I had certain expectations for Unbury Carol. That was foolish. I should know by now, after reading much of Josh Malerman’s output (except, somehow, the one that got everybody talking about him to begin with: Bird Box), that he is not going to deliver the expected. So, when I allowed the title and the synopsis and the cover to lead me to expectations of a western/horror hybrid that would be a dark cross between a fairy tale and a Hammer movie…well, I should have known that wasn’t what I was going to get.
Last year’s surprise thriller by K.J. Howe, The Freedom Broker, hit the field hard, introducing both a razor sharp writer and a series featuring Thea Paris, a character tough enough to stand toe-to-toe with Reacher and Repairman Jack. The kidnap and rescue team delves into dark territories that combine the thriller aspects with a character development rarely found in the genre.
I never read Daughters of Lilith, the previous literary/artistic collaboration between Donna Lynch and Steven Archer. Why have I never read it? Seriously, because Witches is a wonderful, odd bit of joy in the world.
Let’s start with the obvious: $25 is a bit intimidating when looking at a book of poetry, especially one this short. But, as much as it feels weird saying these words in this specific order, this is more than just a book of poetry. It is also more than just a book of art. It’s the combination of the two and how they mesh and interact to create something that, to beg forgiveness for the cliché, is much more than the sum of its parts.
At it’s heart, The Nightmare Room (The Messy Man Series Book 1) is a ghost story and a very good one to boot. Here’s a killer opening line for you…
The boy woke to the sound of his screams.
Where Nightmares Come From: The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre by Joe Mynhardt & Eugene Johnson
Crystal Lake Publishing (November 2017)
368 pages; $16.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Books on writing usually bring on the snoozes, even from the authors who read them. Of course, exceptions exist, like the one from the King guy and Morrell and Steve and Melanie Tem, but reading most of these kinds of books feels like dragging eyeballs across sandpaper.
Down There & Others by Keith Minnion
White Noise Press (2017)
206 pages; $10.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Sometimes, people excel in multiple creative fields, displaying talents many would kill for. Folks such as Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Clive Barker, and the author of this collection, Keith Minnion. Those familiar with the iconic magazine Cemetery Dance will recognize the name as the most innovative illustrator in each issue. Those who picked up the Stephen King/Richard Chizmar bestseller of last year, Gwendy’s Button Box, might notice the illustrations in that book look familiar.
Mr. Jones doesn’t know it yet, but we have a lot in common. When writing, we both dig deep for the little boy inside that’s packed full of maybe too much emotion, then put him in a situation where maybe we could never survive ourselves; maybe we wouldn’t want to even try. Then dig deeper still for all that hurt and confusion from our own lives invested in this and that, take it and use it in stories that are meant to do much more than entertain, but to touch people, make them consider. Mapping the Interior does that perfectly.
If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse by Wrath James White
CLASH Books (February 2018)
100 pages, $13.95 paperback; $5.95 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
I know poetry fans are a fairly small subset. Fans of extreme horror poetry even more so. Once we cut (CUT—Ha! See what I did there?) that down to fans of extreme horror erotic poetry, we’ve got Steve. Maybe Jessica. Clearly, Leza is. But I’m pretty sure those three bought this the second it came out. The question is how to convince the rest of you.
Because If You Died Tomorrow is just solid poetry, regardless of your personal proclivities.
Here’s to My Sweet Satan: How the Occult Haunted Music, Movies and Pop Culture, 1966-1980 by George Case
Quill Driver Books (March 2016)
210 pages; $16.67 paperback; $8.69 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
“1971. I drop the turntable needle onto black vinyl and slip on headphones. I lounge on the waterbed. Later, after a few hits off the hash pipe, I play “Stairway to Heaven” in reverse. There, among the eerily garbled sounds, I detect a mysterious incantation:
Here’s to my sweet Satan/The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan/He will give those with him 666/There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.
The world spins darkly, I fall asleep.”
The Lay of Old Hex: Spectral Ballads and Weird Jack Tales by Adam Bolivar
Hippocampus Press (October 2017)
328 pages, $20 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Adam Bolivar is a Romantic poet, specializing in the composition of metered and rhymed balladry, a traditional poetic form that taps into haunted undercurrents of folklore to produce spectral effects seldom found in other forms of writing. His poetry has appeared on the pages of such publications as Spectral Realms and Black Wings of Cthulhu VI, and a poem of his, “The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner,” won a Rhysling Award for long-form poetry. His collection of weird balladry and Jack tales, The Lay of Old Hex, was published by Hippocampus Press in 2017.
Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost
Black Raven Books (February 2018)
266 pages; $13.95 paperback
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
Presented for your consideration are sixteen Twilight Zone-inspired tales and ten dark poems in Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost. Paying homage to Rod Serling, these stories are told in a highly omniscient style that slips between character point of view and occasional god-like narration. Generally this approach provides a satisfying read but this stylistic choice comes at the cost of emotional depth in some of the stories.
Those Who Follow by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason
Bloodshot Books (July 2017)
206 pages; $14.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Chad Lutzke
The moon was rising over the desert on the other side of the doorway, casting its long yellow fingers over the treetops, reaching out to the dilapidated church.
The above passage depicts the main location for the horrors that lie within. The church acts as a prison in another dimension for a group of women who have found their way into the hands of an evil “traveler”—one who has been given other-dimensional property to call his own.
First, a word about the introduction by Lansdale himself––a backstage pass to Mr. Lansdale’s writing method and history of The Magic Wagon. There’s a chance I liked it so much because we happen to have the same view on what makes a story and how to have fun writing and how pantsing (for us) is what keeps the fun going. The discovery as we write. Personally, it was like a nice little validation from the man himself that there ain’t nothing wrong with writing words down and just letting them take you wherever.
Sussex Horrors: Stories of Coastal Terror and Other Seaside Haunts by Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall
Herbs House (January 2018)
156 pages; $12.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
Unlike the common horrors of a typical seaside vacation, this anthology doesn’t involve overpriced hotel rooms or poorly cooked meals— although there is one rather nasty gift shop. Sussex Horrors: Stories of Coastal Terrors and Other Seaside Haunts brings together the combined talents of authors Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall to surprise and delight with enough gruesome horror to make us immediately rush for the perceived safety of the big city where things simply make sense. Preying on the fear of life outside the predictable and exploring the seldom-trod back roads of Sussex, this volume presents twelve well-crafted tales of terror.
Speaking to Skull Kings and Other Stories by Emily B. Cantaneo
Trepidatio Pub (May 2017)
203 pages; $13.55 paperback; $3.95 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
Reading Emily Cantaneo’s short fiction collection Speaking to Skull Kings is a wonderfully surreal trip into the fantastic unknown. The stories collected straddle all sorts of genres. Each take place in their own universes—realms far stranger than our own, or perhaps only slightly askew of our reality—with their own sets of rules, their own logic. There’s plenty of humanity here, however, and that’s what gives them their power.