Review: Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campell: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

We have another one of those stories today — is it an illustrated story or graphic lit? Reviewer April Gutierrez has opted for the latter in her review of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains from Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campbell. She cites Campbell’s understated drawings and paintings and their shifting relationship to Gaiman’s dark, understated prose as her rationale.

Read her review to see if you’re convinced.


From the Letters Bag: Saw Doctors

Oops. We just checked on their charting. Though it is true that the song in question didn’t reach number one on the British charts, it did on the Irish charts. I’m assuming the reviewer simply conflated the two two as more than one reviewer did so.

From: Martina Dalton
Subject: The Saw Doctors

Bored at home one night, and being a HUGE fan of the Saw Doctors for the past 11 years, I decided to go on the web, into a search engine and search for “Saw Doctors” to see what I would get back.

One thing I got back was a review on your site about the Saw Doctors’ last album, Songs from Sun Street. OK, I know I’m a bit late in that this Album was released in 1998, but I only read the review about 2 minutes ago.

I know the author claimed to be a fan (obviously an American one. I don’t mean that in a bad way.), but I’d just like to ask him to research his facts before posting them on the Internet. He told us how the Saw Doctors burst onto the scene out of nowhere and spent 9 weeks on top of the UK Charts, with “I Usedta Lover.” The Saw Doctors never spent 9 weeks on top of the UK charts; I don’t think they’ve ever spent 1 week at #1 in the UK.

My second point is that the Saw Doctors are not from Mayo, as stated, but rather they are from Galway. If your reviewer is as big a fan as he claims he should know at least this small fact.

He also slighted Leo’s singing. As any fan really knows, Leo has never claimed to be a strong singer, but he can hold a tune, and even though his voice isn’t as strong as Davy’s it has a great character, and is sure to cheer anyone up on their dullest day.

I didn’t read much more of the article. I lost interest after the first few lines that didn’t appear to be researched too well, and I just skimmed the rest to see what other “facts” we were going to be treated to.

Anyway, I’m sure your site is generally very good, but please, if people don’t REALLY know what they are talking about, it’s better to keep quiet.

Review: The Psycho Sisters: Up On the Chair, Beatrice, with a look back at the Continental Drifters

Earlier today I posted an interview with Vicki Peterson of The Psycho Sisters, her rootsy rock duo with Susan Cowsill. And now I review their debut release Up On The Chair, Beatrice, and take a look back at the music they made in the 1990s and early 2000s with the Continental Drifters. Those releases included Continental Drifters in 1994,  reissued in 2001; Nineteen Ninety-Three, recorded in that year but not released until 2003; Vermilion from 1999; Better Day from 2001; and Listen, Listen, a collection of cover songs originally recorded by Fairport Convention and Richard and Linda Thompson, released in 2003. I reviewed all of them at Green Man Review back in the day, so I’ve collected them from the archives and dusted them off – even found a video or two to go with ‘em. Enjoy.

(Editor’s Note: About that review: it’s right here.)

Interview: Vicki Peterson of The Psycho Sisters

The Psycho Sisters are about to release their debut recording as a duo, although they’ve been singing together since the ’80s. You may know Vicki Peterson from the ’80s pop group The Bangles (“Walk Like An Egyptian,” “Manic Monday” and more hits), and Susan Cowsill’s name should be familiar from the ’60s family band she grew up in, The Cowsills. Both have done a lot more than that, of course, including a stint together in the Continental Drifters. I’ve been listening to their new CD Up On The Chair, Beatrice in order to review it for Sleeping Hedgehog, and had a few questions for the musicians. Vicki Peterson answered them via email, as she and Susan are preparing for the release and perhaps a tour. You’ll find our exchange here.

Review: Nalo Hopkinson: The Salt Roads

It’s all in the presentation, which holds as true for books as it does for nouvelle cuisine. In part, it’s about structure: how a novel (or anything else, for that matter) is put together can make or break it. I’ve seen good, solid stories turn into crashing bores on the silver screen. I’ve also seen that happen in the pages of a book.

Now, this is not to say that an adventurous structure is a bad thing — it can work, and work very well — I’m reminded of several of Steven Erickson’s volumes in The Malazan Book of the Fallen, in which he starts off with short chapters focusing on different groups of characters, and the story gradually coalesces into one narrative. (I will admit, though, that sometimes figuring it out can be a bit rocky.)

So Nalo Hopkinson’s The Salt Roads presented our reviewer with a bit of a conundrum: how much adventure is allowable in structuring a novel? This, mind you, in reference to a novel from a writer who is among the best of what I call the “younger generation” of writers of speculative fiction. (“Speculative fiction” because, by and large, that’s the generation that threw genre boundaries out the window.)

If you want to see how it all worked out, read the review.

Musical Musings: An introduction to Alison Krauss

This is one in a series of posts looking at box sets for performers both known and somewhat more obscure that I think you’d enjoy knowing about.

Alison Krauss is an American bluegrass-country singer-songwriter and fiddler. She established herself at an early age by winning local contests by the age of ten and recording for the first time at fourteen. She signed with Rounder Records in the mid-eighties and released her first solo album in 1987. She was invited to join the band with which she still performs as Alison Krauss and Union Station, and later released her first album with them as a group in 1989.

Now at this point, I’d start talking about the deserved box set this artist has after fourteen albums, work on the Cold Mountain and O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtracks, not to mention her collaboration album with Robert Plant, Raising Sand, but there isn’t one. Why there isn’t one is a mystery, as she certainly deserves one.

So instead I’m going you to offer you Live. As our reviewer says, ‘This is a natural time for Krauss and the boys to put out their first live album. After 15 years of paying her dues (five group albums, three solo releases and a collaboration with the Cox Family), the bluegrass diva neatly wraps it all up in a double-disc package culled from two nights at the Palace Theater in Louisville, Kentucky.’

Now her record company should damn well consider a box set as her career is now thirty years on!

Review: Bill Mauldin: Willie and Joe: the WWII Years

We don’t usually think of political cartoons as “graphic literature,” and usually, they’re not: they’re usually one-shots focused on a particular political or social issue, and while some of them are arresting, profound, and potent, they don’t have the narrative continuity that we require of literature.

Enter Bill Mauldin. Put him with the Army in Europe in World War II. And make sure he has pen and paper. “Narrative continuity”? I think an image on a more-or-less daily basis for five years, focused on the grunts in the front lines, qualifies. I’m not the only one: we now have the complete run of Willie and Joe: The WWII Years in a deluxe two-volume set. If you still don’t think it qualifies, read David Kidney’s review from our Archives.

Live Action: Pure X at the BUNK Bar

Since watching the TV series Grimm, which is set in Portland (that would be the West Coast Portland), I have a much better sense of Portland as a place. I hadn’t realized, for example, that Portland is included in the North American temperate rainforest that runs from southeast Alaska to — well, to Portland. (Full disclosure: I am extraordinarily fond of rainforests, of the lushness and the deep, peaceful quiet — if it weren’t for the rain, I’d live in one.)

So, now that I know that, it comes as no real surprise to read of Pure X’s sound as having an “underwater ambiance.” Now, how a band, mostly composed of musicians from Texas, comes up with an “underwater” anything — well, read Camille Alexa’s comments on their appearance at the BUNK Bar if you want help in figuring that out.

Theatre of The Mind: James Stoddard’s The High House

One of my favorite universes is the one that exists in James Stoddard’s Evenmere novels, of which there are two to date, The High House and The False House, which are reviewed here. As our reviewer says ‘Welcome to the House that God built. Evenmere, the High House, that unending ever-changing building which crosses and contains worlds. It is, and represents, all Creation, an enigma, a parable, a mystery. Within its halls and rooms, passages and basements, attics and terraces, are the undreamt worlds, the lands of dream, places like Ooz and Innman Tor and Arkalen. The House bridges upon our own world, but is far more than a house. It just Is.’

So the Theatre of The Mind this time is a reading by the author of the first chapter of The High House. If you’ve not yet read these novels, go listen to the first chapter of The High House and I’m sure you too will want to visit this fascinating universe!

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (editors): Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Third Annual Collection

It took a while, but “horror” finally made it into the title. (Apparently, St. Martin’s was finally persuaded that including “horror” wasn’t going to turn off potential readers.)

Reading reviews is often a learning experience — did you know that, aside from the well-known and emerging talents among fantasy and horror writers, there are also a number of high profile science-fiction writers included in these anthologies? Well, there are, with some really fantastic and sometimes creepy stories.

But enough of rumination — cut to the chase, I hear you saying. Well, the chase is simply this: go read Cat Eldridge’s review of Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Third Annual Collection. And then you’ll know what you need to know about it — at least, until you read it for yourself, if you haven’t already.