Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Tis the Season For Death Valley Superstars

Duke Haney released Death Valley Superstars last December with Delancy Street Press. 
You can purchase a copy, and purchase a copy you should, here
Btw, the Kindle version is just 1.99. I mean, seriously, go get the dang thing!

Though its tone is sometimes comic, “Death Valley Superstars“ is nevertheless a livre noir, and no liquor says noir to me like whisky, whether bourbon, scotch, Irish, or Canadian. Steve Cochran, a noir figure both on- and offscreen and one of the short-lived subjects of “Death Valley Superstars,” had a taste for whisky, as did another of the book’s subjects, Jim Morrison, who sang famously, “Oh, show me the way to the next whisky bar,” while I once passed out on the floor of Morrison’s bygone residence in West Hollywood after a night of drinking—what else?—whisky. This incident, which includes a visit from Morrison’s ghost, is recounted in ”Death Valley Superstars,” but I’m afraid whisky is not typically sold alongside the book. 


“If it goes by, I’ve always known it was fickle,” Marilyn Monroe once said of fame, an overriding theme in this collection of essays, profiles, and memoir by showbiz survivor Duke Haney. Fame proved faithful, of course, to Monroe, the book’s most iconic subject, while others, like Steve Cochran, a villain in movies and a “hard-drinking, bed-hopping cop magnet” in reality, were widely forgotten before their untimely, often mysterious deaths. Taking an experimental tack in some instances, Haney employs a psychic medium to conduct a séance at Jim Morrison’s former residence and an astrologer to interpret the birth chart of an astrology-crazed film star-turned-bank robber. He attends the funeral of the “next James Dean” who became a raggedy street person, performs a cringeworthy nude scene in a movie produced by “King of the Bs” Roger Corman, and searches for the camper van where funk trailblazer Sly Stone has been reduced to living.

Painstakingly researched and compulsively readable, Death Valley Superstars offers a kind of midnight tour of Los Angeles past and present, highlighting hidden corridors and seldom-heard anecdotes about a few of the many who, fooled by Hollywood’s mirages, found themselves caught in its quicksand.


"The book is brilliantly sequenced. If you’ve ever wanted to hear scalpel slices of backlot dreams … perhaps nightmares … or Gnosis remarks that refer to Las Vegas and Hollywood … then Duke Haney … with sly wit burning … with unknown and known old-school celebrities … certainly delivers." - Heavy Feather Review

"Haney has produced a fantastic, thoroughly readable book. His unique literary flair and his obvious passion and knowledge makes for a rich and interesting collection, no matter how much or how little you may know about the subject." - Storgy

"I was humbled and dazzled by Duke's writing. It's just so good....one I recommend regardless of whether one thinks they have an interest in mid to late 20th century Hollywood. It is well worth the read just to experience the immense talent of an extremely under-appreciated writer." - Jonathan Dunkle

"...we owe him our thanks for Death Valley Superstars, a dream of a collection." - LARB

" “Death Valley Superstars” forms a kind of homage to a grittier, pre-gentrified Hollywood." - AV Press


Duke Haney, aka Daryl Haney, has spent most of his adult life working in the movie business, with twenty feature-film credits as an actor and twenty-two as a screenwriter.  He used pseudonyms for some of the screenplays and went by “D. R. Haney” as the author of a novel, Banned for Life, and an essay collection, Subversia. After he was struck by a car in a crosswalk on Sunset Boulevard, a friend claimed he walked like John “Duke” Wayne and gave him the nickname by which most people know him and he has taken belatedly as his pen name. He plans to follow Death Valley Superstars with a novel tentatively titled XXX. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Tis the Season for Relief By Execution

Gint Aras released Relief By Execution back in October with Little Bound Books. 
You can purchase a copy, and purchase a copy you should, here

Relief by Execution: A Visit to Mauthausen goes best with whatever happens to be around, and at the time of this composition, it happened to be around a bottle of Lagavulin 16. It does well beside a bottle of Austrian beer---Gösser, Stiegl or Wieselburger---and it breathes sighs of presence when accompanied by a tall glass of any Lithuanian lager, perhaps Švyturys or Vilkmergė. 

Its soul is similar to Lagavulin’s: equal parts intensity and warmth, equal notes of wood and salted air, qualities of earth and fire, and a finish that provides both invitation and closure. Never water it down. Drink it neat. 


Between the years of 1996-1999, Gint Aras lived a hapless bohemian’s life in Linz, Austria. Decades later, a random conversation with a Polish immigrant in a Chicago coffeehouse provokes a question: why didn’t Aras ever visit Mauthausen, or any of the other holocaust sites close to his former home? The answer compels him to visit the concentration camp in the winter of 2017, bringing with him the baggage of a childhood shaped by his family of Lithuanian WWII refugees. The result is this meditative inquiry, at once lyrical and piercing, on the nature of ethnic identity, the constructs of race and nation, and the lasting consequences of collective trauma. 


"A thoughtful meditation on the painful process of self-knowledge." - Kirkus Review 

"This is blistering nonfiction." - After the Pause 

"Aras is sparse with words but big on impact...This is a thoughtful, beautifully written essay that packs in many sharp questions about how people function." - New City Lit 

"Gint Aras’s story is urgently important. We need books like these, full of honest writing, earnest exploration, and profound insight." - Bookends Review 

"...it’s the best meditation on that strange brew of privilege and cultural heritage I’ve as yet had the pleasure to read. " - Untoward Magazine 

"Relief by Execution is probably one of the most poignant nonfiction books I have read in a long time. It unpacks questions of identity, explores curiosities of what it means be a victim, and reflects on the importance of telling your own story. " - Independent Book Review


Gint Aras (Karolis Gintaras Žukauskas) has been trapped on planet Earth since 1973. His prose considers the constructs that determine our identity, and what impact trauma has on perception. Translations, essays and short fiction have appeared in Quarterly West, Hypertext, The St. Petersburg Review, STIR Journal, Dialogo, Antique Children and other publications. He’s the author of the novels Finding the Moon in Sugar (Infinity, 2009), The Fugue (Tortoise Books, 2016), and the memoir Relief by Execution: A Visit to Mauthausen (Homebound Publications, 2019). A father of two, he splits his time between Chicago, Illinois and Klaipėda, Lithuania.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Tis the Season for Ghosts Of You

Cathy Ulrich released Ghosts of You back in back in October with Okay Donkey Press. 
Go on and grab yourself a copy here

The book goes great with a Black Dahlia....

To drink with "Ghosts of You," I'd recommend a Black Dahlia. I got this recipe from a cheesy TV drama with switched identities and faked deaths and all sorts of goodness!

To make a Black Dahlia, you take three ounces vodka, one ounce creme de cassis and a splash of raspberry liqueur. I usually just pour them straight into the glass, but using a cocktail shaker works great too.

The drink, of course, is named after Elizabeth Short, more famously known by the moniker she was dubbed by the Hearst newspapers after her murder: The Black Dahlia. She's referenced in a story in "Ghosts of You," and she is the epitome of a girl whose death set the plot in motion.


Ghosts of You is a collection of short stories about seeking the lost and finding the person behind the sensationalism. It examines the tropes of mystery/crime storytelling in which the narrative always begins with the body of yet another murdered woman. They are mothers and daughters, teachers and students, lovers and wives, actresses and extras. They have been taken, but their stories still remain. This is how they set the plot in motion.


"She tackles moments of intense grief without flinching, and balances them within a kaleidoscope of poignant moments. ghosts of you is intense, but not exhausting. Each piece is as unique as the murdered woman who starts it. Collectively, they challenge our treatment of the murdered woman." - Bookends Review

"Ulrich digs deep to expose and underscore the disposability of women; the way our lives are measured by those we leave behind; they way we only matter as a plot device." - Dianah @ Powell's 

"Like a seasoned gumshoe, Ulrich dirties her hands, digs through sensationalism, and ignores the obvious to search for clues. She opens up the spaces between what the readers think they understand and the truth. " - Heavy Feather Review

"Ulrich’s writing is revelatory, bone-shaking. ...This is flash fiction that will sink into your bloodstream and keep circulating long after the final line." - After the Pause

"Cathy Ulrich is a puppeteer with the short story craft...For fans of literary fiction and murder mysteries, you’ve met your match with this book." Independent Book Review 

"There’s a timelessness to Ghosts of You, and even after many readings, there’s still fresh meaning and details. Ulrich is giving these women their due, breaking open the wounds, bringing them to the foreground and transforming their stories." - Emily @ Smokelong


Cathy Ulrich is the founding editor of Milk Candy Review, a journal of flash fiction. Her work has been published in various journals, including Black Warrior Review, Passages North, and Wigleaf and can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, Best Small Fictions 2019 and Wigleaf's Top 50 Very Short Fictions 2017 and 2019. She lives in Montana with her daughter and various small animals.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bronwyn Reviews: Guesthouse for Ganesha

Guesthouse for Ganesha by Judith Teitelman
Publisher: She Writes Press
Released: 2019

reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin


For people of faith, the idea of some kind of supernatural being keeping watch over you every day, I imagine to be both a comfort and a terror. Your needs, fears, and desires are under constant scrutiny. One day you will fail your god. But what if you are watched over without your knowledge? What if the god is of a faith and culture not your own? This is the intriguing starting point for Judith Teitelman’s Guesthouse for Ganesha.

When Esther Grünspan is abandoned by her fiancé on her wedding day in 1923, she flees her tight-knit Polish shtetl and travels to Köln, Germany, to make her heartbroken way in the world. Trained as a seamstress from childhood, she earns her living by her unrivaled skill with needle and thread. As she struggles to survive, to learn language and culture, she hardens her heart to love and friendship. She seems to want to be entirely unseen. Look at my work, her actions cry out, not at me.

A loveless marriage follows, then the Nazis. A network of good people move Esther from home to apartment to boarding house, from country to country. They provide false papers and sewing assignments, everything from simple hems to elaborate gowns. Sewing is both her refuge and livelihood.

Esther’s life expands and contracts across a backdrop of some of the greatest horrors of the 20th century; we see crimes against humanity play out in the life of one woman. Watching with us is the elephant-headed god Ganesha of the Hindu pantheon. She encounters him in park in Köln, but does not know him as a god. His role in her life as a remover of obstacles is invisible to her. She does not see him give a cookie to distract her fretful daughter so she can finish a gown for a wealthy socialite in time for a party. She does not see him turn a head at just the right moment or move a hand to sign a document that allows her to escape to safety.

Still, like so many gods and superheroes, Teitelman’s Ganesha is not omnipotent. He can soothe a querulous child and save a single life, but he cannot prevent the Holocaust.

In the aftermath of the war, the story of Guesthouse for Ganesha takes a startling turn to fantasy. So, too, did arts and literature abandon the limitations of realism in the post-war period. Esther walks away from a life that has both sustained and constrained her, opening herself to a Hindu god of letters and learning who has, she discovers, watched over her with love and compassion all along.

Bronwyn Mauldin writes fiction and facts, and is creator of The Democracy Series zine collection. Her newest short story appears in the 2019 Gold Man Review. More at bronwynmauldin.com.