Category Archives: books

Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family by Bret Book and Kevin Cook (2016)

Home Game

Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family
by Bret Book and Kevin Cook
Crown Archetype, 2016
272 pages

Being the son of a major leaguer must be daunting, with athletic expectations high. Being a third-generation ballplayer, especially when no one ever followed both their father and grandfather into the professional ranks before, the pressure had to be immense. But not for Bret Boone, who was not satisfied to have a famous last name. He wanted to prove that he belonged, and not just a feel-good story for the media.

In Home Game, Boone admits that he regrets the way he approached his big league debut. He should have given more credit to his grandfather, Ray Boone, and father, Bob Boone, both who had solid careers. Ray led the league in RBI and was an All-Star; Bob showed him up by becoming one of the greatest defensive catchers in the game and making multiple All-Star Games. Bret carried on the tradition of family excellence, leading the league in RBI like his grandfather and becoming a stalwart defensive second baseman and All-Star in his own right. And he was not alone; he was joined by his brother Aaron Boone at the top level of professional baseball.

Boone honors his heritage, showing respect to his late grandfather and his father, relating a handful of stories that were passed down to him. He tells about growing up in the Phillies clubhouse, getting batting tips from Mike Schmidt, and later, when his dad was with the Angels, playing catch with Reggie Jackson. He discusses his disappointment in being drafted so low out of high school, and in not being drafted until the fifth round after a few years at USC. He recalls his time in the minor leagues and his struggle to get to Seattle, where he butted heads with Lou Piniella at first. He also tells of the hazing he endured from Jay Buhner, and the friendship that developed as he handled it in stride.

Boone mentions the allegations made by Jose Canseco, denying that he ever took steroids and stating emphatically that their supposed conversation at second base never happened. In his denial, Boone does admit to using greenies, but says of those who claim ignorance when steroids are found in their system, “It’s your job to know what’s in your body. It’s your job to stay clean and test clean.”

There is some foul language throughout—not as much as some autobiographies contain, but it is present. Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family is a good behind-the-scenes look at the game, covering three generations of All-Star baseball. Aside from the Boones, there is mention of Ted Williams, Pete Rose, Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Ken Griffey, and Barry Larkin, among others. It may be some time before we see another three-generational All-Star family, and this peek inside the family tradition of the Boones is well worth the read.

Learn more about Crown Archetype.

Purchase Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family by Bret Book and Kevin Cook.

God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen by Mitchell Nathanson (2016)

God Almighty Hisself Dick Allen biography Mitchell Nathanson

God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen
by Mitchell Nathanson
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016
416 pages

One of the most polarizing players of the 1960s and 70s, Dick Allen never seemed to be happy. He had enormous talent, but he did not believe he received the respect he deserved. He faced racism, bad press, hecklers, and more during his career, and made plenty of enemies along the way. In this new biography by Mitchell Nathanson, those events are chronicled and put into historical context in the best possible way, using newspaper articles and archived interviews as the primary source for information, with newer interviews conducted to flesh things out when needed. Allen himself declined to participate in the interview process, but the quality of reporting throughout his career served to paint a portrait of the oft disgruntled star.

There is very little to criticize in this book as far as the writing goes; Nathanson deals with the material honestly and openly, not shying away from the negativity that always seemed to surround Allen. My primary criticism would be with the title, God Almighty Hisself. Not knowing the context, one might assume that Allen referred to himself in such a way. The quote from which the title is taken actually refers to the troublesome nature of dealing with the player, with a former manager quipping, “I believed God Almighty hisself would have trouble handling Richie Allen.” As such, the book should have been titled differently.

Overall, however, this biography of Dick Allen is an enjoyable read, shedding light on the surly superstar who often held out for more money, was frequently traded, and was dismissed all too soon by the voters for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Learn more about University of Pennsylvania Press.

Purchase God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen by Mitchell Nathanson.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani (2016)

Empire Strikes Back Topps Cards Book

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two
introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani
Abrams ComicArts, 2016
548 pages

Many fans of the greatest space opera contend that the best film of the series is Episode V, better known as The Empire Strikes Back. It is fitting, then, that the book chronicling Topps trading cards for the film exceeds the initial volume in quality. The creative driving force behind the design and writing of the cards, Gary Gerani, tells the process of meeting with LucasFilm executives to read the script and select images for the cards. The movie’s big reveal was kept secret from Topps at the time; Gerani recalls the first time he learned of Darth Vader’s familial relationship with Luke Skywalker was when he saw the film in Manhattan.

Initially, Gernai and Topps were told they could not use Yoda in their set, as he was a “mysterious creative element” that George Lucas and Irvin Kershner wanted to keep him a surprise for the public. Lucas eventually relented, and Yoda is prominently displayed on several cards in the series. Gerani wrote the copy for many of the cards, making up dialogue that fit with several of the characters’ personalities.

In addition to the reproductions of all three series of cards, front and back, the book also features images of sell sheets, packaging, stickers, and the 30-card set of giant photocards. Also, as in the first volume, actual promotional trading cards are also including with the hard copy purchase. In addition to that, Topps has included a code for a free pack of digital trading cards on their Star Wars Card Trader app.

Learn more about Abrams ComicArts.

Purchase Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two.

Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner (2016)

Ron  Darling Game 7 1986

Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life
by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner
St. Martin’s Press, 2016
256 pages

Imagine yourself as the starting pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series, and your team wins…what an absolute thrill that must be, right? Ron Darling experienced it in 1986, the Mets and Red Sox tied up 3-3 in the Series, and at the end of the night as he celebrated the victory with his teammates, one thought cast a shadow over the pandemonium: “Wishing like crazy I could forget how it started.”

Darling had long dreamed of this day, though in his childhood fantasies he was on the mound for Boston, not New York. His outing did not turn out the way he had pictured it; in less than four innings, he gave up six hits and three earned runs. He was pulled for Sid Fernandez, who gave way to winning pitcher Roger McDowell and closer Jesse Orosco. The team won, but Darling didn’t. Most players don’t write books about their biggest disappointments, but Darling did.

Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life recounts Darling’s preparation for the game, his pre-game ritual which had to be repeated on Monday because of the Sunday night weather cancellation, a vague death threat, notes about the batters he faced in those three and two-thirds innings, and the opposing pitcher Bruce Hurst. Darling touches very briefly on the recklessness of the team off the field, including the night in Houston he was arrested for punching an off-duty police officer outside a bar. But those are passing references; the focus of this book is on Game 7.

While the team won, Darling writes, “I’ve had thirty years to deal with the disappointment of my Game 7 performance.” Despite the victory, he believed he let the team and the city down because he could not shut down the Red Sox bats in the first few innings. He also reflects on the wasted talent of the team, believing that they should have done more, particularly Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Considering their talent, they should have been all-time greats, and Darling writes that “the further away I am from my playing days, the more I resent how they squandered their gifts.”

The 1986 team was a special collection of players, one that will always be remembered both for their dominance and their arrogance. Darling’s recounting of the final game of the World Series is a good reminder that it didn’t always go their way, but in the end, they were able to pull off the championship.

Learn more about St. Martin’s Press.

Purchase Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner.

Garner’s Modern English Usage: Fourth Edition by Bryan Garner (2016)

Garner’s Modern English Usage: Fourth Edition
by Bryan Garner
Oxford University Press, 2016
1,120 pages

There are certain resource materials that every writer must possess in his arsenal, including a dependable dictionary and thesaurus. Words are the building blocks of language, and a dictionary and thesaurus will assist in putting one’s thoughts together in an understandable manner. Whether one is using those words appropriately, however, is another matter. In his massive Garner’s Modern English Usage: Fourth Edition, linguist Bryan Garner addresses the proper way to put words together.

In addition to more than 6,000 entries on grammar, syntax, punctuation, style, and more, Garner addresses the battle between prescriptive linguists and descriptive linguists. Prescribers are known to suggest how language should be used, while describers simply observe and report on how it is used. Garner falls more into the prescriptive camp, though he concedes there are some battles lost long ago that should not be resurrected. Garner does report on how language is used, utilizing modern tools such as Google’s ngrams to make this one of the most reliable linguistic guides ever, but he does not shy away from denouncing improper usage when needed.

As a resource, Garner’s Modern English Usage: Fourth Edition is a valuable tool. Not as indispensable as a standard dictionary or thesaurus, but it is a fantastic tool that can be used to give one’s writing more accuracy.

Learn more about Oxford University Press.

Purchase Garner’s Modern English Usage: Fourth Edition by Bryan Garner.

LOYO, Obamacar, and otter café: new words in OxfordDictionaries.com

The most recent update to OxfordDictionaries.com sees a host of new words added from the worlds of politics, popular culture, and social media. You can see ten highlights from the update below. In each case, clicking on the word will take you through to the word’s new dictionary entry, where you can see full definitions, example sentences, and more.

autocorreck verb (of software) cause (text) to contain mistakes by means of an autocorrect or autocomplete function: “I wrote a great text to her, but ‘love’ was autocorrecked to ‘move’.”
[Blend of autocorrect and wreck]

parrotocracy noun a hypothetical society governed by people selected according to their ability to repeat slogans and soundbites mechanically, or to repeat or steal the policies and ideas of others: “Heaven help us if we end up with a parrotocracy.”
[from parrot and -cracy]

Parrots

reply-gall noun the perceived impudence of an individual who sends an email response to everyone addressed in the original message: “His reply-gall became infamous after he sent an 1800-word response to a company-wide announcement.”
[from reply + gall after reply-all]

Instayam noun a Thanksgiving photograph shared on social media: “Before we ate, we had to send an Instayam.”
[blend of Instagram and yam]

Leo verb to achieve something after years of trying: “I feel like I’ve Leoed this morning; I finally passed my driving test.”
[from the name of Leonardo DiCaprio, with allusion to his winning the 2016 Academy Award for Best Actor after six unsuccessful nominations.]

fanishment noun the state of being blocked by a celebrity on social media: “Steve’s fanishment was inevitable after he tweeted at the star footballer 1000 times in a single day.”
[blend of fan and banishment]

Obamacar noun (humorous) a hypothetical scheme under which current President of the United States Barack Obama would provide free cars for every citizen in America: “Republican commentators cracked wise about the so-called Obamacar.”
[from Obama + car, after Obamacare]

Ocar

otter café noun a café or similar establishment where people pay to interact with otters housed on the premises: “Locals are already excited by the prospect of the area’s first otter café.”

LOYO abbreviation laughing on your own (used online in reply to a joke that others have not found amusing): “A better joke next time, please. LOYO.”

social fleedia noun a situation in which one or more social media users choose to close their accounts: “Commentators are seeing a huge rise in millennials encouraging social fleedia.”

“Social media continues to be a vital and constantly evolving catalyst for linguistic innovation,” says Richard Snary, a lexicographer at Oxford Dictionaries. “We’re recognizing this with words which specifically reference these sites, such as Instayam, fanishment, and social fleedia, but Twitter also accounts for much of our corpus data for Obamacar, LOYO, and the verb to Leo. In two of these examples, we’re seeing how the creation and sharing of memes relating to a specific public figure can quickly gain traction and help a coinage enter the language – and our language monitoring programme is uniquely placed to observe and record these changes.”

[JT sez: I think they have gone too far this time. When will the idiocy stop?]

Legends of Giants Baseball by Mike Shannon, illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard (2016)

Giants

Legends of Giants Baseball
by Mike Shannon
illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard
Black Squirrel Books (an imprint of the Kent State University Press), 2016
104 pages

Name the top five Giants players—New York or San Francisco—in baseball history. Most can easily rattle off a handful of names: Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, and of course Willie Mays. And while these Hall of Famers are profiled in Mike Shannon’s new book, Legends of Giants Baseball, the author is not content to stop there. Forty players are presented, ten each from 1883-1925, 1926-1950, 1951-1975, and 1976-2015. Baseball fans can dig deep with Tim Keefe, Sal Maglie, Jim Davenport, and even recent players such as Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.

Of course, Barry Bonds is included as well, but Shannon does not gloss over the slugger’s sins. He writes, “It is truly a shame that his is not a simple story of baseball greatness but a cautionary tale of jealousy, arrogance, unbridled ambition, and dishonesty.” All can certainly agree that the numbers are astounding, but the path to his final career totals was fraught with controversy.

As with Shannon’s Cincinnati Reds Legends from last year, Legends of Giants Baseball is infinitely enhanced by the artistic talents of Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard. My favorite portraits are Hannig’s depictions of Ott and Jack Clark, each done in a different style.

The names on any list of legends will change depending on the writer and the time the list was created, but the artwork on Legends of Giants Baseball makes this a must-have not only for Giants fans, but for all baseball fans.

Learn more about Black Squirrel Books (an imprint of the Kent State University Press).

Purchase Legends of Giants Baseball by Mike Shannon, illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard.

Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns (2016)

Small Town Talk

Small Town Talk
by Barney Hoskyns
Da Capo Press, 2016
424 pages

Nearly everyone recognizes how important the Woodstock festival is in the fabric of American rock music; few, however, understand the significance of the actual town Woodstock. Of course, the festival was not held in the town, but the creative output from the town is undeniable when viewed through the lens of history. The subtitle of Barney Hoskyns’ latest book, Small Town Talk, lists the major players that decided to “get it together in the county”: Bob Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. But there were others, such as Paul Butterfield and Todd Rundgren.

Hoskyns collects memories and anecdotes from the atmosphere of the 1960s, based on numerous first-hand interviews, telling tales of the legends of folk rock. So much of the art that was imagined there was pure and honest, and has impacted and continues to impact the world for generations since. Fans of the sixties music scene, especially the brilliance of Dylan, will enjoy this history of the time.

Learn more about Da Capo Press.

Purchase Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns.

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner with David Fisher (2016)

Leonard Nimoy William Shatner book

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man
by William Shatner with David Fisher
Thomas Dunne Books, 2016
288 pages

The entertainment industry lost an icon in 2015 when Leonard Nimoy passed away, but his impact and work will be forever remembered. His close friend and co-star on many Star Trek projects, William Shatner, delivers a touching memoir in Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man. Shatner shares several stories that will bring a smile to the reader’s face, whether he is a “Trekkie” or not.

While the majority of the book deals with the time Nimoy and Shatner spent together on Star Trek, as well as an examination of the Spock character, the actor was so much more. He was a fighter for the benefits of his fellow actors, standing up to Filmation when they attempted to create a Star Trek cartoon without George Takei and Nichelle Nichols. Filmation relented, because, as Shatner writes, “They company had no choice; without Leonard or me, there was no Star Trek.” Shatner also recalls Nimoy’s time as director of a couple of the Star Trek films and Three Men and a Baby. Mention is made of the Golden Throats recordings, and the emergence of Star Trek conventions is given a fair amount of ink. Shatner also touches on Nimoy’s alcoholism and the negative effects that it had on his life.

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man is a story of true friendship, ups and downs, good and bad. There is nothing scintillating or derogatory, nor does it seem to be a cash-grab designed to capitalize on the late actor’s relatively recent passing. It is an honest, heartfelt remembrance of a man that touched the lives of many through his work in film and television.

Learn more about Thomas Dunne Books.

Purchase Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner.

Becoming Babe Ruth written and illustrated by Matt Tavares (2013)

Becoming Babe Ruth

Becoming Babe Ruth
written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2013
40 pages

The very talented Matt Tavares has written and illustrated several children’s books about baseball players, including Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Pedro Martinez. His book about the most famous baseball player of all, Babe Ruth, was originally released in 2013, and is now available in paperback. Becoming Babe Ruth tells of the ballplayer’s roots at Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore and his ascension to greatness in Boston and New York.

More than that though, Becoming Babe Ruth shows the Sultan of Swat’s generosity and heart toward those who helped him along the way. Tavares does a wonderful job of painting a picture—both figuratively and literally—of this positive aspect of Ruth’s personality. As in his other baseball books, Tavares’ artwork is second-to-none.

For those who have young children, Tavares’ books are a wonderful introduction to both the sport and the personalities that play it. Becoming Babe Ruth is recommended for readers 5-8 years old.

Learn more about Candlewick Press.

Purchase Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares in hardback or paperback.

R.I.P. Harper Lee

(April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016)

Harper Lee

The author of one of the classics of American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee passed away today at the age of 89. A second novel, Go Set a Watchman, was published in 2015, fifty-five years after her first novel.

Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball by Nathan Michael Corzine (2016)

Team Chemistry

Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball
by Nathan Michael Corzine
University of Illinois Press, 2016
240 pages

Steroids and performance enhancing drugs have cast a black cloud over baseball for the past couple of decades, but the sport’s chemical controversy has much deeper roots. Author Nathan Michael Corzine travels all the way back to the nineteenth century to show how interconnected baseball was with tobacco and still is with alcohol. He journeys through the twentieth century with tranquilizers, amphetamines, cocaine, and finally the most recent steroid scandal. The handling and mishandling of these abuses is on trial, showing how baseball’s administration failed time and again to confront the illicit activities of the clubhouses and weight rooms.

“Nothing threatens the sacred covenant between baseball past and present in the way that drugs, especially performance-enhancing drugs, do,” Corzine writes. “(PED users’) transgressions struck at the very soul of the ‘Last Pure Place’; they waged war on the numbers, the holy scriptures of the church of baseball, the sacred links tying each passing baseball generation to the next.” This is really what is at stake for baseball purists: those who played in the so-called good old days where not indulging in substances that would enhance their performance on the field. More often than not, those substances—tobacco, alcohol, and cocaine—would hinder their abilities.

There may be some debate over the effect of amphetamines, but there is little doubt that the effect is negligent when compared to the modern performance enhancers. But, as Corzine opines, “It was really just a small step, a logical step, from greenies and tranquilizers to Winstrol and HGH.” No matter how small or logical the step, it was wrong. Baseball failed America, and fans buried their heads in the sand for too long. The steroid problem is far from over, despite what Bud Selig and Rob Manfred may claim.

Corzine’s book is a good, balanced look at the history of chemical abuses in the sport, examining the problems that bedeviled Mickey Mantle, Don Newcombe, Bill Tuttle, Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and other figurative and literal giants of the game.

Learn more about University of Illinois Press.

Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball by Nathan Michael Corzine

Doctor Who: The Secret Lives of Monsters by Justin Richards (2014)

Doctor Who Secret Lives of Monsters

Doctor Who: The Secret Lives of Monsters
by Justin Richards
Harper Design, 2014
214 pages

There is no shortage of publications covering the British television show Doctor Who. Justin Richards, the creatie consultant to BBC Books’ range of Doctor Who titles, authored the 2014 release, Doctor Who: The Secret Lives of Monsters, examining some of the most popular baddies in the fictional universe.

While the layout leaves something to be desired, Richards’ treatment of the subject matter is top-notch, first looking at each creature as if they were real beings. Richards goes on to take a behind-the-scenes look at them, including the inspiration for them and showing photographs of actors behind the masks and props makers. The author also takes the reader on a trip through time and space by looking how each incarnation of the Doctor dealt with the monsters.

A collection of sixteen removable color prints of original artwork by concept artist Peter McKinstry is included inside an envelope in the back of the book, making this volume all the more enjoyable. Doctor Who fans will no doubt find The Secret Lives of Monsters informative and educational, especially when they come face-to-face with some of the most terrifying aliens in the universe.

Learn more about Harper Design.

Purchase Doctor Who: The Secret Lives of Monsters by Justin Richards.

Ronald Reagan Tresures by Randy Roberts and David Welky (2015)

Ronald Reagan Treasures

Ronald Reagan Treasures
by Randy Roberts and David Welky
Thunder Bay Press, 2015
176 pages

He was one of the most respected presidents that has served this country, and countless books have been released to celebrate his eight years as the leader of the free world. This recent release from Thunder Bay Press, written by Randy Roberts and David Welky, is a brief but respectful overview of President Reagan’s life, including his career in film, governorship of California, and the presidency.

What sets this book apart from others, however, are the pieces of removable memorabilia included. Reprints of magazine covers, brochures, a ticket to the 1981 inauguration, and a “Reagan-Bush ‘84” bumper sticker are among the eleven pieces of removable memorabilia. Fans of the late President will cherish these mementos along with the commentary and photographs found throughout the volume.

Learn more about Thunder Bay Press.

Purchase Ronald Reagan Treasures by Randy Roberts and David Welky.

NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football by Johnny Anonymous (2016)

NFL Confidential

NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football
by Johnny Anonymous
Dey Street Books, 2016
256 pages

Purportedly written by an offensive lineman who was thrust into the starting lineup, only to find his job yanked away from him when a veteran returned from injury, NFL Confidential is like peeking into a pro locker room through the eyes of a bitter, confused, arrogant backup player. “Johnny Anonymous” claims to hate the NFL and all the politics of the game, but when he finds himself taking snaps as a starter, he plays along just fine. He rediscovers his love for football, but continues to spew hatred toward the people that allow him to play.

The author mocks his teammates and his coaches, whines about the physical aspects of training camp and practice, and fantasizes about being cut so he can find something else to do with his life. This is not so much an exposé of the league as it the infantile rantings of an ungrateful athlete. He drops the “f-bomb” far too often to be taken seriously, and comes off as a fool who simply doesn’t realize how good he’s got it.

The copyright page states that the “book is not authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved in any manner by the National Football League.” Certainly there are some harsh things said about the NFL within the pages, but it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. This is just the first time it has come from a player and not a journalist or superfan.

And who exactly is the author, “Johnny Anonymous”? The prevailing theory online seems to be David Molk, offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles. Not all of the characteristics fit, but it must be remembered that “names, physical characteristics and other identifying details have been changed, and in some cases composite characters created, to protect the privacy and anonymity of the individuals involved.” It will certainly be interesting to see if Molk has a job next season, especially if it is revealed that he is the actual author.

There are a few parts of NFL Confidential that are somewhat interesting, but overall it felt like a chore to read and I felt wholly apathetic toward this poor rich man’s plight. If we could all be so unfortunate to make hundreds of thousands of dollars to do, as he proudly admits while begging for our sympathy, nothing.

Learn more about Dey Street Books.

Purchase NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football by Johnny Anonymous.

Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series by Alyse Wax (2016)

Curious Goods

Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series
by Alyse Wax
BearManor Media, 2016
490 pages

Throughout the years, horror anthology programs have appeared on television. From The Twilight Zone to Chiller to Tales from the Crypt, there have been ample opportunities for fans of the macabre to enjoy the gory genre on the small screen. In the late 1980s, Paramount utilized the popularity of the Friday the 13th film series, using the name for a syndicated television show. Jason Voorhees was not a part of this show; cursed antiques were the central objects in this series. I remember staying up late to watch Friday the 13th: The Series, and loved every second of it. It has been years since I have seen the show, but still have vivid memories.

Alyse Wax’s new book, Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th the Series is a fantastic journey back to the antique shop with Micki and Ryan and their adventures of tracking down cursed objects. Wax gives an episode-by-episode breakdown for the entire three-season run of the show, along with quotes from the main actors, producers, writers, and directors. She also delves into John LeMay’s decision to leave the show after two seasons, the Don Wildmon controversy, and includes an interview with series creator and executive producer Frank Mancuso, Jr.

After reading this episode guide, I will definitely be revisiting Friday the 13th: The Series soon to see what I missed all those years ago while watching on my little grainy black-and-white television in my bedroom, long after I should have been asleep.

Learn more about BearManor Media.

Purchase Curious Goods: Behind the Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series by Alyse Wax.

I’m The Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax by Scott Ian with Jon Widerhorn (2015)

Scott Ian

I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax
by Scott Ian with Jon Widerhorn
Da Capo Press, 2015
376 pages

This book has been sitting on my shelf unread for far too long; I had no idea I would enjoy it as much as I did. Scott Ian, rhythm guitarist and cofounder of thrash metal legends Anthrax, one of the “Big 4,” delivers an entertaining look at a career in the music business, complete with backstage shenanigans and headstrong bandmates. As Anthrax approaches its 35th anniversary, I’m The Man is an honest look back at the group’s history.

In addition to details about Anthrax’s history, Ian delves into the early days of Metallica and his friendship with Kirk Hammett and Cliff Burton before their popularity exploded. Some of the most interesting anecdotes revolve around Metallica, including the devastating events surrounding Burton’s untimely death. Ian was also present at the Viper Room with River Phoenix overdosed, though he did not know the actor personally and was not with him when it occurred.

There is quite a bit of foul language in the book, but if you can overlook that you will get a behind-the-scenes look at a struggling rock star’s life. The only complaint I have is the omission of Ian’s experience with Sebastian Bach, Ted Nugent, and Jason Bonham in VH1’s reality show Super Group. Aside from that, the guitarist covers a lot of ground in his career in Anthrax.

Learn more about Da Capo Press.

Purchase I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax by Scott Ian with Jon Widerhorn.

Beyond Bartman, Curses & Goats: 108 Reasons It’s Been 108 Years By Chris Neitzel (2015)

Beyond Bartman

Beyond Bartman, Curses, & Goats: 108 Reasons It’s Been 108 Years
By Chris Neitzel
Windy City Publishers, 2015
336 pages

It is difficult to imagine being a Cubs fan, disappointed year in and year out despite an immense amount of talent. I followed the Cubs briefly in the late 1980s and early 1990s thanks to daily coverage on WGN, and have visited Wrigley Field three times (so far). In 1989, I fell in love with the ballpark, and claimed the Cubs as my favorite team. It didn’t last long, as the Reds roared through the 1990 season and won the World Series. It was difficult to be in Cincinnati and not root for the Reds that year. Yet, I still have a special place in my heart for the lovable losers from Chicago.

Lifelong Cubs fan Chris Neitzel has released a new edition of Beyond Bartman, Curses & Goats to include the 2015 season and the heartbreaking National League Championship Series against the Mets. In this well-documented book, readers will learn about bad trades, daft drafts, and overwhelming competition. My personal favorite is “Reason 105: Hall of Fame Players, Hall of Fame Results…Not So Much,” and the curious coincidence of having so many great players with so little postseason success. From Ernie Banks and Billy Williams to Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs have boasted some of the greatest players in history, but do not have any recent World Series rings to show for it.

Neitzel hopes that the Cubs soon break their losing streak so that “further editions of this book will no longer be needed.” In the meantime, though, Cubs fans will get a kick out of his self-deprecating humor and solid research on the team everyone loves despite the losses.

Learn more about Windy City Publishers.

Purchase Beyond Bartman, Curses, & Goats: 108 Reasons It’s Been 108 Years by Chris Neitzel.

Christmas gift ideas for #ChicagoCubs fans @Cubs

I became a Chicago Cubs fan in 1989 when my dad took me to Wrigley Field. Rick Sutcliffe pitched that day against the Montreal Expos; Jerome Walton, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace all played. And my favorite baseball player at the time, Shawon Dunston, was the shortstop. The vibe of the ballpark, sitting in the bleachers, just the whole experience enthralled me. I rooted for the Cubs through the end of high school, but the strike of 1994 soured me on baseball in general. I have since come back to love the game for what it is, and root for the Cubs when they make the playoffs. CubsThe Reds are my #1 team, but the Cubs are a pretty close second.

The Cubs will always be one of the more popular teams in baseball, and as such, there are a lot of choices when it comes to Christmas gifts. Here are a few suggestions for the Cubs fan in your life.

Christmas gift ideas for your horror nut

Stephen King ItMost people don’t think of horror during the Christmas season, but for the true horror nut the genre is a year-round obsession. If you have someone on your to-buy-for list that thinks Halloween should be a month-long holiday rather than one day, here are some suggestions.

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