Kathe Koja has long been regarded as one of the true artists in dark fiction, weaving horror into stories and novels that blur the lines of genres and realities. From her Stoker winning The Cipher back in 1991, she has upended what’s to be expected from the genre. Of course, she’s also diverted on occasion into historical fiction, young adult, suspense, and simply plain weird fiction over the years. In Velocities, some of her best has been collected, ranging from “Pas De Deux” from 1995 to “Urb Civ” from 2019 — a stunning array of styles and stories that, while accessible, reach into surreal corners of our reality and others, almost as if creeping down into the hole in The Cipher itself.
Eric Guignard has fast become one of the most reliable “new” writers in horror and other speculative genres in recent years. His Doorway to the Deadeye and a ultra-cool anthology Pop the Clutch cemented his reputation, not to mention his more academic studies of authors plus the 5 Senses of Horror study/anthology.
Last Case at Baggage Junction is a weird bird but a fine read that demands to be read carefully, although it can easily be devoured in one sitting. Part noir, part horror, it burrows deep into the reader’s psyche as it weaves a deceptive tale that lingers long after the final page.
Author and artist Keith Minnion has returned with a personal novel that’s part police procedural, part supernatural mystery. Alongside The Boneyard, one of the best horror novels of the past ten years, and the recent collection, Read Me, readers are treated to something new, although there are some tricky — and cool — connections to the aforementioned book.
“Weird shit.” That’s Ben Walker. The expert on weird shit from the previous two entries which are standalone novels, Ararat and The Pandora Room, one of which left a scar few horror novels ever manage to accomplish while the other dug deep into thriller territory in a deliciously fun manner. How does Chris Golden follow this up? Red Hands.
A hunt for giants? Ties to the Bible? Rival factions that stretch back eons?
This is easily going to be one of the hottest thrillers of the year. Imagine if you will, Dan Brown writing with the pacing of Lee Child with the adventure factor of James Rollins. If that’s not enough to crack open this book, nothing will. Did I mention there are giants?
Adam Nevill has quietly transformed into one of the top writers in the past decade. His novels, ranging from Apartment 16 to last year’s The Reddening (easily this reviewer’s vote for most frightening novel of the year), have evolved into fiction that’s both accessible and surreal. The Netflix adaptation of The Ritual broke open the floodgates to new audiences everywhere. Hopefully, other films will follow.
It’s that wonderful time of year again when Earthling Publications announces their Halloween series title for the upcoming holiday. When was the last time Paul Miller failed to publish a stellar tale for this press? Hint: I’m still waiting.
Conrad Williams returns to the series in fine form here, following up his award winning The Unblemished from fourteen years ago, with a novel that at the onset sounds familiar but trust me—it’s anything but. I don’t know if the author is a baseball fan but he appears to be a master of the screwball, curveball, and sinker.
This review is a bit different. I’m approaching it as an author instead of a reader. I was in the midst of editing one novel and completing another—both were forever altered by this book. I’m also hitting it from the viewpoint of a creative writing teacher. Both color my opinion of this writing book by the prolific Tim Waggoner. For those unfamiliar with the author who seems to churn out a new novel every few months, either in his own worlds or dipping his toes in that of Supernatural, Alien, or Grimm, he’s also well known as a professor.
Nightworld. For F. Paul Wilson fans, it’s often in the top two or three novels by the legend, surpassed only by the first book in the Repairman Jack series, The Tomb. Nightworld signaled the end of civilizations as we know it (kinda fitting these days, isn’t it?) and was so popular, Wilson rewrote it to fit the series canon after the original Adversary sextet concluded. While that novel hit on all cylinders and checked every box that satisfied both thriller and horror fans across the globe, plenty of mysteries remained. Wilson has plugged some of those, most notably with last year’s Jack novel, The Last Christmas, and prior to that, Wardenclyffe.
The Horror Writer: A Study of Craft and Identity in the Horror Genre edited by Joe Mynhardt
Hellbound Books (January 2020)
216 pages; $14.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Books on writing have been churned out by the dozens, and while many have been worthy reads, few have been standouts. In the horror genre, even fewer come to mind, although there are a few classics.
Joe Mynhardt has compiled a wonderful, useful, and frightening insight into the minds of some of the best dark minds writing today. It’s like someone tore straight into the souls of these authors and culled their best, and darkest secrets.
Tales of the Lost Vol. 1: We All Lose Something! edited by Eugene Johnson and Steve Dillon
Things in the Well (December 2019)
283 pages; $15 paperback; $3 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Horror anthologies seem to be emerging like gremlins dunked in fetid water these days. While some are stellar, others fill up the pages with reprints from the greats, and some just fall through the cracks because the authors within aren’t household names.
Skillute is one of those towns that has quickly become one to remember in horror fiction. It’s creeping like a tainted tide, inspired by Oxrun Station from Charlie Grant and Cedar Hill from Gary Braunbeck. The land has been poisoned, seeping into the soil of a town that should be long forgotten, but things that refuse to die grasp hold of the frayed threads of reality in this Pacific Northwestern hell. Good people still reside there, and S.P. Miskowski has made them pawns in her playground, a setting that never can shed the shadows which infect everything that breathes within.
Doug Clegg has long been a fixture of superior horror fiction. The Faces is a perfect representation of what the novella form can be—powerful, succinct, and deep. Fans of The Twilight Zone and the best of Bentley Little with a touch of Harlan Ellison will devour this strong tale within hours.
Adam Nevill is a special writer. Those familiar with The Ritual, either the novel or the Netflix adaptation last year, know it’s a story that elevated horror in a way few authors can these days. Those who are fans of Banquet of the Damned, Last Days, and Apartment 16 realize the man writes with a smooth fury that evokes comparisons of Peter Straub, later-Robert McCammon, or Graham Joyce. Still, Nevill has a voice that’s all his own.
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.