Monday, April 25

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 that publication, Spectral Press peaked my interest, and satisfied my need for a emotional and evocative story.

This time around, Spectral is offering up an intense, emotional, and psychologically-challenging read with Abolisher Of Roses by Gary Fry, cementing themselves as a press to watch, and delivering yet another incredible piece of short fiction.

It's not always the guilty who have the darkest secrets...

Peter has been married to Patricia for nearly thirty years. He's a practical man, the owner of a thriving factory, and the father of two fine lads.

He also has a secret mistress.

One day, his wife takes him along to an outdoor arts exhibition involving some of her paintings, staged in a dark, deep wood.

But his are not the only secrets in this marriage, and as Peter strays off the only path through the woods, he soon realizes that Patricia has more than a few secrets of her own...

A powerful piece is always a great treat, and this story is just that. Psychologically gripping, Abolisher Of Roses makes the reader take a look at infidelity and relationships from a different angle. The relationship presented in this chapbook, between a husband and wife, is a perfect example of the idea that sometimes our past indiscretions can catch up to us and make us pay in the strangest of ways.

What the author does here is phenomenal. The story starts off at a walking pace, coaxing the reader into thinking that they're looking at a sleepy little tale, only to amp up the pressure like a slow cooker, and eventually throttling the reader into a forceful introspection of their own deeds. Fry decidedly plays with the imagination in a wonderful way, offering very subtle instances of creepiness that will haunt the reader long after the story is finished.

The characters are well played out, the setting and surrounding ambiance are delightfully transgressive, and the overall feeling is a mixture of a semi-sedated, creeping terror and an outright finger-in-the-face kind of accusation that makes this read feel like a roller coaster ride to certain doom.

Fans of UK horror will definitely love this story, and those who are unfamiliar with them will be in for a treat. This is definitely something to grab and throw yourself into.

Get a (very limited) copy of Abolisher Of Roses here, and check out Spectral Press' website here. You can also check out Gary Fry's website here. You can purchase a yearly subscription to Spectral's chapbooks (1 year, 4 volumes) at their website.

On another note, here is a video trailer for the story:


Friday, April 15

Multiplex Fandango by Weston Ochse

Multiplex Fandango. Say it. Multi-plex Fan-dan-go.

It's beautiful, isn't it? Just rolls off the tongue.

It’s almost as beautiful and satisfying as the book you may now be holding in your hands, or reading a review about. What we’re seeing here is quite possibly the most comfortable, relaxed, and expert takeover that the horror genre has ever seen.

With Multiplex Fandango, Weston Ochse has created an incredible collection, and has given the reader one of the smoothest, most satisfying reads they could ever come across. To drive the point home, Joe Landsdale says in the intro that "This is a book that could almost have been written for me.", but I disagree - this book was written for anyone looking for imaginative, intelligent, and throughly awe-inspiring, but strangely uplifting scares that force the reader to think more than react.


Multiplex Fandango is subtitled "A Weston Ochse Reader" for good reason. This collection contains a comprehensive representation of short fiction and novellas by the Bram Stoker award winner and Pushcart Prize nominee... (read more)

Not much of a synopsis I know, but then, there really is no way to synopsize this brilliant work. That we go.

There are 16 short stories and novellas presented herein, 6 of which were written for this volume, with each and every one just as, if not more, impressive as the last. Ochse's words read like the poetry of a madman - urgent and direct, at the same time as being beautifully timed and designed to evoke emotions from deep inside. The reader can't help but be absolutely enthralled by this wordsmith's grand visions and engaging dialogue. This is a book that is virtually impossible to put down.

Pieces like Tarzan Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Fugue on the Sea of Cortez, The Sad Last Love of Cary Grant, and Catfish Gods speak of the choices we make that define who we are in the end, and directions we take in life that lead us to those instances. Ochse really blasts the reader with a keen blend of realism, tainted with a strange and unrelenting sense of unease that shows exactly how much of our lives is spent choosing between what is right, and what just comes naturally - regardless of whether or not it hurts or hinders someone else. The characters in these pieces are all people that the reader can instantly identify with, as Ochse finds the essence of what it is to be human, and gently exploits it for the purpose of proving a point. The point being, in most cases, is that we are all responsible for what we create in our own world, regardless of the outside influences and how strange they might be.

Where the writer succeeds most is in stories like High Desert Come to Jesus, The Secret Lives of Heroes, and A Day in the Life of a Dust Bunny - which, when read are actually quite comedic, but are presented in a deathly serious tone. High Desert reads like the serial killer stories that have permeated the genre as of late, but with a brilliant and sinister twist that sets it completely apart at the same time. The idea of a person that actually creates the things in people that most find eternally disturbing, is brilliant. The brief length of the story is incredible in that Ochse packs so much into it, leaving the reader begging for more and more. I, for one, really hope that Ochse expands upon this character in a full length work. This story is highly recommended.

Ochse also proves himself quite capable of writing some brutal and disgusting scenes that deliver a violent slap in the face to the reader. I’m generally very hard to gross out, having read a lot of work that has really made me question how an author managed to get some scenes published and sold to the public, but there were moments in some of these stories that just attack without warning. Now, the beautiful part of this is that Ochse almost downplays these moments in order to affect the reader more. Though they’re few and far between, gore-hounds can rest assured that they are there. If you’re a reader that yearns for prose that pushes boundaries and kicks you when you’re down - you’ll find that mixed in here, along with a complete world that you might have been missing.

While all of these stories are brilliant in their own way, there are some that stand out as the leaders of the pack. Big Rock Candy Mountain is a sobering, semi-political tale encompassed in a hallucinogenic yarn that entertains from start to finish; Hiroshima Falling starts off brooding and dark, almost overwhelming the reader before launching into a bizarro-styled story that picks up the pace, amps up the strange, and ultimately cements the author as a force to be reckoned with; The Crossing of Aldo Ray is, bar none, one of the best zombie stories I have ever read, taking a different path than most and treating the reader to a much needed change of pace in zombie literature; City of Joy is, as the author mentions in his notes after the story, a science fiction tale at heart, but holds enough power in itself that it becomes something of an emotional horror story that speaks to the innocence in all of us; 22 Stains in the Jesus Pool introduces the reader to Ochse’s expert knowledge of the inner workings of religious theory and cult thinking, but also invites the reader to meet one character that is so incredibly complex and, as it turns out, an unintentional villain in disguise.

The absolute shining achievement has to go to the last story - Redemption Roadshow. I've read this story before as a chapbook that was released by Burning Effigy Press, and am still blown away by it every time. This is not only a story that is completely re-readable, but is also haunting, terrifying, introspective, and downright impressive. This is easily one of my favorite reads of all time, and will continue to be etched into my mind for years to come. Ochse is writing on a Peter Straub level with this one. Absolutely brilliant.

Multiplex Fandango is an absolute must-have for anyone who calls themselves a collector of horror literature. No one should be without this book. No one. I am highly recommending this book to everyone.

You can check out Ochse's website here, check out the website for the book here, and follow the author on Twitter.

Multiplex Fandango will be available for pre-order from Dark Regions Press in May '11.


Friday, April 1

The Collectors by Matt Bell

Matt Bell's The Collectors might really be the most disturbing but beautiful example of cross-genre literature I have ever read in the form of a chapbook. Short but epic, disturbing yet beautiful, and absolutely haunting to the core - this is truly the stuff of nightmares, and most assuredly, a diamond in the rough.

The tale of compulsive hoarders Homer and Langley Collyer so shocked 1940s Manhattan that the brothers and their Harlem brownstone live on today as one of the most notable American case studies of acute disposophobia. With nervous energy and obsession to match his protagonists, Matt Bell's prose burrows, forensically, into the layers of the brothers' lives, employing a mutilinear narrative structure and a frenetic plurality of perspectives to reach a core of despair that is both terrifyingly primal and distressingly familiar.

First off, I have to thank the incredible Judy Black for pointing me in the direction of this little story. It's an incredible piece, and more incredible is the fact that you can catch it for free. In all honesty, this is an absolute crime, as I would pay good money for a story this impressive and satisfying.

Bell's prose is immaculately crafted, leaving the reader completely in awe and unable to tear him/herself away from the story. The words slide off the page beautifully, but leave a film on the brain that just reeks of desperation and sorrow. It's virtually impossible not to feel something deep down inside while reading this. This, in my opinion, is a work of art. A masterpiece.

The two main characters in this story - brothers Homer and Langley Collyer - were compulsive hoarders who lived in Manhattan - until 1947 - when their bodies were found in the Harlem brownstone where they lived as hermits. This part of the story is true. With Bell's help, we are given a unique, and harrowing fictional account of their last days in that brownstone, and the reaction of the community upon their demise. The truth of the story is just as terrifying as Bell's interpretation, but it is this author's ability to string words together so perfectly that really steals the show. Bell adds layer upon layer to a story that is already twisted and disturbing, thus giving it more of a dark fairy tale feeling than normal historical-fiction.

The overall result here is astounding. Bell has really created an incredibly unsettling, vibrant, disturbing, and beautifully haunting piece of fiction.

Grab yourself a free copy at Matt Bell's website here, or a direct download here. Also check out his collection - How They Were Found, available at Amazon, B&N, Amazon Kindle, and other online retailers.


Saturday, March 19

Here Comes The Rain by Rebecca Senese

Rebecca Senese is an up and coming horror/sci-fi author of immense talent that I think y'all need to know about.

I'm a fan of promoting those close to you, and being that Senese is based in Toronto (as I am), I couldn't think of anyone better to introduce you to.

Her short story - Here Comes The Rain - is a great example of psychological horror, and an unintended homage to the brilliant storytelling of The Twilight Zone.

It's really hard to review short fiction, but I'm going to give it a go here. Truth is, if I didn't think that this was a story and/or author that you should really check out, I wouldn't say anything. Here goes...

Over the past few years, Bertie has been working on his problems with his doctor, Paul Lansky. But one night as Bertie confronts his fear of carnivals, Paul discovers that maybe the Fun House isn't the worst thing to fear.

Senese's writing style really reminds me of the old Twilight Zone story lines, complete with wicked twists, strange occurrences, and red herrings. The flow is something I haven't seen in self published material in a long time, amounting to a very engaging and entertaining read. The description and setting in this tales is subtle, but when Senese wants to pack on the gore or produce a chill, she does so without a hitch.

The overall effect of the story is genuinely scary, leaving the reader with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. The old school vibe really sits very well and stokes the flames for a trip into memory lane with some of your old favorites.

This is definitely an author to check out. You can grab this story at Smashwords, and at Amazon. For 99 cents, you really can't go wrong. Visit Senese's website here, and follow her on Twitter.


Sunday, March 6

Snow by Ronald Malfi

Ronald Malfi has a way with words. His command of the language will leave you breathless, dreaming of vivid landscapes, and in terrible fear for your life. The monsters in Malfi's mind become tangible and all too real when he sets them loose on the page. Snow is an incredible modern horror story with a decadent feel, and the perfect marriage of beauty and brutality.

When a brutal snowstorm shut down all the flights in and out of Chicago, Todd Curry and a few other stranded passengers rented a jeep to drive the rest of the way to their destinations. But along a forested, isolated road, they picked up a disoriented man wandering through the snow. His car wouldn't start and his daughter had vanished. Strangest of all were the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man's coat, straight down to the flesh.

When they arrived in the nearest town it seemed deserted. Cars sat in the street with their doors open. Fires burned unattended. But Todd and the rest of the traveler will soon learn that the town is far from deserted, for they're being watched... and hunted. Soon they will discover the inhuman horrors that await them in the... SNOW.

The above synopsis is from the Leisure/Dorchester edition, which saw a Mass Market Paperback (and more recently - ebook) release. It's far from adequate in describing the phenomenal effort present in this novel. Malfi's words are as magical as the snow itself, and go a long way in invoking terror in the reader.

If you're familiar with Canadian winters, you know very well the chill that runs deep into your bones, the shiver that creeps in and refuses to let go. Well, Snow delivers that feeling in spades. Malfi has crafted what is quite possibly the most brilliantly vivid world, leaving the reader no choice but to freeze along with the characters on the page. You can really almost see your breath at some points in the story. The virtually relentless action and scares are sure to turn any seasoned genre reader into a bubbling pile of awestruck goo, and will definitely bring new readers to their knees.

There's nothing special or new about the characters in Snow, and that's exactly what sets them apart. The dialogue sets out to show that you can have "canned" characters run all over your novel, but the art of mastering dialogue is the most important part. Malfi manages to make the characters become more real by creating dialogue and conversation within the novel that feels, sounds, and reads fluidly - making their plight that much more realistic.

One of Malfi's strengths is taking the reader by the hand and making him believe. The reader doesn't need to suspend disbelief when reading a piece of Malfi's work, as he has already done everything in his power to make everything so... sincere. Hell, you won't even have much of a chance to question anything. This novel is such a great ride, you won't have any time to.

The setting itself is beautiful. How Malfi transforms the idyllic little town into a snow covered Hell is both applaudable and amazing. Every creak and groan is heard through Malfi's expert descriptive ability. The reader can't help but wonder exactly what is hiding around the corner, adding so many layers to the terror experienced. It's right in the middle of the story, right about the time that Malfi has convinced the reader that this little town is about a creepy as it can get, that he swings for the bleachers and introduces some of the greatest monsters this reader has ever seen. This is truly an experience to behold.

Malfi has really done away with a lot of the genre trappings, and carved himself his own little corner of the market. His descriptive abilities alone bring him head and shoulders above the crowd, making him an author to keep your eye on. His writing is reminiscent of the old classics, but has all of the daring and flair of the modern genre. This writer is definitely going to become a favorite for many horror and thriller fans, and in most cases, already has.

Though the mass market format has now pretty much gone the way of the Dodo, Snow is still widely available. The mmpb format is a little more rare of a find, but you can catch a digital edition on Amazon and other retail websites. There is also an audio book version over at Dark Realms Audio, which I'm very interested in checking out and will report on if I get the chance. I can guarantee that this isn't the last you'll hear from me about this particular author. He has quickly become a favorite of mine.

You can check out more about Malfi over at his website. He's on Twitter, and over at The Keenedom (registration required).


Friday, March 4

Letting Go by Mary SanGiovanni

I usually try to get around on the internet and read a few things while the kids are eating breakfast, and found myself clicking a link on Twitter that would end up throwing my day in a completely different direction. Why? Well, this morning, Mary SanGiovanni posted a reprint of one of her short stories in the Nightmares section of her website. The story is called Letting Go, and it completely blew me away.

See for yourself here.

I've read a few things by this author before, and I know that she's got a very strong voice. Her writing style is urgent and yet retains a sense of beauty and comfort. This piece is no different.

This story immaculately paced, starting off with a whisper, and ending off with a huge bang. If ever there was a piece of fiction that deserved to be read with a soundtrack, it's Letting Go. The mounting terror found within the story is remarkable. SanGiovanni really shows that her imagination is in top form, and brings a whole new, creepy feeling to the telling of a brilliant ghost story. Her version of which involves a brilliant manifestation of painful emotion, guilt, and regret. Like I've stated already: I was completely blown away.

It's been several hours since I read the story for the first time, and I still can't get it out of my head. SanGiovanni's writing is very visual, memorable, and smooth. No reader is going to walk away unsatisfied with this piece.

I strongly suggest you check it out.

Visit Mary SanGiovanni at Click on the Nightmares page to read Letting Go. You can also check her out on Twitter, and on her Forum at the Keenedom (registration required).

More information of Mary SanGiovanni's new novel, Thrall, is available at Thunderstorm Books here.


Thursday, March 3

After The Burn by Ronald Kelly

2011 may still be very young, but it is absolutely safe to say that Ronald Kelly's After The Burn is one of the best books you will read all year. Brutal, nasty, sick and twisted; this book has a little bit of everything for everyone, and absolutely no issues with pushing the boundaries. This is as balls-out-bizarre as horror fiction gets

It was a picture-perfect Fourth of July; one that heralded both celebration and pride for millions. Folks enjoyed parades and cook-outs, the playful laughter of children and a velvet sky alive with fireworks. Afterward, they went to sleep, happy and contented, without a care in the world. The at midnight, the sun came up, brighter than a billion sparklers and hotter than Hell unleashed.

They called it The Burn. The senseless detonation of nuclear devices across the face of the earth; randomly scattered, without rhyme or reason. Civilization as we knew it was consumed in the fire that day and, from it's ashes, rose a horrifying phoenix of boundless evil and depravity. Those who had once clung to the shadows, because of law and moral restraint, now stepped boldly forward to stake their unholy claim...

For one, it should be known that this is a collection of short stories, but not so short that the reader would feel that they would go too fast. I walked into this thinking that it was novel, but that's what happens when you don't read descriptions properly. After The Burn actually contains 8 short stories of varying length, subject, and brutality. The one thing that the reader can depend on throughout the book is the reassurance that you're in very capable hands. Kelly writes with incredible aplomb, and doesn't hesitate to take the reader to places he or she never planned to go. Ever. But with Kelly at the helm, you'll be glad you did.

A Shiny Can of Whup-Ass is the lead off story, and my god is it a ride.

An elderly handyman battles one of the most heinous serial killers in history as his picturesque small town becomes a violent nightmare come true.

If every book started off the way this collection does, things in the literary world would be a hell of a lot more exciting. Kelly jams this first story full of violence, mayhem, and a brilliant twist that will make the reader's mouth drop open in a way that only well placed kick in the balls can deliver.

Meat Is Life comes next, and gives the reader an interesting look what happens to someone with a special look on life when society as they know it comes to an end.

A well-known TV chef of culinary delights finds herself stranded and struggling for survival in the wilds of Virginia with her only friend, a stray dog named Compadre...and soon discovers that hunger and betrayal goes hand-in-hand.

The idea behind this story is awesome and hilarious. Watching a TV chef go through the backwoods of Virginia, starving and terrified, only to wind up the way that she does in the end, makes this a great cultural and societal commentary. This is the weakest story in the collection, but don't let that dissuade you. This story is leagues above most other short fiction pieces out there, and could only have possibly been delivered by someone with the imaginative power that Kelly offers up in spades.

The Happiest Place In Hell, the 3rd story in this collection, is at both times painful and hilarious. The hell that Kelly puts his characters through comes to a head with this story, and transforms the Happiest Place on Earth into a terrifying place of torment.

A band of unlikely survivors take refuge in the castle of an abandoned theme park, attempting to ward off an army of crazed lunatics who have come there in search of the only sustenance they crave...human flesh.

Like I said above, this story is painful and hilarious. Painful, in that it contains some of the most terribly sad back stories I've ever read in a short piece, and hilarious in the action and description of the characters once they've reached their current situation. Kelly really amps up the "adventure" aspect to this collection in this story, as well. The characters, while somewhat cookie cutter, are incredibly entertaining, and instantly memorable. Kelly's style takes on a bit of sarcasm with this one as well, lending a much needed brevity to such a dark collection without losing any of the horror at all.

In what is quite possibly the best, and most emotionally intense piece in the collection,Popsicle Man really grabs the readers' attention and rivets it to the page. If one were to read only one story from this book, this would definitely be my suggestion.

Two children strive to escape the evil clutches of a band of rapists and child molesters. They listen for the happy music of the ice cream truck and pray for the arrival of the Popsicle Man, a white-clad vigilante who has only hatred and fury for those who would prey upon the innocent.

This story reminded me of a very twisted play on The Warriors, replete with marauding gangs of murderers and rapists in different costumes and uniforms, and instantly securing a place as one of my favorite stories ever. It's an absolutely disturbed tale, wildly imaginiative, and screams to be read. Be warned though, the subject matter is not for the faint of heart. The imagery that Kelly uses in this story is as pitch black as it should be, and incredibly close to perfection.

Evolution Ridge is an incredibly weird story...but weird in a good way. This is what I can only imagine as Kelly's mind on a seriously terrifying LSD trip, while driving in the back country, or through an early american settlement. It also proves to be one of the more "out there" pieces, and brings a welcome intermission to the carnage that precedes it. This story is far from tame though. Very far.

A farm family attempts to forge a solitary life in the lofty mountains of the Tennessee Smokies. That lonesome pursuit for normalcy and peace is derailed when radiation mutates the wildlife and vegetation of their beloved home into their worst enemies...and threatens to evolve them into something less than human themselves.

The creatures that inhabit this story are the stuff of nightmares. I had a blast reading this story, as it was one of the most fully imagined pieces in the whole collection. Kelly really doesn't hesitate to get weird with his fiction, and just takes it that much further when you thought things were weird enough. The end of this story is absolutely beautiful, and really makes this a treat to check out.

Continuing the weird fiction trend, Kelly unleashes a tale that will make you question what you're reading. A couple pages into Taking Care Of Business, and after laughing at the sheer confidence and audacity that the writer displays with one very well-placed (and perfectly written) character from our musical history, this piece becomes the sort of story that could be easily translated to a Comic Book or Graphic Novel.

A middle-aged housewife and an Elvis impersonator journey to Memphis to pay homage to a long-dead rock and roll legend...and discover that iconic ghosts sometimes hold the true key to survival.

This is one of those outlandish tales that one hopes was as fun to write as it was to read. From the start, this piece is brimming with a sarcastic and funny air, and quickly introduces a character that will make the reader laugh out loud. I wasn't expecting Kelly to "go there", but he did, and it was 100% worth it. Both Action/Adventure and Survival Horror story, this is certainly one of the most fun reads in the collection. Very fast paced, re-readable, and very daring.

Flesh Welder seems to be the serious piece here. The premise is something reminiscent of the real life horrors faced in most 3rd world countries, but adds a character that has the ability to fix the broken bodies of the victims of this regime. Wonderfully written, and incredibly moving at it's core, this is the story that should be cementing Kelly as a writer who sets the bar high.

The survivors of Ruin Town must face evil in the form of a sadistic military commander known as The General. Their only hope is a man who can repair their broken bodies and, through a unique blending of medicine and mechanics, make them whole again. He is the healer supreme. The medico grande. The Flesh Welder.

This is the most powerful story in the bunch. It just resonates with the dark realities faced in a war torn society, a place that we, as Westerners, can only find in literature and on the screen. Kelly manages to transport the reader straight to Ruin Town, and away from all of the simple safeties that we take for granted. The Flesh Welder himself is an incredibly sympathetic character that will embed himself in the reader's mind, and make for an incredibly memorable journey. The final act in the story has a very "Twilight Zone" feel to it, as well, and was very welcome to this reader.

The Paradise Pill wraps up the collection with a heart breaking tale of sacrifice, loss, and pain. Kelly ups his game and delivers a very harrowing tale, tightening his grasp on the reader's heart strings, and giving them a severe emotional beating.

A woman and her daughter seek to escape the horrors of an inner-city Hell, strife with murder, torture, and rape, by partaking of a drug which transports them to their own private Heaven. But they soon discover that a chemically-induced paradise is limited in the protection it can provide.

The overall emotional outcome I felt after this story was just absolutely brutal. The mother and daughter characters are so sympathetic, so sad, that it almost overwhelms the reader with sorrow for their circumstance. The world that Kelly envisions for this part of the collection really isn't that far fetched, and that's what makes it so terrifying. The fact that there are people who partake in psychotropic drugs in order to escape terrible lives. Kelly really out-does himself with this story, smacking the reader in the face with a terrifying taste of reality, on LSD.

Kelly's handle on the subtle nuances of life is incredible, and his descriptions are brilliant. Why Kelly isn't being heralded as a master of the genre is beyond me. This is an author that needs to be a household name. His prose is often dark and sarcastic, but Kelly also proves capable of hitting on several emotions while still entertaining on a high level.

This collection of stories is a must have for all readers who enjoy "weird" fiction, and really anyone who likes wildly imaginative fiction. The subject matter is often very dark, and twisted in a "I can't believe he actually wrote that" kind of way, but nonetheless brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable.

You can contact Thunderstorm Books for more info on ordering here. Check out more of Thunderstorm's releases here, and check out Ronald Kelly's website here, and contact him here.

Personally, I can't wait to check out more of this author's work. His voice is very original and welcome. His words flow with beauty and brutality, making this reader a very satisfied new fan.


Saturday, February 12

The Creature's Curse by Paul Braus

Tired of wading through the untold masses of Undead and/or serial killer fiction that seems to be saturating the small press right now? Long for the days when demons reigned supreme in horror? Then you might want to get your hands on Paul Braus' debut novel - The Creature's Curse.

There is an angry, massive, unearthly beast lurking at the end of Buck Tree Road. Locals know the brutal history of the creepy house on the road - but some are so curious they cannot stay away.

Meanwhile, Abigail Merriweather and Eldon Bailey are working their way through a rocky courtship to build a life together. Both are harboring secrets, however, that will prove to be damaging - and maybe even deadly. Through it all, Abigail clings to the one item that she treasures more than life itself: a small pewter medallion on a chain that she wears around her neck.

First worn by her distant relative, a woman executed for alleged witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1694, the medallion has become an odd and insistent presence in Abigail's life. But what is the connection between the ancient amulet, the creature and the horrible history of the house at the end of Buck Tree Road?

And can anyone really feel safe with the creature poised to strike again?

In the opening pages of this novel, Braus shows the reader exactly what he intends to bring to the table and immediately begins to deliver. Wasting no time whatsoever, this books reaches straight for the throat and delivers a physical and psychological jab, grabbing the reader's attention. The characters are set, the plot is in motion, and yet the reader has no idea what is in store.

Braus' characters are very well fleshed out. Their individual histories are told in a series of flashbacks and through carefully crafted dialogue. The author doesn't reveal too much in the beginning, but rather decides to let the reader find out slowly through dialogue and action. This is an admittedly difficult task, being that the story takes place over two decades, and, furthermore, has ties to events that happened hundreds of years ago that affect the outcome of the story at present.

Relying heavily on some well researched facts, Braus is able to create a very convincing back story for the main character - Abigail - and uses this to present what seems to be her steady psychological decline. And he does this all very well. The brutal psychological beating that Abigail's husband - Eldon - takes, is all the more terrible for this.

Braus also manages to mix a whole heap of sex, abuse, and various other sinister things into the plot, taking the reader of an epic journey in a short period of time. Witches, spells, and monsters abound in this fun little read. The gore is very well described and just radiates off the page.

Apart from a formatting issue that relied on italicization far too often for this reader, I found this book to be a great departure from the vast amount of zombies, vampires, and psychopaths that are currently cluttering the shelves in most brick and mortar stores. It's nice to see a good old fashioned Witch story every once in a while, and this one certainly fills the void beautifully. Braus certainly knows how to entertain, and flaunts his stuff unapologetically in this novel.

You can find out more about the book here, and find out more about Braus here. You can grab yourself a copy of The Creature's Curse at Amazon, and most online booksellers.


Thursday, February 3

Zombielicious by Timothy McGivney

Anyone looking for a fun, fast paced, sexually charged, homo (and hetero) erotic novel depicting zombies, aged strippers, and a bevy of other insane (yet hilarious) characters, should look no further. Timothy McGivney's debut novel - Zombielicious - pushes all of the envelopes and fires on all cylinders. And let's not forget the fact that this is one steaming hot piece of erotic fiction, from all angles.

Amidst a zombie outbreak, Walt, athletic and confident, meets shy and quiet Joey, the attraction between them both instant and electric. With strength in numbers, they band together alongside fellow survivors; Jill, an ex-porn star turned nurse who's made a startling discovery about her past; Ace, a disgruntled security guard who just can't live up to certain short comings; and Molly, the fiery redhead unwilling to give up on her dreams of stardom.

In this apocalyptic new world of the dead, an anything-goes attitude has become the law of the land and lust, betrayal, true love and redemption are all just a gunshot away.

Homo-erotic literature has a huge following in the niche/erotica/romance markets (among others), so it was only a matter of time until the undead poked their ugly heads into the mix. I'm not saying that Zombielicious is the first of it's kind. Oh no. I'm sure there are more out there, but this is the first that I've read. And wow, did it ever leave a lasting impression on me.

As stated above, this is author Timothy McGivney's first published novel, but one really wouldn't be able to tell, given his keen eye for dramatic flair and blistering action sequences. The flow of the novel is a little bit hard to get into at first, as it's written from the first person perspective of all 5 of the main characters, but once the ball gets rolling, it becomes a smooth and fast read.

Speaking of characters, McGivney really has his hands full in this one. The 5 main characters have almost nothing in common with each other from a stereotypical point of view, but share so much in their situation that they seem virtually made for eachother. You can see what we're dealing with in the brief synopsis up top, but the point to remember is that the author really brings all 5 of these people to life, guiding their interactions in a very smooth, very solidly written way. The first person narrative, while admittedly distracting at first, becomes almost non-existent after a while.

Now, to say that this is an undead love story or a zombie novel would be stretching it a little bit. In all honesty, this is a erotic/romance novel set inside the parameters of a zombie apocalypse story. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. The flavor that the circumstance lends to the story makes it all the more enjoyable, and produces some grade A gore for the harder edged readers. These scenes, when tempered with the obligatory (and set-the-page-on-fire-hot) love scenes make this a whirlwind ride, with excitement being a top priority.

The erotic content in this novel is very obviously swayed in the direction of the homo-erotic fare, but there something in this for everyone. The sex scenes in this book are smoking hot, eliciting heart pounding excitement and enough vivid mental pictures to make you blush, no matter what your preferences are. I'd say that McGivney really has a knack for depicting some seriously intense erotic scenes, but then I'd be undercutting his talent. This is some incredibly steamy stuff.

The only real shortcoming that the book has is it's cover, which I really can't enjoy. For a book this wild and entertaining, I feel it deserves something more artistic and flashy.

Zombilicious is really a wicked, sexy, and adventurous ride. If you dig your horror with a large smattering of romance and LGBT erotica, you're really going to enjoy this one.

You can grab a digital copy here and in paperback format here. Check out more info on McGivney here.


Wednesday, February 2

Zombies Don't Cry by Rusty Fischer

Rusty Fischer and Medallion Press have offered up a new take on zombies with this wonderful piece of fiction. What, at first glance, looks like your "run of the mill" YA zombie novel, turns everything you thought about the sub-genre on it's head, and whollops you with a very important, and impressive example of how YA should be written.

Maddy Swift is just a normal girl—a high school junior surviving class with her best friend and hoping the yummy new kid, Stamp, will ask her out. When he finally does, her whole life changes.

Sneaking out to meet Stamp at a party one rainy night, Maddy is struck by lightning. After awakening, she feels lucky to be alive. Over time, however, Maddy realizes that she’s become the thing she and everyone else fear most: the living dead.

With no heartbeat and no breath in her lungs, Maddy must learn how to survive as a zombie. Turns out there’s a lot more to it than shuffling around 24/7 growling, “Brains.” Needing an afterlife makeover is only the beginning of her problems. As Barracuda Bay High faces zombie Armageddon, Maddy must summon all of her strength to protect what matters most—just as soon as she figures out exactly what that is.

Busting out of the gate with an explosive (and hilarious) intro, Fischer sets the stage for a fun romp through the life of a young, accidently zombified, teenage girl; and leads you to believe that this is going to be something reminiscent of the scores of other YA horror novels out there. But you, the intelligent reader, can see something else in there. Behind the facade of a teenage-angst-ridden zombie story, Fischer has presented something fresher and more vivid than the decaying corpses littering the YA section of your favorite book store (or web-store *sigh*).

Fischer brings a massive amount of entertainment to this piece, not only poking fun at most teenage stereotypes, but also poking fun at the genre itself - in some places. Written from the perspective of the main female character, the author tends to lay heavy on the funny to dispell most of the serious situations, but dips into some seriously hardcore emotional territory with others. The brilliance of this situation is that he is able to make you laugh, think, and possibly even cry...all within the same sentence. To say that Fischer understands the teenage mindframe would be an understatement. He lives it in this novel, and that is what makes this book so different from the rest of the pack.

Now, in what is possibly my favorite move with this novel, Fischer whips out a whole new bag of tricks in regards to the zombies themselves. The constantly shuffling, groaning, and...well...slow moving zombies are eschewed for a more intelligent and brutal breed of walking dead. Not only are they completely sentient beings, but they're also capable of planning and other sorts of menacing behavior. Even the manner of becoming zombified is completely different from most traditional ways. Fischer has introduced the potential for lightening to be a crucial factor in the zombification process, but hasn't completely done away with the "zombie-by-bite" method. In fact, two different types of zombies can be created using the two different styles of...well...zombie creation, which is a much needed breath of fresh air in the sub-genre.

The whole book is written beautifully, combining so many different emotions and enough pop culture references to make any nerd's head explode. Fisher has a tight grip on all things modern, and it really shows throughout the whole story. This novel will appeal to all ages. No exception. Hopefully Fischer has it in his mind to write a follow up, as this is one story that I can really see becoming bigger and more detailed.

A great introduction to a truly unique world, Zombies Don't Cry sets the bar high, for YA horror novels.

You can grab the book here, and take a look at the blog for the book here. You can also catch up with Fischer at his own website, and visit Medallion Press at their website.

As is usually their awesome fashion, the ever impressive Medallion Press also has a wicked little poem called 'Zombies Don't Date' by Rusty Fischer, on their website, as bonus content. Make sure you check it out.

I can't say enough as to how much I love this author. There's so much talent here, and I can't wait to check out more more of his work. Fischer's next book with Medallion - Vamplayers - is set for release in 2012.


Thursday, January 27

What They Hear In The Dark by Gary McMahon

What They Hear In The Dark is a perfect example of short horror fiction done well. A horror story, for all intents and purposes, should be designed to elicit certain emotions from the reader, and this chapbook does that in spades. I dare anyone to read this and not get a massive chill up their spine. It just isn't possible.

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

Michael Louis Calvillo is a powerhouse. The sheer amount of energy, raw emotion and uncompromising brutality that laces this novella is something to be awed by. The storyline is tight as hell, and one can't help but feel absolutely connected to the main character. All of this in just the first 10 pages, and it only gets better from there.

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'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

I wouldn't normally release a bit of news via this website, but I received an email about a day ago with some really exciting information.

My favorite horror/crime series of books was just released in Audio book format by!

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:

'THE JAKE HELMAN FILES' HARDBOILED HORROR SERIES. 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 –

Personal Demons Audio Book

Desperate Souls Audio Book

Medallion Press


Friday, January 14

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

I know what you're thinking.

"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.

Starred Review. Eerie twists of fate drive the four longish stories in King's first collection since Just After Sunset (2008). In "1922," a farmer murders his wife to retain the family land she hopes to sell, then watches his life unravel hideously as the consequences of the killing suggest a near-supernatural revenge. "Big Driver" tells of an otherwise ordinary woman who discovers her extraordinary capacity for retribution after she is raped and left for dead. "A Good Marriage" explores the aftermath of a wife's discovery of her milquetoast husband's sinister secret life, while "Fair Extension," the book's most disturbing story, follows the relationship between a man and the best friend on whom he preternaturally shifts all his bad luck and misfortune. As in Different Seasons (1982), King takes a mostly nonfantastic approach to grim themes. Now, as then, these tales show how a skilled storyteller with a good tale to tell can make unsettling fiction compulsively readable.

*If you haven't read this book, be warned - there are many spoilers ahead.*

Now, most people's comments surrounding this book detail the fact that this is one of King's hardest, nastiest, and darkest reads to date; bringing back the feel of the 'Old King' they read when they were younger. I hadn't read any King, save for Cycle of the Werewolf when I was a kid, and haven't really ventured past some of the Bachman books (and a very failed attempt at reading IT) in my adulthood, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Here's what happened.

The first story in the collection is 1922, detailing (in first person) the account of Wilfred James and the space in time between 1922 and 1923, in which he confesses to the murder of his wife and describes the aftermath of said action.

King's descriptive brilliance is incredibly apparent in this story, giving so much weight to his words, and immersing the reader in Wilfred's life during the year his family (and others) suffered by his hands. The emotional pressure is intense, as is the lyrical style that King uses to give voice to his main character. Though remorse and terror are portrayed incredibly well, the story did drag on a bit, creating a need to burn through the pages in order to get to some of the better parts. There are one or two instances in the story that are brilliantly disgusting, though, and I even found myself wincing in sympathetic pain and horror.

The next story up is Big Driver. Set the town of Chicopee, Massachusetts; the story focuses on Tess - a successful mystery writer who speaks at an engagement at a local library, is given some very bad directions home, and eventually runs afoul of a man who rapes, beats, and leaves her for dead.

To me, this story is very reminiscent of Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave, but only in the sense that, at it's core, this is a rape/revenge story. King's version of this exploitation staple is very well written, imagined, and unfortunately, described. Now, I say unfortunately because I'm not a fan of the rape/revenge motif, nor have I ever been. There are moments when I can see the idea working for someone, but without the skill of a master auteur or author, I can't believe that something like this this would ever come to the public's viewing.

That said, Big Driver was an intense foray into the subject matter. Written from the perspective of a female, which King does surprisingly well, we're introduced to the idea that things aren't always what they seem to be, and that humanity is capable of some seriously fucked up shit. The whole story is about as intense as a pot of water about to boil over, bringing the reader as close to the boiling point with it. Every step within the story is well timed and beautifully exectuted. Based on King's visceral approach to the descriptions in this one, I could see this one becoming a film more than any of the others. There's so much raw emotion and inner turmoil in the main character, it almost begs for a big screen adaptation.

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.


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...