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R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy


Leonard Nimoy passed away this morning at the age of 83. Like most science-fiction nerds my age (or even not my age), I knew him best as Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek. Those weekend reruns during my youth, as well as the late-night reruns during my high-school years, were vastly influential, helping me turn my imagination toward otherworldly creatures and strange planets with eerie red skies (they almost always had red skies on Star Trek).

As with every young person who was an emotional basket case, I gravitated toward Spock because he seemed like he had his shit together. He didn’t, of course. Every season included at least one episode where Spock would lose it and put his hand through a wall or another person. Then someone would remind him he was half-Vulcan, and he would pause, stand a bit taller, and straighten the hem of his uniform shirt. That resonated with me, too. It helped show me that it was possible to let myself feel uncomfortable or painful emotions and still come out the other side okay.

Spock was such an influential character that each subsequent iteration of Star Trek tried to have its own non-human, semi-emotionless character, with diminishing returns the further we got from the original: Data on The Next Generation, Odo on Deep Space Nine, Tuvok and Seven of Nine on Voyager, and T’Pol on Enterprise. None were Spock. None matched Spock. Arguably, only Data became something greater than the Spock-sized hole he was supposed to fill, although I do have a soft spot for Odo as well.

Back to Leonard Nimoy. Although Star Trek was a big part of my youth, it was not my only exposure to Nimoy, who showed up on my TV screen quite a bit. He was in a couple of seasons of Mission: Impossible (it was always a thrill when Nimoy showed up in whatever rerun I was watching because I already knew him as Mr. Spock then). He hosted In Search Of…, a weekly paranormal exploration program that fired up my imagination as much as Star Trek, if not more so. He also hosted another program I watched religiously in the early 1980s: Standby: Lights! Camera! Action!, a behind-the-scenes Hollywood docuseries that frequently focused on special effects and makeup in movies, resulting in many, many segments on monsters and aliens. It was right up my alley. Later, there was the “Marge vs. the Monorail” episode of The Simpsons, which is still one of my favorite episodes more than twenty years later. (IMDB tells me he also guest-starred on an episode of Get Smart, another favorite from my youth. I wish I could remember that episode, called “The Dead Spy Scrawls,” but my memory fails me.)

In films, I knew him from the Star Trek movies, of course, but also, perhaps most importantly, from Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which I’d argue is one of the few examples of a remake being better than the original (and I love the original). He doesn’t get the best scenes — Donald Sutherland gets most of them; Brooke Adams and Veronica Cartwright get a few — but Nimoy’s presence is enormous.

It always was, in everything he did. He was a big, instantly recognizable part of my formative years, and his passing leaves me deeply saddened. Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy. You were, and always shall be, a legend.

The Scariest Part: Gary Haynes Talks About STATE OF ATTACK

State of Attack

Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, please review the guidelines here.)

My guest is Gary Haynes, whose latest novel is State of Attack. Here is the book’s description:

State of Attack sees the return of Special Agent Tom Dupree in another turbocharged political thriller from Gary Haynes. Tom Dupree must embark on his most dangerous mission yet: a desperate search to track down the Sword of Allah, a jihadist otherwise known simply as Ibrahim. But the closer Dupree delves into the knot of terror, betrayal and conspiracy surrounding the Sword of Allah, the fewer people he can trust — and the more deadly the race becomes. Special Agent Tom Dupree is back!

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Gary Haynes:

Initially, thinking about which scene from my new counterterrorism thriller, State of Attack, was the scariest part proved difficult. Darker than the first novel in the series, State of Honour, the second book revolves around a planned attack by Islamic terrorists, but this is no ordinary attack. Added to which it is based in war-torn Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, as well as the West. Should I describe writing about the drowning of an innocent couple? Should it be the violent interrogation of a Mossad operative? Should I describe the invisible and devastating threat to US military bases in the homeland? No, after just a few minutes, I knew exactly which scene was the scariest part.

Without the necessity for a spoiler alert I can say that the main character, Tom Dupree, a special agent in the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, finds himself in Ankara, Turkey, tracking down a jihadist only known as Ibrahim. He is being protected by the Turkish mafia. Major players in the global smack trade and people trafficking, as well as prostitution and extortion, they maintain order and silence by fostering a reputation for prolonged torture.

Now I don’t care how brave someone professes to be, the thought of days, weeks even, of extreme physical abuse at the hands of sadistic experts is chilling. The baba, or local godfather, is a psychopath. I know a lot has been written about psychopaths so I wanted mine to be a different. He loves his little granddaughter and tends his beehives with her nearby. Nice. But when he describes what will be meted out to Tom in order to extract the information he desires he’s, well, not nice.

It is the juxtaposition of the everyday and the horrific that I find genuinely scary. One minute the baba is dripping honey onto his granddaughter’s tongue, and the next he is describing to Tom how he will look and feel when the screaming starts, the burning of flesh. Yuck! The sheer inevitability of it, the fact that seemingly nothing can be done about it, adds to the sense of complete hopelessness. A writer has to put themselves into that position, to get inside the mind of both the perpetrator and the potential victim, and that’s a difficult and scary thing to do.

To ratchet up the tension, the baba says that he uses an old Gestapo technique, too. Tom won’t give up his buddy, Lester Wilson, but the baba says his men will find him, and then the real fun will start. Strip two men naked and play a brutal game. Use one to get information from the other. Torture one to get the other to talk. Torture one and say it’s the other’s fault. Metaphorically bang their heads together and see which one cracks first. And these are heads full of psychoactive drugs, bodies kept alive by drip feeds. Nice.

Except, of course, I know there isn’t anything nice about this at all. It played on my mind. It still does. In a deep recess of my mind I have become a potential victim, and that my friends, is the scariest part.

Gary Haynes: Website / Facebook / Twitter

State of Attack: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks UK

Gary Haynes studied law at Warwick University and completed his postgraduate legal studies at the College of Law. As a lawyer he specializes in commercial dispute resolution. He is very active on social media, especially Twitter, and blogs and comments upon writing, motivation, Middle East politics and counterterrorism. He keeps fit at his local boxing gym and by going for long walks by the coast and hiking on Dartmoor. He loves films, the music of Richard Wagner, Thai food and Portugal. Gary writes cinematic-style, intelligent, fast-paced, and action-packed counterterrorism/political/spy thrillers. He is writing a series of novels based on his main character, Tom Dupree, a special agent in the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security. His favourite quote is: You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.

Your Jealousy Feeds Me


Look what came in the mail today!

Supernatural Noir

Supernatural NoirSupernatural Noir by Ellen Datlow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another exemplary anthology from Ellen Datlow, this time with a theme that’s right up my alley. The intersection of crime stories and the supernatural is fertile ground, one that’s reaped well by the authors assembled here. There isn’t a weak story in the bunch (such uniform excellence is a trait I’ve come to expect from Datlow anthologies), but of course that makes choosing standouts to mention in this review very difficult. Suffice it to say that the authors I expected great things from — Paul Tremblay, Laird Barron, Lucius Shepard, Tom Piccirilli, John Langan, Lee Thomas — all deliver, and many of the authors whose work I was less familiar with — Melanie Tem, Brian Evenson, Richard Bowes — left me greatly impressed. There are no shortage of novels that blend crime or detective stories with fantasy and horror — hell, I’ve written a few of them myself — but if you’re curious to explore this evolving subgenre, I can’t think of a better place to start.

View all my reviews