Thursday, January 27
What They Hear In The Dark by Gary McMahon
Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate - to patch things up and make the building habitable.
The both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.
Then they found the Quiet Room.
In a very short 22 pages, McMahon achieves what some horror authors can't seem to pull off in a full length novel, proving that finding chills, thrills, and absolute terror, is completely possible in short fiction. And McMahon pulls this off beautifully with incredible description and wonderfully beautiful prose. The pain and emotion of the two main characters is absolutely palpable, making this a very quick, but also very tough read (in a good way). It's hard feeling for the characters in a story, but especially so, if the author is someone like McMahon - who seems to be able to make the subject matter so personal that you feel you're intimately involved in their lives.
Every aspect of this story is frought with a haunting menace that barely even begins to describe the terror within. The most perfect part of this story lies in the fact that everything is almost entirely left up to the reader to imagine. Granted, McMahon steers the story this way and that in order to bring the reader on a very specific course, but he also imbues the tale with enough vague references and emotional disturbances to make you feel completely out of control, but also able to recognize the fact that the author has you safely nestled in the palm of his hand. It's very hard to take your eyes off the page once the writer hits his stride.
The atmosphere is gloomy and dim, bringing to mind some of the darkest tales of sadness and sorrow I've ever read. The whole thing feels...grey. It's almost like everything was designed to make you feel whatever you want to feel, but also directing the reader on a very dedicated path. McMahon is truly a brilliant writer, and this small taste speaks volumes as to his wonderful talent.
Don't miss out on this little chapbook. Again, it's a quick read, but completely worth it and very re-readable. Every read-through will bring new images to mind, taking you on a journey of sorrow, despair, and emotional terror - time and time again.
You can visit Spectral Press' website here. Information on how to grab a copy of this chapbook can be found here, and you can check out the author's website here.
Friday, January 21
Bleed For You by Michael Louis Calvillo
Love sucks. Just ask Freddy. The little geek’s hot girlfriend keeps promising him that she’ll do the right thing and break up with her other boyfriend, their high school’s star quarterback, but what do you know? She never seems to get around to it.
It drives poor Freddy nuts and has him shaking his fists at the cruel heavens. The virgin blood boiling in his veins can’t wait. An official team of doctors have officially confirmed his ability to love and have given his emotional meter their seal of approval. No more hospitals. No more meds. Free and clear.
So never mind the baseball bat hidden behind his back (it’s precautionary, you know?). Oh, and never mind the hacksaw stashed in the lining of his trench coat (more precaution). Freddy is in love, and though it sucks, it makes everything all right. It makes everything in his scrambled brain smooth and clear. And when he says, “Girl, I bleed for you,” he means it just how he says it and not the other way around.I honestly can't believe I wasn't introduced to Calvillo's writing before now. If I had been, and if this novella was any indication of his standard storytelling ability, I would have been waiting with baited breath for this piece. Guaranteed.
Like I mentioned above, this is one tight and brutal piece of fiction. The writing style is very succinct, allowing the reader to visualize just enough in order to get the feel for what Calvillo is trying to convey with his words, which is exactly what makes this story so damned enthralling. The author has a way of cherry-picking the most incredible combinations of words, and honing in on the exact emotion he wants you to feel - a skill most writers can only dream of. The fact that he does with in such short bursts only goes to prove how massive this writer's talent is, and begs roughly the same question as I've stated above: Why haven't I heard of this author before?
The main character - Freddy - is of the complicated variety, eliciting a varied amount of responses from the reader; most of which include shock at how one could possibly side with someone so utterly...well...fucked up. There's a beauty to something like this though. While you're morally condemning this character's thought processes and actions, you can't help but cheer him on, aided by the voice of the geeky little underdog that lives inside your head. He's lonely, he's sad, but he's also a little more than pissed off. I don't know about you, but I can name a legion of males, aged 13 to dead, who can identify with this character in one way or another. But rest assured, Freddy is one sick puppy.
Calvillo really brings you on an incredibly emotional journey here. The ups and downs that the main character experiences are absolutely palpable. They just lift right off the page and smack you in the mouth with every turn of the page. The action is almost constant, and even when it isn't, the story line just zips along smoothly. There are rocky bits here and there, but they all involve the reader actually trying to stomach the scenes that the author has laid out for the taking. I'm not kidding when I say that this is one seriously brutal read.
In spite of the bloodsoaked gore-fest, this is essentially a love story told with a main character that is, quite obviously, mentally disturbed. This does not detract from the reader connecting with the main character at all, though, but instead kind of sets the stage for a grand reveal that is absolutely mind blowing.
When Calvillo wants to shock - he shocks. When he wants to 'wow' - oh boy does he 'WOW'!. But let it be said: there is a method to this man's madness, and an incredible talent the likes of which we don't see in the bigger markets very often.
I'd say that this is one of the strongest novellas I have read in a very long time. Definitely worth the cash, alright. Right down to the cover art, which is phenomenal, and very fitting for the content of the story. In fact, it didn't dawn on me that the cover is that perfect until after I'd finished reading. Brilliant.
If you like your horror literature bloody, emotional, sometimes hard to stomach, and fast paced...you're going to want to go and get this book, pronto.
Go get this book. It's available in a limited mini-hardcover run of 150 ($19.95 - preorder price), but also as a digital copy ($4.95). You can pre-order here, and check out the rest of Delirium Books products here.
Check out more of Calvillo's work at his website. Based on my experience with this novella, I'm going to go out of my way to pick up everything this man has ever written.
Monday, January 17
Audible Releases 'The Jake Helman Files' in audio book format
My favorite horror/crime series of books was just released in Audio book format by Audible.com!
That's right! You can now pick up Greg Lamberson's Personal Demons and Desperate Souls, both from the Jake Helman Files series, in Audio Book format for your listening pleasure.
Here's the release I received:
AUDIBLE.COM RELEASES AUDIO BOOKS BASED ON THE FIRST TWO VOLUMES OF AUTHOR GREGORY LAMBERSON'S
'THE JAKE HELMAN FILES' HARDBOILED HORROR SERIES.
Audible.com has simultaneously released two audio books based on author Gregory Lamberson’s hardboiled horror series, The Jake Helman Files: PERSONAL DEMONS and DESPERATE SOULS. Both audio books are narrated by Christopher Hurt, who narrated audio versions of THE FOUNTAINHEAD and FHARENHEIT 451.
The Jake Helman Files tells the story of ex-cop turned occult detective Helman, who finds himself embroiled in the supernatural at every turn. In the first book, PERSONAL DEMONS, Helman tangles with a serial killer who steals the souls of his victims, a reclusive billionaire, and the Biblical Cain and Abel. In DESPERATE SOULS, his foe is a voodoo priestess who uses a drug called Black Magic to create an army of zombies in New York City. Print and e-book editions of the novels are available from Medallion Press; PERSONAL DEMONS won the IPPY Gold Medal for Horror in 2010.
“I love crime drama and noir as much as I do horror,” says Lamberson, director of the cult horror film SLIME CITY and its new sequel, SLIME CITY MASSACRE, “and I love combining these genres. Jake Helman is as informed by THE MALTESE FALCON and the TV series WISEGUY as he is by the creations of Clive Barker and Stephen King. Action is the unifying thread, but the action Jake finds himself in tends to be a lot bloodier than that faced by other hardboiled heroes. Surprise is the real key.”
Lamberson is pleased to see his character debuting in other media. “The first book, PERSONAL DEMONS, was based on an unproduced screenplay I wrote back in the late 1980s, after I made SLIME CITY. I knew the script was too ambitious to do on the budgets I make movies on, so it went into a drawer until around 2000. After 9/11, I developed it as a novel, which took a few years. When it was published by a small press in 2004, I started fantasizing about the sequels. Before I knew it, I had a fairly intricate arc mapped out for the first six books. I love the idea of the audio books because they remind me of the old radio serials, and they still leave a lot to the imagination. I’d love to see Jake fighting for his life in comics, and of course in movies.”
The author has already completed two more novels in the series for Medallion: COSMIC FORCES, which will be published this October, and TORTURED SPIRITS, due in 2012. “I told Adam Mock, the president of Medallion Media Group, that I want to do at least 10 of these Jake Helman books. In truth, I’d like to write a lot more than that, as I’m a real fan of pulp novels and continuing characters. But I plan to write at least six, which will complete the story I set out to write. Jake suffers a lot more than most other heroes who battle the supernatural. I love subjecting him to physical and emotional torture, and as long as he can take what I dish out, we’ll keep going.”Lamberson previously wrote JOHNNY GRUESOME, winner of the IPPY Gold Medal for Horror in 2009, and the critically acclaimed werewolf novel THE FRENZY WAY. SLIME CITY MASSACRE will be released by Media Blasters sometime this year.
Now, I don't know about you, but I'm hopping on this chance. For the Lamberson fan - and completist - you're not going to want to go without it.
For more information, check out the following links:
Lamberson’s website – www.slimeguy.com
Personal Demons Audio Book
Desperate Souls Audio Book
Friday, January 14
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
"Oh yay, another review of Full Dark, No Stars."
As if everybody and their mother hasn't reviewed this book already, right?
Well, I haven't reviewed this book, and being that I just finished the darkest, meanest, and most violent of all of Stephen King's books that I've read, I'm going to damn well review it.
Here's what happened.
Fair Extension is the 3rd story in this collection and is based around the idea of childhood friends and the hatred that is harboured in the heart of one, for another. The whole premise struck me as incredible when I started reading it. The idea that someone would have to choose between their own health, and the health and lives of others - for decidedly greedy and overtly sinister purposes - and then show little or no remorse in the end is, to me, one of the most incredibly mean things that I've come across in a while.
I applaud Mr. King for taking this road, as it is really the road less traveled.
When I spoke of emotion in terms of Big Driver, I was relating it to visceral and descriptive emotion. Fair Extension hits you somewhere else. It grabs you by the collar and gets in your face, demanding to know if you'd sacrifice someone else for your own purposes. Granted, none of us will probably ever see the day when we'll have to make a decision like that, but Dave Streeter, the main character in the story, is faced with that dilemma, and deals with it the way he sees fit.
I appreciate the fact that King made this such a bleak and uncompromising story. It was a very welcome breath of fresh (albeit claustrophobic) air, and really grabbed the title and made perfect use of it.
The last story in the collection is A Good Marriage, which centers around the premise that you really can't tell who someone is until their secrets are revealed.
This story is so powerful, and so well written, that it's hard to even compare it to the rest. It was by far my favorite of the four. King was right to end off with this one, as it has all the hallmarks of a brilliantly written horror story.
The characters are absolutely easy to sympathise with, the set up is one that you really wouldn't know what was coming (if you hadn't read the cover sleeve), the vast and indescribably painful transformation that the wife in the story goes through is just heartbreaking, and the whole vibe is about as dark as complete and utter nothingness. King really let fly by putting Darcy in a heartwrenching predicament, and eventually put her through her paces. It's amazing that King himself was able to walk away from this one, as it really made me look at everything in a different light when I was done.
Overall, while I did enjoy Full Dark, No Stars, I did have the feeling taht King was 'holding back' with where he could have taken the stories. There's no doubt that this is some of the most extreme work of his that I've read (outside of his entry in Skipp's Book Of The Dead - Home Delivery, which was absolutely brutal, and one of my favorite zombie short stories of all time).
Based on this experience, I will be tackling some of King's other works, and will do so with a renewed appreciation for the one people call "The Master of Horror".
You can check out the author at his website, and grab Full Dark, No Stars at pretty much any location where books can be bought. Also, make sure you check out the website for the book itself, which has some incredible online peripherals, such as 'A Conversation with the Author', and other great treats for any fan of horror fiction.
Sunday, January 9
Rock and Roll Reform School Zombies by Bryan Smith
Sex, Death, and Heavy Metal! If you're a teenage metal head The Southern Illinois Music Reeducation Center is not the place you want to go. The center specializes in "de-metaling" - a treatment to cure teens of their metal loving, devil worshiping ways. A program that subjects its prisoners to sexual abuse, torture, and brain-washing. But tonight things get much worse. Tonight the flesh-eating zombies come . . .
I'm not going to lie, I wanted this one based solely on the title and the lurid cover art. It also helps that Bryan Smith is one of my all time favorite writers - someone who has the flair and style reminiscent of Laymon, but also style so brutal and unforgiving that he's etched out his own standing in the horror genre. What's not to love? Blood is spilled, taboo's are not just broken, but destroyed, and copious amounts of fun are to be had in this latest release. And yes, I'm biased. There isn't a Bryan Smith book out there that I haven't loved. This is obviously no exception.
From the get-go, Smith sets the stage for a rollicking good time. The characters in this novella have been seeminly ripped right out of the 80s metal past, inspired by the awesome slasher flicks of (what is my opinion) the greatest decade in cinema, and thrown with an audible splat, onto the pages of this book. The descriptions are spot on as well. Denim is worn, rock band t-shirts displayed, school girl outfits are vividly described (and removed...). You name it, Smith has recreated it.
I seriously doubt you'll be able to resist headbanging along with the tunes that are name-dropped here, either. As someone who is known to have a very serious love for music, Smith brings that feeling directly into the story. Some of his critical scenes are punctuated with the characters putting tapes in the stereo in their car, and every chapter is a different song title from bands that the author enjoys. I have to say, they're all beautifully well placed as well.
Monday, January 3
Deathwatch by Lisa Mannetti
Saturday, January 1
Good bye, 2010. Get goin', now.
And, for all intents and purposes, I won't...but I have to say something, right? I mean...this year has been fucking huge, hasn't it?
So how do I feel about it?
Yeah. You can see how I feel about 2010 by taking a look at that picture to the left there (which I appropriated from my wife's site - KinderScares - Thank you, hon.).
Covered in blood.
Drinking far too much coffee.
It's been an absolutely brutal year. For all of us, I think. Not only have we lost waaaay too many people (I'm lookin' at 3 + 1 beloved cat, myself), but we've also seen the end of an era in the publishing world with the dissolving of Leisure/Dorchester's mass market paperback division.
Their mmpb division, I've gotta tell you, is the reason I started this goddamned review site in the first place, and exactly why I called it "Paperback Horror" and not something like "I-like-to-read-horror-books-and-talk-about-them.com. Now you can pretty much understand why I took that news badly.
It's all good though. We can make due without that format, right? Right.
But what of the authors who were contracted to them? Leisure's folding of their mmpb format lost the general public quick-and-easy bookstore access to the likes of Jeff Strand, Gord Rollo, Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, Ronald Malfi, John Skipp, J.F. Gonzalez, Bryan Smith, Wrath James White, and so many others. Not to mention robbing us of seeing Joel A. Sutherland's Leisure debut with Frozen Blood sooner (fret not - it will be released digitally in May 2011).
But more importantly, that move also lost a shit-ton of authors their bread and butter. How many people saw fine authors hitting the message boards, wondering what the hell was going on? I saw 'em, and my heart bleeds for them.
In the most extreme case I've seen, Brian Keene up and took all of his rights back (with good reason) and was forced to take things into his own hands. What a tough choice that must have been. I can't imagine having to do something like that.
If I had the money, I'd start my own publishing house and pay them all myself.
But I can't.
And that kills me sometimes.
But looking at all of this in retrospect, looking at the crap we've all been handed, at the collapse of some great publishing houses (Necro Publications went away on June 9th, 2010), the publishing world's push into the digital era, the tanking of the economy, the fighting, the pain, the hardship and the horror; there has to be a light at the end...right?
As with most good fiction, that's up to you - the reader - to decide.
Do you suspend your disbelief, enjoying the tale? Or do you walk away from the story, taking away only the spelling mistakes, grammar mishaps, and plot holes that can be overlooked because of the absolute brilliance of what you've just experienced?
I learned a lesson this year. I learned that no matter how hard you try, someone is always going to want to whoop your ass back down below, down to where they think you belong. And most of the time...well...most of the time that someone is going to be ourselves.
It's time we broke out of the rut and headed for higher ground. We all deserve it, do we not?
Greg Lamberson has been busting his ass for how many years?, and now he's sitting on top of one of the best genre series that I've ever read. Not to mention the fact that he's just released Slime City Massacre - the sequel to his cult classic - Slime City. A great feat, if I do say so myself.
Brian Keene took his lumps (and how!) but he's back up with his own book imprint, a beautiful (and massively talented) fiancee, an incredible list of upcoming projects, and the beginnings of what look to be an incredible future in publishing.
John Everson is seeing 2 of his books turned into audio books, Oshawa, Ontario saw the first ever Darklit Fest of Durham, courtesy of Joel A. Sutherland (and it was a smashing success), Rue Morgue Magazine has topped the lists of many people as 'the best horror mag in the world', Steve Vernon won the Rannu Fund award for his piece of poetry - Barren, and so many other incredible things.
What else did we see? A massive amount of incredible books. So many, that I didn't get to review on this website, but will in the coming year.
I met so many incredible people, and I want to take a moment to let you know that I appreciate you more than anything. This year alone, I met:
John Everson - The king of erotic horror, who is also an incredible influence and an amazing, big hearted person.
There are so many other people.
This year, when I think about it, has actually been a year that has opened my eyes. I've had a lot of doors open up, and a lot more slam shut in my face.
But through it all, my incredible wife has stood and weathered the storm right by my side. Without her, I don't even think I'd still be here. She's the most loving, intelligent, creative person I've ever known. (She's also incredibly hot...which always helps) I'm looking forward to facing 2011 with her, and owning the hell out of it.
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...
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