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February 18, 2019: Website updated and revised.

Incorrect Kithera

Kithera138Another example of artistic inability. Like the straight line, symmetry is my deadly enemy.

Athena Head Krater


Movie Review: “The First King”

The First King


This is a worthy addition to the roster of sword and sandal or peplum movies, made in Italy like its ’60’s predecessors, only down and dirty with a big emphasis on naturalism and de-emphasizing the supernatural, mythical element. Director Matteo Rovere retells the ancient myth of Rome’s founding by the divine twins Romulus and Remus, but the bit about the twins being suckled by a she wolf gets dropped along with a lot of other improbable details.  There’s absolutely no hint of imperial grandeur or sophisticated culture. Instead, the film depicts early Iron Age civilization in 8th Century BCE Italy with much detailed   attention to squalor. Romulus and Remus start out as grubby teenage shepherds. People go about clad in skins or poorly woven woolen homespun, with filth and blood everywhere, and characters often rolling in both. A change in regime is signaled by carrying around the previous chief’s severed head impaled on a pole. The film adds to the verisimilitude with the actors speaking entirely in a primitive, pre-Roman Latin (I had to listen for about fifteen minutes before I could even start to pick words out). Like any good peplum, the action is steady and fast paced, with some incredibly gory scenes of close contact, no quarter, vicious ancient warfare. Rovere wisely refrained from resorting to the curse of CGI, preferring to rely instead on expert stunt men and traditional special effects. The decision only adds to the realism.

Alessandro Borghi gets the meatiest role in the flick as the violent, brooding Remus, obsessively devoted to the protection of his brother while simultaneously increasingly more unhinged and savage in his behavior. Alessio Lapice has the tougher task of portraying the saintlike Romulus who bands a disparate group of refugees together into a new tribe through his positive leadership example.  The conflict between the two men is simple and stark, but the film does a good job of suggesting that the ultimate outcome turns more on their individual characters than the will of the gods.  Shot on location in Italy, the film does an excellent job of invoking a dark, primeval, heavily forested world with humans far and few between and potential threats everywhere.

I recommend this film to fans of the old Roman myths, peplum admirers, and folks who just like gritty action movies in general.

Madeline Miller’s Mythological Mediocrity

CirceI appear to differ from most people’s opinion on this novel. Sadly, I thought it was fairly mediocre and was rather disappointed by it. This is unfortunate because I’m a great fan of Greek myths and antiquity in general, my enthusiasm dating back to childhood when I read Mary Renault.

Ms. Miller is characterized as the modern equivalent to Renault, but seems to lack the latter writer’s dramatic flair. While her initial description of the witch Circe’s dysfunctional, immortal family, with a distant, self absorbed father, and jealous, hateful siblings, originally held my interest, this dissipated as the novel plodded on in a mostly unmemorable fashion.

The author seems very interested in human dynamics, particularly the interaction between men and women. There’s a great deal of portentous talk between characters, but again very little in the way of action or real drama. Her characterization of Odysseus particularly disappointed me with the Master of Stratagems reduced to a walk-on role as a handy, capable friend with benefits for Circe.

There was a good deal after the Big O left the scene, but again nothing really of interest to me. It did come to a conclusion, unlike many novels, but I also found that unsatisfying. This is just my own opinion, but this novel does seem to appeal to very many readers, perhaps ones having an interest in the Greek myths being told from a feminist perspective. I do not fault any effort to write in such a vein. I simply wish that I’d read something of that type that was much more interesting.

Thriller Magazine Now Out In Hard Copy


Hardboiled prodigy Ammar Habib’s pulp fiction publication, Thriller Magazine, is now available in hardcopy as well as on Kindle. In addition to my own short 20’s noir piece, Cackle Bladder, issue 2, volume 2, features a wide range of tales, everything from psychological thrillers, to brutal accounts of murder, to political dramas, and much more. Authors beside myself include some very distinguished crime/mystery writers: Chris Fortunato, Robb T. White, John H. Dromey, Edward Ahern, John Grey, J. Askew, Sarah Katz, and Rekha Ambardar.

For those who haven’t quite made up their mind to order a copy, this link takes you to a sample:

Fans of hardboiled prose who want their kicks right away can order the print issue:

Or get it on Kindle instead:

I recommend either format highly. Do yourself a favor this holiday season and get a hardboiled treat!

Ex Domo Julio-Claudiae Felix Dies Natalis Solis Invicti!

Domus Julio-ClaudiaI sure hope that everyone already has their sacrificial bull picked out and that you’re already feeding him thrice strained milk and sacred herbs in the backyard. It’s best to prepare for the holidays well in advance. Have a nice blood sacrifice without too much acting up by the bull on the 25th. It’s a bad omen, to say the least. Ave atque vale from the whole darn dynasty!

Le Roi OK

Louis XIV136

L’Etat, C’est Quelqu’un D’Autre Gars!









“Cackle Bladder” Now Out In Thriller Issue 2
































Set in South Florida during the 1920’s land boom, Cackle Bladder is about the only time I’ve managed to write a story with a twist ending. It’s excerpted from my as yet unfinished, crime/horror novella, The Bigger Con, and out now in issue no. 2 of Thriller, Editor-in-Chief Ammar Habib’s noteworthy new addition to hardboiled pulp fiction magazines. Issue no. 2’s on Kindle now and print copies will be available on December 15. Since a twist yarn’s whole point is not to give things away until the end, I’ll say no more. Instead, to learn exactly how the cackle bladder works, I invite you to click on the links below:
































The Laziest Man In Rock’N’Roll

HellFall, 1977. I’m in my last year at the University of Virginia. I go to Back Alley Disc, the hot (hah, the only) record store in Charlottesville where I buy the Dead Boys and the Talking Heads’ first albums.  While one guy is ringing me up behind the counter, another walks up holding a promo copy of Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation LP. He looks at me and the two records I’m holding and mutely hands over the record, mine for free.

I thought all three bands were fantastic, but Blank Generation particularly impressed me. I’d never heard such screwed up rock’n’roll before with Quine’s wild guitar and Hell’s cat with his tail caught in the door vocals. Add their deliberately non-glam appearance, the torn clothes and t-shirts with scribbled slogans, and it made for a very strange, off the wall package. I remember seeing Richard Hell at Iggy Pop’s comeback show in NYC in March of ’77. He cut a dramatic figure, stomping around the lobby in a full length black leather trench coat and mirrored spectacles, thick hair swooped up in a pomp, stonily ignoring all and sundry while simultaneously scowling viciously at everyone near and far. Despite these vivid impressions, Hell fell off my radar soon afterward, disappearing from my musical consciousness like a stone dropped into a deep lake.

Hell’s short, cursory excuse for an autobiography explains the lapse. Richard Hell is a lazy, self indulgent man with a modicum of musical and poetic talent who threw away the chances he had, preferring the aimless life of a lower East Side drug addict instead. If you think this sounds harsh, this is the gist of his own admissions. One of Hell’s positive characteristics is the degree of self-knowledge in his reminiscences. He knows when he screwed up and admits it. After doing a good bit to shake up rock’n’roll with his genuinely new and edgy band, even scoring a tour to England, Hell decided to just do drugs and get laid while cruising along on his reputation as a “punk rock scene” personality, writing monthly columns for pop journals along with other side gigs.

Truth be told, I don’t even like thinking about the punk rock era that much nowadays. Even though it was like religion for me back then, because it was so incredibly long ago it just reminds me what a broken down old wretch I am. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed this book. Hell isn’t stupid even if he is shiftless. He  shows wit and insight in his anecdotes about punk’s glory days. His self-deprecation and awareness of what he deliberately passed by go a long to way to ameliorate other failings such as:

  • He writes about rock’n’roll like it’s still a living, vital thing when everybody knows it’s about as hip nowadays as the polka
  • Richard Hell sure does like to kiss and tell. I’m happy for him that he got a lot of ass back in the day, but the blow by blow accounts complete to his partners’ minute physical descriptions, thumbnail bios, and their particular muffky-fuffky preferences simply are too much information
  • He really doesn’t have that much to write about in the end. Hell simply gives up on his autobiography shortly after he turns thirty, frankly admitting he bailed on the arduous, endless work that’s necessary to advance and promote yourself as a musician or an actor, even though he had opportunities in both fields that most people never know.

Despite its flaws, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the crazy rock’n’roll scene in New York’s lower East Side in the ’70’s from the Dolls to the Heartbreakers to Television to the Voidoids. Hell was there, had a hand in some of it, and saw a whole lot more.

Tudor Rose

Tudor Rose135Not a Tiger Rose. Nor a Prairie Rose. And I’m not talking about a Yankee Rose. Just your typical ye olde Tudor Rose.