Monday, August 31, 2009

What I've Been Doing Lately

OK, I've been rather quiet this month...

It's been a somewhat odd summer. I meant to do more photography but earlier this year I had some bad foot pain that led me to a podiatrist. Surprise, I needed orthotics, which were covered by my insurance, thank heaven. But it's been a while getting used to 'em and only now am I starting to get back on my feet again, roving the wild streets of DC.

August was also busy with work, and with my other writing gigs. I had a series of reviews to write for Scarlet, and I've also landed my first regular paid writing job, as a wine critic for a local website. So stuff's happening for me, bit by bit.

Today is also my forty-fourth birthday, and it hasn't been too bad. I had a great celebration Friday night, while attending the Tilted Torch show at the Palace of Wonders, which ended with the ladies doing a curtain call, each holding a cupcake with a lit birthday candle...yes, it was in my honor. I was totally bowled over by the gesture, engineered by fire dancer/artist Malibu. (Love you, honey!) Then it was late-night waffles at Bob & Edith's Diner in Arlington, with my pal Todd and other members of the Palace gang, until far into the wee hours of the morning.

Today's been a glorious early autumn day here in DC, temperatures only in the 70s, dry and cool and comfortable. And I also had great news today; I visited my ophthalmologist for a glaucoma check-up and he says that the pressure in my eyes is significantly lower than last time I visited, so I don't need to go back for another six months. This was a great birthday present.

And things are starting to gel for Halloween....

The Silver Spring Zombie Walk is already taking shape for October 24th, with a stroll through downtown Silver Spring, MD, ending in a showing of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Last year's walk was a great time, and I'm looking forward to this year's, although I'll have to wait and see what the weather will be like before I finalize my outfit.

And this year's Belly Horror show is also coalescing, taking place in the venerable Birchmere on Friday, Oct. 23rd. Last year's was quite a show and this year's should be even better.

And I've discovered a couple of podcasts that I enjoy. First is the Cthulhu Podcast, which features readings of Lovecraft works and other related horror stories, including some original stuff and other works from the 20s. Then up is the very new Mystery Man Podcast, which has readings of classic mystery/adventure stories, with background info. Both feature lively readings that really make the stories come alive, with affable hosts who truly enjoy what they're doing.

And that leads me to something that's slowly developing here...we here in the D&C crypt are kicking around the idea of the Dust & Corruption podcast. It's slowly, slowly struggling out of the idea phases, as soon as I get a good microphone and coordinate things with my partner in ghoulishness. Hopefully, before too long, we'll be showing up in iTunes as well as Blogger.

So, that's it for now. Some more stuff coming up, like a few photos and book reviews. And soon the holy of holies, Halloween, will be upon us. Brace yourselves, folks! It's gonna be a wild season!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Required Reading: THE VICTORIA VANISHES, by Christopher Fowler

The sixth of Fowler's Bryant & May series, this was intended to be the last chronicle of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. However, Fowler couldn't let his series schlump off into the sunset, and revived it with the upcoming BRYANT & MAY ON THE LOOSE.

THE VICTORIA VANISHES opens shortly after the last book, WHITE CORRIDOR, with the PCU gathered at a wake for pathologist Oswald Finch. Renfield, an unpopular policeman, is being assigned to the PCU, much to the resentment of the long-time detectives there. But Bryant, after a few, is lurching off into the streets when he sees a woman walking into a pub, the Victoria Cross. Fascinated by old pubs, it sticks in his mind, and resurfaces when the woman is found dead in that neighborhood. Bryant goes to investigate the Victoria Cross....only to find a grocery store, and research shows that the pub has been closed for decades. But now this turns up a bizarre serial-killer plot, with a murderer offing lonely mature women in crowded pubs. But there could be more to it than anyone realizes...

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes machinations by the PCU's political enemies in the police force may have finally come across a way of shutting down the unit once and for all. And the secrets that Bryant and May have been keeping from each other are finally coming to light.

THE VICTORIA VANISHES is a roaring good read, full of the atmosphere of a crumbling, vanishing London, where historic sites are being torn down in favor of modern developments. There's a nostalgia here, to be sure, but also a very human desire for stability in an ever-changing urban landscape.

The one debit is a somewhat hurried ending, when all is made clear in a sudden tumult, but that doesn't detract from the overall fun of the book. It ends on a note of semi-finality, fine with ending where it was but open to further exploration. And now we know there's more coming down the pike, and I can't wait.

THE VICTORIA VANISHES is great fun and will have you wanting to snoop the crumbling corner pubs in your own city. Go hoist a drink for me, why don't you?