May 2019 Month-in-Review

Check out the top posts across both blogs and see what I have been reading. May’s Month-in-Review:

Every Day Should Be Tuesday

The end of May marked the four year blogiversary of Every Day Should Be Tuesday, and Thursday marks the one year blogiversary of Hillbilly Highways, both of which deserve posts of their own.  May was my second-best month ever at Every Day Should Be Tuesday for views, buoyed by Game of Thrones recaps.  It was a slow month at Hillbilly Highways (unsurprising since I missed a couple Music Monday posts), but Hillbilly Highways is still running 25% ahead of where Every Day Should Be Tuesday was at this point.

I paced myself in May, only publishing seventeen posts.  I am proud of myself, though, for publishing seven reviews (admittedly, three were old reviews dusted off and polished up).  My Game of Thrones recaps were so successful I had to split them out from the rest of my posts for my “top 5”.  Views grew over the course of the season…

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SF: Who Fears the Devil? by Manly Wade Wellman

I went to a panel at the WorldCon in San Antonio a few years back on Texas Pulp SF.  Apart from the 800-lb. gorilla in the room, Texans were grossly underrepresented in the pulps.  The consensus was that they were writing speculative fiction, and good speculative fiction, but that it was getting published as folklore.  That struck close to home.  I sometimes say I didn’t discover speculative fiction until my mom forced The Hobbit on me, but that isn’t quite true.  Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I grew up with ghost stories.  Much like that Texas “folklore.”  The difference, of course, merely being one of perceptive.

You can imagine my interest then, when I discovered that an Appendix N and Weird Tales stalwart, Manly Wade Wellman, wrote an entire series of short stories very much rooted in the lore of my people.  About John.  At least that’s the only way his name is given in the stories.  He is more usually known as John the Balladeer or Silver John.  He may also be a parallel universe Johnny Cash.  Or maybe John the Baptist.  Or maybe both.

I picked up a copy of Paizo’s Hidden Worlds and Ancient Mysteries Planet Stories, The Complete Tales of Silver John, Who Fears the Devil?, presented by (and with an introduction from) Mike Resnick (2010).  Unfortunately, it is now out of print and offered at an obscene price every time lately I’ve checked on Amazon.  This is billed as a complete collection of the Silver John short stories, but Wellman also wrote five novels about John.  Haffner Press’ upcoming The Complete John the Balladeer.  The two-volume edition will contain all five novels and is available for pre-order now.

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Music Monday: Hell Ain’t Half Full by Chris Knight and Methhead by Ian Noe

Something I want to do more of with my Music Monday posts (back now after a Game of Thrones induced hiatus!) is to feature two songs together that cover similar themes and subject matter.  Today’s subject is meth, and the scene is killing people who screw around with meth.

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Nonfiction: Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide by Tony Horwitz

I love Tony Horwitz’s nonfiction.  He has a simple formula: he picks some interesting, underappreciated bit of history, then explores the modern day geography.  The result is a mix of travelogue and history as Horwitz interweaves his own adventures with the history.  His best known work is Confederates in the Attic, which I will eventually get around to covering here.  I was beyond overjoyed when I saw that he was returning to the South.

Spying on the South retraces the steps of Frederick Olmstead on a pre-Civil War trip through the South.  (It wasn’t my focus or his, but Horwitz’s portrait of a young Olmstead, well before his days as a famed landscape artists, is delightful.)  Horwitz alternates historical tidbits with his own misadventures.  I said travelogue, but that undersells it.  How many travelogues include one leg by coal barge and another by mule?  The real joy of these sections are the people Horwitz meets along the way.  He treats them with dignity and humanity, and their disparate stories will do far more to flesh out hillbillies and white working class Americans for the person who entry to the field was Hillbilly Elegy than a work like, say, Appalachian Reckoning.

I should make clear, though, that this is not a work that primarily focuses on hillbillies.  Horwitz starts in West Virginia, but he also spends time in Kentucky, Tennessee, along the Mississippi, in Louisiana, Texas, and on the Texas-Mexico border.  I was disappointed to learn that Horwitz only covers the there (not the back again) of Olmstead’s second trip.  He leaves out, then, stops in Chattanooga, Asheville, and Abingdon that would have been of particular interest to me.  And I loved the book, but the West Virginia chapter makes me really wish Horwitz had written a book on Appalachia and the Rust Belt instead.

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Fiction: Houston Noir, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda

I had the intense pleasure of living in Houston for four years this past decade.  But my fondness for my time there did not prevent my pleasure reading this collection of noir tales exploring Houston’s fetid underbelly.

I loved it there, and Houston has a better crime rate than, say, Chicago or New Orleans, but this is still a place where the old-fashioned burglar bars on our house were a good idea, where a man was shot in an drive-by a block away from my house, where a body was found in nice, new apartments under construction that marked my neighborhood as “transitioning,” where bodies were occasionally fished out of the bayou that ran a block from our house (sometimes closer).

The copy and intro both include a wonderful, vicious Hunter S. Thompson quote describing Houston as a “cruel, crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money, and violence. It’s a shabby, sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops, and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West—which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch.”  It says something about Texas that the immediate response is to say “hell yeah!” and adopt the quote as a point of pride.

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