TBT^2: On Ghost Stories

It’s that time of year again—the so-called “spooky season,” when Halloween decorations go up, scary stories get told, and overwrought bloggers with delusions of grandeur stage over-the-top concerts from their front porches (well, maybe that last one is just me).  As the weather turns cool and the leaves begin to fall, it’s almost impossible not to settle in with some hot coffee and a good collection of ghost stories.

So, for the second year in a row, I’m looking back this TBT to 2019’s “On Ghost Stories,” a post that now will hold the distinction of being a perennial favorite.

One might think that as scary as the real world is, we’d spend less time reading spooky fiction.  It seems the opposite is the case.  Perhaps the idea that malevolence is not necessarily the result of human frailty, but rather due to wicked supernatural influences, is oddly comforting.  That evil is the result of our fallen nature—and, of course, the malignant supernatural influence up on it—is a bit easier to forget, perhaps, when reading about some ghostly figure wreaking havoc in the English countryside.

More likely, it’s just that we enjoy being scared—when we can easily flip off the television or close the book.  Horror is fun when there are no real consequences attached to it.  Then again, just watching horror movies probably isn’t healthy (I’ll report back if I suddenly get any macabre urges).

Well, whatever the reason, a good ghost story is hard to pass up.  With that, here is “TBT: On Ghost Stories“:

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Lazy Sunday CXXXIII: Inspector Gerard

It was a long, grueling week at work, including a Saturday morning spent proctoring the SAT.  It was one of those weeks where my job and my various sidelines all coincided to leave me utterly exhausted.  Anyone who has ever worked a job knows the kind of week:  seemingly everything must be done at the same time.

Well, self-promotion never ends, and after working myself weary this week, I figured I’d make another attempt at schlocking my various wares to you, my faithful readers.  As such, it seemed like a good weekend to revisit my book, The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard, and my various blog posts about it.  Also, some of my students learned of the book this week, so it’s on my mind (and currently only $10 in paperback):

  • Inspector Gerard eBook is Coming 1 April 2021 (Out NOW in Paperback)!” – Ah, yes, the first, excited post announcing the arrival of Inspector Gerard to the world.  At that time, the Kindle edition had not yet released, but was available for preorder.  I actually did pretty well on those, and, of course, enjoyed the initial surge of book sales from friends and family with the announcement.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Inspector Gerard Preview” – The day after my announcement, I posted three Gerard stories, “Dial ‘M’ for Malfeasance,” “Sleazebag in the City,” and “Inspector Gerard and the Video Rental Caper” to my SubscribeStar page.  Considering I was selling the paperback version for $15 at the time, that made a $1 a month subscription a pretty good deal.
  • Lazy Sunday CX: Inspector Gerard Reviews” – Soon enough, the reviews—mostly from blogger friends—began pouring in.  I think most of the reviewers “got” the book, and I even got a shout-out in a mailbag episode of Z Man’s podcast after I mailed a copy of the book to him.  I really appreciated the reviews.

Christmas is just around the corner—why not take the lazy way out and buy yourself or a loved one a copy of my absurdist book?

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Supporting Friends Friday: The Halloween Poetry of Jeremy Miles

I kicked off Supporting Friends Friday announcing the publication of my friend Jeremy Miles‘s third book of poetry, Hindsight: Poetry in 2020 (it’s available in paperbackhardcover, and Kindle editions).  The publication of a buddy’s book seemed like the perfect time to celebrate and support my friends’ various achievements.

That was in June.  Now, just three months later, Jeremy has cranked out another collection, one about which I am very excited:  Haunted Verses Haunting: A Halloween Collection (available in paperback and Kindle editions for $15 and $2.99, respectively).

The poems in this volume appear in Jeremy’s first three releases (get them here, here, and here), so they’ve seen publication before, but if you love Halloween—and I definitely do—this collection puts all of his spookiest poems together in one place.  If you love Halloween and you’re a cheapskate, you can save some cash and pick up the present volume (though I highly recommend you purchase his entire oeuvre, as I have done—at least in paperback).

Jeremy definitely loves Halloween, too, and often says he wishes every day were Halloween.  That might rob the holiday of some of its magic, but I appreciate the sentiment:  Halloween these days seems to get short shrift during the holiday season, with the commercialized version of Christmas stretching its imperialistic tentacles deep into October—and even September!  But that’s all to say that a guy who loves Halloween that much is going to release some of the spookiest, most spine-tingling poetry you’ll ever read.

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Supporting Friends Friday: Review of Rachel Fulton Brown and Dragon Common Room’s Centrism Games

After sitting with the copy on my nightstand since the book’s debut, I finally sat down and read Rachel Fulton Brown and Dragon Common Room‘s Centrism Games: A Modern Dunciad.  Having read it, my only regret is that I did not do so sooner.

A bit of background is in order:  Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown is a medievalist at the University of Chicago, and is known in our circles as a traditional Christian professor fighting against social justice indoctrination and infiltration of the humanities.

One wouldn’t think the more esoteric realm of medieval history would be a major battleground for the ultra-woke, but it makes sense:  the modern West is profoundly a product of the Middle Ages.  With that in mind, it becomes clear why the progressive revisionists wish to dominate the field:  in rewriting medieval history to fit their woke narrative, it makes the rest of their revisionist project—of casting all white, male, Christian endeavors as inherently wicked—that much easier.

Milo Yiannopoulos’s short book Medieval Rages: Why The Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America, details that struggle in more detail.  I highly recommend picking it up, as it highlights the length to which the wokesters have gone to silence Dr. Brown.  Correspondingly, it demonstrates Dr. Brown’s incredible courage and fortitude—as well as her cleverly elfish responses to her critics.

Dr. Brown founded a Telegram chatroom, Dragon Common Room, to be a “a place for training in the arts of virtue and poetry. And mischief making for God. We fight the demons with laughter and wit.”  I participate infrequently in chat, but it has become one of my favorites on the platform.  In addition to fighting “demons with laughter and wit,” Dr. Brown and her merry band of righteous mischief-makers wrote, workshopped, edited, and compiled Centrism Games, releasing it as a handsome little volume consisting of seven poems of thirty stanzas each.

The seven poems constitute a mock-epic narrative, modeled after Alexander Pope’s satirical epic The Dunciad.  Whereas Pope’s Dunciad mocked the goddess “Dulness” and her agents, Centrism Games lampoons the goddess Fama—Fame—and her o’er eager knights

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

It’s that time of year again:  summer!  That means we’re due for The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021!

After publishing the list a bit later than usual last year, I’ve decided that the list should be a midsummer event—just in time for Independence Day.

But, like Sunday Doodles—a perk for $5 a month subscribers—my philosophy is “better late than never!”  And with the Independence Day holiday approaching, it’s a great time to do some reading.

For new readers, my criteria is pretty straightforward.  To quote myself from the 2016 list:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Pretty vague, I know.  Additionally, I usually feature three books, plus an “Honorable Mention” that’s usually worth a read, too.

For those interested, here are the prior two installments:

With that, here’s The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021:

1.) Thomas Harris, Hannibal (1999) – I recently wrote a review of the novel Silence of the Lambs, the second book in a series containing the charismatic, devilish cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  I very much enjoyed the novel, but having seen the film, I already knew many of the plot points.  That did not diminish the quality of the novel—Thomas Harris is an exquisitely descriptive writer—but it did take away some of the thrill.  The point of a good thriller is to be constantly in a state of suspense; when one already knows the major plot points, that sense of suspenseful uncertainty is diminished.

As such, I was quite excited to read Hannibal, the third installment in what might be called Harris’s “Hannibal Cycle.”  I did not know any of this story going in, beyond some whispers about the outcome of the magnet relationship between Dr. Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling.  The book takes place seven years after the events of Silence of the Lambs, with Dr. Lecter on the loose and living secretly as an academic in Florence, Italy.

Meanwhile, one of Dr. Lecter’s former victims, pig tycoon and sadist Mason Verger, has put a hefty bounty on Dr. Lecter’s head, and employs a ruthless team of Sardinian kidnappers—and a corrupt, disgraced Italian cop—to hunt down the fugitive.

Tossed into the mix is Clarice Starling, who finds herself increasingly disillusioned with the bureaucracy and careerism present in the upper echelons of the FBI and the Department of Justice.  Her mentor, Jack Crawford, is creeping towards retirement, and is no longer the robust agent he once was.  Meanwhile, a lecherous deputy attorney general—working hand-in-glove with Verger—sets about destroying Starling’s reputation at the Bureau, both to undermine her search for Dr. Lecter, and because she rebuffed his sexual advances.

Whereas Silence of the Lambs portrayed the FBI glowingly as a competent, professional organization with the means and tenacity to track down the slipperiest serial killers, Hannibal resonates much more with the modern reality of the FBI—a venal, corrupt organization that, rather than solving actual crimes, uses its power to oppress and harass law-abiding citizens.  The corruption on display, with highly-placed government officials attempting to advance their professional and political careers by working with wealthy scumbags, rings true.  In the eleven years between writing Silence and Hannibal, it appears Harris had a real change of heart.

Overall, I can highly recommend Hannibal.  Be warned that it is a long read, with 103 chapters and around 560 pages, but it’s rarely a slog and always a chilling pleasure.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Supporting Friends Friday: The Cinematic Compositions of Mason Sandifer

The first two editions of Supporting Friends Friday (highlighting the poetry of Jeremy Miles and the music of Frederick Ingram) have been well-received, particularly by the friends being supported, and it gives me a great deal of joy to showcase their works, albeit from the humble platform of this blog (read by dozens a day!).  As I have written many, manymany times over the last year, making a living through creative work, like writing books and playing music, is difficult, especially in The Age of The VirusBuilding up a community of artists who celebrate one another’s works is an important part of the indie music and publishing business.

It’s also just fun, much like the music of Robert Mason Sandifer, the young composer I’m highlighting today.  Mason, as I call him, is a private student of mine, so this post is perhaps tad self-serving, but even if he weren’t my student, I would adore his music.

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Supporting Friends Friday: Jeremy Miles’s New Book is Out Now

One of the joys of blogging and creating is the opportunity to support my buddies’ work.  I’ve been blessed to be associated with quite a few prolific and ingenious individuals, and while I have spent many a Bandcamp Friday hawking my digital wares, I’m excited to take this Friday to showcase a friend’s work.

My real-life buddy Jeremy Miles (who also maintains a blog) has released his latest book of poetryHindsight: Poetry in 2020.  It’s available in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle editions, at (as of 8 June 2021) $15, $25, and $2.99, respectively.  I’ve ordered the paperback version and eagerly await its arrival.

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Improving Christian Fiction

I stumbled upon the psychotherapist and author Adam Lane Smith when Mogadishu Matt wrote a “Sunny Side Up” book review of Smith’s action-comedy novel Maxwell Cain: Burrito Avenger (readers will forgive me for noting that my own book, The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot was featured in the inaugural “Sunny Side Up” review).  I have yet to purchase any of Smith’s works yet, though I intend to pick up copies of Maxwell Cain and books from his Deus Vult Wastelanders series.

I have, however, signed up for Smith’s e-mail list—the least any potential supporter can do—and have enjoyed his e-mail blasts.  One recent message caught my eye:  a blog post entitled “Time to Fix a Problem.”

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For the Love of Crumb Cake, Please: Not Another Bandcamp Friday!

Yes, dear readers, I must apologize—it’s another Bandcamp Friday, which means I am obligated to put out another copy-pasted sales pitch in a futile attempt to squeeze some of your precious Imperial Credits out of you.

Of course, if you haven’t already done so, I’d highly encourage you to pick up a copy of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot, available in paperback and on Kindle.  The reviews are quite good!  If you’ve already purchased the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon—it helps, apparently!

Now for the copy-pasted bits:  I’m not going to belabor all the statistics about the hard times musicians have endured in The Age of The Virus; you can read all about that in last month’s Bandcamp Friday appeal.  Instead, I’ll cut to the chase and let you know all the great ways you can support the blogmy musicmy book (now on Kindle), or even just me.

For one, I have some intriguing merch available.  I’m currently offering two completely original doodles, “Bird of Paradise” and “Bleeding Heart,” for just $10 each.  There are no other physical copies in existence, so you’d own these lovingly doodled marker pictures—and no one else.  They make great “bathroom art”—the kind of thing that would look good in a guest bathroom, or maybe a tacky beach house.

I’m also clearing out the last few remaining “Flamin’” t-shirts for $15 (plus $5 shipping).  These shirts are rare and I won’t be making any more of them.

Most obviously, because it’s Bandcamp FridayBandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work TODAY, Friday, 7 May 2021.  You can pick up my entire discography for $19.98 (or more, if you feel so inclined), a full 35% off the price of buying each album individually.  To purchase the full discographyseven releases in total—you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

You can also purchase albums individually, either at their listed price or higher.  Here are my seven releases, in chronological order:

  • Electrock Music (2006, $5) – Twelve tracks from my senior year of college, all instrumental MIDI tunes.  I gave physical copies to my Fiction Writing Workshop class; I wonder if they still have those little homemade copies.
  • Electrock II: Space Rock (2007, $7) – I’m obsessed with the idea of the sci-fi rock opera (I actually tried to write one for piano and vocals back in 2012-2013, but never finished it)—it’s the most decadent, self-indulgent form of musical expression.  That was the driving spirit behind this rockin’ collection of out-of-this-world jams.
  • Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse (2012, $4) – My younger brother introduced me to a song call “Biomachinery” by some melodic death metal band, and the rhythm of that word inspired the lead-off track of this four-song cycle, “Cyborg Unicorn.”  Of course, the instrumental chorus of that track is basically Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” so it’s true what they say:  composers swipe from each other all the time.
  • Electrock Retrospective, Volume I: Dance Party (2013, $3.60) – I had a number of tracks stored up for a never-completed Electrock III, so I thought I would begin dribbling them out as part of repackaged “retrospectives.”  This first one, Dance Party, features “Robobop,” which is also a perk for $5 subscribers to my SubscribeStar page.
  • Electrock Retrospective, Volume II: Technological Romance (2013, $2.14) – Technological Romance features “Pwrblld (Ballad II)“—with apologies to Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration.”
  • Contest Winner EP (2015, $5) – This album is my tour de force.  I recorded it in a real-life studio, overdubbing my vocals with my piano part.  It was an amazing experience, and these tunes are staples of my live shows (especially fan favorites “Hipster Girl Next Door” and “Greek Fair“).
  • The Lo-Fi Hymnal (2020, $4) – I started playing piano at my little Free Will Baptist Church about a year ago, and I began taking little recordings of offertory, invitational, etc.  I compiled the four very lo-fi recordings into a short compilation.  I’m hoping to record a second volume soon.

An easy (and free) way to support me is to “follow” my Bandcamp page and my Amazon author page.  I post updates about new merchandise, new music, and other interesting offers about once a month to the Bandcamp page, and new books will pop up on my Amazon page as they’re published.  It’s a good way to keep up with the latest news on my musical adventures.

Another free way to support me is to turn off your ad-blocker.  The site delivers several thousand ad impressions monthly, but most of those are blocked, which means they don’t pay out.  You can usually find the ad-blocker as a little widget or icon in the upper-right-hand side of your browser; click on it and it will usually give you the option to “pause” or stop the blocker from running on this site.  I know ads are annoying, but seeing a few DuckDuckGo ads helps out in an incremental way.

Even if none of that entices you, no worries!  I’m just glad to have you here, reading my self-indulgent garbage and my lengthy advertisement posts.

Happy Friday!

—TPP