Wednesday, August 16. 2017


Do you remember back in two-thousand-and-two?
The internet was still relatively new
Our hearts were still young and strong and true

Oh-a-oh

I moderated several busy message boards
Supporting horror was the goal we headed toward
Now there is a different game in store

Oh-a-oh
Social Media killed the message board star
Social Media killed the message board star
Facebook came and broke my heart

And so I lurk at an abandoned forum rink
Photobucket has broken all the links
If you ask me the situation stinks

Oh-a-oh
It was a great time
Oh-a-oh
But now a late time

Social Media killed the message board star
Social Media killed the message board star
Facebook came and broke my heart

In my mind and at my desk
We can't delete we've left the nest
Put the blame on the beta test

Oh-a-oh-oh-oh

Now advertisers watch everything I do
And all the authors beg for Amazon reviews
It makes me feel so lonely and confused

You are
a message board sta-a-a--ar




When did the Internet become so ugly?

I started Horror Drive-In as a nostalgia site devoted to horror fiction, exploitation movies, and drive-in theaters. Now I'm nostalgic for the days when the site was new.

I've been doing this stuff for--has it really almost been twenty years? How many hours have I spend pecking away at a keyboard, talking horror?

It was a lot of fun. Especially in the early days, when it was something new to be able to talk with people around the globe about horror. I was instantly hooked.

And from almost the start, I saw amazing success with message boards. The first board I moderated is still probably the best memory. I went on to do more, and my boards were always crowded.

Most people were really cool, too. A few problems here and there, but they were very few and very far between.

How did it all change?

The big sites grew more and more popular. Facebook was and is still the biggest, and that's where almost all my old friends have fled to. A few still hang out at the boards, God bless 'em. Some have disappeared altogether. I guess they finally grew up and didn't care to play any more.

I think a big part of it is, people didn't like having others moderate their posts. Everyone is his or her own boss at Facebook. Arguments are easily won. Delete offending posts or unfriend the offending user. With Facebook, everyone is the star of their own reality TV show, and their delighted fans can read about how tired they are, how work sucks, what's for dinner, and of course their prized political opinions.

Authors can self promo all they want without getting called down for it, as occasionally happened at the boards. And, yes, they can urge their readers to write Amazon reviews.

Remember when writers used to bitch that all readers were owed were the actual books they purchased? This happened when readers claimed that writers owed their success to their readers. Now buying a book isn't enough, we are supposed to write reviews for them, too. You got a royalty, and now I have to do that? What else can I do? Wash your car? Mow your yard?

All right, I get it. I seriously doubt that writers enjoy asking their readers to write Amazon reviews. It's the way the game is played today. I don't have to like it, and I don't, in fact, like it. I don't do Amazon reviews. I can barely respond to the emails I get, and I don't have time to write reviews for my own site, so why would I bother to do so at a webstore I despise?

Like I say, the rules have all changed. Amazon, social media, smart phones. People are getting rich off this shit, but I guarantee it isn't me, and I bet you aren't exactly floating in cash either.

I busted my damned ass in the early days of Horror Drive-In. Writing essays, reviewing books and movies, keeping the message boards active. I had hopes that it might all come to something. Why not? I had very respectable numbers in the first few years of the site's existence. I hoped for ad revenue, but I have gotten very little. People told me that I had to pursue that kind of thing, but I have no idea how to go about that. Now numbers are down, of course, because my uploads have been far more infrequent.

I often feel like I have wasted my damned time. Like all the work I've done, the time I've put in, hasn't amounted to a hill of beans. Then I tell myself to stop with the self pity.

I seriously doubt that I would be with Cemetery Dance if it weren't for Horror Drive-In. I've met some of the best friends of my life through Horror Drive-In But still...

I point to Facebook as part of the blame, but I'm as guilty as anyone. I use Facebook probably more than I do the HD-I forum. It's easier to post pictures there for one thing. And I get a lot more comments about how people love my Reading in the Great Outdoors posts at Facebook than I get feedback about Horror Drive-In these days.

Times change. People change. Trends change. I feel out of touch with most horror fiction these days. People at the Drive-In boards want to talk about TV shows and superhero movies instead of classic exploitation pictures. I don't blame them, and I am not the sort to tell people what to talk about.

I think some people left in disgust. There were problems and some felt that I didn't handle them in the proper way. But let me tell you something: when shit gets ugly at the boards, nothing a moderator does will please everyone, and no matter what course you take, people will be complaining or talking crap about you for your actions. It's goddamn thankless.

I've all but stopped using the boards. Things just don't seem the same. People get testy too easily, and I am not just pointing fingers. I'm as guilty as others. We have more stimuli and experiences at our fingertips than most of us ever imagined, and people have just gotten angrier and more self righteous.

My domain contract is over at the end of the year, and once again I am toying with the idea of letting it go. People tell me I'd miss it, and they're right. But I am also not much enjoying Horror Drive-In anymore.

It makes me want to shuck it all and just read like the old days. Which is pretty much what I've been doing.

I've accepted donations in the past to keep this website afloat. This time I am going to either pay for it all myself, or simply let it go. I'm one of the last of the old school message boards still going, but everything has to end sometime, doesn't it?

Though my time is more limited than ever, I'll try some more over the next few months left in twenty-seventeen. I'll try to get motivated to write reviews. To post at the forums. Maybe some of the old enthusiasm will return. If not?

We'll see.
Cavalaro's Cavalcade of Carnage
Tuesday, August 8. 2017


I've read quite a bit of Simon Clark's books, especially in the Dorchester/Leisure era. I still cite Blood Crazy as one of the best zombie novels ever written. Darkness Demands and Vampyrrhic are also high quality horror novels on my shelf.

With that being said, my interest in Clark took a downswing in the early 2000's when he released a few books that were (in my opinion) way inferior to his earlier stuff (The Tower, In This Skin, Death's Dominion).

Still, I'm an optimist at heart, so I couldn't pass up a chance at getting an ARC of his latest. I haven't read him in years, and maybe things have changed?

...things haven't changed. This is an odd little novella concerning Sherlock Holmes, nazi's, and war. It's more historical fiction than horror for sure; which isn't a bad thing. My problem is that I never got "hooked" into the story. I was never fully invested in the characters, or even the plot. The story manages to gather up a little bit of momentum towards the end, but even that ended up being unsatisfying and clunky.

Grade: D

Review by Jason Cavallaro
Sunday, July 30. 2017


I need the Scares That Care Weekend event.

I turned fifty-six years old last month, and sometimes it's hard to keep from having the grumpy old horror fan syndrome. "You punks don't know good horror fiction! Why, in my day we had KARL EDWARD WAGNER! CHARLES L. GRANT! PETER STRAUB! T.E.D. KLEIN! DENNIS ETCHISON!".

Yeah, I feel that way sometimes, and it's lethal. It's a good way to grow old where it counts, and that's upstairs. Like those rubes with the shirts that say things like, "I may be old, but I got to see all the good bands!". Nyah, nyah nyah.

I do cherish the memories I have of reading and watching horror throughout the nineteen eighties. I stick to my guns that it was the greatest era for the genre, and I've had a lot of young readers tell me that they not only agree, but that they wish they had been around back then. Me, I wish I was young today. Sort of.

I can have my head buried in the past all I want, but the truth is, horror fiction is thriving right now. It's considerably more dicey than it was my my heyday, with the swamp of self-published materials out there, but despite that, there is one hell of a lot of phenomenal horror fiction on the market today.

You'll be hard pressed to find a place anywhere in which you'll see more horror fiction on display than the Scares That Care Weekend. Not just books are on display, but the authors themselves, and publishers. It's a thriving community, and like all communities, there are good streets and poor ones. But you have to walk down those roads for yourself to determine which is which.

Last weekend, as I write this, I attended the fourth Scares That Care Weekend (they deliberately eschew calling it a convention). It was a smoothly run event from the start, and this year was the best yet. STC is a charity organization, and every penny over and above costs goes to families in need.

There are media guests at Scares That Care, but frankly I am mostly uninterested in them. I don't even really know who half of them are (see old fogey references above). I'm there each year for the writers and the readers. In short: the horror fiction community, of which I have considered myself to be a part of for nearly twenty years.

The guests this year were a delightful mix of genre legends, current stars, and rising newcomers. The legends included Thomas F. Monteleone, John Skipp, Edward Lee, Joe R. Lansdale, John Maclay, and Chet Williamson. Today's heavy-hitters were represented by Jonathan Janz, Ronald Malfi, Mary SanGiovanni, and Paul Tremblay. And there were numerous new talents out there struggling to gain a foothold in the field.

It's a fantasy weekend for horror fiction fans, where you can step up and chat with favorite writers, or make friends with the new guys on the chopping block. And there are fans everywhere. It isn't a pro-centric event like World Horror or NECON, but a gathering of pros and fans. A harmonic weekend of horror.

What could be better for a fan or an aspiring writer? A great time, partying, books galore, and all for an unbeatable cause. You can literally feel the good will from everyone in attendance.

There are plenty of thanks to go around, but mostly I grateful to Joe Ripple for being the one who created the Scares That Care organization, and who holds it all together. Of course his staff are all overjoyed to be there, and together they make it all happen. Then there is Brian Keene, who organizes the author programming, and does God only knows what all else for the event.

No pay. Hard work. Endless headaches. They do it for people in need, and also for a great time for the horror community.

I started this piece off by saying that I need Scares That Care. And I do. This weekend of horrors is critical in keeping me up to date and aware of the changes in the genre. But you know what? Scares That Care needs me, too. They need all of us. The attendees who pay for admission, the ones who donate money, time, and valuable auction items. Scares That Care is truly a group effort and I see mutual appreciation and gratitude in just about every face I see there.

Thanks to everyone involved, and I hope and pray for this joyous, beautiful event to go on for years to come.
Cavalaro's Cavalcade of Carnage
Wednesday, July 26. 2017


Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country hit the market last year and had an immediate impact. It seemed like you couldn't find a 2016 top ten list that didn't have this book listed: GoodReads Choice awards finalist, Barnes and Noble Best of 2016 list, Locus Award finalist, etc.

So, Lovecraft Country found its way into my amazon list of "things I may want to read." It got bumped higher on my list when it was announced that it would be adapted into an HBO series by Jordan Peele (Get Out). Matt Ruff, it seems, is no longer an unknown. In any case, I loved Get Out so I decided to take the plunge.


It's a unique story. It deals with Jim Crow-era America racism and....HP Lovecraft? It's a mishmash of racial tension, pulp horror, and historical fiction, which sometimes worked for me and sometimes didn't. I appreciated the effort of making something NEW, which he did accomplish. The story is told in separate, but linked episodes. That turned me off a little, as I just don't enjoy that particular storytelling format. Story arcs are set aside in order to create new ones, which was just too jarring for me.


However, if you're a Lovecraft fan and want something that is completely different from the contemporary Lovecraft emulation out there, you will probably like this more than I did.


Grade: C

Review by Jason Cavallaro
Sunday, July 16. 2017


I'm no fan of the undying zombie trend, but how can any self-respecting horror fan pass up an anthology called Nights of the Living Dead? Especially when it was co-edited by none other than the Godfather of the modern zombie ghoul, George A. Romero? Add in new stories by favorites like Brian Keene, David J. Schow, John Skipp, Joe R. Lansdale, and Jay Bonansinga, plus new fiction by John Russo and Romero himself, and this book is a dead-brainer.

Of course I could have saved a few bucks by ordering online, and I would have done so with B&N.com, but I felt like reliving that retro feeling of walking into a bookstore and purchasing a book from a real live human being. Besides, too many employees of the USPS seem like they would have a more appropriate position in a cheap-ass zombie movie.

So, to Barnes and Noble brick and mortar I went.

I live closer to one in Hampton, VA, but I was in Newport News this morning. The N.N. store was the first in my area, back in the mid-90's, and I was so glad to have it. I feel the pain of those who lost beloved indie bookstores from big box places like B&N and Borders, but we never had a decent independent store here. Despite the large population, this military and industrial region has never exactly been a bastion of culture.

I used to go to this Barnes and Noble every weekend when it opened. A different time, and a different set of rules in regard to book distribution. Electronic books have been around a long time. As early as nineteen forty-nine, in fact, but they came into forceful prominence with the advent of Amazon's Kindle device. Since then distribution has changed a lot. Maybe no so much for bestsellers, but for a lot of smaller genre writers, you can't find their stuff at the major bookstores.

I weaned off of my regular weekly trips to Barnes and Noble. I don't even go monthly now. In fact, it's quite a bit less often than that. I do continue to buy books, but they are often used, and I can't resist the temptation of the discounts the online stores offer.

I enjoyed walking into that old B&N. It still has loads of junk cluttering the place, and I guess all of those games and calendars and coloring books have helped the ailing corporation stay afloat. Me, I just think of all the shelf space could be devoted to books. But then as far back as I can recall, Barnes and Noble has always been filled with perpetrators.

I enjoyed looking at the magazines. I was more than a bit shocked to see that standbys like Videoscope, Scary Monsters, and Filmfax are still in circulation. Gotta admire these stalwarts for hanging in there. I almost bought one or two, but the truth is, with the internet there is more information about movie readily available than I will ever care to have.

I also saw some other cool stuff. The paperback cover of Grady Hendrix's excellent My Best Friend's Exorcism is ultra cool, and it reminds me of an older trade paperback of Brett McBean's The Last Motel.

I began to look in earnest for Nights of the Living Dead, but I couldn't find it. Surely they stocked a copy of this one...? It wasn't in the general fiction section, and not there in science fiction. I didn't see it in the new publications displays either. WTF. I was thinking that they had done a pretty damned good job of hiding it, when I realized that B&N has a section devoted to anthologies.

For the love of Lovecraft, would it be too much to have a Horror section? Borders had one, as did WaldenBooks and B. Dalton. Sure, it wouldn't be a perfect system, and not all books fall comfortably into one generic categorization, but it would be helpful for those of us who enjoy the dark stuff to be able to waltz up and peruse an area just for us. Chances are we would find something that we hadn't realized was out yet.

But at least I have it, and I plan to dive into the living dead just as soon as I am done the book I am currently reading.

I'm also grateful that, despite predictions, there are still bookstores out there, and still paperbacks to be had. Even if I do have to pay almost twenty bucks to own one.
Cavalaro's Cavalcade of Carnage
Sunday, June 25. 2017


I've made a terrible mistake. About two years ago I read Malfi's excellent novel, Floating Staircase, and for some reason I didn't immediately seek out his other books. If you haven't read him, don't make the same mistake that I did.


In the Acknowlegements section of the book, Malfi states, "Any writer worth their salt has inside them at least one good book about their childhood."


The plot of this one concerns a close knit group of young boys who live in a small town plagued by a serial killer. What follows is a beautifully written story about the power of friendship and the trials of growing up.


I'm a connoisseur of coming-of-age novels, so believe me when I tell you that December Park will not be out of place on your bookshelf next to King's IT, McCammon's Boy's Life, Simmon's Summer of Night, or even Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.


5 stars! highly recommended

Review by Jason Cavallaro
Sunday, June 18. 2017


I've been having this pleasant daydream: George R.R. Martin, mega-famous writer of the Game of Thrones industry, didn't write all of that epic fantasy stuff. I realize that the idea sounds horrible to a lot of people, but not me. I'm sure that the books are beautifully written, but my love affair with fantasy began and ended with Tolkien. Yeah, I tried some Brooks, some Donaldson, but they weren't for me.

No, imagine with me, horror fans, that GRRM followed The Armageddon Rag with another horror novel. And another. And another after that. And so on.

Imagine if you will that Martin wrote and published big, fat, wonderfully-written horror novels ever after, to this day and beyond. Perhaps even overtaking Stephen King as the biggest writer in our dark little literary genre.

It could have happened. Really, it could have.

Before Armageddon Rag, Martin did Fevre Dream. Horror was hot and getting hotter by the day. And these two novels are as good as anything ever written in the horror field, in my slightly humble opinion. However...

While the fabled horror boom of the 80's was barrelling in, Martin kind of got left behind. The Armageddon Rag was a complete disaster. Not so much critically, but commercially. It simply did not sell.

I bought it. I distinctly remember being attracted to the cover of the paperback while I was in a grocery store. I knew GRRM's name from the Science Fiction field, where he had been working in for a decade or so beforehand. I had read some short stories, which were good. Like some others at the time, like Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and Charles L. Grant, George R.R. Martin was shifting toward the lucrative horror genre.

The boom, as I said, was underway, and for my own journey from SF fan to Horror lover, Fevre Dream and The Armageddon Rag were both important and influential books. I devoured The Armageddon Rag over the course of a weekend, and then I located a used copy of Fevre Dream the following week, and I read it withing a couple of days.

Fevre Dream is a historical novel that sort of combines the steamboat setting of Mark Twain with Bram Stoker. It's certainly one of the greatest vampire novels ever published, and it came long before the thought of a vampire story served well as an ipecac to discerning horror readers.

I think I might like The Armageddon Rag a bit more. Rag was ahead of the curve and it beat the Splatterpunks to the rock and roll horror punch by a few years. The novel serves as a taut and scary supernatural suspense story with a hard rock backdrop, but also as a lament to the optimism and hope of the Sixties and the hippie generation.

I've read quite a few books twice, but there are precious few that I have done so more than that. I recently found the two pictured trade paperbacks at a thrift store, and I bought them. I am reading The Armageddon Rag for the third time in my life, and I think I am enjoying it more now than I did the other two times.

Why does one good book sell like gangbusters, and another tanks? If that were an answerable question, every publisher would be as flush as Fort Knox.

It makes me sad, but I doubt that George R.R. Martin, or his agent, are losing any tears over his departure from the horror genre. Still, I can dream, can't I?

And, yes, I can read these books again. As well as his novella, The Skin Game, or his nerve-jangling horror-SF short story, Sandkings. You can, and should, as well.
Kyle Lybeck's Literary Lair
Sunday, June 11. 2017


In the future universe, where you can travel through wormholes into other galaxies, the rules have changed. In these new times, there are those called FixIts. They are sent by The Company to take care of problems that may arise. These problems could be anything from discrepancies, to terraforming a planet, to outright destroying the planet entirely if it was called for. These FixIts have total control, wherever they go. Their clearance goes beyond anything else set forth, but it's that clearance that can also get them into undesirable situations.


One of these men goes by the name of Gerrold. The toll that the job as a FixIt has taken on him is unlike many others. His wife begs for him to stay with his family, to not go out on any more jobs when he's called. The problem is he has to go, there is no saying "no" to The Company. That's when Gerrold finds out something else is going on with his wife, something that will tear them apart from the inside. Then his child comes down with an extremely rare illness, and Gerrold has no other choice but to take one final unknown job, a job that could get him killed, a job that could save his child's life. In the end, a man is brought to his final reserves, pushed to his limits, and taken to hell and back for the life he has chosen.


In this latest novel by Michaelbrent Collings, it takes quite the turn from previous novels I have read and reviewed for him at The Horror Drive-In. Normally the books I read from him are fast paced, horror and thriller based. This one went in a much different direction, leaning much more towards sci-fi/thriller, with a few little tidbits of horror thrown in. I'm not going to lie, I'm not really a sci-fi fan, but the story intrigued me, so I went ahead and volunteered my time to read and review this one. The pacing is a little slower than what I had been used to from his other novels, but it still packed the same style of emotional punch I'm used to getting from Michaelbrent, with characters that make you care about who you're reading about.


Overall, I'd say if you're looking for a little change of pace from your horror novels, check this one out. It might just pique your interest and give you a nice break from the usual. I'm giving this one a solid B rating, and want to thank Michaelbrent for lending me an ARC review copy so I could write this review for you guys.

Review by Kyle Lybeck
Sunday, June 4. 2017


It probably sounds like Hell to younger horror movie lovers, but it really wasn't. I loved the VHS era, and the joy of discovering editions of classic horror movies has been without parallel in my life.

You have to understand: Having movies at hand and being able to start and stop them at will was still a new and miraculous thing. It seemed too good to be true, and we loved it all. Yes, even the atrocious cropped pictures, the hideous pan-and-scan releases, the grotesque dubbing on Eurohorror opuses, unscrupulous distributors releases cut TV prints on tape, faded bootleg copies of movies. We endured movie retitlings, completely different movies than advertised on tape boxes, you name it.

The number one place to search for tapes was video stores. There was a time when rental shops were on damned near every corner, and serious movie fans belonged to as many as reasonably possible. You would rent something, and the cost was minimal, and if it turned out that you had landed on a gold mine, you'd make an illegal duplication. Heck, you probably would burn a copy anyway, just to have it. Shh...but then I guess the statute of limitations has long passed.

Then there were music shops, department stores, discount retailers. You could usually find videotapes there. Goodtimes Home Video, Video Treasures, International Home Video, Simitar Entertainment, and others specialized in Public Domain titles. Some good stuff was to be found there. And a whole lot of crap as well.

How could you keep track of it? Blowing ten or twenty bucks on a lousy or cut movie print hurt, and it was easy to go broke doing so. Well, there were places to help.

There was The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops, from Fangoria Magazine. Chas Balun's Deep Red covered the gore scene. There were quite a few independently produced fanzines being published at any given time, and you could find ads for them in the bigger magazines.

None were as good as Video Watchdog. Tim Lucas began this venture as a column, which first began appearing in Video Times Magazine. This was back in a prehistoric time when Tim was actually reviewing Betamax tapes. I never saw any of those when they were new, but VW eventually found a home in Gorezone, which was a sister publication of Fangoria.

Lucas had a unique approach to reviewing. While he often did review the movie itself, he seemed to be more interested in discussing their home video releases. Video Watchdog became an invaluable guide to what to spend those hard-won dollars on, and what to avoid. Tim Lucas wrote with wit, knowledge, and passion for his subjects.

The success of the column led to the inception of Video Watchdog Magazine, a beautifully-constructed and informative showcase for every aspect of genre filmmaking, with particular emphasis on home video releases.

I was a VW subscriber, and when I couldn't afford to do that anymore, I would buy copies at a local comic shop. I always enjoyed reading it, and yet I eventually stopped. Why?

Well, raising a family made money scarce in some years. Then there was the abundance of information available for free on the internet. I became jaded, and I felt that I had all movie detail and trivia I could handle.

Too much of a good thing generally leads to ambivalence.

The fun, for me, was in the hunt. The thrill of entering a new video store and wondering what may lie on its shelves. The excitement of finding a cache of buck-ninety-nine tapes in a department store. It was fun and it kept me motivated.

Sure, it's great to land a copy of the latest pristine Steelbook release, or to get a new Blu of a beloved classic. On the other hand, as far as I am concerned a lot of these movies already had perfectly fine releases on Anchor Bay or Blue Underground DVDs.

Streaming really took the fun out of it for me, and I miss the collecting aspect of being a genre movie fanatic. I still collect, but on a very limited basis these days. I mostly do so with old DVDs that I find for a dollar or so in thrift stores.

Yesterday I dusted off my old copy of The Video Watchdog Book, and it took me back to those halcyon days of yore. It was a time of more innocence, if not really in the world, then in my own heart. It was so exciting to read the reviews by Tim Lucas, and I would make checklists of releases I would watch for.

Now all those tapes are gone. Probably buried in some lonely landfill, polluting the ground. Dreams and nightmares that brought so many thrills and so much joy...

Our most precious possessions are our memories, and I try to keep the joyful innocence alive in my heart. The Video Watchdog book is very helpful in that regard.

Sadly, Tim Lucas was forced to cease Video Watchdog publication in 2016. The Perfectionist's Guide To Fantastic Video no longer seemed to have a place in a world that has mostly turned to insubstantial electronic media.
Books
Wednesday, May 31. 2017


I’m glad to now have the time to review works of fiction again, here on the Horror Drive-In. I’d like to start back with a bang, too, by reviewing not just a collection of ‘Horror Stories by Richard Matheson’ (the byline of the book, can you beat that?), but a single short story from within the collection. The story that gave this collection its name: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

This review is going to be different. I’m not going to try to convince you to buy the collection nor am I going to try to convince you that Matheson was a great writer (or that he was not a great writer)—any of these attempts, in my mind, is a waste of space. Instead, I’m going to focus on one short story in a way that suits my own interests: the writing. In this case, I’m going to take a look at the sub-text—something that writers overlook way more often than they should, just to entertain and make the proverbial ‘fast buck’. This is different from layering and is different even from theme. Check it out:

In a short story, word count is critical. It’s an irony that writers claim to ignore poetry, when precise diction is needed in the short form. Matheson understands this need for sharpened words (from his constant short-fiction writing; I have found no evidence that he wrote poetry). He wastes no time. In the opening page, you meet the stewardess—a secondary character. You meet Wilson, the main character (it was odd, reading about a man with my last name). And, you meet the plane. You meet them in that order. The wording surrounding each is to the point; each word is selected for a reason, but what is most interesting is that Matheson characterizes his main character, Wilson, in only one sentence:

“Drawing a deep lungful, Wilson exhaled it in bursts, then pressed the cigarette into the armrest tray with irritable stabbing motions.”

Then, he moves on to a mixture of main character and his interaction with another character in the story: the plane. This isn’t a popular assessment. Most will call to the hills for the hordes to come down on me with their fire and pitchforks. They will claim that the plane is not a character—it’s not a human—and that Matheson is simply working on mood and setting. I won’t argue with that. The setting is, broadly, the plane—both inside and out. The mood is one of malice, or malice as perceived by the main character. But Matheson is doing something else here, under the skin of the story. He’s using a technique, Magical Realism.

If you read the paragraph closely, you’ll notice verb clusters (as well as some adverbs), and most (not all) are related to a human action. This isn’t just metaphor. There is something at work here, for can a plane do these things: cough monstrously, spew out exhaust, and roar?

The short answer is no, it can’t. It can jet out flame, sure, and it can throb—I guess. But, a plane’s exhaust can’t give off a thundering blast; an engine can’t produce thunder. This literal interpretation has a point. Magical Realism is used to give animation to objects that are not, in reality, animated. This is an effect that is often used to heighten the characters place in our minds once they begin to move within the story, and it also slips us into the story where, without knowing it (especially if you’re reading for pleasure), we’ve already accepted things that are not true and could not happen as facts. The plane is alive.

I’ll come back to this in a second.

The rest of the story follows a classic short story structure. There is rising action (in the form a mysterious man landing on the wing of plane, midflight), following by falling action (the falling action, in this case, is internal reaction: disbelief vs. self-reassurance—physiological, emotional, and intellectual responses). The conflict comes from this disbelief; not only Wilson’s disbelief, but the stewardess and the Captain of the plane, as well. No one believes that there is a man there.

That ‘man’, too, is a source of conflict that presses Wilson to follow a character arc on two levels I’ll mention—going from an existential, suicidal state, to becoming self-important enough to make the decision that forms the climax. The other arc is that of disbelief to belief (certainty, in Wilson’s case). The man, outside, is toying with the plane, risking a crash that would obviously end in the death of all onboard (and you can see the character arc here, right? Wilson, existential, seemingly on the brink of suicide at any time, really, grows to care about staying alive. Sure, he cares about the other passengers, but he also cares about himself!). The man is threatening the plane.

He threatens the plane, and that’s an interesting idea that is skipped over in the course of the story’s reading. You take it for face value. A threatened plane is a threatened plane, and all those in said plane ought to worry. But, that plane is animated from the beginning, so we know that it has taken on animalistic properties (the roaring, for instance). Here is the idea that sparked the story, as well as the link to this living plane:

“Suddenly, Wilson thought about the war, about the newspaper stories which recounted the alleged existence of creatures in the sky who plagued the Allied pilots in their duties. They called them Gremlins, he remembered. Where there, actually, such beings? Did they, truly, exist up here, never falling, riding on the wind, apparently of bulk and weight, yet impervious to gravity?”

When you think about the World War Two, and the way Allied forces flew planes into battle, you think about the single pilot prop-planes—until, of course, you consider the B-52’s and the crews that flew them. But, in either case, these planes were made to be more by their pilots. They were not just planes. They were a mixture of both human and animal—a second skin, almost like a snakes skin, once in air, but on the ground, they were given female qualities. Pilots (even now) refer to planes as ‘she’, and of course the B-52’s that dropped the bombs were named after women.
In thinking about these Gremlins, any who attacked or tried to screw with a pilot and his plane was an affront to not only the human inside, but the plane itself, as a living being. The pilot and his plane had a certain symbiotic quality; the live together, die together mentality. Those gremlins (not really existing, of course, but let’s suspend that thought) are attacking a living unit. And, considering this angle, what is most interesting to me is that psychological effect that this has on the story.

Wilson sees this Gremlin Man fussing with the motor of the plane. The Gremlin is threatening those inside the plane—if the motor is taken out, the plane will crash. The Gremlin is also threatening—attacking—the plane, which is alive and a character in itself. And, if you consider that there is a historical connection placed inside the text, that those pilots who treated their aircraft as though they were living also faced these Gremlins (to what end, we are not told—Matheson is a smart guy), you find an undercurrent of suspense. For, if there is the mere suggestion of a symbiotic relationship between man and machine made to be alive, then one affected is not just dangerous, but much the same as if a close relationship ended in the brutal murder of one of the partners—and the suspect is at large, and coming after you!

What I’ve described heightens the effect of suspense and horror. It does it in a subtle way. If you read through the text and take it for face value, you’ll enjoy it. The story on the surface is entertaining (and the ending is great, be glad I left that out). But, if you dig a little deeper into it, there is more at play. Matheson isn’t just messing with our fears, stuff like fear of flying or fear of heights, falling, burning, claustrophobia. He is taking dread and basing it on the history and the nature of the relationship man has with the machines that we use to transport us from place to place; the machines we entrust with our lives.

Or, maybe the guys and gals with the pitchforks are right. Maybe a plane is just a plane. As for me? I like a little magic in my reality. And, if you don’t feel the same, then I urge you to consider this review as you sit in your seat, strapped down with tray tables up, preparing to reach speeds of 180 mph so that your plane can take off. I wonder if you’ll begin to feel or to hope that the plane, in some way, relies on you just as much as you rely on … it?

Review by David M. Wilson
Sunday, May 28. 2017


It's like something out of a John Irving or Anne Tyler novel. A domineering mother raises a large family in which two sons become writers. One, the elder, is the epitome of the pretentiously academic snob, deriving perverse satisfaction from reports of how difficult his books are to read. This elder is a poet, a painter, a scathing satirist.

A younger brother is a prolific novelist and travel writer. One of the most respected in the field. He's been all over the world, going to remote and difficult places, writing successful travel books. He also writes novels and short stories set in the exotic locales he has visited.

Two respected writers from the same parents. One might assume that this was from a happy and nurturing family.

If Paul Theroux's Mother Land is to be believed, nothing could be further from the truth.

The bothers are Alexander and Paul Theroux. Alexander being the more scholarly older sibling, and Paul is the traveler and (sometimes) bestselling writer. Reportedly these two have such animosity toward one another that they have either barely spoken or have not spoken at all in many years.

Not only that, Alexander scathingly reviewed Paul's semi-autobiographical 1996 novel, My Other Life, calling his more successful brother's novels "beach reads", and claiming that his work was just a notch above Danielle Steele. He goes on to not only trash the book, but to to assail Paul, claiming (among other things) that he eats prunes for breakfast and has bowel troubles.

It's all a very curious matter, and interested parties have speculated about the reasons behind the feud.

Some answers, though veiled in fiction, can be found in Paul Theroux's astonishing new novel, Mother Land.

Mother Land is a long, confounding, hilarious, horrifying story of a family held under the spell of a scheming mother. Eshewing conventional plot, Paul Theroux examines in painful detail the obssessive hold that his mother held upon her children. While ostensibly a work of fiction, there are too many parallels with the facts of the Theroux family to consider the book to be entirely untrue.

Paul Theroux is a shrewd observer of minute character detail and the keenest sense of atmosphere and place of any writer I know of. In sickening but blackly funny detail, often repeating himself time and again, Paul takes readers deep into the madness of these siblings. It had to be a painful yet exorcising experience.

Mother Land isn't a book I can recommend to just anyone. It's dense, maddening at times, but it's also powerful and moving. The book is also scarier than most horror novels I've read.

I've always said that horror is a genre about confrontation rather than escape, and being faced with how parts of my life and family resemble the dysfunctional family in Mother Land was not easy.

Equally hilarious and horrifying, I loved Mother Land without reservation. I can say with utter confidence that I will not read a better novel this year. Probably not this entire decade.
Saturday, May 27. 2017


In 2016, Paul Tremblay had the unenviable task of following up 2015's A Head Full of Ghosts, aka "one of the best books I've ever read." Tremblay won the Stoker award for that novel, and also won my hard-won respect and excitement for his next move: Disappearance at Devil's Rock.


I will admit that I picked this book up with some amount of trepidation. I've always thought that the second book that you read from a particular author is a make-or-break moment. The novelty of a writer's original style has less impact on a second read, making it more difficult to impress. And....I was definitely impressed.


Disappearance at Devil's Rock is more of a mystery novel than a horror novel, if you care about that sort of thing (which I do not). Tremblay's book has a slow steady pace and keeps the reader involved throughout. This is where Tremblay's originality shines. In both books I've read by him, he inserts a major sense of ambiguity into the plot. He basically allows the reader to use his/her own imagination to process major plot points; he seems to be fully aware of doing this because he doesn't seem to be interested in beating you over the head with his story...he wants it to be your story too.


4.5 out of 5

Review by Jason Cavallaro
Wednesday, May 10. 2017


James Beach has been a busy man. He is the founder of Dark Discoveries Magazine, he has organized conventions and record shows, he co-owns a music label, and now he is editing a series of deluxe Richard Laymon hardcovers for Dark Regions Press. He generously took time out of his frantic schedule to answer some questions about his work with the Laymon books.

Horror Drive-In: Hi James, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

James Beach: Thanks Mark. Happy to chat a bit about it!

HD-I: I take it you are a Richard Laymon fan?

JB: For sure! I discovered Laymon in about the mid-80s with The Cellar, his first novel. Loved it and started looking around for whatever I could find of his after that.

When I was publishing Dark Discoveries magazine many years later one of my goals was to publish a Richard Laymon story and in issue 19 I was very fortunate to do just that. It was going to be a reprint Ann Laymon was going to let me use, but I lucked out and ended up with a previously unpublished story instead.

HD-I: I stumbled upon The Cellar back then, too. There wasn't a lot of hype surrounding him at that point. Then, shortly after, his books became difficult to obtain in the States. Were you able to get British editions of his work?

JB: You're right there wasn't much really. I found Dark Of The Woods a while later and then Flesh, Funland, and some others as time went on. Even the British stuff didn't get a huge amount of distribution over here except for some specialty shops. I found some of those much later on at places like Wrigley Cross, Dark Delicacies, etc.

HD-I: I began ordering Headline paperbacks from The Overlook Connection.

So, how did you progress from fan to editing a line of deluxe Richard Laymon hardcovers?

JB: Well I published that story in Dark Discoveries and had the idea to do something on a larger scale. After I sold the magazine, I started working part time for Chris Morey at Dark Regions Press. He was very interested in doing a Laymon book. My initial idea was for a collection, but Kelly Laymon had some plans for a collection with some unpublished stories. So I decided to pursue doing deluxe editions of novels that never had such treatment. And include intros and afterwards from Richard Laymon's contemporaries. And some bonus materials as well. We pitched Ann Laymon at World Horror in Portland in 2014 and she had interest in actually letting us do three books so we made a deal.

HD-I: Was there any discussion of doing A Writer's Tale?

JB: Not really. Although both Chris Morey and I certainly would be interested in reprinting it if we could. I had a list of a few titles I knew hadn't had a deluxe signed limited treatment and that was what I pitched Ann Laymon. She did say that Kelly had been working on a reprint of Writer's Tale with the original guys that published it back then. And that there was some new material Dick had written towards a follow up that was never completed. So hopefully that will come out someday. A Writer's Tale is hands down one of the best books ever done on writing in my opinion and deserves a wider audience then the 500 or so people who saw the original one.

HD-I: You've done Night Show so far, and Funland comes next month. After that will be Midnight's Lair. There's a lot of Laymon titles to choose from. What stood out about these books that made you choose them?

JB: I had a list of a few titles that I thought never had a limited edition done and some that never even had a US hardcover. Night Show and Funland are two favorites of mine and I always liked Midnight's Lair as well. The first two only had paperbacks done in the states. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe Night Show never even had a U.K. Hardcover. Midnight's Lair was just a mass market PB and HC from St. Martin's. So it made sense for those three and Chris Morey and Ann Laymon felt the same. And so far fans have seemed to agree.

HD-I: I like these three, too. Funland especially.

Sales have been good, right? Will there be more Laymon to come from Dark Regions?

JB: Yeah I believe that Night Show is pretty much sold out. Possibly a handful of the numbered edition still left. The preorder for Funland starts in June and a lot of anticipation for it. And Midnight's Lair as well.

At this point no plans for more than the three but who knows. I think we'd like to see how it goes with these next two books.

HD-I: Can you tell me more about the supplementary materials?

JB: First off they have intros and afterwords by some of Dick's peers and mentorees like Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Bentley Little, Steve Gerlach and J.F. Gonzalez. Everybody except Gonzalez is signing/has signed the sheets as well. There is also material we are reprinting from A Writer's Tale, Mystery Scene, etc. that I collected together of essays by Laymon on the books and I created timelines from the book to show the original progress of the novels along the way to publication. Kelly Laymon has also dug around and found some very cool stuff that has never been published before for each book. Night Show has twenty pages of the handwritten and hand corrected manuscript of Night Show, under its original name Chill Master, and includes a little sketch of the theater by Laymon. Funland has some neat stuff as well with a few pages of plot and character development, story notes, ideas, etc. to accompany the timelines and "Laymon on Laymon" stuff. Midnight's Lair also will have some bonus stuff along the same lines as Funland.

HD-I: I came into serious horror fiction fandom around the time that Richard Laymon passed away, so I never got to meet the man. Did you, James?

JB: Sadly, I never did. I was going to go to the World Horror in Seattle in 2001, where he was to be the guest of honor, but he passed away before it happened. And then I didn't end up being able to make it up for that one anyway as I had to work (That sucked. Was still really looking forward to meeting Ray Bradbury. But later on did meet him and even had him in Dark Discoveries a couple times!). But I respect what Dick Laymon did for the HWA and I know a lot of people look fondly back upon when he was president. He died too young but I'm glad his work lives on and has continued to gain popularity. His books are still in print and easier to find nowadays. And the ebook line has gone well too. There's even a big group on Facebook devoted to Laymon. That's pretty cool.

And I'm honored to be able to help bring these neat limited editions out for people of three of his books I've always liked.

HD-I: Thanks, James, and I wish you the best of luck with the Richard Laymon books, and all of your future endeavors.

Please visit Dark Regions for information on ordering these books, as well as numerous other fine publications.


The late, great Richard Laymon
Books
Monday, May 8. 2017


This 5-time Bram Stoker award winning author doesn't need an introduction. I, for one, am a big fan. His Rot and Ruin series has insured my devotion for life. In my opinion, Rot and Ruin is both superior young adult fiction, AND some of the best zombie fiction I've ever come across (and I've read a lot of both). I also love his ongoing action/adventure series featuring special forces hero, Joe Ledger.

I've read the vast majority of his books and the reason that I haven't read all of them is HIS fault, not mine: The guy is just too prolific. It seems he always have a multitude of new books dropping on my que.

Enter: his new collection, Wind Through the Fence.

Wind Through the Fence is a collection of 12 anthologized stories spanning Maberry's entire career. His very first short story, "Pegleg and Paddy Save the World", is here along with a brand new story for this collection entitled "Faces." As with any short story collection, there are highlights and low-lights here. My favorites were "The Cobbler of Oz", which is an insanely charming story about a winged monkey looking for magic in the land of Oz and "Spellcaster 2.0", which is about a group of college students creating a magic computer program. My least favorite was "The Vanishing Assassin"; an homage to Edgar Allan Poe and his Auguste Dupin character. I feel that Maberry's attempt to recreate Poe's world does him a disservice here, as his own voice is drowned out.

I need to point out something about the book's format: I love the inclusion of story notes BEFORE the story appears in the collection. I feel that it created additional anticipation to read each story. It has always bothered me that story anecdotes regularly appear at the end of short story collections.

3.5 out of 5

Although this is a solid collection, I'd only recommend it to dedicated Maberry fans. The stories vary so much in theme and style that they may not give an accurate view of the writer's style. However, to someone familiar with Maberry's novels it serves as a showcase of this writer's expansive talent.


Review by Jason Cavallaro



Books
Saturday, April 22. 2017


Firstly, the format of the book is unique: It is a re-telling of the real life story of the Torso Killer, who terrorized Cleveland in the 1930's, and was labeled "America's first serial killer." The book includes real life photographs of crime scenes and newspaper headlines from the infamous case and is told fully in black-and-white.

Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spiderman, Secret War, Age of Ultron) chose to focus the story on the police procedural and political aspects of the Torso Killer case. Fans of Fincher's ZODIAC film could find some enjoyment here, as I feel that there are many parallels between the two. Incidentally, Fincher was actually involved in potentially bringing Torso to the big screen in 2006 for Miramax. The project was eventually canceled.

Torso was released in 1999 to instant critical acclaim. Image comics was still riding high with the success of Spawn comics/HBO cartoon/feature film, so of course Todd McFarlane was prominent in his support of this graphic novel. He wasn't alone. Torso was nominated for an International Horror Guild award (whatever happened to IHG?) and won the 1999 Eisner award for comic book excellence.

So, my lukewarm feeling about this book seems to put me in the minority. I've read a lot of graphic novels, and one thing I've always enjoyed about them is that the story moves along FAST. I felt that Torso had many overly verbose passages. Now, I'm not fond of the true crime genre to begin with, so this probably accounts for some of my distaste of the book. My feeling for Torso is similar to my feeling about Danielewski's House of Leaves: The uniqueness of the book was greater than my ability to enjoy it. (and I also realize that I'm in the minority opinion about House of Leaves as well)

In conclusion, I think Torso is a well made true crime/graphic novel that just isn't for me.

2.5 stars

Review by Jason Cavallaro