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Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

And if you should find yourself single this time around, just remember: Book lovers never go to bed alone.

The Mail Always Brings Surprises

St. Martin’s Press is so on the ball they sent me a royalty statement for a book that hasn’t even been published yet! (Yes, I suppose they do have to record the advance payments they’ve made, but still, I thought it was funny.)

The Following

One of the reasons I stopped watching Criminal Minds, other than the fact that it was so relentlessly dark, even for me, is that every episode was pretty much the same. You could watch the clock and know exactly what plot twist was coming up based on how much time was left in the episode. Arrest somebody 20 minutes in? They’re not the serial killer. Find a startling piece of evidence against someone with ten minutes left? That’s your guy. Also, someone will be kidnapped at about the 30 minute mark and need to be rescued. Every time. Its formula showed through too quickly for me, and I grew tired of it fast.

Which brings us to Fox’s new FBI vs. serial killers drama The Following. Right away, it differentiates itself from procedurals like Criminal Minds or CSI by taking a serial approach. The premise that a jailed serial killer is commanding a small army of other serial killers to do his bidding allows the program to have its cake and eat it, too: A new serial killer can be hunted every week, which keeps the premise fresh, but there’s a continuing story arc as well, which keeps viewers coming back. Series creator Kevin Williamson has done his homework. Williamson is best known for the Scream movies, of course, but he’s no stranger to TV, with series like Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries under his belt. Thankfully, there’s nothing teen-drama about The Following. This is a very grown up show, with all the gore and implied violence that entails. With multiple images of blood-soaked murder victims with their eyes removed, it’s not for the weak of stomach.

It’s also a cliché-fest. You can practically tick them off a list as you watch any given episode. Alcoholic ex-agent (Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy) called back to work on the same case that ruined him? Check. Tough-talking FBI agents who don’t quite trust him? Check. (Including one played by Shawn Ashmore, Iceman in the X-Men movies!) Hyper-intelligent, literate serial killer in captivity (James Purefoy as Joe Carroll) doling out cryptic clues to our hero? Check. This time our serial killer is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe, not fava beans and chianti, though at least he’s not killing people in emulation of scenes out of Poe’s stories like in that John Cusak movie nobody cared about last year. And just for good measure, does the villain have a British accent? Check.

There seems to be a rule that every serial drama since Lost must include flashbacks that explain events or the way people are acting, and The Following is no exception, flashing back regularly to 2004 to recount how Ryan tracked down and captured Joe the first time. And also how he had an affair with Joe’s wife (Natalie Zea as Claire Matthews), because this is a TV show and they need plotlines, dammit. Anyway, the whole thing is overwrought, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable, really. It’s riveting, if not exactly smart. Much of that has to do with Kevin Bacon. He holds the camera in every scene, somehow elevating the material just by squinting at people and growling his dialogue, no matter how clichéd the actual words.

It’s also legitimately scary at times, something we rarely see on TV. The scene with all the Poe masks in episode two was the tipping point for Alexa. After that she noped out of the series (“Nope!”) for good. Too scary, she said. I guess that makes it my kind of show.

Unfortunately, The Following suffers from a common TV drama malady these days. Namely, it may be too high concept to survive. A lot of TV dramas that have come and gone recently have buckled under the weight of their own concepts, as if they were movie pitches first. (“A nuclear sub goes renegade rather than bomb Pakistan!”) So many would have made great, or at least interesting, films. As TV series, though, they couldn’t last. Their concepts couldn’t stretch beyond a few episodes and remain interesting. The Following risks, well, following in those same footsteps. Will the show be able to sustain interest beyond a handful of episodes? Is there any way something like this can last more a single season? Time will tell. But for right now, I’m enjoying The Following and recommend it to anyone who likes a good (and gory) hunt-for-the-serial-killer story.

Bookish’s Hilariously Wrong Synopsis of CHASING THE DRAGON

A new, much buzzed about website called Bookish launched on Monday after a long series of delays and setbacks. A joint venture between founding partners Penguin Group USA, Hachette Book Group, and Simon & Schuster, the site ultimately looks like little more than an unnecessary Goodreads clone: You can rate books, mark them to-be-read, and get recommendations for other books you might like. Still, given some time to evolve it might turn into something a little more interesting and unique. We’ll see.

Of course, I couldn’t resist looking up my own books on the site. Only two are listed there: my novella Chasing the Dragon and the IDW prose anthology Zombies vs. Robots: This Means War!, in which I have a story. Now here’s the funny thing. It’s a glitch, I’m sure, but this is their description of Chasing the Dragon:

The Sixsmiths are a family of suburban Satanists who’ve fallen prey to the global recession. Now their life is in turmoil: Ralf needs to find a new job; the twins, Cain and Lilith, need to survive the public school system; and Annie needs to keep them all sane and under budget. Meanwhile, their estranged elder daughter Jezabelle is having her own crisis of faith. Will the Devil rise to smite their enemies, or will he damn them with hellfire and wrath?

You might be saying to yourself, um, that’s not Chasing the Dragon. You might also be asking yourself what the fuck book that is, because it sure as hell isn’t Chasing the Dragon! I mean, I would read that book, but it’s not Chasing the Dragon. A quick Internet search of some key words in the description leads me here. That’s one mystery solved, anyway. But why this description is attached to my book is beyond me.

Anyone else discover any wrong descriptions on the site, or am I just super lucky to be the only one?

Let’s hope Bookish gets its act together soon, because if this is any indication of its quality, it ain’t gonna last long!