Monday, March 11. 2013
Remember when vampires were cool? Back in the 80's, when I first began getting serious about horror, the vampire subgenre was awesome. Knockout books like Geoge R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream were coming out, and the New Horror (AKA: Splatterpunk) yielded great titles like Vampire Junction, The Light at the End, Live Girls, Sunglasses After Dark, and, yes, Interview with the Vampire.
But it was the enormous influence of Anne Rice that drove a stake into vampire fiction. I didn't much like the sequels to Interview with the Vampire, and in their wake came a bunch of imitators. Romantic vampires, goth vampires, gay vampires, vampire hit men, for God's sake. Despite how well-written some of these were, it reached the point of ridiculousness. Sort of like a certain walking, flesh-eating dead subgenre has gotten today.
Few would argue that is can not get a lot worse than the whole Twilight phenomenon. Emo vampires titillating teenage girls and their would-be hip mothers. At this point there is nowhere to go but up.
So, yeah, why not? It's a good time for real, ferocious, scary vampires to re-emerge on the horror scene.
Robert McCammon has dealt with bloodsuckers before. Early on he wrote a huge, gloriously over the top vampire novel called They Thirst. In 1991 McCammon served as co-editor of the Horror Writers Association vampire apocalypse anthology, Under the Fang, and he also contributed a wistfully sad story in it called Miracle Mile. And now he has given us I Travel By Night.
I Travel By Night is an upcoming novella from McCammon's publisher, Subterranean Press
. It's a historical novel that takes place not long after the Civil War. Trevor Lawson is a vampire who hates his own kind and has vowed to not only eradicate his fellow bloodsuckers, but also find the one who made him a monster and have his revenge.
There's nothing new about this premise, but I don't believe that McCammon was attempting to create something groundbreaking with I Travel By Night. This is a rip-roaring, old fashioned pulpish romp.
As always McCammon's eye for detail is unerring and he establishes his characters quickly and effectively. The story gets off to a quick start and readers will race through this short work in no time, and be thirsty for more.
With the Matthew Corbett series, Robert McCammon is writing an epic series of novels that tell the story of detection and crime in early America. With The Five he gave us a potent story about today's music scene, and it is also a love song about how music molds and shapes our lives. I Travel By Night is what I call a yarn
. It's a fun, old fashioned, lightening paced story that would not have been out of place in the early years of Weird Tales.
It's awesome that Robert McCammon is back and that Subterranean is putting his work out in beautiful, affordable editions. It's also pretty cool that he is bringing vampires back and making them fun again. I hope that he takes his readers on more adventures with Trevor Lawson.
Written by Mark Sieber
Wednesday, March 6. 2013
Once in a while a book comes along and the genre isn't quite the same after it is published. A genuine game-changer. It seems like it has been a long time since we've had one in the horror genre. Some near misses, and some that purported to transform the field, but I don't think we've had something like The Shining, Ghost Story, The Ceremonies, or Swan Song, in a long time.
For my money, NOS4A2 deserves to be that novel. I'm not kidding. This is the best book I've read in ages.
Comparisons of Joe Hill to Stephen King are as inevitable as they are apt. And, yes, I see the enormous influence of the father upon the son. Hill even borrows some situations from King in NOS4A2, and I believe that it was quite intentional. A bit of playfulness in a book filled to the brim with wonders and terrors.
I love Stephen King, and I have been an enormous fan since The Shining blew my youthful mind. His career is unparallelled in publishing, and justly so. The man is an outstanding writer. NOS4A2 could not exist, I do not believe, without his influence. However, I also believe that Joe Hill has taken the tools he has been handed down, and ran with them.
Those who assume that NOS4A2 is simply a vampire novel, and are hesitant to read it, should put aside all doubts. The villain in this novel bares only the most miniscule resemblance to the traditional vampire.
It is such a bugfuck story. To describe the plot might inspire ridicule, but I have always maintained that any storyline, no matter how ludicrous it may sound, can be made into a convincing story. In the hands of a good storyteller, that is. Joe isn't good. He is a great storyteller.
I'll give it a go: A little girl by the name of Vic finds that she has the power to find things that are lost. Or does she? She takes her bike through an abandoned bridge and comes out where she wants to be, finding something that has been previously lost. But she is unsure of how much really happens and how much is in her imagination.
It seems that there are a few people with the uncanny ability to transform themselves, and perhaps others, into a world of their own imagination. They use a vehicle, or perhaps a totem might be a better word, and they can travel from the world of everyday reality to somewhere else. There's a catch though. Isn't there always?
Taking these trips kind of messes the traveler up. Mentally. Before long Vic is a drug using, profane near-lunatic. But as I said, there are others with the same ability.
Charlie Manx loves Christmas. He loves it so much he wants to live in a place where it is Christmas every day of the year. He also loves children and wants to help those who have abusive parents. He wants to take them with him to Christmasland where they will always be happy and never have to leave. He picks them up in his 1938 Rolls Royce Wrath, with the NOS4A2 license plates, and whisks them off to Christmasland. The souls of the children do not accompany them on the trip.
Vic has a son named Wayne. She means well, but might not be considered the greatest mother in the world. And Mr. Manx has a strong interest in her anyway because of their shared ability. He wants Wayne to be the newest addition to Christmasland.
Please do not think that I did this story justice at all. This novel is a tour-de-force. I've never read anything quite like it. The prose is electric. I was laughing my head off reading one paragraph, shuddering on another, while others got me choked up and fighting tears.
All the characters are brilliantly conceived and executed, but Vic McQueen is a particularly amazing creation. She is the kind of person many of us would intensely dislike if we briefly met her. Yet Hill takes us into her head and her heart, and makes her one of the most compassionate, yet complicated characters in recent memory. She struggles for her sanity and her child, and the reader struggles along with her.
Heart-Shaped Box was a strong debut for Joe Hill. Not everyone agrees, but I thought that his second novel, Horns, was an enormous improvement. I was a big fan already, but nothing prepared me for NOS4A2. This novel puts Joe Hill at the very top of the field. No one else is doing work this good. Period.
Review by Mark Sieber
Sunday, March 3. 2013
The Venus Complex, a debut novel by Barbie Wilde, is something of a mixed bag. It is about Michael Friday, a professor of art history, who embarks on becoming a serial killer, partly to win the affections of Elene, a psychologist who ends up getting involved with investigating his murders. The overall story is engrossing, especially it is told through Michaelís perspective. He is everything you could hope for in a fictional serial killer. He is misanthropic, methodical, and funny in a messed-up way. A part of what makes him terrifying is that he is an example of the informed killer, a murderer who has studied true crime extensively to use to his advantage. Like most of these guys, he is obsessed with sex. Think of him as combination of American Psycho and Mr. Brooks, although he is more down to earth than Patrick Bateman.
If anything, the novel is terrifying in its probability. Michaelís rise as a psychopath is believable as he himself is believable. He is angry and frustrated with life, which is understandable. He also wants to make his mark on the world and to be unique. That is understandable too. Unfortunately, his feelings and ambition are directed towards murder and sexual sadism, so it is disturbing if you end up identifying with him at all. In this sense, Wilde is adept in creating true terror by holding up the mirror to our darker side. The sex in the book, however, is copious to the point of being excessive, so if youíre bothered by that, then you should read something else. The amount of sexual detail could be due to Michaelís psychotic obsession, but the sex scenes are repetitious and if anything, results in diminishing the novelís climax. All in all, this novel is a decent start for Wilde, but itís ultimately up to your personal taste.
Review by Nick Montelongo
Tuesday, December 4. 2012
Reviewing a book that was written by a friend is always a dicey prospect. A big part of you wants to give your bud's career a push. Yet you don't want to compromise your integrity and recommend a book that is not worthy. There is far too much of that going on in the community as it is.
I've known Matt Serafini for a long time. Despite having never met the man in the flesh, I feel very close to him. This is the age of electronic gratification, right? Get you books, music, even friends online. But I really do like Matt. I met him way back at the Gorezone Message Board, where I got my own start in all this online stuff. Matt was always one of the good guys. Always enthusiastic, always ready to talk about slasher movies, monster movies, action, you name it.
And I knew that Matt could write. Not that penning reviews is the same as writing fiction, but at least the guy always had a good grasp of the English language, and he could put his thoughts down in writing with intelligence and wit.
Now Matt Serafini has not only written, but published, a genre novel. He has chosen werewolves as his subject. He already gets big, big kudos for not going with zombies or vampires.
I said that I would be honest here, and I intend to do so. Don't worry, the news isn't all bad...
Feral is a first novel, and it reads like one. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
You know how some writers come out of the gate with a knockout book? It's rare, but mutants like Norman Partridge, Dan Simmons, John Little, and very few others had absolutely stunning debuts. Most everyone else falters a bit. But the good ones falter in an enjoyable way.
Take a look at some of the most beloved writers in the field. Lansdale, McCammon, even King. Their first works show a lot of passion and guts. They all had this burning need to tell stories, but their talent had yet to flourish. This isn't to say that books like The Nightrunners, Baal, and Carrie are not good, highly enjoyable reads. They are. They also show the beginnings of heights to come.
Matt Serafini's Feral is an ambitious, balls-to-the-wall werewolf extravaganza. You can feel
the lifetime of passion for horror in every paragraph of the book. It's a lot of fun and I like it that he avoided most of the cliches.
The novel starts off comfortably. The reader meets two guys who aren't so much different than the average horror/exploitation fan. Jack and Allen are spending the summer in a resort town, hoping to have some good times before adulthood claims their lives. I mean, these guys like Cannon-era Charles Bronson movies! How can you not enjoy this?
Their fun comes to a halt when Allen becomes obsessed with a woman who seems almost too perfect. There's something ugly underneath her ravishing veneer. Something almost...feral.
Soon, not only the guys, but the entire resort town of Greifsfield are in danger of being annihilated by a clan of lycanthropes.
Feral is a little goofy at times, and a lot brutal at others. The novel builds gradually to a highly suspenseful conclusion. And I was happy to see that Matt has left the door open to revisit the world he created in Feral again. If he does, I'll definitely sign up for the ride.
I urge everyone to not miss out on the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful career for a new writer in the genre.
Review by Mark Sieber
Sunday, September 9. 2012
As with many short story collections, you sometimes aren't sure what you're going to get. Are you going to sit down with a bag of popcorn and have a fun romp through the pages? Are you going to sit down with a brandy and cigar only to be amazed with the fine literature by the author? With this new collection by Simon Stranzas
put out by Dark Regions Press, you get a little of both and more beyond the contents page.
Through the collection Simon guides you on an interesting journey. Whether it be the opening story, Under the Overpass that takes you along with a group of young kids who find another boy, and end up killing him (or do they?); the Laymonesque The Other Village that reminds me of an homage to The Island; the dark tale of a woman trying to find a cure for her inability to mother a child in A Seed on Barren Ground; a quick and creepy yarn of moving into an apartment with odd noises coming from the walls in Fading Light; a heart-wrenching tale of oncoming death in Like Falling Snow; or the chilling (pun intended) title story that rounds out the bunch, this is a good collection.
Simon definitely has a way with his writing that some may find too drawn out, too wordy, not enough "going on". A few of his stories I was halfway through and wondered when it would pick up, which it finally did at the very end, but at the same time ended a little too soon, left too much of an opening for the wondering reader. The stories themselves though, as you are reading them, are well written, and don't aim to bore you with nonsensical happenings. It all fits together, moving along at a pace to make you want to know the ending of each story, and that's what a good writer does. He or she keeps you going all the way to the end, as any good movie would also compel you to do.
There were a few misses with the collection. I wasn't too enthralled with Poor Stephanie as it just didn't really do anything for me, it fell flat. The other that stuck out was Here's to the Good Life which was too slow, and felt like it had the ending thrown in just to creep you out, to make up for the rest of the story being underwhelming.
Overall though, I felt this was a well rounded and entertaining collection, to which I would recommend to those who aren't into a specific type of short story that is throughout, but that has many styles to keep you going. A rating of B- for me.
Review by Kyle Lybeck
Sunday, August 12. 2012
The title of this novel could be the official defense cry from all of us afflicted with love for the horror genre. How often do people look upon as as some sort of dangerous deviants?
But John Wayne Cleaver, the youthful protagonist of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, has real problems. He knows that he has all the warning signs of a potential killer. And not only does he know it, everyone in the small town he resides in knows it, too. Even his very name brings the grisly subject up.
It doesn't help that young Cleaver helps out his Mom, who works as a mortician. She's aware that it isn't good for the lad, but darn it, times are hard, and her husband is long gone. Besides, the boy is good at it. Maybe a little too
good. It seems that he has an unhealthy affinity for the job.
John Cleaver is a sharp kid, and none of this escapes him. He knows that he could easily become a killer, so he sets up a series of rules for himself to follow. Rules to keep him on the straight and narrow and away from his fascination for murder and dead bodies.
Things get even more complicated when people start turning up dead. Not just dead, but brutally slaughtered. And the killer is taking samples of his (or her) victims.
The natural suspect is the town weirdo, John Wayne Cleaver. But he isn't the guilty party. John's astute knowledge of serial killing comes to use as he tries to determine who is murdering the citizens of Clayton County. The truth, however, is far stranger than John, or anyone else, imagines.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER took me places that I didn't expect it to, and there are some nice surprises in the book. Don't read Amazon user 'reviews', as some of them give away major spoilers.
Once again I turned away from the small press for my reading choice, and I was amply rewarded. I normally trust blurbs about as much as I trust the promises of politicians, but when I saw one from F. Paul Wilson for I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, I took it to heart. Paul is one of the few I trust in this regard.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER is the first in a trilogy of novels featuring John Wayne Cleaver. The other two books are called Mr. Monster, and I Don't Want To Kill You. If these are even half as good as the first one, I'm in for some wonderful reading in my near future.
Highly recommended, except for those who might be squeamish about descriptions of autopsies.
Review by Mark Sieber
Sunday, August 5. 2012
After a long weekend away from home, it was nice to have something to look forward to. I sat down with a nice glass of scotch, and in one sitting read the forthcoming collection Dueling Minds from Cemetery Dance. A concept born from the mind of Brian James Freeman and years in the making, this interesting idea for a collection of stories is finally seeing the light of day. It all started from a painting by the acclaimed Alan M. Clark, featuring a night-scape with a hot air balloon floating skyward, leaves and bats floating upward beside it, along with a cemetery and church below. From here, the minds of the authors went forth to create their stories.
Brian Keene Purple Reign
In a quiet neighborhood a hot air balloon is seen by playing children, whereupon they hear explosions and a purple gas/liquid is released upon the town. This turns every living thing it touches into a violent murderous entity. How widespread is the problem? How will little Timothy weather the storm in his town?
This story was made in the classic Brian Keene style and really gets the story (and this collection) going. Events from start to finish, a smooth flowing story, killer purple gas, and a great ending. What more could you want?
Gary Braunbeck Bargain
A man rides back in a hot air balloon to see events of his past and present family. Why is he taking this journey? He has all he could want in wealth and his own company. What is his family going to find when they visit his home after he doesn't return their calls?
Having read quite a few Braunbeck novels, I knew it wasn't going to be a fast past wham bam story, but more of a delicately written homage to a man having it all, and it being more than he can handle. A good story overall.
Tom Piccirilli Between the Dark and the Daylight
A man trying to write his horror novel in the park is interrupted by a hot air balloon flying past him, with others trying to catch the ropes. He tries to help bring the balloon down as a little boy is inside, but alas cannot. He watches the balloon fly off into the distance after his ordeal, only to have the boys father accuse him of not saving his son. Why was the boy even in the balloon on his own? What happens to the boy after he floats away?
This is my first introduction to Tom Piccirilli, and I was very happy to meet him. The story feels like a novel when you're done, it packs a meaty punch in a short time. From a quiet moment of a man trying to write his story, to a balloon carrying people away who were trying to help only to have them fall to earth, to a psychotic father going after the author for his son floating away. Excellent little gem of a story.
Tim Lebbon Falling Off the World
A young girl is lifted away into the sky amongst others in hot air balloons. This is where she now stays, no way to get down, no where to go, and no idea what will happen next to her or the others.
Overall I found this to be a pretty slow story, not much to it, and it definitely didn't keep my attention how I'd hoped. I would say out of the grouping this was definitely my least favorite, but still an okay story.
Jenny Orosel That Which Binds
After her fathers funeral, Joan meets Ben and they quickly become friends coping with their past. Ben has a particular skeleton in his closet that doesn't want to let go, a past lover whom accidentally died at his hands from a hot air balloon. Why is Louise back, and what does she want from Ben? Can Joan save Ben from his past before it's too late?
Jenny Orosel is a name I haven't heard before. I tried finding her on the glorious internet, and couldn't find a lick of literary information. Who is this woman, because she needs to be writing more! This story was very well written, and kept the past and present stories going seamlessly to create a wonderful addition to this collection. Jenny, if you're out there, please write more for the masses!
Gerard Houarner The Breath of Bygone Spirits
A man is brought back to his hometown by his grandmother only to be confronted by his past and a town full of ghosts. Can he help the ghosts find peace for their spirits and help them move on?
This was the only story that didn't immediately cling to the hot air balloon idea, but instead waited until later to go another route, which you will see if you read this collection. The story was a little slow at first, but picked up into a very interesting take on spirits and how someone can help control them.
Overall, I'd have to say I thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to read this collection. The stories were very good, and the artwork by Alan M. Clark for the cover, and Erin S. Wells for the interior were fantastic. A great addition to the already wildly popular Signature Series from Cemetery Dance!
Review by Kyle Lybeck
Monday, May 28. 2012
F. Paul Wilson has worn several different hats in his career as a writer. He broke into publishing in the world of science fiction. With his landmark novel, The Keep, he established himself as a major horror talent. Later, Wilson became known as a thriller writer, mostly in the medical thriller subcategory. Later still, as he rejuvenated his Repairman Jack character, some people thought of F. Paul Wilson has a writer of urban fantasy fiction.
It all gets a little silly, doesn't it? F. Paul Wilson is a writer. His fiction encompasses all of the above pigeonholes, and more. Especially the intertwined Adversary Cycle and Repairman Jack books.
I got on board pretty early. I grabbed a copy of The Keep from the library back in the wee years of the 1980's. Immediately I became a huge fan of Wilson's work. And in the ensuing years I have never missed one of his books. And I have never been disappointed in anything written by F. Paul Wilson. I wish I could say that about all the writers I began reading in those days.
For those who've been living under a rock for the last twenty or so years, Nightworld is the culmination of the mythology that Wilson has been chronicling since he wrote The Keep. Though I have a pretty good idea that he had no idea it would lead to all of this when it was first published. The Keep ended up being the first in The Adversary Cycle.
The Adversary Cycle is a vast, epic story of two forces struggling with each other, in which the Earth is a battleground. It's far too complex for me to elaborate on in a brief review, and to be honest, the whole thing gets pretty dizzying to me. Now that I'm done reading them all, I feel like starting back over again.
Going back to 1984, Wilson's novel, The Tomb, introduced his most beloved creation: Repairman Jack. Jack is a average-looking guy who lives beneath the system. He makes his money by "fixing" peoples' problems. The kind of problems one does not contact the authorities about. Not just a mercenary, Jack fights injustice when he can. Survival and anonymity are among Jack's strongest instincts, but he also has a strong moral code.
Wilson ended his Adversary Cycle in 1992, with a novel called Nightworld, and he moved on with his fiction. But as with Repairman Jack, fate had other plans in store for F. Paul Wilson.
Wilson revived the Repairman Jack character in some short stories, but that wasn't enough for fans who demanded more. So, in 1998, F. Paul Wilson brought Repairman Jack back, with a novel called Legacies. After that, more novels featuring Jack followed, as Wilson began to integrate the character into an ambitious reworking of The Adversary Cycle.
Some readers disliked the way Wilson was rewriting his own mythos, but most of us, I think, have been overjoyed to have all of these new books that feature the Repairman Jack character that we love so much. It's been a long, fun ride. Fifteen books in all.
And now we face the end of the story that we love so much. The "heavily revised" version of Nightworld has just been published. It is essentially the same story, but it's much more fleshed out. And also more satisfying. Though I did miss the Joe Bob Briggs Doomsday Movie Marathons in the old Nightworld.
All the Repairman Jack/Adversary Cycle books and stories are page-turners, but Nightworld is probably the most gripping and suspenseful, and emotionally devastating. Nightworld is also probably the darkest, both figuratively and literally, novel that F. Paul Wilson has yet published. You'll be shocked at some of the diabolically horrific things he comes up with in Nightworld.
And now it's time for fans to bid a teary-eyed adieu to Repairman Jack. Well, not until Wilson gives us two more books that feature Jack's early days in NYC. After that it's all over. That is, if the fans allow it. If Arthur Conan Doyle was forced to bring back Sherlock Holmes after he thought he was done with the character, perhaps F. Paul Wilson will write about Repairman Jack again at a later date. Either way it doesn't matter. I will follow him wherever his literary muse takes him. As should you.
Review by Mark Sieber
Saturday, April 28. 2012
You can't help but admire Bentley Little. The guy has been publishing novels since 1989. A publishing history that is impressive by any standard. Sure, he has mostly dealt in paperback originals, and some may look down upon that, but I think that in many cases paperbacks can be more financially lucrative than hardcovers. Especially for mid-list writers.
The coolest thing about Bentley Little is how he has mostly stayed out of the limelight. The accepted maxim is that authors must self-promote themselves in order to survive. Little allows his work to stand on its own feet. Which is does quite well.
Bentley Little also avoids the social networks. You won't see him alienating potential readers by dragging his political views out for all to see. Very smart indeed.
The Haunted is the twenty-third novel that Little has published, and it's about as traditional as he gets. As the title suggests, The Haunted is a haunted house story. The setup is a familiar one to horror fans. A normal, reasonably well adjusted family moves into a new home and strange occurrences begin to happen. We all know that scenario by heart. Unsurprisingly, Bentley Little takes his readers into new territory with The Haunted.
Little's readers love his work for many reasons, but one of the big ones is the way he uses wild, often surreal images in it. The Haunted is no exception. The family in the story experience some really strange phenomena. I'm tempted to reveal a few here, but that would spoil the diabolical surprises that Bentley Little has in store in The Haunted.
Some readers say that the endings of Little's novels suffer. As if he used up all of his energy coming up with all of these deranged scenes and fumbles the conclusion. I hate to say it, but in a few cases, I agree. I'm happy to say that The Haunted has a nicely executed finale that shouldn't disappoint many readers.
You either are or are not a Bentley Little fan. Those who enjoy his work really
enjoy it. I do not have to recommend this novel to them. They will buy The Haunted regardless of what people are saying about it. I urge those who have previously been disappointed in his work to give The Haunted a chance. It's one of his most accessible, satisfying novels.
Review by Mark Sieber
Sunday, March 18. 2012
I sometimes do a little litmus test with horror novels. I ask myself, Would I give a crap about these characters if there were no supernatural aspects to the story? Or whether there were even any life-threatening situations in it?
In the beginning of Hissers, Ryan C. Thomas
introduces the reader to a couple of likable young teenage geeks who live in a small town. They like video games, science fiction, and of course are the object of ridicule. If not outright abuse. One, Connor, is athletic and could be more popular if it weren't for his loyalty to the other, Seth. Seth has a weight problem and a large chip on his shoulder.
We also meet two hip girls. One, Amanita, smokes, drinks, and flaunts her already sexy body. The other girl, Nicole, is more of a brain. Nicole likes Connor, so Amanita grudgingly accompanies her friend to a tree fort where the guys are hanging out on the night of a big party.
Needless to say, their teenaged dramatic angst is interrupted by a ghastly infestation of hungry, recently deceased human beings.
For me, Hissers emphatically would work without the zombie theme that Thomas introduces in the book. The dynamics of the teens, who all harbor traumatic secrets, were interesting enough for me. But then that wouldn't be a horror novel and it certainly wouldn't be published by apocalyptic fiction specialist Permuted Press
I said that Hissers is a zombie novel. It sort of is and it sort of isn't. Ryan Thomas avoids the dreaded cliches and turns the subgenre on its head. Thank God.
So, if you are the kind of reader, like myself, who is sick to death of zombies, I recommend Hissers. It has strong characters that you will like and care about. It's also a unique approach to the walking dead. And if you DO like zombie fiction, I promise that you'll love it.
Review by Mark Sieber
Monday, January 16. 2012
The Devil's Coattails
is the second anthology from fledgling publisher, Cicatrix Press
. The first one, The Bleeding Edge
, is a wonderful assemblage of stories, many of which were written by the greatest living legends in the field. The Devil's Coattails
relies less on big names, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I don't mean to imply that The Devil's Coattails
is bereft of stellar writers. In its pages
are superstars like Ramsey Campbell, Dan O'Bannon, John Shirley, Melanie Tem, Steve Rasnic Tem, Richard Christian Matheson, Earl Hamner Jr., and Gary Braunbeck.
It's nice that the editors chose to use stories by lesser-known, but not lesser-talented writers. It would be like if you were to list the staff of names of the best cleaning company NYC
has to offer, you might not know them by name, but you probably have heard of their quality of work by reputation alone. The Devil's Coattails
is more than a worthy successor to The Bleeding Edge
. And best of all, both of these books are refreshingly free of the constraints that so many theme anthologies have.
I liked all of the stories, but as with any anthology, I have my personal favorites. The great Ramsey Campbell kicks off the fiction with a creepy piece of fiction such as only he can come up with: The Moons
. As with The Bleeding Edge
, co-editor Jason V. Brock provides one of the most powerful stories in The Devil's Coattails
, Object Lesson
. I had never read James Robert Smith prior to this book, but if his story, "On the First Day"
is any indication of what his fiction is like, I'm sure I'm going to be a big fan of his work.
The book ends with another writers whose work is new to me: Paul G. Bens, Jr. If You Love Me
is a moving, disquieting, sad story of love and sacrifice
that I won't soon forget.
From whimsical to epic poetry, a Twilight Zone
-inspired teleplay to a true-life memoir, The Devil's Coattails has a little bit of everything in it. A cross pollination of styles and approaches
to writing that have one common denominator: Excellence.
Books are often more than just a collection of ink, glue, cloth, and paper. They can be works of art. I only have an Advance Reading Copy of The Devil's Coattails, and it is stunning. It is filled with darkly beautiful illustrations and photography. I can only imagine how amazing the actual book will be.
Sunday, December 18. 2011
Randy Chandler earned a lot of fans with his pair of horror novels, Hellz Bellz
and Bad Juju
. These were published by the badly-missed Hellbound Books. Both of these novels are well-written, suspenseful, and gloriously horrifying.
Other than some odd pieces here and there, Randy Chandler hasn't been publishing a lot for the last few years. All that changes in February, thanks to Comet Press
. Comet does nice affordable books
. Trade paperbacks that fall into the horror and suspense categories.
Chandler's next novel, Daemon of the Dark Wood
, shares the same basic plot of Brian Keene's The Rutting Season
, but the approach the two writers
use are vastly different.
Daemon of the Dark Wood
starts off with the comfortable feel of an 80's horror novel. You have the rural setting, well-drawn characters
, and an ancient evil coming forth. It starts off at a leisurely pace, and gradually builds to a frenzy. Chandler offers up wild situations and images that bring to mind Bentley Little. Or maybe even Edward Lee.
The two novels that I mentioned above by Randy Chandler are hotly sought after collector's items. For good reason. His work is well above the average stuff coming out from the small press. Trust me on this: You don't want to miss out on Daemon of the Dark Wood
. Don't be that person caught at a book convention or conference calling
your friends and asking them what the book is about. Buy one soon or be very sorry.
Preorder Daemon of the Dark Wood
now at Barnes and Noble
for the very reasonable price of $10.08.
Tuesday, November 1. 2011
There has always been something special about the writing of Chet Williamson
. I began reading him in the mid-1980's, which was a time of abundance for the horror fiction genre. Unlike today, I liked virtually every writer whose work I read. In those days I trusted blurbs and reviews. It seems crazy now, but that's the way it was back then.
I can't be sure, but I believe that I first heard about Chet Williamson in one of Edward Bryant's reviews in The Twilight Zone Magazine
. Wherever it was, I bought one of Chet's books: Ash Wednesday
. Needless to say, I loved it. I was instantly a fan and I bought and read everything by Chet I could find.
One of the best things about Chet Williamson is how unpredictable he always was. By the late 80's you could classify many writers into the loud or quiet schools of horror fiction. If you picked up and read, say, Ash Wednesday
, you might assume that Chet came from The Charles L. Grant School of Quiet Horror. But then you might read something else by Chet and get quite a shock. For instance, read his short story, Yore Skin's Jus's Soft 'n' Purdy
from the Razored Saddles
anthology. That one will freeze your marrow and is the equal of anything that was done by the Splatterpunks of the day.
Despite having an enviable growing body of work, Chet published less by the 1990's. I always thought he was one of the best in the genre, but apparently publishers and readers did not agree. Chet never really went away, but his output diminished.
Now, at last, we have a new novel from Chet Williamson and I couldn't be happier about it. Chet is known for writing supernatural fiction, but he also wrote suspense, such as the excellent novel, McKain's Dilemma
. The new book, Defenders of the Faith
, falls directly in the suspense fiction category.
Oh, let me tell you folks, Chet hasn't mellowed with age. Defenders of the Faith
is a dark, DARK, story. It has graphic violence and sex in it, but don't worry. Chet is too good to use these elements in any exploitative way.
Defenders of the Faith
is a ripping story, but like much of the best fiction, it has subtexts. It's about the ghastly effects of the cycle of sexual abuse. It also shows the dark side of religious faith.
Again, don't let that sway you away from the book. Defenders of the Faith
isn't a denunciation of the belief in God. It does, however, show how something good, like faith, can be distorted into something hideous. Anything, no matter how good, can turn into evil by the complexities of our minds. The most beautiful thing we as a species are capable of, love, can turn into jealousy, violence, and even rape. And in Chet Williamson's Defenders of the Faith
, Christianity leads to murder.
Paul Blair is a good man, a Godly man. A pillar of the small town he lives in. He becomes unhinged when his beloved wife is killed by a drunken teenage driver. Then he witnesses something truly horrible. Paul Blair commits an act of violence that few readers would condemn him for. But that's just the beginning for Mr. Blair. He begins to see himself as a divinely appointed protector of the youths in his church. God help anyone that tries to harm his children. Protecting, defending, children sounds noble, doesn't it?
Chet Williamson is a complicated writer and Defenders of the Faith
is a complicated novel. I'm not saying that it's stodgy or overly intellectual. This is a lightening-paced thriller. It's just that Chet doesn't present right and wrong in clearly defined terms. You won't find the good guys wearing white hats and the bad guys with black ones on their heads.
Defenders of the Faith
is out from Crossroads Press
in an electronic book
as well as (Thank you, God!), a trade paperback
. I'm glad for Chet and I'm glad for Crossroads, and I hope that this book is an enormous success for all concerned parties. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is a book that I'd like to see in a deluxe hardcover edition. I'm not talking about some super elaborate monstrosity, but a nicely made clothbound edition such as is done by Cemetery Dance or Subterranan Press. Defenders of the Faith
is a book for the ages.
Sunday, August 14. 2011
How could I refuse to review a book by the most underrated writer of mystery in collaboration with the most overrated writer of science fiction?
Fredric Brown is one of the very best writers that ever published in the mystery field. It's a shame that he isn't a household name. For my money is the the equal, if not better than, Chandler, Hammett and Spillane.
For years the covers of Mack Reynolds books made this bold proclamation: VOTED THE MOST POPULAR WRITER OF SCIENCE FICTION BY THE READERS OF GALAXY AND IF
. I wish I had some of what the readers of Galaxy and If were smoking. It's not that Reynolds was a terrible writer. I enjoyed some of his books. I especially remember being amused by one called Section G: United Planets
. But the very best writer? When you consider others like Bester, Sturgeon, Clarke, Farmer, Ellison, Pangborn, etc.? It's really rather ludicrous.
Anyway, I've always wanted to read one of the collaborations between these two guys and now, thanks to Aegypan Press, I have been able to do so. Happy Ending
is really kind of a hardcover chapbook, and it's a pretty cool edition. Sure, the cover art stinks and it's a POD edition, but I'm just glad that it is available in physical media form for today's readers to enjoy.
Originally published in the September 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe
, Happy Ending
is the story of a military leader who is alone on Venus, licking his wounds after a crushing defeat. Humanity didn't fare well in the conflict, but little is really told about that. The story focuses on the man's willful efforts to survive on the planet against its lifeforms. In a turn of ghastly irony, the former dictator learns what it is like to be on the direct receiving end of an invading army.
The science fiction market was hot at the time, but Happy Ending
could have just as easily been about a white man alone and at the mercy of Native Americans. It's a well-written story of morals and customs, and I was happy to obtain a copy of the book for my collection. The Nook edition of Happy Ending
goes for a mere ninety-nine cents. Or, if you look around, you can find it for free on the internet.
Aegypan Press has done some other books like this one, and I'd like to get some more. The back cover of Happy Ending
says that it is An Alan Rodgers Book
. Rodgers, as you should know, is a Stoker-winning horror writer and the former editor of Night Cry Magazine
Saturday, August 13. 2011
It doesn't happen very often, but once in a while, once in a great while, a book comes along that is a bountiful gift to horror movies lovers who also love to read. Oh, it is attempted fairly often, but rarely are the end results satisfactory. I'm thinking of Greg Kihn's Horror Show
, David J. Schow's Silver Scream
anthology. I'm sure there are more, but I'm coming up dry in trying to think of any.
Tobe Hooper's Midnight Movie
is a total and utter joy from the first page to the very last page. It's a wonderfully entertaining story of a zombie apocalypse...
WAIT! I know, you're getting ready to click away from this page and I don't blame you. I've had enough of zombies to last several lifetimes. But there is still room for something new in the hoary, done-to-fucking-death zombie subgenre. And Tobe Hooper has honed right in on it, using the same cinematic style that made him a famous (and in some circles, infamous) horror director.
It was an ingenious stroke to have Hooper himself as the main character in his own story. He comes across as a slightly grumpy, humorous, essentially decent guy with a passion for filmmaking.
You see, according to Midnight Movie
, Tobe Hooper made a ghastly zombie movie in his teens called Destiny Express
. Of course it's a piece of shit, but somehow it survived the decades since the unpolished young director and his friends made it. An uncomely fan has unearthed a print and plans to show it at a dive of a nightclub. But something very odd happens. Everyone that attended the screening of Destiny Express
has changed. A chaste young girl becomes a sexual predator. A man who works for Homeland Security becomes a terrorist. A horror-loving blogger becomes a cooker who causes meth explosions all across town. What is it about Destiny Express
that created the so-called "Game" that is bringing society to its knees? You'll have to read Midnight Movie
to find out.
I loved this book! I laughed on every single page, I gave a shit about the characters, I wanted to have a shot of Maker's Mark with Tobe Hooper. And now I want to go back and watch all of his movies all over again. Even the really shitty ones. Well, maybe I'll skip Coc-o-shit
, I mean Crocodile
What more could you ask for? Tobe Hooper as an unwilling and unlikely hero out to save the world from a trashy movie he made as a kid! What could be more perfect?
Tobe, if the suits won't give you money to make the movies you want to make, keep on writing books like Midnight Movie
. I'll be the first to buy a copy of every one.