Review: Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (2021 Set)

Seth's Christmas StoriesSeth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (2021 Set)
Biblioasis (October 2021)
$9.50 each paperback; $25 set of three
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Reading a ghost story on Christmas Eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

I wish that had been the case with my family growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I love our traditions, but mixing in a ghost story would have been perfection. But I have to be honest — even as a young card-carrying, Fangoria-buying, Stephen King-reading horror fan, the idea of reading a ghost story at Christmas never occurred to me. If it had, I have no doubt I would have gravitated to these “Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories” sets from Biblioasis.

Biblioasis, a literary press based in Windsor, Ontario, has been releasing these editions for a few years now. They’re a smaller (4×6) size, so they’re perfect for stockings, and each year they focus on a different set of Christmas ghost stories. Past entries include such tales as “The Signalman” by Charles Dickens, “The Apple Tree” by Daphne du Maurier, and “The Story of a Disappearance and An Appearance” by M.R. James.

The 2021 set includes the following stories, each presented as its own paperback book:

  • “An Eddy on the Floor” by Bernard Capes: A man is appointed doctor of a local prison, where he meets a frightened inmate who is begging to be moved from next to a boarded-up cell that no one will let the doctor see.
  • “The Doll’s Ghost” by F. Marion Crawford: A young girl drops her doll down a staircase and prepares a grave for her fractured companion. Doll doctor Mr. Puckler comes to the rescue, but soon his daughter goes missing — and a strange voice begins to call out to him in the night.
  • “Mr. Jones” by Edith Wharton: Jane Lynke inherits a beautiful country estate, but someone named Mr. Jones has instructed the caretakers to deny all entry. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones himself is nowhere to be found.

As good as the story selection is, the design of each book is the star. Seth’s evocative covers and black-and-white interior illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment to the stories. His clean style elicits a ton of atmosphere without being hyper-detailed. In his work I see the brilliant use of shadow a la’ Mike Mignola, combined with the dark whimsey of Tim Burton.

Come Christmas Eve, you might find me dimming the lights and gathering the family to listen (and look at) one of these tiny terrors. Come the day after Christmas, I’ll be hitting the Biblioasis website to start building out my collection. Highly recommended for the horror lovers looking for something special in this post-Halloween season.

Celebrating OCTOBER NIGHTS with author Kevin Lucia

October Nights banner

This October, Kevin Lucia fulfills a dream with the release of a new collection of Halloween-themed short stories, October Nights. Crystal Lake Publishing will be releasing the collection on October 22, so this seemed like the perfect time to ask the author a few questions about his work, and to pick his brain about his — and our — favorite holiday, Halloween.

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HALLOWEEN KILLS: Tim Waggoner writes the book on Michael Myers

cover of Halloween Kills by Tim WaggonerAfter a long, COVID-prompted delay, Michael Myers is set to once again stalk movie (and television! ) screens in Halloween Kills, the sequel to the 2018 reboot/sequel Halloween.

Being the literary types that we are here at Cemetery Dance, we’re just as excited for the novelization of Halloween Kills as we are for the film. I reached out to author Tim Waggoner, the man tapped by Titan Books to pen the novelization, to see if he’d take us inside the process of bringing the Boogeyman to life on the page, and he was glad to oblige.Continue Reading

Review: Sleepless by Romy Hausmann

cover of Sleepless by Romy HausmannSleepless by Romy Hausmann
Flatiron Books (October 19, 2021)
336 pages; $23.99 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Nadja Kulka was convicted of a serious crime as a child, did her time, and is doing her best to move on. She lives a quiet, lonely life, happy for even the slightest attention given her by the closest thing she has to a friend — a woman named Laura. Laura’s been keeping to herself lately, but when something in her life goes horribly wrong, she runs to Nadja for help.

Soon, Nadja finds herself entangled in the violent aftermath of an extramarital affair gone wrong. Nadja, Laura, and Laura’s husband, Gero, all have their own agendas and objectives, and it all comes to a head with life-altering consequences.Continue Reading

Review: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

cover of Rock Paper Scissors by Alice FeeneyRock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
Flatiron Books (September 7, 2021)
304 pages; $23.49 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Something’s very wrong with Mr. and Mrs. Wright.

Yeah, Alice Feeney went there. The troubled couple at the center of her new novel, Rock Paper Scissors, are the Wrights, Adam and Amelia. They’ve grabbed their dog Bob and headed to a remote chapel-turned-bread-and-breakfast in the Scottish Highlands, where they hope to spend a snowy weekend piecing their faltering marriage back together., If you’re guessing that the only thing that holds more secrets than the Wrights is a remote chapel in the Scottish Highlands, you’re absolutely Wright. Uh, “right.”Continue Reading

Review: Bobcats by Matthew Weber

cover of Bobcats by Matthew WeberBobcats by Matthew Weber
Pint Bottle Press (June 2021)
182 pages; $11.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Horror authors all have their favorite subgenres, and I’d say most of them make at least one attempt during their careers to tackle them — to put their own spin on the types of stories that drew them to horror in the first place. The hard part is not allowing the “spin” to distract from the fundamental things that make those subgenres tick. Freshen them up, throw in a new angle, that’s great; but if they fail at the basics, the story itself is doomed to fail.Continue Reading

Review: Collectibles edited by Lawrence Block

cover of Collectibles edited by Lawrence BlockCollectibles edited by Lawrence Block
Subterranean Press (May 2021)
320 pages; $50 limited edition hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

I’ve been a collector as long as I can remember. From Star Wars figures to comics to trading cards to wrestling magazines to movie posters to….well, you get the picture. This continues today as I peer anxiously at my encroaching dotage, indulging in an old(er) man’s passion for vinyl records and vintage books.

I’ve got my grails, for sure, and a few pieces in my collection(s) that I’d vigorously defend, but damn….I’d never kill anybody over them.Continue Reading

Review: Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

cover of Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod ChapmanWhisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman
Quirk Books (April 6, 2021)
307 pages; $19.99 hardcover; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

It’s the early 1980s, and Satan is everywhere. He’s lurking in the lyrics of heavy metal music. He’s hiding among the marshmallows in your Lucky Charms. He’s capering through our neighborhoods, our basements, or churches, our schools.

Welcome to the era of Satanic Panic.Continue Reading

Review: Later by Stephen King

cover of Later by Stephen KingLater by Stephen King
Hard Case Crime (March 2021)
266 pages; $9.62 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

This is a horror story.

Yes, it’s a Hard Case Crime release, and yes, it has plenty of the necessary ingredients for a crime story. It has drug dealers and dirty cops and kidnapping and a serial bomber.

So yes, this is a crime story…but mostly it’s a horror story. A damn good one, I’m happy to say.

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Dead Air: The Company of the Mad – The Stand Podcast

banner for Cemetery Dance's Dead Air column - neon green background with black writing

logo of The Company of the Mad podcast2020 was a hell of a year to be reading Stephen King’s 1978 novel, The Stand….never mind devoting an entire podcast to it.

Jason Sechrest thought the same thing — in fact, he was reading it when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. He took to Twitter with his thoughts about the book, and with a dream about examining it in detail in a podcast, and before he knew it he’d assembled an amazing lineup of co-hosts: director Mike Flanagan, author Tananarive Due, and journalist/author Anthony Breznican. The result is a six-episode podcast that is entertaining, informative, and incredibly timely. (You can WATCH The Company of the Mad: The Stand Podcast at TheStandPodcast.com, or LISTEN on Apple Podcasts here.)

With the final episode set to go live on January 20, Sechrest took a few moments to talk to Cemetery Dance about the origins of the project, and what he and his mad company learned along the way.Continue Reading

Dead Air: Unboxing Jeff Terry

banner for Cemetery Dance's Dead Air column - neon green background with black writing

photo of Jeff Terry holding a knife
Jeff Terry

I was waiting on my copy of the Gift Edition of The Shining from the Cemetery Dance “Stephen King Doubleday Years Set” to arrive, so I thought I’d search for some unboxing videos so I could see what people thought about it — and to get a closer look at the finished product. One of the first ones I found was by a guy named Jeff Terry.

I hit the play button, and was greeted by some dude in what appeared to be a basement. The wall behind him was of grey brick, and a poster of Pennywise the Dancing Clown leered over the guy’s shoulder. The guy was wearing a black jacket, a set of enormous skull rings, and had a skull-shaped bottle of liquor on the table in front of him. He talked for a minute or two, and then proceeded to open the box containing the book, using one of the biggest damn knives I’ve ever seen.

I was hooked.Continue Reading

Review: Fishing for Dinosaurs by Joe R. Lansdale

cover of Fishing for Dinosaurs by Joe R. LansdaleFishing for Dinosaurs by Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean Press (November 2020)
378 pages; $40 limited edition hardcover; $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

In his introduction to this, his latest collection, Joe R. Lansdale writes, “It’s no secret that I like to write a variety of stories in a variety of genres, and my favorite of those is the Lansdale genre.”

Lansdale goes on to explain what that genre is, but all you really need to do to understand the “Lansdale genre” is to read the stories that follow the introduction. Reading these stories is like taking a peek into Lansdale’s mind, a one-of-a-kind universe where cowboys fire six-shooters at Tyrannosaurus Rexes; where apes don space helmets and fly to the moon; where one-eyed space aliens tend bar in an old mining town saloon.Continue Reading

Review: The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume 1 edited by Paula Guran

cover of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Volume 1 edited by Paula GuranThe Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume 1 edited by Paula Guran
Pyr (October 2020)
440 pages; $15.53 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

In her introduction to The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume 1, editor Paula Guran writes “Most of these stories begin with a world you can identify with. Then…the world changes. The normal is subverted.”

My first thought was, “That’s horror fiction in a nutshell.” (My second thought was, “That’s 2020 in a nutshell,” but I don’t want to get into all that.)

The stories Guran has chosen for this, her eleventh volume in this series (the first ten were published by Prime Books), back up her assessment. These are stories of worlds that you will probably recognize; or, at the very least, be able to relate to on some level. These are stories of ordinary beings trying to persevere under extraordinary circumstances. These are stories of extraordinary beings looking to reshape the world around them. These are stories of what happens when “the normal” is intruded upon, wiped out, rethought….or undone.

A few highlights:

Rebecca Campbell’s “The Fourth Trimester is the Strangest” follows a new mother as she fights through a postpartum horror show. As her sleeplessness and fear ratchets up, so does the fear she and those around her feel for her baby, and for the damage that may come at her suddenly unreliable hands.

Sam J. Miller’s “Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart” depicts the surreal encounter between a New York cab driver and a post-King Kong Ann Darrow. The cabbie takes Darrow away from yet another vapid red carpet event, and unexpectedly finds himself privy to her plans to avenge the death of the god-like ape.

“Conversations with the Sea Witch” by Theodora Goss tells of the meeting between a woman who was once a mermaid and an old sea witch. The two get together often to discuss the life-changing decisions they each made in the past, and how things turned out for them in the aftermath.

I’d call “About the O’Dells” my favorite of the collection. Pat Cadigan writes about a young girl who witnesses a murder, and who is (understandably) haunted by what she saw. Years later the killer — or someone the girl strongly believes is the killer — re-emerges, and the girl finds herself collaborating with a revenge-seeking ghost.

Guran has put together a solid collection here, filled with intriguing characters, fresh approaches to old tropes, and sound storytelling. This is definitely a great book to have around when you want something quick and good to read. It’s introduced me to a number of new names that I’ll be seeking out in the future. Recommended.

Review: Ink by Jonathan Maberry

cover of Ink by Jonathan MaberryInk by Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin’s Griffin (November 2020)
464 pages; $13.72 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Jonathan Maberry first caught my eye nearly 15 years ago with Ghost Road Blues, which was both his first novel and the first novel in the Pine Deep Trilogy, which also includes Dead Man’s Song and Bad Moon Rising.  The town of Pine Deep has popped up here and there in his work since the completion of that original trilogy, but with Ink it’s back center-stage.

For those of you who haven’t read the Pine Deep Trilogy yet, don’t worry — Ink  stands on its own. I haven’t re-read those books since their original release, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying this book as its own story. However, I highly recommend picking them up — it’s a great trilogy, and reading them will certainly enhance your experience with Ink.

In this new novel, something is targeting citizens of Pine Deep and stealing their most precious possessions — their memories. It’s not just taking these moments from these people, it’s feeding on them, erasing them from existence. For many of the victims, memories are all they have, and losing them is the equivalent of losing their last tenuous grip on life.

I’ve long been in awe of Maberry’s talent. He does not write small books — I’d say 400 pages is about average for him. But his characters are so real, his scenes so vivid, you never feel bogged down. You come out of a Jonathan Maberry book not having read it, but having lived it. It’s the highest compliment I can pay to a writer, and Ink once again earns that accolade for its author.

Reading Ink was, for me, like returning to a place after along absence. It’s a place you once called home, and while lots of things are different now, there’s enough there that’s recognizable to bring those old feelings to the surface. Those feelings — those memories — are just what the monster in this book is feeding on. Losing those moments, those feelings, those memories, is a scary proposition, and Maberry’s work brings that feeling to dreadful life. Highly recommended.

Ronald Kelly Opens The Halloween Store

Cover of the book The Halloween Store by Ronald Kelly. Features three jack o lanterns that have been carved for Halloween. But one of them is a human face! GASP!

Ronald Kelly has been spinning his throwback style of horror since the early 1990s, blending the no-holds-barred sensibilities of Jack Ketchum with the quiet dread of Charles L. Grant. He’s recently dropped a themed collection, The Halloween Store and Other Tales of All Hallows’ Eve, just in time for our favorite holiday. With these stories (plus a couple of nonfiction essays), Kelly aims to invoke those wind-swept October nights when freedom and fear walked hand-in-hand.

Kelly, who has a long history with Cemetery Dance that he touches on briefly in this interview, was kind enough to answer a few questions about these new stories and more.Continue Reading