Liv is a teenage girl, a high school freshman living with the typical teenage drama that comes with trying to find your crowd, not to mention your own identity. Unfortunately for Liz, she has more than the usual obstacles standing in the way of acceptance and self-confidence; she has to carry the burden of being the daughter of the man who went missing, showed up raving and naked in the middle of town, and then disappeared again.
Beyond the Gate by Mary SanGiovanni
Lyrical Underground (November 2019)
197 pages; $15.95 paperback; $8.69 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
If you’re a fan of cosmic horror and you’ve yet to delve into the work of Mary SanGiovanni, you need to rectify that, immediately. Without a doubt, SanGiovanni is one the best writers on the cosmic horror scene today. And best of all, SanGiovanni hasn’t been content to rehash old Lovecraftian gods. She’s invented her own mythos full of eldritch beings and malevolent aliens, a dizzying pantheon of epic proportions that is fresh, original, and contemporary. Her Hollower trilogy is still one of my favorites, and I still maintain that Thrall is simply one of the most original novels of cosmic horror I’ve ever read.
Some authors have a storytelling voice that feels familiar to the reader. I often say that these authors’ books are like coming home after wearing formal clothes all day, and then putting on your favorite pajamas; the definition of comfort.
Gemma Amor’s writing style “fits me.” We are a perfect reader/author match. The minute I start reading one of her short stories I am immediately drawn in and compelled to finish. It’s difficult for me to put any story of her’s down until I’m done.
Keith Minnion has long been a force in the horror genre, both as an author and artist. He made his name as an illustrator for several magazines and publishers, most notably and recently for the Stephen King/Richard Chizmar novels Gwendy’s Button Box and Gwendy’s Magic Feather. His short stories have been making the rounds since 1979 and his two collections have garnered high praise.
His first novel The Boneyard, immensely readable and well-written, tears into ground that feels untrodden and fresh. Finding something new these days is tough; finding something that is both new and successful in execution is much tougher. This novel nails it on both counts.
A Wind of Knives by Ed Kurtz
Independently Published (December 2019)
140 pages; $7.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
A Wind of Knives by Ed Kurtz is a grim beauty to behold. One part realistic western reminiscent of the late Ed Gorman’s work; one part rumination on the nature of love and the desperate ties which bind us together; all parts sad, brutal, and tragic. This isn’t a Saturday afternoon spaghetti western in which the good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black, with blazing six guns and stalwart heroes riding off into the sunset. It’s a melancholic story of a man fueled by revenge and the deep, aching pain that not only comes from loss, but also from the deepest kinds of betrayal.
If you’ve been to the South you’ve seen kudzu, the suffocating green vine that will envelop anything that stands still long enough. It fills gullys and blankets hills. It climbs telephone poles and encircles trees. It’s got a deep foothold in the region, and it’s tough. I once saw a car that had plunged nose-first into a kudzu-filled ravine, its taillights the only thing visible through the green webbing — webbing strong enough to catch the car like a net and keep it from hitting the ground.
Were the kudzu to disappear one day, to turn brown and crumble the way other, lesser plants do, there’s no telling what would be revealed. Abandoned pickup trucks. Forgotten general stores and shotgun houses. Animal bones by the millions. And secrets…so many secrets.
Shapeshifters: A History by John B. Kachuba
Reaktion Books (June 2019)
208 pages; $15.78 hardcover
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
As an English teacher and lover of myths and folklore, nonfiction works on the historical and mythical backgrounds of monsters and such is right up my alley. I love reading how strange beliefs, customs, and folktales serve as the roots of some of our more famous monsters and horror fiction beasties. So, as you can imagine, when Shapeshifters: A History by John B. Kachuba showed up on my doorstep, I was pretty excited.
Those who devoured Alma Katsu’s The Hunger (which should have won awards across the board last year—pun intended) will want to take the plunge into The Deep, a beautifully disturbing cross-genre tale that might even top that previous novel. Whereas The Hunger mined the ill-fated travels of the pioneers who traversed the Donner Pass, this one dives into the mystique of the Titanic, yet with a twist. The ship had a sister—the Britannic. This ship was retrofitted to be a hospital to be used during the war.
Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey
Written Backwards (February 2020)
342 pages; $29.95 hardcover; $16.95 paperback; $3.95 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann
I clearly remember a debate that transpired last summer on social media about anthologies. An author wondered about the future of anthologies because it seemed to him they don’t make any money. Several industry people weighed in with their strong opinions either in support of anthologies or against them (not really opposed to anthologies in general but speaking more about the profitability, or lack thereof).
Watching from the sidelines, I was beside myself. Anthologies are some of my favorite books to read. I chimed in on the conversation, only to add that I enjoy a well put together, themed anthology and that I am wholeheartedly in support of their continued success. Miscreations, by award-winning editors Doug Murano and Michael Bailey, proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that anthologies are well worth any amount of effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears.
I took a few road trips in my youth. While they were marked with plenty of shenanigans and questionable decisions (as was most of my youth), none of them came close to the craziness experienced by the women in Jane Goes North, Joe Lansdale’s new novel from Subterranean Press. It’s probably a good thing, too; Lansdale’s women barely flinch in the face of the inconveniences and dangers he tosses at them, while I would have crumbled like a cheap cookie.
Keeping Score: Angry Tanka by Susan Burch
Velvet Dusk Publishing (December 2019)
46 pages, $8.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Susan Burch is a prominent composer of English Language Tanka. She began writing tanka in April 2013 after reading winning contest poems on the Tanka Society of America website. She loved the brevity of the form and submitted to Ribbons, which published her first tanka and encouraged her to keep writing. Since then she has placed in Mandy’s Page’s tanka contest, the World Tanka Competition, Diogen contests, the Haiku Poets of Northern California contests, the British Haiku and Tanka Awards, the TSA’s Sanford Goldstein tanka contest, and most recently, the Fleeting Words tanka contest. Her most recent collection is keeping score: Angry Tanka.
The Night Doctor and Other Tales by Steve Rasnic Tem
Centipede Press (December 2019)
336 pages; $20 unsigned limited edition (700 copies) hardcover
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
I first encountered Steve Rasnic Tem’s work in the inaugural edition of the Greystone Bay series. “In a Guest House” was a startlingly quiet piece, humming with the same undercurrent of unease that can be found in the best Twilight Zone episodes. After that, I continued to encounter Tem’s work here and there, especially as I collected classic horror anthologies from the eighties and nineties. I loved the quiet restraint I found in his work, so when I happened upon a review copy for The Night Doctor and Other Tales, his most recent short fiction collection, I dived right in.
Last year, if I talked about highly anticipated novels in 2020, The Boatman’s Daughter was at the top of my list. This is Bram Stoker Award finalist Andy Davidson’s second novel. His debut, In the Valley of the Sun (2017) was one of the best books I read last year.
To the Bones by Valerie Nieman
West Virginia University Press (April 2019)
204 pages; $19.99 paperback; $11.49 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
At the core of every person, there is a twisted black seam which offsets the good that we might do. Some call it original sin. Others recognize it as karma. It is a swirling darkness of the soul from which no light escapes.
In West Virginia, it’s called coal.
The exploitation of lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous, and anthracite coal is as addictive as heroin to those who have no conscience about the subjugation of their fellow man and the natural world. This is true, at least in Redbird, a struggling community on a backroad in Appalachia, where the Kavanagh clan has built a mining empire atop death, black lung disease, cave-ins, suffocation, and the occasional gas explosion.
We could be looking at the next Jack Ketchum here. Actually, Karen Runge is quite her own identity, her own voice that simply delves into the deep, dark places which Ketchum mined so well. Doll Crimes is a novel that will likely disturb while it also examines the human soul, the good, the bad, and the downright evil in a manner that digs so deep, readers will have a tough time forgetting the characters long after the final page is turned.