THE BOATS OF THE GLEN CARRIG (cover by Robert LoGrippo, rights to current holder) was William Hope Hodgson’s first novel, which wastes no time plunging us into the action: we open with the Glen Carrig gone and the two lifeboats carrying the crew into uncharted waters where islands thrive with carnivorous plants and monstrous sea-people and other horrors lurk. Some of the practical details of survival get a little too mundane, but overall an effective debut. The intro to this Ballantine Books edition reveals that Hodgson’s work was completely forgotten after his death in WW I until an admirer submitted Glen Carrig to a fantasy magazine’s reprint feature some 30 years later. Good for him.
ALL ABOUT ALL ABOUT EVE: The Complete Behind the Scenes Story of the Bitchiest Film Ever Made by Sam Staggs traces the history of the movie (which you may remember I saw recently) from its genesis (a based-on-truth short story, “The Wisdom of Eve”) to the movie (among the changes were Eve not seducing Celese Holmes’ husband into her arms) and then to the later Broadway musical Applause.. Very exhaustive work, including an interview with the struggling young actress who sparked the original short story, discussions of the possible gay subtext and whether Margo Channing is based in part on actress Tallulah Bankhead (the concluding chapter reveals that Margo was actually heavily modeled on direct Joseph Mankiewicz’ wife) and Bette Davis’ short and disastrous marriage to leading man Gary Merrill. Too fannish about how awesome this film is (Staggs strains to argue it had a significant influence on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for instance) but overall thorough and interesting, including making a case the movie’s sexism is exaggerated (Staggs points out that Davis says nothing about quitting to get married, only that she no longer wants to play 20-year-olds on stage).
There’s an old rule in writing that when you write short, you can’t afford to meander or waste space. Stephen Erikson’s DUST OF DREAMS proves the same is true when you’re writing at close to 400,000 words: low-comic banter or political debate I’d have been okay with in a shorter book now feels like it’s padding the word count. While there’s a fair amount of action in the book, none of it really feels tied to anything—the Malazan army is wandering aimlessly, the Letherii have endless political discussion, uninteresting races have uninteresting battles, and the gods wander around talking ominously (it doesn’t help that the sheer size of the cast and the multiple plot threads make this sprawling anyway). Things pick up at the end, and it’s quite possible the final volume will pack a punch, but this was a real disappointment.
Erik Larsen’s SAVAGE DRAGON: A New Beginning was my first reading of his Savage Dragon series, which is slightly ironic as it has Dragon’s son Malcolm replacing his father in crimefighting. While some of the character bits were good, this relies heavily on spectacular action and that wasn’t so good, feeling mostly like recycled Kirby.