Thursday, December 30

The Horror Library Volume 4 Ed. by R.J. Cavender

R.J. Cavender and Cutting Block Press have done it again! Just when you think that you've found a horror anthology that outshines the rest (see THL V.3), Cavender and Co. come blasting out of the woodwork with another volume in their Horror Library series that is brimming with incredible talent, and some of the most unsettling stories you've yet to read.

The Horror Library - Volume 4 compiles 29 incredible stories, none of which miss their mark, landing only clear, brutal hits at break-neck speed. Here we've got some returning faces (Jeff Strand, Bentley Little, etc.), some newcomers, and one very peculiar instance where an author actually has 2 stories present (Lorne dixon with Ash Wednesday and Continuity). And like I said, every single one hits their mark, leaving the reader fully satisfied, and craving for more short fiction from Cutting Block Press and The Horror Library series.

Stand outs include:

A Very Important Message for Those Planning to Travel to Costa Rica by R.J. Cavender & Boyd Harris - kicks us off right with a well told story (in 2nd person) detailing the perils of traveling to a foreign country alone. This story is incredibly unsettling, and sets the creepy and terrifying pace for what is yet to come.

Into The After by Kurt Dinan - is a wicked tale told in the aftermath of 9/11, that begins and almost ends as a heartwrenching supernatural tale, and then wallops the reader over the head with a twist so brutal, that it's actually hard not to react.

Flicker by Lee Thomas - is an unusual and very dark story about snuff film actors that are forced (but not truly forced) to perform time and time again. It's great in that it forces the mind into suspending disbelief just enough in order to be able to accept some truly disturbing ideas.

Jammers by Bentley Little - tells us the real truth about traffic jams, and what goes on at the front of the pack. This story is all kinds of creepy, starting (and flowing along) with a very uneasy feeling, and ending with enough of a kick to get you back up to speed with the following stories.

I Am Vision, I Am Death by Erik Williams - is a wicked little story about two people sharing the same consciousness, and the repercussions of such. I absolutely loved the sheer blackness of this story, as it proves itself to be very descriptive, and horror-TV-show-pilot material, but on a new level.

Lorne Dixon has two entries in this volume, first with Ash Wednesday - a phenomenal story about a crew of firefighters who go into a burning asylum to save an infamous Cult leader, only to end up in a formulaic, but well pulled off twist ending; and second with Continuity - which tells the story of a crew of filmmakers that collectively see more than what appears on screen. This one was great too, with hilarious, yet scary scenes, involving some long dead actors.

And as my final offering, I give you - The Healing Hands of Reverend Wainwright by Geoffrey L. Mudge - whose story about a traveling preacher takes all sorts of twists and turns that leave the reader questioning everything, and drops an ending that just begs the question: "Why haven't I read Mudge's work before?"

While The Horror Library: Volume 4 doesn't completely outshine it's predecessor, it sure does live up to the spirit of the series. Granted, Volume 3 was the first one I'd read, but having checked out Volume 4 now, I'm satisfied to say that this is a premiere horror anthology series for assorted tales. The stories chosen are incredible, the editor obviously shows his love for - and knowledge of - short horror fiction, and the quality of the books is way above standard.

As I've said before, you won't be disappointed by this purchase.

Volume 1, 2, 3 and 4 are also available at Cutting Block Press' website, and on Look out for Volume 5 in 2011. As far as I can tell (as of writing this review), CBP is still accepting submissions for the 5th volume.


Wednesday, December 29

The Gospel Of Bucky Dennis by J.R. Parks

As far as Southern Gothic Horror goes, this bad boy is top of the heap. It's rare, these days, to come across a first novel by an author gifted with such lyrical prowess. J.R. Parks starts this novel off with a bang, introduces the reader to their new favorite anti-hero, and grabs your hand - whisking you through a backwoods, hillbilly horror ride in a jet black '69 Charger. Sit tight folks, this one sparks real fast, and doesn't let up. Hooah!

During the 1980s, the stink of evil permeates like bad cologne throughout Verney County, Mississippi. Hellhounds and demoniacs had taken up residence, hurtin’ on folks and gettin’ mean. But there’s one feller they didn’t count on. Bucky Dennis—high school football star, Vietnam veteran, and divorced father of two—Bucky’s the slack-jawed bayou bubba that won’t take no guff.

After a botched insurance sale to a British stockbroker turned werewolf, Bucky stirs from his post-war decomposition and crippling apathy only to be baptized in hellfire. With a five-fingered Buick and a .44 named Harriet, Bucky delves into the dark side of the unknown and uncovers a devilish plot for the world’s undoing.

As mentioned before, Parks has a lyrical prowess that could be rivaled by none other than my favorite wordsmith - Steve Vernon. It's really hard to find that one person who can just speak to your soul, someone who knows the gait at which you love to read, someone who can make you forget you're reading and instead throw you headfirst into a spell so deep, that you literally have to remember to breathe. While The Gospel of Bucky Dennis may not be that for you, it certainly was for me.

Now, Bucky's an anti hero that I honestly adore. He's got balls, he's got sass, and better yet - he's painfully human. The punishment that Parks doles out on his titular character is fierce, but he's done the man a solid by always letting him come out on top. Well, at least almost on top. I can imagine Parks having had a ton of fun with this one. The strength of this character lies in Parks' ability to put him in some completely unbelievable situations, beat him with emotional, physical, and mental hardships; and then finding the solution in dialogue, a few choice actions, and a whole lot of attitude. You can't help but love this guy.

Parks has an obvious affinity for classic monsters, and tackles them in his very own way with this novel. The Gospel of Bucky Dennis is basically a collection of short stories that tie together in the end, creating a whirlwind trip through the author's very imaginative mind. We've got werewolves, zombies, blood sucking bats, and evil cults bent on raising hell in this little novel. Very ambitious, and very well done.

I'd get out there and grab a copy of this if I were you. It's not only an adventurous and fun read, but it's got enough blood boiling action to keep you going from start to finish. Easily one of my favorite releases in 2010.

Check out more Bucky Dennis at the official website, on Twitter, and at the official Bucky Dennis store. You can grab a copy there, or at Amazon and other fine online retailers.


Tuesday, December 28

Survivor by J.F. Gonzalez

Let it be said that J.F. Gonzalez's novel - Survivor - is quite possibly one of the most powerful books in the horror genre today. Between a plot set-up that is quite Laymon-esque (for it's grandiose themes and plots twists), and a writing style reminicent of Ketchum (for it's accessibility and simplicity), Gonzalez has not only crafted a very disturbing tale of rape, murder, and the underground snuff community; but he's also proven that sometimes 'going the distance' can be done with style.

It is supposed to be a romantic weekend getaway. Lisa is looking forward to spending time alone with her husband—and telling him that they are going to have a baby. Instead, it becomes a nightmare when her husband is arrested and Lisa is kidnapped. But the kidnappers aren’t asking for ransom. They want Lisa herself. They’re going to make her a star—in a snuff film.

What they have in mind for Lisa is unspeakable. They plan to torture and murder her as graphically and brutally as possible, and to capture it all on film. If they have their way, Lisa’s death will be truly horrifying…but even more horrifying is what Lisa will do to survive.…

The beginning of this book is absolutely innocuous. In fact, judging from all that I'd heard about Survivor, I was under the impression that I'd be throttled from the get-go, and was shocked to find that I wasn't at all.

This should have been the first warning sign.

Scratch that. The first warning sign should have been Brian Keene's endorsement on the blurb page.

"Quite possibly the most disturbing book I've ever read in my life" - Brian Keene

The sheer beauty of this novel lies in the fact that it does reach out an grab you. It quite possibly is the most disturbing book you will ever read. The lull of what looks to be, at first glance, a crime/thriller novel, is incredibly deceptive and, in Gonzalez's hands, expertly carried out. And right when the reader is getting ready to aknowledge the fact that something is going to happen that will take the story to the next level, Gonzalez takes it that much farther.

The action is pretty steady for the first 50 or so pages, chronicling the events that will eventually lead up to a seriously heart thumping climax that seems to span an immeasurable amount of time. And I'm talking about a good 300+ pages of high octane, blood boiling, massively evil - meanness. The real deception here is that the climax that the reader will come up against is really only one of many. Twists and turns run rampant in this little novel, blowing all pre-conceived notions of what 'shocking' and 'terrifying' actually are. What Gonzalez does to these characters is absolutely sadistic and mean, but he does it skillfully - managing to remain completely respectful and not crossing any major lines/taboos with his language and description. The fact that he gets so far out there with this story does not mean that he won't reign it in when needed. It's very evident that Gonzalez was uncomfortable writing some of these scenes, which comes not only as a relief, but also as a saving grace for the reader. I can't imagine the absolute vulgarity and crassness that might have happened if someone not as skilled as Gonzalez tackled this subject matter.

Now, that doesn't mean that the author doesn't go straight for the throat though. No, no, no. Gonzalez attacks with everything, and leaves nothing but bloody trails behind.

His characters are sympathetic, brutal, nasty, and absolutely terrifying in their intensity. The reader really has to be prepared for some of the most honest emotion they've read to come pouring off of these pages. And that's not always for the better. There are points where one can actually understand why and how the offender in this particular is doing something. It's almost sickening to be able to sympathize with that. And that's exactly what I'm talking about here. Gonzalez has the power over the reader. This is how a book should be written.

All in all, I wouldn't suggest Survivor to anyone but the most hard core of horror fans. It's absolutely vicious and brutal, but if you do grab yourself a copy, you're in for an incredible story, and a great example of how an author can really grab a reader and command his/her emotions with the best laid words.

I really cannot say this enough: Survivor is an incredible powerful book, and Gonzalez really deserves to be noticed for his superb ability to transform the reading of one novel into an incredibly harrowing journey. I'm glad I read this book, though I must stand by my warning against taking it lightly.

You can check out J.F. Gonzalez at his website, on Twitter, and at his blog. You can grab copies of Survivor at pretty much any big box online book retailer in their Used/Rare section.


Monday, December 27

Zombies: A Record Of The Year Of Infection by Don Roff, Illustrated by Chris Lane

Zombies: A Record Of The Year Of Infection is presented as the illustrated journal of Dr. Robert Twombly, discovered in the aftermath of a worldwide zombie infection. To say that this book breaks ground in the massive amounts of other zombie appearances in horror fiction would be stretching a bit, but based on the strength of the story's simplicity and the impressive art direction, I can say that it definitely deserves to be noticed.

This illustrated journal was discovered in the aftermath of the worldwide necrotic infection that began on or around January 7, 2012 and lasted for approximately one year, killing more than 5 billion people.

The journal is a unique record of the time of infection in that its author sought to understand the undead by living among them. It is also the record of the author's day-to-day experiences at a time when such records were not commonly kept.

The manuscript was found inside an empty cottage at the edge of Hudson Bay in northern Canada. The fat and the whereabouts of the author remain unknown.

The contents of the journal are reproduced uncensored and in their entirety.

Now, when I say that there is a simplicity to this book, I actually mean it. The way the story unfolds is very cut and dry. Scientist finds himself in zombie apocalypse, studies the various stages and physical effects of the infected, attempts to escape worldwide catastrophe, writes it all down. Like I said...very cut and dry.

Which is refreshing.

The difference between this and other zombie novels/illustrated guides/fiction, is that this one doesn't make any bones about it's lack of complexity and straightforward storytelling. The author obviously sought to make the reader believe that they were actually reading the work of a scientist - someone not very concerned with flair and over-the-top storytelling - and therefore left out any over dramatizing; and in some instances - completed sentences and/or finished thoughts. In fact, I was a little put off by this at the beginning, but the overall effect is actually quite chilling if one suspends disbelief. Roff really pulls this off very well.

The art in this volume is stunning. Chris Lane pulled out all the stops in order to create a visual starkness that blends beautifully with the narrative. Lane's use of what looks to be ink and watercolor is both desperate and startling, showcasing a preference towards heavy black lines and vicious red washing than anything else. An approach that I absolutely love.

Me, I'm not tired of this whole zombie revolution and it's massive amount of copycat and mob mentality fiction. But it's incredibly refreshing to see something that doesn't even bother to try to contend with all of that. There are no morals to this story, there are no pretty 'and-the-hero-saves-the-day' moments, and there are no apologies for being exactly what this book is: a straight forward account of the zombie onslaught.

You can grab it at Amazon and other online retailers. Surprisingly, there's also a wikipedia article about it. Check that out here. You can visit Don Roff at his official website and follow him on Twitter here. You can check out Chris Lane at his website.


Monday, December 6

Weapons by Liisa Ladouceur

When it comes to poetry, I know most people tend to think about lilies and rabbits, or a host of other painfully boring little things that send little girl's hearts a-flutter, and send most little boys screaming in horror at the possibility of being infected with cooties. It's either that, or it's about black butterflies ripping wounds in the hearts of you, you, and you. Well, that's the stereotype, isn't it?

Not for me.

I LOVE poetry. More importantly, I love it when it's done well, and with a certain amount of attention paid to the dark side of things. The beautiful and talented Liisa Ladouceur has all of those bases covered and more. What she does with words is what most wish they could do, and my, does she do it with style.

The grace and tone that these words are delivered with is absolutely awe inspiring. I've been following Ladouceur's publications for some time, and while some of them are damn near impossible to find, what you will manage to grab out there is sure to satisfy. The only thing better than reading her poetry is actually listening to her speak it. As anyone who listens to Rue Morgue Radio knows, this woman has a very distinct and silky smooth voice that is absolutely made for stuff like this.

Weapons had a super limited print run of 13 copies, making it an instant collector's item. In fact, Ladouceur hand stitched the spines herself - making this just as much a piece of art as it is a
piece of literature.

Here's a taste of what you might have missed with this one (which is also quite appropriate for this frigid season, as well):

Ice Pick

You chip away at it. Like a scab.

Like the blood you've collected.

Pooled, and piled, as if enough

Could form a heart.

These snow white hands of yours

Tenacious. Precise. They know

Where she lies, under ice afar.

They know how to sculpt her

Until she is less and less

A snowflake. A scar...

See what I mean?

Ladouceur is capable of throwing down the perfect words in a way that makes a mixture of images burst into your head at a single glance. She does this with a sexiness and brutality so wickedly refined, that it's utterly amazing. Personally, I'm of the opinion that this is where the bar is set. To attain anything better than this is but a dream. It's safe to say that she's my favorite poet, and I really can't imagine that changing any time soon.

I really can't wait to see what Ladouceur's poetic prowess has in store for the future. For all parties interested (and that should really mean everybody), you can find her at her website, at the Rue Morgue Magazine website and their forums (where you can also find lil ole' me harpin' on about books). You can also grab yourself a copy of her incredible poetry chapbook On Tenterhooks at Burning Effigy Press. I highly recommend it.


Friday, December 3

Best New Zombie Tales Volume 2 ed. by James Roy Daley

I'm going to start this off by saying that you should really get your hands on this book. I usually leave this kind of a statement for the end of a review, but in all honesty, it would be an absolute shame if you missed out on this one.

I haven't read a zombie anthology this good since Skipp and Spector's Book of the Dead (Bantam - 1989), and will not hesitate to say that Daley owns zombie anthologies now. What Daley has compiled here is some seriously groundbreaking stuff, the likes that we haven't seen in a very long time. Riddled with stories by genre mainstays and a surprising amount of newer voices, Best New Zombie Tales Volume 2 really sets the standard for zombie short stories.

What you're looking at here is 20 fantastic stories, 1 recipe, a comic by Robert Elrod, and an intro written by Daley himself, that is just as incredible as all of the stories that follow it. The intro centers around a fictional account of Daley being attacked by H.P. Lovecraft, and what turns out to be one of the most hilarious parts of the book. That alone should have told me I was in for something awesome.

I won't go into detail about all of the stories inside this mind-blowing anthology, but here's a taste of some of my favorites.

Rio Youers' story Bury Me Not is the first one out of the gate, and I honestly think he didn't even wait for the starting pistol to fire. He just smashed on through, carrying with him a poetic beauty, and an incredible ability to combine raw emotion and brutal description into one masterful piece. The story follows the end of a relationship between a young woman and an old but worldly man whom she developed a special friendship with and visited often. Youers really goes the distance with this one. This was an incredible story to lead off with.

Laundry Day by Steven A. Roman is up next, telling the story of a man who just so happens to do his laundry on the night that the world goes to shit. Laced with a brutal humor and some seriously gory violence, this one is a slaughter-fest crowd pleaser for sure. Action from the get go, with a surprising twist ending that I really didn't see coming.

I'd never read anything by David Niall Wilson before, but if Coming Home is any indication of his overall style, consider me a fan. Wilson tells the story about a Marine squad that is flown into an airbase via helicopter to find out why they've lost communications with the ground. Billy, one of the Marines that volunteered for this mission can't get his family off of his mind, and when things get hairy on the ground, he decides to take a chance and make a break for it. Wilson really captures what I can only imagine could be one of the biggest fears a soldier could possibly have - not being able to protect the ones you love - and really shoves that emotional turmoil down your throat.

John Everson shows up to the party with Camille Smiled, which is an absolutely crazy entry - possibly the most fucked up family story you'll read for a long while. Mourning the tragic loss of his child, Jack invests his time and money in an old gypsy/voodoo charm that is said to bring the dead back to life. Little does he know, sometimes the dead are better left alone. If you're familiar with Everson's writing, I guarantee that this will be a departure of sorts. There's nothing erotic in this one, but the beauty in Everson's words is there nonetheless. The story just grabs ahold of you and refuses to let go, culminating in what is quite possibly the most satisfying ending of a short story that I've read in years.

I cannot end this without mentioning Matt Hults' The Finger, which is abso-fucking-lutely insane. This story just broods and broods and then BAM! - explodes all over the page. The feel is very comic book/80's monster movie/slasher-esque, with relentless action and more visceral gore and nastiness than you can shake a stick at. Or shake off a stick. Either one describes this delightfully disgusting story. A young man comes up with a foolproof plan to make some serious cash, scamming a local diner by placing a severed finger into a bowl of chili and acting as if it was there to begin with. When his plan fails (in a hilariously black kind of way) he is shoved face first into a nightmare scenario reminiscent of a Hieronymus Bosch landscape, replete with a giant zombie-monster that makes my inner horror/fanboy writhe with joy and repulsion. This is the perfect story to end on. Fucking amazing.

All in all, Daley has a masterpiece on his hands with this one. If you walk away from this review without buying the book, you're really missing an incredible thing. This anthology is certainly both the stuff of nightmares, and a zombie lover's wet dream. ALL of the stories are downright amazing. Daley has really outdone himself. I will be following this series until the end.

Check out Books of the Dead Press at their website. You can also check out James Roy Daley's personal website here, and catch him on Twitter as well (as BOOKSoftheDEAD and his personal feed). Best Zombie Tales Volume 1 & 2 are both available at most online booksellers.

Also, keep an eye out for other exciting books from Books of the Dead Press.


Wednesday, December 1

Hack/Slash: Trailers Part Two by Image

Unlike other people who choose to review comic books in a grouped or lumped style, I'm going to try and bring them to you as I find them, and let you know what's going on with every single issue. Call it expanding, call it obsessive, call it...whatever. I have a love for comics, and I want to bring that to y'all all the same as novels and anthologies. They are a very important part of horror literature, after all.

That being said - first up is Hack/Slash: Trailers Part Two by Image Comics.

Now, I haven't gone into a comic book shop in...shit...probably about 15 years. Well, unless I was buying Mcfarlane Movie Maniacs figurines, that is. (I know...shame). Recently I decided to take a walk out to a shop I haven't been to before, to see if I could track down Brian Keene's Doom Patrol #16. I did (and will review it later), but I also came across this grisly little gem.

To be fair, I'd heard through the grapevine that Mike Oliveri wrote a story for this issue of Hack/Slash, and that's primarily what sparked my interest. Now, before I go on acting like I know what I'm talking about, I want to say that this is the first time I've ever even encountered this particular title, let alone any of the previous issues in the series. I can say, however, that I'm going to be on the hunt for this entire (and epic) series. It's incredible!

Hack/Slash: Trailers Part 2 is basically to comic books what anthologies are to novels. This specific issue has what they call "13 tales of Naked Fear!", in the style of slasher movie trailers. That's right. 13 mini-bursts of brutal, sexy, bloody, relentless horror stories and imagery from 13 different writers and artists - all done in 62 pages.

Of all of them, I'd have to say that Home, Home On Derange by Steve Seeley (story), Jenny Frison (art), and Josh Emmons (letters); Wallow In Death by Mike Oliveri (story) and Sean K. Dove (art & letters); and Psyche by J. Torres (story), Joe Song (art) and Rus Wooton (letters) were among my favorites. Not just because they were great little stories, but because the art complimented the stories so well. They also felt like the most original pieces in the book (okay...Psyche wasn't original, but points have to be given for the twist on Bloch's/Hitchcock's Psycho)

Rape Van by Mike Norton (story), Brent Schoonover (art), Nate Lovette (colors), and CRANK! (letters) holds top position though, for being strangely unique and brutally hilarious. Imagine a van...nevermind. You have to read it.

Whether you're looking for a bevy of beautiful blondes being butchered around a campfire (Campfire Stories), the senseless slaughter of cute-but-evil little fuzzballs (Too Cute), a midget...thing...that attacks from within the womb (Womb With A View), or a sensuous look at just letting yourself go with the music (Blood On The Dancefloor), this issue is for you.

You can check it out at Image Comics' website, Tim Seeley's official website, and at the official Hack/Slash Inc. website. Amazon has several Omnibus' available for this series, but from what I can see they don't have single issues available. Here's the search.


Thursday, November 25

Knuckle Supper by Drew Stepek

If ever there was a book that captured the gritty, needle scratch and hiss of some of the greatest punk rock records, it's Drew Stepek's Knuckle Supper. This book holds enough raw power in it's pages to bring the memories of anyone who was involved in the punk rock scene of the '70s, '80s, and early '90s - screaming back with a vengeance, and is layered with a grimy, basement feel reminiscent of Penelope Spheeris' The Decline Of Western Civilization or Suburbia...with Vampires.

Los Angeles' drugs are run by the undead. When the LA heroin-addicted vampire and gang leader named RJ reluctantly takes in a twelve year-old prostitute called Bait, humanity is introduced to his otherwise lifeless existence. An unforgiving, vicious and realistic horror story, Knuckle Supper explores chemical dependency, inner-city brutality, religion, molestation, abortion and the very nature of evil itself.

You can see by the above synopsis that this book isn't your happy-go-lucky spin on a vampire tale. It's actually quite the opposite. While being peppered with some levity here and there, the core of the story is exactly what you just read - unforgiving, vicious, and realistic. There's nothing funny about teenaged prostitution, or the evils that befall those children that find themselves thrown out on the street, facing a life that isn't meant for anybody. In Knuckle Supper, Stepek balances the description of real life horrors with a somewhat uncanny ablity to infuse some silly and downright hilarious dialogue. The characters absolutely jump off the page, giving the novel a very comfortable feel - right before tearing your soul out and handing it to you for dinner.

I'm not going to pretend that this is your run of the mill novel. With all of the underlying themes and emotions running ranpant throughout the story, this book really hits hard - all while taking you on a whirlwind journey of chaos and...again...brutality. The characters are instantly likeable and addictive, but can also be completely despicable and loathesome. Stepek infuses a great deal of humanity into his monsters - tricking the reader into forgetting that they're actually reading about supernatural creatures. The sheer fact that, if one looks deep enough into their own city, you can find the exact same things happening right outside your door, only lends weight to the horror present in this piece of fiction.

Stepek obviously has a knack for writing descriptively driven scenes of horror, and will most likely be well received by modern horror readers looking for some gruesome scenes that will haunt them for a while. I, for one, had to re-read certain parts just to make sure that he did - in fact - go to the depths that he did. It was a very pleasant experience for someone who enjoys disgusting imagery. If you like to read fiction that pushes the envelope, you're going to want to pick this one up.

With this novel, Stepek and the publisher have joined forces with Children Of The Night - a private, non-profit orginaization that is dedicated to assisting children between the ages of 11 - 17 who are forced to prostitute on the streets for food to eat and a place to sleep. 10% of the hardcover sales, and $1 from every digital sale is donated to Children of the Night. This is a cause I'm positive we can all get behind. Check them out at

You can grab this novel at a ton of places, and honestly - I suggest you do. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and am hard pressed to think of another book that affected me as much at this one did, in the past year.

Check out Knucle Supper on their Official website, on Facebook, Twitter, and grab the book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Thursday, November 11

Red Sky by Nate Southard

Nate Southard's first full length effort feels like the work of a veteran horror writer, beginning with a solid punch to the gut - leaving the reader with the taste of blood in his mouth. Southard's writing will hurt you on many levels, and after reading Red Sky, I'm convinced that this is his goal.

When a bank job goes horrifically wrong, career criminal Danny Black leads his crew from El Paso into the deserts of New Mexico in a desperate bid for escape. With a psychopath and a hostage keeping a gutshot redneck company in the back seat, Denny soon finds himself with no choice but to hole up in an abandoned factory, the former home of Red Sky Manufacturing.

Surrounded by nothing and no one, Danny thinks he may have finally found some breathing room, a chance to think and to plan. Danny and his crew aren't the only living things in Red Sky, though. Something waits in the abandoned factory's shadows, something horrible and violent. Something hungry.

And when the sun drops, it will feast.

20 pages into this novel is all you will need to become a hardcore fan of Southard's style. The story is completely engrossing, the writing is absolutely perfect in it's combination of terrifying description and black humor, and the overwhelming and consistant sense of dread sends chills up your spine, riviting your eyes to the page throughout the entire novel. I would be hard pressed to come up with a single thing wrong with this book, it's that goddamned good.

Southard's characters are instantly likeable at the same time as being completely despicable. His ability to craft dialogue is impeccable. The characters in Red Sky actually say very little, but what dialogue Southard has chosen to include is obviously the best of the best. Known to be someone who writes and rewrites until the piece is as perfect as it can be, it's not hard to say that Southard has obviously worked his ass off, presenting the reading public with an incredibly awesome first novel. If this is any indication of what we can expect in the future, I'm locked in for life.

Red Sky also features 4 short stories that are absolutely compelling - sometimes funny - butmostly horrific. Senorita is a short about how far a man will go for the love of a young girl, reaching heights of brutality not often seen written this well; First Day is an awesome look at an employee's first day at a very special workplace; Inside The Box is a painful look at human trafficking that has a wicked surprise twist at the end; and The House On Toledo Street is a good ole boys tale revolving around the classic haunted house dare. Southard's take on all four tales is unique, brutal, and unquestionably genius. A great addition to this amazing book.

Fast, gritty, gruesome, and as hard-fucking-core as possible, Red Sky is definitely a novel worth it's weight - and then some. You can grab a limited edition copy from Thunderstorm books (only 110 copies are being printed) here, but you're going to have to move fast. At only $60 a pop, they're selling out wicked quick.

For more information on upcoming stories and books - visit Southard's website, and make sure you follow him on Twitter and/or Facebook.


Friday, November 5

Tales From The Crypt #9 by Papercutz

For someone who grew up with horror themed comics and trading cards as a kid, I was both wickedly excited and incredibly nostalgic when I received the 9th installment of Papercutz' Tales From The Crypt series. I'd read the 8th volume, which was the first in the series to introduce Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid - an instant favorite - and am thrilled to tell you all about the newest issue.

Here's a little run down before I start gushing all over the place.

In the three stories, the original Crypt-Keeper offers his twisted take on all the countless manifestations of the Wizard of Oz, including the long-running Broadway musical in Wickeder, a chilling tale about an off-shore oil rig disaster entitled Kill, Baby, Kill! and to the delight of countless fans, the much requested return of The Stinky Dead Kid, Glugg and his little dog in Dead Dog Dies!

I LOVE this series. I'm going to go further out there and tell you that I love everything that Papercutz is doing, but the parody stuff is by far my favorite. The stories are fast paced and fun, the characters are addictive, and the dialogue is hilarious. It's all in the vein of the old school, tongue-in-cheek, horror mags/comics that we all loved.

As mentioned before, this volume features the return of The Stinky Dead Kid. A favorite among fans, TSDK is a great parody of the YA hit Diary of a Wimpy Kid - but geared towards those kids (young and old) who have an affinity for something darker, and potentially more insidious. Papercutz pulls no punches when getting to the jokes either, making them the best in the business at what they do.

It would be a sin not to talk about the art involved in this publication. The first story - Dead Dog Dies - features some of the best ink I'm seen this side of anything. The style is both old school, but with a new school flair. It's heavy on the black lines, rich with shadow and texture, and amazingly eye catching. The dedication to detail in very appreciated, in that you actually pick up something new every time you glance at the panels. The rest of the book gives beautiful examples of how perfect the Old School (Kill, Baby, Kill) and the Newer School (Wickeder) comic styles are - when put together in one volume.

This graphic novel, while short (clocking in at 64 pages), is a fun read designed for fans of both artistic styles, and anyone looking for a quick jolt to satify an itch.

I urge you to check out Papercuts at their website. You can pick up their comics, graphic novels, and other fun stuff directly from them, at almost any bookseller (especially B&N), and online at

And keep an eye out for more parodies, including: Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring, Dielight (A parody of Twilight that had me in stitches - TFTC #8) and more.


Friday, October 8

The Ash Angels by Ian Rogers

This review is looooong overdue.

I have to say, 2010 has been pretty good for publications, but as a's sucked something fierce. Thankfully, Ian Rogers has come swooping down on great big angel wings to fix everything with this incredible little chap book.

Just when I thought that Rogers had reached perfection, he comes slamming out of the gates with The Ash Angels - a brand new story featuring the hilarious, sarcastic, and incredible anti-hero Felix Renn. To say that Rogers is poised to do something great would be an understatement (have I said that before?). He's already proven himself once - with Temporary Monsters, and now he's just reminding you who's boss.

It’s a cold winter’s night and private investigator Felix Renn is still haunted by his experience in the Black Lands - that dark dimension populated by dangerous supernatural entities. After discovering a strange mark on the snow-covered ground, Felix finds himself thrust into a deadly race against time to protect the city from a paranormal plague that preys on all the dark secrets of the human soul. But what is Felix to do when the next victim is himself?

This chapbook exceeded my expectations in all respects. It'd been a long hard year waiting for the follow up the Temporary Monsters, but every little bit has been worth it. Rogers has taken his incredible main character - Felix Renn - and expanded the story, bringing a more emotional and descriptively dark side of his writing style out for all to see. The pace is fast, the writing tight, but most important of all (to me) - this piece is pitch black in humor and style.

Rogers' descriptions call forth a sort of dark, gothic feel - making the streets of Toronto feel a little more dangerous, and a little more capable of producing the creatures that Renn has to face on a regular basis. Like I said before, this story bleeds raw emotion that really lives on the page and infects the reader. I dare you not to be completely enthralled by the images and the power of the story. It'd be an impossible task, to resist.

As with Temporary Monsters, Rogers has blown the doors off with a wicked and incredible opening line. It seems that strong openings are Rogers' forte, but the words that follow are just as strong, and just as potent as the rest. There isn't a single thing wrong with this one but for the fact that it's entirely too short for the potential it has. To see a full length Renn novel would be incredible. I really can't wait.

As usual, you can catch of Rogers on Twitter and on his own personal website. For all of your Felix Renn needs, visit The Black Lands.


Friday, October 1

The Last Straw by Gord Rollo

Posting a review of the same book twice isn't something I ever plan to do, but I feel that this case kind of warrants it. Well, in a way. This isn't actually a review of Valley Of The Scarecrow. No, it's actually a review of the short story that is included in the A-Z lettered, leather bound, hardcover edition that is available at Dark Regions Press.

And don't you worry, I'll keep it short.

The Last Straw is one of the most intense, emotional, and beautifully written pieces of fiction that I have read in a very long time. The story ties directly into the history of Valley Of The Scarecrow, giving the reader a bit more information as to what happened all those years ago, when Angus and some of the other citizens decided it was time to put an end to the Reverend's reign of terror in the little community of Miller's Grove.

I cannot stress enough how incredible this story is. The set up is fantastic - bringing absolute clarity to some of the questions one might have about the story it precludes. Not only that, but the character of Angus is fleshed out in a more satisfying and 'fatherly' way. The Reverend - pre-monster - is also shown to be almost more terrifying than he is in VOTS, eliciting more emotional terror than I've previously encountered from a short story, in a while.

This story alone, is worth paying the extra cash for the Dark Regions edition of Valley Of The Scarecrow.

You can grab it here in both A-Z Lettered, leather bound hardcover (for $99) or in a signed, limited hardcover edition(for $50) - only from Dark Regions Press. A reminder: The Last Straw is only available in the A-Z Lettered edition.


Wednesday, September 29

Valley Of The Scarecrow by Gord Rollo

In keeping with Rollo's ability to craft an incredible story, Valley Of The Scarecrow delivers top notch storytelling with all the flair of a late '80's/ early '90's slasher flick feel. The ride is intense, brutal, and never lets up. If this is what we can expect from Rollo - the future of Canadian horror is in great hands.

Seventy years ago the residents of Miller's Grove rose to destroy their devil-worshipping minister. They lashed him to a cross in his church and left him to die, resembling a macabre human scarecrow. But now the scarecrow has returned to life and is hungry for his revenge.

From the beginning of the novel, Rollo sets out to let the reader know that he is still in top form, introducing a cast of characters that are not only faithful to the genre's expectations, but also the dependable keys to a great story. It's through these characters that Rollo brings a new slant to the whole "slasher" camp, making the reader feel like they're part of the story - instead of feeling like you're just reading one. Personally, I felt as if I were watching something in the vein of Friday the 13th or Sleepaway Camp - as opposed to reading a novel, making this a very worthwhile experience. I can directly attribute this to Rollo's killer dialogue and the creative way he spins his characters. It's refreshing at the same time as it gives the reader a sense of nostalgia for the aforementioned 'slasher' days.

The monster featured in this novel is incredible. Joshua Miller is the stuff that nightmares are made of, namely for the fact that he just jumps off the page and straight into your head. Rollo has taken something that has been used for years - the Scarecrow - and made it scary again. The very idea that a scarecrow would come to life and chase someone is terifying enough, but add a religion-fueled, righteous indignation makes it all the more terrifying. Couple that with Rollo's innate ability to create some seriously traumatizing scenes depicting some seriously disturbing monsters, and you have what I like to think is the stuff of true terror - done properly. I don't know who/where he comes up with this stuff, but I'm hoping it keeps up.

To add one last bit of info (potential spoiler ahead), Valley Of The Scarecrow sets itself up for a sequel which, upon finishing the novel, I am now salavating for.

You can check out Gord Rollo's website here, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and visit his forum (hosted by The Keenedom, registration necessary) here.

Valley Of The Scarecrow is available at the Leisure Books website and on Amazon as an ebook. If you don't have a Kindle, read it on your iPod, like I did. It's completely worth it.

The Trade Paperback will be available from Leisure in 2011.


Sunday, September 26

Regret by Gabrielle Faust

Wow. Talk about an ambitious little novella. This book is packed with enough examples of demons and sin to turn your church going grandma into a slavering maniac. When I read up on it, and Faust's other works, I knew I was going to be in for something special. I'm stoked to report that with Regret, I wasn't let down at all.

Humanity is renowned for placing the blame for their most unspeakable actions in the palms of their "demons". It would seem that for every crime, every indecency there is a minion of the Underworld assigned to it. The lucky ones balance precariously on the edge of damnation, always managing at the last minute to halt their impending doom. The unlucky ones succumb entirely or, in Marcus Glenfield's case, find themselves following a much darker parth than they ever would have imagined. After a strangely brutal twist of fate, Marcus becomes his own inner demon, that of the Demon of Regret. As he begins his new life as a tempter and collector of mortal souls, his path of damnation unfortunately crosses with that of Sonnellion, the Demon of hatred; Cresil, the Demon of Slovenliness; Vetis, the Tempter of the Holy; and finally Belial himself, the Prince of Wickedness. Through each of his interactions, Marcus gleans valuable insight into the purpose of his fellow demons within the greater hierarchy of existence, assisting his personal mission to collect the one soul that continues to preoccupy his every thought. However, will the wisdom of Hell's ancient minions be enough to save him from a deadly encounter with Belial, or does Hell have another plan for Marcus altogether?

That's quite a synopsis, isn't it? It looks as if you've gotten the whole story, but deep within this 140 page novella is something far darker that any blurb can actually single out.

Faust writes beautifully, with a seasoned artist's touch and a flair for the dramatic. Her descriptions dance across the page in a flow that feels both elegant and brutal. The depictions of gore are wet and juicy, the dark and squalid surroundings in some of the settings are completely tangible, and the oppressive emotion regarding the varied sins you'll come across in the novella are incredible. Rich, full fleshed and disturbing images abound in this piece of work. It's like reading the literary equivalent of a deliciously dark painting.

The demons that appear in this book are phenomenal in description and design. The beginning of each chapter features a wicked picture of the demon to be featured in the following chapter. All of the drawings were done by the Author, making this novella a huge treat to those who love their art as much as their literature. Seriously, Faust has such a handle on so many facets of the genre, I'm not even going to hesitate to say that this is someone who is going to go very, very far.

Faust's writing is tight, making this book incredibly hard to put down. I was disappointed to see it end, but incredibly pleased that the author had left it open for future volumes. I'm looking forward to following Marcus' adventures in the underworld.

Check out Faust's website here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

You can pick up a limited edition copy of Regret in October 2010 at the Dark Regions website, here.


Tuesday, September 21

Succumbing To Gravity by Richard Farnsworth

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect when I cracked this one open. I tend to find that fiction that focuses on angels, demons, and horror do one of two things. They either re-invent something that didn't need to be re-invented, actively deterring the reader from getting past the first act in the book, or it takes all of the major conventions of the genre and plays them out in a well ordered way - entertaining the reader, but ultimately leaving no distinct impressions that can be seen to advance the genre.

Succumbing To Gravity does neither. In fact, I'd say that this book is a complete standout in terms of this theme. Farnsworth not only grabs the reader with his eloquent and accomplished writing style, but he also takes you on the type of trip that is sorely needed in horror these days.

Greg used to be an angel, but that was an eternity ago. Back when he was Araqiel, part of the celestial chorus. Back before he gave in to his temptations. Before he fell. Now he roams the wet streets of a hopeless city, feeding his addictions and punishing himself for sins that cannot be forgiven. But when a desperate girl and a host of vengeful demons cross his path, Greg must choose between redemption and damnation. For him, the two may not be so different.

I'm no stranger to dark fiction with a religious theme. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's my preferred sub-genre of horror fiction. The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, and various others, are books that I consider to be my favorites. If you dig deep enough, you'll even find a review of Dark Sacrament - a book detailing to accounts of 2 priests and their "adventures" in exorcism. The idea that there are things out there - steeped in faith and believing - that are out to get us, is an incredibly versatile and terrifying prospect.

Farnsworth uses the above mentioned themes in order to achieve something awesome, investing the reader in the exploits of a fallen angel and making us actually give a damn. The main character is both charismatic and pathetic, eliciting a one-two combo of sympathy and disgust. Personally, I found him to be most satisfying. The one liners in his dialogue are delivered beautifully, providing the reader an opportunity to laugh at the same time as being completely concerned by the harrowing situation that Greg is currently in. Greg (a heroin addicted fallen angel) is a fantastic example of how to write the sort of anti-hero that the comic world, and most detective fiction is completely reliant on. It's a relief to read someone like him.

The story itself is very tightly written and pulled off with a seasoned expertise expected from authors with multiple offerings. The fact that this is Farnsworth's first outing is almost unbelievable. The only thing I feel I should warn readers about is the multiple angles that this story is presented in. Starting off in First Person, the reader may well be a little put off by the sudden switch to Third Person narrative a chapter or two later. The back and forth/1st to 3rd switching happens throughout the novel, but very much to it's benefit. The ability to not only lose one's self in the descriptive beauty in the 3rd person perspective is great, but to also know exactly what's going on in the main character's head is very satisfying. I wouldn't usually entertain (or even suggest) the use of perspective hopping, but this book is obviously an example of how to do it right.

Another high point to the descriptive quality is Farnsworth's ability to envision scenes of beauty as well as fleshing out some of the most brutal scenes of violence I've read yet. They're pretty few and far between, but man...when Farnsworth wants to get visceral, he does so with an intensity capable of slapping a beaming smile on the face of most seasoned gore hounds. The beauty of the scenes coupled with the sadness and desperation of the main character's situation plays well against the few scenes of utter destruction and gore. In essence, this novel has something for absolutely everyone. Actionwise, Farnsworth's fight coreography is second to none. When the fist start flyin', you better watch out.

Succumbing To Gravity is a story that pushes some serious boundaries in the realm of horror fiction - never really settling in as the standard fare, but also fitting in quite nicely. Farnsworth's debut novel should be on everyone's "to be read" pile, if not already safely tucked away on the bookshelf for repeated reading.

You can check out Richard Farnsworth's website here, and order a copy of Succumbity To Gravity on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle editions.

Also check out Reliquary Press at their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. And remember: buy direct from the source and keep the small press alive.


Saturday, September 11

Jason Dark - Vol 2: Theater Of Vampires by Guido Henkel

In the mood for a bit of the old-school, pulpy horror in the vein of those great old penny dreadfuls? Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter Vol. 2 - Theater Of Vampires, will fill that want, and leave you satisfied.

When stage magic isn't what it seems, Jason Dark turns to an old friend for help. Explore the shadows of the Victorian Theater with London's most famous Geisterjäger as he confronts a horror beyond anything yet confronted. "Theater of Vampires" is a story of betrayal, discovery, and horror in the tradition of the Grand Guignol. The only admission price needed is your courage.

Henkel really delivers a blast from the past with this foray into the Jason Dark series, whipping the reader into victorian London, and a story infused with a darkness and an adventurous spirit. The over the top feel of this short book is great, giving the reader enough information to become lost in the story, but also delivering the goods in terms of action scenes and "edge of your seat" drama.

The character, Sin Liu, was incredibly sexy and - by the end - really a very powerful female character. I loved the way that Henkel played his entire cast against each other, making them jump right off the page in a grand way.

I'd love to see this turned into something in a different media - maybe a TV show or some graphic novels. The idea of turning this series into a series of radio shows isn't too bad either. The imagery involved really begs to be seen/heard as well as read. The magazine-style format is awesome to hold, and really adds to the nostalgic feel of the stories, but Jason Dark very much deserves something bigger and brighter than this small package. The idea presented here is something different from what we're seeing these days - deserving more notice in the horror comunity, and the popular culture at large.

Also, check out Chris Alexander's write up on the Jason Dark series in issue #296 of Fangoria. Alexander calls the Jason Dark series "a cult of sophisticated fiends who like their terror full of elegant dread and Victorian charm" and thinks the series "is briskly paced pulp fiction full of shivery intrigue that aims to do only one thing: entertain." He couldn't be more right.

Henkel really has something special on his hands here. Slake your thirst for some old school horror in the style of the Grand Guignol at the Jason Dark website, or contact Henkel on Facebook and Twitter.


Friday, September 10

Horror Library: Volume 3 by R.J. Cavender

I've read my fair share of horror compilations and anthologies, but rarely do I encounter a collection as well fleshed out as this. R.J. Cavender really went all out with this volume, presenting 30 interesting, unique, provocative, and - at some points - truly terrifying short stories to keep you up at night, and make you look at the world in a different way.

There's no real way to synopise something like this, but I can tell you that you're not going to waste your money if you pick this one up. The players involved run from little known authors, all the way to the more frequently seen names of the genre.

Here's an idea as to what you can expect:

Cavender and Boyd E. Harris start things off right with Lavese las Manos - an introduction that reads like a story itself. In fact, I thought I was reading a lead off story until the end, as what they present here are some seriously scary, chilling images of the world we live in.

Them, by Sunil Sadanand, tells the story of a man infected with a parasite not unlike the hairworms that you might find infecting/brainwashing an insect. Sadanand's take on this is obviously more intense - replacing the insect host with a human - resulting in an awesome display of his descriptive prowess.

Short Stacked, by Rodney J. Smith, a wicked little story about betting more than you can afford on a game. I loved this one. Smith's writing style is great and reminded me of Ketchum and some of the early Splatterpunk writers.

Being Supreme, by Mark Justice, gives us a little taste as to what it's like to sit down with God. A funny and dark little story - this one won't leave your brain any time soon.

The Station, by Bentley Little, has a great feel - written by a true master of the macabre. Little has given us a new perspective to think from when faced with the eternal question - what happens when we die? Truly unique.

Extra Innings, by John Peters, is a superb little story about a baseball team that never loses, and how far they will go to prove that. This was really a great treat, as I've rarely ever come across anything so refreshing and interesting in a horror anthology.

Fish Bait, by John Everson, is an awesome story that really has to be read by all. Everson's take on a backwoods little town and their dirty little secrets was a shining point in this book. I absolutely loved it.

The Apocalypse Ain't So Bad, by Jeff Strand, was - hands down - my favorite story in the whole book. A very funny, sarcastic, and...well...Jeff Strand take on the end of the world, from the perspective of a lone survivor. The world has been overrun with zombies, and the main character finds himself in several interesting situations. Personally, I think Strand should turn this story into a novel. You'll agree once you read it.

I have to say something about the cover here. I don't usually talk about artwork on this site mainly because I'm focussed on the content of the book itself - not the cover. But seriously, this series has some of the most incredible covers I have ever seen. The cover of Volume 3 (as you can see above) features a 3 faced priest with an inverted cross hanging from his neck. If that image doesn't stay with you for life, you've got to be blind. From what I've seen, every cover is incredible, and I would have these in my collection just for that fact alone.

Overall, this book is incredible. At no point did I feel I was reading the work of an amateur, and every story evoked something strong from me. Cavender has shared a really impressive set of stories with us. I would wholeheartedly suggest this to anyone who likes short stories.

Check out Cutting Block Press at their website. You can buy the book direct from them, and on Amazon and various other online retailers. Also available - Horror Library volumes 1 & 2. Look for Volume 4 to hit the streets in Early Fall 2010.

Submissions for Volume 5 are now being accepted for a publication date of 2011 in Trade Paperback Format.


Thursday, September 9

Siren by John Everson

A lot of people have been calling what John Everson is doing "Dark Romance" or claiming it to be a hybrid of horror and romance. While I don't disagree, after reading his latest offering - Siren - I do have to say that they're missing something. What's that?

Quote me on this: John Everson is the king of Erotic Horror.

That's what it is, folks. Everson writes Erotic Horror at it's best.

Night after night, Evan walked along the desolate beach, grieving over the loss of his son, drowned in an accident more than a year before.

Then one night he was drawn to the luminous sound of a beautiful, naked woman singing near the shore in the moonlight. He watched mesmerized as the mysterious woman disappeared into the sea. Driven by desire and temptation, Evan returned to the spot every night until he found her again. Now he has begun a bizarre, otherworldly affair. A deadly affair. For Evan will soon realize that his seductive lover is a being far more evil…and more terrifying…than he ever imagined.

He will learn the danger of falling into the clutches of the… SIREN

Everson has really reached outside of his usual fare with this one, crafting one of the greatest love-story-gone-awry scenarios and presenting it to a genre that didn't see it coming. The beauty of the story is that Evan's plight is something that every red-blooded man can feel sympathetic to. Eventually - over the course of the story - Evan comes back to reality, but his actions have caused a chain of events that will not be satisfied with the simple utterance of "it's over". The story really ends up being a study about how our lives can sometimes take unexpected turns when we make the wrong choices. Evan is a clear example of a worst case scenario.

The character of Ligeia is by far one of the most mystical and sexy creatures I've come across in horror today. The way Everson writes her, the reader almost instantaneously falls in love, only to find him/herself troubled by the notion that something is definitely rotten in Denmark. Revealed in a sort of back and forth/past and present - way of storytelling, we eventually learn the secrets behind her life, and come to appreciate what it is she actually does. In doing so, I think Everson has created one of the most deadly villains that exist out there: A woman who is viscious, nasty, and yet very easy to feel sympathetic towards.

So that's both sides you feel for, right? Wrong. In the end, you're left having to make a very personal choice. What I loved so much about this book is that it really gets under your skin. Everson has this way of tapping into the very essence of who the reader is, making him/her question what they actually believe deep down in themselves. I know I was shocked when the book ended and found myself gradually re-evaluating my priorities in life. I'm not saying that you'll have the same reaction, but Everson was really able to hit me in a very emotional way with Siren.

The writing is tighter than an airlock, the scenes just absolutely bleeding off the page, leaving you with the taste of saltwater in your mouth, begging for mercy. The musical influence is readily apparent in the storytelling, giving you a sort of inside look at where Everson was coming from with this one. It's almost as if you can really hear the music coming off the pages.

Now, it has to be said that with this whole Leisure/Dorchester business going on, you're going to have a wee bit of trouble tracking this one down in the MMPB format. Luckily, it's also available from Bad Moon Books in a limited edition hardcover. The cover for the Leisure edition is beautiful, but you really have to take a look at the BMB cover. It's something seriously sexy.

Check out Everson's website here, contact him on Facebook and Twitter, and grab a copy of the Leisure edition of Siren while you still can. Being that it's one of two of the last books they'll print in that format, you can bet they'll be collector's items soon.

Also, check out Everson's small press - Dark Arts Books - for some incredibly awesome looking stuff.


Wednesday, September 8

Desperate Souls by Gregory Lamberson

Usually, after I finish a book, I like to let it sit and stew in my brain so I can gather my thoughts, you know, really get a grip on how I felt about it. When it comes to The Jake Helman Files I find that impossible. Read on and see why.

They’re not breathing. That’s why they’re so still. But that’s not possible . . .

Eleven months after battling Nicholas Tower and the demon Cain, Jake Helman has set up shop as a private investigator in Lower Manhattan. When a woman hires Jake to prove that her dead grandson is dealing a deadly new drug called “Black Magic” on a Brooklyn street corner, Jake uncovers a vicious drug lord’s plot to use voodoo to seize control of the city.

While panic grips New York City, Jake Helman battles gun-wielding zombie assassins, hallucinations, and betrayal at every corner. But voodoo creates more terrors than zombies, and Jake finds himself poised on the edge of insanity as he fights to restore the soul of the one person he trusts.

The first chapter of this novel alone is worth every single moment of aguish that I experienced waiting for the follow up to Lamberson's first novel in The Jake Helman Files - Personal Demons. The following 27 chapters (plus epilogue) sealed the deal, leaving me utterly satisfied and yet still jonesing for the next installment. Lamberson has really outdone himself this time around, solidifying Jake Helman as one of my all-time favorite characters in horror today.

Seriously folks, cross genre fiction doesn't get better than this.

Like the previous book, it's go - go - go from the start, blending equal parts frenetic comic book style, and seasoned police procedural thriller. Lamberson delivers the goods early on, setting up characters that play beautifully against Helman, while hurrying the story along in a quick and dirty way. The way that the author blends the back story in is also remarkable, as it doesn't detract from the current read in the least. You'll feel like you already know what went down in the first book, making this one just as good as a stand alone novel. It would be my suggestion that you read the first though, as it has some incredible scenes that you really shouldn't miss.

Now, I've mentioned before that Lamberson has a way with giving the invested reader a severe emotional beat-down of sorts. That is also very much the case with this book. In fact, there was a point where I had to put the book down for a moment - the scene was so shocking and came out of nowhere. Like I said in the Frenzy Way review, when you fall in love with a character in a Lamberson story - something bad is going to happen to them. I'm going to leave it at that. If you're someone who loves Jake Helman, you're going to be in for some serious surprises here - but man is it satisfying.

The overall feel of the book is very much the same as the first. The only difference here is that Lamberson has really tweaked his story arcs, tightened up his dialogue, and really given his all to the development of every facet of the story. I wouldn't be wrong to say that this is the best piece that Lamberson has presented to his reading audience. In fact, the only bad part of the book was the blank page following the end of the story. I walked away from this book completely satisfied and ready to take on Cosmic Forces upon it's release in October 2011 - from Medallion Press.

You can read more about The Jake Helman Files at the Medallion Press website and on Lamberson's personal website. If you're looking to contact Lamberson, check him out on Facebook, Twitter, and on LiveJournal.

Lamberson and Medallion Press are hosting an interactive signing on Saturday, September 11th. The cost is $18 (the purchase of the book) and will include a chatroom and live webcam feed. He will personalize the book, and Medallion will ship it to you on Monday. Readers who take part will receive their copies of Desperate Souls 2 weeks in advance of the public. Register for the signing here.

Also, it should be noted that has purchased the rights to both Personal Demons and Desperate Souls for audio books. As a fan of that medium, I really couldn't be more excited.


Wednesday, August 25

Temporary Monsters by Ian Rogers

"The waiter got killed before he could drop off the bill."

Who wouldn't be sucked into a story with an opening line like that? Jack Ketchum gave a guest lecture - at The Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop in 2009 - about the importance of a killer first line. He went so far as to throw a book at someone in order to demonstrate how important it is to get their attention right off the bat. If Ian Rogers had been at that workshop, I can guarantee the would have floored everyone there. I know I was when I opened this chapbook for the first time. And that was only the beginning.

Felix Renn is a private investigator in a supernatural world, and alternate reality where a dark dimension called The Black Lands co-exists alongside our own. Travelling to and from The Black Lands is dangerous - and illegal - but that doesn't stop some of the creatures that reside there from crossing over into our world from time to time.

After a man goes berserk in a posh Toronto restaurant, Felix suddenly finds himself torm between both worlds as he is drawn into a deadly game of movies, murder, and monsters.

That synopsis doesn't even begin to touch upon how great this little, 37 page chapbook really is. The power of Rogers' wit and the imagery that he manages to pack into such a tight little bundle, is much larger and well honed than a chapbook can possibly fathom to contain. It's a shame that the book wasn't longer, that's for sure, as Rogers only begins to touch upon something that begs to be fully fleshed out in a much longer format.

The main character - Felix Renn - is among some of my favorite characters of all time. An anti-hero of sorts, Renn has unquestionable ability to hold his own as life slings crap at him from all directions, while delivering witty and sarcastic remarks pertaining to what is going on in the moment. His one liners are the stuff of a writers dreams, rarely ever axhieved with such perfect timing and pinache. This is only one of the reasons why this story should be turned into a multi book series. Rogers has definitely created an incredibly memorable and interesting character with Renn. With an acerbic wit like that, I doubt anyone would be able to forget him any time soon.

That said, I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to get ahold of this little gem. It's surely an incredible introduction to what Canada has to offer by way of horror authors. You can pick it up from Burning Effigy Press for $8(Cdn), or try to grab a copy at the Festival of Fear - happening this weekend (Aug 26 - 28) at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, presented by Rue Morgue Magazine.

It's should also be noted that another Felix Renn story will be available via Burning Effigy in Sept 2010 called "The Ash Angels" and another in the Canadian horror anthology - Chilling Tales - in March 2011 titled "My Body".

Ian is also currently working on an "X-Files meets Arrested Development" - Sci/Fi Satire, after which he will promptly get to work on a full length Felix Renn novel - lest he be banished to The Black Lands, himself.

Follow Ian Rogers on Twitter, or check out his website. Also, check out The Black Lands website here (coming soon).


Abolisher Of Roses by Gary Fry

In January 2011, Spectral Press dropped a great little chapbook on us called ' What They Hear In The Dark ' by Gary McMahon. With th...