The Writer’s Brothel

Is writing today a form of expression exploitation?

How has online writing and ebooks affected tradional print media?

How can the independent writer survive in a vast commercist market?

 

These questions, and more , are answered in …

Expose of The Garden Gnome Liberation Front (GGLF)

Evil Gnome

 

 

Garden gnomes – A simple, cheeky figure with a large white beard and a red dunce cap. It’s as common a garden decoration as a bonsai tree or the grave of a cherished pet. So why was there a lynching of eleven garden gnomes by a French cult that would make Jim Jones cringe? Surely this was just the hyperactive agenda of a few rights activists or have we stumbled upon a major conspiracy?

 

The year is 1997 and the army of the Garden Gnome Liberation Front has captured the attention of the world media. This organisation believes that humans keeping gnomes against their will without pay is akin to slavery.  The GGLF’s radical ideology resulted in them committing the foulest of all crimes – kidnapping of 150 garden gnomes. Oh, the humanity!  Their most public demonstration was the aforementioned gnome hangings in the French city of Briey. A nearby note explained the reasons for this act of moral depravity – “When you read these few words we will no longer be part of your selfish world, where we serve merely as pretty decorations.”

 

You may be thinking – “1997? That’s old news.” Well, we here are always concerned about the delicate state of human/gnome relations and how a revolution could be upon us. The GGLF is long considered to have gone underground. Subversives involved in the Briey gnome massacre remain unaccounted for. We can’t rule out that there are not still active members of GGLF cells operating independently. They are out of the public eye and the garden gnome is now surfing a tidal wave of popularity. There is an estimated 25 million garden gnomes in Germany. That’s 25 million potentially indoctrinated gnomes in one country.

 

To help quell this possible insurgency, it is important to consider the gnome’s point of view. They are borne only for garden tending, some of them forced into striking obscene poses.  We can only surmise their thoughts as no gnomes were willing to give us an exclusive. But remember, loyal readers, next time you see a gnome in a garden centre, make sure you give it the care and attention as you would any family member. It may just save your life.

The Final Summons

 

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He doesn’t know what hit him, doesn’t even feel my presence. No time to think or grovel.

I pull the trigger. The hammer drives the firing pin forward, striking the primer of the bullet cartridge. The gunpowder ignites. The shell casing is ejected, and the bullet travels down the barrel at a phenomenal speed. The spring recoils the slide, jerking my hand slightly. Cotton buds in my ears mask the explosion out of the muzzle. The bullet tears through the air, leaving a vacuum. A gentle stream of smoke fills the void. I’m prepared, nothing can prepare the receiver. The bullet penetrates the victim’s temple, leaving a wake of destruction. The head of the bullet is the most resistant, collecting energy through its journey. This is why the exit wound is messier. A plethora of tissue and brain matter becomes exposed on the rear wall. He’s dead before he hits the ground. Nerve impulses from the trauma lead to erratic finger twitches and leg spasms.  As the blood begins to coagulate, I remain calm. Making sure the safety catch is on, I remove the casing and find the bullet merged with a skirting board. Even after filing the serial number, the filth can trace residue to prove that the gun was fired and match it to the slug found. Cracking through the splintered wood and plaster, I extract the bullet, which has half disintegrated upon impact. Using a microfiber cloth, I wipe prints from the door, gun trigger and butt. I’m a ghost before anyone realises what has transpired. All in a day’s work.

“The Ice Man” Book Review

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There isn’t a high enough pedestal for Richard Kuklinski to put himself on. This book is a true story about the life of the sociopathic hitman and I use the term “true” very loosely.

Kuklinski was a Polish contract killer who operated out of New Jersey and is reputed to have killed over 100 people from the 1960’s to his arrest in 1986 following an undercover case. He was convicted of 5 murders and spent the rest of his life in prison, dying in 2006 whilst intending to testify against Sammy Gravano, John Gotti’s underboss. In this book, Kuklinski claims to have participated in some of the most high profile Mafia killings of the second half of the 21st century, including Jimmy Hoffa, Carmine Galante, Paul Castellano and Roy DeMeo, who he claimed to have worked for in several hits and introduced Kuklinski to several high up Syndicate members. He performed all his killings with chilling indifference, varying his methods from guns, to knives, to poison in order to avoid detection. His way of freezing victims to prevent time of death being determined earned him the nickname, The Iceman.

The book itself is a compelling reading. Philip Carlo had many meetings with Kuklinski inside prison and we really do get a vivid picture of his life – his troubled childhood to an abusive father, his disturbed brother, his broken marriage, his love for his family and his alternate persona as a cordial neighbour. This biography, more than a lot, gets inside Kuklinski’s head, to the point where the reader actually feels like they know him. Regardless of the validity of some of his claims, which I will get to shortly, Kuklinski is a fascinating character, so full of rage and hatred to the point where he is a human pressure cooker, a callous man uncaring to the suffering of the others. A violent man, the abused becomes an abuser. I do recommend watching some of the interviews on HBO just to even look at him. There’s nothing more scary than what is real. Despite his tough upbringing, he is pure evil. All this is true and incredibly intriguing. The rest of Kuklinski’s claims leave a lot to be desired.

First of all, the hits which I spoke about in the first paragraph are completely false. Without any shred of a doubt. Kuklinski has as much to do with these as he does with the Kennedy assassination (which surprisingly, he doesn’t take credit for). Hoffa was far too cautious a man at that point in his life as he strived to take control of the Teamsters. Regardless of any other heresay about the hit, Hoffa simply wouldn’t have gotten into the car with someone like Kuklinski. Castellano was far too important a target to delegate to someone else. The main point here is that the Mafia is a secret organisation full of experienced killers. Why would they hire a Polish hitman, who doesn’t follow the code of omerta and can’t be trusted, to murder one of their leaders? Not to mention the fact that a 6ft4, 250 pound behemoth isn’t the most inconspicuous man in the world. This brings me to another point where the book can’t go 5 pages without Kuklinski murdering someone. I’ve never been to America but it seems everyone there is really eager to antagonise a man of Kuklinski’s stature. It makes Kuklinski out to be almost supernatural, a creature out of fantasy as opposed to real life which has forensics, witnesses and common sense, none of which seem to exist when someone cuts Kuklinski off in traffic and berates him for no reason.

It’s qute baffling that Carlo, a man who has been around this world, takes everything Kuklinski says without hard evidence or general skepticism. It puts all the other assertions into disrepute. Kuklinski himself is made to be the lesser the several evils, killing an associate intending on poisioning a town’s water supply and rescuing trafficked children from a house. It all comes across as highly fantastical. The book goes out of it’s way to create a myth out of Kuklinski. Whilst he is a killer and cold blooded, most of his confirmed hits are people he knew from money laundering and pornography dealing. More than likely, he did some very low level work as a contract killer and may have killed a few unlucky people in the wrong place at the wrong time, but not much more than that. Certainly not any Mafia killings.

Whilst it’s validity is seriously compromised with no index or quotations, it’s still a gripping read. It’s entertaining the whole way through and it’s interesting to meet all these characters, from the mobsters, lowlifes and the police attempting to ensnare Kuklinski, which is actually the best part of the book. All the dialogue and descriptions of locations give it the quality of a novel. It’s quite repetitive though, you’ll be reading key phrases and thoughts repeatedly throughout.

The main question is should it be read and I think it should. The best thing to compare it to is Boardwalk Empire, a fictitious version of a real person interacting with historical crime figures. It is well written and features an undeniably engaging figure but it just simply isn’t believable. If you’re able to distance yourself from the facts, it is enjoyable. The film version starring Michael Shannon is also pretty good and excludes some of the more incredible statements. Take the two together for a frightening experience.

“Year of The Dragon” Review

Year of The Dragon

Michael Cimino is a whisper on the lips of the film industry. The infamous Heaven’s Gate besmirched his success with The Deer Hunter, bankrupted his studio and all but lead to him being blacklisted from high profile movies. Year of The Dragon was his last real chance at a comeback. Mixed reviews and an unsatisfactory box office return spelt the end of Cimino, a talented albeit obsessively autocratic director. Year of The Dragon is a mostly forgotten movie but does it hold up in any respects? Yes and no.

Mickey Rourke plays Stanley White, a Vietnam veteran and racist cop determined to bring an end to the new Triad leadership under Joey Tai (John Lone), an ambitious but brutal young gangster. A vicious struggle ensues between the two men which threatens both their professional and personal lives, culminating to the point where all they have is each other, and nothing left to lose.

The acting is both the film’s strongest and weakest points. Mickey Rourke is at the peak of his acting talent. White as a character is not particularly likeable but is still sympathetic despite risking everything through his rashness. However his character is supposed to be much older than Rourke and seeing him with his middle aged wife and dyed hair is off putting and awkward. John Lone is particularly good as Tai, a charismatic Triad who must circumvent his way to the top of the pecking order. He’s not above bring a rival’s head to a meeting to prove his power. The two actors perfectly compliment each other – completely different aside from their uncompromising personalities. Neither are going to settle for second best. White’s love interest, a reporter played by Ariane is, to be blunt, simply bad. She is wooden and unconvincing and many of her scenes are overly dramatic which brings down the grittiness of the main conflict.

That’s another issue which punctuates the either film, it’s a film of two halves. The main theme music is fitting and daunting, the dramatic music is sappy. Well plotted, well placed scenes are sullied by over indulence of politics as regards stereotypes. The screenplay, written by Oliver Stone, keeps the action moving and involved, but is let down by a lack of sharpness seen in Stone’s treatment of Scarface. Characters are also introduced and then forgotten about for a long time; a corrupt cop doesn’t have any payoff since on first viewing, I didn’t even know he was part of the plot. Michael Cimino, a perfectionist, should have used a few more takes in certain scenes, including an obvious dummy for a body being dragged. When he has scope though, he shines. His moving camera work, such as when Tai interrogates two hitmen, gives the film a briskness and grittiness, perfectly highlighting the world of the Chinese Mafia. The sweeping vistas of Thailand is a striking scene and punctuates that Cimino can create art when he has scope. The climax is genuine breathtaking with the wide shots and lighting creating a tense showdown which is really unforgettable.

Ultimately this is movie which doesn’t get its due credit. It’s not perfect by any stretch but I prefer to it’s more popular peers such as To Live and Die in LA or Black Rain. Unfortunately, the film did little to help Cimino’s career. It was made on schedule and budget so Cimino could clearly work well when given restraint. It’s a pity he never made a film as successful as The Deer Hunter. 

“An American Werewolf in London” Review

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An American Werewolf in London is a horror/comedy by John Landis about a young American backpacker who finds himself transforming into a werewolf after being bitten in the Northern Moors.

David Naughton plays David and Griffin Dunne plays Jack, two friends who venture into an antagonistic and superstitious village where they are told to stay off the moors. The two get lost after leaving and are stalked by a mysterious creature which kills Jack and attacks David. The creature is fatally shot by the villagers and an unconscious David is brought to London where strange occurances begin to happen. David has strange nightmares and sees the ghost of Jack who warns him of his impending faith as a monster on the next full moon.

Whilst all this sounds serious and standard monster movie fare, the film differenciates itself through sharp writing and humour. The horrifying elements are perfectly balanced out with some genuinely funny moments, such as when David tries to get himself locked up by calling Price Charles a “faggot”. The use of music is particularly well done, a sardonic charm is given to some emotional scenes and the ending itself, which I won’t spoil, is abrupt but it’s the right kind of abrupt to toy with the emotions of the viewers. The dreams within dreams, influenced by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise, also are inspired and creative, giving the first half a more surreal quality. The second half is all too real as David transforms into a werewolf and causes havoc on the streets of London. The special effects are of particular note. The metamorphosis is without a doubt the best in any werewolf film. The prosthetics and animatronics create an organic feel where you can really feel the pain and trauma of such a physical change. If your body was to actually become a wolf, these contortions and mutations is what you should expect it to be. The final design is also memorable, but Landis does a good job of holding the audience in suspense through point of view shots and close ups to keep the creature enigmatic. Jack’s makeup is also distinctive as a decaying hallucination, whose appearances become more rotting. Rick Baker definitely deserved an Oscar for his work.

Make Up is no good however if the story can’t back it up. The acting can come across a bit stilted at times but it mostly works through likeable characters, especially the ghosts of David’s victims who are cheery and helpful. One of the strongest points is that it shows revereance and respect for the source material. Similar to an equally good Fright Night, it does something different and tries to be unique but doesn’t try to change the lore and mythology of its core appeal. It’s a modern retelling with a lot of charm.  It is ultimately an enjoyable experience and gave a new found respect to the monster made popular by Lon Chaney Jr’s The Wolf Man. Credit to John Landis and Rick Baker who turned a conventional formula into an exceptional one.

The Sleeper

 

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He could have been anyone. 6 foot, pockmark cheeks, thick glasses, greying hair emerging from underneath a homburg. Skin was coarse, lips faintly cracked. Tie perfectly knotted. He would occasionally straighten it even though it was never loose. Right eye is droopy, but easy to miss. This created a minute discolouring, which contrasted with the darkness of his left eye.

He lives in this small house in a cordial estate. Nobody would come to visit him. The serenity, being unperturbed by the troubles of the world might be appealing to him. He likes taking care of his front garden; the smell of freshly cut grass would constantly permeate the air. He wouldn’t trim it if anyone else was around though. Never says more than he has to. Simple requests – in, out, thank you, goodbye. He would never gaze at anyone he’d pass on the street, nor would they wish him a good morning.

Inside his house, there would’ve been a different aura. He’d have photographs of a young girl, hung with pristine delicacy. Every picture different, yet similar. The grain on them would be slightly besmirched, but free of dust and dirt.  The bad memories would be preserved, not by choice. It would follow him everywhere. He couldn’t forget the past any more than he could escape the future it caused. Towns change, everything stays the same. Rather than hiding from it anymore, he indulges it. He lies in bed, dreaming of the girl in the photographs. The ultimate taboo.