The merging of two worlds. That’s what this feels like to write a book review for Sexy Fandom. My normal review style that is cross carnival barker and wide-eyed fanboy isn’t exactly the right voice for a book review. My normal book review voice of ‘Jim Phoenix’, PhD might be a bit stuffy for the crowd. For this review, I have one foot in each world and that’s exactly what this hot off the press Black Leather Times (BLT) omnibus by BlueBlood’s Amelia G feels like. The BLT omnibus is both endearing punk nostalgia merged with someone who became increasingly better at her craft.
The book runs 431 pages long and feels like it could be used as a weapon (not Riverside Shakespeare WMD, but a nice concise blunt force trauma type). The first thing we need to discuss is the cover, designed by BlueBlood’s Forrest Black. The cover is some eye catching punk vibed full color with swanky black overtones. We are treated with the taste of the art featured inside (more on that later). The back cover focuses on the usual blurbs and a photo of Amelia G holding a few of the old zine issues. For those who are too young (god help me), zines were a bit of the indy press of the day. Imagine an internet printing press before the internet. A zine gave a voice to a lot of people, freaks and geeks alike, who would otherwise not have a voice. A true zine was a bit like a school newspaper on acid. Raw. Brutal. Passionate. Honest. Most of the things mainstream lit wasn’t.
Punk fed into the zine power rather forcefully. The energy and the culture of punk was a perfect match for the zine world. After all, you didn’t need a fancy printing press or some contract at a publisher who was more likely to give an author a job washing the windows than in publishing [true story, find out what the late (and fucking fantastic) David Bowie used to do for his manager, along with another late and great, when not making music.] When zines hit, the authors and artists, dying (sometimes literally in the streets or in some shit-infested hostel room) for a voice, found an audience and an outlet. With a collective “Fuck you” and middle finger in the air, the underground spat on the establishment. The history is set.
The Black Leather Times omnibus starts out with a punch and grabs your throat till the end. “Punks with Computers” is the first greeting message we see and, yes indeed, we have been warned. Inside are strong reminders of a past that could still carry on if given just the right breeze. Stories like Maggie Leslie’s ‘Shacked up with a coke whore’ mingle freely with some great black sketch art. One great example of the sketch art (something mightily missing from my own mag–nothing like a book review to show you the holes in your own socks) comes between an Amelia G piece called ‘A chemistry lesson’ and the Lori Walsh story, ‘young and on crack in Savannah’. Picture a rather raggedy Raggedy Ann doll lying on the sidewalk with needles sticking around her like a bad game of Jarts (before the game had to be pulled from the shelves and redesigned, due to idiots getting the 1-foot-long metal dart jammed into their nether regions). This is a great example of the art that is found in the book. The stories set the tone, but the artwork sets the mood.
Although this BLT omnibus can stand on its own as a collection of punk art and story writing, a big thrill for me is the historic and craft value. I love art and this book is well worth the price of admission on that stance alone, but the history–oh, the history–is what makes this book really special. Amelia G takes us through the journey of how BLT started. I found the writing heartfelt with a touch of a razor tongue. We are brought into this world, old friend and new discovery alike, and we are shown a side of the zine from inception to maturity that most people will never witness. As an editor, I really enjoyed her behind the scenes reveal that starts off the book. I smiled a bit at her words, as her story is our universal story.
We get to see the birth of the Black Leather Times in October of 1990 to the last issue put forth in 1996. We get to see the entire evolution of the zine in a very raw and honest form. There is a host of artists and writers that are featured in this book. More than a few pages contain inside jokes and a lot of the pages contain brilliance. There is no one way to sum up this book other than it is a true reflection of a time where people went to cash the American Dream and the check did, sorry, Dr. King, come back ‘insufficient funds’.
It’s wondrous to see how punks can connect through the ages. We really were a group of people who connected because we didn’t connect with anything else in our lives. To this day, PhD or not, I am still known by some as their ‘punk friend’. We may have grown older (and we may have lost more than a few along the way) but we have definitely not (entirely) grown up. No apologies for what we are. That’s what I see with Amelia G. That’s why I love her work in BlueBlood and that’s why I am thrilled to be holding this copy of the BLT omnibus. If you are into punk or cultural history, then this is your book. Hell, it might even be your anthem, your Rye, your Bible. If you don’t know what Punk is/was or how it morphed through the ages or maybe you are just someone who digs funky art and fresh voices, go and pick up a copy. You will not be disappointed. Maybe you are just one of the rare breeds who wondered what a talking ball-sac with eyes and chicken legs looked like. Well, BLT’s got you covered.
It is important to mention that this was a Kickstarter campaign. There are a lot of cool ideas floating around the room and, really, if you can support these cool ideas in any way whatsoever, please do so. Speaking as someone who has my own punk magazine Ricky’s Backyard (art and story!), I know just how damn draining it is on the finances (and that’s with me using staff that I have absolutely blackmail iron fisted control over!). So, when you do see a really cool and kickass Kickstarter, give it a bit of love. After all, look at this BLT omnibus–can you imagine the world where the art was locked away forever? Voices. We need more voices–Unique–Screaming bloody eardrum popping voices–in this world. Or are you content with the regular same ol’? The pre-canned items we see fly off the shelf (oh, I think there’s a new 50 shades of a Jack Mormon grey sex fantasy for people who have never seen an adult book store let alone BDSM before type book. Let’s make that #1! It doesn’t matter if the person can’t write or have a true idea pop in their head! We’ll get the publishing JUGGERNAUT behind it! We’ll call Oprah! She’ll laugh, you’ll cry. She’ll giggle, you’ll hide your babies. The Oprah is hungry! The only thing that can satiate her massive soul squelching hunger is a blood money sacrifice. Buy that book/pill/tube of lube (it’s got her face on it, how can it possibly be bad for you?). You’ll like it! You’ll love it! Buy our shit so we can shove more of it down your willing throats! Open up! Say AHHHHHHH!).
I mean, you might think punk is weird or different or basically something that might not be your cuppa, but it is pure octane with heart. Lunch with an Edge, indeed. Pics of the BLT book are below. Yes, as my friend told me, I use a ‘potato’ for a phone.
‘Dear Ms. “G”: Please be advised that you may not leave material for distribution in any of our stores without the express permission of our corporate office…you may be subject to legal action.’ – Regional Manager Diana Donlon, Kemp Mill Music