Saturday, January 9, 2021

The World According to Dutch

The World According To DutchThe World According To Dutch by Dutch Mantell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The World According to Dutch is a collection of mostly true stories by wrestler Dirty Dutch Mantell.

This has been on my radar for years despite my being able to count the number of Dutch Mantell matches I've seen on one hand. My wife grabbed this for me for the anniversary of our first date.

Dutch Mantell has a reputation for being a great storyteller and this book proves it. Dutch muses on his life in the wrestling business, wrestling a bear, working and booking in Puerto Rico, and mentoring future superstars like Steve Austin and The Undertaker. The book also covers some 3000 mile weeks working for Bill Watts, having the shit kicked out of him by Akira Maeda in UWFI, and various other wrestling misadventures.

Dutch's writing feels like sitting on the porch, listening to a disreputable uncle's stories over the cheapest beer imaginable. The 270 pages went by in a blur. Fortunately, there's a second volume to look forward to.

The World According to Dutch is a fun wrestling book from one of wrestling's last great storytellers. Four out of five bullwhips.

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

North American Lake Monsters

North American Lake MonstersNorth American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

North American Lake Monsters is a collection of nine short stories by Nathan Ballingrud.

I'm not a short story fan and whatever made me throw this on my wishlist is lost in the Swiss cheese that is the mind of a father of a toddler. My wife bought me this for Christmas and I have now read it.

These stories are heavy on atmosphere and there are feelings of desperation and loss in all of them. I wouldn't exactly call them horror stories, more like human stories that are horror adjacent. A man deals with the aftermath of werewolf attack and the destruction of his business, a man fresh out of jail deals with his home life while there's a dead lake monster not far away. A man blames himself for his son's kidnapping even as he's gazing upon the corpse of an angel. I could go on.

The writing reminds me of Laird Barron's with some very poetic descriptions amidst the horror. I imagine they have some of the same influences. "... her hangover as heavy as a mantle of chains" was my favorite simile but there were countless others.

I'm not normally a fan of short story collections but I enjoyed the hell out of North American Lake Monsters. Four out of five angel carcasses.

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Saturday, January 2, 2021

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Sideshow and Other Carnival Curiosities

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Sideshow and Other Carnival CuriositiesRipley's Believe It or Not! Sideshow and Other Carnival Curiosities by Ripley's Believe It or Not!
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was a fan of the Ripley's Believe it or Not series starring Jack Palance in the 1980s so this looked interesting. My in-laws bought it for me for Christmas.

This is a coffee table book about sideshow performers from the 19th century through today. It's loaded with photos and reproductions of old sideshow posters. Each performer is given a page or three of text and a couple photos.

Some of the entries, like Robert Wadlow, Jo-Jo the Dogfaced Boy, and Joseph Merrick, are fairly well known. However, there were a host of thin men, conjoined twins, and sword swallowers I'd never heard of. It's an entertaining book but it's also a little sad that some of the people's only livelihood was in exploiting their conditions.

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Sideshow and Other Carnival Curiosities is an interesting look at sideshow performers from the last 200 years. 3 out of 5 conjoined twins.

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The Old One and The Sea

The Old One and The Sea (Hardback)The Old One and The Sea by Lex H. Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When an earthquake thrusts a strange black reef to the surface off the coast of Innsmouth, young Howard Phillips goes to investigate...

My wife and I have been accumulating odd children's books since before our son was conceived and I'm always on the lookout for new takes on the Cthulhu mythos so this was right in my wheelhouse.

The Old One and The Sea recasts Cthulhu as a misunderstood monster. The setup reminds me of Iron Giant or something of that nature. Boy befriends monster and the adults want it dead.

I like what Lex Jones does with HP Lovecraft and Cthulhu here. Cthulhu's like a big dumb dog with godlike powers, befriending little Howard. Howard, a little boy without a father, quickly grows attached, just in time for the adults to come fuck things up.

The artwork is cute but not nauseatingly so. There's still a hint of creepiness lurking around the edges. My favorite piece of art is after Cthulhu alters Howard so that they can venture beneath the waves together.

The Old One and The Sea is a charming new take on the Cthulhu mythos. I'll read it to my son when he's older and the stars are right. Four out of five Cyclopean monsters.

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