from Patreon: my review of BlacKkKlansman

Back in August, I reviewed BlacKkKlansman on my Patreon. Since it’s been nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Film Score, and Best Film Editing, I present that review now on the blog. For regular movie reviews (at least one a month, sometimes more) for only $1/month, support my Patreon. (For more, you get more stuff, like cat photos, TV reviews, excerpts from my work in progress, and monthly vignettes featuring my original characters.) Other movies reviewed include fellow Best Picture nominee Black Panther, as well as Animal Kingdom, Ant-Man & The Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, First Man, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Incredibles 2, Proud Mary, Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Spy Who Dumped Me, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with lots more to come, including M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Bad Times at the El Royale, Sing, and Kong: Skull Island, as well as all the Mission: Impossible movies.


The summer of 1989 was a hell of a time for movies. Tim Burton’s Batman came out to great anticipation and huge acclaim—seriously, everyone went bat-crazy that summer, as I saw more T-shirts with bat-logos on them that summer than at any other time in my life. That summer also saw the release of several highly anticipated sequels: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which paired Sean Connery with Harrison Ford), Lethal Weapon 2 (which was, in my opinion, superior to the original), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Ghostbusters II, and Back to the Future Part 2. On top of that, you had several less blockbustery hits, from Dead Poets Society to Crimes and Misdemeanors to Do the Right Thing.

The latter two were especially fascinating, because they were both two quintessential New York stories by the two most quintessential New York directors—Woody Allen and Spike Lee—and they couldn’t have been more different.

At some point, I’m going to do a retro-review of those two movies, but I mention them now because I’ve always thought Do the Right Thing was the peak of Spike Lee’s career (though I’d be willing to listen to an argument for Malcolm X). It was just a brilliant piece of work.

BlacKkKlansman is not as great as DTRT, but it’s the first movie of Lee’s in a long time that I’ve enjoyed as much as I enjoyed DTRT. For all that its climax was vicious, DTRT was, at its heart, a very enjoyable movie about a neighborhood. It had a sense of fun that was increasingly missing from Lee’s work as he got older.

You wouldn’t think the true story of a Colorado Springs cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s would make for such an enjoyable flick, but it totally is. For starters, Lee leans into the fact that it’s a cop story. Our main character, Detective Ron Stallworth, is ambitious, and on a whim, calls the local Klan chapter, which advertises in the newspaper. He convinces the locals over the phone that he’s a white guy who hates black people, and winds up leading an undercover operation that puts a serious crimp in the Klan’s activities in Colorado Springs.

Part of the fun here is in the fact that the racists are a spectacularly stupid bunch. Lee revels in their buffoonery without ever making it sound unrealistic. In fact, one of the advantages of the setting is that he’s freed from the coded language that racists have been forced into the past twenty years because they actually get called on it when they’re overtly racist. (Don’t believe me? Watch television shows from the 1970s some time. It’s pretty damned appalling.)

People who only know Adam Driver from the recent Star Wars films will likely be blown away by his performance as Detective “Flip” Zimmerman, who has to be the public “Stallworth” who actually goes to Klan meetings and such. I particularly like the way Zimmerman focuses on his job, refusing to make it a crusade the way Stallworth is, until even he has to get a certain anger at the Klan’s attitudes toward Jews like himself.

What I especially admire about both Driver’s performance as well as that of John David Washington as Stallworth is that they maintain their professionalism. Stallworth is controlled and smart and good at his job, which is how he manages to pretty much bully himself into running an undercover operation as a rookie. But neither falls into the movie-character trap of letting that anger get in the way of the job. Even when there’s a crisis, like the guy some Klansmen buy explosives from recognizing Zimmerman, the cops handle it with aplomb and brains, not by going batshit.

But what’s best about this movie is its pointed commentary on modern politics, using racism in the 1970s to comment on the racism of the 2010s, with Stallworth’s sergeant drawing a line from David Duke having a political career to President Donald Trump (though obviously not by name)—and Stallworth dismissing the notion as absurd, not believing that the American people would ever elect a racist president. (Sigh.)

Early on, there’s a speech by Kwame Ture (whom the white cops insist on referring to as Stokley Carmichael, the same way white boxing fans kept refusing to refer to Cassius Clay as Muhammad Ali when he changed his name) that is supposed to be a call to arms, and it’s one that actually raises some fantastic points. (Corey Hawkins delivers the speech magnificently.) Stallworth finds himself caught up in it.

People who watch a lot of shows filmed in New York City will recognize most of the actors here, as Lee mined from the local scene quite a bit: Isaiah Whtilock Jr. (complete with a riff on his State Senator Clay Davis character from The Wire), Robert John Burke, Ryan Eggold, Frederick Weller, Laura Harrier, Ashlie Atkinson, and Nicholas Turturro, among others.

The movie isn’t particularly subtle, but it also takes joy in simple interactions, whether it’s Stallworth’s interactions with Harrier’s Patrice (their discussion of blaxploitation films is a delightful high point), the friendliness of some of the Klansmen belying their horrific attitudes (I particularly like the use of Eggold as the voice of friendliness, and he actually seems like a reasonable person, but he’s regularly shouted down by the crazier elements in the chapter).

Just as the movie starts with Hawkins delivering Ture’s rousing speech, the climax intercuts a swearing-in ceremony for new Klansmen (including Zimmerman-as-Stallworth) with Harry Belafonte playing an older gentleman who tells stories of growing up black in the South.

Then, finally, at the end, after Duke has been made a fool of, and the cops have gotten a good laugh out of getting one over on the dumbshit racists (which apparently is based on what actually happened, as Stallworth’s sergeant really did need to leave the squadroom because he was laughing so hard during Stallworth’s phone calls to Duke), we get footage of Charlottesville and President Trump’s “some of them [Nazis] are very good people” speech, one of the most despicable things ever said by a sitting president.

This is a great movie by a great filmmaker. Every performance is real, from Alec Baldwin’s hilarious rough cut of a racist propaganda film, showing every outtake and fuckup, to the cops to the racists to the black-power students, all of whom are allowed to be people, not just archetypes. I particularly love the canoodling scene as the Fredricksons, played by Atkinson and Jasper Pääkkönen, snuggle and talk about how much they’re going to enjoy killing all those black people! I strongly recommend this, especially now.

my Farpoint 2019 schedule

download4192014 688

My first convention of 2019 will be Farpoint, to be held 8-10 February at the Hunt Valley Inn in Cockeysville, Maryland (just north of Baltimore). Note that it’s not being held on President’s Day weekend like usual. The headline guests are actor Wallace Shawn and voiceover actors Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen, and there will be tons of author guests there (including several of my fellow contributors to the upcoming Thrilling Adventure Yarns).

In addition, fates willing and the creek don’t rise, we’re very much hoping to be debuting Mermaid Precinct at the con!

As usual, I will be there as both author and musician, as the Boogie Knights will be playing both our usual Saturday morning concert as well as masquerade halftime. It’s possible I’ll once again be appearing on whatever show Prometheus Radio Theatre puts on during opening ceremonies Friday night. I’ll definitely be spending lots of time at the eSpec Books table pimping Mermaid Precinct and my other titles, plus I’ll be doing the following programming:


10pm-midnight: Farpoint Book Fair — I’ll be selling and signing books, including possibly the hot-offa-da-presses Mermaid Precinct (Hunt Valley hallway)


11am-noon: Boogie Knights concert (Valley)

2-3pm: self-defense workshop (Hunt)

4-5pm: reading, w/Dr. Valerie J. Mikles (Salon E)

5-6pm: autographing, w/Phil Giunta (autograph table 1)

whenever the masquerade halftime is (9.30ish? maybe?): Boogie Knights concert (Hunt/Valley)


10-11am: autographing, w/Mary Fan (autograph table 1)

11am-noon: reading, w/Stephen Kozeniewski and Michael Critzer (Salon E)

1-2pm: “Marvel In A Snap” (Salon A)

3-4pm: “I Have Written a Book — Now What?” (Salon C)


No word yet on who my fellow panelists will be on those last two — will update as soon as I find out. Also expect me and Mary to be ruthlessly pimping Thrilling Adventure Yarns on Sunday at 10. *tee hee*

See y’all there!


talkin’ my favorite things on Speculative Chic


The Speculative Chic blog has a regular feature called “My Favorite Things” where authors wax rhapsodic about things they love. This week, I’m the author in question, as I geeble about some of the things I love about my home town of New York City. Click on this paragraph to see me rave about the Big Apple.

An excerpt:

Little Italy: Not the one in Manhattan, which is mostly a tourist trap and a place for people looking to figure out where the flashback scenes in The Godfather Part II took place. No, I mean the one up in the Bronx, where E. 187th Street and Arthur Avenue meet. Lots of Italian expats still live there, and they have some of the best restaurants in the city — Mario’s, Tra Di Noi, Zero Otto Nove, Dominick’s — and also the best food shopping, whether it’s meat at Biancardi’s or Vincent’s, fish from Cosenza’s or Randazzo’s, bread from Addeo’s or Madonia’s, pastries from DeLillo’s or Marrone’s, cheese and cold cuts from Tino’s or Calabria’s, or general shopping at the big Retail Market or at Teitel’s.

Plus, two of the best pizza places in town can be found in Little Italy, one right at 187th and Arthur: the Full Moon. The other is closer to nearby Fordham University, on E. 191st Street between Hoffman & Hughes: Pugsley’s. Run by Sal Pugliese since the 1980s, Pugsley’s is a colorful, beautiful, joy-filled place filled with pictures and tchotchkes — plus the pizza is just phenomenal. If you’re lucky, he’ll play his saxophone for you. (If you’re not lucky, he’ll bang the big gong when you’re not expecting it.)

on Kickstarter: Thrilling Adventure Yarns!

Now on Kickstarter: Thrilling Adventure Yarns. This new anthology from Crazy 8 Press, edited by the mighty Robert Greenberger, will feature a bunch of stories in the pulp tradition, from a variety of authors, including a never-before-published story by Doc Savage creator Lester Dent!

Other authors in the anthology include Derek Tyler Attico, Jim & Becky Beard, Russ Colchamiro, Paige Daniels, Kathleen O’Shea David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, the late Glenn Hauman, Robert T. Jeschonek, Paul Kupperberg, Amy Lewanski, Karissa Laurel, Aaron Rosenberg, and Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg. And if we make our stretch goal, you can add me, Peter David, and Will Murray to the list!

So check it out and support it if you’re so inclined!

And hey, check out Alex Ronald’s fantastic cover art:


full cover reveal: Mermaid Precinct

Here is the full front, spine, and back cover for Mermaid Precinct. The book is now done, and while the official on-sale date is 1 June 2019, Kickstarter supporters will get theirs very soon, and I’m hoping to have special preview copies at Farpoint.

Anyhow, here’s the pretty picture:

mermaid precinct front and back cover

Click on the picture to see the full image.

Nifty, huh?


4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Captain America: The Winter Soldier


The second Captain America movie is also one of the jewels in the crown of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as we meet the Winter Soldier and the Falcon, bring back Cap, the Black Widow, and Nick Fury, and if that’s not enough for this masterpiece of a superheroic thriller, we’ve got Robert fucking Redford! The great superhero movie rewatch raves over Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

An excerpt:

The pacing is fantastic, the characterization is strong, the acting is amazing, the dialogue is crackling. Things never slow down enough to get boring, nor speed up enough to be exhausting. The plot unfolds nicely, with revelations coming slowly and sensible, with only two really big “gotcha” moments—Rogers realizing who the Winter Soldier is, and Zola’s ghost-in-the-machine act under Camp Lehigh. Even those work, the former because it’s quick and brutal, the latter because it’s kind of important, and seeing a pixelated Toby Jones deliver it snidely makes it all work. And it even serves a purpose, as Zola admits that he’s stalling.

Star Trek: Discovery‘s “Brother”


Anson Mount as Captain Pike takes command of the U.S.S. Discovery as the second season of the new Star Trek series starts off with a bang filled with flashbacks, angst, dramatic rescues, and other fun stuff. Check out my review….

An excerpt:

The glue that holds this episode together, though, is Mount. His command style is casual, one that inspires loyalty. Pike is far more relaxed than he was in “The Cage” when he was drinking with Boyce and talking about getting away from it all, but the experience with the Talosians was meant to affect him deeply, and the Pike we see in “Brother” shows that it has. He’s rediscovered the joy of commanding a starship, one that had been beaten down by the battle on Rigel VIII that preceded “The Cage,” and which was responsible for the ennui Pike felt in that episode.

Best of all, though, is that when Discovery needs to bring a piece of the asteroid on board—having already failed to transport it because the transporter can’t get a lock on the exotic material it’s made out of—Pike makes a show of giving Saru command for that part of the mission, as that’s Discovery‘s true long-term assignment: scientific discovery. (It’s right there in the name and everything!)

happy book birthday to The Iron Codex


Today is the official release date for The Iron Codex, Book 2 of the Dark Arts series written by my brudda from anudda mudda, David Mack. Where Book 1, The Midnight Front, took place during World War II in the 1940s, this second volume takes place during the height of the Cold War in the 1950s. (Next year’s The Shadow Commission will take place in the 1960s.)

The Midnight Front was up to Dave’s expected high standards, full of excellent world building, visceral action, and strong characters, and The Iron Codex is very much in the same vein. You should check them both out!

You can get the book from your local bookstore, or online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indie Bound.


opening the mirror


Today was our dojo’s annual Kagami Biraki. The term literally means “opening the mirror,” and it’s a traditional new year’s workout that is about reflection (hence the mirror metaphor) and setting the tone for the coming year.

When I first started training, it was only open to adults, but in recent times, Shuseki Shihan has also allowed teenagers, and any kid who is a brown belt or higher regardless of age.

Today we had 40 students attend, and what was especially nice was that we had a ton of kids as well as adults, plus every belt color was represented: four white belts, four blue belts, two yellow belts, four green belts, ten brown belts, two junior shodans, four shodans, one junior nidan, three nidans, two sandans (myself and Senpai Charles), and all four of our yondans and our one and only godan. It was a glorious, intense, fabulous workout. We did hundreds of punches and kicks and dozens of pushups and lots more. We were all sweating profusely and feeling great, if exhausted.

And then we ended with a final set of one hundred of the following: a squat, followed by two groin kicks. (Groin kicks are low, so less strain on the hamstring and knee.) Shuseki had us all get in a circle and hold onto each others’ shoulders so we could squat and kick as a unit. We all fed off each other, the energy building, the kiais getting louder and louder as we reached a hundred.

What was especially impressive was watching so many pre-teen kids and lower belts who are not as well conditioned as, say, the fifteen black belts totally keeping up with us and doing the thing. It was a wonderful joyous example of how we can all push ourselves to do more than we think we can. It’s one of the two things karate has given me that I will always treasure, the knowledge that I can do more than I think I can. (The other is teaching, which has been awesome.)

While 2018 had its ups and downs outside the dojo, it was a very good year in the dojo, and last year’s Kagami Biraki was also superb, a good omen. Let’s hope today’s fantastic workout is the same.



talkin’ Enemy Territory on Literary Treks


On Episode #255 of Literary Treks on, you can hear Dan Gunther, Justin Oser, and Bruce Gibson discuss my third novel under the I.K.S. Gorkon banner, the 2005 novel Enemy Territory. It’s a great in-depth discussion of the book, which is not one of my best known, but honestly is one I’m particularly proud of, so I’m glad to hear it get such a complex treatment and discussion.

Check it out below or at this link!