Saturday, 30 May 2020

Review: The Shining

KING, Stephen, The Shining, New English Library, London, 1978.

Octavo; paperback; 416pp. Moderate wear; rolled; covers rubbed, creased and edgeworn; spine creased; text block and page edges toned; previous owner’s ink inscription to the first page; some internal spots. Good.

Long-time readers will notice that the things I review at this blog are serendipitous: I read and review things I stumble across, usually at work. Working at a bookshop, I see a lot of books come and go – those we don’t actively buy to put into stock either get shuffled to the “specials” table where they can be had for less than $10; others get tossed, because they’re just too badly beaten up to sell on. One of the perks of my job is that I get to snaffle anything in this range that catches my eye. The Universe provides!

The other day this rolled across my desk. It’s too broken to take up space on the store shelves, so I took it home and put it aside to deal with later. Stephen King isn’t my “go to” guy for horror writing; for me, he’s definitely the white bread option when it comes to scares. That being said, finding his stuff is quite hard. You can buy most of his books new – for the most part they’re all still in print in some form or another – but I can’t even remember the last time I shelled out for a new book. Second-hand copies are few and far between: people like them so they hang onto them and when you do see them, they’re like this copy – banged-up to Hell and back. And forget about first editions: you need some serious cash to become a Stephen King collector these days.

I’ve read few of King’s books. I think the first one I picked up was Thinner which, it has to be said, goes off the rails about two-thirds in and needs a good, hard edit. I’ve read ‘Salem’s Lot which is dated and too clever by half (also needing an edit). I started It on several different occasions but quit only a short way in - all I could get out of it was that it needed a good pruning and that it was soppy and sentimental. I’ve read excerpts from Pet Sematary but the politics of that novel offend me so I didn’t go back to finish it (King’s tendency to ‘blame it on the indigenes’ is reprehensible – see It as well for details).Conversely, I’ve read a bunch of his short stories and these are great – he should do more of this stuff.

So, what was my interest in The Shining? Well, there was the Kubrick film which was great, and I was curious as to how King could have inspired such a success. And there was another reason: just because someone tells me something is crap, it doesn’t mean I just go along with it, even if that person is me. I read every single book written by Stephenie Meyers just so I could work out what other people were seeing in it (‘never found out; ‘still don’t understand the attraction) and to make sure that they really were all as bad as people were saying they are (they are). In fact, if someone tells me that I will “absolutely love” a particular book, it’s a sure-fire way to ensure that I will never pick it up. Call me perverse, that’s how I’m wired. After some time thinking of King as the low man on the horror totem pole, I still felt I owed him some time and an opportunity for vindication. I’m glad I did.

This is really good. I’m still kind of processing it, so bear with me, but it’s a terrific read. The narrowed setting; the small cast; the psychological dissections; the premise: they all work in ways that other books by King don’t. My first impulse in reviewing it is that focus has been brought to bear upon the narrative in ways that King normally doesn’t pursue: this is the writer working with a microscope (rather than a telescope, or a kaleidoscope at his most extreme) and, given the subject matter, it works a treat. This is “horses for courses” and I wish he’d do it more often.

King is largely a scaffolder in terms of his writing, meaning that he creates complex rationales for what happens in his books, pinning down all of the motives and other explanations for what takes place. This is fine. However, scaffolding is a two-part process: once you assemble all of that structure, you need to take it away – leaving it in place means that you bother your reader with all that extraneous information. If you’ve written the story well enough, most of that material should just be “understood” as part of the narrative – you don’t have to mention it anymore. The two reasons that are usually cited for leaving the scaffolding in place are 1) the author is not confident in their ability to assume this information as part of their story; or 2) that they like showing off how much research they’ve done. I leave it to you to decide on your own into which of these camps King falls.

In many of his books, King takes his time outlining his locations, usually bucolic New England townships, and how they work. In ‘Salem’s Lot for example, we become intimately aware of the geography and the history of the place and the people who live there – much of this is beside the point. In The Shining, on the other hand, this isn’t such a problem: there is really only the one location – the Overlook Hotel – and the narrative demands that we become intimate with its particulars. This is one of those horror vehicles (“Alien”; The Amityville Horror; “Deep Blue Sea”) where the location is actually a ‘+1’ character – along with Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrance, the Overlook is the fourth ‘person’ rounding out the story. In this sense, we need to know something about the place, as much as we do about each of the human players in the drama. And King certainly delivers.

With only four characters to work with, King takes his time getting into the heads of all of them. This is a very claustrophobic novel – inevitably – and King gives us three human beings with brains working overtime, like hamsters spinning in wheels, and we feel intimately their fears, preoccupations and manias. The metaphor of the overworked boiler in the basement here is a deliberate one. King gives us a nice technique, a subtle insertion of a comment, usually italicized and in parentheses, forming a subconscious intrusive thought within the text, welling up within a character’s sub-vocalised musing, and revealing hidden motivations and urges. It’s a clever way of rendering each character as a mentally-rounded individual. The Hotel does this too, although its irruptions are often of a more confronting and vivid nature.

The “gun character” of the piece is obviously Jack Torrance, who is such a broken and self-deluded individual that watching him crash and burn is like tuning in to a spectacular car wreck. Wendy, on the other hand, is given little agency within the narrative, and is frustratingly unclear and ineffective for most of the tale. It would be easy to blame this on the zeitgeist when this was written, but that’s an easy cop-out. In the text she’s supposed to be some kind of low-key trophy wife for Jack; it’s obvious that Kubrick cast Shelley Duval in this role as a personified exemplar of her inner self as written. She vacillates between shielding Danny and supporting Jack, and never really seems to do anything of value of her own. After she decides that Danny’s psychic abilities are, prima facie, real, she seems to just sail along in his wake without any effect, other than to act as a judgmental qualifier of Jack’s activities. Danny himself is a little problematic: I don’t like kids; I’ve never had any of my own or been involved too much with them. If this is a bull’s eye depiction of a five-year-old person, then okay, I’ll take it – King is a parent multiple times over, so of course he knows whereof he speaks. It seems alright to me, although Danny’s levels of literacy seem to wobble a bit here and there – his quoting of Alice in Wonderland at length is a case in point. Otherwise, it’s fine and his growing anxiety and fear in the face of the Hotel’s swelling violence is palpably elicited.

As to the Overlook Hotel itself, we get a lavish overview of everything about it, and – while this may seem like some unwanted scaffolding left hanging about – it actually rounds out and grounds the entire plot. The evil with which the place is imbued comes bubbling out from below, sketching the vile rationale for the location’s hideous behaviour. Towards the end, I felt that it was a little too overplayed, that too much was being shoved in my face rather than being suggested; it could have been dialed back a notch, but it was alright.

King was apparently upset by Kubrick’s take on the book and I have to say that his anger is really misplaced (Jeez! Who wouldn’t have loved to have had Kubrick make a film of their writing?). Yes, there are some alterations, but that was bound to happen. In the novel there are a roque court and topiary animals rather than a hedge maze but finding a shooting location that exactly fitted the bill would have been nigh impossible – the compromise is an ideal one. For some reason, King wants to be the champion of the ‘roque revival’ and educate us in the ways of an outmoded form of croquet (scaffolding again). He’s also said that he felt the violence of the film was toned down far too much; for my money, I thought it was fine, and the suggested nature of the cinematic version works far better than any explicit orgy of destruction would have been. King has backed a televisual remake of the book which he prefers; reviews at several websites demonstrate that his opinion is the minority one. And yes, the ending’s different but – it has to be said – it’s better.

In the final analysis, I was quite pleased with this. It fell – almost inevitably – into a flailing mess in the third act (something which many genre writers seem to have a problem with), but not as badly as some of King’s other books (that I’ve read). I suspect that, because King chose to write about things that were fairly straightforward with this book – ghosts; ESP – it required little extra time spent upon the whys and wherefores of the scary elements and he could just focus upon the characters and get on with stuff. This issue plagues the King household it seems – NOS4R2 by Joe Hill is similarly cursed by a character’s ‘superpower’ that requires far too much explanation (scaffolding again), to the detriment of the work overall.

Since starting this review I have purchased a collector’s entire set of Stephen King novels and am getting them all prepped, ready for sale – the Universe provides again! It seems that I’ll be able to expand my knowledge of King’s oeuvre even further – although, to be frank, I’ll probably just stick with the short stories. In the meantime, I’m giving this three-and-a-half Tentacled Horrors.

(Red rum!)

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Review: “Swamp Thing”

DAUBERMAN, Gary, & Mark VERHEIDEN (Creators), “Swamp Thing – The Complete Series”, DC/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 2019.

One interesting aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic is its affect upon the release of cinematic and televisual material. Stuff is still coming to TV and being released on DVD or BluRay, but it’s stuff that, it seems, the production houses aren’t too proud of, or which, they’re hoping, no-one is paying any attention to. For example, this week saw the release of “Birds of Prey” to DVD which – as far as I’m aware – didn’t even make it to the local cinemas. Given the hype in months previous, this thing definitely seemed to be slipped under the radar; having now watched it, I can see why. Even before “Suicide Squad” was finished, I knew it would be a piece of garbage; I felt justified in thinking that any sequel, or spin-off, from that joke would be similarly lacklustre. And whaddaya know? Right again.

(Essentially, this is misbegotten trash that doesn’t know what it is, or what it’s doing. All I have to say is, if you’re going to try and make a movie with a bent chronology and a fourth wall-breaking narrator in the style of “Pulp Fiction” or a “Deadpool” flick, the first thing on your ‘to do’ list is to check that you’re Quentin Tarantino, Tim Miller or David Leitch. Are you Quentin Tarantino, Tim Miller or David Leitch? Of course not, so try something else.)

“Swamp Thing” on the other hand was probably slated for a DVD release at this time anyway - having been screened in the US at about this point last year - and, given the lock-down, there was probably no real reason to not let it out into the world on disc. TV series have definitely come into their own in these stay-at-home-and-binge-watch times. That being said, I watched “Birds” and then felt overcome with reluctance about diving into the swamp – DC’s woeful track record had been stringently adhered to up until that point and I didn’t feel like wallowing in any more if its crapulence.

Instead, I tried to think back over the DCEU’s entire cinematic and televisual back-catalogue to date and work out what exactly stood out from its extended universe of false starts and misfires. It boiled down to “Man of Steel”, “Gotham”, “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” (I know I’m pretty much alone on some of these choices, but seriously “Man of Steel” wasn’t that bad – and is now unavailable, withdrawn from distribution – and “Aquaman” had some very pretty cinematography). (You’ll notice I’m not putting Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movies in this selection – they actually form no part of the DCEU for some reason, and we should all be glad of that.) So, you can imagine that I was hesitant to jump into yet another onerous waste of time…

Surprise, surprise! There is a lot to like here. When I finally felt motivated enough to feed the disc into the DVD player and get underway, I was overcome with a pleasant sense of relief. “Swamp Thing” is actually not bad at all, and it repays investigation. A few caveats here: when I say it’s “not bad”, I mean it’s quite good. There are some patchy performances here and there and some questionable content, but, on balance, it’s completely watchable and engaging. As an indicator, if you’ve watched any of the “Arrowverse” shows, it leaves them all for dead. That’s a big plus.

To offer some backstory, the character of Swamp Thing came out of some comics material that was somewhat more EC – the old horror comics of the 50s and 60s - than DC. Those publications helped bring about the Comics Code which altered the four-colour world forever: they were replete with creations such as this - shambling horrors lurching through dismal terrain. This was an early attempt to write and devise such a character as a narrative hero. Confusingly however, in 1971, Marvel had already unleashed a very similar version of this character called “Man Thing”, a year or so before Swamp Thing; it turns out that Len Wein - the credited creator of Swamp Thing – had also spawned Man Thing while slumming for Marvel; however, with all of the comics talent at the time co-habiting and cross-pollinating their ideas, early grumbles about litigious action were shelved when it turned out that the early story arcs of both characters made them quite separate and unique entities (Swamp Thing has a mind and self-consciousness for example, while Man Thing does not).

(The other thing that Man Thing had as distinct from Swamp Thing was an inadvertently ludicrous book title. The phrase "man thing" was one coined by Stan Lee while writing the Hulk and the Fantastic Four's the Thing, and is the sort of melodramatic phrase that hallmarks the early Marvel writing style. The comics writers weren't crazy about it as their new creation's name, but they bowed to Stan "the Man". Later, Man Thing got its own book -  a sparsely-coloured omnibus series, with a Man Thing story up front and then some other horror-themed, EC-inspired tales following up. As it was larger than the standard Marvel book format it was entitled "Giant Sized Man Thing". Anyone else seeing the problem here?)

There are certainly antecedents for such characters – the lovelorn monster, hated and reviled despite having a heart of gold and separated from the one it loves by its monstrous condition is a well-worn trope. We’ve seen it in Frankenstein (although probably only in versions not adhering too closely to the original), the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame – even the Creature from the Black Lagoon. King Kong also springs to mind. To begin with, Swamp Thing followed a traditional revenge schtick: Alec Holland and his wife are killed by eco-terrorists and he gets reincarnated as Louisiana swamp ooze in order to seek vengeance. After the inevitable tangled skein of comics plotting that followed thereafter, he becomes a guardian of the planet, self-styled avatar of “the Green”, that is, the vegetable consciousness of the Earth.

A number of boots and re-boots followed over the years as new writers came and went and the DC underwent various ructions – Crisis on Infinite Earths; The New 52 – and, as is usual, standard characters in any story arc get re-invented, replaced and discarded according to whim. This series is largely based upon the fifth re-boot of the character which attempted to put the genie back into some kind of bottle after way too long out in the tall grass. This is a Good Thing. Thanks to the likes of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, DC’s supernatural characters all came of age in the 80s and are – arguably – the best things about the DC product - the sooner they motivate a big screen Justice League Dark the better, is what I say. Comics titles such as Hellblazer, Black Orchid and Matt Wagner’s take on The Demon all demonstrated that this was a strength in the canon – the single issue of Swamp Thing entitled “The Anatomy Lesson” demonstrated it more than adequately, what with all of the industry awards that it won. And yet we get “Batman V Superman” (I’m still not convinced that that’s not a Roman numeral 5 in there…).

Essentially, we get a trimmed back, leaner scenario for this series. The town of Marais in Louisiana is affected by an unknown infectious disease and CDC investigator Abby Arcane (it’s a holdover name from an earlier character) is recalled to her hometown to check things out. She meets a privately-contracted scientist – biologist Alec Holland – working for community big-wig Avery Sunderland, and he compels her to investigate the local swamp and the pollutants being dumped there as a possible cause. Just as they start to unravel what’s going on, Holland is killed by a paid assassin and his body is lost in the swamp – only to re-emerge later as the titular ‘Thing. The rest is the kind of well-plotted train-ride to Whodunnit and Why that we’ve all come to expect from TV these days. There are some unusual additions and addenda, the inclusion of which I question but, on the whole, they serve to help things along.

Full disclosure: back in the day, I was a Blue Devil comic collector.

I collected comics fairly avidly through the 80s (after they became available here in their original formats for the first time) and I collected a bunch of things at random that piqued my interest in terms of narrative, or if the artist caught my eye. Paris Cullins had a clean and neat line-style that I enjoyed and – since the Blue Devil was just being launched and I had nothing else I was collecting at the time – I began faithfully to pick up each issue. The storyline was definitely tongue-in-cheek – the character was posited in order to rope in various other big hitters from other books and have a bit of fun with them, which is why Blue Devil meets Superman, Green Lantern and Zatanna within the first five or so issues. The character doesn’t take itself too seriously and pokes fun at superheroics in general – at the time (1986) it was fresh and unusual. Eventually, the character would start to assemble all of the overlooked DC supernatural characters - the Creeper, the Phantom Stranger, Madame Xanadu, the Demon, Man Bat – as allies, and talk of a supernatural Justice League began to be bandied about. I lasted until issue 20 – had I known that there would be only another 12 issues, I probably would have stuck around ‘til the end, but the artist had changed several times and the writers were quitting, so I figured I’d get out while I was ahead. Imagine my surprise to discover that Blue Devil is a character in this TV series!

Not that it’s a good thing. The character is established as a movie role (as it was in the comics) played by a doofus actor and made to look good by Daniel Cassidy, his stuntman. This is all canon from the book. However, in this iteration, having taken over the lead role and starred as the title character in the movie, Dan Cassidy is bound by a mystical promise to never leave Marais until a “heroine” arrives whom he will aid in her “quest”. Cassidy, the one-hit-wonder, mopes and bitches through this story, unable to just wait until he does the thing he promised he would do, and it all seems to be quite strange and clunky, in comparison with everything else that’s going on. Especially since the part is being played by “EYE-an” Ziering. I guess if you have a pouting, self-entitled, poseur role, you could find a worse actor to play the part. Not by much though…

Anyway, Cassidy complains, tries to leave, finds he can’t, gets thumped into a coma, gets revived from same by the evil experimentation of Jason Woodrue, changes the course of history and rides off into the sunset (Boulevard). Sayonara, Blue Devil! We wonder if we could’ve just done without you this time ‘round…

The good thing that comes along with the Blue Devil here, is the character of Madame Xanadu. In the comics she’s just a mysterious femme fatale with (vague, undefined) mystic powers, a comics “ghost host” from 1978; here she’s revised as a black, tarot-card slinging, blind, hoodoo sorceress, with a rattlesnake on her walking stick and funky snake tattoos on her hands. She brings a nice supernatural edge to the events that helps clarify the ‘not science’ which surrounds Alec Holland’s transformation and opens up the world a bit so that it breaks free of its police procedural roots. I’m sure that they didn’t need to have her riding Blue Devil’s coattails though.

There are some good actors here. Jennifer Beals is always worth the price of admission especially when she gets to do something morally ambiguous like this. Will Patton never really seems convincing as the bad guy and his role as Avery Sunderland seems a little low-key – it works but it doesn’t shine. I’ve always had a soft spot for Virginia Madsen since “Candy Man” and here she doesn’t disappoint. Andy Bean/Derek Mears as the eponymous monster, Jeryl Prescott as Madame Xanadu, Maria Sten and Henderson Wade all grab their roles and go for it. Kevin Durand is always a bit too ‘Nicholas Cage’ for me, but he does okay here. My main concern was Crystal Reed as Abby Arcane. Obviously, the writers wanted a way into this scenario for the audience and they thought that following the returning scientist to her hometown and having her rake up all of her past trash would be the way to go. Yes, and no. If this is the line you take, you cast someone more convincing - not the gamine, waif-like, jumper-sleeve twisting naïf that this portrayal offers. This role screamed out for some cynicism and a steel core; instead, we got Bambi. No disrespect to Ms. Reed, but this was not her gig.

As for the production design and so forth, there’s a sense that this show is making do with what it’s got, but that’s not a bad thing. Overreaching will always bring a show down and this one knows not to push things too hard. The focus is on the characters here rather than special effects and, fortunately, this is the sort of vehicle where you can let things breathe a little. Swamp Thing’s ‘powers’ are always a little low-key and undefined anyway, and the writers and directors know to not let the superheroics get in the way of the story. Again, this is where the Blue Devil insertions threaten to blow down the house of cards. Not quite, but almost.

In the final analysis, this won’t knock your socks off, but it’s good all-round value for your hard-earned. If you have to stay inside on the couch for the interim, there are worse things you could be watching…

Three Tentacled Horrors.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Maya Archaeology...

In recent weeks, I have been reading up on the Maya civilization and, particularly, the discovery of it by Western antiquarians, later archaeologists. The fascination has been fuelled in part by the enforced restrictions imposed by COVID-19 but also because this field of discovery has a great bearing upon the Mythos, its origins and development. Let it not be said that this is some great revelation to me: on the contrary, I’ve been well aware of the Lovecraft Circle’s obsession with South and Central America and its relics. It’s simply that I thought I should gain a wider perspective on all of it and its implementation. My jumping-off point on this venture was the following:

CARLSEN, William, Jungle of Stone – The Extraordinary Journey of John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya, William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers, New York NY, 2016.

Octavo; paperback; 529pp., with maps, many monochrome illustrations and 16pp. of colour plates. Mild wear; rolled; covers lightly edgeworn; mild creasing to the spine and front cover; text block and page edges lightly toned. Very good.

By 1839, John L. Stephens had seen most of the known world and had written about his experiences, becoming the foremost travel writer of his day and, therefore, conveniently being allowed to sidestep the legal career that his father had insisted upon. Travelling between London and New York, he encountered an equally intrepid architect and illustrator named Frederick Catherwood and they devised a crazy notion to journey into the Yucatan Peninsula to see what was going on down there. As a prophylactic measure against rough treatment by thugs, Stephens accepted a diplomatic role to visit the US Embassy in Guatemala City, to reassure the locals about America’s willingness to continue trading with the country and then pack up the archive and withdraw the country’s delegation entirely, in the face of revolutionary aggression. It was a two-step of great delicacy to undertake, but Stephens felt that the mantle of international representation was equal to a Conquistador’s breastplate and was well worth the trouble. He was probably right.

The main point of Stephens’ and Catherwood’s trip down south was to find and map the forgotten cities within the Guatemalan heartland that they had heard whispers about. Very little was known about these places at the time: the early narratives of the Spanish invaders glossed over them and spoke about them only insofar as they discussed tearing them down and using the pillaged stone to build lonely cathedrals, soon to be devoured by the encroaching jungle. What they found when, finally, they reached the insect-infested region was spectacular and it blew their minds. They became the first white men to map and otherwise record such places as Copan, Palenque, Uxmal, Chichen Itzá, Tulum and about forty other equally as impressive forgotten cities. They compiled two books about their travels – filled with breathless adventure as much as they brimmed with copious archaeological detail – and secured their places in the history of the region’s exploration.

PRESCOTT, William Hickling (Keith Henderson, illus; Introduction by T.A. Joyce), The Conquest of Mexico, Chatto & Windus, London, 1922

Two volumes: quarto; hardcover, with gilt upper board decorations and spine titles and endpaper maps; 965pp. [480pp. + 485pp.], untrimmed with wide margins, top edges gilt, with many monochrome illustrations. Mild wear; boards rubbed; spines sunned with some marks; mild insect damage to the upper board fore-edges; light bumping to corners and mild shelfwear to spine extremities; previous owner's ink inscriptions and retailer's bookplates to front pastedowns; scattered spotting to preliminaries; embrowned page edges; top edges dusted. Good to very good.

An interesting sideline to the work of Stephens and Catherwood was the writing of the histories of Mexico and Peru – specifically their conquests by the Spanish – by an American author named William Hickling Prescott. Almost blind, the Boston-based author wrote the definitive records of these events using the work of agents and readers to acquire the necessary information. These works still hold their own even in the current whirlwind of Central and South American studies today. John L. Stephens had read Prescott’s work on Mexico and, after publishing his first book on Yucatan, became a close confidante of the historian. They swapped many insights about the early civilizations of South and Central America and were in accord about the origins of the jungle-devoured cities; Prescott eagerly encouraged Stephens to undertake a second journey into the wilderness…

Quite apart from itemising the cities of the Maya homeland, Stephens and Catherwood were crucial in discerning and initiating the notion of Mayan hieroglyphic writing, recognizing that the culture had a concrete means of recording and transmitting knowledge and that it was integral to the society while simultaneously being quite different from similar systems used in Mexico, by the Aztecs, or by the Inca communities in Peru. They hypothesized that the symbols were hieroglyphic as well as being a means of coding for phonetic speech, an idea that was rejected early out of hand by following researchers – bent upon insisting that the Mayan writers were in accord with Egyptian scribes – only to be vindicated in such thinking by epigraphers working in the late Twentieth Century. The other idea that they developed was that the indigenous natives of their own day were the heirs of a greater civilization than that in which they currently resided, a notion which other Western academics rejected absolutely – and incorrectly – as a matter of tacit policy.


GALEANO, Eduardo (Foreword by Isabel Allende), Open Veins of Latin America - Five centuries of the pillage of a continent (25th Anniversary Edition), Monthly Review Press, New York NY, 1997.

Octavo; paperback; 317pp. Minor wear; slightly cocked; covers a little edgeworn; previous owners's bookplate to the first page.

By the 1800s, Most Europeans felt that the indigenous populations of the Americas were a degenerate and God-forsaken people: violent when pressed, but otherwise unmotivated, complacent and intellectually dull. No effort was made to read this as the result of centuries of enforced repression by cruel and despotic rulers; it was simply declared to be the status quo, the defining traits of a low-grade native community. This was colonial thinking of a high order – the Spanish, English and other European dominators of the hemisphere required that the submission of the native population be maintained and so, the possibility of an ancient “golden age” of the peoples’ culture was swiftly repressed throughout academia, wherever it chose to examine the subject. That being said, ever since the days of Cortes, writings of various explorers have discussed the intellectual capacity and the cultural enlightenment of the indigenous people, even with instances of Europeans choosing to slough off the trappings of their own culture and to join the “superior” lifestyle of the natives; however it was chosen to see these as aberrant instances, occasions outside the norm.

Most academics (mostly from within the Catholic Church, initially) chose to believe that the people who built the amazing stone cities of the Americas were travellers from across the Atlantic. They felt that the only people who could possibly have established themselves with such power in the region were the “lost” peoples of the Phoenician culture, which spanned the Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East in ancient times. Why the Phoenicians? Like the Etruscans in Italy, predating the Roman culture, the Phoenicians were a far-ranging Mediterranean civilization which inexplicably vanished: nowadays, all we know of them stems from the fact that – as a seafaring nation - they founded many coastal cities around the Mediterranean Sea - including Carthage and Alexandria – and that they gave us the book and the early rudiments of our alphabet. They also gave us the colour red, stemming from the fact that they jealously guarded the technology to make purple dye: ‘Phoenicia’ comes from the Greek ‘Phoinikes’ meaning ‘red ones’. The Romans put paid to the Phoenicians, wiping out their cities utterly whenever they defeated them, ensuring that very little knowledge about them survived to the present.

However, they are referenced in the Bible, and early archaeologists – more properly ‘antiquarians’ – felt duty bound to account for them. Consequently, upon reading Homer, they made tentative connexions between them and the “lost civilization” of Atlantis. If the Phoenicians were driven out, the ‘reasoning’ went, they must have moved somewhere else and – since no-one had found Atlantis as discussed by Homer – that’s where they must have gone. From there, they extrapolated, the Atlanteans must have removed to the Americas, there to thrive before being usurped by the ‘inferior’ Indians prior to the Spanish conquest. This process of ‘supposing X; then…’ is a hallmark of much of the early thinking to do with South and Central America, indeed of much of the “lunatic fringe” thinking which inspired HPL and his circle in their literary efforts.


VELIKOVSKY, Immanuel, Ramses II and His Time - A Volume in the "Ages in Chaos" Series, Doubleday & Company Inc., New York NY, 1978.

First edition: octavo; hardcover, with gilt spine titles and endpaper maps; 270pp., untrimmed, lower edges speckled red, with 28pp. of monochrome plates. Moderate wear; rolled; spine extremities softened; corners mildly bumped; text block top edge lightly dusted; spotting and mild toning to the other edges. Dustwrapper rubbed and edgeworn with chipping to the spine panel extremities; light insect damage to the lower flap-turn; sine panel sunned; now backed by archival-quality white paper and professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film. Good to very good.

In the 1960s, a Russian fruitcake named Immanuel Velikovsky made himself known by penning books which depended strongly upon building these flimsy rafts of spurious supposition, in order to create (literally) an entire cosmos of theoretical fantasy. Velikovsky started by positing that Earth and Mars were part of the same planet, split apart dramatically by Venus crashing into it, and causing it to shift places in the solar system, incidentally creating the Moon while doing so. Cannily, after visiting the US and (somehow!) getting his rubbish published, Velikovsky arranged to have his photo taken alongside (an unwilling) Albert Einstein in order to glean a little scientific cred and thus became the counter-cultural cosmic guru of the Love Generation. Thereafter he coasted on his laurels, writing other books examining human history from various other ‘what if…?’ premises, and declaring his own versions to be reality. In every case, whenever a cold examination of the facts is played across his fantasies, the original cranky premises of his many houses of cards can be discerned and the whole construction quickly comes apart. Anyone can say ‘suppose X to be true; then it logically follows that…’; however, if the original premise is quantifiably untrue, it doesn’t matter how skillfully you argue the rest, it’s still just rubbish.

von Däniken, Erich (Michael Heron, trans.), Chariots of the Gods?, Souvenir Press Ltd., London, 1969.

Octavo; hardcover, with silver-gilt spine titles; 190pp., with 20pp. od monochrome plates. Mild wear; mild corner-bumping to the boards; text block edges lightly toned. Dustwrapper a little rubbed and edgeworn with a few slight tears to the edges. Very good.

Another presenter of such flawed thinking is the well-known Erich von Däniken . In Chariots of the Gods? he posits a similar chain of dubious thinking which stems from the premise that ‘if ancient terrestrial civilizations didn’t have the means to build the great edifices upon the Earth, which are demonstrably real, then they must have had assistance from extraterrestrial powers’. Time has shown however, that those civilizations did have the means and – more importantly - the will to build such things as the Pyramids of Giza, the Nazca Lines, Stonehenge and, indeed, the great cities of Central America. He and his ilk enjoy minimizing the capabilities of the human creature, imposing limits which are unjustified and which, furthermore, fly in the face of the evidence. Those ancient antiquarians of the 1800s were basing their findings upon a baseless colonial assumption of superiority over American indigenes, more or less in line with the one that von Däniken was imposing upon the whole of humanity. Thankfully, the worm has turned in the interim, and now von Däniken has been relegated to the idiot fringe where he belongs.


The other great theory which abided concerning the Americas was purely and simply a Biblical contrivance. The Ten Tribes of Israel – each led by a son of Jacob - were sent into the wilderness after being driven from Samaria by invading Assyrians (2Kings 17:6) and – simply because the Old Testament is a little sketchy concerning which tribe went where – it was posited that at least one of these wandering groups ended up in the Americas (in fact many ethnic and cultural groups across the planet, from Maori enclaves in New Zealand to Chinese regional cliques, claim descent). The Lost Tribe chestnut is an old and hoary one that gets trotted out whenever a rationale of Velikovskian solidity is required. Famously in recent times it has been used to justify the ‘Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ theories of Christ’s adventures after his resurrection, but most notorious is the fact that this ‘theory’ underpins the entire structure of Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. According to Mormon theology, the Ark of the Covenant was shipped to the US by the Lost Tribe and secreted there until such time as it should be used once more. (You’d think, in a world containing Trump, someone would have seen fit to trot that baby out by now and do some good, already!) In this quirky take, native Americans, the members of the Lost Tribe and Angels interbred to create a new and complex society in the Americas which rose to prominence and then faded from view shortly before the Spaniards dropped anchor offshore.

The problem with this thinking (“just one problem?”, I hear you cry) is that it is made up out of whole cloth by completists who can’t stand gaps in their knowledge bank. Just as there was a Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses in grimoire lore simply because five were documented and some wag had coined the idea of a Eighth Book in the interim, so there is a Lost Tribe, simply because an ancient scribe somewhere failed to cross the Ts and dot the Is while compiling the Old Testament. This kind of absolutist thinking – filling in the blanks in a documentary historical crazy-quilt – leads only to madness. And Mormonism.

But it’s not simply a neurotic urge to colour in a space looming alarmingly in the jig-saw puzzle of the world; it has another rationale driving it which is all about cultural elitism and colonial greediness. Simply put, if the Lost Tribe had wandered into those parts of the world where Western culture currently doesn’t hold sway, then invoking them is a means of claiming prior ownership. Those monumental cities abandoned in the jungle, it implies, belong to our ancestors, not yours, and therefore our desire to reclaim them is entirely justified. You see how evil this is? It’s a good thing then, isn’t it, that such thinking is a thing of the past. But is it?


FAWCETT, Brian (Ed. & illus.), Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z, arranged from the manuscripts, letters, log-books and records of Col. Percy Fawcett, The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, USA, 2010

Octavo; trade paperback; 312pp., with 16pp. of monochrome photographic plates, one photographic illustration, a map, and many line drawings. As new.

In the 1920s, Colonel Percy Fawcett set out to South America to map territorial boundaries for the local citizens. Rubber plantations were booming and the various countries in the rubber ‘hot zone’ were having trouble working out who was harvesting where and therefore upon whom to impose taxes. Since no-one living locally was willing to trust another local to determine their borders for them, they handed the whole project over to the Brits; they in turn looked down upon the matter as lowly scut work and looked around for someone lowly enough to give it to. They found Percy Fawcett.

Fawcett was from a well-born family of England’s gentry; however, his father had behaved atrociously, bad enough that the whole family was dragged down by his infamy and every member partook of the poisoned chalice which eventuated. While excellent as a soldier, Percy was systematically overlooked for promotion simply as a means of punishing his dad – who was a long time dead by then. Such is the ‘value’ of an Old-Boys’ Network: no-one is rewarded on merit and everyone has a long memory. So, Percy took on the unwanted mapping job and sank his teeth into it, doing a brilliant job on the way and discovering a passion for South America.

While engaged on this thankless task, Fawcett kept his ears open and heard tales of lost cities in the jungles of Brazil, at the headwaters of the rivers which rose in the impenetrable Matto Grosso region. As well, H. Rider Haggard (no less!) had given him a carved piece of rock, said to have come from the area, which Percy took to a psychokinetic medium for examination (as you do). He was told that it had come from an ancient city lost in the wilderness and, soon after, he set out to find this place. Not that this was all that he was going on, of course; he had compiled a long list of clues about where this city might be and also of what it might be composed. He had sussed out the local tribespeople and other local residents, calculated the risks and had set off. He never came back, and his body was never located.

Fawcett called his mystery city “Zed”, which is a telling point. He had decided that he would find this place, if it was the last thing he did and, figuring that it probably would be the last thing he ever did, he named it after the last letter of the alphabet. He resisted all efforts to pre-conceive notions of what it would be like – something which calling it “El Dorado”, for example, would have worked against – and he conducted his search strictly as the evidence dictated. At all times he was respectful and friendly with the tribes of people whom he encountered and this allowed him to gain greater access to the wilderness than anyone else before him, certainly any foreigner; it’s easy to believe that he felt the City of Zed was a product of the people who lived near it and who’d fought hard to keep it secret, not something that sprang from outer space… although he would have been open to that if it proved to be the case, I’m sure. Sadly, his disappearance left the whole question dangling.

FLEMING, Peter, Brazilian Adventure, Jonathan Cape, Ltd., London, 1938

Octavo; hardcover; 376pp., top edges dyed red, with a monochrome frontispiece, 2 maps and four plates likewise. Ex-library: covers rubbed and badly edgeworn; crude tape repair to the spine; covers rubbed and spine extremities pulled; corners bumped; text block edges lightly toned; top joint split and spine detached; retailer’s bookplate to the front pastedown; the usual cancelled library ink stamps and accoutrements throughout; flyleaf clipped; several pages in the early signatures loose (all still present); lower joint cracked with crude tape repair. Lacks dustjacket. Poor.

In the early 1930s, Bond author Ian Fleming’s older brother, Peter, set out at the behest of the newspaper he worked for, to locate Fawcett and Zed and resolve the issue. He wasn’t the first to attempt this, and he certainly wasn’t the most determined; however, he penned a narrative of his travels afterwards and discovered a knack for writing travel memoirs, which kept him in the public eye thereafter. Brazilian Adventure is a rollicking yarn detailing the slapdash (and slapstick) efforts of Fleming and his buddies in getting into and out of Brazil and, although they fail utterly in their stated aims, it is white-knuckle, often hilarious, reading. It also inspired many other explorers.

HOMET, Marcel F. (Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood, trans.), On the Trail of the Sun Gods, Neville Spearman Ltd., London, 1965.

Octavo; hardcover; 272pp., with many monochrome diagrams and 16pp. of plates likewise. Mild wear; covers lightly rubbed; corners lightly bumped; spine extremities mildly softened; text block edges spotted and top edge dusted; retailer’s bookplate and ink stamp to the front pastedown and flyleaf respectively. Lacks dustwrapper. Good.

One of these was a Frenchman named Marcel F. Homet, who glommed like a gecko onto the more outré elements of Fawcett’s story and sought to bring resolution to the question. Unfortunately, Homet’s working principles were not so much informed by the Scientific Method as they were by notions of a Phoenician diaspora and the re-settling of the Lost Tribes (as dictated to him by a cranky Irish drunk slumming through Brittany). Across two books – Sons of the Sun and On the Trail of the Sun Gods - detailing his South American shenanigans, he shamelessly retails his tendency to treat South American indigenes with casual disregard and to relentlessly pillage their history and sacred sites in his efforts to wrest ownership of the Western hemisphere’s ancient history from those to whom it rightfully belongs. Here once more we have Velikovskian constructions of ephemera out of the slightest of thought experiments (mostly deriving from cross-language puns) and a resurgence of imperial aggression in the name of archaeology.

The thing that makes Homet’s books, and the ideas that infest them, so shocking, is that they were written in the mid-60s, a time when the whole concept of archaeology in South and Central America was undergoing a seismic shift. With the help of ethnographically sensitive archaeologists like J. Eric S. Thompson and a pair of Russian linguists – Yuri Knorosov and Tatiana Proskouriakoff - sites were being mapped and hieroglyphic carvings were being decoded as never before. It wasn’t until 1985 that Maya writing could be effectively said to have been cracked, and insights into the language and its written form continue to take place today. Having an intellectual midget like Homet in the mix, with his bragging about stealing from gravesites and the ruination of monuments so that others couldn’t claim them, is repugnant in the extreme. Especially when the reader is forced to sift through his pious declarations about his quest to find Fawcett’s body.

HEYERDAHL, Thor, The Art of Easter Island, Allen & Unwin, London, 1976.

Quarto; hardcover; 349pp., with many monochrome and colour illustrations. Mild wear; endpapers and text block edges lightly toned and spotted. Dustwrapper tarnished with spotting to the spine panel; mild scuffing and edgewear; slight tears to the top of the lower hinge and to the bottom edge of the lower panel; mild chipping to the flap-turns; now protected by superior non-adhesive film with archival-quality white paper backing. Good.

After Homet, von Däniken stepped up and entered the fray. Well into the 70s and early 80s, he peddled his ‘space-architects’ trash, which trod a fine line between the most low-brow of popular science and UFOlogy. He even built a theme park in Switzerland on the back of it! Disappointingly, the rubbish offered by Homet and von Däniken threatened to destroy the valuable work being done by the likes of Thor Heyerdahl, whose Kon-Tiki experiment opened up new thinking in regard to the populating of the Pacific. Practical archaeology is a valuable tool these days, used for delivering insights into past communities, as any devotee of “Time Team” will assert; these scribblers on the idiot fringe tried to use the concept to ‘prove’ the existence of Phoenicians and Atlanteans in Brazil and Yucatan, and it set Heyerdahl’s work and credibility on the back foot for decades.


The horror of Maya archaeology (and archaeology in the New World in general) is that wrong-headedness, greed, religious nuttery and personal gain, has meant that it is only in the last four decades or so that traction has been gained and forward impetus achieved. The story of the indigenous peoples of the Americas is finally being told despite much of it being now irrevocably lost. Lost, despite the fact that the West has known of the place since at least the 1500s; in fact, most of the necessary information crucial for completing that history was lost since that time. What’s left is being painfully sifted from the jungle terrain and excruciatingly recorded with a gut-wrenching sense that it might all be far too late.

One of the more difficult aspects of studying the ancient Maya culture was that it was so alien to everything the antiquarians were used to seeing. Frederick Catherwood, for example, cut his teeth studying Ancient Roman and Greek, and then Egyptian, constructions as part of his architectural training. Though he became the best field artist ever when it came to sketching Maya monuments, even he had to take some time to re-calibrate his artist’s eye and get into the mode. Photographic processes were coming into their own during the time of Stephens’ and Catherwood’s travels and many people initially thought that – as good as Catherwood’s efforts were – a photographic record would be better. The two explorers actually took a camera with them on their second run and included some photographic images in their sequel volumes; however, there’s little difference between Catherwood’s drawings and the photographic ones and even today his efforts are held up as superlative transcriptions from the real.

The problem of perception is always an issue in regard to the early days of exploration. Artists have certain pre-conceived notions about how things look, and their education informs how they reproduce certain elements of their work. Many early expedition artists were Classically trained in terms of human and animal anatomy and proportion, and so were unable to faithfully render exactly what it was that they were seeing. Even such things as an unfamiliarity with how fabrics and clothing work could lead to the artist making all sorts of assumptions regarding how an indigenous peoples’ costumes functioned – anyone who’s looked closely at the native peoples depicted in Cook’s travel journals will recognise this.

In Central America, explorers saw stelae – carved, upright stones depicting former kings – and assumed that they were columns, remembering such configurations from their Egyptian travels or reading. They went to the jungle expecting to find a Greek acropolis and were confused and disorientated by what they were actually seeing. It took the likes of Catherwood and Desiré Charnay – diligently hauling his photographic equipment through impenetrable forests – to start to correct these assumptions.


Beginning in the 20s, a series of actual archaeologists (some of them not quite sure about this new term for their activities) set out in Stephens’ and Catherwood’s footsteps, just as they had set forth in the wake of those who had gone before them. Explorers such as Alfred Maudslay and Desiré Charnay began the thankless job of recording the finds of their precursors and sifting through these for some trace of history that could be codified. How frustrating for them to know that the writing that peppered these ruins was a complete record of what they were after, but with no Rosetta Stone to allow them to decipher it! By the 50s, numbers and the calendrical system had been discerned and English digger and ethnographer J. Eric S. Thompson managed to collect almost all of the hieroglyphic symbols extant on the stone monuments discovered to that point. The Maya kingdoms were, it seemed to these explorers, obsessed with time and the recording of it. The “Long Count” – the Maya system of reckoning time was pinned down and that seemed to be as far as scientists were going to get with it all.

EMMERICH, Roland (Dir.), 2012, Columbia Pictures/Centropolis Entertainment/Farewell Productions, 2009.

Of course, nonsense has intervened here as well. Given that the Long Count has a beginning and an end – occurring in our year of 2012 – a cabal of idiots out there decided – on the basis of very little - that the world would end when the Long Count did. *Sigh!* It seems that there is just no end to the foolishness that people are ready to buy into. Of course, nowadays, we know that the Long Count is a cyclical reckoning based upon astronomical observations – once it ends, it just starts again – and the Maya have left us plenty of texts that tell us exactly this. That didn’t stop a bunch of people killing a whole heap of trees in order to tell us that Christmas 2012 would be our last. They even made a movie out of it!

THOMPSON, J. Eric S., Maya Archeologist, Robert Hale Ltd., London, 1963.

Octavo; hardcover, with gilt spine titles; 208pp., with maps, many monochrome illustrations and 16pp. of plates likewise. Mild wear; slightly rolled; spine extremities softened; corners bumped; text block edges spotted and top edge dusted; mild offset to the endpapers; retailer’s bookplate to the front pastedown; previous owners’ ink inscriptions to the flyleaf; mild foxing to the preliminaries. Price-clipped dustwrapper is rubbed, scuffed and edgeworn with some mild scraping to the spine panel; some small tears to the lower flap-turn with associated creasing; now professionally protected by archival-quality non-adhesive polypropylene film. Very good.

J. Eric S. Thompson became the torch-bearer of American archaeological studies for a time and tried to blend emerging studies in ethnography and anthropology with the digging that he was doing in the Yucatecan (yes – it is a real word) jungles. Crucially, during the time of Maudslay and up until Thompson’s generation, it was noticed that words in the indigenous peoples’ language were similar, if not identical, to the words in Maya: a phonetic ‘alphabet’ compiled by an early Spanish priest named Diego de Landa (ironically, the same guy who burnt more Maya texts than anyone else) was able to verify this state of affairs. The native tongue K’iché (Quiché in Spanish) has many points of reference to spoken Maya, and these were used to begin to identify how Maya glyphs might have been vocalised and to creep forward with the decipherment. Thompson took things even further: he took his observations of the contemporary native lifestyle and used these to backwards engineer a reconstruction of how the Maya might have lived centuries ago. In this he was quite some way off track, but he enabled a more sympathetic and spiritual light to shine on what had previously been written-off as a single-mindedly bloodthirsty culture. His books are also a joy to read, combining the derring-do of Peter Fleming with the archaeological rigor of Prescott and Stephens.

DREW, David, The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings, Weidenfeld & Nicolson/The Orion Publishing Group Ltd., London, 1999.

Octavo; hardcover, full cloth with silver-gilt spine titles; 450pp., with maps, monochrome illustrations and 24pp. of full-colour and monochrome plates. Minor wear; some light spotting to the text block fore-edge. Near fine in a like dustwrapper.

Nowadays, as stated above, American archaeology has established itself and has made many stunning inroads in the understanding of the region’s past civilisations – as outlined in many publications such as that listed above. Ownership of the field has rightfully devolved upon academics native to the Americas, working within their own countries where the monuments and relics are found, and have sloughed off the hindrance that was colonial entitlement, as well as the flaky hootings of the idiot fringe. Financed by American academic institutions and other progressive entities, such as the National Geographic, the archaeology of the Americas nowadays represents the cutting edge of the discipline.


Of course, in the world of the Mythos, the troublesome elements that have dogged and detained the progress of American archaeology are the ones that writers and gamers naturally look to in order to spin out narratives of cosmic terror and earthly horror. HPL and his circle were living during times of great upheaval in regard to what an “archaeologist” was (in fact, so many different scientific disciplines were coming into their own when these guys were scribbling away – anthropology; ethnography; psychology…). Much of the Lovecraft Circle’s precursors – Machen; Blackwood; Bierce – wrote tales of antiquarian dabblers biting off more than they could choke down, so it made sense for their inheritors to take that new-fangled word “archaeology” and use it to underscore the modern-ness of their own tales. Too, the Old World was just that – old – and newer narratives needed someplace that was fresh and exciting; the New World fitted the bill nicely.

Even a cursory glance through some of the books mentioned here reveals that, in terms of cobbling together a gripping story, there was much to recommend the Americas. Revolutions, native uprisings, general lawlessness, impenetrable jungles, disease, voracious wild animals, venomous reptiles and loathsome insects – it was all ripe for exploitation, which the cinema, books and tabloids of the day certainly did with gusto. Add to this the alien qualities of the Maya aesthetic – along with those of the Aztec and Inca nations – and suddenly, it’s almost too much to handle.

The sensibilities of the Lovecraft Circle however, were finely honed towards making the impossible seem plausible, of couching the fantastic in the everyday. Take, for example, the scientific rigor which HPL brings to “At the Mountains of Madness”: the whole reason that story works so well is that it is riddled with map references, equipment and logistical details, and real locations. When searching around for wormy old tomes to imperil his characters, he often looked for real-world analogues – this is how The Book of Dzyan, a Theosophical text – came to be included in the Mythos canon. Another example is the following work:

CHURCHWARD, James, The Lost Continent of Mu: Motherland of Man, William Edwin Rudge, New York NY, 1926.

Octavo; hardcover, with gilt spine titles and an upper board decoration; 316pp., with a monochrome portrait frontispiece, various maps and diagrams likewise and 4pp. of plates. Minor wear; some tarnishing of the gilt on the spine. Lacks dustwrapper. Very good to near fine.

While HPL and E. Hoffman Price were putting together “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, they stumbled across mention of this book. Churchward’s thesis is that the fabled continent of Mu is the source of all humanity and goes on to explain at length how that came to be and where Mu went to in the end. Churchward claimed to have been instructed in the language of “Naacal” by an ancient Indian guru and HPL and Hoffman Price decided to appropriate that word as the name of the language of their own Muvian homeland. Additionally, they added a page to Churchward’s book – an extra plate with a handy table showing how Naacal could be translated – and nicknamed the work “The Naacal Key”. Consequently, the book – although quite real – has become a fanciful Mythos mainstay.

Another writer dabbling with the southern Americas was Robert E. Howard. In “The Children of the Night” and later in “The Black Stone”, he introduces Friedrich Wilheim von Junzt and his major opus Unaussprechlichen Kulten (“Unspeakable Cults” or The Black Book) which mentions at various points mystical “keys”, one of which is hidden in an ancient tomb in the Honduras (although the Bridewell version of the book places it in Guatemala). Later still, Keith Herber posited the infamous Turner Codex, a series of copper plates etched with hieroglyphs of a Mayan character, discovered in 1891 by the eccentric explorer Maplethorpe Turner, who was shown two of the plates whilst investigating a small village named Rio Craso in Guatemala, deep in the jungles of the Petén. This work was later said to have influenced the song lyrics of the doomed rock group “God’s Lost Children”.


In summary, then, the wilds of South and Central America are definitely ripe for plundering when it comes to the Cthulhu Mythos and the various styles of storytelling that can take place there. However, the actual history of these countries is as fascinating, as strange and as terrifying as anything penned by Lovecraft and his coterie, so do yourself a favour and read a bit wider than the fruitcakes and the fiction – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And then you can rip into your “Raiders of the Lost Ark” box set – or watch “Teso dos Bichos” (1996) the Ecuadorian “X-Files” episode from season three directed by Kim Manners, or curl up with “The Relic” like I do. That’ll get your jungle juices flowing!