Review: Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story

Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story
Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story by Steve Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a celebrity memoir, since those usually aren’t my thing (unless they’re about Frank Zappa). I will however occasionally indulge myself with one if it’s about a unique individual or favorite actor. Center Square fits both those criteria.

I remember Paul Lynde as a pretty versatile comic actor – though like most of his characters, they were just versions of himself – and pretty quick on the quip. I never really even considered he was gay – he was just the goofy guy who had KISS on his Halloween special, and was always in the middle of the Hollywood Squares board. According to this biography, Paul was a much more complex person than I would’ve realized, and occasionally much more troubled and petty.

The book has two pages of photos, and covers all of Paul’s career, from his days with WAA-MUU, summer stock, early TV, Bye Bye Birdie, his failed TV shows, and all the other high and low spots. The book is very straight-forward about the uniqueness of Paul’s homosexuality; considering his status as a star from the game show and being in America’s face daily, as it were, it surprising that it wasn’t as big an issue in the day.

Overall, this is a very well-written and researched book. If you enjoy Paul Lynde’s comedy, you’ll like this. And if you’d like to understand more about the TV pilot process in the sixties, this has a lot of inside information on that as well.

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Review: Strange Savior

Strange Savior
Strange Savior by Leland Dirks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a short story. Just three thousand words. But Leland Dirks packs more power and more relevance into these three thousand words than most authors can put in a whole library of books.

This is the kind of quality writing that proves there are independent and self-published authors out there that are in the top tier of writers ANYWHERE. This is, to use a somewhat maligned term in recent times, LITERATURE. Real, honest-to-Hemingway, literature.

I would recommend this story to anyone. It’s worth the price of admission. It’s truly worth reading.

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Review: Titans of Toho: An Unauthorized Guide to the Godzilla Series and the Rest of Toho’s Giant Monster Film Library

Titans of Toho: An Unauthorized Guide to the Godzilla Series and the Rest of Toho's Giant Monster Film Library
Titans of Toho: An Unauthorized Guide to the Godzilla Series and the Rest of Toho’s Giant Monster Film Library by Brian Matthew Clutter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a bad overview of Toho’s Godzilla series of films, along with most of the studio’s kaiju eiga movies. I don’t agree with a lot of the recommendations and ratings the author gave many of the films, though at least he realized Godzilla Vs. Spacegodzilla really sucked. I liked that the author included some of the (formerly) hard-to-see films, like Dogora and Atragon.

The book could use a bit of proofing and formatting, and a couple of fact checks here and there; I got kinda scared about the rest of the book after seeing Willis O’Brien’s work on the original King Kong referred to as “Claymation”, but the author has most everything else down correctly.

I would’ve liked to have seen this one include more information on the Japanese versions of the films, since they are often quite different from the US prints and are now fairly easy to locate and watch (most of the recent Toho Godzilla DVDs have both versions of the films in the sets).

If you need a guide for Godzilla flicks, this is a fairly inexpensive alternative to some of the kaiju-centric hardcovers out there.

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Review: Conspiracy Theories: Top 5 Conspiracy Theories Of All Time

Conspiracy Theories: Top 5 Conspiracy Theories Of All Time
Conspiracy Theories: Top 5 Conspiracy Theories Of All Time by Daniel Brush
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ah yes, the first book I borrowed under the new Kindle Unlimited program. This is one of the few actual anti-conspiracy books I’ve read – most folks don’t put that down to paper, preferring not to legitimize the conspiracy advocates with a proper rebuttal. It’s an interesting point of view, I will admit.

As the title says, it covers the “top” five conspiracies. To the author, this means the Illuminati, Jesus Christ’s relationship with Mary Magdalene, Roswell, the JFK assassination, and 9-11. None are covered in much depth, and none get enough page time to really pull off the “hey, this is isn’t a real conspiracy” thing to calm people down (the apparent intention of the book). It’s like a conspiracy primer done as an Afterschool Special.

The book could also use a good edit, proofreading and format, as it was in places rather embarrassing to read, considering this is was a published book. Don’t live up to the stigma, dude! If you want to self-publish, do it right, dammit! Quit making us all look bad.

Also, one doesn’t get very far in terms of credibility using someone like Tia Tequila as a source for information about the Illuminati. Of course, that’s what they’d want you to think…

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Review: Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga
Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Great Darkness Saga was the big Legion of Super-Heroes event of the eighties for most, and is one of the better Legion stories overall. Great artwork by Keith Giffen (having finally decided on a style for the moment) and an excellent story by Paul Levitz, with some nice plot twists and uses of some interesting characters.

My one complaint about the story was that it was so obvious who the main villain was (spoiler alert: Darkseid) from the very beginning that I can’t believe it was a “secret” at all. Other than that, I can’t really find too much at fault with it; any story that uses the Substitutes, the Wanderers and the Heroes of Lallor is usually a good one.

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Review: Mother!: The Frank Zappa Story

Mother!: The Frank Zappa Story
Mother!: The Frank Zappa Story by Michael Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the better Frank Zappa biographies that I’ve read, mainly because it doesn’t take sides; Mr. Gray gives a good amount of viewpoints on many contentious moments in Zappa’s life, and even lays out the known inconsistencies in the stories of various parties involved.

The book covers Zappa’s life right up to his death and the establishment of the Zappa Family Trust and his final concerts in conjunction with the Yellow Shark album, the last he produced while he was alive. Zappa’s home life at various stages is often the main focus of the narrative, showcases many of the weird relationships that were reflected in his early music with the Mothers. It is also interesting to see a third-party view of many of the more litigious events of Zappa’s life, such as his arrest for creating pornography (during a police sting) and his case against the Royal Albert Hall. It also does not hide the fact that as a human being, Zappa could often be a bit of a jerk; To him, musicians were often just faulty instruments, not people (and sometimes not people to be paid properly).

The story is very well-written, given the usual nature of these sorts of things, and there’s a decent discography in the back of the book (though it only consists of titles and record numbers). I’d definitely recommend this one to any Frank Zappa/Mothers fan.

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Review: The Jack Kirby Omnibus, Vol. 2: Starring the Super Powers

The Jack Kirby Omnibus, Vol. 2: Starring the Super Powers
The Jack Kirby Omnibus, Vol. 2: Starring the Super Powers by Jack Kirby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now THIS is how an omnibus should be done! Great reproduction, great color and great artwork by the King himself, Jack Kirby! This edition covers Jack’s work at DC Comics after he had created his Fourth World opus, and after he had returned to Marvel Comics, gone into animation, and become a free agent, as it were.

The selections here are a strange cross-section of DC Comics in the seventies and eighties. Black Magic reprints some old Kirby tales from the fifties, including some of his Dream Detective stories. Following that up was Kirby’s revival of the Sandman, this time as a character who could control dreams, an issue of Kung Fu Fighter, the first issue of Kobra, some First Issue Specials (including the revival of Manhunter), Superman meeting the Challengers, and the first two Super Powers toy tie-in series.

My one qualm with the book is the addition of all the Super Powers issues; Jack did plot the series, but only wrote and drew the final issue. The first four had some truly atrocious art (which had the saving grace of some Alan Kupperberg inking on a few issues), and had little to do with Jack; it comes off as four issues of filler in an otherwise excellent volume. Having Kirby do the entirety of the the second series more than makes up for it, since we get Jack’s take on Doctor Fate, Red Tornado, Martian Manhunter and even the modern-look Green Arrow.

Speaking of GA, I’ve read a lot of complaining reviews on the first Kirby Omnibus, since it had Green Arrow on the cover and wasn’t completely Green Arrow all the way through; apparently no one bothers to look to see exactly how much of the feature Kirby actually did – it was only about nine or ten eight-page stories. That’s obviously not going to fill 300+ pages. If the rest of that book is anything like this, I’m definitely grabbing it as soon as I find an affordable copy.

If you like good comics, and/or if you like Jack Kirby, THIS is definitely a book for you!

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