Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Last Monkey Standing

Y: The Last Man: Deluxe Edition Volumes 1-5 (2002-2007/ Collected 2014-2016): written by Brian K. Vaughan; interior illustrations by Pia Guerra, Jose Marzan Jr., Goran Sudzuka, and Paul Chadwick; covers by Aron Wisenfeld, J.G. Jones, and Massimo Carnevale:

Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's 60-issue Vertigo comic series from the early oughts reads like the greatest TV series never made. This makes a certain amount of sense, as Vaughan has worked in TV to good effect over the years. It's now available in five volumes rather than ten, making it something of a bargain for your summer reading list.

On a normal day in 2002, something happens. Every man on Earth drops dead simultaneously. Along with the men go a wide array of males of other animal species. Even sperm banks are somehow affected, the sperm itself rendered inert.

Well, seemingly every man but one -- 23-year-old Yorick Brown, part-time magician and escape artist, full-time purposeless slacker. And the male capuchin helper monkey he'd just received to train in an attempt to do something positive with his life. He named the monkey Ampersand (&) because he has an enduring interest in grammar and punctuation. He's also an English Lit graduate whose father gave he and his older sister (Hero) names of minor Shakespearean characters.

The 60 issues (or 1300 pages) of Y: The Last Man follow Yorick's picaresque quest to discover the cause of -- and hopefully cure for -- whatever devastated humanity. The pace is brisk, the characters nicely drawn, and Pia Guerra's art on most of the issues is about as clean and straightforward as it gets. This isn't an 'art' book, but Guerra's rendering and panel-to-panel continuity favourably remind me of legendary Superman artist Curt Swan's understated, emotive art from the 1970's and 1980's. Nothing showy, just solid story-telling.

Some of the set-up can seem a bit TV-coy at points, especially Yorick and Hero's names, and the fact that the story couldn't work at all if Yorick's mother wasn't a United States Senator. Vaughan's clever enough to puncture his own set-up at points, however, as Yorick repeatedly muses on the improbabilities of his life.

Yorick's co-protagonists for much of the series are Agent 355, a female agent of a super-secret American spy agency founded by George Washington, and Dr. Alison Mann, a cloning expert who may be able to save humanity's future. Their adventures range from violent confrontations to social parables to the occasional almost-Swiftian observation of one strange new satiric pocket of society or another, from the apocalyptically inclined Amazons to a peaceful community of escaped prisoners. 

Y: The Last Man makes any number of gender and social observations while it wends its way from New York to San Francisco to Australia to Japan to China to Russia to France and seemingly everywhere in-between over the course of five narrative years that parallel the five years the title was published. And it's smart enough to make Ampersand a poo-throwing jerk -- the last monkey isn't all that cute and cuddly. 

In all, this is fine work -- clever, funny, and often quite moving. And unlike many great comic series, it really seems almost perfect for TV adaptation. Which I'm guessing is why we've never actually seen it adapted. Oh, Hollywood! Highly recommended.

Friday, May 27, 2016

And Rex Hamilton as Moby Dick

The Unwritten: Apocalypse (2014-2015): written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Dean Ormiston, Yuko Shimuzo, and others: And so Mike Carey and Peter Gross' grand, meta fantasy comic-book series comes to its 12-issue conclusion. It's magnificent and funny and clever, and if you haven't read the rest of The Unwritten, you should start there before coming to the end.

Writer Wilson Taylor spent decades trying to create a human being who straddled the worlds of Story and Reality. That was Tom(my) Taylor, his son whose namesake is the young magician-hero in a series of insanely popular children's books written by Wilson Taylor. Why? 

Well, that's what a lot of The Unwritten was about. But in Apocalypse, Tom must finally use his strange powers to save the world from collapsing into an endless series of pocket-realities, or perhaps even complete oblivion. Why? 

Because the great beast Leviathan, living repository of all of humanity's stories, is dying. As it dies, it bleeds stories into reality. The world is disintegrating into a battlefield of narratives. And all this, ostensibly, because the man known best as Pullman wants to die. Pullman is the first villain of humanity's stories. And because he's become an archetype, he cannot die. This really pisses him off. For Pullman to die, humanity has to die. So what?

Our stalwart heroes Tom, Liz Hexam, vampire-journalist Richie Savoy, and a few others must figure out how to stop Pullman's plans and buy Leviathan time to heal. To do so, they'll quest through the shifting landscapes of Story now erupting into London, England. 

Main artist Peter Gross gets tested to the limit by the various artistic styles required to depict everything from Medieval Romance to 21st-century children's books to the events of Moby Dick. And he's great, though his fine, clean cartooning for the 'baseline' world of Tom and friends remains my preferred mode. He's been terrific for the entire run of The Unwritten. So too cover artist Yuko Shimuzo.

To save both Reality and Story will require unlikely allies (Mr. Bun? Madame Rausch?). It will take the stories to the den of the Inklings, and to the haunts of anthropomorphic animals, and to the carnage of London under siege by a seemingly infinite array of fictional beings. 

It's all thoughtful, sometimes sad, often funny. Comparisons to that other long-form fantasy comic series about Story, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, are apt. Carey is a lighter, funnier writer than Gaiman, however -- they may have similar bone structures, but the two series nonetheless look a lot different on the surface. The conclusion of this story is utterly apt, clever, and possessed of that white whale from "the only book where the whale wins." Read the rest of The Unwritten and then read this, and you'll understand why it's Highly Recommended.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

His Name Was Archer

The Moving Target (Lew Archer #1)  (1949) by Ross Macdonald (a.k.a. Kenneth Millar): Ross Macdonald's first novel about California P.I. Lew Archer sets the tone for everything that will follow. While bits of information will be doled out about Archer himself in his first-person narration, the focus will remain on the case he's trying to solve. Archer's strengths as a narrator (or Macdonald's as a writer, really) are his careful attention to detail, his understanding of character, and his skill at creating appropriate, revealing metaphors.

Lew Archer really ruled the American hard-boiled roost from the late 1940's until the 1970's, garnering praise from mainstream critics. The praise is deserved. These are fine novels, period, not simply fine detective novels. Macdonald's understanding of characterization and setting are already highly developed in 1949. Only the novel's period-specific references and some of the euphemisms indicate its time period. Otherwise, this could just as easily have been published yesterday.

The plot involves Archer's pursuit of a missing millionaire through various fascinating settings, including the rural compound of a New Agey cult leader. Nothing is as it seems, and no one. Welcome to post-war California. Recommended.

The Doomsters  (Lew Archer #7)  (1959) by Ross Macdonald (a.k.a. Kenneth Millar): More than a decade in and the Lew Archer P.I. series remains fresh, with only the deepening, heart-sick mordancy of its protagonist-narrator Lew Archer to mark the passage of time. Archer's past mistakes surface in this novel, as a now-heroin-addicted man he tried to mentor as a teenager sends a client his way -- straight from an escape from a mental institution. The twists in this case are wild and tangled and horribly human. The tragedy of the narrative is only heightened by the use of a Thomas Hardy phrase for the title -- a phrase repeated from one of Hardy's poems in the narrative. Macdonald portrays mental illness starkly and sympathetically, especially for the late-1950's time of the novel. Highly recommended.

The Goodbye Look (Lew Archer #15)  (1969) by Ross Macdonald (a.k.a. Kenneth Millar): More than 20 years into his career, California P.I. Lew Archer continues to wend his way through the tangled pasts and presents of his clients, often finding things they themselves wished had remained buried. The case here is a complicated one, navigated and explained with Archer/Macdonald's patented observational and metaphorical skills. Archer gets more personally involved than normal in this one, but he still works the case to its necessary conclusion -- one set up with complete fairness but impossible to clearly see until one is almost upon it. Great character writing, great and sad depictions of the damned and the lost and the searching. Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Four Views of Mount Constantine

In the beginning... John Constantine by Moore, Veitch and Totleben c. 1984.

Oh, occult investigator/magician/former punk-rock musician John Constantine. Invented by Alan Moore, Rick Veitch, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben in the pages of Swamp Thing in the mid-1980's, he's become an eminence grise at DC Comics. His first series ran an impressive 300 issues at what became DC's adult-horror imprint Vertigo, though Constantine started before Vertigo existed. That 300-issue run had an impressive array of writers come and go over the years, along with an army of artists. 

That DC cancelled Constantine's Vertigo title to bring him back into the mainstream DC Universe continues to gall me: the two non-Vertigo Constantine series have been at best pale reflections of Constantine at his best. He looks like Sting. He probably sounds a lot like John Lennon, as they both hail from Liverpool. He fights Heaven, Hell, and assorted supernatural and human forces in between!

John Constantine Hellblazer: Son of Man (1998-99/Collected 2004): written by Garth Ennis; illustrated by John Higgins: Early 1990's Constantine scribe Garth Ennis returns for an arc with gritty artist/colourist John Higgins. Higgins' characters are stocky and brutal, befitting the story. As with many Constantine stories, it begins at the Ravenscar psychiatric facility in which Constantine spent a couple of years recuperating after the disastrous magical events in Newcastle in the early 1980's. A South London crime boss springs the young, unstable Constantine because he needs a magician to bring his five-year-old son back to life. 16 years later, an older Constantine gets pulled back into the crime boss' story again. There are repercussions to raising the dead.

Ennis, the most grotesque and splattery of all Constantine writers, brings the grue here. Higgins is an able collaborator, though he's not the world's best drawer of babies. The regrets of a misspent youth jostle for prominence with the regrets of a misspent present. The climax is comically anti-climactic, as Ennis always enjoyed taking the piss out of all of his protagonists and antagonists. But boy, the one demon we see here is surprisingly talky, given what sort of demon it turns out to be. Recommended.

John Constantine Hellblazer: Good Intentions (2000-2001/ Collected 2002): written by Brian Azzarello; illustrated by Marcelo Frusin: One of a very few Americans to write Constantine's book, Brian Azzarello takes the Hellblazing magician on a tour of rural America. Marcelo Frusin's art is maybe a shade too cartoony at points for the events it depicts. It also gets cheese-cakey at an unfortunate point involving Constantine's rescue of a woman who was being kidnapped so as to be raped and killed: maybe not the time for the hot underwear shots. Overall, the story is both weird and occasionally revolting. Constantine screws up, of course, but under the circumstances, almost anyone would. Infamous at the time for strongly implying a sex act between a drugged and drunken Constantine and a dog. I kid you not. Lightly recommended.

John Constantine Hellblazer: Stations of the Cross (2004/Collected 2006): written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Leonard Manco, Marcelo Frusin, Chris Brunner, and Steve Dillon: Mike Carey's lengthy run as Constantine writer concludes here with an amnesiac Constantine beset by foes human and demoniac. Even without his memory, Constantine is dangerous to foes and allies alike. The climactic story, from the double-sized 200th issue, gives us Constantine at his most vulnerable. It's a fine finish to Carey's tenure. The art works throughout, and is especially dark and evocative during Constantine's voyage into the labyrinth below the church of a malign cult. Recommended.

John Constantine Hellblazer:  The Roots of Coincidence (2008/Collected 2009): written by Andy Diggle; illustrated by Leonard Manco, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Stefano Landini: This volume ends Andy Diggle's run as Constantine writer with a recontextualization of just who Constantine's greatest enemy was and is. Diggle draws effectively on Constantine's long comic-book history for this revelation. It works, though the mechanics of John's battle with his arch-nemesis never become crystal clear. It's a solid end to a solid run of comics, though the horror elements are mostly muted this time out and one of the lesser opponents, Mako, just doesn't have a name that strikes fear into me. Lightly recommended.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tent-pole Sitting

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: adapted from the TV series created by Sam Rolfe by Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Jeff Kleeman, and David C. Wilson; directed by Guy Ritchie; starring Henry Cavill (Napoleon Solo), Armie Hammer (Illya Kuriakin), Alicia Vikander (Gaby), Hugh Grant (Waverly), and Jared Harris (Sanders) (2015): Enjoyable spy romp set in the early 1960's would probably have been better served had the producers gone with another title. Not many people remember the TV series from the 1960's. Heck, the movie itself doesn't bother explaining the title until the last five minutes.

Nonetheless, Guy Ritchie seems to have a lot of fun with period detail and European settings -- it's more like a James Bond movie from the 1960's than any Bond film has been since that time. Henry Cavill as American spy/super-thief Napoleon Solo plays suave/smarmy very well, and Armie Hammer is surprisingly good playing stolid, occasionally psychotic KGB strongman Illya Kuriakin. The plot involves a nuclear threat to both the Soviet Union and the United States, so the spies have to team up. Yes, it's a origin story for a TV series almost no one remembers. The eternal quest for a tent-pole series based on a property a studio already owns continues. I'm pretty sure tepid box office ensures this series won't continue, but it's far from being a disaster. Recommended.

Captain America: Civil War: based on characters and situations created by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mark Millar, Stan Lee, and others; written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (2016): Fast-moving, crowded film pits lots of Marvel super-heroes against lots of other Marvel super-heroes. The movie stays moderately zippy as it leaps from location to location. It also manages to bring Spider-man into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe in fairly rousing fashion. 

Things go on about one super-hero battle too long, in part because the best part of the whole movie occurs during that second-to-last battle as the movie goes all-out comic book. Boy, though, the Vision's costume is terrible. If nothing else, the film suggests that Marvel's Damage Control comic, in which super-powered cleaners clean up the aftermaths of super-battles, should be turned into a movie franchise. Stat. Recommended.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Quest Love

The Walk (2015): adapted by Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne from the non-fiction book by Philippe Petit; directed by Robert Zemeckis; starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Philippe Petit), Ben Kingsley (Papa Rudy), Charlotte Le Bon (Annie), and James Badge Dale (J.P.): Robert Zemeckis has used his later career to good, often startlingly uncommercial advantage. Good on him. The Walk is a slightly fictionalized account of a real even previously detailed in an award-winning documentary, Man on Wire

The film details the attempt by French aerial artist Philippe Petit to high-wire walk between the recently completed World Trade Centre towers in 1974. It's a charming, vertiginous movie about Art with a capital 'A'. All the primaries are good, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a credible French accent. And it all manages to remain vertiginous, even on the small screen. Recommended. 

Watership Down (1978): adapted and directed by Martin Rosen from the novel by Richard Adams; starring the voices of John Hurt (Hazel), Richard Briers (Fiver), Michael Graham Cox (Bigwig), Ralph Richardson (Chief Rabbit), Harry Andrews (General Woundwort), and Zero Mostel (Kehaar): Lovely hand-drawn animation is used to adapt Richard Adams' out-of-nowhere 1970's bestseller about heroic rabbits. The rabbit creation myth, done in extremely stylized animation at the beginning, is a stunner and a beaut. The rest of the movie is good too. Adams combined the animal fable and epic fantasy in a way that no one managed before or since. 

The movie is a bit short, but exciting and affecting. The voices, especially John Hurt as the leader of the rabbits who leave their burrow because of a prophetic dream by visionary rabbit Fiver, are all top-notch. Well, Zero Mostel goes a bit overboard as a helpful Greek seagull. Only an occasionally incongruous score detracts from the proceedings, but otherwise this is a terrific, forgotten work of fantasy. Highly recommended.

Interstellar (2014): written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan; directed by Christopher Nolan; starring Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Ellen Burstyn, Jessica Chastain, and Mackenzie Foy (Old, Middle, and Young Murph), John Lithgow (Donald), Bill Irwin (Voice of TARS), Anne Hathaway (Dr. Brand), Wes Bentley (Dr. Doyle), Michael Caine (Professor Brand), David Gyasi (Dr. Romilly), Casey Affleck (Tom), Topher Grace (Dr. Getty), and Matt Damon (Dr. Mann): Christopher Nolan's love letter to epic science-fiction films and the Power of Love is visually stunning, especially when one discovers that many of the effects involve old-school models and not CGI. Matthew McConaughey continues his run of excellence as the pilot charged with leading a somewhat convoluted mission to save humanity from the dying Earth. And boy, the science goes completely screwy once a black hole shows up. 

Nolan's tendency to bury dialogue behind Hans Zimmer's bombastic sound stylings can grate at points. And in another Nolanesque moment, Michael Caine delivers an almost incomprehensible death-bed confession while talking through what seems to be a mouthful of marbles and oatmeal. Still, the alien vistas and space sequences are impressive. The plot even makes sense if you assume that beings in the future are stuck enacting the convoluted and somewhat ridiculous humanity-saving plan in the movie's present because that's how things happened. They would have made things easier, but time is a flat circle, baby. Recommended.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015): adapted by Jesse Andrews from his own novel; directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; starring Thomas Mann (Greg), RJ Cyler (Earl), Olivia Cooke (Rachel), Nick Offerman (Greg's Dad), Connie Britton (Greg's Mom), Molly Shannon (Rachel's Mom), Jon Bernthal (Mr. McCarthy), and Katherine Hughes (Madison): Excellent teen-centric movie based on an acclaimed Young Adult novel and adapted for the screen by that novel's author. Thomas Mann , RJ Cyler, and Olivia Cooke do great, funny, and sensitive work as the (respective) characters of the title. The adult characters are a bit more humourously two-dimensional, which is how teens often see the significant adults in their lives. For a movie about death and loneliness, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is awfully funny and surprisingly wise. How this wasn't a hit is beyond me. Though maybe all the Werner Herzog jokes curtailed its earning potential. Highly recommended.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Arthur Machen in the Hands of an Angry God

The Vanishing (2007) by Bentley Little: This is either a terrible novel by the usually reliable Bentley Little or a terrific parody of a horror novel. The weirdness starts on the cover, where Stephen King proclaims Little "the poet laureate" of modern horror. Really? Because Little's prose is about as anti-poetic as it gets -- sometimes it's barely prose.

Little's strengths have been in his strange ideas and sudden plot twists. And those are certainly in evidence here. This is a novel that twists right at the title, which doesn't seem to have any major relevance to the novel it's the title of. So it goes. Is this too some sort of joke about Little's preference for one and two word titles for his novels?

Rich white men start going crazy and killing people. Children with the heads of animals are being found in various West Coast cities. A flashback narrative follows an early 19th-century wagon train into an American West found on no map. It all seems sort of intriguing.

Buckets of blood will be thrown about. Even vaguely alternate sexual practices will be linked to Evil. Some evil monsters will show up. But those monsters are also, and I quote, "sexy"! People will bang monsters. People will be banged by monsters. An elite force of mercenaries will suddenly show up to help set things right. They will be tempted to bang those monsters, but they will resist!

To summon these monsters people want to bang, one has to go to certain places and yell out at least slightly obscene rhymes. Or as one of the rhymes goes in the novel, "Engine Engine Number Nine, Take me quickly from behind." I'm not making this up. One of the sexy things these monsters do is a sexy dance consisting primarily of stripper-like gyrations. The monsters look like giant hybrids of lizards, people, and other animals, with Giant-Size sexual organs that everyone keeps staring at with lust. I told you they were sexy, and sexy means Big!

At one point, a character thinks the New York skyline at night looks like a bunch of rectangular Christmas trees, while the cars below look like glowing ants. I'm not making that up, either.

The monsters are a sort of quasi-mystical holdover, in a tradition going back in horror to Arthur Machen's malign little people. They live with their human sex-buddies in a magical land hidden in the Pacific Northwest in which a giant mountain of sewage and offal looms over the landscape. Sex and shit. Get it? Cloachal?

A trio of ten-year-old girls get raped by the monsters in a flashback. Women are kept as milking animals by one of the monster's half-human offspring.  Besides reciting some obscene rhyme, people who want to attract the monsters also rub themselves in their own urine and possible feces. Get it? Cloachal! Thank god for that mercenary group. They really come in handy for our protagonists, a reporter haunted by childhood trauma and a socially retarded social worker.

Did I mention that a priest gets raped to death in his church by monsters? Oh, yeah! If nothing else, The Vanishing makes Clive Barker's "Rawhead Rex" look like "The Turn of the Screw" by comparison. Not recommended, or recommended a lot.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Red Capes Are Coming

Action Comics Volume 5: What Lies Beneath (2013-2014/Collected 2014): written by Greg Pak; illustrated by Aaron Kuder, R.B. Silva, Mike Hawthorne, Scott McDaniel, and others: Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's Superman stories in Action Comics formed one of a handful of truly fine pieces of work on the Man of Steel during DC Comics' soon-to-end 'New 52' era. Pak writes a sympathetic, funny, and humane Superman. Kuder draws everything with a palpable sense of joy and wonder. It's great stuff that a lot of people missed.

This volume contains one short story arc that brings Lana Lang back into Superman's life as the two of them investigate a mysterious underground threat in Venezuela. Superman must also deal with the growing threat of Harrow and the Ghost Soldiers, government operatives who want Superman out of the picture because they view him as the greatest threat humanity faces. It's all a lot of fun, even the flashback story in which a young Superman tries to duke it out with a hurricane. Recommended.

Action Comics Volume 6: Superdoom (2014/ Collected 2014): written by Greg Pak; illustrated by Scott Kolins, Rafa Sandoval, Karl Kerschl, Jed Dougherty, Julius Gopez, Ken Lashley, Aaron Kuder, Cameron Stewart, and others: Completism in today's reprint market means that this volume exists even though it doesn't contain an entire story arc. Instead, it's the chapters of the multiple-book crossover series Doomed that appeared in Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's Action Comics. The story's fine as it goes, though there are a lot of art fill-ins. But's it's roughly 25% of the story, collected elsewhere in its entirety. So buy the Doomed collection instead. A reborn Doomsday causes Superman problems -- but not the normal slug-it-out problems normally associated with Doomsday. Recommended for completists.

Dr. Strange: Into the Dark Dimension (1984-85/ Compilation 2011): written by Roger Stern and Peter B. Gillis; illustrated by Paul Smith, Mark Badger, Bret Blevins, Terry Austin, Steve Leialoha, and others: Roger Stern's great run of writing Dr. Strange in the 1980's ends in this collection as Strange is gradually pulled into civil war in the Dark Dimension, the vast, magical abode of magical tyrants Dormammu and Umar. This volume also collects most of Paul Smith's brief, stellar time as the artist on Dr. Strange

Stern keeps the story-line moving quickly without sacrificing plot density. He also cleverly offers an 'origin' for Dormammu and Umar that has the virtue of being conditional -- it's a piece of propaganda used by Umar to dupe her own people, so its veracity is suspect. Dr. Strange is hyper-competent without being boringly omnipotent or omniscient. This being the early 1980's, Smith does give Strange's old girlfriend/pupil Clea an extraordinarily period-specific haircut and a rockin' headband in several scenes. Even in the Dark Dimension, they were feathering their hair and doing aerobics in the 80's. But besides those period-specific moments, Smith seems to have a great time depicting the time-and-space subverting vistas of the Dark Dimension. A monster that comes out of a space warp is especially nice.

The last story, in which new writer Peter Gillis and new artist Mark Badger take over the book, offers a brief coda to the main story before Gillis and Badger try to make the even-more-1980's-looking, company-wide villain Beyonder more interesting than he generally was. They succeed, but it takes a lot of heavy lifting. Recommended.

Something in the Dark

Night & Demons (2013) by David Drake, containing the following stories:

  • The Red Leer (1979): Deftly characterized 'werewolf' story with a science-fictional twist.
  • A Land of Romance (2005): Enjoyable, twee nod to one of Drake's favourite writers, L. Sprague de Camp.
  • Smokie Joe (1977): A horror story not for the squeamish.
  • Awakening (1975) 
  • Denkirch (1967): The venerable August Derleth bought this early Drake story for Arkham House. It's a slight but enjoyable pastiche of Derleth and Lovecraft.
  • Dragon, The Book (1999)
  • The False Prophet (1989): The longest story involving Drake's classical Roman times characters Vettius and Dama (V&D), who repeatedly stumble into supernatural situations.
  • Black Iron (1975): V&D
  • The Shortest Way (1974): V&D
  • Lord of the Depths (1971)
  • The Land Toward Sunset [Cormac Mac Art] (1995) : Highly enjoyable novella featuring Robert E. Howard's Celtic hero Cormac Mac Art and a remnant of Atlantis.
  • Children of the Forest (1976): Marvelous 'cryptid' story set in late medieval Europe.
  • The Barrow Troll (1975)
  • Than Curse the Darkness (1980): One of the ten or fifteen greatest Cthulhu Mythos stories not written by H.P. Lovecraft. Drake's attention to the details of history creates a Belgian Congo turned into a house of horrors, not by ancient gods, but by European atrocities committed in the name of the rubber trade.
  • The Song of the Bone (1973)
  • The Master of Demons (1975)
  • The Dancer in the Flames (1982): Viet Nam horror.
  • Codex (2003)
  • Firefight (1976): One of Drake's horror stories informed by his time in Viet Nam.
  • Best of Luck (1978): Short-short resembles the superior "Something Had to Be Done."
  • Arclight (1973): Viet Nam horror.
  • Something Had to Be Done (1975): Brilliant horror story draws on Drake's Viet Nam time to deal with a very old horror trope.
  • The Waiting Bullet (1997): A nod to Drake's friend and mentor Manly Wade Wellman in its rural mountain setting.
  • The Elf House (2004)
  • The Hunting Ground (1976): A great piece of urban horror pits a crippled Viet Nam vet against... something. Reads like a blueprint for elements of the Predator and Alien movies. 
  • The Automatic Rifleman (1980): Drake nods to Fritz Leiber with the title of this science-fiction story, and to Leiber's Changewar series in the story's premise.
  • Blood Debt (1976)
  • Men Like Us (1980): Great piece of post-apocalyptic science fiction that uses some of the most persistent Atomic and Golden Age science-fiction tropes in refreshingly new ways. 
  • A Working Bibliography of David Drake's Writing (2012) by Karen Zimmerman 

* The note "A shorter version of this volume appeared in 2007 as Balefires" is found on this book's copyright page, and was published by Night Shade Books. The added stories are: "Dragon, the Book", "The Land Toward the Sunset", "Codex" and "The Waiting Bullet".

One of the great bargains of all time in its mass-market paperback version. Night & Demons collects a tonne of the prolific, thoughtful Drake's short works from the past 40 years. They fall broadly into the horror and dark fantasy genres, though science fiction also plays a part on its own or in several of the horror stories. Along with the stories comes about a hundred pages of Drake's musings on the genesis of the stories. The recollections are both amusing and informative. Highly recommended.