac contained just the right of Pulp villian craziness with over the top characters. (Baron Samedi being one of my favorites)

The writing is fairly well done, the characters are believeable and the Pulp aspect of the story shines bright. There is a lot here to engage the reader, to drive them on in the story and to keep them interested. Even slow parts in the beginning were still interesting enough to keep me interested in what was going on.

However, in the last quarter of the book, the story quickly falls apart for me. There is no real climax to the story, no final confrontation between Almanac and Centipede. Instead, you are treated to a second hand telling of how the criminal mastermind was arrested. Not only that, but the telling of that tale is so drawn out, so muddled, so uninteresting, that I really wanted to set the book aside and forget about it. One of the major things I have found with Pulp fiction, is that much like modern day superhero stories, you can't build up to a climactic battle and then not have it. It's like reader's blue balls. Not only that, it takes the climax right out of the book. Your rising action suddenly ends and then...nothing.

Creeping Dawn could have easily been a four to five star book. I really did enjoy a large, significant portion of it. I will and have recommend it to others to read, especially if you enjoy the Pulp genre. However, the lack of any real climax to the story, even with the surprise 'who done it' ending, really drags this book down for me. I will be buying the sequal to this novel, however, because I really do like the story, I do like the characters, and Miller is a fairly good writer.

So if you like Pulp, pick this book up. The ending may work for you, it has for others that have rated and reviewed this book. However, it didn't work for me. But still, if you like Pulp, you will probably really enjoy this story.



5.0 out of 5 stars
Black Centipede's Back !, April 14, 2013

By Darkendale "Raven"

I found this volume of the Black Centipede fascinating, with its mixture of the occult and the simply criminal. The Centipede is called to Hollywood to consult on a movie featuring one of his pulp magazines. With him, as a special envoy from President FDR, travels Amelia Erhart, who proves to be handy in a tussle, plus helping the Centipede rein in some of his kill lust. She also has a secret that will be crucial to stopping Jack the Ripper, if only for a time.

But I want to share something I found to be fascinating. The Centipede is dreaming of a court case with twelve jurors. Each person rises and says something unusual. It was awesome to see how Chuck Miller used verbal tapestry to allow one to identify each as a suspect in the unsolved Jack the Ripper case. He names one of them but even without that, what the person says would allow most readers to recognize the individual, although they might NOT have known this person was even a suspect.

The book is a wild roller-coaster ride with some of the usual suspects from the first book, Rise of the Black Centipede, such as Bloody Mary Jane Gallows and Lizzie Borden, along with Baron Samedi and Jack the Ripper. It also introduces a fearsome female who calls herself The Black Centipede Eater, and the very mysterious White Centipede. If you love pulp fiction, you'll love this book!

The part that deals with Jack the Ripper raises yet another genuine suspect, although exactly who or what the Ripper truly is may leave you still wondering by book's end. This is far from a bad thin since there are hints that perhaps the Ripper is still not truly gone. The discovery of just who is the Black Centipede Eater is also worth the read. Then there is the White Centipede, a conglomeration between a real person infamous for madness and drunk with power, and an undisclosed Symbiote from a burial ground. Miller also ties this volume in with other characters of his creation, such as Dr. Unknown, Jr..

Well worth reading, highly enjoyable.

Quoth the Raven...


5.0 out of 5 stars
Love this book., February 12, 2013
By Leigh S

I read this book out loud with my son and we both loved it. I fantastic, and other worldly adventure. I recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars
2nd novel of this original New Pulp character, November 15, 2012
By Michael R. Brown

This is another original "new pulp" or "neo pulp" character. While set in the 1930s, the author doesn't trying to imitate the style or characteristics of that period. This can be either good or bad, depending on your tastes. (do you want something totally in the style, or are you willing to accept a modern work set in that period?)

Chuck Miller has for some time been working on his "Black Centipede" character and the world he lives in thru his blog theblackcentipede .blogspot. com. This then is the second book length appearance of the BC. The first one, "Creeping Dawn: Rise of the Black Centipede" served as an origin story for the character, and I recommend you read it before this one. You'll have a better understanding of the character, his origin, and his link to two of the other characters in this story. Some shorter stories have appeared in Pro Se Presents, Pro Se's monthly digest 'zine'.

Overall, the BC is a mixture of crime/pulp heroics/weird menace. Real characters from the period (Hearst & FDR, Amelia Earhart, Fatty Arbuckle, Einstein, Aleister Crowley, and others this time) are mixed in, along with fictitious characters and places.

With this story, set in 1933, after the first one, has the Centipede in Hollywood dealing with a movie based on him called "Blood of the Centipede", written by his pulp biographer and directed by Fatty Arbuckle. While there, he is accompanied by Amelia Earhart at the bequest of FDR, whom the Centipede saved from assassination.

But the Centipede must deal with a new menace: Jack the Ripper, who is helped by the mysterious White Centipede and the Black Centipede Eater. While he defeats the White Centipede, he doesn't learn who/what he is, and hints at the end indicate he will return to plague the Black Centipede and the world in the future. We are also introduced to some new characters in the world of the BC: Doctor Unknown and Doctor Unknown, Junior, Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly, the Blue Candiru (some have appeared in short stories, and am sure they will appear in future stories as well).

As noted, there are 2 BC related short stories that have appeared in Pro Se Presents so far, and a new story being serialized, so should see more stories of the BC and the others. Can't wait.


4.0 out of 5 stars Gonzo Pulp!!!, October 27, 2012
By Greg Daniel

If Peculiar Oddfellow wasn't already the name of an interesting New Pulp character in his own right, it would be an apt descriptor and tagline for the Black Centipede. For the uninitiated, it is hard to describe the Black Centipede as a character without leaving the reader with slack jaw and raised eyebrow. Chuck Miller has really created a one of a kind hero ... or maybe anti-hero ... heck, by the time Miller is done with the Centipede Saga, he may play two supporting roles and be the villain as well.

For starters, the Black Centipede's adventures are presented in the first person "as told to" Chuck Miller. The Centipede's adventures were also chronicled back in the 1930s in his own pulp magazine by a writer who the Centipede views as an untalented hack. In Blood of the Centipede, said hack is now serving as screenwriter for a "B" movie featuring the Centipede, directed by Fatty Arbuckle and produced by William Randolph Hearst. This combination of multiple chroniclers, fiction within fiction, and a potentially unreliable narrator all lend a meta quality that one does not normally encounter in New Pulp, old Pulp, or any Pulp (except maybe that Tarantino movie).

The other thing that jumps out immediately and grabs the reader by the throat or eyeballs or other vital part is the voice. As I mentioned, it is in first person, which, while not unheard of, is relatively rare in masked vigilante stories. But it is the actual voice that makes it truly unique. It is sardonic, sarcastic, and downright snarky. It is not like any voice in the genre and it delivers a wild, twisting ride that touches on the action, adventure, mystery, and mysticism one comes to New Pulp to experience and delivers it in a manner that is both comforting and disorienting, like a funhouse at an amusement park. That is if that funhouse was designed by Salvador Dali

Miller walks an amazing tightrope in this book and it is testament to his skill and the character of the Black Centipede that I enjoyed it as much as I did, For you see, this story had several elements that, in general I don't like and yet I must admit that not only they worked, but they were necessary to the book. I hate it when a book (or movie or television show) starts in some predicament near the climax and then tells the bulk of the story in flashback. I hate dreams as a plot device. I am tired of Jack the Ripper stories. But here, these things worked.

It is hard to discuss much of the plot for fear of giving too much away. The Black Centipede heads to Hollywood with new partner-in-action, Amelia Earhart, to investigate a mysterious threat while also serving as a consultant to the aforementioned movie. There he discovers a familiar foe (or two) and a new nemesis, the White Centipede. He is helped and hindered by a new costumed vigilante, the Blue Candiru. He discovers a mystical tome of great power, has a run-in with Aleister Crowley, and is introduced to the Order of the Centipede, all while investigating a string of Jack-the-Ripper copycat killings.

But, trust me it isn't as simple as all that.

Blood of the Centipede is a whirling dervish, spinning wildly from childish fun to mystic ecstasy. It is The Shadow by Hunter S. Thompson. It is gonzo pulp. Give it a spin.

Lest I forget, I loved the back cover by Sean Ali. I don't know if it is the Spy vs. Spy vibe or what, but that is one cool piece and should be a poster or t-shirt or both.


5.0 out of 5 stars
A new spin on the pulp hero, October 18, 2012
By D. G. Lee "Low Zoo"

Perhaps there's nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes said 6,000 years or so ago, but Chuck Miller's Black Centipede is definitely a breath of fresh air amongst his neo-pulp brethren.

If I had to pick one dimension of the character and writing of Chuck Miller's adventures of of the Black Centipede that makes them sing, I'd be stuck, but I can pick two: first, the whole conceit of having the "real" Centipede telling his stories in old age to Chuck Miller, is a wonderful framing device which pays off. Not that it hasn't been done before -- Harry Flashman's memoirs are "edited" for publication, etc. -- but I don't recall this tactic used in pulp or especially neo-pulp. Whatever the case, it is an intriguing framework/backstory.

Which ties into the other angle I so enjoy about Miller's writing: the Centipede tells his own stories, first person, laying out the "real" story-behind-the-story while his pulp biographer (whom he thinks is a putz) chronicles the fake tales the made it into the Centipede's pulp magazine, back in the day.

Is it hard to imagine Doc Savage pulling this off (possibly one of his aides could), a pulp adventure tell-all that includes historic personages like William Randolph Hearst, Amelia Earhart (who turns out to be more than just another familiar name or pretty face), etc. Not to mention intimations of mortality by the Centipede himself. Will he make it? Sure. Will he make it without getting his ass kicked somewhere along the way? Probably not. Go Centipede!

So instead of the usual slavish imitation of the classic three (Doc Savage, the Shadow, the Avenger) or a pastiche of some character who appeared once in a back issue of NERVOUS TALES in 1934 -- not that there's anything wrong with that! -- with the Black Centipede we are given new wine in old skins, and in a good way.


5.0 out of 5 stars
The Black Centipede Goes to Hollyweird, January 3, 2013
By Don Gates

In "Blood of the Centipede", Chuck Miller takes us further into the mythos he's created with his many and varied characters, specifically the enigmatic Black Centipede. There really isn't a character (or a series) like this in New Pulp, and Miller has really stirred up an unexpected brew pieced together from his varied influences and his own creativity. To describe the Black Centipede to a first-timer is tricky, but it goes a little something like this: take a pulp vigilante with an occult bent (kind of like a more mystical version of The Shadow), throw him into a Farmerian world of interconnected figures & events both real and fictional, add a wry dollop of William Burroughs, and stir. Then watch the chaos and fun happen. It's a refreshing, heady, and addictive mix, and it's never boring.

"Encouraged" to take a break after the events of the first Black Centipede novel, our hero is saddled with a mysterious "assistant" in the form of Amelia Earhart as he travels to Hollywood to oversee the production of the upcoming Black Centipede B-movie. Once there, things begin to get seriously weird as the 'Pede is stalked by a strange gas-masked creature known as the Black Centipede Eater and her master, the mysterious White Centipede. Also introduced is a new vigilante in the form of the Blue Candiru (I know: "The Blue what?" I said that too... look it up. Ouch). Not everything is as it seems, and the rabbit hole goes deeper than originally thought. Everything leads to a confrontation with a hideous evil force in a battle which answers as many questions as it asks new ones. There's an exciting, creepy, and often surprisingly hilarious good time in this book.

Should new readers read Miller's first Centipede novel, "Creeping Dawn", in order to be able to enjoy this one? I don't think so. However, at times the mix of characters, places, and references in "Blood of the Centipede" get almost too heady. Just when things get too thick, Miller reels us back in a bit so it shouldn't be too overwhelming to new readers. However, reading "Creeping Dawn" first should help untangle some of the strands. That first book is also highly recommended.
Many writers in New Pulp (including myself) could be (and sometimes are) accused of rehashing or retreading old pulp tropes. And there's really nothing wrong with that: pulp cliches are pure fun. Chuck Miller is one of those writers who could not be accused of doing that, however. The intricate tapestry he's weaving for us in his tales are truly unique and are not to be missed.

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