Reviews are in! 5 Stars

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Says it all, really.

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Occult Crime: The Dain Curse

In Satan’s Sorority, I wanted to explore the idea of crime that uses occult connections even if there’s nothing supernatural happening (it’s open to interpretation, of course — the characters certainly believe something diabolical occurs). Admittedly my forthcoming story Elf Prefix, which again mixes up crime and the occult, is a little more beyond acceptable reality, but I’m interested in the ways the occult has been used to cover up or shield crime.

You don’t think of Dashiell Hammett as a ‘fantasy’ writer, though he did pen a short supernatural tale of a magician and his assistant (‘Magic’). But he was aware of how the occult could be used to con people — he was always interested in how people manipulated one another. After all, many cults are just a way to swindle folks — another big con.

The Dain Curse has a fascinating occult motif in the middle of it. California has long been the hotbed of strange cults so it’s not surprising the Continental Op would run up against one. The Temple of the Holy Grail supposedly resurrects a sort of druidic practice of Arthur’s Britain. While guarding Gabrielle Leggett, inheritor of the curse, the Op discovers her blood-soaked with a dagger in her hands, confessing to murder.

Entering the temple itself through a ‘small iron door’ he sees ‘dim stars in a night sky’ as they walk over ‘a floor of white marble, or pentagonal tiles that imitated white marble…The light glittered and glistened on a wide altar of brilliant white, crystal and silver.’ The victim lay upon the steps pooling blood.

Later as the Op tries to protect Leggett in her room, he’s aware of the persistent smell of dead flowers intensifying. Then he sees something weird:

Not more than three feet away, there in the black room, a pale bright thing like a body, but not like flesh, stood writhing before me. It was tall, yet not so tall as it seemed, because it didn’t stand on the floor, but hovered with its feet a foot or more above the floor. Its feet—it had feet, but I don’t know what their shape was. They had no shape, just as the thing’s legs and torso, arms, and hands, head and face, had no shape, no fixed form. They writhed, swelling and contracting, stretching and shrinking, not greatly, but without pause.

The Op figures things out eventually–and as you might suspect, the cause of the seemingly supernatural vision has a lot to do with the strange smell and suggestibility, but it’s worthwhile thinking about how even the hard-nosed Op can be thrown off kilter by what appears to be inexplicable. You might breathe a sign of relief when the Scooby-Do ending gets revealed, but for a time even the hard-boiled reader might be willing to suspend disbelief for a time.

See all the overlooked books at Patti Abbott’s blog.

 

Song for a Saturday: Suspiria

There are witches and then there are witches; the trope of making them acolytes of the devil persists, though my gals in Satan’s Sorority would never want to be confused with witches. Devil or no, one of the finest films in that vein is Dario Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria which features an equally legendary soundtrack by Goblin. If you’ve never indulged, I suggest you grab your black cat and sit down for a spell.

That’s what’s in my mind as I eagerly anticipate the Occult Humanities conference next weekend.

TOA/V: Burn, Witch, Burn!

BURN, WITCH, BURN (AKA Night of the Eagle) 1961
Directed by Sidney Hayers
Screenplay by Charles Beaumont/Richard Matheson/George Baxt
Based on Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber
Starring Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnston, Anthony Nicholls, Colin Gordon

This is a fairly good adaptation of Leiber’s Conjure Wife (a brilliant little novel if you’ve not read it), dramatically retitled for American release complete with exclamation point. Snooty psychology professor studies superstitious beliefs with condescending rationality — until he discovers that his wife Tansy has been working magic to build his career. Well, if there’s one thing a guy like him hates more than magic, it’s the idea that his wife might be responsible for his success.

So he makes her burn all her workings and talismans and what do you know? Things start going badly for them both. Seems there’s a rival whose wife also uses magic…

This is a fun film that didn’t get near enough attention on its release (or since really). I love the mixture of academia and magic — obviously one of the things in the cauldron of my mind that helped conjure Satan’s Sorority.

See all the overlooked gems at Todd’s blog.

Cover Reveal: Satan’s Sorority

Behold the luminosity! Out October 13th from Number Thirteen Press, it’s Satan’s Sorority. Those devilish girls of Sigma Tau Nu — there’s simply nothing they won’t do!

“Forbidden books? Necromantic rites? Queer Sorority girls? I’m pledging Sigma Tau Nu!” — Carol Borden, Evil Overlord of The Cultural Gutter

“Seemingly sweet sorority sisters serve up sexy satanic surprises.” — S. L. Johnson

“I want to join Satan’s Sorority.” – Julie Beman, Professional Pollyanna & member of Chica Non Grata

Number 13

ToC: You Left Your Biscuit Behind

From Fox Spirit Books:

You Left Your Biscuit Behind is our crime & crime mashup anthology due out in 2016.

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The running order is subject to change but currently looks like this:

Elf Prefix by Graham Wynd
Between Love and Hat by Jay Eales
Black Glass by James Bennett
No Mercy by Kate Hollamby
That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles by Penny Jones
Feeding the Fish by Carol Borden
Mermaids in Cape Town by Mame Diene
Patron by E.J. Davies
The Price of a Biscuit by Kate Coe
The Princess, The Pekingese and the Ivory Box by R.A. Kennedy

Cover art will be by Michaela Margett

Yes, another Fall-inspired title there from me, with pulpy occult tendencies (pace Todd) to get you ready for the glory that will be the forthcoming Satan’s Sorority.