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Feature : Auto-da-fé y’all 

Local self-pubs go down in flames, but not without a bright moment or two

“Gone are the days,” a former Publisher’s Weekly columnist recently wrote, “when self-publishing was virtually synonymous with self-defeating.”

Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true. The Current receives many a self-published book from Texas authors and, as often as we can, we read them; after all, you never know, Bubba might be the next Louis L’Amour. More often than not, however, they are so ill-conceived or poorly edited that it seems ruthless to review them. That said, three books recently crossed my desk that merit mention, if not for their fine prose, then for their foibles, which represent some of self-publishing’s classic pitfalls.

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In Paradise: A Tale of Terrorism, by Frank H. Jakobs, three San Antonio couples are vacationing in Acapulco, Mexico, when the women in the group are kidnapped by terrorists. Fast-forward through the scenes between when a CIA agent covertly reveals that the women are in Saudi Arabia and when the San Antonio boys blast the terrorists’ camp with Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” and karate chop and shoot all the bad guys to death. There, at the battlefield’s edge, one kung-fu fighter kneels before his girlfriend and asks her to be his wife ... sound familiar? A clue: America, fuck yeah!

But that’s not the best part. Later, at a dinner in the Presidential Ballroom, another terrorist hides a WMD in her vagina — That’s right, a sarin-filled tampon! (Well, maybe not mass but at least mons.) Will she succeed in gassing the president, or will all those Kegel exercises backfire?

Ten points for creativity, if you forgive the nod to Team America, but the book is filled with typos, such as unmarked quotes and consistent misspellings, that distract the reader and undermine Jakob’s effort. (Note: We were awfully sad to lose the carrots, but with all those rabbits running loose it was no surprise.)

Cap Games, written by Den Dillin, takes place in the early ’70s, toward the end of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The first half of the book is a ghost story; Cap Games, an architecture student, slowly recedes from society as he becomes obsessed with finding out who the young woman is that’s haunting his Polk County, Missouri, house. When Cap and his fiancée are involved in an accident, in which she dies and he suffers a head wound, Cap leaves home without telling anyone.

From there the plot takes a strange turn. Cap registers for the army, but bails on training after visiting the wounded at a VA hospital. He then travels to Hawaii, where he meets a war reporter and a photographer who take him to Vietnam as an illustrator. Cap’s father manages to find him in Saigon, at the exact moment that Cap dies rescuing a baby.

Dillin’s dialogue and characters are well-drawn — Cap’s isolation is believable throughout the book — but the trajectory of his plot feels contrived. If, ultimately, the book is about Vietnam, then the ghost story feels like a digression; an editor might have focused the author or separated Cap Games into two novels.

There’s nothing at all contrived about the silver bullets and werewolf sex in Kim Mathis Schwartz’s Date With the Devil. When a group of squealing sorority sisters accidentally performs a satanic ritual (OK, they were dancing around a grave on Halloween night with a voodoo doll, but who takes that stuff seriously anyway?), an abomination against God and nature occurs: A frat boy returns from the dead a vampire. Naturally, his goal is to suck Delta Phi dry, and take the ladies for his harem.

Not so fast demon-boy: Dr. Ashley Ravenstone, the Vatican Assassin of Evil, to the rescue! As a member of the Paranormal Warfare Department, Ashley runs around in a leather mini-skirt fighting the devil’s army of “vampires, werewolves, zombies, and (oh my!) sea creatures.” Of course, life as Rome’s deadliest weapon is full of pain and loneliness: Ashley seeks relief in regular injections of morphine and solace in random sex — it’s not her fault if the horny devils turn into werewolves mid-romp.

Date With the Devil is just plain silly, but one wonders if, like a B movie, it was ever meant to be taken seriously. Joe Bob Briggs would say that with 10 dead bodies, 12 breasts, haint-fu, ouija-fu, garlic-fu, gratuitous sex with a cop, buckets of blood, and a hug from the Archangel Michael, this book deserves at least two stars.

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