Book Review: Music Tales Makes Entertaining Book

Cover design by Phil Pascuzzo. Cover illustrations by Matt Nelson.

 

For years rock musicians have been treated in a different way than non-famous people. Rock stars have gotten away with trashing hotels, speeding, and drugs where many people would still be sitting in jail for the same offense. Celebrities in the music world do dumb things as well, in which many of us would not think up, more less actually do.

In his book Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019), Jake Brennan details some of music’s biggest and well known stories . Taken from his podcast of the same name, Brennan walks the reader through some of the famous, and sometimes just plain strange, stories about music legends , tying each chapter together to provide a well written story.

Some of the tales in the book are about Elvis Presley and his struggle with manager Tom Parker in being a serious musician, while Parker continues to keep a hold on his money making star, how Jerry Lee Lewis’ two wives ended up dead not long after each other, and how Sam Cooke was killed in a motel room.

Not only are the stories, as mentioned before, strange and entertaining to read, but Brennan adds a fictional flare to the conversations between the characters to reenact what was going on at the time, as well as combining the end of each person’s chapter to lead into the following artists’ tale of death, sadness, and oddities. The illustrations by Matt Nelson also adds to the strange stories.

One of the strangest tales mentioned is detailing Black Metal musician Varg Vikernes, who stabbed Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, which also involves the death of vocalist Dead (who would do very strange things on stage and off to live up to his name),cannibalism, and church burnings. I have seen a few documentaries dealing with the Black Metal movement at the time, but these stories are almost so strange that it seems like a movie script.

Of course Axl Rose has to be covered in a book about bad behavior, which includes the St. Louis incident, where a riot was caused after Rose stopped a show short, and their 1999 incident at Donington, which caused the deaths of fans. One could write many tales about Rose’s behavior (not starting concerts until midnight or walking off before a show was finished) where a whole book could be featured on just him. The same could be said for Sid Vicious and Phil Spector, who are also covered in the book, along with a the final days of Gram Parson’s and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.

The book reads nicely in a fictional style format, to where the stories are not just straight out facts, and the tying in each chapter from the previous star’s story is enjoyable as well. There is strong language throughout the writing, but the tales are what makes this book a nice read for rock fans. I have yet to hear the podcast , but this book gives a great introduction to some of rock music’s strange and weird personalities and lives that involves cover-ups, interesting facts, and just plain weird stuff.

 

This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019) by Jake Brennan ISBN: 978-1-5387-3214-4 (hardcover) 978-1-5387-3213-7 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.

 

For information on the Disgraceland podcast, go to:www.disgracelandpod.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 288

Language: Strong

Geared For: Ages 16 and Up

For Fans Of: Rock Music, True Crime, Biographies

Book Review: Gospel Legend’s Book Short on Details

Cover design by Edward A. Crawford. Cover photography by Derek Blanks, copyright 2019 Hachette Book Group, Inc.

 

Even though I grew up in churches, I will admit I don’t know much about BeBe Winans. I do know that he and his sister CeCe are Gospel music legends, who have won many awards throughout their careers. I can not name any of their songs or albums, although I do listen to several Christian artists.

I was hoping by reading BeBe’s book Born For This: My Story In Music (Faithwords, 2019) I would know more about his career and who he is. Unfortunately, I learned very little about the man behind the music.

The book starts off compelling and emotional, with BeBe describing he and his family’s time dealing with the sickness and death of one of his brothers Ronald. The book keeps a telling and entertaining read at first, in that it is not a normal autobiography with dates and a timeline, but written where the chapters start off with a Bible verse (or quote) and then that part of his life is retold trying to keep the theme of the quote or verse. This made the book appealing to me at first, until the halfway point.

BeBe recalls his youth and growing up in the church, along with his father’s story of how he (his father) changed his name to Winans . BeBe also details how his church became a family to him, with discipline, respect, and a love for community that were all installed into his values. BeBe tells about how he started to feel a little disappointed how his older siblings (including sister CeCe ) got their musical breaks before him, by auditioning for the Praise The Lord Club show, which was run by Jim and Tammy Bakker, who wanted only his sister and not BeBe.

The Praise The Lord Club stories start off interesting, where once BeBe gets a break singing in the choir, and then later, duets with his sister, stating that there was shock by the audience (along with complaints from viewers) that African American singers were being showcased on the show. The writer starts to tease friction among those that helped broadcast the show, while being viewed as the pet projects of the Bakkers.

Halfway through the book is where things start to fade. Winans tells about how living in the South, along with singing on television and on records, turns into a race issue. I am not doubting the writer’s experiences in having to deal with being the one of the first major acts thrown onto a southern television show (who am I to judge what the author experienced), but the way it is written , the book turns into a “woah is me” experience. The early part of the book shows the drive that BeBe had wanting to be a singer, but the last half of the book turns out to be someone who almost complains about having the success.

There is a story about Tammy Bakker swearing right before a live broadcast, where the writer details the swear word several times in the following pages (which may seem odd for a Christian book to keep using the word on so many pages). BeBe also tells that a close white female friend of his gets fired by the Bakkers after the Bakkers claim that she and Winans were becoming too close. The reply in the book to this was “if people think we’re dating, let’s date,” almost to shove it into people’s faces. For someone that uses the book to claim he was judged by racial problems, the way this event is written makes it like he was dating her because she was white. There is a lack of detail describing an actual build up to a relationship before this story.

The book ends up just ending where Winans starts becoming famous with some of his albums. The book basically covers his early career. He does have some nice stories about befriending Whitney Houston, but the second half is mostly either almost complaining about not being as famous as he should be early on, to God promising him he would be famous and rich and questioning God when it didn’t happen as quick. When the reader wants to see his thoughts on the results of Jim and Tammy’s fall in the Christian world, Winans just brushes the events over , stating that they are human and it’s in God’s hands. I understand him not wanting to bash those that gave him a break , but it just stops the conversation that he spent a lengthy part of the book talking about with one minor sentence as the conclusion.

I am not sure if it is the editing or this was the way Winans wanted to express his thoughts, but the overall book seems flat. It starts off well, but after the halfway point, it turns into one of those books that he doesn’t seem grateful for what he was given. There is a part in the book where he mentions being mistaken for a valet parker while standing outside of a fancy restaurant. He then writes how he wants to go off on that person. The book tends to focus more on the race issue than being a Christian book discussing his music (which is what the title suggests). The Bible verses that are featured in the book do not get much of an explanation. I could see a normal secular musician writing a book about being angry about things in his past, but not a Gospel legend from a Christian publisher.

Just because I was not a fan of the book overall, due to the way I interpreted the voice of the writer, the work that goes into a book is not dismissed in my review. However, since Winans is a famous person, who is considered an icon, I expected more stories on his music (the writing of the songs, some studio stories, etc) and less about how God was supposed to make him famous earlier than he became. There is a lack of Christian viewpoints for the reader, and more of an entitlement attitude that should be used in a Christian Living/Inspirational genre. It lacks emotion and detail in the stories given that one would expect more from a legendary musician.

 

This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

Born For This: My Story In Music by BeBe Winans (Faithwords, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-5460-0989-4 (hardcover), 978-1-5460-0988-7 (ebook).

 

This book can be ordered at : https://www.faithwords.com/

For information on the author, visit: https://www.bebewinans.net/

 

The Overall:

Pages: 215

Language: Mild (at one section) , otherwise none

Geared For: Ages 15 and Up

For Fans Of: Autobiography, Gospel Music.

 

 

Book Review: Pastor Shows Importance of A Day Off

Cover design by Edward A. Crawford. Cover photography by Getty Images.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one day a week to do nothing but recharge yourself in body, spirit, and mind, shutting off the emails, cell phones, and whatever else gets in the way? Christian writer Robert Morris shows readers how to do this in his new book Take The Day Off: Receiving God’s Gift Of Rest (FaithWords, 2019).

Morris, the founding senior pastor at Gateway Church in Dallas Fort-Worth, encourages Christians to re-evaluate their lives and how to get one day of rest each week, full of distractions, along with why it must be done.

Morris takes an approach on the subject, first by stating that taking a day of rest is the 4th Commandment which God gave Moses, so if Christians can take the other Commandments seriously (such as “don’t murder, or steal”), why should getting a day of rest be any lesser than the others? Morris then describes how Christians need to re-fuel the major parts of a person’s life: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, by bringing up ideas such as if a person is not sleeping well at night, worrying about bills, the kids, or the job, it may be because the person is not trusting God that he is going to take care of his followers.

Morris uses other examples, such as the success the chain Chic-fil-A has by being closed on Sundays, yet still making a bigger profit than many of the competitors, to detailing the difference between resting on the Sabbath verses taking a vacation, having the day off written on a calendar where the person does “nothing,” even if it offends others at the office, friends, or those that want to schedule something on that day. He also walks the reader through why people do not want to rest one day a week (and the fears that it brings), to how important overall a day of rest has on a person and their ministry, to the subject on if the Sabbath day has to be on a Sunday or another day during the week. Morris also gives tips a step by step plan to get comfortable on the rest day, and some things the person should do (and should not do) during that day to get closer with God.

The book is mostly enjoyable, there are parts towards the middle and end that (to me) seemed to repeat itself in wording that has already been said earlier in the book (the book is still just over 200 pages, so it is relatively short). The first half of the book was really insightful; with Morris explaining that God even rested after creating the universe so why shouldn’t his followers, and using examples of Adam and Eve (as well as other Biblical stories), to explain why rest is important, along with doing work.

One problem I have with books like these, especially in the Self-Help area, is that not all things are equal in terms of people’s lives. I am definitely going to take the things in this book and apply it, but not every person can follow these steps, due to situations. Yes, everyone should be able to have one day of rest , away from the workplace, family, and even church responsibilities, but can they? A person that is currently working two (sometimes three) jobs just to make ends meet, due to scheduling, can not be able to have a full day to themselves, since many employers do not work around other job schedules (especially in my area of Columbiana, Ohio, where jobs are very scarce). If a person has to work several jobs just to make ends meet, does that mean they are breaking one of the Commandments, when the author writes a section about God judging the person’s heart? One may state that the person is not fully trusting God for providing, but is that really the case? Not everyone gets to choose the work schedule, like famous writers or pastors (or business owners) to be free to make one day full day possible. This is NOT a knock on the author and his ideas and points made, but just a commentary on the real world in certain areas of the world.

Overall the book is easy to read, and besides a few questions I have on the subject ( and a few parts that repeat themselves), the book’s is an unique and new way to look at not only how Christians should renew themselves throughout the week, but also how to look at their values and goals by being Christians.

 

This book was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Take The Day Off : Receiving God’s Gift Of Rest by Robert Morris (Faithwords, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-5460-1016-6 (hardcover), 978-1-5460-1014-2 (ebook) can be found at : http://www.faithwords.com.

 

For information about the author, visit : http://www.pastroerobert.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 240

Language: None

Geared For: Ages 15 and Up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Christianity, Non-Fiction, Self-Help

Halloween 2019 : The Annual Creepy Celebration!

It’s time for my annual Halloween post! Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year;  a time when I can not be ashamed of my love for horror films and monsters. Originally my Halloween posts were about several horror films that I wanted to bring attention to throughout the year, but the last few years I have decided to let a few contributors (those I have met through my journeys reviewing their works here, or to some friends that I am more than happy to give them some attention). This year I reached out to a few pals, and gave them free reign to write about ANYTHING that is related to Halloween, horror or monster films, or the season itself.

One of my favorite writers I have met since starting to focus on blogging reviews is Gary A. Smith, who has written many wonderful books (you can read some of my reviews on his books by typing his name into the search engine and visiting the archives section). Smith has been a contributor to the magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors from 1980-2013, and has written several books about various aspects of films. He also gives me some great film choices to watch throughout the year. He, like me, has the habit of trying to watch a horror film every day during the month of October to get in the mood. He decided to take a look at female characters in horror films:

 

Female Fiends

 

Most of us are familiar with the famous male monsters but the far fewer female ones have often unfairly taken a back seat to their male counterparts…sort of like in the American workplace. Here are ten which are just as fearsome as any male monster you might encounter, often more so. After all, hell hath no fury…..

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)- There is quite a buildup until we finally get to see “The Bride” in all her horrible glory. As played by Elsa Lanchester, her few minutes on screen at the climax of the movie have made an indelible impression on movie fans ever since. She also makes quite an impression on Frankenstein’s poor monster who sheds a tear at her rejection of him and then blows them both to smithereens.

 

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936)- Countess Marya Zaleska as played by Gloria Holden is far less well known than her illustrious father. She is an artist living in London and claims she only wants release from the vampire curse. But does she really? I’m sure victim Nan Grey would tell you otherwise. The odd tone of the movie did not set well with Universal execs and brought about the end of their first cycle of horror movies which had begun with DRACULA in 1931.

 

THE CAT PEOPLE (1942)- Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is convinced she suffers  from a Serbian curse which turns her into a panther. Jealousy is one of the emotions that triggers the change so heaven help lovers Kent Smith and Jane Randolph. This was the first in the outstanding series of horror movies produced at RKO by Val Lewton.  THE CAT PEOPLE was remade very effectively in 1982 with Nastassja Kinski as Irena, although its horrors were far less subtle.

 

CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)- Paula Dupree has the distinction of being the only female monster in the Universal pantheon to have a series of her own. Admittedly it isn’t one of the most distinguished series they made but it is definitely worth watching. Paula is the name given to Cheela the gorilla when mad scientist John Carradine transforms her into a woman. Paula appeared in three films. In the first two, CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN and JUNGLE WOMAN (1944) she is played by Aquanetta. In the third, JUNGLE CAPTIVE (1945), Vicky Lane takes over the part.

THE SHE-CREATURE (1956)- During the horror movie boom of the Fifties, there were a number of female monsters and THE SHE-CREATURE was one of the first.This early offering from American-International Pictures has gorgeous Marla English regressed hypnotically by Chester Morris into a prehistoric sea monster, beautifully designed by Paul Blaisdell. Once you’ve seen her, you’re not likely forget her in either form.

 

 

BLOOD OF DRACULA (1958)- Another AIP movie which, despite the title, has  nothing at all to do with Dracula. Instead we have Nancy (Sandra Harrison), an unhappy teenager sent to a private girl’s school where the science teacher (Louise Lewis) decides she would be the perfect candidate for an experiment. Unfortunately said experiment transforms Nancy into an especially gruesome looking blood sucking vampire. Teenage terror ensues among Nancy’s curvy classmates.

 

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)- In Hammer’s fourth outing featuring Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, the good doctor takes the body of a crippled woman who has committed suicide, infuses her with the soul of her wrongly executed lover and creates the stunningly beautiful Susan Denberg. She then uses her beauty to revenge herself on the trio of dandies who framed her lover for murder. One of the most memorable and tragic films in all the Hammer canon.

THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970)- Although many buxom vampire women had been featured in previous Hammer films, this is the first of their movies to have one in the central role. The extraordinary Ingrid Pitt plays Carmilla Karnstein, a rapacious lady vampire who seduces her (mostly female) victims and then slowly bleeds them dry. The movie inspired two follow ups: LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1970) and TWINS OF EVIL (1971). Together they have become known as The Karnstein Trilogy.

 

SUGAR HILL (1974)- In this deft combination of blaxploitation and horror, Sugar Hill (Marki Bey) uses voodoo to raise an army of zombies to get revenge on the mob boss (Robert Quarry) who killed her lover. This may well be the last movie to feature zombies created by voodoo before they gave way to the gut munching creatures that have come to proliferate in movies and TV.

 

And last but certainly not least….

CARRIE (1976)- Based on Stephen King’s first novel about a telekinetic teenager,  Brian DePalma created a masterpiece of horror that has never come close to being equalled by the several remakes. Cissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, as the abused teen and her religious fanatic mother, were both nominated for Academy Awards. And the movie has what is possibly the greatest shock ending in all of horror cinema.

 

You can order Gary’s books at :

http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/product/vampire-films-of-the-1970s or http://www.bearmanormedia.com/)

 

I always like to add some polls , asking my readers their opinions on some Halloween themed questions. Here are the results:

 

Halloween 2019 Poll Results:

 

  1. Best Halloween Candy?

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups   90%

Other       10%

 

  1. Which is the Worst Candy for Halloween?

Candy Corn   84%

Other             16%

(No surprise here, many tend to HATE the Candy Corn)

 

3. Which actress who has NOT been in a horror film (that you know of) would you like to see in one?

Gal Gadot                             55%  

Taylor Swift                         40%

Other   (Brie Larson)             5%

(It was interesting to see Taylor Swift have such a big vote in this, since she’s not known much as an actress)

 

4. Should Sci-Fi and Horror Films be in Separate Categories?

            YES                                 100%

            NO                                     0%

(No contest here, and I agree. I get frustrated when stores put the horror films with the Sci Fi selections)

 

5. Best Halloween Song?

Michael Jackson “Thriller”                   50%

Boris Picket’s “Monster Mash”             45%

Other                           5%

(The “Others” included “Purple People Eater” and a few rarer songs. It seems that M.J. is still the King of Halloween. No love for Alice Cooper or Jumping Gene Simmons’ “Haunted House” novelty song this year)

 

My next contributor is Eric Walker, who runs WatchTowerHeroes Comics in Columbiana, Ohio, who loves Halloween and monsters as much as I do. Eric decided to focus on monsters in comics, which is very interesting topic.

 

From Filmland to the Comic Pages

 

When the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man are mentioned, one typically thinks of Lugosi, Chaney Jr., and Karloff. An oft-overlooked contributor to the horror genre is comic books. From the Golden Age of pre-code horror to the booming 70’s of mainstream horror books, comic books have been sending chills down spines for decades. With such an extensive roster of horrific characters that would take forever to delve into, let’s look at just the 3 a fore-mentioned icons and their introduction to mainstream comics in the 70’s.

Blade’s debut was in The Tomb of Dracula issue #10 in July 1973

Dracula

The most well-known comic book featuring Dracula is Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula. The series begins with Dracula arising from his tomb and his direct descendant, Frank Drake, set on hunting him down and sending him back to his grave. While a horror title, the comic series also has fun undertones with a good amount of action and turmoil. The series is also credited with introducing everyone’s favorite vampire slayer, Blade!

 

Monster of Frankenstein series started in Jan 1973-Sept 1975. Many different versions have been used throughout the years.

Frankenstein’s Monster

The Monster has been used in many different iterations throughout comics but received his own title in the 70’s called The Monster of Frankenstein. This series was relatively short-lived, with the first few issues just retelling his origin. The series ultimately ended with the Monster somehow in current times. The storytelling in the series is a little light but it gave some fun moments and crossovers, with some pretty cool art.

 

 

 

 

Wolf Man

In the comic books, the werewolf to know is in the pages of Werewolf by Night. In this series, Jack Russell (creative name) must deal with curse of being a werewolf. As if this wasn’t a struggle enough, he must also constantly keep his sister safe from the same curse. Jack faces off against Dracula, Morbius, and the ever-popular Moon Knight. The exploits of Jack Russell are a true representation of the fun that is Marvel’s age of horror.

We all have our Halloween season traditions; watching scary movies, carving pumpkins, eating too much candy. Why not add to the fun and read a horror comic series or graphic novel to add to the terror? Happy Halloween

 

Visit the WatchtowerHeroes store if you are near Columbiana, Ohio or visit his site at : http://www.watchtowerheroes.com/)

 

Another movie expert, and someone I have been a fan of his site for a while now, is Mike Perry. Mike is a major movie collector, along with a vast knowledge of films (so much so that I learn something every time he posts something). One should visit his site, http://www.mikestakeonthemovies.com/ , not just for the movie information and his personal opinions on films, but also to see his pictures and videos of his collection. Either way you will be educated. Last year, Mike took us on his Hammer film likes , and again, he enlightens us with more Hammer films.

 

5 Hammer Recommendations Minus Lee and Cushing

 

Time to turn my thoughts once again to the films we love to revisit during the Halloween season. Last year, Lance Lumley, invited me over to his site, Lance Writes, as a guest blogger and has kindly done so once again for the 2019 season. For my previous entry I focused on my five favorite duets of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Feel free to check them out here.

As Mr. Lee and Mr. Cushing are quite often associated to the Studio That Dripped Blood, Hammer Films, I thought I’d shine the light on some other titles from the studio that did not star either one of the dynamic duo of horror. To do so I reached for my handy copy of Hammer Films : An Exhaustive Filmography from writers Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio from McFarland Publishing.

 

 

Let the debates begin but here are five titles I’ve come up with for today. Ask me tomorrow and I may change my tune and after thumbing through that book I’m not sure how I’m going to narrow this to five so you can definitely expect some honorable mentions at the bottom of the page.

Here we go in no specific order…..

Plague of the Zombies   (1966)

Directed by John Gilling and starring the very dependable Andre Morell, this Hammer outing was like discovering a new flavor of ice cream when I first saw it thanks to it’s release on VHS tape via Anchor Bay in the clam shell case. I guess one could argue that Morell scores the Cushing role as a man trying to find out what is terrorizing a small community while John Carson scores the Lee role. Meaning he’s the villain who has been dabbling with voodoo dolls and raising the dead.

 

The production has that gorgeous Hammer look and feel to it that fans have come to recognize and of course character player Michael Ripper makes his customary appearance to give us that warm and comfortable feeling. Highly recommended if you’ve somehow missed this one that I think has gained in popularity thanks to the home video market. Oh, and I’m totally convinced if this had starred either Lee or Cushing or better still, both, it would have been one of Hammer’s more popular titles looking back.

One Million Years B.C.   (1966)

Another outing from 1966 proved to be a memorable one for different reasons. As a kid there’s no doubt that it was the special effects of stop motion master, Ray Harryhausen. Any film that turned up on TV featuring his amazing work was always a reason for celebration and would cause this young hockey player to forgo the neighborhood road hockey game to stay indoors and watch the Saturday matinee on TV. The teen years hit and you’d still be forgoing the road hockey match because you wanted to watch Raquel Welch parading around in a caveman era bikini. Now that I’ve aged into fatherhood I’m not sure which reason becomes more prevalent. Harryhausen or Welch?

Either way this one is worth looking into for both reasons though it’s all rather silly in the end. Still, a must see for the work of Harryhausen. A true genius of whose importance to cinema goes far beyond the films of Hammer thus making my list of films to see.

 

Paranoiac   (1963)

Hammer dabbled in a number of Psycho like tales once Hitchcock unleashed the story of Norman Bates upon the world. For this effort from director, Freddie Francis, making his debut for the studio, a suitably brooding Oliver Reed has been cast in the lead role playing a troubled young man awaiting an inheritance to finally be awarded to him. His parents are long dead as is a missing brother who supposedly committed suicide years ago. Problems arise when the long thought dead brother arrives at the estate shortly before the money is handed over to the alcoholic Ollie.

Ollie an alcoholic? Perish the thought!

I’ve always liked this one and that’s in large part because I’ve always been a fan of the cinema’s number one badass, Reed. Director Francis would go on to do a number of Hammer films including both a Frankenstein and Dracula title as well as guiding a number of Amicus titles starring both Peter and Christopher.

 

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde   (1971)

Bizarre twist on the famous Stevenson tale has the perfect casting. Ralph Bates as the good Doctor and look-a-like Martine Beswick as the murderous Hyde. Roy ward Baker takes the directing duties for this colorful tale of Victorian England that the studio excelled at. There’s not a lot to explain here. If you know the story of Jekyll and Hyde (assuming you have a pulse then you should know it) then the title gives all the plot points you’ll need to understand about what’s going to be happening to poor Ralph Bates.

 

Exploitative? You bet and by this time the studio had been dabbling in lesbians vampires and nudity. No lovely vampires cross over into the Jekyll story but Miss Beswick does offer up some skin for those looking to get a more intimate look at one of Sean Connery’s Bond girls.

 

I know it’s a Halloween theme but I can’t list my Hammer favorites without including this superb police drama starring the one and only Stanley Baker…..

Hell Is a City   (1960)

Baker is a precursor to Dirty Harry as a cop looking to take down a murderer on the loose in Manchester. To do so he plays it mean and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The killer is effectively played by John Crawford who has escaped from prison and managed to pull off a heist. What Baker doesn’t yet know is all the crimes committed in the story are connected but with some forceful interrogation of key suspects he’s going to begin to connect the dots.

The film also stars Billie Whitelaw and in his only appearance for Hammer, Donald Pleasence. One would think that Donald should have been a sure fit for the studio’s many thrillers but it wasn’t meant to be.

This is another film that I had no idea of it’s existence until Anchor Bay released it on VHS for home video. Funny thing is I remember putting off purchasing it till I had all the other releases first. The reason? Cause it wasn’t a horror film and Hammer for me had always represented horror. As the years and film studies would go by I’d learn that they had a number of Noir tales in the books as well prior to Curse of Frankenstein that changed their fortunes and direction for the years ahead.

Be sure to watch this one. A solid gangster film and one that’s worthy to make a best of list when it comes to naming top British gangster pictures.

 

I know, I know, where’s Captain Kronos? Tell me about, that one’s got Caroline Munro! And how could you totally ignore Countess Dracula and the Quatermaas films? Honestly when it comes the Quatermaas films, I really like the first two but am less then enamored of the third film which seems to be the one most others like the best. On that note, X-The Unknown is also a good one alongside The Snorkel starring a deadly Peter Van Eyck. For a dose of real terror that was years ahead of it’s time one should check out Never Take Sweets From a Stranger. A chilling studio entry that’s just as relevant today as it was then.

 

I guess the bottom line is I would encourage one and all to look beyond the usual titles and films that featured Lee and Cushing. Hammer fans I know will be familiar with all the titles above but for those that are not then hopefully I’ve given you something to track down and enjoy. Thanks to Lance for having me over to share some fun titles for the pumpkin season.

 

Finally, since the horror genre was pretty much lacking in quality this year in my opinion overall, I decided to write about something I wanted to do for a long time. Not only movies and comics have had scary characters, but the influence on them has been a major factor in the world of professional wrestling. There have been many wrestlers with a vampire gimmick (Freddy Blassie and Gangrel come to mind),  a Yeti, devil worshipers, and even Dr. Frank from Memphis, who was a Frankenstein Monster (who was stuck in his coffin during a bomb threat during the live TV show).

Right now WWE’s Bray Wyatt’s character is one of the talked about wrestlers today, providing a fresh take on a somewhat schizophrenic character (part Kane, Mankind, and Doink The Clown mixed together with Mr. Rogers) Wrestling has had many scary (and wild) characters throughout the years; from The Undertaker, Wolfmen, Vampires, Mummys, Chuckys, Zombies, Leatherfaces, the Frankenstein Monster, and more.   I thought for Halloween I would list a few of the most scary wrestling gimmicks I grew up on.

The Boogieman- Trained by Booker T and Stevie Ray, Martin Wright may not have been the best wrestler in the ring, but his gimmick was so weird it was hard to trace what he really was. He would come to the ring with an alarm clock, and smash it over his head. He would also eat and spit out real worms in the ring and onto opponents. A mix between Papa Shango’s voodoo look and a painted devil, during a time where it was hard to scare people, the character was so weird and interesting at the same time.

The Sheik- When many mention The Sheik, they think of The Iron Sheik, but true fans know there was only one-Ed Farhat, one of the originators of hard core wrestling. Today a rich Arabian character may not be scary , but during his time, fans and wrestlers were totally freaked out by this man, both in and out of the ring. He was one of the earliest wrestlers to throw fireballs at his opponents, along with carrying pencils to carve his enemies’ foreheads. He was in some of the bloodiest matches in the 1960s and 1970s. Farhat was so into his character, that he would play his gimmick even outside the ring 24/7. His influence on hardcore wrestling, especially his nephew from ECW Sabu, is not stated enough.

Abdullah had many crazy and bloody matches, here he is (in red) in a match with the late Bruiser Brody.

Abdullah The Butcher- One of my earliest memories of wrestling was seeing Abdullah ‘s pictures in the wrestling magazines against people like Carlos Colón and Bruiser Brody, both covered in blood from Puerto Rico. Another founder of hardcore wrestling, it seemed odd when Abby DIDN’T have a foreign object in his hands to attack his opponents. Even when he came to Texas’ World Class Championship Wrestling and was on ESPN TV, he was still a scary site for me in my teen years, especially seeing the scars on his forehead, due to the massive blading occurred in his bouts (again his long time feuds with Bruiser Brody were wild and major bloodbaths) . Although he became a tamer wrestler when he arrived in WCW to feud against Sting in the 1990s, we smarter fans knew that he was a legendary force, although some remember him for his comical “Electrocution” during Halloween Havoc 1991, he regained some respect back during the “Heroes of Wrestling” match vs. The One Man Gang in my opinion.

 

Many have forgot how feared The Animal was in his heel days.

George “The Animal “Steele- Steele was the first person I ever saw on TV, and I was hooked ever since on wrestling. Many remember Steele as a fan favorite with his “Mine” Doll, or during the Attitude era dancing with The Oddities, but during the 1970s and early 1980s, Steele was a true “Animal,” challenging Bruno Sammartino and the other WWWF Champions, attacking everyone including the ring announcer on TV tapings, running around the ring (in and out) and using objects as weapons. He also tore apart the turnbuckles, throwing the stuffing at opponents, referees, and the TV camera, while sticking out his green tongue. He may not looked “scary” in a way like a vampire, but he freaked me out as a young teen, and became one of my all time favorites. He was referred to as the “missing link” by announcers, before Dewey Robertson took the gimmick as the more known Missing Link character. Outside the ring, he was a teacher and a wrestling agent.

 

The Wild Samoans- Afa and Sika were terrifying when I was a kid, seeing them eating chicken legs and raw fish in interviews, grunting while letting manager Lou Albano do the talking for them. In the ring, they were huge and just as wild. Outside the ring, they were responsible for training many huge stars, along with their family tree linked to today’s stars. From Calgary, Mid South, WWF and Georgia, they were one of the first wild wrestlers I saw (besides George Steele), and their influence on future stars with similar gimmicks like Kamala, Umaga, and The Headshrinkers. I could imagine them coming out of the jungles looking for food (especially humans), and would do anything in the ring to attack opponents.

 

Jos Leduc at first may not look that scary, but watch is wild interviews and matches and you’ll know why he sacred me as a fan.

Jos LeDuc- When wrestling got more TV time, I could get the Memphis area wrestling on one of our TV Channels , and one guy who scared me was LeDuc, who had a lumberjack gimmick. This guy was old school wrestling; big, tough, rough, and had a groveling voice to match. Even though he wrestled in many territories, I didn’t see him until his time in the CWA in the mid 1980s. Although his 1988 brief stint in the WWF as The Headbanger Butcher was pretty much forgettable, his time in Memphis as a heel and a good guy were both believable as a crazy man who performed feats of strength, along with just flipping out on a dime to become one of the baddest guys you did not want to deal with. In 1986, he had some memorable stories with Buddy Landel and Bill Dundee. In his interviews, he threatened opponents with an axes, chains, and 2X4s. Leduc was old school crazy, who even when he was a face (good guy) gave me nightmares.

 

Regardless of your liking on comics, film, or wrestling, hopefully theses topics have given a different perspective and ideas on how to enjoy the Halloween season. Thanks to my contributors, my readers for their fan voting, along with a year of support. Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

Book Review: Author Homer Takes Us Back to When Country Was Cool

 

Under the Influence of Classic Country: Profiles of 36 Performers of the 1940s to Today
Front cover photograph Shutterstock, 2019

 

 

Fans of classic country music have gotten to celebrate this year with the Ken Burns Country Music documentary that aired on PBS, along with a book and several CDs soundtracks of the show. Although I enjoyed quite of bit of the show, there were MANY omissions that hurt the overall product, along with focusing too much on certain acts. I know due to time and budget (and maybe interactions or lack thereof on input from certain acts) could have been a factor, but it only touched the surface of the history of the genre.

In what is perfect timing, Sheree Homer has released a book on the topic called Under The Influence of Classic Country (Mcfarland, 2019), which will be a great read for those that want to read more about the classic country acts, and goes even further.

Homer is a fan of the genre, especially the Rockabilly music, where she had her own magazine. She wrote a great Ricky Nelson book (which you can find a review in the archives here) , and details many classic acts in her book here from the 1940s to today’s artists. She takes a brief biography of the musicians, along with her personal interviews of some of the artists, musicians, and management personnel to weave it all together to where the subjects are not just filled with facts, but funny tales and a few behind the scenes stories of their careers.

The book separates the artists into several categories; from Country and Rockabilly Groundbreakers, which features acts like Faron Young and Lefty Frizzell, to the Seventy Stars like Waylon Jennings and Mickey Gilley. She covers the Countrypolitian Hit Makers (a term I never heard of until Burn’s show) like Kenny Rogers and Charley Pride (where Rogers only gets a brief mention in the Burn’s documentary, yet had so many hits in the 1980s,and seems to get skipped over). Of course, the one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book is because of a section on The Oak Ridge Boys, where the writer interviewed Richard Sterban.

Some great stories I enjoyed in the book discusses all the different roles Faron Young played (even driving a bus and playing poker), Jerry Reed playing with Elvis Presley on a song because Elvis’ guitar player couldn’t get the sound that Reed used when Presley wanted to record one of his songs, to the time opening act Jerry Seinfield was almost “fired” from the Kenny Rogers tour, and Jennings buying a fan a hearing aid.

Acts that I am not familiar with, such as Billy Harlan , Al Hendrix, and Bill Carter are featured as well, along with newer acts like The Ragtime Wranglers, Carmen Lee, and Randy Rich. Homer takes what could be a basic history book of music and adds more flavor to it with some of these other acts, which is a nice blend to separate the book from others in the genre.

Like most of McFarland titles, the format is a text book format, but with her added stories blended into the facts, Homer’s reading flows better than some of the straight facts books that the company produces at times. One can read just about a certain musical act at a time, or read several in a sitting, thanks to the separation of the acts underneath the genre categories. Since there is not much written on people like Jerry Reed ( a favorite of mine), along with a backlash to the 1970s and 1980s music from Burns’ documentary, this was an enjoyable read. Fans of classic country, along with learning about some newer acts, will enjoy this title.

 

This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

The Overall:

Pages: 259 (175 text, 60 pages of Select Discography)

Language: None

Geared For: All Ages

For Fans Of: Country Music, Rockabilly Music, Music History

 

Under The Influence of Classic Country :Profiles of 36 Performers of the 1940s to Today by Sheree Homer (McFarland, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-4766-6751-5 (print) 978-1-4766-3707-5(ebook) can be found at : http://www.McFarlandbooks.com or at 800-253-2187.

 

 

Book Review: Johnson’s Book Has Soul And Heart

Image result for rocky johnson book
Cover Design by Michel Vrana. Cover photo World Wrestling Entertainment, INC.

 

 

Wrestling fans today sometimes do not know how easy it is to find out about certain wrestlers and other promotions, as opposed to in the pre-internet days. Most fans back then had to rely on the various wrestling magazines, or if they were lucky, tape trading with strangers.

I started watching wrestling on and off around 1984, but did not have access weekly until around 1986. I would occasionally get to see WWF Championship Wrestling show on channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio (WYTV). I remember seeing a few matches, such as Greg Valentine bashing the I-C title into the cage after losing it to Tito Santana, Andre The Giant getting his hair cut, and several wild matches with the first wrestler I ever saw on television, George “The Animal” Steele. It wasn’t until 1986 when the WWF show was held weekly, after the popularity of Hulk Hogan, where I got regularly aired programming.

Because of this, I missed out on the career, especially the WWF career, of Rocky Johnson. The only exposure I had to Johnson was via the wrestling magazines, where I would read on the past champions, knowing that he was tag team champions with Tony Atlas. Later on, of course, with the internet and his famous son being a huge wrestling star, I was able to see some of his matches.

SoulMan: The Rocky Johnson Story ( ECW Press, 2019) Johnson, along with Scott Teal, takes the reader through his career as one of the more popular African American wrestlers from the late ’60s -’80s.

When I requested the book to review, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the co-writer was Teal, who is a legendary wrestling historian and author. Any smart wrestling collector know Teals’ name, and his company Crowbar Press, from his work writing the books for Stan Hansen, J.J. Dillon, The Assassin, and Tony Atlas (along with the many historical books he has written and edited). When I took the book out of the packaging, I knew, when seeing Teal’s name on it, this will be a good (and historical accurate book).

The Forward, written by son Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, details how The Rock’s success was due to his father, and how as a young child, Dwayne would go to the matches, being exposed to the inside work of wrestling, including blading, how the matches were laid out, and keeping the kayfabe carnival mystery so the outsiders would not know what’s going on.

Rocky takes the book throughout his career, from his first love of wrestling as a fan getting autographs outside the arenas (and seeing one of the bad guy “heels” hiding in the backseat of the car with the good guys he just fought), to his various stints in the territories and the many bookers he had to work with before getting to the WWF.

Rocky’s childhood growing up in a not so happy environment in Canada, brings a heart filled aspect to the book, where he ended up having to leave in order to get a better life for himself. The reader has to have a respect for a man who did whatever he could to keep a steady job while wrestling, to provide for himself. This is not a story where (sometimes like today) where a wrestler is discovered at a gym and giving the golden keys to train somewhere. Johnson’s career starting out as a boxer, and then going into wrestling, where he was not told of how things worked even then, and just told to go out and figure it out is an unique journey.

The book has road stories and tales of the different promotions that he was involved in , with tales about “Whipper” Billy Watson, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Buddy Colt, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and more. There are tales about promoters Ole Anderson (who Johnson was not a fan of), Jerry Jarret, Nick Gulas, Jim Barnett, and Mike Lebell. Johnson discusses how some of the other black wrestlers constantly used the “race card” to cause problems with the promoters and, at times, preventing Johnson himself to succeed. There are funny stories about Freddy Blassie and Johnny Valentine’s practical jokes on other wrestlers, to the time The Iron Sheik ran out of his own match , thinking a fan had a gun at the shows. SoulMan also gives Johnson’s opinion on his son, and some early stories of him training young Dwayne in wrestling, along with his take on Dwayne’s movie career.

At first, I thought the book would be covered with many tales of Johnson’s time in the WWF, but I didn’t realize he was not in the WWF for a long time. There is one chapter about his time working with the McMahons .One part is mentioned that Johnson was wrestling in Struthers, Ohio, (not far from where I live and grew up) when he found out that McMahon SR. passed away. However, this chapter is very insightful, because Johnson discusses some of the things that were said about him in the book by Tony Atlas (also by Teal). I thought this was a neat aspect in the book , which gives the readers that have read the Atlas book, another side of the story. The fact that this section doesn’t turn into a gossip style bashing, and is done with respect to Atlas and his side of the breakup of their tag team, Johnson states his side of the story.

Some of my favorite stories in the book involves actor Jackie Gleason’s time in wrestling in Florida, how Jody Hamilton (“The Assassin”) would sing to wrestlers under his mask, and a story in Portland that involved Rocky’s fake death and a horse (NO SPOILERS here).

The book is a nice historical writing at the career and life of Johnson. There were several things I was not aware of before reading the book, including Johnson’s real name (he didn’t change it until years later), that he was Canadian, and how little time he spent in the WWF. The book has a undertone of a man who worked hard to not only achieve his dreams (along with giving back to others as a trainer), but to overcome biases of the time, to make a hall of fame career. Even though there was not much in the ways of his time in the WWF, the book has a ton of easy to read chapters that will not disappoint fans of the territory wrestling days.

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of ECW Press

 

Soul Man: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson with Scott Teal (ECW Press, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-77041-493-8 (softcover), 978-177305-413-1 (pdf), 978-1-77305-412-4 (EPUB) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com.

 

For information about the author, go to : http://www.crowbarpress.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages:285

Language: Mild

Geared For: Ages 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Pro Wrestling, Sports Autobiographies, Sports, African American athletes

Book Review: Wrestling Book is Big on Inspiration

 

hornswoggle cover
Cover Design : David A. Gee

Professional wrestling started out as a carnival act, in circuses and traveling acts before becoming a huge money making form of entertainment. During the years side show attractions, such as women’s wrestling, wrestling animals, and midgets were part of the show. Some of the more famous midget wrestlers were Lord Littlebrook, Sky Low Low, and Little Beaver. Although mostly used to entertain children as a comedy act, the appeal of little people wrestlers started dying off after 1987 mostly in the U.S. However, Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl, along with Ross Owen Williams and Ian Douglass, detail Postl’s wrestling career in a new book Life Is Short and So Am I : My Life In and Out of the Wrestling Ring (ECW Press, 2019) , which made Hornswoggle the most popular midget wrestler of his generation.

The book starts off detailing Postl’s early childhood, filled with several operations to help out his medical condition which caused dwarfism, along with his childhood dealing with a mother, who at times Postl states was trying to get more attention for herself by using his condition for her benefit, putting him in between his father and mother. Even though he went through what some may think as a troublesome childhood, he did not see it that way, and discovered a love for professional wrestling, including collecting many wrestling action figures.

The book then journeys his life getting into wrestling, being trained by Ken Anderson, and his career highs making it into the WWE, while all the way not getting rid of his fandom star struck moments meeting what would end up being his co-workers. The book tells humorous tales of wrestling , along with traveling down the road with stars like The Great Kahli, Mark Henry, and more. The fact that he didn’t know what his character names were going to be until it was on the WWE website, his take on being at the pay per view and following day when the Chris Benoit murders happened, several cancelled storylines, and him ending up being owner Vince McMahon’s “son” in a storyline are all detailed in the writing.

This book is filled with humor, frustration (when he is on the sidelines with no TV time or storyline to be a part in), along with his take on several WWE wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan and C.M. Punk, along with his inspiring story of overcoming what many would think was a roadblock physically to achieving his American Dream. The fact that Postl , years after removed from the WWE, still tells his tale as a fan of wrestling (as opposed to many wrestling books where the author is angry and bitter) is wonderful.

The book is easy to read, with short chapters, and not only is about wrestling, but also contains stories about the celebrities he has met, his closeness with certain family members, and his love for The Muppets (which he ended up getting a part in one of their movies).

Postl , and the writers, do not have a “Feel Bad For Me’ attitude in the book, which any child or adult who feels left out, should read and follow his example. Stories such as when The Rock thought Postl was a Make A Wish kid, to difficult wrestlers and celebrities who did not want to work with him (he details some heat with another midget wrestler El Torito) or let him win matches, and the original plan for him as RAW’s “General Manager” idea brings some strange tales that can only happen in wrestling, where Postl just laughs it off at times.

This book is not just for wrestling fans; it is an inspiring tale of a fan who worked hard to get his dream, along with a behind the scenes of a family man, who did not see himself as different among the society’s norms. This is a tale that anyone who feels left out , or feels whatever holds them back, can be inspired by.

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Life Is Short and So Am I : My Life Inside and Out of the Wrestling Ring by Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl with Ross Owen Williams and Ian Douglass (ECW Press, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-77041-484-6 (softcover), 978-1-77305-404-9 (PDF), 978-1-77305-403-2 (EPUB) can be found at : http://www.ecwpress.com .

 

For information about the authors, go to:

http://www.rossowenwilliams.com , @wwehornswoggle, @RevSw1m

 

The Overall

Pages: 281

Language: Moderate

Geared Towards: Ages 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Pro Wrestling, Autobiographies, Inspirational Non-Fiction

Book Review: A New Zombie Twist in “Doll”

Cover image painted and licensed for use by Angelique Rosenblock Shelley.

Sometimes I get skeptical when it comes to reviewing self published books. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone gets a big publishing deal, and the self-publishing route is a great way to go in order to keep the writer’s vision intact without having to compromise their artistic goals. Also, many people who are not writers do not understand how hard it is to handle the promotional side of the release when it is self-published ( a goal in itself).

However, sometimes when I am asked to look at an independent or self-published work, there are several things that may occur; horrendous editing where the author misspells words on a regular basis, bad cover art, or printing errors (I reviewed a book once where the same chapter was repeated twice right after each other). And then there are some times when the authors send me books where they know I am not going to like it, by the basis of not looking at my reviews on here (I am not going to read a book for two weeks that talks about how groundbreaking Rap is in the music world, especially since I HATE Rap). But there are surprises that come my way where I may not at first, think would be for me, but has some great qualities to the book.

The Death Doll by Brian P. White (2016) is one of those surprises. The story plot goes like this: The United States is in the midst of a zombie apocalypse that has been happening for years. A group of people who survived an attack in Iowa meet up with characters Didi and Cody, who invite them to escape into their commune (that is secretly hidden), protecting others who have evaded the attacks. Each member of the community has their own job to do in order to survive; from building, medical, or electrical jobs. Each person is to do their work to help out others, led by Cody and Didi, although there are rumblings among the people about the secrets of Didi’s past, along with tales about a mysterious person called the Death Doll, whose legendary status in taking out a group in Chicago has been rumored to be the new Boogieman. No one is sure which side the Doll is on in the war.

I have never been a fan of zombie movies , or the actual characters of them. Slow moving undead people isn’t scary for me (especially in films) where the characters could outrun these creatures. However, this author’s zombie characters have a unique twist to a few of them (NO Spoilers, sorry), which was one special quality to the book. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters, and is one of the driving forces of the plot. This is not a bunch of action where characters fight the undead on every page, in fact, although there is some action scenes in it, the character driven plots within the commune is what moves the story along. What is the real story about the Death Doll’s iconic status, why does everyone in the community follow the rules and regulations set by Cody and Didi when they have the freedom to leave, and what is behind the secrets between Cody and Didi’s pasts are all what drives the pages creating a mystery to the writing.

The chapters flow nicely, being relatively short (always a plus for me-I am not a fan of really long chapters unless they are truly needed). Again, the character development also makes the reader want to read multiple chapters, including the nice cliffhanger style at the end of many of the chapters. The book is sectioned off into three parts, with the first two parts around thirteen chapters each. The cover art by Angelique Shelley captures the flavor of the story, which reminded me of my brother’s Christian Science Fiction book , Cross of the Samurai (available at Amazon.com) , which I help edit in 2014.

The language in the book is geared to upper teens and adults; this is not for pre- teens, but it does not seemed to be marketed towards them anyway. Most pages has strong language, either by the characters or some of the references, however part of the characters’ language ends up being justified when a big reveal occurs towards the last half of the book. With the author creating a community style fortress, where citizens are hiding and surviving, many characters names are thrown out , to where it sometimes gets hard to keep track who is who at times. By the end of the book, only a few of the members are really relevant in my opinion, so when writing all the names down of people on my notebook to keep track was unnecessary by the end. For those that get involved when reading books character-wise, the end chapters may have readers feeling emotions for the actions that are being taken by the various characters (good and bad). I, for one, don’t get emotionally involved in fictional characters, but there is an intent by the author to entice sympathy and understanding for the reasons and actions among those in the writing.

The Death Doll ( a second book is already available) will appeal to fans that like Zombie novels with a twist added to the genre. The book is part action and mystery, with   well written character driven stories, that has several swerves intertwined. I enjoyed the characters’ banter and conversations more than rooting for the humans to survive the undead attackers. For someone who is not a fan of zombies or end of the world style writing, I found something entertaining in the work, so fans of the genre would indeed find a liking within the pages, who are looking for something that is not mainstreamed and looking for a new twist.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the author.

 

The Death Doll by Brian P. White (Brian White P. White Publishing, 2016) can be found at Amazon.com in Kindle or paperback formats.

 

The Overall

Pages: 245

Language: Strong

Geared For: 16 and up

For Fans Of: Zombies (with a twist) , action, apocalyptic stories, mysteries.

Book Review: Forgotten Cleveland Past Covered in Book

Cover photo (from Cleveland State University Library) of Rams tailback Parker Hall in 1939 game at Municipal Stadium.

 

 

Fans of the Cleveland Browns may remember when owner Art Model announced he was moving the team to Baltimore in 1996 (which became the Ravens). It was a massive blow to the fans and the city at the time, but some, especially younger football fans, may not know that this was not the first time the city had a football team move.

The Cleveland Rams by James C. Sulecki (McFarland, 2016) covers the historical football team from 1936-1945 who left the city for Los Angeles after winning their championship in 1945.

The writing takes the reader through the early days of the Rams, who got their name based on the fact that it would be easy to read in the newspaper headlines, starting in the American Professional Football Association, which had five Ohio based teams in the league. The Cleveland area had several failed teams, such as The Indians, Panthers, and Bulldogs before the Rams. The team then in the AFL league, where the author states a funny story about a game where the opposing team lost their uniforms during travel from New York ( so when the players had to substitute in and out, the New York team had to also switch jerseys), which made the referees and fans confused when it came to calling penalties and knowing who was playing.

The history covers the first season in the NFL, which was viewed as the more professional league , as opposed to the AFL. The first season with Hugo Bezek and draft pick Johnny Drake, along with the other seasons to the championship, are covered in detail in this writing. The impact of World War II on the players and league, along with the impact with conflicts of the owners, coaches, and the league are written.

The author’s detailed writing is evident in the book, and does an admirable job in the history of the team and the impact it had on the city. Like many sports books like this, the names of players and owners/league officials etc are so many that it gets confusing at times keeping track who is who. This isn’t a knock on the writer, but just in my tastes of book style. I do not like trying to keep track of many names, along with stats of the players , which to me (who is not a major sports fan) gets tiresome reading. However, fans of these books will enjoy the detailed research the author presents, along with the “What Became Of” section in the back of the book. If you like Cleveland history, or football history in general, this may be the book for you, in reading about a time where many have forgotten about. For me, it was too much information for my pleasure entertainment reading.

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

The Cleveland Rams : The NFL Champs Who Left Too Soon, 1936-1945 by James C. Sulecki (McFarland, 2016) ISBN: 978-0-7864-9943-4 (print) 978-1-4766-2645-1 (eBook) can be ordered at : http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 288

Language: None

Geared For: 12 and up

For Fans Of: Football, Cleveland Ohio History, Sports.

Book Review: Book Takes Reader Inside Football Coach’s Life With No Excuses

I recently was asked why most of my reviews on here sports-wise are mainly professional wrestling. Although I did a review on Terry Pluto’s book on the Cleveland Browns (you can find it in the archives), most books on football and baseball tend to be boring to me, filled with many names and statistics that clutter the pages, where I’d rather read something else (another great thing is writing this page is that I have total say in the books).

With that said, one book really interested me when I was doing research for books was by coach Bob Stoops, whose career is most known for being the coach of Oklahoma football. Not only do I like watching the team play (I was introduced to them by wrestling announcer Jim Ross’ love and constant references to them on television), but Stoops grew up near me in Youngstown Ohio (which is about 20 minutes from my residence in Columbiana, Ohio).

No Excuses: The Making Of A Head Coach, by Stoops and ESPN journalist Gene Wojciechowski (Little, Brown, and Company, 2019), does not just show hometown flavor for me, but is actually a good book in getting readers to know who the man behind the visor really is.

The book has about 70 pages in the beginning about the area of Youngstown , where Stoops and his family grew up, with his father being a well known local football coach. His father was also an educator at Cardinal Mooney High School, who taught his children to work hard and instilled family values among them. After the 1977 closing of the steel mills in Youngstown (known as “Black Monday”), young Bob decided to get out of Youngstown if he was going to have a future in football, deciding on going to Iowa University. He also states how growing up , he rooted for the Kansas City Chiefs, and was not an Ohio State fan (a team I do not like either).

The book takes the reader through Stoops’ football career in college to his coaching days at Kent State, Iowa, Kansas State, and the University of Florida under Steve Spurrier. The book has many former players and coaches giving their take on certain games and the character of Stoops; from Baker Mayfield, Stoops’ family, former boxer Ray Mancini, and others. It also shows how, when getting the head job at Oklahoma (which was not a great team when he took over), he led by example by acts such as cleaning up crickets in the training area with a vacuum, cleaning up after some of the players at times, to the meaning behind the title “No Excuses.”

There are several humorous stories throughout the book, from the time his father and Nick Saban were in a Youngstown bar that got robbed while they were inside without knowing it (because they were sharing football notes), a time in Florida when Stoops hit a squirrel golfing only to find a nice present the next day on his desk, to his heart-filled chapter on his love to visiting local children hospitals throughout his coaching tenure at Oklahoma.

Of course there are many football stories in No Excuses. The writers cover how Stoops approaches his players and the various games, along with the times other teams tried to lure him away, including several NFL teams. Some memorable stories college football fans will remember; the rivalry with the University of Texas (and the 2001 last minute win), winning the National Championship, and his thoughts on some other coaches and players, including some of the scandals that occurred. Stoops writes throughout the book about his family, and how his wife views him being a head coach, along with her involvement with the players and the university.

Even though I had my doubts, at first, with the book, wondering how much would be covered about Youngstown, Stoops constantly credits his time growing up in the area as giving him determination and grit on and off the field, along with getting some of his early jobs due to knowing others that came from the area. The book does have many statistics, but not as much as I thought, which normally would bore me. Although I did not remember a lot of the players named, there are still familiar names in the book , like Mayfield, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford, and Joe Mixon. The book discusses his reasons to retire, and is how he is going to be the coach for one of the Vince McMahon owned XFL teams.

This was a pleasant reading into his life, and some of his thinking on football and life, which is not usually seen in front of the cameras, along with his struggles and doubts separating the celebrity coach to the family man.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publishers.

 

No Excuses : The Making Of A Head Coach by Bob Stoops and Gene Wojciechowski (Little, Brown, and Company, 2019) ISBN: 978-0-316-45592-3 can be found at: http://www.littlebrown.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 320

Language: Moderate

Geared For : 13 and Up

For Fans Of: College Football, Coaching, Sports, Youngstown Ohio history