WHO

WHO'S COMING DOWN YOUR CHIMNEY TONIGHT?




Charles Stross, "Overtime"

2016: CTHULHU FOR CHRISTMAS

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Monsters

Monsters Monsters by Thomas Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: MONSTERS by Thomas Smith

I loved this horror novella! It was an entertaining one-session read for me, much more due to my enrapture in the story than to length. Protagonist Jack has so much about which he could boast_; but he keeps his knowledge and talents to himself, an effective vigilante for the forces of good. What a refreshing character!

I can't be too specific, in order not to give away the tale. There is gore--in monstrous bucketloads. There are monsters--human and not. There is a wonderfully engaging tale. I expect to think of this one for quite a while.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors

Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors by Todd Keisling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: UGLY LITTLE THINGS by Todd Keisling

When commencing an anthology or a single-author collection, a reader often doesn't know quite what to expect in terms of quantity. Some single-author collections are of such high quality, consistently, that the discerning reader wishes to read, savor, reread, ponder. This year I have been immensely privileged and gratified to discover two magnificent authors new to me, via the venue of their collections: Paul F. Olson, WHISPERED ECHOES, and now Todd Keisling, in UGLY LITTLE THINGS.

Oh my oh my. When I am in the presence of a master, I am rendered speechless. I had requested to review UGLY LITTLE THINGS in advance of release, and from page one was awestruck. A review copy was not enough; I rushed to purchase. There is no single story, no single page, in this collection that is not extraordinarily perfect. I don't know from whence Mr. Keisling derives such a gift; I am satisfied to bask in his application of it.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: Carter & Lovecraft

Carter & Lovecraft Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: CARTER & LOVECRAFT by Jonathan Howard

I am so totally impressed with CARTER & LOVECRAFT: very faithful to the master, and expands the Mythos in an unexpected direction. I love to read of science, and of metaphysics tautly combined with science. I won't go into too much detail, so as not to spoil the many surprises; suffice it to state, if you love Lovecraft, or love the Mythos, you will surely be awestruck.

For those who aren't Lovecraft fanboys and fangirls, let me say that Jonathan Howard is a superb novelist. Despite the very serious nature of the plot, his tone is laid back, he treats the horrors so subtly, so that they really are startling and frightening because so unexpected! I have in mind several particular scenes, exquisitely undertaken. Jonathan Howard definitely is firmly established in the Lovecraft Mythos pantheon.

I am delighted to discover CARTER & LOVECRAFT. I can't imagine anyone not loving this novel, and I am ecstatically anticipating the release of the sequel in November!

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review: Ride the Lighting

Ride the Lighting Ride the Lighting by Nick Younker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: RIDE THE LIGHTNING by Nick Younker

Reading this short story is a joy and delight, as I have found to be true throughout Nick Younker' s oeuvre. RIDE THE LIGHTNING focuses on two intrepid young men, lifelong friends as close as brothers. Scott and Brandon are intrepid explorers of the unknown: supernatural, paranormal, outre. This story links to the mysterious State Island in Lake Michigan, to the cursed millennia-old Native American Turik, to Lucy, Indiana, and to the disappeared online journalist of the paranormal, Duncan Criss.

Scott and Brandon's quests take them to State Island, where they discover that, like Cthulhu, that which is dead is still extremely dangerous, and for Brandon, their visit becomes a life-altering encounter.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

OCTOBER IS LOVECRAFT COUNTRY!!! FRIGHTFALL 2017

FRIGHTFALL 2017, a creation of Seasons of Reading, is held this year from Oct. 1-31. Sign up here (the definition of "scary" is pretty wide, in case you are a reader who is not an aficionado of horror): FRIGHTFALL 2017

Michelle Miller of Seasons of Reading is also holding a September-long Edgar Allan Poe reading at her blog Castle Macabre, which inspired me to declare my personal version of October reading:

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

In hopes that this Christmas Eve will see Cthhulhu slithering down my chimney, or that Samhain will bring the proper alignment of stars for Cthulhu to awake from his dead and dreaming sleep in sunken R'lyeh, I will spend October in the pursuit of the Master, H. P. Lovecraft, and of his worthy successors who toil in the fields of the Lovecraft Mythos. I will read as much of the original HPL as I can, plus novels, short stories, anthologies, and collections in the Mythos. {Who knows, perhaps I shall be gifted with Cthulhuian dreams?}

Friday, September 1, 2017

Spotlight: WHITE WALLS AND STRAITJACKETS by David Owain Hughes

Blurb: 

Meet Crystal and Harry – lovers who work in the entertainment business: after murdering three critics for poor reviews, they decide to skip town and head for the coastline.
Once there, they know things will be fine – it’ll be a chance to start fresh. A new beginning. But, before they head to the seaside, Crystal must first visit her sister at a mental hospital – after all, it’s Crystal’s fault her sibling is there…

As they start their journey, Harry discovers a book in the van’s glove compartment –
White Walls & Straitjackets. The author is unknown, but whoever he is, he seems to know a lot about the deadly duo and other nutjobs who inhabit the Rhondda Valleys, south Wales.

As lives and stories collide, Crystal and Harry soon discover escaping the Valleys won’t be as easy as they think. Especially with another serial killer hot on their heels…

Bio: David Owain Hughes is a horror freak! He grew up on ninja, pirate and horror movies from the age of five, which helped rapidly instil in him a vivid imagination. When he grows up, he wishes to be a serial killer with a part-time job in women’s lingerie…
He’s had multiple short stories published in various online magazines and anthologies, along with articles, reviews and interviews. He’s written for This Is Horror, Blood Magazine, and Horror Geeks Magazine. He’s the author of the popular novels “Walled In” (2014), "Wind-Up Toy" (2016), “Man-Eating F****” (2016), and “The Rack & Cue” (2017) along with his short story collections “White Walls and Straitjackets” (2015) and "Choice Cuts" (2015). He’s also written three novellas – “Granville” (2016), “Wind-Up Toy: Broken Plaything & Chaos Rising” (2016).

WHITE WALLS AND STRAITJACKETS will be FREE September 6-10!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: Cutting Block Single Slices Volume 1

Cutting Block Single Slices Volume 1 Cutting Block Single Slices Volume 1 by Patrick Beltran
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of Cutting Block Single Slices Volume 1
(Anthology) Patrick Beltran, ed.

Ten thoughtful stories by various authors create a venue to take the reader away from consensus reality, to shake us up and make us wonder "Could it really be possible?" I will categorize this collection as both speculative and horror, because of the "Could it be?" factor which operates so strongly throughout. Each story is worth the read (and the provoking of thought), but each reader will undoubtedly find particular personal favorites. For me, those are:
"Jackson House," "Florie Detail," "Dead Letter Department," and "Just After Sunset, In the Second Drawing Room Garden."




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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Teeth Marks

Teeth Marks Teeth Marks by Matthew Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: TEETH MARKS by Matthew Weber

Don't mistake this wonderful collection as "only" Deep South hillbilly Noir. Don't sell it short. Matthew Weber is quite a talent, and every one of the twelve stories collected in TEETH MARKS demonstrates a gifted writer and polished quality. Of course there is the occasional hillbilly, and the setting is Southern (like a number of authors, Matt Weber builds a not-quite-fictional and very realistic locale in Trappers Valley and Shady Brake and surrounds). Where he especially excels comes in his polish and in his characters. This is a writer who clearly has spent his life to date in observation and understanding of human character and the spectrum of eccentricity.

This author deserves a wide audience, and we readers deserve him. (Studying how he writes would be beneficial, too.) I'm going to be seeking out his books.



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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume II

Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume II Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume II by Mark McLaughlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of CRANIAL LEAKAGE: TALES FROM THE GRINNING SKULL VOLUME II

An engrossing 17 tales of literate horror to keep you awake at night, peering over your shoulder, identifying sounds out of place, this wonderful second collection from Grinning Skull Press inspires both thought and imagination. I won't pick a favorite, but I will say I am STILL checking over my shoulder, hoping not to see an Ifrit (or a hungry stray cat). I recommend tasting one story at a time, maybe at bedtime--or when home alone--or during a thunderstorm, reading by flashlight after the lights go out. It's really better if you don't turn around.....

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Review: Asylum

Asylum Asylum by Mark Allan Gunnells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: ASYLUM by Mark Allan Gunnells

Love 80's gritty horror films? Love campy horror? Love horror with a "Bite"-- no, not vampires: real-life issues--addiction, fear, social anxiety, sexual addiction, love, obsession, terror, bigotry of many stripes, true love and its loss, bitterness, resentment, peace in oneself, lack of internal peace..Author Mark Allan Gunnells bravely approaches these themes, and honey, the Zomb'pocalypse ain't the worst you need to worry over. Check out the additional new piece, "Lunatics Running the Asylum." The dead are actually nicer than the living, and far more considerate.

Mr. Gunnells introduces the Apocalypse in a new venue, a gay club owned and operated by an Earth Mother trans cross-dresser, who wants to help "gay orphans" like our protagonist Curtis, who don't have a strong support group. Now for Curtis (20-year-old university student and virgin. I'm really beginning to love the Feckless Hero category. Curtis is right in this category, but feckless and naive doesn't mean dumb or worthless. Curtis tocks, and so does his sexy heart object Jarvis.

This novella, and it's accompanying short story sequel, are sweet and entertaining, and still scary.

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Review of ASYLUM by Mark Allan Gunnells

Review: ASYLUM by Mark Allan Gunnells

Love 80's gritty horror films? Love campy horror? Love horror with a "Bite"-- no, not vampires: real-life issues--addiction, fear, social anxiety, sexual addiction, love, obsession, terror, bigotry of many stripes, true love and its loss, bitterness, resentment, peace in oneself, lack of internal peace..Author Mark Allan Gunnells bravely approaches these themes, and honey, the Zomb'pocalypse ain't the worst you need to worry over. Check out the additional new piece, "Lunatics Running the Asylum." The dead are actually nicer than the living, and far more considerate.

Mr. Gunnells introduces the Apocalypse in a new venue, a gay club owned and operated by an Earth Mother trans cross-dresser, who wants to help "gay orphans" like our protagonist Curtis, who don't have a strong support group. Now for Curtis (20-year-old university student and virgin. I'm really beginning to love the Feckless Hero category. Curtis is right in this category, but feckless and naive doesn't mean dumb or worthless. Curtis tocks, and so does his sexy heart object Jarvis.

This novella, and it's accompanying short story sequel, are sweet and entertaining, and still scary.

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Guest Post: WHY I LOVE ZOMBIES by Mark Allan Gunnells

Mark Allan Gunnells is a prolific author whose novella ASYLUM is currently featured.

ASYLUM

My review of the novella will be posted here, tomorrow (August 19). Meanwhile, enjoy Mark's guest post:

WHY I LOVE ZOMBIES

Zombie tales—be it in fiction, television, movies, even video games—has been hot for quite a while, and yet for all the fans of zombie stories, there is an equally vocal contingent of people who decry them. They say that zombie tales oversaturate the market and are actually killing horror. While I understand that certain types of stories aren’t for everyone, I am firmly in the camp of those that love a good zombie tale.

And the more traditional the better! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy when a storyteller employs a fresh and unexpected take on something familiar to the audience, but for me there’s something about the traditional, mindless zombie that just really appeals. I think there are several reasons for this.

First, other traditional horror monsters like vampires and even werewolves often have personality and a tortured quality that make them the focus of the story. That can be quite enjoyable (I’m a fan of all the classic monsters), but with the zombie being such a blank slate, it opens up the story to focus more on the protagonists, the human drama that comes from trying to survive something that cannot be reasoned with, that is driven purely by an instinct to kill. A lack of deeper motivation makes the zombie somehow more frightening.

As an extension of this point, the traditional zombie can often be used as a mere framework for telling very human stories. You get a band of disparate survivors together (trapped in a farmhouse or a mall or a bunker, or in the case of some of my work a gay club or a college dorm building), and then you can start to study group dynamics, personality conflicts, power struggles, bigotry, mental instability. This type of story paves the way for creating a microcosm of society in which you can deal with a lot of serious issues in an exciting and entertaining fashion.

What the late George Romero showed so powerfully in his own films was that zombie stories are perfect vehicles for social commentary that doesn’t become overly preachy. I can respect that, a story that engages as well as provokes thought and discussion.

>P> All of these things were in my mind when I sat down to write ASYLUM, my first real piece of zombie fiction. I went with a very traditional type of mindless zombie, and a familiar setup, having a group of characters trapped inside a gay club while the undead tried to force their way in. I used this as a springboard for a story about prejudice and self-loathing and insecurity and addiction, all wrapped up in what I think turned out to be a very entertaining piece of fiction. I was able to continue this in “Lunatics Running the Asylum,” a short story that picks up where the novella leaves off which is included in the new edition from Apex Publications.

I realize that just by nature of being a classic zombie tale, there are certain people out there that won’t even give ASYLUM a try, but as a writer I have to be true to my vision, my passions. I love zombie stories, and I’m happy to put my own stamp on the subgenre.

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: The Devoured

The Devoured The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE DEVOURED by Curtis M. Lawson

I am in awe of author Curtis M. Lawson, who brings to the table a towering intellect (my brain stretches reading his work) and a wide-ranging imagination. He also possesses an incredible grasp of language, laying down phrases like you wouldn't believe (but yet, here they are on the page). Often I pause to savour a turn of phrase, or a description, before continuing. I wouldn't classify his cosmology as fully Lovecraftian (he's far too clever to let his philosophy be limited) but it is Lovecraftian enough to suit this aficionado, and his writings acknowledge that Beyond so far distant from the puny concerns and miniscule concepts of humans (check out his collection BLACK PANTHEONS).

On the surface, THE DEVOURED is a tale set in California near the end of The War Between The States (and oh, the perspective author Lawson puts on that war resounds with clarity and discernment). An adolescent boy, oversized in body, with a good mind, devotion to his Paiute mother, and admiration for his Nordic father, finds himself in charge after Father travels to Texas in aid of the doomed Confederacy. His beloved mother falls ill and approaches death. When the God of Israel seems to provide no answer nor healing, he seeks out his shaman maternal grandfather, an evil man, also dying. Emmett gradually discovers planes of existence, entities, and evils not known to the majority of mortals. Not only the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: The Rest Will Come

The Rest Will Come The Rest Will Come by Christina Bergling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE REST WILL COME
by Christina Bergling

Poor feckless Emma, our heroine; she does “everything right,” only to have nothing go right. Marriage, debts, jobs, dating—she just can't reach her goal, can't grasp that brass ring; is not even sure any more “after all these years” that there is a brass ring—for her. Poor Emma. Then one day—maybe it's years of repressed anger, maybe it's frustration—one day she hears those insulting words once too often: “my heart's just not in it,” and Emma is instantaneously off on a whole new path. Serial murder? Well, these days it just doesn't pay to play fast and loose with Emma, for you may find yourself playing with the Grim Reaper. Emma's had enough...and now that she realizes that, just maybe “the rest will come.”

For all those single women (and can't commit men) who can't catch a break, here's a novel that mingles gore and hilarity, humor and death. Enjoy the catharsis. You'll be glad you did.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Review: Kind Nepenthe

Kind Nepenthe Kind Nepenthe by Matthew V. Brockmeyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review of KIND NEPENTHE
by Matthew V. Brockmeyer

Beautifully scenic, but humanity renders it depressing: Southern Humboldt County in Northern California. KIND NEPENTHE is a literate horror novel (I loved the epigrams the author's chosen), but I prefer to categorize it as Northern California drug culture noir. Populated by an almost completely sorry cast of lowlifes, KIND NEPENTHE only allows some to surface briefly, to try to be “somebody” with purpose, and then submerges them again. Rebecca wants to be completely organic, and be a sterling mother. Calendula (Mark) is a permaculture designer, or so he hopes. Diesel wants a second chance through his soon-to-be born grandchild, not to mess up as he did with his son and his wife. Actually, the only “winners” in this patch of noir are the hauntings...and we're never really certain what their foundation is, although we see it acted out in certain formerly living individuals. Mr. Brockmeyer does a sort of Henry James-ish horror, the kind that you know is present, but too shadowy and unspecific to get really frightened...until the end, when literally everything and everybody goes raving insane in a fast-paced few pages rolling like a bullet train.

{On a personal note, while I read KIND NEPENTHE, I also commenced another drug culture noir, this one set in New Mexico. Life imitates art.}

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: A Twist of the Knife

A Twist of the Knife A Twist of the Knife by Becky Masterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of A TWIST OF THE KNIFE by Becky Masterman

This third in the Brigid Quinn series, starring a fifty-nine year old female former FBI Special Agent, takes place in Florida instead of Tucson: specifically Fort Lauderdale, Vero Beach, and Raiford. FBI Agent Laura Coleman, prominent in the previous novel, FEAR THE DARKNESS, also encores. We learn a lot of backstory of Brigid's dysfunctional family {I am reminded of the family of cops in Karin Slaughter' s COP TOWN}. We are also treated to defense attorneys on a quest to overturn a possibly wrongful conviction, and the terrors of children missing. A horrible crime committed sixteen years ago resulted in the disappearance of three children, and the convicted is finally scheduled for execution.--but was the conviction righteous, or juggled?

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Review: Fear the Darkness

Fear the Darkness Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of FEAR THE DARKNESS by Becky Masterman

This second in Becky Masterman's Brigid Quinn series is my favorite of the three so far (published). I'm thinking it very well might be the author's exquisite depiction of sociopathy, its whys and therefores, and delineates so well how sociopaths can fool: both the "normal," and those who are themselves on the sociopathic continuum. Each mystery in this series is a pageturner, but I found this the most suspenseful and riveting.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Roofworld

Roofworld Roofworld by Christopher Fowler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: ROOFWORLD by Christopher Fowler

I first learned of this book from Paul Cornell's THE SEVERED STREETS, which highly recommended both Neil Gaiman' s NEVERWHERE and ROOFWORLD. I am glad to see the republication of ROOFWORLD, an intricately plotted novel of a civilization existing "above" London, a sort of "superstructure" invisible to the "Insects" living on London's surface (normals). Intended as an escape, a high-minded improved society, it has degenerated into vicious war and megalomania, as both sides strive to fulfill an occult potential.

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Review: The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE CHALK MAN by C. J. Tudor

A glorious mystery/thriller/coming of age novel, THE CHALK MAN is at once both riveting and engaging. The narrative interweaves the first person viewpoint (limited first-person) of our protagonist at 12, and at 42. Ed Adams is all in all an imperfect character, but his constant self-awareness of his faults renders him all the more likeable. At 12, he and his cronies are still primarily innocents, poised near the cliff's edge of adulthood. At 42, he looks around himself and mourns all that has never materialized. But even at 12, these boys are exposed to "adult" issues: tragedy, death, murder, hatred, fear. They don't always understand but they have to live it anyway. With this talented author, we live it all too.

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Review: The Doll Who Ate His Mother

The Doll Who Ate His Mother The Doll Who Ate His Mother by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE DOLL WHO ATE HIS MOTHER by Ramsey Campbell

This 1976 publication is not my top-favourite of Ramsey Campbell (so far, that's ANCIENT IMAGES and the collection HOLES FOR FACES) but I quite liked it. Unusually, my 5-star rating is not due to the horror and paranormal elements. Instead, I rated it highly due to Campbell's incredible grasp of and ability to delineate, character. This applies to his human inhabitants, but also to animals and to Place. Looking back through my reactions to the novel, I remember many occasions when I marveled at his revelation of character--just when I thought he had peeled back the remaining layers, he demonstrated more! The horror element is well done, and it's subtle, but I shall remember the novel for its characterizations.

[Note: in the case of Mr. Campbell's explication of the "villain's" inner state, the resonances are positively Poe-ish. See for example, "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Telltale Heart."]

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: Abode

Abode Abode by Morgan Sylvia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: ABODE by Morgan Sylvia

Rare is it in this era of splatter horror to find a book such as ABODE, in which the horror is all too prevalent and real, but is treated oh so subtly, as in a mystery where the reader tiptoes through clues. The author tantalizes us, not bludgeons us. ABODE is richly atmospheric, in the vein of Henry James' 19th century classic "Turn of the Screw." There are Lovecraftian overtones; there are also tragic psychological sufferings. There is evil. Above all, the reader revels in the exquisitely-tuned atmosphere.

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