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.
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.
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.
When does a zombie story become interesting again, after the glut that’s thicker than the goo between the undead’s ears? Answer: Dead Aware, a tale that’s enjoyable from start to finish, and was an unexpected pleasure. Told from the points of view of an undead couple—okay, that was enough to hook me from the get-go—Merry’s story chronicles Clara and Max Jacobs from living to dead to undead to… whatever.
James A. Moore returns to the blood-drenched streets of Black Stone Bay in the third novel of this thrilling series. For those familiar with the spectacular Halloween series from Earthling’s Paul Miller, you know this annual offering is always a special treat. There’s never been a miss in the fourteen entries by the publisher, and this one is no exception.
When someone opens a Barry Hoffman novel, they know the story and characters will leave a scar. Like Jack Ketchum and the best of Richard Laymon, Hoffman never shies away from the ugly side of humanity and the horrors they inflict upon one another. His novels, which include the stellar Eyes series, have always tackled tough subjects, and he continues the trend with this story, one that was influenced by the rash of sexual assaults on college campuses across the country in the past year.
If readers haven’t yet discovered the magic of Steph Post’s enthralling writing, Miraculum is a fine place to start, a novel that should put her on the map with a style somewhere between Gillian Flynn and John Connolly, but with a mark all her own.
Weird fiction is making a massive comeback. Several authors are breaking out of a box they never felt comfortable being trapped in. Cody Goodfellow has never fit in any box. He can nail commercial fiction, straight up horror and other genres with ease, and has done so several years.