Posts Tagged ‘Bizarre’

Mama Black Widow

August 15, 2012

Author:  Iceberg Slim

Title: Mama Black Widow: A Novel

Genre: African-American, Urban Lit, GLBTQ

Publisher/Publication Date:  Old School Books, 1998

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Southside Chicago

Time Period:  1930s-1970s

Plot Summary:  Mama Black Widow tells the tragic tale of Otis Tilson, a 40-year-old gay drag queen living on Chicago’s south side during the racially turbulent 70s.  Much of the novel is told in a realistic way by Otis about how his family moved to Chicago from the south in the 1930s, and the hard times they had to endure from then on.  Most of the novel is spent examining Otis’s mother “mama,” a vile, manipulative, downright evil woman who basically destroys every member of the Tilson family.  She drives her husband away, coerced one of her daughters into prostitution, and a lot of innocent people suffer greatly by her hands.  The author of this novel, Iceberg Slim (former pimp) writes in a way that is both shocking and insightful.  The language is often blunt, candid, and very, very offensive.  Sex scenes are described in explicit detail, and tone often changes from jovial to deadly serious.  Issues such as integration, trade unions, Chicago’s underground gay scene, police brutality, and hatred for the white man are discussed at length throughout the novel.  Slim even admits in the introduction that he is not the greatest writer, but he writes for the common people, and “tells it like it is.”

Subject Headings: Chicago (Southside)–Police (Brutality)–House of Corrections–Plantations–Trade Unions–Black Power–Bars (Gay)–Drag Queens–Cross-dressing–GLBTQ–Pimps–Drugs–Guns–Prostitution–Religion–False Preachers–Sex–Erotica–Rape–Pedophiles–Martin Luther King, Jr.–Street Cars–The El

Appeal: Realistic, Shocking, Character-Driven, Blunt, Candid, Erotic, Frantic, Intense, Dramatic, Serious, Political, Steamy, Graphic, Comical, Gut-Wrenching, Tragic, Sad, GLBTQ, Sexy

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Steamy, Graphic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver

This non-fiction memoir by Eldridge Cleaver will appeal to Iceberg Slim fans for its ability to shock, outrage, and question the readers’ ideas of what it means to be black in America.  His memoir is both sincere, raw, and very engaging.  He says at one point, “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a higher Uneducation.”  Cleaver made indeed be too offensive to some, but he always savagely honest.  He tells the truth and he knows it.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown

Claude Brown is a young, streetwise criminal growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s.  This novel does an excellent job of describing northern black ghettos in New York in a turbulent, thrilling way.  Everything from pimps, drugs, street vendors, local shop owners, police brutality, gangs, sex and violence, and the gay underground are discussed in this book.  This book is however, quite inspiring and affirmative because Claude Brown is one of the lucky few who “made it” in this brutal world.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community,  Tracy Baim

This handy reference book guides the reader through Chicago’s long and rich history of the gay community.  Those interested in Slim’s descriptive scenes of obscure bars and drag clubs will enjoy the multiple photographs presented within these pages (both in color and black & white).  The book draws on many scholarly, historical, and journalistic sources and covers time periods from pre- WWI to WWII-1960s, and 1970s to the present day.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blow Your Mind, Eric Pete

The description of the book reads,”In this erotic novel of sex and revenge, Eric Pete takes the consequences of dark sexual fantasies one step further.”  This story is about Tanner Coleman, his wife Bianca, and her wild sister, pumpkin.  When a man named Henry shows up and blackmailed Tanner, their lives are changed forever in a truly twisted way.  Not for the squeamish, this hardcore erotic, steamy, violent novel will appeal to Slim fans for its challenging dialogue, absurd situations, and the pessimistic world view that “we all die, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.”  Very popular!

Drag Queen, Robert Rodi

Considering the titles mentioned above, Rodi’s novel Drag Queen is a bit more light-hearted and comical, but also very engaging.  One review describes it as “The Parent Trap meets Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”  Gay attorney Mitchell Sayer has just found out from his mother that he has an identical twin, who happens to live not far from him in Northern Chicago.  The thing is, Mitchell’s brother is now named “Kitten Kaboodle,” gown-wearing, stillet0 strutting star of Tam-Tam’s “All-girl” review.  Furious, Mitchell tries to force Kitten into “the real world,” but Kitten feels she has a few lessons to teach as well.  Comical, insightful, and full of the Chicago landmarks Slim famously paints throughout his books.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby, Jr.

This graphic, brutally raw novel of characters living in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s examines the anger and rage of many diverse individuals in a time where justice seemed non-existent.  Considered a classic of modern American writing, this book, as Slim would describe it, “tells it like it is.”  There are crooks, hoodlums, pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, gay men and women, police riots, and strikes galore.  Gritty and serious, blunt and brutally honest.  Truly essential.

A Choir of Ill Children

October 24, 2011

Author: Tom Piccirilli

Title: A Choir of Ill Children

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 238

Geographical Setting: Fictional Southern town of Kingdom Come

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: In the backwater Southern swamp town of Kingdom Come, Thomas lives in a run-down mansion with his three brothers — conjoined triplets joined at the forehead who share a single brain, feared as freaks by the rest of the town. Thomas cares for the triplets and runs his family’s mill; his father and grandfather were the town bigwigs, but the town is now so desolate that the family’s standing means little. Kingdom Come is populated by a bizarre cast of characters including “granny witches” who live by the swamp and ward against evil spirits, a preacher prone to speaking in tongues and sudden public nudity, a religious cult, and various other creeps and lowlifes; as the story opens, Thomas is also hosting two documentary filmmakers trying to make a movie about the freakish triplets. As a young girl mysteriously appears in the swamp, the town is besieged by storms, an unknown person begins abusing all the town’s dogs, and the preacher warns that “the carnival is coming,” Thomas must lead his people against the dark forces that seem to be attacking the town.

Subject Headings: Southern Gothic fiction; Horror fiction; Conjoined twins; Small towns; Superstition; Swamps

Appeal: atmospheric, bizarre, character centered, dark, disturbing, edgy, episodic, grotesque, lyrical, moody, mysterious, relaxed pace, sexually explicit, surreal, uneasy, violent

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bizarre, disturbing, uneasyaQQ

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

• One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal by Alice Domurat Dreger [Examines case studies of conjoined twins; argues that they should not necessarily be separated, because their sense of identity is bound up in being conjoined; this is true of the conjoined twins in Piccirilli’s book]

• American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction by Allan Lloyd-Smith [Lit-crit text providing an introduction to the Gothic genre tradition that Piccirilli riffs on in Choir]

• Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture by Anthony Wilson [Overview of the importance of the swamp to Southern culture throughout history and in the present day; the swamp and its significance is a major component of Piccirilli’s novel]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

• Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor [Southern Gothic; dark tone, character-centered, bizarre, disturbing; O’Connor influenced Choir]

• Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates [Literary horror; grotesque, atmospheric, dark]

• Softspoken by Lucius Shepard [Horror; contemporary take on Southern Gothic; bizarre family living in run-down mansion; dark, violent]

Name: Brian W.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

June 16, 2010

June 16, 2010


Author: Mary Roach
Title: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Genre: Nonfiction
Date of Publication: 2003
Geographical Setting: U.S. & Global
Time Period: Present
Plot Summary: “Death. It doesn’t have to be boring.” Writes Mary Roach as she takes a scientific approach (sprinkled with humorous commentary) to the subject of human bodies donated to research. What the public doesn’t know (or want to know?) are the various forms of scientific research for which human cadavers are used. When a body is donated to science, the donor and/or the donor’s family really have no say as to the area of research in which the body will be used. Roach covers several areas in her book, and she does so using very accessible language coupled with a wry sense of humor. She is neither disrespectful nor irreverent in her tone. Her descriptions and comments are delivered in a conversational manner, and her observations are objective. Stiff can be read in chapter order, or can be “dipped into” as one might read a collection of short stories. Roach begins by sharing an experience of observing a seminar for surgeons seeking to hone their skills in facial surgery. The doctors will only be working on the head of a patient, so they will practice exclusively on that part of the cadaver. This means that the heads used for the class are separated from their bodies. This first chapter ended with an unanswered question referring to the pupil less eyes of the cadavers. In another chapter, Roach discusses the obsolete practice of body snatching and the selling of corpses. The process of human decomposition is covered in disgusting detail. Cadavers are used as human crash test dummies and the military uses human cadavers to study the effects of bullets, weapons, and explosives on the human body. Casualties from a plane crash can tell their own story of the crash. By studying the victims’ wounds, an injury analyst can piece together fragments of events involved in the crash. “Beating-heart cadavers” are discussed as a relatively new term. This term refers to a person who has been declared brain-dead, after which their organs may be “harvested” for donor recipients. Roach follows this process with a female patient she calls “H” expressing that “H” is “a living, breathing, thriving person. It is strange, almost impossible, really, to think of her as a corpse.” In the historical period before death could be clinically and scientifically confirmed, the primitive methods for determining death are described, from jamming needles under toenails to thrusting a sharp pencil up the deceased’s nose. Of course, the only reliable way to determine absolute death was to delay burial of the body. The wait period had to be long enough to confirm the telltale signs of decomposition. This prevented the possibility of live burials, at least. Stiff even delves into the scientific study of the soul, its location in the body, and its weight. Decapitation, reanimation, and human head transplant theories are discussed. Roach describes experiments done in France with real human heads of decapitated criminals. The transplant experiments were done with animals. Experiments using human cadavers to simulate the effects of crucifixion have also been performed. In the last part of the book, Roach discusses medicinal cannibalism (not done in the U.S.). She writes about the medicinal use of mummified humans to benefit the living. The grossest details of uses of other body parts and/or byproducts (which will not be detailed here) are given as well. In China, aborted human fetuses are believed to have medicinal benefits when consumed. The final chapter deals with environmental issues surrounding traditional cremation, which consumes lots of energy. There are now safe and energy saving “green” methods that can be used to organically break down a corpse. What option is the author considering? She expresses some humorous considerations, but remains undecided.
Subject Headings: Human experimentation in medicine, dead, and human dissection.
Appeal Terms: morbidly fascinating, informative, humorous, medical, technical, enlightening, revealing, educational, unsettling, detailed, engaging, bizarre, and quirky.
Three terms that best describe this book: morbidly fascinating, human dissection, and humorous.
Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is probably the funniest book available about the history of science. Bryson, a well-known humor writer, discusses the Big Bang Theory, particle physics, geology, evolution, and science throughout history to the present. He takes his experiences observing, gathering, and researching, and turns them into funny stories.
Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures by Carl Zimmer is a thorough study of the relationship between humans and parasites. Zimmer gives disturbing accounts of parasites that are dangerous to humans as well as those that are beneficial. He artfully balances the disgusting and the scientific.
The Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell takes the reader to various historical landmarks and museums that have become significant due to assassinations. She covers the Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley assassinations with her trademark wit and sarcastic humorous commentaries compiling a rather bizarre travel guide.
Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
The Immortals by Tracy Hickman is a medical thriller that depicts governmental extermination of targeted citizens who have contracted a dreaded virus in epidemic proportions. Chilling accounts of the main character’s discoveries make it a gripping read.

Crisis by Robin Cook takes place in the courtroom and the hospital as a malpractice trial unfolds. In this spellbinding story, the wife of the defendant asks her medical examiner brother to exhume the body in question and perform an autopsy in hopes of clearing her husband. All are surprised at results of the autopsy and their significance.

Deadly Harvest by Leonard S. Goldberg portrays forensic pathologist Joanna Blalock urgently seeking a liver for her dying sister. She retains the services of what she believes to be a legitimate organ-transplant service, but discovers that the business obtains its donors through questionable means. While the mystery unravels, time is running out for Joanna’s sister. This is the second book in a medical/detective series.

Psychological Suspense

June 11, 2009


Psychological Suspense

Title: Scarpetta

Author: Cornwell, Patricia

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 500

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Geographic Setting: New York City

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Kay Scarpetta

Plot Summary: Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta leaves her practice in South Carolina to accept an assignment at Bellevue Hospital psychiatric prison ward, where her  husband works. An injured man, Oscar Bane, turns himself in to authorities claiming that he had been attacked by a stalker who had just killed someone else. He requests that only Dr. Scarpetta examine him. Is Oscar Bane a murderer, paranoid victim, or obsessed stalker fixated on Dr. Scarpetta? The only thing known for sure is that a woman had been tortured and murdered. There are bizarre twists and turns throughout the book. Dr. Scarpetta uses her technological skills to unravel the mystery and eventually reveal the  horrifying truth that threatens her entire family.

Subject Headings: Scarpetta, Kay (fictitious character) –Fiction, Medical examiners (law) –Fiction, Forensic pathologists – Fiction, Women physicians –Fiction

Appeal: Suspenseful, Multiple Plotlines, Complex plots, Scientific, Layered, Bizarre, Twists and Turns, Shocking, Horrifying,  Dark tone, Feminist, Intense.

Three terms that describe this book: Suspenseful, Scientific, Complex.

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction)

Reichs, Kathy – Bare Bones. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist and uses her scientific training and research to solve this mystery.

Patterson, James – 1st to Die. This is the first in the Women’s Murder Club. Four women, a medical examiner, detective, reporter, and an attorney are friends who team up to solve crimes.

Cook Robin – Chromosome 6. The main character, Dr. Jack Stapleton, a forensic pathologist, and Dr. Laurie Montgomery use their medical training to solve a bizarre crime.

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction)

Denega, Danielle – Skulls and skeletons: true life stories of bone detectives. Forensic anthropologists who use their skills to solve mysteries are featured in this book.

Hunter, William – Solving Crimes with Physics.  Introduces and explains how forensic science associated with blood splatter, bullet ballistics, explosions, and other physical evidence can be used to understand crimes.

Nova – “The Perfect Corpse,” a DVD originally aired on television. Forensic scientists examine a headless Iron Age male corpse in Ireland. It is theorized that he had been a sacrificial victim of Celtic ritual.

Name: Donna Mihovilovich