BOOKS BY BOB CALHOUN
The Murders That Made Us
“This book explores the darkest corners of Bay Area history. It reminded me why I love my hometown so much and have never been able to leave. Even paradise has perverts, predators, and parasites and Bob Calhoun wrangles them all front and center in this Whitman’s Sampler of wickedness.” —Eddie Muller, Host of TCM’s Noir Alley and Founder of the Film Noir Foundation
In The Murders That Made Us, the story of the San Francisco Bay Area unfolds through its most violent and depraved acts. From its earliest days when vigilantes hung perps from downtown buildings to the Zodiac Killer and the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, murder and mayhem have shaped the city into the political and economic force that she is today.
The Great 1906 Earthquake shook a city that was already teetering on the brink of a massive prostitution scandal. The Summer of Love ended with a pair of ghastly drug dealer slayings that sent Charles Manson packing for Los Angeles. The 1970s come crashing down with the double tragedy of Jonestown and the assassination of Gay icon Harvey Milk by ex-cop and former supervisor Dan White. And the 21st Century rise of California Governor Gavin Newsom, Trump insider Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Vice President Kamala Harris is told through a brutal dog-mauling case and the absurdity called Fajitagate.
It’s a 170-year saga of madness, corruption and death revealed here one crime at a time.
Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor (Obscuria Press)
Conventions. Tradeshows. Expos. Every profession and obsession has them. We select hot tubs, handguns, the best Wonder Woman costume and even our presidential contenders at these neo-tribal gatherings where commerce and communalism collide. With a tanking economy and looming layoffs, lapsed-fanboy Bob Calhoun sets out on a quest through the temporary worlds created in concrete convention centers and hotel conference rooms for the nerdy enthusiasm he has lost. However, in Shattering Conventions, his new pop-culture memoir, Calhoun quickly discovers that escapism provides little escape from a growing American craziness.
During his self-imposed one year mission, Calhoun confronts the Westboro Baptists in front of Comic-Con, gets called out by Andrew Breitbart at a Tea Party rally, sneaks into a hemp expo and is chased out of a plastic surgeons' conference by security guards. Shattering Conventions is filled with first-person observations of such luminaries as George Takei, Gene Simmons, Stan Lee, Mitt Romney, Kevin Smith, Bootsy Collins, Ted Nugent, HP CEO Meg Whitman, Gavin Newsom, Mr. T, Congressman Darrell Issa, William Shatner, Sir Patrick Stewart, a pro-wrestler called The Miz and even the ghost of Elvis. And in between the celebrity run-ins are the stories of Star Wars and Twilight fans seeking camaraderie through cosplay, and entrepreneurs striving to make it in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Starting out as a goofy pop-culture experiment, Shattering Conventions becomes a twisted political odyssey where Calhoun witnesses the growing conflict between sci-fi nerds and rightwing extremists for the very soul of a nation. And the more conventions that Calhoun attends, the more he realizes that all of this coming together might be tearing us apart.
Beer, Blood & Cornmeal
Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling (ECW Press)
Incredibly Strange Wrestling was the bastard offspring of post-punk garage rock and masked Mexican lucha libre. Fielding a cast of crazed characters with names like El Homo Loco, Macho Sasquatcho and El Pollo Diablo, the show lived up to its name. Christians fought lions, Ku Klux Klowns squared off against Hasidic Jews and Bigfoots and bears mauled hapless hippies in some of the most surreal grappling bouts ever staged. And if that wasn’t enough, cult bands such as NOFX, The Dickies and The Donnas provided the raucous rock and roll in between the highflying mayhem.
ISW emerged from the back alleys and seedy clubs of San Francisco’s South of Market scene to headline the historic Fillmore and barnstorm North America on the Van’s Warped Tour. At the height of its popularity, Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong and Metallica’s James Hetfield could be seen tossing tortillas (which the promoters supplied) at ringside with the rest of the hell heads, boozehounds and tattooed party girls that made up ISW’s rabid following.
Bob Calhoun broke into ISW as an untrained grappler and rose through the ranks to become one of the creative forces behind the subversive carnival. In his new memoir, Beer, Blood & Cornmeal, Calhoun delves into the ISW’s organized insanity with all of the dark humor that it deserves. It’s a story of urban misfits risking their necks for local celebrity in one of America’s most famous cities all told against the backdrop of the dot com boom and bust and an increasingly corporate entertainment industry.
Beer, Blood & Cornmeal takes the highest tier of the music industry and sends it on a collision course with the lowest rung of the professional wrestling ladder. The threat of real violence is always lurking at the fringes of the fake fights as shows end in riots and wrestlers disturbingly become their squared circle alter egos.