Shady Characters by Keith Houston: This geeky look at symbols and punctuation is as informative as it is fun.

Shady CharactersShady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks

by Keith Houston

Hardcover, 246 pg.
W. W. Norton Company, 2013

Read: August 7 – 16, 2019

When the quotation mark does succeed in sparking debate, it attracts mild tut-tutting rather than genuine outrage. Though there is transatlantic disagreement over whether to enclose speech in ‘single’ or “double” quotes, for instance, it comes nowhere near the level of hand-wringing inspired by the semicolon, whose tricky usage has driven it almost to extinction. Neither does the occasional unnecessary “use” of quotation marks induce the howling apoplexy provoked by a simple misplaced apostrophe: whereas one English council was driven to institute an apostrophe “swear box,” café menu offers of “freshly baked ‘bagels,”’ “‘fresh fish,” and the like attract typically little more than a genteel ribbing. Unlike the “Oxford,” or serial, comma, quotation marks or “inverted commas” have never become a trending topic on Twitter, nor have they inspired a pop song in their name.

If that paragraph (from the chapter on quotation marks) or the fact that there’s an entire chapter on quotation marks doesn’t indicate it to you already, let me assure you that this is a book for grammar nerds (or would-be grammar nerds). For a little more flavor, the U. S. subtitle is “The Secret Life of Punc­tu­ation, Sym­bols, & Other Ty­po­graph­ical Marks,” in the U.K., it’s “Am­persands, In­ter­ro­b­angs and Other Ty­po­graph­ical Curi­os­it­ies.”

The book is a historical survey of typography and language as manifested in particular punctuation marks, symbols, and other typographical marks. How they developed, how they’ve been used, and how they are used now. Specifically they are: the pilcrow (¶—you may have seen those around here); the interrobang (‽); the octothorpe (#); the ampersand (&); the @ symbol; the asterisk and dagger (* †); the hyphen (‐); the dash ( ‒ – — ―); the manicule (☞); quotation marks (‘ ’ “ ” ‘ ‘ ” “); and the various attempts to come up with a symbol, typology, or punctuation denoting irony, sarcasm or humor.*

* And I really wish I knew how that paragraph was going to display cross-browsers, devices and in the various places I’ll post this…

The afterward does a pretty good job of describing the book as a whole:

This book, as it turns out, is not just about unusual marks of punctuation, nor even punctuation in general. In following the warp and woof of individual shady characters throughout their lifetimes, it is the woven fabric of writing as a whole that emerges. And in today’s writing, the printed and electroluminescent characters we read on a daily basis and the scrawled handwriting that occupies the diminishing gaps between computer monitors, tablet computers, and smartphone screens, this history stares right back at us.

You don’t have to read this book from cover to cover, you can dip in and read about a particular mark/symbol that you’re curious about and move on. But the chapters do build on each other, and things that are discussed in (for example) the pilcrow chapter will come back for the manicule, the interrobang will inform the ironic/sarcasm indicators, and the octothorpe chapter will come back with the @ and dash chapters. So you’d do well to read it from cover to cover.

It’s not just the individual marks/symbols that you learn about, but the hyphen chapter is a lesson (in a nutshell) on typography in books from Gutenberg to digital publishing. The asterisk and dagger chapter showed a surprising connection between those symbols (and their usage) and the Protestant Reformation, Luther in particular.

The origin alone of the name “ampersand” (and the various attempts at explaining “octothorpe” and the alternatives) are just amusing enough to justify buying a copy of this to have on hand for reference. The history of the ampersand is almost as interesting as the name, too. The reason that @ was used in e-mail addresses — and essentially shaped how much of the world’s communication in the few decades since then is a great example that it’s not just butterflies flapping their wings in China that can make a huge impact on the other side of the world.

Naturally, not all chapters are equally interesting — and that’s going to be a matter of taste — and the more technical bits of individual chapters are easily skimmable until Houston moves on to another aspect of the mark in question or on to the next chapter. I will admit I did that a time or two, but he always got me back within a chapter.

I really wish I could remember how this got on my radar a couple of weeks ago, so I could give a hat-tip and some thanks, I had a great time with this book. Well-illustrated (both anecdotally and with pictures), and with a great mix of style, wit and substance — Shady Characters is a great way for a grammar geek to spend a day or two basking in the things that provide ornamentation to writing and our books. i do recommend it, and am glad I came across it.

—–

3 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

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The Lord’s Supper: Answers to Common Questions by Keith A. Mathison: A Helpful, Careful, Encouraging and Challenging Look at some Tricky Questions

The Lord's Supper: Answers to Common QuestionsThe Lord’s Supper: Answers to Common Questions

by Keith A. Mathison

eARC, 99 pg.
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019
Read: August 4, 2019

There were many laudable things about Mathison’s Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (P & R Publishing, 2002), one of the personal highlights was the final chapter, “Practical Issues and Debates.” This new release from Reformation Trust takes the same impulses that were behind that chapter (and the rest of the book) and delivers a concise introduction to the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, looking at the doctrinal landscape, a survey of the relevant passages, and some pressing questions (both theological and practical) for those with little background in the Sacrament, or those who wish to have their understanding sharpened.

Because the chapter titles represent just what you get in this book, let me post them:

1. What Is the Lord’s Supper?
2. What Are the Different Views of the Lord’s Supper?
3. Why Did Jesus Institute the Lord’s Supper on the Passover?
4. What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “This Is My Body” and “This Is My Blood of the Covenant”?
5. What Does Paul Teach concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10– 11?
6. Is Jesus Present In The Lord’s Supper?
7. Is the Lord’s Supper a Sacrifice?
8. What Are the Elements of the Lord’s Supper?
9. How Frequently Should the Lord’s Supper Be Observed?
10. How Should Believers Prepare for and Partake of the Lord’s Supper?
11. Should Children Partake of the Lord’s Supper?

The first two chapters cover the ground that a lot of books on the subject doevery author (and reader) need to start with the basics in view, and Mathison handles a survey these ideas very capably.

Chapter 3 is honestly not something I’ve considered before (at least not in a lot of detail)after all, when else could the Last Supper have been held? But I’m glad he covered this idea, and it gave me a good perspective on redemptive-historical place of the sacrament instituted that night.

Chapters 4 and 5 are very helpful and clear while guiding the reader through the passages in question. He doesn’t get too technical with the passages (due to space and the focus of the book), but is efficient enough in his explanation that he provides a solid grounding for further study and meditation. I particularly appreciated that in Chapter 5, Mathison is careful to point out that not only does the sacrament look back (“Do this in remembrance”), but it looks forward in eschatological hope to the consummation.

Chapter 6 is obviously going to be controversial and might cause problems for many. Mathison is irenic, yet he doesn’t waver from his position (or provide much wiggle room for those who might disagree). Carefully building on the aforementioned texts and the Niceno-Chalcedonian doctrine concerning the person of Christ, he then explains the teachings of the magisterial Reformers (the non-Lutheran ones, anyway) in a way relevant to today’s believer.

Like Chapter 6, Chapter 9 covers ground that he focused on in the longer previous workand those who want more on those subjects have a ready resource in his work. What’s here is a great start, but it’s not everything Mathison has to say on the ideas.

Chapter 10 is pure gold, it’s one of the best things I’ve read this year. It’s helpful and encouraging (and, yes, a little challenging)worth the purchase price alone.

Overall the writing is cleareasy enough for anyone to approach and understand, while not losing the depth and rigor necessary when dealing with something as important as this. Mathison cites other authors (contemporary and historical) to help (and the footnotes provide great fodder for further study), but shoulders most of the work himself. If you’ve never read Mathison, this is a good way to see one of his strengths is always taking complex ideas and presenting them in an accessible fashion.

I have two complaintsneither are enough to keep me from recommending the book, and possibly gifting itbut they’re things that bugged me. Brevity. It’s just too short, it doesn’t have to be as long as Given for You, but each chapter could be just a little longer and more developed.

The second complaint (semi-related) is the lack of a conclusion, just a page or two of wrap-up, an exhortation to use these answerssomething. It just ends abruptly after Chapter 11*, and the absence of anything else was a deafening silence.

*There’s a bankruptcy joke begging to be made there, but it seems cheap.

Those a great resource for those with questions about the Reformed position on the sacrament. Like Guy Prentiss Waters’ The Lord’s Supper as the Sign and Meal of the New Covenant from last year, it’s a great introductory work and would make a great companion to it, the two would round out each other. Mathison helps to deal with practical and theoretical issues that young believers, or believers new to the Reformed tradition, stumble on and struggle with. Faithful, helpful, wise, and encouraging, this book is a great help and you’d do well to check it out.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Reformation Trust Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this, I appreciate the opportunity, but not enough to change my opinion of the book.

—–

3.5 Stars

Saturday Miscellany—8/17/2019

I just had to mark 3 comments as Spam today, I’d like to thank those kind people looking for ways to make me money from the bottom of my heart (for reminding me why I moderate comments). How do people with real traffic on their blog handle it?

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

    • Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh—the U. S. release of Eddie Flynn dealing with a Serial Killer on the jury of his latest case. I raved about this a couple of weeks ago. You don’t have to know the previous novels in the series to appreciate this one, I should stress.
    • Hacked by Duncan MacMaster—MacMaster is one of the best at combining fun and great mysteries at work today. As I assume this sequel to Hack will demonstrate.
    • The Swallows by Lisa Lutz—A dark past comes back to haunt the woman running from it (one of Lutz’s specialties) as she accidentally kicks off a gender war at a New England Prep School. Last Saturday, I discovered I won a copy of this when it arrived on my doorstep. It’s been sitting on my desk since, calling my name…

    Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Kitty Marie’s Book Reviews Blog, rashidul.huda, Lashaan Balasingam @ Bookidote, Naba Kumar Garai, Psychotherapist ,Counsellor, Film Screenwriter,Playwright,Producer – LONDON.UK and Sonam Sangpo Lama for following the blog this week. (WHERE did you all come from!?)

    A Few Quick Questions With…Christy J. Breedlove

    I talked a little bit ago about, Screamcatcher: Web World and now I have the pleasure of sharing a Q&A I did with the author, Christy J. Breedlove. I liked the book and I like what she had to say here (there seems to be a theme…). I hope you enjoy and I hope this helps convince you to give Breedlove and her work a shot.

    Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
                         My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of writing back in 1987, I wrote three Sf short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the Producers, the Cohen Brothers. Only an option, but an extreme honor. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie, was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon.

    A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.

    I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher’s YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a film option. So, I’m getting there, I hope!

    I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one — what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
                         I was always under the illusion that everything hasn’t been done. I fool myself into think that because premise is my number one priority. If it isn’t unique, out-of-the-box or distinctive, I won’t attempt it. We have a dream catcher in the living room, and one day I stared at it and remember some of the legend behind it. Then I looked up the lore associated with the dream catcher. That really started a fire within.
    What kinds of research went into the construction of this concept and the world? What was the thing you came across in your research that you loved, but just couldn’t figure out how to use? (assuming there was one)
                         It all started with the dream catcher. This iconic item, which is rightfully ingrained in Indian lore, is a dream symbol respected by the culture that created it. It is mystifying, an enigma that that prods the imagination. Legends about the dream catcher are passed down from multiple tribes. There are variations, but the one fact that can be agreed upon is that it is a nightmare entrapment device, designed to sift through evil thoughts and images and only allow pleasant and peaceful dreams to enter into consciousness of the sleeper.

    I wondered what would happen to a very ancient dream catcher that was topped off with dreams and nightmares. What if the nightmares became too sick or deathly? What if the web strings could not hold anymore visions? Would the dream catcher melt, burst, vanish, implode? I reasoned that something would have to give if too much evil was allowed to congregate inside of its structure. I found nothing on the Internet that offered a solution to this problem—I might have missed a relevant story, but nothing stood out to me. Stephen King had a story called Dream Catcher, but I found nothing in it that was similar to what I had in mind. So I took it upon myself to answer such a burning question. Like too much death on a battlefield could inundate the immediate location with lost and angry spirits, so could a dream catcher hold no more of its fill of sheer terror without morphing into something else, or opening up a lost and forbidden existence. What would it be like to be caught up in another world inside the webs of a dream catcher, and how would you get out? What would this world look like? How could it be navigated? What was the source of the exit, and what was inside of it that threatened your existence? Screamcatcher: Web World, the first in the series, was my answer. I can only hope that I have done it justice. The readers can be the judge of that.

    Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
                         Oh, like what I consider stylists: Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet, Peter Benchley, The Island and Jaws, Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field and Black Marble, Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, Alan Dean Foster, Icerigger trilogy, and some Stephen King. Anne Rice impresses with just about anything she has written. I think it’s the humor and irony that attracts me the most–and it’s all character related As far as Ya material, I was really floored when I studied Jo Rowling’s world building. As far as dangers, toils and snares, I was attracted to the action in The Hunger Games—a real mind changer for me.

    What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
                         Totally off the spec genre, I was captivated by Rocketman, the story of Elton John, and Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of Queen. I’m a sucker for bio-dramas, like Cinderella Man, and such. There is something about the human struggle to fame and fortune that fascinated me. I get emotionally involved in the character/characters. It’s true to life, and I’ve a similar life picture painted with such ups and down.
    I see there’s another Screamcatcher volume on the way, are there more to come after that? Or have you latched on to some other idea for what’s next, and can you tell us a little about that?
                         Two more Screamcatcher books are finished and sold to the same publisher. The second in the trilogy is called Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers. The third and final is called Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye. By the second book, the kids have formed the Badlands Paranormal Society. The fancy themselves as true paranormal investigators since they escaped alive from the first Web World in book 1. The third books, via the blessings of George Knapp, investigative reporter out of Las Vegas, is my fiction account of what really happened at Skin Walker Ranch, the most haunting tale I’ve ever heard in my life.
    Thanks for your time—and thanks for Screamcatcher, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.
                         I’m honored, H.C. Newton to grace your pages and thank you for your time and consideration of my life and work.

    Screamcatcher: Web World by Christy J. Breedlove: Get Caught Up in this YA Fantasy’s Web

    Screamcatcher: Web WorldScreamcatcher: Web World

    by Christy J. Breedlove
    Series: Screamcatcher, #1


    Kindle Edition, 218 pg.
    Melange Books – Fire and Ice YA, 2019

    Read: July 31, 2019

    I don’t have a lot to say about this one, my views are pretty straightforward and most of the analysis I’d give would be spoiler-heavy, but I do want to try to say enough to entice someone (preferably a few someones) to read this satisfying YA Fantasy.

    I really prefer to come up with my own synopses, but I’ve failed to think of a succinct way to give one for this book (well, I had one that was too succinct and was really unsatisfactory), so I’m just going to appropriate the official blurb:

               When seventeen-year-old Jory Pike cannot shake the hellish nightmares of her parent’s deaths, she turns to an old family heirloom, a dream catcher. Even though she’s half blood Chippewa, Jory thinks old Indian lore is so yesterday, but she’s willing to give it a try. However, the dream catcher has had its fill of nightmares from an ancient and violent past. After a sleepover party, and during one of Jory’s most horrific dream episodes, the dream catcher implodes, sucking Jory and her three friends into its own world of trapped nightmares. They’re in an alternate universe-locked inside of an insane web world. How can they find the center of the web, where all good things are allowed to pass?

    I don’t pretend to have an extensive, much less exhaustive, familiarity with uses of Native American symbology, imagery, spirituality, or anything. But I’ve come across my share over the years, and I don’t remember anyone using the dreamcatcher in any significant way before. And I don’t know why — this is an awesome idea.

    The first few pages (maybe the first chapter or so) were a little rough, and my expectations lowered a little bit. But once Breedlove had established the world and things started happening, the book became a lot more enjoyable and I got sucked right into it. Breedlove does a great job of balancing the fantastic elements of this dream world (I guess nightmare world would be closer to the truth) and reality to make it easy to understand, but still following a nightmare logic ad full of the stuff that dreams are made of (just without the statuary from Malta).

    There was a love story that was established early on, and I really had no interest in it, but it eventually won me over and I started pulling for it. Making it on two fronts that Breedlove got me to invest in both the story and the characters when I wasn’t in any frame of mind to do so. I can’t tell you what ineffable quality there is to her writing that accomplishes that, but call it what you will, I like it when someone can do that.

    There was a little suspense concerning the fate of some of Jory’s friends/companions, but by and large, you get the feeling early on just how things will turn out for almost all involved, the pleasure (for the reader, not the characters) is in the journey. There’s some self-discovery and personal growth to go with the monster fighting (fighting and/or avoiding).

    It is written for a YA audience and certainly will appeal to that sensibility, but it can easily be entertaining for those of us with gray in our beards or on our heads (assuming there’s anything to gray). I’d like a little more depth to the primary characters, but that wasn’t in the cards, and it’s not like they’re not three-dimensional, I just think those dimensions could be a little deeper.

    I did expect a lot more Native American imagery and myth (something akin to Riordan maybe, at least like Craig Johnson). I don’t think what we got was incompatible with it by any means, but it certainly wasn’t steeped in it. I’m not complaining, I don’t think the story needed it, but it might have made things a bit richer.

    I don’t see how this leads to a sequel, in fact, I’d have thought it precluded one. But the end of the book tells me it’ll be available this year. Color me curious.

    Imaginative and compelling with an unusual focus/motivating hook. For a fast, fun YA fantasy, Screamcatcher: Web World will satisfy.

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for this post, but I read it because I wanted to and the opinions expressed are my own and not influenced by the receipt of the novel.

    —–

    3.5 Stars

    LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

    A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais: A Routine Errand leads to a Rescue Mission for Joe Pike

    A Dangerous ManA Dangerous Man

    by Robert Crais

    Series: Joe Pike, #7/Elvis Cole, #18
    Hardcover, 339 pg.
    G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019
    Read: August 8, 2019

    Pike clipped his .357 to his waist, and went to his Jeep. Sometimes Pike enjoyed silence. Sometimes the silence scared him.

    There’s nothing like a riveting scene to start off a Thriller, right? So naturally, Robert Crais starts this Joe Pike novel with Pike waiting in line to make a deposit at his bank. Talk about a nail-biter.

    Yeah, that was snarkier than it needed to be. Honestly, I thought the scene was amusing — you don’t think of Pike doing routine things like that, and having the tellers gossip about him was cute. Right after that, this becomes a Pike kind of story—as he’s getting into his Jeep, he sees the teller who’d just been helping him being violently forced into a vehicle that drives away. Pike calls the police and intervenes before the kidnappers can do anything to Izzy.

    The kidnappers are arrested, and Joe Pike has become a hero in a young woman’s eyes. Just another day for Pike, really, except his opponents are breathing okay. Neither the police, Izzy or Pike can figure out why she was taken — it’s not for money, she has none; there was no indication of sexual assault; and no one to ransom her to. Yet these two men committed this brazen act in mid-day with many witnesses around (including one witness that decides not to just watch).

    A few days later, the kidnappers have been shot and Izzy is missing. Pike is spurred to action — and calls in Elvis to handle the investigation side of things while Pike secures her home and tries to insure her best friend is safe, before trying a different tack than Elvis to discover who took Izzy. It’s not long before Elvis finds himself entangled in a web of family secrets, lies, and murder — in addition to kidnapping.

    It’s then a race to find out why Izzy was taken, as well as by whom and where. Despite not knowing her well, Pike’s devoted to saving Izzy and making sure those who took her won’t be in any position to threaten or hurt anyone again.

    Joe Pike is in full-on protector/sentry/guardian angel mode here. He feels responsible for Izzy after rescuing her once, and once she goes missing, it’s a given that he’ll devote all his time and energy to rescuing her again. Elvis isn’t quite as invested, but he’s close and catches just enough brakes to get a full picture of what might drive people to kidnap Izzy and who they just might be. He’s also back to being full of quips and isn’t afraid to tweak the LAPD’s nose a little bit.

    This is possibly the best John Chen story arc yet, it’s tertiary to the main story, but pivotal when it comes into contact with the primary story. But there’s more drama, more real emotion and tension of John than we’re used to. It was pretty cool to see how this one wrapped up, and how other characters worked to get it there. Do I expect that this will have any change on John’s character in the future? Of course not. But it was a good use of the character.

    Very frequently, the clients that Joe and Elvis take on are utterly hopeless and are aware they’re totally dependent on the Joe and/or Elvis in their situation. Usually, part of Joe’s interaction with them is to show them they can rely on themselves, to find their strengths, maybe develop some. But Izzy and her best friend, Carly, don’t need that. Yes, they’re clueless about how to act in this dangerous situation — kidnapping, guns, and violence, in general, aren’t parts of their world, and they need experts to help with this (as 90+% of us would). But otherwise, they’re confident, they know their place in the world and are enjoying life. This does not stop the two of them doing things that are monumentally stupid (understandable, but stupid). But it’s a different arc than we’re used to, and it was pleasant to see these kinds of characters.

    Without ruining anything, I’ll just note that Crais is better at bringing back — even if it’s just by dropping their name — old clients than most PI series. I’ve always liked that, and this book is no exception.

    Crais is at the top of his game — this book takes place over a very short period of time and the urgency of the story is reflected in the prose. If you don’t get sucked in and gripped by the neck by this story, there’s something wrong with you. I tried to take my time and savor it, knowing it’ll be a while before we get another. But nope, Couldn’t do it, I had it finished about 13 hours after I started it — and it’s only family/work responsibilities that kept me from making that even briefer. There are some laughs; some quiet, reflective moments; but mostly, it’s pedal-to-the-metal action. Which is exactly what you want in a Joe Pike novel. The writing is crisp and compelling from the opening scene to the superb closing line.

    Is this accessible for a new reader? Yup. Don’t let the fact that this is the 18th novel with these characters dissuade you, this is a perfect way to meet them and to see why Crais has been a bestseller for quite some time now. A Dangerous Man is as close to perfect as a thriller can be, and is probably the best thing Crais has done since 2013’s Suspect. Don’t waste time, go get it.

    —–

    4 1/2 Stars

    2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

    A Few Quick Questions With…Richard Steele

    So, yeah, Richard Steele’s book wasn’t my kind of thing, but like I said, Steele’s been great throughout. I appreciate his answers here and it helps me get what he was going for. I know there are people out there who’ll dig his stuff, and hope they find it.

    I’ve never been given a warning before from an author after agreeing to read their book—what was behind that? Would you warn all your readers?
                         I’d probably best describe this decision as “Debut Author Jitters”.

    I wrote Time Travel + Brain Stealing… by the seat of my pants (a big no-no for many writers), with almost no outlining and all spontaneity. It was quite a ride! Because of this, I labeled it’s genre Dark Humor from what I subjectively believed it to be, rather than the roller coaster of insanity it turned out to be.

    It was only until I received my first review from a reader who was taken aback by the gore and vulgarity that I realized I may have misplaced the genre of my book, and therefore the pending reviewers who were currently reading it in good faith were also under that same false impression.

    I researched and researched and found its home in Bizarro Fiction, albeit a rather vanilla version when compared to others, and felt it was my duty as an Author to let those who dedicated their time voluntarily to read my book know there was a potential for some to be offended by my writing and give them an opportunity to decide if this new genre was best suited to their reading taste.

    Would I warn everyone now? No, I believe my honest blurb and preface should suffice. It was more time, place and circumstance. With my previous warning and I’ve learnt very quickly that my audience is out there, but so too are my critics and I can’t control that if I want to write how I want to write.

    I’ve not come across anything that describes itself as “Bizarro Fiction,” for the myself and the rest of the uninitiated, could you describe that genre?
                         Join the club! It is a great genre I literally stumbled into, and I’m sure those who are fanatic Bizarro readers may even argue that my book is too vanilla for it. However, I would deem Bizarro to be that line you cross in Dark Humor where you incorporate gore, over the top violence, toilet humor and gross-out comedy with a blend of satire and wit.

    It goes beyond what the average person would deem comfortable and forces them to laugh or contemplate laughing at situations they ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t.

    Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
                         I did what a lot of first time foolish authors do and sent it to the big publishers, thinking I cracked a niche and had the perfect new formula.

    A few nice rejections later and a small press independent publisher in Tenth Street Press found me and loved the boundaries I was pushing. They gave me a chance I believe I may have never found elsewhere to write pure and free.

    I actually drafted this book as a set of small short stories when I was twelve, albeit a diluted and less Bizarro-esque version. I always remembered that feeling of making others laugh or cry or run away in horror at my writing and although I have a serious full-time occupation, that urge to write bizarre comedy never left me and only grew stronger the older I got.

    In saying that, I’m still relatively young to publish (unless you believe my Author Bio then I’m almost retired), and I’m hoping this is the first of many books.

    Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
                         Ah, well I can’t go past the late and great Leslie Nielsen who whilst he wasn’t an author, his style of satire and slap-stick comedy in the likes of ‘The Naked Gun’, ‘Spy Hard’ and my favorite ‘Wrongfully Accused’ have stuck with me for decades.

    I always wanted to take what they could do on screen, that randomness and insanity but with such strict seriousness and splash it onto paper.

    As far as other authors go, I can’t go past Andy Griffiths and his Bum Trilogy books, such as ‘Zombie Bums from Uranus’. Whilst written for a younger audience than mine, his ability to take the ridiculous and toilet humor and make it serious and funny at the same time was a large influence.

    What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
                         It may be older than 5 years but I can’t go past ‘Hot Rod’. That was absolute genius. Along with others (older also, sorry) like ‘Kung Pow: Enter the Fist’ and ‘Black Dynamite’. It’s again due to the random nature of their satirical and slap-stick humor that sometimes makes me think if they syphoned my thoughts while I slept.
    What’s next for Richard Steele, author?
                         I’ve planned out 3 more books to the Good Times series, all standalone with a very minor entanglement between them. These will be splices of different genres each, just like ‘Time Travel + Brain Stealing…’ is Science Fiction and Horror etc, so the humor in each pulls on different elements from the differing genres.
    However, a recent reviewee challenged me to write serious books instead and put my talent to good use. And to that I say touché!
    I also have a trilogy of Science Fiction Adventure underway also aimed at Middle Grade level, a re-invented ‘Redwall’ of sorts. Under a different name of course…can you imagine parents and priests checking my name to see if my writing is appropriate? Ha!
    I’ll wait to see if my legions of non-existent Bizarro fans enjoy my debut novella first before I dive back into that cesspool style of writing. So until then, Richard Steele salutes you.
    Thanks for your time! I hope Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times finds its audience and that you have plenty of success with the book.