HOLLYWOOD, WESTERNS AND THE 1930s : The Lost Trail, by Peter Stanfield is an interesting book that argues movie historians, by focusing on the A-list Westerns of the 1930s (Stagecoach, Cimarron), present a distorted view of the genre. As Stanfield, shows, series Westerns were in much more demand, particularly those of Gene Autry, a Southern country singer and radio star who made a string of Western adventures playing himself as a “singing cowboy” in modern Western settings. Stanfield argues that watching Autry creates a completely different image of what makes the Western work—he had a strong female fanbase and the female leads were frequently business owners or otherwise more independent than stereotypes. The book also discusses the Southern role in creating the Western: as Stanfield see sit, using Southern characters like Autry was a way to get past negative views of the South and to present North and South as reconciling. A very good look at how genres develop.
THE WITCHING NIGHT by CS Cody is a 1953 occult thriller similar to the classic Conjure Wife (which came out in hardback the same year). The doctor protagonist investigates a friend’s mysterious, agonizing illness and discovers the man fell afoul of a Satanist cabal. As the doctor probes deeper, the cabal of course makes him their next target; to further complicate things, one beautiful Satanist seems to alternate between troubled girl-next-door and seductive manipulator. This is well written, with some neat touches, but a bit too restrained for my taste: I prefer the more overt horrors of Conjure Wife or Darker Than You Think. And at times the lack of explanation works against the book rather than for it (why exactly are a bunch of Satanists trying to take over a lakefront vacation destination?). All rights to cover image with current holder.
WARBOUND: Book Three of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (click for reviews of Book One and Book Two) has Jake and the Grimnoir take the fight to Imperial Japan, though their ultimate goal is to destroy the entity threatening to suck all magic and life from the world. Meanwhile, Faye tries to figure out how to stop the entity without her power potentially corrupting her. Much less of the “mutie hating” that I disliked about the second book, and overall a very entertaining finish.
REVIVAL: You’re Among Friends, by Tim Seely and Mark Norton has the dead rising, but only in one small town in Wisconsin. As everyone from the FBI to the CDC move in, the local sheriff and his daughter/deputy try to get to the bottom of things. While described as “rural noir” this felt like a standard zombie thriller to me (so not a fan of those)
XMEN FOREVER: The Secret History of the Sentinels by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith was part of a series where Claremont resumed writing XMen as if he hadn’t left a decade or two earlier, so it amounted to an alternate timeline for the team (though I can’t think of anything that happens here—Wolverine dying, Kitty having one of his claws growing out of her, Sabertooth claiming he’s Logan’s father—that couldn’t have happened at some point in the regular Marvel Earth). This is adequate but not stellar, as SHIELD and the XMen join forces against Bolivar Trask’s daughter and her new generation of Sentinels.
UNWRITTEN: War Stories by Mike Carey and Peter Gross is the penultimate volume in the series, and excellent. Tom returns from his visit to the Fables to discover that with Leviathan dying, reality is falling apart as everyone’s stories and fantasies become reality. Tom’s father has a plan for fixing things, but as Lizzie points out it requires everyone acting like they’re characters in his fiction, and that’s not going to happen. I’ll miss this when it finishes, but I’m looking forward to the next book with enthusiasm.