“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub (Subterranean Press, 2012)

Ballard of Ballard and Sandrine

In this new and short release from bestselling author Peter Straub, it’s a story that seems ordinary and tame at first, as the reader gets introduced and interested in two unique characters, but eventually becomes dark and scary and despairing.  By the end of the 96 pages of The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine, it is quite a different tale that the reader may want to hide away somewhere.

The story of these two lovers, Ballard and Sandrine, takes place over a period of 25 years, as the reader learns of their relationship at different points in time from chapter to chapter, which takes place in the same setting: a trip by riverboat down the exotic Amazon.  While there is a large gap in age between the main characters — they apparently fell in love when Ballard, in his twenties, saw Sandrine, when she was fifteen, for the first time — they are besotted with each other and get up to lots of fun on these boat trips.  But then the dark side begins to creep in, with a story of blood and murder.

Overall, the story is somewhat disappointing, as Straub plays a little too much on the “exotic” nature of the Amazon and the natives, while the horror aspects of the story come as kind of surprise.  A longer novella or even novel might’ve allowed for more development in these areas, nevertheless The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine is an interesting experiment in what Straub was trying to do.

Originally written on December 18, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

2011 Stoker Award Nominees . . . with extras!

The Bram Stoker Award nominees for 2011 are in and listed below.  Good to see a few authors and books reviewed here on BookBanter.  Reviews are linked with book covers; interviews are linked and feature author photos.

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL

HORNS by Joe Hill (William Morrow)

Rot & Ruin
ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster)

DEAD LOVE by Linda Watanabe McFerrin (Stone Bridge Press)
APOCALYPSE OF THE DEAD by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle)
DWELLER by Jeff Strand (Leisure/Dark Regions Press)

A Dark Matter Peter Straub
A DARK MATTER by Peter Straub (Doubleday)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL

BLACK AND ORANGE by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (Bad Moon Books)
A BOOK OF TONGUES by Gemma Files (Chizine Publications)
CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES by Lisa Morton (Gray Friar Press)
SPELLBENT by Lucy Snyder (Del Rey)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION

THE PAINTED DARKNESS by Brian James Freeman (Cemetery Dance)
DISSOLUTION by Lisa Mannetti (Deathwatch)
MONSTERS AMONG US by Kirstyn McDermott (Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears)
THE SAMHANACH by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
INVISIBLE FENCES by Norman Prentiss (Cemetery Dance)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION

RETURN TO MARIABRONN by Gary Braunbeck (Haunted Legends)
THE FOLDING MAN by Joe R. Lansdale (Haunted Legends)
1925: A FALL RIVER HALLOWEEN by Lisa Mannetti (Shroud Magazine #10)
IN THE MIDDLE OF POPLAR STREET by Nate Southard (Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology)
FINAL DRAFT by Mark W. Worthen (Horror Library IV)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY

DARK FAITH edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon (Apex Publications)
HORROR LIBRARY IV edited by R.J. Cavender and, Boyd E. Harris (Cutting Block Press)
MACABRE: A JOURNEY THROUGH AUSTRALIA’S DARKEST FEARS edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young (Brimstone Press)
HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas (Tor)

Christopher Golden

THE NEW DEAD edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Superior Achievement in a COLLECTION

OCCULTATION by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
BLOOD AND GRISTLE by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books)

Full Dark, No Stars
FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster)
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY by Stephen Graham Jones (Prime Books)
A HOST OF SHADOWS by Harry Shannon (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in NONFICTION

TO EACH THEIR DARKNESS by Gary A. Braunbeck (Apex Publications)
THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE by Thomas Ligotti (Hippocampus Press)
WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman (Citadel)
LISTEN TO THE ECHOES: THE RAY BRADBURY INTERVIEWS by Sam Weller (Melville House Publications)

Superior Achievement in a POETRY collection

DARK MATTERS by Bruce Boston (Bad Moon Books)
WILD HUNT OF THE STARS by Ann K. Schwader (Sam’s Dot)
DIARY OF A GENTLEMAN DIABOLIST by Robin Spriggs (Anomalous Books)
VICIOUS ROMANTIC by Wrath James White (Bandersnatch Books)

“The Wavedancer Benefit: A Tribute to Frank Muller” by Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham & Peter Straub (Simon & Schuster Audio, 2002)

Wavedancer Benefitstarstarstarstar

Last year a special man was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident where he sustained terrible injuries.  His name was Frank Muller and he was one of the most renowned audiobook readers in the country.  On February 2nd, Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham, and Peter Straub gathered together for a unique reading at New York’s Town Hall, in honor of the Wavedancer Foundation, a charity specially created for Frank Muller.

John Grisham kicks off the evening, engaging the audience with his southern drawl, and reads an excerpt from his latest novel, The Summons.  He is followed by Peter Straub, who reads from his own latest novel, written in collaboration with Stephen King, Black House.  Then Stephen King announces that he was also going to be reading from Black House, but decided to read a short story that apparently always brought Frank Muller to tears of laughter; the story is “The Revenge of Lardass Hogan.”  It involves a pie-eating contest.  Finally, Pat Conroy closes the night, soliloquizing on the art of writing in the most entertaining and hilarious manner.

All in all, a fabulous night to remember, and for those of use who could not make it there, it is now available in audiobook format for us to enjoy.  All proceeds from the purchasing of this audiobook go to the Wavedancer Foundation.

Originally published on October 14th, 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

If you liked this review, you might like:

Hearts in Atlantis A Dark Matter The Summons

“Stephen King and Peter Straub The Talisman The Road of Trials” by Robin Furth, Tony Shasteen, Nei Ruffino, and JD Mettler (Del Rey, 2010)

Talisman Volume 1starstarstarstar

After the success of the brilliant Marvel adaptations of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the skillful writing hand of Robin Furth now turns to the bestselling story of The Talisman, along with experienced artists Tony Shasteen, Nei Ruffino, and JD Mettler.  Stephen King and Peter Straub co-wrote and published The Talisman in 1984.  It is the epic tale of Jack Sawyer, a young boy with a sick mother, who must travel to the other side of the country to find her cure.  He also must travel to an alternate world known as the “Territories,” where he will meet up with a number of “twinners” from his world – doppelgangers of people he knows.  He also meets up with some very strange and unusual people in this fantasy world: some nice who he becomes friends with, and some enemies who want to hurt him.  Then there is Morgan Sloat, Jack’s father’s business partner who knows all too well about the Territories and is looking to bring over some advanced technology like electricity and nukes to change the world and profit from it.  Sloat also knows what Jack’s up to and is trying to catch him and put an end to him.  The question is whether Jack will be able to make it to his destination and get the talisman that will save his mother, as well as her twinner, the queen.

And now Robin Furth is adapting the powerful words of King and Straub to the world of graphic novels, with stunning artwork from Shasteen, Ruffino, and Mettler.  In this first volume, The Road of Trials, Furth does a great job of shrinking the lengthy beginning of The Talisman to a number of pages, while the artwork brings the great fantasy world of the Territories to beautiful fruition.  The Talisman Volume 1 is a great start to this new graphic novel series that looks to take the reader on as a great ride as King and Straub did with their readers in the original Talisman.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on May 18 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

If you liked this review, you might like:

Captain Trips Everything's Eventual

An Interview with Peter Straub (March, 2010)

Peter Straub

Peter Straub

Peter Straub is the bestselling author of many books, including Ghost Story, The Hellfire Club, and In the Night Room.  Born in Wisconsin, Straub currently lives in New York with his family on the Upper West Side.  His latest novel, A Dark Matter, was released in February, 2010.

This interview was conducted in March, 2010.

Alex: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Peter: I think I loved the whole idea once I realized that books did not write themselves, at age 9 or 10, say. When I was a senior in high school, I knew that I was going to be a writer, but that I had to time it right because once I started I’d never be able to do anything else.

Alex: Who were your influences?

Peter: Way back when I started, my influences were mainly poets, Ashbery, Stevens, Geoffrey Hill,  Frank O’Hara. John Updike would have been in the mix, though, also Virginia Woolf, John O’Hara, and Saul Bellow.

Alex: Do you remember what was the first thing you published?

Peter: The first thing I published was a short poem, in The World #14. It was produced by the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s in the Bowery.

Alex: What was you first novel and how did it get published?

My first novel was called Marriages. I wrote it one summer in Dublin, when I was supposed to be writhing a Ph.D. dissertation. I mailed it to the publisher Andre Deutsch in London, and they accepted it.

Alex: Do you have a specific process when writing a novel?

Nothing specific enough to talk about. It’s just the usual mess, notebooks, notes, useless outlines, false starts, little flares of ideas springing up.

Alex: Where did the idea for A Dark Matter come from?

Peter: When I was in college during the early sixties in Madison, Wisconsin, now and then some wandering guru would pop up, camp out in student apartments, and lay out what he saw was the truth, the real deal. They talked and talked, and in the meantime they ate your food, borrowed your clothes, and had sex with your girlfriend. I thought it would be interesting to write about one of these guys, and have him lead some kind of ceremony that would go disastrously wrong.

Alex: Did it require any sort of research?

Peter: Only in memory.

Alex: Where did the characters come from?

Peter: I made them up, each and every one.

Alex: Is it any easier to have a writer as a main character?

Peter: At least I understand what a writer does. So maybe it is easier than doing a lot of research into plumbing or electrical engineering, but at least to me, it also opens up a big imaginative space other professions do not have.

Alex: Were you pulling from your own childhood at all when writing this novel?

Peter: No, not this time. I did draw on my life in Madison during the years 1963-1965.

Alex: What made you decide to tell this particular story as an event that happened in the past, to be revealed by the characters?

Peter: Who knows? This was the way the story presented itself.

Alex: Was this novel written chronologically, from start to finish, or was it written in separate parts and brought together?

Peter: It was written pretty much as is, chronologically, but a great deal of editing removed nearly half of the book. The novel emerged from the butcher shop much improved, spryer, leaner, more focused.

Alex: How did you become friends with Stephen King?

Peter: Back in 1976-79, when both of us were just beginning, we liked each other’s work a lot. He wrote blurbs for two of my books, and I wrote to thank him. Then the Kings moved to England, and we met and got along very well. That was the start of things, the sense of  shared concerns, of a kind of brotherhood.

Alex: How did you end up writing a book together?

Peter: One weekend when we all lived in England, the Kings came to visit us in our house in Crouch End, London. Steve and I stayed up late, drinking beer and talking. Very late at night, Steve asked me if I thought it might be fun to collaborate on a book sometime. I said yes, I did think it would be fun to do that.

Alex: What was the process for this?

Peter: Intense individual thinking and note-taking, exchanged letters,  several meeting to discuss the plot, then a long outline. After that we got together and began writing the book side-by-side.

Alex: Do you plan on collaborating together in the future?

Peter: I believe we will do a third book together. It seems right.

Alex: Do you have a set writing schedule you keep to each day?

Peter: In a way. I try to do a little in the morning, then a bit more in the afternoon and early evening. I work about five or six hours a day.

Alex: What do you use to write on?

Peter: This is a weird question. What do I use to write on? Do you mean, what do I write on? Generally, I write on an iMac, though often I write in big bound notebooks with either pencils or fountain pens.

Alex: Do you see yourself ever writing in a different genre, something you haven’t written in before?

Peter: No, I can’t forsee that, since according to me, everything I write is in the genre defined by my name. Everything I write is Straubian before it is anything else.

Alex: Have any of your books been optioned or turned into movies?

Peter: Two of my books have been filmed, and quite a lot of them are under option. This means nothing.

Alex: What are you working on next and when will it be published?

Peter: I cannot say.

Alex: Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

Peter: This question is really too broadly put to be answered. If you are speaking of young writers, my advice is to get the best agent they can, because it’s getting colder and colder out here.

Alex: Who are some of your favorite authors?

Peter: I love the work of the late Donald Harington, and I urge everyone reading this to go out and get a copy of Some Other Place. The Right Place. Immediately.

Alex: What do you like to read?

Peter: Novels, mainly, and books about the lives of authors. These are inevitably tragic and heartbreaking. Malcolm Lowry used to disinfect his shoes by pouring cognac into them and leaving it there overnight. Later on, he was probably killed by his wife. A common thread links these two things.

Alex: Do you have any hobbies?

Peter: Not really. Writing takes up a lot of time, and it eats away at your life.

Alex: Do you feel there’s any sort of message you’re trying to get across to your readers in your books?

Peter: That is best left to those who want to think about messages.

Alex: What is your favorite part – from the original idea to doing a book tour – of the writing process?

Peter: My favorite part? Probably being in the middle of a long book, unsure of what I  am supposed to do next and feeling my way along.

Alex: If you hadn’t chosen writing for your career, what do you think you would’ve done?

Peter: Yikes! Ugh. Become a life-long English teacher at a private school?  That’s probably it, but it isn’t very pretty.

Alex: Is there anything you’ve written or anything you’ve done in your writing career that you regret, or wish you had done?

Peter: My first two novels are pretty bad. I wish I had known enough to make them better fiction.

Alex: What do you feel is your best work?

Peter: My own faves are The Dark Matter and the Blue Rose books: Koko, Mystery and The Throat. Two days ago, I saw that some blogger, a great literary expert, called those books “crapola.” Well, I don’t know for sure, but I have the feeling that  people will still be reading those books long after that blogger  has been entirely forgotten.

BookBanter Episode 29 with Penny Arcade


At a recent book signing for The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade, I had the chance to sit down and chat with the incredible minds behind one of the most popular webcomics of our time: Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Jerry and Mike talk about what an average day for them is like, who else works at their office so they get to read and write about video games, what Child’s Play is, what goes on at PAX, and how much time they really spend playing video games. Included in the episode is my review for The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by East Bay and Footlocker, leading world suppliers of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment, featuring top athletic brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Nike.  Go to East Bay.com and use the code AFBOOK15 to receive 15% off your order, or the code AFBOOK20 to receive 20% off your order of $75 or more.  Or go to Footlocker.com and use the code AFBOOKFL to receive 15% off your order.

Immense thanks go to April Flores at Random House for organizing the interview.

As you may have noticed, there are some updates to BookBanter:

– the whole new look to the site;

– the new BookBanter theme song, with an original beginning and ending;

– the book review search bar available on this page, as well as on the reviews page;

– the episodes page features a complete listing of all the BookBanter episodes from the premiere episode to the current one;

– the reviews page also has a full genre and category listing to help you navigate the reviews;

– the interviews page features a new step for BookBanter with written interviews, starting with Brandon Sanderson; an exclusive interview with Peter Straub will be up on April 15th;

– the author comments page is where author’s let you know what they think of BookBanter.

– the BookBanter on BookBanter interview on the About page.

Please join me next time, on April 15th, where there’ll be a new episode featuring a lineup of book reviews, along with an exclusive written interview with bestselling author Peter Straub.

Until next time,

Alex C. Telander.

“Black House” by Stephen King and Peter Straub (Random House, 2001)

Territories Band With the Dark Tower

Black Housestarstarstarstar

On September 15th, twenty years ago, twelve year-old Jack Sawyer received his first experience of the Territories – a fantasy land created by the great minds of Stephen King and Peter Straub.  On September 15th, 2001 Black House was released; the compelling sequel to the 1984 bestseller, The Talisman.

The deal with sequels is that they tend to suck, especially when they are compared (Jackie Collins comes to mind), but Black House reaches in and grabs you by the guts from the start.  Once again King and Straub have done what they do best, and Black House may well in face be their best yet.

We last left little Jack Sawyer on the shores of the Pacific, having saved both his mother and her twinner in the Territories, as well as defeating the horrid man Stoat.  Black House starts you off with the omniscient guidance of its talented authors in the small, quaint Wisconsin town of French Landing – the same towns that have made it into King’s books; a nice surprise here is that it isn’t the unknown hinterlands of Maine.  Jack Sawyer is a retired LAPD detective (the reason for his retirement gets explained later in the book) living in French Landing.  He no longer has any recollection of having traveled to anywhere known as the Territories.

But French Landing is about to be struck by a serial killer who has a passion for kidnapping little girls and boys – and there’s biting involved, ladies and gentlemen.  The killer, whose identity is revealed early on, has a little knack that none of the others at the old people’s home possess: he can skip into the Territories.  As to what he becomes over there, I’ll let you find out for yourselves.  Meanwhile as the disappearances continue and the bodies begin to mount up.  Jack is dragged into the investigation in various ways, all of which he doesn’t wish to partake in.  The killer also has some clues to give Jack about his past in the Territories, the very history he has tried so hard to forget for the last twenty years.

But that is not all.  For you Dark Tower fans, King takes the helm at certain parts, throwing you lines of information along the way, revealing more of the enigmatic words: Breakers, the Crimson King, those darned Low Men in Yellow Coats, and yes, even the Beams get mentioned here.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on September 24th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.