Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fire Ants and Mushrooms and Roses, Oh My

I have a series of posts related to writing that I’ve finished, but I’ve decided to wait until the new year to start running them. Get 2009 off to a rousing (writing) start, so to speak. In the meantime, today’s post is going to ramble a bit.

First, I’ll share a few pictures I took of our neighborhood yesterday. To begin with, there are two views of the Fire Ant nest at the end of our driveway. This thing has been growing and growing and is almost a foot high now. It looks like a freaking termite mound. I’m thinking atomic ant movie size here.

Second, this “field” of mushrooms are all “Fly Agarics.” They grow all over the place around us, and are particularly common in pine forests, which is mostly where we live. They are famous for being “magic” mushrooms, with hallucinogenic properties produced by an active ingredient called muscimol. This field is just across the dirt road from us, in our neighbor’s yard. There’s also a close up view of a couple of the fly agaric caps. They’ll kill you pretty quickly if you overdose on them.

Third, is a rose “tree,” not a bush, that grows down the road about ten yards from our mailbox. As you can see, the blooms are gorgeous, but this is not a typical thorn bush. I have no idea what its official name is. Most of the blooms are bloody crimson but one has a lot of white streaks in it for a nice contrast.

After finishing the book No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, which I thoroughly enjoyed—even the movie is very good—I chose a less challenging work called Bronson, by Philip Rawls, published by Manor Books in 1975. Less challenging is an understatement. It’s horribly written and is, as I suspected, a complete rip off of Death Wish, probably being more influenced by the movie starring Charles Bronson than by the original 1972 novel of that name by Brian Garfield. That novel is much better written by the way.

The main character, Richard Bronson, is an engineer, much like Paul Kersey of “Death Wish,” who is an architect. The Kersey character became a vigilante after his wife and daughter were attacked and killed by muggers. The Bronson character becomes a vigilante after his wife and “two” kids are attacked and killed by muggers. Paul Kersey had been a combat medic in Korea; the Bronson character here is an ex-Green Beret from Vietnam. There are many other similarities., none of them flattering to the actor Charles Bronson and the original “Death Wish” novel or film. Say what you will about Death Wish, the original book, and even the movie, at least tried to be about more than just grisly vigilante murders. This book doesn’t make that effort.

Most amazingly, the Bronson books were actually a “series.” Hard to believe they ever published more than one. The one I have is subtitled “Streets of Blood,” while the first volume in the series is apparently “Blind Rage.” There is also one called “Switchblade.” I’d almost like to see if the other two are as bad as this one, but even spending fifty cents on such literature might be impossible for me. I’ll have to see how I feel after a week or two of recovery.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Celebrate if you’re a mind to.


Miles McClagan said...

If there's a series of Bronson novels, why has no-one tackled the majesty of Seagal?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Absolutely incredible that in the same country, there are green things growing. Here we have a foot of snow and the temp is 8 degrees. How does that shape us?

Sidney said...

It is amazing to hear the different types of weather people are experiencing.

I wonder what the ant hills would look like under the influence of the mushrooms. Rose colored?

Sidney said...

That's interesting about the "Bronson" book, by the way. I've never run across that series, but it sounds like many others of that era. I always liked the sequel to "Death Wish," "Death Sentence," in which the protagonist comes to see the error of his ways and battles another vigilante. They kind of threw that plot out for the Kevin Bacon movie though I guess in essence it showed the consequences of vigilantism.

MarmiteToasty said...

oh my that ants nest might grow 10 foot tall.... love that red toadstool... I get the ants use the toadstools as shelters like little brollies when it rains lol


G. B. Miller said...

Wow, that is a good review for staying away from a bad book.

Tell me, do you feel the same way about L. Ron Hubbard?

Travis Cody said...

Perhaps the library has the other novels. Then you can do your "is the whole series as crappy as that one selection I tried" research for free.

Sadly, the pile of books that need my attention continues to grow. You'd think being snowed in that I would be reading up a storm. (HA! No pun intended there.) But every time I get warmed up and comfortable enough to focus on a book, I fall asleep in 5 minutes!

Chris Eldin said...

Merry Christmas also!!!

I loved "No Country for Old Men," but I didn't see the movie.

Fire ants--no laughing matter. Youngest got bitten a few years ago when we were in Texas. Nasty, nasty things

Charles Gramlich said...

Miles, an excellent question. Or Jean Claude Van Damne? I think there’s a gap in literature there.

Pattinase, good question too. I’m sure it does. We live in a semi-tropical environment most of the year. Of course, I grew up in a considerably colder climate where we got snow each year, but I do see that the locals here seem different in some ways, including my son who grew up here.

Sidney, under the mushrooms you might let the ants bite you and think it felt good. I thought the novel Death Wish had some legitimate things to say about the world. This Bronson series doesn’t seem to have that.

Marmite Toasty, is brollie something like British for umbrella? I should stick a mushroom in their nest and see if they eat it. Wonder what effect that might have on them?

Georgie, I’ve only read “Fear” by Hubbard. It was OK but nothing special. I tried to read Dianetics one time and thought my brain was going to implode

Travis, that’s a good suggestion. I’m kind of doubting it but maybe I could get them through interlibrary loan. Yes, my pile has been out of hand for years.

Chris Eldin, the movie version of “No Country” stayed pretty true to the book. There were a few differences but not a lot. I thought the casting was very good for the movie. It’s definitely one of the better movies I’ve seen in the last year or so, and almost as good as the book. Yes, fire ants are nasty creatures.

Cloudia said...

Fire ants, and magic mushrooms! A wonderous neighborhood, Charles.
Sounds like the perfect setting for a series of fantastical novels.

laughingwolf said...

saw the flick, impressed only by the special effects, in 'no country...'

hope you get the fire ants prob solved before they decide to invade

as for the 'shrooms, not my cuppa

nice 'rose tree'

i liked the bronson flicks, kinds/sorta, but the books sound horrid...

season's blessings to you and yours, bro....

Anonymous said...

How about this for the name of a new action hero, Bronson Seagal Van Damme.

Those are some impressive anthills. I wouldn't want to mess with those ants. Those red mushrooms seem to scream out poisonous, but they're kinda purty.

You are a brave reader, Charles, to tackle these bad books. Thanks for doing it though. It's always enjoyable to read your take on these works of literature.

Greg said...

great pics! "Bronson" sounds like a waste of paper.

Barbara Martin said...

Those anthills look worrisome. Is there a safe way to get rid of them?

Gosh, magic mushrooms...been ages sine I heard that term.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, and some pretty good personal adventures.

I've never messed with the fly mushrooms. They can be very dangerous as I understand.

Jack, I got quite a few laughs out of reading really bad passages to Lana out of the book. And yes those shrooms are highly deadly from waht I understand.

Greg, except for some inadvertent laughs perhaps, it was a waste.

Barbara Martin, the safest way to kill Fire ants is with hot soapy water. But they breed so fast that it's very difficult to get rid of them. mostly you have to learn to live with them.

the walking man said...

Shrooms and roses, ants and bad literature...sounds like there is great potential for an "at home" vacation Charles.

Mary Witzl said...

Remind me to show my kids those ant heaps! They whine all the time about the tame and timid little ants we have; it doesn't bear thinking about how they'd freak out if we had one of your monster nests!

We just saw 'No Country for Old Men' the other day and while I can't say we enjoyed it, we certainly found it compelling. As for the other movies/books, I'll give them a miss. Reading the papers is bad enough.

BernardL said...

Merry Christmas, Charles, and I hope you can do something with the fireants.

Heff said...

Dude, gasoline those ants !

writtenwyrdd said...

I've never lived where those red toadstools were growing, but I've always thought they were the prettiest of the fungi.

I have ant mounds all over my lawn. The best way to get rid of them is sprinkling diatomaceous earth. But that only works if it's dry.

Charles Bronson novels? You're kidding.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, I takes my funs where I finds 'em.

Mary Witzl, yes, No Country for Old Men is pretty brutal, and compelling is a good word for the movie.

Bernardl, I've generally learned to let the fire ants alone. Killing them in one place only moves them to another. At least when they have mounds that big I know where they're at.

Heff, gasoline will kill them for sure, but then two other mounds will move in to replace the one that I destroyed.

Writtenwyrd, diatomaceous soil? Pray what is that? The books don't literally describe Charles Bronson as the hero but it's clear the book wants to evoke him.

Vesper said...

What a lovely and interesting miscellanea! Oh, those ants are scary… and the mushrooms too… I’m very intrigued by ants, by their apparent social structure. I keep thinking of a book I read, “The Ants” by Bernard Werber, a French science fiction author. It’s a fictional work, mostly told from an ant’s POV, but I’m sure it’s hugely researched. I found it fascinating.
As for “horribly written” books, I keep wondering how come they are published. I have one, “The Ruins” by Scott Smith. I’ve never seen a worse book and I’m terribly upset at Stephen King who endorsed it as “the best horror of the 21st century.” I wonder what made him do it. I bet he hasn’t even read it!
I’m looking forward to your posts on writing.

Merry Christmas, Charles, and all the best to you and your loved ones!

Shauna Roberts said...

Those are incredible fire ant mounds. I've never seen one so big. Powdered Tide detergent also works on fire ant mounds, but as you say, they usually just move to another place in the yard.

Steve Malley said...

Come to think of it, Tom Clancy, back in Ye Olden Days (that period popularly referred to as 'Yore'), wrote a Death Wish takeoff himself. Can't remember the name of it, but it had an ex-SEAL doing the revenge-bit. Can't remember the name just now, but the lead character shows up in heaps of the later, better books...

L.A. Mitchell said...

Those mushrooms remind me of an X-files episode where all the killer mushrooms released their toxin at the same moment. Beware the mushrooms:)

Tom Evans said...

I'm staggered by your prolific ability to read so much and write so much. The sheer energy! I'll bet it makes you into a very interesting dinner companion... I try to fit in some effort at this, around my full-time job, I hope I manage to maintain even a bit of it during my life.

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, I read that book by Werber and remember it fondly. As for "The Ruins," I'm sorry to hear that. I've got the book but haven't started it yet. It's so huge I was hesitating. now I'm glad I did.

Shauna, I saw one today down the road from us that's even bigger. I'm going to have get a pic of it.

Steve Malley, revenge is well served dish I'd say. and it can make for a good story under certain circumstances.

L.A. if that happens, we'll be at ground zero. We are at mushroom central here.

Tom, it keeps me out of trouble. Mostly!

Scott said...


Though I haven't seen any for quite a while, we usually have tons of fire ants down here. Spectracide granules seem to work pretty good against them. I have a friend who is deathly allergic to them, so I'm pretty vigilant on keeping them dead.
Hope you and Lana have a good holiday season!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Fly Agarics? I know a few student/inmates who wouldn't mind digesting them.

Charles Gramlich said...

Scott, Lana isn't super allergic but she does get big bumps that turn into scars eventually.

JR, I seem to have a healthy fear of poisoning myself.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Oh I love the mushroom picture! How cute!

Have a wonderful Christmas with Lana and a very happy new year!!



Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks for sharing some of the deliciously horrible tidbits from that Bronson book, baby. When other peoples' things suck so badly, it always makes me feel better about myself. ;) *L* Nice, pictures, btw!

Miladysa said...

A foot hight ants nest? Yikes!

Merry Christmas to YOU and Yours Charles x

Rick said...

Good God, Charles, and I thought Detroit was dangerous! Amazing what we see when we look closely at our neighborhoods, isn't it? And don't use Shauna's suggestion of using Tide on those fire ants. What if it just cleans them up and pisses them off at the same time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ello, yes, those shrooms are pretty cool looking. And deadly.

Lana, I'm glad you were here for me to read them to you. So bad.

Miladysa, I think I saw a bigger one down the street.

Rick, pretty much anything pisses off fire ants.

eric1313 said...

I read this and forgot to comment... how odd.

The pics are great. The mushroom field would be of particular interest to many friends of mine...

Me? I've done the shroom thing on occasion, but I prefer the kind that go on a pizza. I liked the short trip, but the taste really gets to you and the feeling it gives your stomach is also unpleasant.

And I liked the original Deathwish movie... it's the sequels that got tiresome.

pontalba said...

Hi there,
Just wanted to mention the red "roses" are camellias. Those are gorgeous. We live a little up the road in Waldheim and ours haven't bloomed yet.

Oh, btw, my Uncle swears that if you take a shovel full of one ant pile and plop it onto another one they'll fight to the death, and no more ant pile. I'd use lots of vaseline on the handle though. :)

Enjoyed your reviews.
I thought Darren McGavin was terrific in that series.

pontalba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Gramlich said...

Eric1313, I enjoy the kind of shrooms that go with steak and on pizza myself.

Pontalba, I wondered if that was what those "roses" were. Thanks for the info, and for dropping around for a visit. yes, McGavin was perfect in that role.