Major Inversions by Gordon Highland

Gordon Highland’s first book is a stealth opus of sorts, borrowing from genres contemporary and historical. Greek Tragedy, Modern Comedy, high concept film, mockumentary, on-the-road epic, musical, you name it, it’s in here! The story concerns one Drew Ballard, security guard by day, tribute band rocker by night, studio musician whenever he can land a gig or find the motivation…

Drew’s trapped with an awful and manipulative roommate, trying to find his way in the world. He’s at that tipping point from the inertia of a misspent youth into an unknown future as a “grown-up”. It’s difficult to get into major plot points without going spoiler-heavy, but suffice it to say Drew has his problems. He’s tied up in Drug Dealing, a slowly failing band, a newly budding relationship, and new hauntings from ghosts of his past. It’s simultaneously a slow dissolve into failure and an arduous climb to…if not success, then something that kind of looks like it.

Major Inversions is a solid first effort from Highland – if you like romance, slacker comedies, family dramas, if you’re a music fiend, or you just plain want a good story, then pick this up. There’s something in here to satisfy every taste.

Sunnyside by Glen David Gold

It was the period in history when the concept of memory changed forever: the invention of the motion picture. No longer would secondhand accounts, drawings, paintings, or song be needed to document history. With the camera, people gained the ability to experience an event long after it had happened, without being there.

Glen David Gold, author of “Carter Beats the Devil”, weaves a complicated tapestry of the birth of the motion picture. It is a historical fiction, so it may become difficult to separate artistic license from reality, but then, that’s one of the points of the story. A handful of protagonists carry a series of interconected stories, chief among them Charlie Chaplin and his struggle to become a bonafide artist.

Through the story, as America expands its military presence around the world, movie studios expand their presence in the farms and hillsides of Los Angeles. It is as if the military is establishing a beachhead worldwide, leading the way for Hollywood and the American Cinema to dominate the twentieth century popular arts scene. There is heartbreak, triumph, love, loss, marriage, divorce, all of the things you’d expect to find in a pastoral such as this.

While the scope of the novel is daunting for any author to tackle, Gold does an admirable job of holding the pieces together. The story gets convoluted at times, but the overall effect, the epanalepsis is the core of the book. Each character is repeatedly dashed against the rocks of history, but they find ways to start again, to keep moving, to search for meaning.

Like many early American films, this book is a profound, if occasionally muddled, marvel to behold.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

An easy read, and compelling enough to finish in just a couple sittings. The central relationship, that of Gretchen and Archie, is extremely fascinating, a cop with Stockholm syndrome, falling for the woman who’s torturing him to death. And Cain doesn’t hold back on the torture scenes at all, gritty graphic stuff.

It does feel a bit like a clone of early Thomas Harris novels. I think Susan the reporter felt underdeveloped and almost unnecessary. She was a prop throughout the story, not really driving the mystery forward, nor was any deep personal journey revealed. Her first meeting with the After School Strangler abandons all logic in a scene that is crucial to the finale of the story. It was like literary duct tape used to hold the beginning and end of the story together; both sides are pretty solid, but the bridge to get there is hastily constructed.

I enjoy the cat and mouse that takes place between Archie and Gretchen, but I’m going to wait to check out further installments in this series until I’m sure there’s a finale (which could possibly be book #3, due out soon). While it’s interesting to read the exploits of these killers, I’d also like to see them get what’s coming to them, rather than book after book straining their mythos ever thinner…(ahem, Mr. Harris).

JPod by Douglas Coupland

After I read “All Families Are Psychotic”…or tried to, I was getting ready to give up on Coupland for a while. Every author hits a plateau where they either rehash their style, backslide into obscurity, or challenge themselves to try something different.

JPod is a fun read, mainly because it feels like Coupland is frustrated at being on the plateau and pondering where to go next. It focuses on a group of young slacker programmers, all working together by quirk of having last names that start with J. They’re busy trying to find ways to sabotage their boss’s latest addition to their skateboarding game while also trying to do as little work as possible. That, in a nutshell, is the large plot of the book. The tangential stories relating to the main protagonist (boy meets girl, boy’s Mom sells drugs and needs his help to cover up her crimes, boy’s father is addicted to ballroom dancing and is a struggling actor, boy’s brother is a real estate tycoon who gets him inadvertently involved with an Asian crime kingpin) are where the story shines.

Coupland himself makes an appearance in this book, and meta-narrative of the story (Coupland’s relation to the people he writes about) is an impressive piece of work.


Here’s the promised photos, a fantastic show from Vaud and the Villains! Yeah, I’m gonna be their unofficial LA internets cheerleader for a while, so get used to hearing about these guys…

This was a smaller lineup than the first time we saw them, so the amazing O-Lan the Terrible (the accordion player) and One String (The One-String Guitar player) weren’t there, and I think the vocalist lineup was slightly different too…

BUT, last time we were late, so we didn’t see dancing girls, problem remedied!

Vaud’s patter between songs is amazing. He sucks you right into the world of the band. This isn’t a bunch of ex-ska band guys who bought some hats and ties, no! There’s a story at work here, revival, redemption, the joy of music! A band of bandits on the run!

The crowd was hoppin‘!

Peaches Mahoney came out and did a sultry torch song…

And they sent us home with a song in our hearts. Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future! Hopefully a Vaud and the Villains show will be in your future soon!

Photos courtesy of the amazing Aleks @!


I saw Vaud and the Villains again last night with Aleks. MAN, these guys know how to put on a show. I’m hoping to have an interview with one of the band members (O-Lan the Terrible, the rockin’ accordion player!) – but if you’re in the LA area, catch these guys NOW so you can say you knew them before they were famous. If Dixieland/Swing/Delta Blues/Stomp music experiences a revival, they will be the vanguard. If not, they’re still one of the baddest bands working! Pics/interview coming soon!

Iced Coffee: The Monkeywright Way

Okay. I’ll admit it, I’m addicted to caffeine. When I was in grad school, I was drinking a lot of Coke. A LOT. I was also slightly overweight. And by slightly, I mean embarrassingly. So one of my weight loss tactics involved cutting out sugary drinks, which also meant cutting out caffeine (I hated coffee).

Fast forward to a few years ago and the introduction of Frappucinos. I always got the vanilla ones (no coffee flavor). But somewhere, somehow, I started getting the occasional sip of JavaMochaSpressoCoffeeBlast flavor. It was an occasional dalliance. Then McDonald’s introduced iced coffee. Now, it’s not the greatest coffee in the world, but it is the cheapest mainstream iced coffee out there, and I was on a one-a-day habit. It adds up over time, so at the behest of my wife, I bought the least technologically advanced coffee maker in the world: the French press.

It is a Godsend.

I am still in the refining phases of making my perfect iced coffee, but here are the hints I have so far:
1. Avoid Folger’s like the plague.
2. Starbucks ground coffee works well enough for now (I’m gonna experiment with other grinds)
3. Coffeemate French Vanilla coffee flavor (liquid version) tastes better than McDonald’s vanilla flavor and probably saves me 100 calories or so per drink.

Once I get the balance down, I’ll share my coffee secrets with you. I can still only handle one cup per day, otherwise my stomach rebels, but rest assured, the wheels of progress grind slowly, but unceasingly. I will create the perfect iced coffee, and the world will be my oyster.

And I’ll save about 40 bucks a month!

Read more horror!

%d bloggers like this: