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.
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
JournalStone (April 2017)
267 pages; $15.93 paperback; $3.95 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
And Her Smile With Untether the Universe is an amazing collection of speculative fiction by Gwendoyn Kiste which touches on surreal fantasy but never loses its grip on an all too tangible—sometimes painfully so—sense of reality. This is important for me, because I often find that happens with surreal stories of the fantastic. While I admire the world created and the surreal experience rendered, I sometimes feel distant from the characters and their experiences, and the stories fail to really impact me on an emotional level.
Alexandra Sokoloff has never strayed away from the controversial in her work, whether it be in her Stoker-nominated horror titles or in her Huntress stories. Plenty has been written about this, the fifth in that series, and it will be pretty easy to figure out why once the final page is turned.
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Orbit Books (November 2017)
448 pages; $18.57 hardcover; $15.99 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Mermaids? Scary? Nope, this isn’t a joke, and if you’re familiar with Mira “Seanan McGuire” Grant, queen of the Feed series, you know she’s capable of some horrific storytelling. Imagine if Michael Crichton and Stephen King mind-melded with someone brave enough to tackle a creature that most readers would not take seriously. The result would be a novel that’s scientifically based, utterly plausible, and with enough rich characters to make you cringe every time a dark corner is turned. Add to that the sheer lyricism of Grant/McGuire’s prose and Into the Drowning Deep is born, a horror novel that’s as frightening as Aliens and mind-bending as Jurassic Park (the concepts, not the dinos themselves).
Over the years, the Hellraiser mythology has become something of a hash, combining elements of Clive Barker’s original novella The Hellbound Heart with bits from the Hellraiser movies (mainly the first two in the franchise: Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II). Nowhere is this more evident than in The Scarlet Gospels. In Barker’s 2015 novel, the cenobite known as Pinhead (but not to his face; no, never to his face) was a sometimes confusing mix of the elegant sadist from Hellbound Heart and a bloodthirsty, Hollywood-style slasher.
I stood on our rickety old porch, looking out towards the peeling paint on the back shed as the sunset drained like a stuck pig, bleeding out red all over.
In this first-person, coming-of-age novella, a warbler is a winged creature that isn’t welcome. And after young Dell and his family try to ignore the pack of them, it turns out they’re rather dangerous, too–-–even tearing apart poor Dell’s dog. So Dell and his father set out to rid their back shed of the beasts, but the means to which they do so could prove even worse a predicament than what they’re already up against. Not just for their family, but maybe for the whole town.
Breathe, Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Unnerving (October 2017)
176 pages, $13 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is an author, writer, journalist, editor, marketer, public relations professional, and photographer. Her first collection, Breathe, Breathe, published by Unnerving Magazine, was released to wide acclaim. This collection of short stories and poetry reached #2 on the Amazon paid Hot New Release Bestseller list, right behind New York Times Bestseller Rupi Kaur’s second book that came out at around the same time. It is a very accessible collection, though it often fails to deliver in terms of craft.