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Saturday, March 31, 2007
It's been such a week, I've been too pooped to log. Haven't even gotten much writing in this week. Will try to remedy that this weekend. 'Course, now I'm pooped because I just mowed the yard. How come that hill keeps getting a little steeper every year?

My brother Phred is set to come over tonight for dinner and a movie. I think it'll be Casino Royale, which I haven't watched yet this week.

And it's time for another archiving of The Log. Mercy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007
I did my part to pervert contribute to higher education today by visiting my friend Golda's creative writing class at Guilford Tech to talk about the world of publishing and the business of writing. It turned out to be very enjoyable, with perhaps twenty students, all of whom struck me as very receptive. The questions were thoughtful and relevant — not just of the "where do you get your ideas?" variety. I don't mind handling presentations in classrooms when the students are there because they want to be, rather than because the law says they have to be or because Mom and Dad thought it would be a good idea. I've suffered through a few stints with young kids in my time, and I'd just as soon be thrown into a cage filled with deranged scorpions.

A couple of interesting surprises. One was that the son of one of my coworkers was in the class. The other was that my brother Phred's good friend Kristi is also a prof there. Who knew? So after the class, the three of us went to lunch at the Saigon restaurant, one of the best bets around for Vietnamese chow. Given the monstrous workload I've been having to deal with at the office, it was one helluva welcome break. I hope the class got something worthwhile out of it; I, at least, got an excellent lunch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Sometimes I miss the days of making prank phone calls.

When I was between the ages of 10 and 15, give or take a decade or so, I was the diehard crank caller. Generally just harmless fun — you know, of the "I'm lost at the supermarket and I can't find my momma" ilk. Now and again, I made calls that made me feel bad later, such as when I presented myself as "Mother Bell" from radio station WDUM and promised the call recipient ten dollars for saying "hello" when he or she answered the phone. I got a lot of mailing addresses that way, and it grieves me to think that people were once so trusting. Needless to say, they never received a penny, and for this particular sin, I flagellated myself appropriately in later years. Or at least I allowed my wife to.

My favorite, though, was a series of calls I made in the summer and fall of 1973. I was 14 years old and was learning that I had inherited my dad's temper. Unlike Dad, I sometimes enjoyed acting on it and paying back tenfold certain people who offended me.

There was once a woman called the Pinocchio Lady. I found her by misdialing my friend Charles's phone number. When she answered, I thought it was his mother, so I asked for Charles. "Charles?!" exploded a very cranky, high-pitched, nasal voice. "There ain't no Charles here. And don't you ever, ever call this number again."

Ah. A challenge. Well, I called back the number I thought perhaps I had dialed by mistake, and sure enough, that was it. "Oh, it's you again!" she wailed. "I TOLD YOU TO NOT CALL HERE!"

"You sound like you have a really big nose," I said. "Are you the Pinocchio lady?"

"Pinocchio lady? I don't know what that is. You hang up RIGHT NOW and don't you EVER call back here again!"

Guess who called the Pinocchio lady day in and day out for many weeks. Yes, and when I told my friend Charles about this, he happily joined in the fun. We took turns calling and recording them with my little Lloyds cassette tape recorder. Usually, I'd start out pleasant, with something like, "Hello, have I reached the E****'s residence?" When the affirmative reply came, I'd holler, "No, I haven't! I've reached the Pinocchio lady!" One time, I told the poor woman I was going to cut off her long nose with a cross-cut saw, and that was how I learned some of the words that I use today when I'm really peeved.

Finally, one day, a gruff male answered. When I asked if he was the Pinocchio man, he said that he actually wasn't, but that he was going to have the phone tapped so he could find out who we "damned little pests" were. That scared me a little, so I didn't call back for a couple of days.

Eventually, we grew tired of this sport and moved on to calling the parents of kids we didn't like and telling them that their children had stolen some copies of Playboy magazine from the local newsstand and hidden them under their mattresses. (I have no idea how many of them actually got caught with hidden copies of Playboy).

Over a decade later, when I lived in Chicago, one day, just on a whim, I dialed the Pinocchio lady's number (it was still firmly etched into my memory, and I still remember it to this day), and when Mrs. E****'s familiar voice answered, I almost...almost...followed through with the cruel quip, "Hey, Pinocchio lady. Remember me? I'm out now!"

But I didn't. Some wee smidgen of maturity had taken a bit of the pleasure out of injecting a little misery into some innocent person's life.

If Mrs. E**** is still alive (something tells me she's not, as she sounded not only big-nosed but rather old back in the 70s and 80s), she does have my sincerest apology. I was just a kid doing what kids do, and sometimes that's not so nice.

Of course, there's always the possibility that, on some level, she had as much fun being a Pinocchio lady as we had turning her into one. I rather hope so.

Saturday, March 17, 2007
I had no plans for St. Patrick's Day, but some really nice plans overtook me. My bestest best friends, the Albaneses, called me up and invited me over for martinis (with jalapeno-stuffed olives, so we did have green consumables) to watch their brand-new HD DVD of Carpenter's The Thing (which I haven't seen in about 15 years) on their big-ass HD TV. God! The picture! The sound! The great lines ("Is in there?")! The DVD is loaded with extras too, and we watched most of 'em.

Regrettably, Peg was not feeling up to accompanying me, but after a long stretch of stressful days, friends, drinks, and horror on St. Pat's was just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, March 16, 2007
After a long and ridiculous bitch of a day (and week) at the office, I enjoyed the hell out of going to dinner with my former co-worker, talented writer, and all-around good friend, Gina Farago, as well as the banes of my existence, Glenn and Terry Bane. We et at Phoenix, an almost-Asian place with decent atmosphere that makes very good dirty martinis and a fair Thai chicken with basil. The fresh spring rolls were so-so.

In the writing news, I have decided to step down from the lineup at Storytellers Unplugged, as I feel like I've pretty much tapped out the well of essays that I absolutely, postively, really, really needed to write. I don't want to fill the column with fluff, nor do I care to spend an inordinate amount of time devising something relatively meaningful when writing time is already at such a premium. It's been a good, almost-two-year run, I've met some fabulous folks among the Storytellers in-crowd, and I might have even contributed an essay or two that led readers to believe there's nothing seriously wrong with me after all. (Ha.) I'll still frequent the place, no doubt, and maybe I'll contribute a guest column from time to time, if some stubborn bit of inspiration refuses to allow otherwise. Anyway, I want to salute all the writers who are and have been a part of Storytellers and acknowledge how much many of the columns have meant to me in the two years since its inception.

Who knows...maybe I'll write more flash fiction.

Thursday, March 15, 2007
Damned if I didn't sit down and write a 500-word bit of flash fiction tonight. I'm generally disinclined to work at that length, which struck me as the very best reason to do it. So I wrote the tale, "Megan," in about 25 minutes and sent it out.

Actually, the story started coming together this morning when I woke up. I had scads of wicked, vivid dreams last night, and this tale is what came out of them. Oddly, the story has nothing whatsoever to do with the dreams themselves, except for the name of the main character. But they served to get my sluggish brain working, which may or may not be a good thing.

If it sells, I will judge it a good thing.

Sunday, March 11, 2007
It's been a trying few months. My wife, Peg, had surgery the day after Christmas for bone spurs in her shoulder and a reconstruction of a bad knee. Last month, my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had to have a hysterectomy (which went well, and we believe there won't be any complications). This past week, we received the rather shocking news that my daughter, Allison, was hospitalized with a blood clot in her lung.

We got the news on Thursday afternoon, so that night, Peg and I drove up to Maryland, where Allison lives. We spent the past couple of days there with her and left last night. She is still in the hospital, but we expect her to be released probably on Monday. She's doing reasonably well, but is still in a lot of pain. The doctors believe that the clot is a result of her taking birth control and being a smoker — evidently, not a good combination.

Her prognosis is generally good; she's on blood thinner to help dissolve the clot (and will be for the next few months) as well as high-powered painkillers, as this thing is quite excruciating and interferes with her breathing. The word is that there's only a minute chance that it will move and cause further damage, but needless to say, her mom and I remain concerned about that. On the good side, she's had excellent medical care, and we're fairly confident the worst of it is over.

Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, if you would. The kid means the world to me.

Saturday, March 3, 2007
Actress-cum-novelist Lara Parker's second Dark Shadows novel, The Salem Branch (Tor, 2006), is the follow-up to her successful debut, Angelique's Descent, released by HarperCollins in 1998. If you're here, you probably already know the history, but I suppose I should mention that Lara wrote the introduction to Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (HarperCollins, 1999), which I co-wrote with Elizabeth Massie, and I had the pleasure of appearing with her at the 1999 Dark Shadows Festival in New York (at the World Trade Center, as a matter of fact). Anyone who knows me knows that I am one dyed-in-the-wool Dark Shadows fan — and close friends also know that Lara, as Angelique, was the first true love of my life at age ten (a trait I have in common with six and a half million American males of my generation, I'm sure). Thus, one might conclude that any remarks I might make about her novel are somewhat biased. Well, maybe. On the other hand...I edited Deathrealm magazine for a decade and both accepted and rejected the work of many close friends based on its merits, so I like to think my objectivity remains reasonably untarnished. Agree or disagree as you will.

I will concede that I had heard little positive about The Salem Branch before I sat down to read it. Many readers complained of its exceedingly hot violet prose, and the fact that the author displayed little understanding of the characters from the show — which was probably the most remarkable (and quite surprising) failing of Angelique's Descent. Well, I have to tell you, for the most part, I enjoyed The Salem Branch — albeit with no small number of caveats. It's quite true that Lara's characterizations aren't what one might expect from someone who actually played a part in the show, but it's evident to me that she intended from the outset to delve deeper into personalities than she had in her first book, and in large part — whether or not she accurately captured the personas from the show itself — she did frequently succeed in drawing the characters as real human beings, warts and all. If there's a real failing in this, it's that, too often, the warts are the focus, and as a result, the momentum of the story suffers, particularly in the chapters where Barnabas is dealing with life as a human being, rather than a vampire. Still, the plot feels faster-paced and better constructed than in her original outing, and some of the criticisms of the story's twists and turns strike me as unwarranted — specifically the scenes involving the Collins' family's interaction with the hippies who have taken up residence on their property. (But again with a caveat — there's a scene of local law enforcement personnel running this gang off the Collins's property that's so over-the-top that I nearly split a gut. And that is bad.) 

I will agree with the critics that there is too much purple prose. In fact, if I were to make any real recommendation on technical matters, it would be for the author to check out the proper usages of words such as "akimbo" and "pugnacious" and to never, ever, ever use phrases such as "
She placed the epithet in verbal italics, her tone sardonic." This was an affront to narrative voice that nearly sent me packing and moving on to reading Jonathan Maberry's Ghost Road Blues (which is a fine book that I will review in detail in the near future). However...I am quite glad I persevered with The Salem Branch because, in spite of its shortcomings, it's really, really not a bad novel at all. I'd go so far as to say it's superior in almost every respect to S. E. Hinton's almost-Dark Shadows novel, Hawkes' Harbor (which I reviewed in an edition of The Log a bit over a year ago), and that's not just me shooting shit. The atmosphere is oftentimes so vivid that I can truly feel myself immersed in the story, and in my old age, that experience is a rare thing indeed. The climax, which some critics felt was ludicrous, didn't strike me as ludicrous at all. In fact, in its own way, it was admirably imaginative and reasonably well-rendered.

I'm going to give The Salem Branch three beers out of six, with a solid shot of Mezcale, worm and all, to go with it. Not superlative by any stretch, but then again, not too shabby.

Take that from an old Dark Shadows connoisseur.

Friday, March 2, 2007
Went to see my brother Phred play and wail his original tunes at The Garage in Winston-Salem last night. A nice little show, with a band following that was reasonably entertaining. Enjoyed hanging out with his girlfriend Golda and her friend Denise, and throwing back a couple of pints of locally brewed ale. Whoa! Very tasty, very stiff.
Got the good word from my mom that her surgery appears to have taken care of her health issues, and there shouldn't be a need for any more radical treatment. Excellent news indeed. My thanks to all who sent up prayers and good wishes for her.

Thursday, March 1, 2007
Well, The Horror Library is a big mess this month because the edition features an interview with me.

Q & A by Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show editor Edmund Schubert — talking about Deathrealm, my latest literary endeavors, and my epitaph. Enjoy.

The Horror Library Interview

Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Checked out a somewhat neat Thai ghost flick tonight called The Ghost of Mae Nak, which I received a few moons back as a perk for writing reviews for About It's based on Thailand's most famous ghost story — the ancient tale of Mak and Nak, who were ill-fated lovers, their lives destroyed by war. In the present day, a new couple named Mak and Nak find themselves haunted by the ghost of Mae Nak, who at first protects them from harm but exacts a very high price.

The movie is well-acted, with sympathetic protagonists, and has some highly effective, gruesome moments, although over-abundant clamor and flashing strobe lights too frequently spoil the mood. I like the oftentimes eerie score, and a few of the spectral visitations are fairly well staged. Alas, the story relies on too many coincidences to keep things moving forward. Actress
Pataratida Pacharawirapong, who plays Nak, is superb (not to mention damn hot).

In all, I'd give this one three out of six beers. It's worth watching once, at any rate.

Friday, February 23, 2007
I happened upon a review of Dark Wisdom magazine issue 10, which features my story, "The Lake of Shadows." About my tale, reviewer Melissa Minners says...

"Told in the first person, 'Lake of Shadows' is chillingly haunting. A man and his wife struggle to understand why their nineteen-year-old college student daughter committed suicide. One year after her death, they decide to visit the location of her untimely death, a lake in Virginia. Once there, the couple experiences a frightening encounter with the macabre. It is immediately apparent that something other-wordly is occupying that lake...something that may have caused their Sarah to take her own life. Something alluring, yet monstrous. When I say that this story is spooky, I’m not kidding. This one will actually cause the short hairs on your neck to stand at attention. Stephen Mark Rainey is extremely descriptive — you can actually see the scene unfolding before you. An excellent read."

The review of the entire issue may be found at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I had one of those wonderful nightmares last night that was characteristic of the kind I had when I was an adolescent — the kind that led me to write scary stories in the first place. The kind that reminds me of the first time I read H. P. Lovecraft, when I felt he had somehow reached forward through the years and plucked images and emotions from my most personal nightmares and transcribed them into his own stories.

I don't remember all that much of it now; mainly that I was in possession of a sealed trunk, and inside this trunk was some demonic thing that would scratch on the sides and whisper, "I want to get out." My brother evidently had a room in his basement where we could seal the trunk permanently, but as we were carrying it down the stairs, we dropped it, and it split open. We ran outside and closed the doors, but as we looked back at the house, it changed before our eyes into a decrepit, dilapidated husk, and we could see something moving inside the windows. Then a voice drifted to us that said, "I am out now."

Probably not so scary the way I relate it here, but last night, it woke me up and kept me awake for several minutes. I'll avoid any of the obvious psychobabble and let it stand as is. Maybe there will be a place for it in a weird tale somewhere down the line.

Monday, February 19, 2007
It's been a long and eventful few days. On the downside, on Friday, my mother had to have major surgery. On the upside, it apparently went well; I hope she'll do fine during the long recovery, and that there are no further complications. I spent Friday evening and parts of Saturday and Sunday with her in the hospital, and barring any unforeseen mishaps, she's planning on coming home today.

Saturday afternoon, I packed up and went to Waynesboro, VA, where I hooked up with Ms. Iritgud herself, Elizabeth Massie, and monster man, Cortney Skinner, and then attended the monstrous Mardi Gras bash hosted by the horrific team of Matt and Deena Warner. A most entertaining affair, with much music, dancing, imbibing of spirits, and general merrymaking, without the first suggestion of good taste ever once rearing its ugly head. Seriously, the Warners always throw a great party. I'm so glad they didn't throw my party-crashing ass out sent me an invitation.

Yesterday, returned by way of Martinsville and stayed a while with my mom. My brother was around to help take care of things, which has eased my mind considerably. Then Peg and I drove over to High Point and stayed the night with our friends Missy and Daryl, who were down from Chicago for a few days. Got back home today, a wee bit exhausted but feeling relatively satisfied. Will be checking on Mom later, and I hope the worst for her is over.

Since I'm off work today, it is now time to get writing. I write. I write good.

Thursday, February 15, 2007
I very much regret that I didn't manage to read Lee Thomas's novel Damage (Sarob Press, 2006) before the early January deadline for Stoker Award recommendations because I would have surely given it one. It's almost certainly the most compelling book I've read in the past year, with an engaging story, characters that are what characters are all about, and a handful of very creepy scenes.

Doug McQueen wakes from a coma, which he soon discovers is the result of a brutal assault. His memories of events leading up to the attack have been obliterated, and as he tries to resume his former life, he learns that his past was nothing to be proud of. His wife and his brother have good reason to hold grudges against him — yet he cannot remember any of the strife between them or the reasons for it. As he tries to put the pieces together, he finds that certain people he had become involved with have some very dark secrets. A man named Ansen Riggs, in particular, appears intent on sowing some bad seeds in the town of Pierce Valley.

As Doug gets closer to the truth, he finds himself trapped in a town beset by a series of gruesome killings; a violent, unnatural storm; and finally, the dead themselves rising...

Thomas's focusing on McQueen as a protagonist keeps the mystery sharp because, having lost crucial memories of his former life, he wants answers, and there's a certain sense of tragedy as we gradually discover that he might not be so deserving of our sympathy. His brother, Frank, and wife, Lisa, both have their reasons for detesting Doug's former behavior, yet find it difficult to hold him accountable for things he can't remember, particularly as he appears to be acting in their interests as events in the community begin to grow dark indeed.

Thomas is a dynamic storyteller, putting all the dramatic elements in place right from page one. Damage isn't a very long novel, and if it does have any noticeable shortcomings, it's in the development of antagonist Ansen Riggs. He's a striking character but is somewhat short-changed by having so little dimension. Regardless, the storyline is so high-energy that the issue isn't severe enough to dwell on.

This is the first of Thomas's works that I've read, and I believe it's sufficient to make me a convert. Sarob Press has issued the novel in their traditionally excellent limited and deluxe editions, so it may be difficult to find (and on the expensive side). Regardless, Damage is a novel well worth seeking out.

Sunday, February 11, 2007
I decided to watch the new Masterpiece Theater production of Dracula tonight, Drac being one of my favorites in horror. In general, I was underwhelmed; just another fairly drastic re-imagining of Stoker's classic — although I did rather like the idea of the count being an intensely evil, remorseless creature that sees humans as nothing but prey. None of the casting seemed particularly inspired, though Tom Burke as Dr. Jack was fair enough and David Suchet as Van Helsing worked out pretty well.

The story seemed rushed — no doubt to fit it into a 90-minute time slot. I'd much rather have seen a truer adaption, featuring some of the classic elements from the book that they excised in order to make way for the Holmwood-with-syphillis subplot, which struck me as mostly needless. I think the writers said, "Well, we gotta do something to make this one different from all the others; let's try this." Well...I don't think they quite hit on all cylinders.

The final scene struck out big time, too. Didn't think they'd stoop to such a cliche. But they did. Bugger that.

I spent the afternoon reading manuscripts for Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, along with several of Ed Schubert's minions, including William R. "Mr. Bill" Trotter, his wife Liz Lustig, and my good friend Gina Farago. What a treat to read slush for a day. (Notice my finger going down my throat, please.) Actually, it wasn't as bad as all that because this batch of stories had actually made it past first readers. Still, there were precious few worth reading more than a couple of pages. But for endless pizza and beer, I figured what the heck...

Gina did offer me what is perhaps the nicest compliment I've received for Blue Devil Island. She's about halfway through it, and she said it's hard to believe I wasn't actually a WWII vet because the narrative has her utterly convinced. That makes me smile.

Saturday, February 10, 2007
Quite a good day for watching stuff. My all-time favorite science-fiction flick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, played on TCM this afternoon, which was especially enjoyable since they run their movies uncut and in widescreen. I used to have 2001 on laser disc way back when, but for whatever reason, I've never picked it up on DVD, so when it's given a good presentation on the toob, well, there I am. I have very vivid memories of seeing this on its first run with my dad back in '68. He was reluctant to take me because he was afraid I "wouldn't understand it," but as it turns out, I probably understood it better than he did.

Then I took a look at a nice little DVD my good buddy Mark Sieber sent me — The History of Drive-In Movies, which is exactly that, featuring all kinds of personalities, such as Beverly Garland, Joe Bob Briggs, Leonard Maltin, and Barry Corbin, offering a really fun, visual retrospective about drive-ins. I've been a drive-in freak since my folks took me to them to watch monster movies back in the good old days — and in more recent days, it's always a pleasure to get together with the Siebers and hit the Starlite Drive-In in Durham.

And lest I appear to have spent a merely frivolous day, I also got in a respectable amount of housework, much to my wife's delight, and a shitload of writing, much to my own delight. Tomorrow, I get to masquerade as editor again, this time helping out Ed Schubert work through the slushpile (which I understand is considerable) for Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. Ah, that poor bastard; I wondered if Ed knew what he was getting into when he told me he was putting on the editorial chief's hat. I really shouldn't laugh, but I kind of am.

Saturday, February 3, 2007
My short story, "Sky of Thunder, Island of Blood," has made it onto the preliminary ballot for the HWA Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction. A nice thing to see, though it's up against far too stiff competition to make it further, I expect. Still, I'm really happy to see it make a showing, as it's been a few years since I've had a tale get this far into the process. While they didn't make the ballot, The Nightmare Frontier, "Other Gods" (from Cemetery Dance #56) and "The Devils of Tuckahoe Gorge" (from Dark Discoveries #8) also received a number of recommendations, so I'd call that a reasonably solid showing.

Thursday, February 1, 2007
Horrorworld reviews

Horrorworld reviews, February 2007.
(Scroll down to the third review.)

To excerpt:
"If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or just enjoy losing yourself in rich atmospheric writing, Evermore is an amazing reading experience that will leave you wishing for more. I have no hesitation in giving this anthology my highest recommendation."

Reportedly, sales are looking very good, and reviews have been generally kind. A mighty fine batch of authors and stories in this one. Arkham House has done us all proud, I believe.

Thursday, February 1, 2007
Fran Friel's Mama's Boy (Insidious Publications, 2006) is a solidly packaged novella, released as a limited edition of 100 copies, and signed by the author, cover artist Tom Moran, interior artist Zach McCain, and writer James Newman, who wrote the Introduction. The novella has been sold out for a while now, and it has garnered quite a few recommendations for a Stoker award in the Superior Achievement in Long Fiction category.

The story is about one Frank "Henry" Doe, an inmate at a psychiatric institution whose long history of abuse by his mother has twisted him into an imaginative "boy" indeed. Having been used as a sexual object for as long as he can remember, his views of romance and sexual interaction are, to say the least, somewhat beyond the norm. He has a habit of collecting mementos from his various lovers, but at long last, he finds himself actually falling in love with a young woman named Vicki Lystner and desires to change his ways. Old habits die hard, of course, and his pursuit of Vicki results in some serious conflict — both internally and with those whose lives converge with his.

For a work done early in her publishing career, Fran Friel makes a fairly impressive showing. However, the novella suffers from a few overused conventions (the psychopathic killer smothered by a dominating and deviant mother, a skewed sense of morality perceived as "normal" by the killer himself, a maternal fixation that skirts too closely to Pscyho territory) and an awkward construction due to the killer himself orally narrating much of the story to a third party. This is a tricky approach at the best of times, and while Ms. Friel's motive for using it is understandable, it plays like a horror movie being narrated because its soundtrack was lost. The character vocalizing everything from personal thoughts to dialogue to long scene descriptions simply never rings true and keeps me one step away from being immersed in the story.

Regardless, the pacing is relentless, and the character of Henry manages to be frequently engaging in his own twisted way. Ms. Friel's prose effectively draws a character led by sexual frustration and desire for gratification. Even during scenes of sexual violence, she manages to infuse a subtle touch of erotic excitement that reflects Henry's own perversion; happily, for the sake of verisimilitude, the descriptions are mostly restrained rather than over-the-top.

The novella's resolution brings no surprise; rather than being disappointing, however, it simply seems inevitable. The story as written couldn't have ended any other way.

Zach McCain's interior art is a major highlight of this edition. Beautifully rendered and reproduced in color, and worth the price of the book itself. Alas, I really, really do not like the cover art, which I infer was drawn by Tom Moran and colored by McCain. It's a pity one of the interiors wasn't selected for the cover.

At the end of it all, I give Mama's Boy a marginal recommendation — though now that its small press run has sold out, you'll be doing well if you can find a copy. On a scale of one to six beers (six being the best), I'll give it three plus a shot of tequila.

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