Book Review: Stories from the Twilight Zone by Rod Serling

As we close in on the annual New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy channel, I decided to delve into two collections of stories that I was fortunate enough to find in August while helping to sort donated books for my local library’s annuStories from the Twilight Zone by Rod Serlingal book sale. I hope to track down more of these collections as I comb used book stores and dealer tables at conventions.

Last week, I reviewed the 1964 collection, Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Revisited, which contains a brilliant collection of nine short stories, adapted by venerable writer and magician Walter B. Gibson, from both produced and unproduced scripts.

Stories from the Twilight Zone was published in 1960 and is, I believe, the first collection of adaptations from the series. All six of the tales in this book aired as episodes of the series and all were written by Rod Serling himself.

In “The Mighty Casey,” it’s tryout day for the foundering Brooklyn Dodgers and team manager “Mouth” McGarry is sick and tired of scraping the bottom of the barrel to find pitchers, until a tall, lean kid named Casey turns up with an unbelievable throwing arm—or perhaps inhuman might be a better description…

Hypochondriac and all around miserable wretch Walter Bedecker lives in a constant state of psychosomatic illnesses, until a mysterious old man named Cadwallader materializes with an offer of immortality. It’s soon revealed that Cadwallader is actually the devil. Nevertheless, this fact barely deters Bedecker from signing the contract, which contains an “Escape Clause” should he ever decide to cancel the deal…

Advertising exec Martin Sloane is sick of the pressures and demands of corporate life in New York City. One day he decides to drive upstate and revisit his old hometown. After stopping at a gas station along the way, Martin notices that the town is within “Walking Distance.” He decides to let the gas station attendant work on his car while he finishes the rest of his journey on foot, but what he finds on the streets of his childhood is much more than nostalgia…

As a religious man of high moral standards and a precisely arranged life, Franklin Gibbs becomes quite annoyed when his timid wife wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Las Vegas, the capital city of vice and sin. Franklin chastises his wife for dropping a nickel into a slot machine, until Franklin hears the slot machine call his name. It isn’t long before he succumbs to “The Fever.”

A young man, unable to recall his own identity, finds himself walking along a highway in parts unknown. He finally arrives in a town only to find it completely deserted, yet with signs of recent occupancy—a smoking cigar in an ashtrays and a pot of fresh boiling coffee in a diner. After days of this, the young man finds himself on the edge of sanity as he wonders, “Where is Everybody?

The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” when a strange object passes over a suburban neighborhood on a warm autumn Saturday. Shortly after, all utilities shut off, cars fail to start, even portable radios no longer work. As confusion sets in, 12-year old Tommy Bishop warns that it could be the work of extraterrestrials disguised as humans, just like in the comic books! The adults laugh him off at first—before violently turning on one another as strange occurrences escalate.

Hello SF Novel, My Old Friend…

Hello, SF novel, my old friend. It’s great to work with you again. I put you aside in April after writing the first four chapters so I could release a new speculative fiction anthology and write new six short stories, one of which took second place in a writing contest and was published in November. The rest will hopefully see print next year and in 2018.
With fresh eyes today, I reviewed those four chapters and remain as thrilled with them now as I was eight months ago. After some trimming and fine tuning, I’m even happier. Next step is to review the outline to refresh my memory on the story’s plot and direction. I have five days remaining in my holiday vacation, with at least two of those days carved out for writing.
I hope to finish the first draft of this novel in 2017. It’s one of my many personal goals for the year, even though I’ll be editing and project managing the third anthology in the Middle of Eternity series beginning in Q1. Oy!
 
For now, here’s an inspirational image that relates to the story. More news to come!

Reviewing Your Favorite Books, Even When You’re “Not Very Good At Writing”

While many of my readers take the time to leave reviews for my books, others often compliment me in person, via Facebook, or email, but when I ask these particular readers to leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon, they express reluctance, stating that they’re “not very good at writing” or they assure me that they will leave a review and never follow through. 
 ‌
Remember, you do not need to purchase a book from Amazon to leave a review for the book there.  Also, for those unfamiliar with Goodreads, it is a social media site for book lovers where you can rate and review books, create an online library of books you currently own and would like to read, and join groups of like-minded readers to discuss your favorite books. Best of all, it’s free to join!
 
The screen capture below shows two Amazon reviews for Beach Nights, a collection of short stories from Cat and Mouse Press that contains my paranormal tale, “Tower Sixteen”.  The book was published in October 2016. 
 ‌
Note the second review from Early LBI. It’s one brief sentence: “Great group of short stories.” Five words. That’s the perfect example of a brief review you can leave for any book that you enjoyed even if you’re “not very good at writing.”
 ‌
Ratings and reviews help authors immensely. As our volume of reviews and ratings increases, new promotional and writing opportunities open for us, new readers notice our work, and most importantly, reader feedback encourages writers by letting us know that our work is reaching and touching people. 
 ‌
Thank you so much for your support! We deeply appreciate it. 

Book Review: The Plague by Albert Camus

It’s the 1940s in Oran, a coastal city in the Northern African country of Algeria, when, on a spring day as random as any other, rats begin crawling out of the shadows only to die violent deaths in the streets, hotels, and other public venues.

It isn’t long before the town’s physicians, including Dr. Bernard Rieux, whose ailing wife had just departed Oran to be cared for in a sanitorium, declare that bubonic plague is upon the town during a meeting with the Prefect.

Unfortunately, it takes the rest of the population a bit longer to acknowledge the outbreak, since the plague’s attack begins slowly. Bubonic plague is the last thing anyone expects. It is not until the Prefect orders the town gates closed and all vehicular transportation terminated than panic truly sets in.

While Rieux works tirelessly to treat the victims, ultimately unable to do more than keep a tally of the ever-increasing death rate, each of his colleagues and friends reacts to the crisis differently.

Dr. Castel begins formulating an inoculation against the plague once it’s realized that the medicines sent in from Paris have no effect.

An elderly town clerk, Joseph Grand struggles with his novel-in-progress, fretting over the opening sentence for months all the while struggling with the fact that his wife, Jeanne, left him as she could no longer tolerate living in poverty. Finally, Grand volunteers to assist with plague prevention.

The mysterious Cottard, a man of “independent means”, attempts to commit suicide at the onset of the plague, but is stopped by his neighbor, Grand. Cottard has a deep distrust of the police, but comes to find that while they are distracted by the plague, his seedy activities can continue unchecked.

Young journalist Raymond Rambert is only visiting Oran for a story when the town is quarantined and will go to any lengths to escape and return to his wife. When all legal means are exhausted, he turns to Cottard in desperation.

Father Paneloux, pastor of the town’s Catholic church, believes that the plague is God’s punishment and delivers a sermon to that effect, but eventually has a change of heart, stating that God will also offer succor and mercy. He then volunteers to assist Rieux with caring for the sick and is witness to the violent death of Magistrate Othon’s son.

Jean Tarrou, who quickly becomes Rieux’s closest friend, arrived in Oran just weeks before the plague erupted and decides to form teams of sanitation workers on a volunteer basis to fight the plague. Eventually, he reveals his life story to Rieux as a way of explaining why he is fiercely determined to help people when lives are at stake.

Other characters come in and out of the narrative, but the question is whether the efforts of this core team can bring an end to a plague that ravages Oran over the course of nearly a full year. The general atmosphere and attitude of the town is brilliantly depicted as the plague escalates through the seasons.

The Plague was Camus’s first book published after WWII. Contemporary readers unfamiliar with Camus—or with works written in this era—will most certainly cringe at pages of dense background information that would, in today’s terminology, be considered “infodumps.” There are also the occasional archaic sentence structures and words (a few even sent me to the dictionary) and outdated expressions of the time.

However, as I tend to gravitate toward classics, this style of prose is no stranger to me and is to be expected. It does nothing to diminish the enjoyment of such stories, but instead offers a glimpse into the history and evolution of literature.

 

 

Actor, Writer, Princess, General – Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

Star Wars caught me at the tender age of six back in 1977 and has never let go. I remain a fan and collector to this day. I had the pleasure of meeting Carrie Fisher, for the first and only time, at a comic con in New York City about 10 years ago. While waiting in her autograph line, a lady ahead of me began a conversation with Ms. Fisher about a recent article that she had written for a travel website (or newspaper, I can’t recall) about her trip to Acapulco.

The conversation went something like this:

“So what did you think of it [the article]?” Ms. Fisher asked.

The woman shrugged. “Well, it wasn’t exactly great literature.”

Ms. Fisher, without looking up from the item she was signing for a fan, responded, “So you’re saying it was shit!”

Of course, everyone in the room broke out into laughter. Such was the acerbic, sometimes trenchant, humor of Carrie Fisher. I, for one, simply thanked her for coming and told her that it was an honor to meet her. She thanked me in return and signed my vintage 12″ boxed Princess Leia figure from Kenner (see below).

As Leia Organa, Ms. Fisher was a hero to me alongside Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. It was Star Wars that led to me watching reruns of Star Trek when I was a kid and I became hooked on science fiction and space opera, which then inspired me to become a writer and storyteller in my own right.

2016 has been a tumultuous and tragic year, taking from us many talented artists. For me, however, the loss of Carrie Fisher cuts deeper as did the passings, within the last 20 years, of such icons as Gene Roddenberry, DeForest Kelley, Christopher Reeve, and Leonard Nimoy, just to name a few.

I cannot help but to think my own mortality as we watch the performers of my childhood exit the world stage for the final time. I only hope that I can leave behind such enduring legacies. Carrie Fisher was a marvelous, witty writer and an advocate for those suffering from mental illness. May the Force of her personality and strength be with us always.

Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back

 

Carrie Fisher as General Leia in The Force Awakens

 

Carrie Fisher Autograph
Vintage Kenner Leia and Luke figures from 1978
Star Wars Cast Members
Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew