‘The Hunt’ cancelled

Universal cancels ‘The Hunt’ release after mass shootings in Ohio and Texas

I wrote about this movie in a previous post. 

This unreleased film is about wealthy coastal elites hunting red-state whites… for sport.

The movie was from the same company, Blumhouse Productions, that gave us The First PurgeThe First Purge was about whites hunting minorities once every year.

The earlier film from Blumhouse was a decidedly leftwing dystopian fantasy, whereas this one plays into rightwing fears. I therefore don’t want to read too much of a political motive into the scenario of The Hunt–which casts working-class whites as victims. Blumhouse Productions seems dedicated  to creating edgy films that stride both sides of the political divide.

I don’t have a problem with the subject matter, per se. Mass, socially coordinated homicide is an old subject in literature, especially of the speculative kind. Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and Logan’s Run (the movie as well as the novel) present scenarios in which murder is carried out on an organized, legally sanctioned scale.

The company of other humans can be a source of refuge; but it can also be a source of brutality and violence.  This contradiction is part of our history, and, arguably, our DNA. We need not wonder, then, that it is a recurring theme in film and fiction.

That said, we live in an age in which audiences across the political spectrum are extremely sensitive and touchy.

Now that The Hunt has been canceled, the second-guessing has already started on the Internet, from both the left- and the right-leaning commentariat.

Whether or not the release of a controversial piece is worth the grief it might entail is a decision that every writer, publishing house, and movie studio has to make on a case-by-case basis. It is always their call–not your call–or mine, either. 

I would like to claim that I have never held anything back for fear of “the Twitter mob”.  For the most part, I don’t. There are, however, blog posts that I refrain from linking to on social media, simply because, I know how social media is. I figure that these essays will be found by people who come here regularly, people who like me, and who appreciate what I do.

Anyway, The Hunt is on the skids, at least for now.

GLOW: trashing the 1980s?

‘GLOW’ shines a less flattering light on life during the 1980s

Brian Lowry of CNN is delighted that a Netflix series, GLOW, examines the dark side of the decade of Ronald Reagan and hair bands:

The series, about a female wrestling program, has already dealt with sexual harassment, blatantly objectifying women and dismissing them in workplace settings. The new season proceeds along those paths while also tackling homophobia, the AIDS crisis, bulimia, fear of coming out as LGBT and the packaging of xenophobia and racism as entertainment.

CNN

I try to maintain some objectivity here. I am admittedly nostalgic for the 1980s; but the 1980s are also a decade that I remember fondly, for personal reasons that have little to do with broader societal trends. I was a teenager throughout most of that decade, and I lived in the self-absorbed bubble that all teenagers inhabit. 

I’m sure that if you were LGBT in 1985, you did feel a lot more constrained than you would in 2019. There were plenty of openly gay people in Hollywood by then; but yes, being gay was somewhat controversial in environments like suburban Ohio (where I grew up).

There was a fairly obvious, fairly openly gay member of my high school class. He was never physically attacked or outright bullied (so far as I know); but he was very much made to feel like an outsider. He was occasionally teased about his orientation. He has not returned to a single class reunion since we graduated in 1986….One need not wonder why.

On a more immediately personal note: I remember my mom coming home from work, circa 1983, irate and in tears, because her boss had said, “women belong in the kitchen or the bedroom”.  

Her boss had said this jokingly, matter-of-factly, but it nevertheless stung. I often wonder if her life (she passed away in 2015) would have been happier if “political correctness” had come to the workplace a few decades sooner. 

No decade is perfect–including this one. Societal failures, moreover, are not uniformly failures to be sufficiently progressive. Because of lax sexual mores (among other factors),  an unprecedented percentage of children now grow up in single-mother households, with all of the challenges that entails.

Neither my childhood, nor my parents, were perfect. But I benefited from having two married, committed parents, living under the same roof with me. Many children today grow up without that advantage. 

I get what Brian Lowry is saying, but we must always remain vigilant for the bias of presentism: There is a natural tendency to assume that the present age is more advanced, and more “correct” than previous ones, in every imaginable way. History often proves that assumption wrong. 

The Amazon paradox

Amazon’s quest for constant growth is not leaving it with many friends — except for Wall Street

The article basically says that Amazon is successful, but is attracting a lot of detractors. The stock is doing well, but Amazon has drawn fire from corporate partners and politicians–on both the right and the left.

(There is one thing that Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can agree on: They both dislike Amazon.)

As an indie author, I’m acutely aware of the paradox here. Indie authors are divided on the subject of Amazon. (That’s a longer discussion best left for another time.)

What the above-linked article leaves out is that Amazon is where the shoppers are

I’ve taken an (admittedly unscientific) poll among my friends and acquaintances. None of them orders anything online from non-Amazon sources.

Take a poll among your inner circle; you’ll likely get similar results. Amazon, with its wide selection, customer service, and fast, free shipping, has simply eaten everyone else’s lunch. 

I would love to see another company truly compete with Amazon. In the book space, of course (which is nearest and dearest to my heart), and elsewhere, too. 

But the bottom line is: No other company (including Walmart) is even close to seriously challenging Amazon in the online retail space. 

Like it or not, that’s the truth. 

Alcohol and Amazon

Amazon Plans to Open a Liquor Store Because Sure, Why Not

This is interesting. At present, at least, you can’t order alcoholic beverages off the Amazon site. You can order liquor paraphernalia on Amazon, though.

Being a teetotaler, I’ll stick to Amazon’s books and such.

But if you, dear reader, enjoy the occasional glass of wine, you might consider some of the items below, which you can order directly from Amazon right now:

‘Revolutionary Ghosts’ $0.99 sale: update

Thanks to everyone who purchased the book  yesterday.  I’ll leave it at 99 cents throughout today, and reset it to the usual ($3.99) price tomorrow.

Also, a reminder that the book is always free in Kindle Unlimited.

If you are not a member of Kindle Unlimited, check out the free trial.

Birthday number fifty-one

Since my birthday only comes around once per year, I had might as well announce it. Today I turned fifty-one.

Decades, literally, have passed since I was sentimental or celebratory about this day. I have long subscribed to the late Andy Rooney’s dictum: Twenty-two or twenty-three is the last birthday that is really worth making a fuss over.

That said, I don’t necessarily dread this day, either. And neither should you, if you’re getting on in years.

Time is going to pass whether you like it or not. You need to make terms with that fact. If your entire self-identity is founded on being a cutting-edge youngster, you are going to be miserable for most of your life (unless you plan on dying very young, which I don’t advise).

For my fifty-first birthday, forget the corny celebrations. Forget about the “ironic” black balloons, too.

At my age, having passed the half-century mark, a birthday takes on a new significance: I have cheated death for more than half a hundred years. This day (assuming I live through it) is a finger raised at the Grim Reaper.

But I won’t allow myself to get too cocky—even on my birthday. True, I have outwitted and out-lucked that skull-faced figure with the scythe for 51 years, as of today.

But there’s always tomorrow, and he’ll be back.

The return of cassettes

Cassettes Are Back, and It’s Not About the Music

I wouldn’t have expected this one.

I remember cassettes well, of course. (I even owned a few 8-tracks, as they were being phased out, in the very early 1980s.)

There are a lot of things that I miss about the last century, but the hissing, easily tangled audiocassette is not one of them. (That and typewriter correction fluid.)

As the above-linked article states, the big selling point of the cassette was its distinction as the most portable audio format, under the technological constraints we faced in the 1980s. No one loved them for their sound, or their reliability.

Get your house on Amazon, too

Amazon Is Now Selling an Expandable Tiny House That Requires Zero DIY Work

I might have to give this one some serious consideration. There’s nothing I hate quite as much as working around the house. 

Check out Amazon pre-fab houses here 

“The Hunt”: Universal Pictures’ disaster in the making

This…will not end well.

A leftwing version of The First Purge? Apparently so. 

PJ Media takes a decidedly political interpretation of his, but they may not be far off the mark:

Hollywood clearly still likes the idea of promoting violence against people who aren’t good and obedient leftists, because Universal Pictures is set to release a thriller called The Hunt on September 27, which features left-wing “elites” hunting Trump supporters for sport.

PJ Media

Watch the trailer, and that does seem to be what’s going on here.

Okay, I get it…Equal time and all. And why not capitalize on the success of The First Purge by turning the scenario around? After all, hasn’t Hollywood proven that it will resort to literally anything to turn a buck?

But recent events have shown us that at the fringes, both the Right and the Left are equally capable of producing homicidal maniacs from within their ranks. 

This isn’t fantasy anymore. It’s docudrama. 

In the spirit of dialing back the inflammatory rhetoric a bit, maybe this isn’t the best time to be producing a film about Americans hunting other Americans for blood sport. Just sayin’!

The trailer of The Hunt almost makes you long for another hackneyed superhero sequel. 

‘From Dusk Till Dawn’

Not nearly as bad as I expected…

I vaguely remembered seeing this movie back in the 1990s. When it came on cable the other day, I thought, Sure, why not?

From Dusk Till Dawn is a movie about a pair of bank robbers on the run, who kidnap a preacher and his two teenage children to serve as hostages. They take the unwilling family to Mexico–to a sleazy strip bar, to be exact. 

Oh, and then the vampires come in. Yes, really, that’s the setup, in a nutshell.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a movie that should be really, really bad. It is part of the comedy-horror genre, which I usually don’t like.

But as it turns out, From Dusk Till Dawn is only a little bit bad. There are some cheesy scenes, and some politically incorrect sex jokes that wouldn’t pass muster today.

Nevertheless, for the type of movie that it is, the plot and pacing are good, and there is some decent character development.

I don’t mean to give you the impression that this is the cinematic equivalent of War and Peace. What I am saying: it isn’t horrible.

The movie stars George Clooney before he became political and annoying. It also stars Quentin Tarantino, who is as creepy in front of the camera as he is creepy and tasteless behind the camera.

And also Juliette Lewis. I liked all movies made in the 1990s with Juliette Lewis.

Get From Dusk Till Dawn on Amazon.

FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

For a limited time: a tale of horror, American history, and coming-of-age. 

The year is 1976, and the Headless Horseman rides again!

Steve Wagner is an ordinary Ohio teenager in the year of America’s Bicentennial, 1976. As that summer begins, his thoughts are mostly about girls, finishing high school, and driving his 1968 Pontiac Bonneville.

But this will be no ordinary summer. Steve sees evidence of supernatural activity in the area near his home: mysterious hoof prints and missing persons reports, and unusual, violently inclined men with British accents.

There is a also a hideous woman–the vengeful ghost of a condemned Loyalist spy–who appears in the doorway of Steve’s bedroom. 

Filled with angry spirits, historical figures, and the Headless Horseman of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Revolutionary Ghosts is a terrifying coming-of-age story with a groovy 1970s vibe.

Read it for FREE in Kindle unlimited, or for just $2.99

Don’t have Kindle Unlimited? Try Kindle Unlimited for FREE!

Song of the day: “The Spirit of Radio”

A Rush song for Rush fanatics and non-fanatics alike.

You can’t beat Rush. This song is the most popular track from the band’s Permanent Waves album (1980).

Many Rush songs are less than radio-friendly. This one is the perfect length for radio play. It’s also fun, and upbeat and (unlike some Rush songs) instantly accessible. 

A personal note here: I took guitar lessons in the early 1980s, and I did learn how to play the guitar portion of this song on my old Peavy electric guitar. 

Blood Flats: Chapter 32

Phelps watched Justin Hathaway—now a civilian—exit his office. A part of him envied the young man. This was a part of himself that he despised, although his self-reproach was tempered by two realizations: One, he knew that he would never—could never—abandon the citizens and taxpayers who had elected him. No, he could not leave them in the lurch with so much violence afoot. He also knew that his second thoughts about law enforcement were inevitable.

Phelps had gone to Iraq with a sense of fatalism. He was by no means seeking death; but he was seeking some sort of absolution for what he perceived as his own weakness. Lori Mills had already spurned him by then. Phelps had believed then that Lori’s rejection had placed him in Iraq, though that was unfair. She had been an excuse for him to run away to what he hoped would be an adventure consisting of black-and-white lines. Pure good against pure evil. At the time, that had seemed preferable to facing the implications of Lori’s recent announcement.

Phelps stopped himself from journeying any farther down that particular branch of memory lane. He did not want to untangle the events and ill-considered decisions that had caused him to drop out of college all those years ago and enlist in the army. He knew well enough that his life could have been—should have been—much different. But that was the oldest story in the world, wasn’t it?

There were more current matters that demanded his thought and attention.

He had barely made this decision when the phone on his desk rang. A call to his direct line. He lifted the receiver and it was Jim Ferris, asking him how the hell he was holding out.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Ferris headed the Operations Division of the Kentucky State Police. Ferris reported directly to the state’s Police Commissioner. If anyone in the state could secure more law enforcement resources for Hawkins County, it was Jim Ferris.

“Well,” Phelps said in response to his question. “I’ve got two dead bodies and a suspect loose in the woods. One of my three deputies just resigned.”

“Oh.”

“I’ve seen better days. But I’m working on it.”

“Well, you’ve done all you can with limited resources, Sheriff. You won’t be working alone much longer, though.”

“Good.” These were welcome words, indeed. “I appreciate the assistance from the state helicopter yesterday. But what I really need is more manpower. Our only suspect is somewhere in Hawkins County. I sorely need a state police team here. We need to search every barn and every patch of woods in the area. We need to knock on every door.”

Simply describing this task reminded him of how herculean the challenge was—even in a sparsely populated place like Hawkins County. Phelps had arisen at four in the morning. He had spent several predawn hours driving the local roads and stopping by some of the obvious places where a fugitive might hide. Beginning at seven-thirty, he had knocked on some doors. But it was truly like looking for a needle in a haystack. No one seemed to have seen Lee McCabe.

Ferris said nothing in response, and Phelps wondered if he had said something wrong. Perhaps he had overstated the obvious. Of course a lieutenant colonel of the state police would understand the details of a manhunt. Ferris wouldn’t need someone to draw him a picture, as Phelps had just done.

“Help is on the way Sheriff, but not from the state. At least not for a few days.”

“I see,” Phelps said noncommittally.

“I’ve taken the liberty of asking for federal law enforcement resources on your behalf,” Ferris said. “Two agents from the FBI’s Louisville field office will be in contact with you. Very soon.”

The FBI. This was not the help that Phelps had been expecting. Nor did he believe it was the help he needed. He knew that a county-level sheriff could count on the state police—they shared the same concerns, spoke the same language. But the FBI was part of the Washington morass, and that often meant a different agenda.

“I had thought that this would escalate according to a certain pattern of progression,” Phelps said. “I want to find out who killed two local citizens. I believe that will have a local answer. I don’t want to spend valuable time trying to connect a local crime to whatever happens to be on the FBI’s top ten list at the moment.”

“What happens in Hawkins County is on the feds’ top ten list now,” Ferris said. “Have you been keeping up with the reports from around the region? There’s been a string of homicides just like this—two-bit meth dealers gunned down for no apparent reason. Just last week a meth dealer fifty miles east of Cincinnati was found in the cab of his pickup truck with this throat cut ear-to-ear. Two more small-timers were gunned down in Nashville less than a month ago. One of them right in front of his family, I might add.”

“And you think that what happened here is somehow connected? It’s not like drug dealers never kill each other.”

“The federal government believes that someone outside the region is trying to consolidate the meth market in the middle southern states. And that theory, quite frankly, makes a lot of sense. Why do you think that young man—an ex-marine of all things—gunned down two of his neighbors in cold blood? Neighbors who happened to be engaged in the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine, by the way. Do you think that was a crime of passion?”

“I don’t think we’ll know for sure what happened until we apprehend Lee McCabe and question him.”

“That’s exactly what the FBI is going to help you with. For the record, Sheriff, I would like nothing better than to send a state police team down to Hawkins County this minute. But we’re bleeding from budget cuts, and record crime rates in Lexington and Louisville. Every marginal character who isn’t doing meth seems to be busy with other sorts of criminal activity at the moment. Car theft in both cities is up by more than thirty percent. I’ll have some state personnel freed up later in the week.”

“I understand,” Phelps said. “And of course we’ll appreciate whatever help the FBI can provide in the meantime.”

“Hold that thought, Sheriff. If you take a moment to consider the situation, I think you’ll find that FBI involvement will actually work to your advantage, both in terms of solving the crime as well as politically.”

Politically? Phelps didn’t see this is a political issue. There was nothing political about the carnage he had seen in that trailer.

“What are you getting at, Colonel?”

“I’m sure you know about the criticism you’ve been receiving from certain quarters,” Ferris said. “An editorial in the Louisville Sun gave you some very sharp criticism. Sad to say that wasn’t the only source of criticism, Sheriff. Our constituents and politicians consume a lot of cops-and-robbers movies, you know. There were a lot of folks out there who were expecting a little more of a chase.”

Phelps felt his cheeks turn red. He had not read the editorial in the Louisville Sun—but he could imagine the recriminations. He had seen something similar in some of the faces at the trailer park.

“There was no practical way we could have apprehended the suspect at that moment in those woods,” Phelps said. “There were only two of us, and we had a crime scene with two corpses to secure. When we first arrived, we didn’t know if there were more gunmen in the vicinity. I had to decide how to allocate minimal resources in a very unusual situation, for Hawkins County.”

“You have the support of everyone in this office,” Ferris said. “We catch our share of flak from the papers and politicians too, by the way. It comes with the job. I’m simply saying, Sheriff, that it might not be a completely bad thing if the FBI ends up with primary jurisdiction here. Those murders might be the tip of the iceberg. If the feds are right, things may get a whole lot worse in your part of the world before they even think about getting better.”

“And when will this federal help be arriving?” Phelps asked.

“As a matter of fact, I believe they are in transit to Perryston even as we speak.”

Chapter 33

Table of contents

Black ’47

My maternal grandmother’s people emigrated from County Cork, Ireland to Maysville, Kentucky during the 1840s famine years. Partly because of this personal connection to Ireland, I’ve long had an interest in all things Hibernian. 

I’ve toyed with the idea of learning the Irish language, but I’ll probably never get around to it. I like the idea of speaking Irish, but I know I’m unlikely to ever use it.

Anyway, I enjoyed this movie, Black ’47, which takes place in Ireland in 1847.

This isn’t another superhero movie or Vin Diesel action film; but more thoughtful viewers will enjoy it. There are no car chases, but there’s plenty of conflict, violence, and mayhem. 

Black ’47 also includes a number of scenes in the Irish language, which delighted the language aficionado in me. 

Get Black ’47 on Amazon now!

Luk Thep: Chapter 11

Jane had been asleep for several hours when she saw the image of the little village. She was alone in the dream (at least at its beginning) without any guides or emissaries from that world. Nevertheless, she knew immediately, instinctively, that the sun-baked collection of thatch and bamboo huts was a village in Thailand—a village not far from Bangkok, in fact.

Continue reading “Luk Thep: Chapter 11”

Luk Thep: Chapter 10

Jane and one of the night-shift security guards overcame the language barrier enough so that the latter could summon a taxi for the former. Jane was half-asleep by the time the taxi driver dropped her off at her hotel.

Jane’s first inclination was to go directly to bed. It was now a little past 10 p.m. local time. Then she realized how famished she was. If she went to sleep without eating anything, she would feel intolerably weak and light-headed in the morning.

The hotel restaurant was still open; this was Bangkok, after all. Jane ordered a spicy fish-and-rice dish, the sort of fare that could be found in practically any restaurant worth its chops in Southeast Asia. Continue reading “Luk Thep: Chapter 10”

Read ‘Blood Flats’ online or on your Kindle

Or in paperback, from Amazon.

Looking for something fun to read? Follow my online serialization of Blood Flats.

Blood Flats is a gun-blazing tale of good and evil, set in the badlands of Kentucky. Blood Flats is also available as a paperback or ebook.  (See below).

New serial thriller: ‘The Eavesdropper’

Three of your coworkers are planning a murder. Will you stop them, or become their next victim?

 

The Eavesdropper is a workplace thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

Follow the online serial version here. Or get the entire book at Amazon in the format of your choice.