Friday, August 28, 2015

Rock 'n Roll fiction never dies!

Amazing Punk Stories

By David Agranoff

Publisher: Eraserhead Press

Pub. Date: July 1, 2015

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

There should be more rock ‘n roll horror and fantasy fiction. They fit together in a manic and weird way. Both art forms are not afraid to cross boundaries. But contemporary horror needs to stay with the times. The problem is I am a classic rock kind of guy. All the rock/horror hybrid fiction I know is more in the realm of Jerry Garcia rather than Sid Vicious.

Enter David Agranoff. He is a younger writer and therefore a younger breed of rocker. His forte is in the music of the 80s and 90s; punk and hardcore. His Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich, which was on my top ten novels list for 2014, has already solidified the fact that this is what the author knows and knows well. It is his generation. His newest book is Amazing Punk Stories. It is a collection of short fiction, all dealing with punk rock in one way or another. But it is also a tribute to the old Weird Tales and Amazing Stories pulp magazines of the 30s on. It’s an inspired idea, taking the extremes of punk rock and sculpting it to the look and style of the old pulp horror and science fiction. The cover and the inside illustrations reinforce this idea. Yet the author blends his own original style into the stories and, regardless of the theme, they have a modern punkish noir of their own.

Agranoff is usually associated with the Bizarro genre but I find him to be one of the more conventional writers in the pack. Even though the ideas can get wild, the delivery is accessible to most readers even if they are not familiar with the more experimental Bizarro lit. Agranoff tries out his punk horror chops with a number of literary vehicles in this collection. The first story, “Burning Dots in Heaven” is set in H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos It is quite good but the collection doesn’t hit its stride until the second work, “Reunion Show”. Here we are introduced to a recurring type of character in the author’s punk world: The musician who refuses to compromise even as the years and the grind of life catches up to him. We get a lot of variations of this in the book but it seems to be an ongoing theme. “Reunion Show” is more science fiction in style yet sort of Twilight Zone-ish in feel. For those who are looking for horror, it doesn’t get more horrifying than “Book Your Own Fucking Life” and “The Last Show at the Mortuary Collective”. Agranoff also tackles the punk roots of post-apocalypse stories in “Punkupine Moshers of the Apocalypse” (Best title of the year?) and zombies in “Best of, at the End of”.

My own favorite? I keep turning to “Punk beyond the Red Line”. It is a science fiction tale in which a group of punk rockers meet their match in the far reaches of the universe. It has great imagery and some sufficiently gruesome moments, but it fits best with the book’s theme as I can see it gracing the cover of a modern day Amazing Stories Magazine a la Hugo Gernsback. I also really got into “Blacker than the Darkest Nights of the E-Vile Souls” which tells us that Ozzy Osbourne has nothing on Agranoff’s dark metal warriors. Finally the aforementioned “Book Your Own Fucking Life” places some twists on an old splatterpunk classic and teaches the lesson, never book a punk show in a barn.

Overall, there are thirteen stories. They are enjoyable and mostly highly successful tales. The mix of horror, sci-fi and fantasy using a punk rock theme works exceedingly well and you do not have to be a punker, skinhead, or head banger to enjoy them. It might help if you do have a rock and roller spirit or perhaps, like me, looks back at those days with a little longing. But hey, Rock ‘n Roll never dies. And if one does not think there are zombies, horrifying creatures, and apocalyptic road warriors currently hanging out in the rock world, how do you explain Keith Richards?

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