Review: Ameri-Scares: Legend of the Night Marchers by Patricia Lee Macomber

Ameri-Scares: Legend of the Night Marchers by Patricia Lee Macomber
Crossroad Press (March 2023)
192 pages; $12.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The Ameri-Scares series built by Elizabeth Massie has been one of biggest surprises in middle grade horror in the past decade. Stories based on legend, folklore, or creepy stories in every state rival the best of Goosebumps, and with serious geography and history. A couple of the authors allowed in her sandbox have proven themselves worthy.
First-timer Patricia Lee Macomber knocks it out of the park, luau-style with Legend of the Night Marchers. A horror tale in Hawaii? Absolutely! There’s a wealth of stories waiting to be mined in the state — yet Macomber goes for the different in the marchers that bring the creepy factor to the nth degree.

Continue Reading

Review: American Cannibal edited by Rebecca Rowland

cover of American CannibalAmerican Cannibal edited by Rebecca Rowland
Maenad Press (March 2023)
352 pages; $19.99 hardback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

This is what’s needed right now: a wonderfully brutal anthology about cannibalism in American history. At first, readers may feel a touch of reluctance due to the subject matter. My advice? DO NOT HESITATE.

These stories, chosen with exquisite taste by editor Rebecca Rowland, are all about the story and characters as the history of this country frames some truly unique tales. I’m not one for gore and this anthology, again, focuses on the true horror: human behavior and the awful acts people inflict on each other before the blood begins to spill.Continue Reading

Review: Lone Women by Victor LaValle

cover of Lone Women by Victor LaValleLone Women by Victor LaValle
One World (March 28, 2023)
304 pages; $27 hardback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Some books, special books, have a narrative style that grab the reader by the throat while whispering the words of angels in the ear. When that writing connects with a story so mesmerizing, the result is a reading experience that whisks away the hours.

When attempting to explain the plot of Lone Women, one might find themselves a bit tangled. Victor LaValle has been know to accomplish this before. The Changeling, The Ballad of Black Tom, and The Devil in Silver all exemplify this in stories that meld genres, the fantastic with the grotesque, the beautiful with the grittiest of settings.Continue Reading

Review: The Drift by C.J. Tudor

cover of The Drift by C.J. TudorThe Drift by C.J. Tudor
Ballantine Books (January 31, 2023)
352 pages; $28 hardcover; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

It’s always a wonderful thing when readers discover a talented new writer whose every offering is rock solid, the quality high yet never failing to break out of comfort zone. C.J. Tudor has become something of a superstar in the thriller and darker tales in the past five years. From the most recent The Burning Girls, an almost folk horror thriller, to her debut The Chalk Man, one of the best thrillers in recent memory, Tudor has played it small, meaning the settings have centered around small, claustrophobic towns and characters who are anything but what readers expect them to be. With The Drift, the author goes big. High concept, end of the world scenario, and a situation that’s horrific, weaving in terror that would find itself familiar in tales of that guy from Maine.

Continue Reading

Review: Marla by Jonathan Janz

cover of Marla by Jonathan JanzMarla by Jonathan Janz
Earthling Publications (October 2022)
SOLD OUT Limited Edition; $TBD Lettered Edition
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Another year, another home run for Earthling, this time thanks to the magic of Jonathan Janz. This offering is no different than any of the other great stories Paul Miller has unleashed unto the world of horror.
MARLA is a fascinating read that can be devoured quickly, but shouldn’t, especially if intriguing writing and deep characterization is your thing. In a year full of quality horror, it takes a massive work of art to stand out from the crowd. 

Continue Reading

Review: Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie

cover of Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouieEpisode 13 by Craig DiLouie
Redbook (January 24 2023)
464 pages; $18.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The new year might kick off with its first amazing novel. Episode Thirteen is different. For a fan of the paranormal, it checks all the right boxes. For horror fans, even more. For those who love different modalities of storytelling, well, double check.Continue Reading

Review: Shagging the Boss by Rebecca Rowland

cover of Shagging the BossShagging the Boss by Rebecca Rowland
Filthy Loot (June 2022)
82 pages; $12 paperback
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Okay, before anyone starts quoting Austin Powers in a bad accent, the shagging Rebecca Rowland refers to might be a bit different. Well, quite different. The title does fit, though, yet I can’t divulge too much of this novelette’s plot. It’s unique and a quick read, easy for one sitting…but this story stuck to me like a great meal. More on that later.Continue Reading

Review: Moonless Nocturne by Hank Schwaeble

cover of Moonless NocturneMoonless Nocturne by Hank Schwaeble
25 & Y Publishing (October 2022)
338 pages; $17.95 paperback; $7.49 e- book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

When a two-time Stoker winner pens a collection, there’s a strong chance the pages will be full of magic and exquisite darkness. Add to that an introduction by the grandmaster of horror, Dr. F. Paul Wilson, the reader will feel confident that Moonless Nocturne is worth every penny.

Hank Schwaeble has written the intriguing Jake Hatcher series, yet it’s his shorter fiction where his talent truly shines. This book of dark tales span quite the spectrum of genres here, putting to rest any thoughts that the author is a one-trick pony.Continue Reading

Review: Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

cover of Reluctant ImmortalsReluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste
Gallery/Saga Press (August 2022)
320 pages; $17.99 paperback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

This was unexpected. Then again, for those who have ever been treated to one of Kiste’s works, the unexpected is part of the gift she gives to her readers. Gorgeous prose wrapped around the darkest reaches of the human condition in plots that are anything but overdone.Continue Reading

Review: Upgrade by Blake Crouch

cover of UpgradeUpgrade by Blake Crouch
Ballantine Books (July 2022)
352 pages; $19.20 hardcover; $14.99 e- book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Evolution can be a fascinating topic for thrillers, science fiction, and horror. One thing is clear: it almost never ends well. Just ask Dr. Moreau.

However, the evolution of Blake Crouch has been a pleasure to watch and the only danger to society is keeping readers up past their bedtimes.

From the weird brilliance of the Wayward Pines trilogy to the beautiful horror of Dark Matter, Crouch has carved out his own path in strange, dark thrillers.Continue Reading

Review: Generation X-Ed edited by Rebecca Rowland

cover of Generation Ex-edGeneration X-Ed edited by Rebecca Rowland
Dark Ink (January 2022)
350 pages; hardcover $27.71; paperback $19.99; e-book $9.99
Reviewed by Dave Simms

What’s the coolest generation in the history of mankind? Those born from 1965 to 1980 know this by heart and feel for those peons who look up to us. The best horror movies? Same — what’s better than what we grew up with? A bit, but not much. As for the horror writers, the novel was king and those fortunate enough to be conceived during this amazing time have a dark streak in their DNA that casts a long shadow.

Continue Reading

Review: The Fervor by Alma Katsu

cover of The FervorThe Fervor by Alma Katsu
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (April 2022)
319 pages; $27.00 hardcover
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Sometimes a book comes along that is so special, it moves rather than frightens the reader, and gives a history lesson that likely won’t be found in anything we experienced in school.

When that same book also is relevant to society today, especially in the past few years within this country, it makes for an event that transcends genre.

The Fervor is that book.Continue Reading

Review: Dance Among the Flames by Tori Eldridge

cover of Dance Among the FlamesDance Among the Flames by Tori Eldridge
Running Wild Press (May 24, 2022)
404 pages; $19.99 paperback; $9.49 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

I love when a novel not only exceeds expectations but expands the limits of what’s expected. Dance Among the Flames is a story that demands a reader’s attention and exquisitely opens the mind to descriptions and concepts not found in books typical of this genre — or genres, as this combines elements of horror, historical, fantasy, and thriller novels into a dangerous, yet delicious concoction. It asks the reader to kick back, put their feet up and bleed their imagination into the fiction.

Continue Reading

The Cemetery Dance Interview: The Homegrown Horror of Elizabeth Massie

banner graphic that says Cemetery Dance Interviews

Elizabeth Massie
Elizabeth Massie

Elizabeth Massie is a modern master of horror, thrillers, and all things spooky, not to mention just about every other genre known to mankind. With her new collection of short stories, Madame Cruller’s Couch and Other Dark and Bizarre Tales, she reminds fans how a forty-year career is still improving. Yes, she’s won a pair of Stoker Awards, one for Best First Novel (Sineater) and Novella (Stephen), but she’s always gone beyond the expected, spinning her tales with a homegrown voice. She’s an eighth-generation Virginian and has incorporated an Appalachian flavor to many of her stories. While many of her tales hail from the Shenandoah region, she is familiar with many an era and local folklore. Novels such as Hell Gate and her Young Founders series, not to mention her new historical The Great Chicago Fire display her love for the the past.

Yet it is her success of the Ameri-Scares series, which focuses on folklore horror from a different state in every book, that shows the breadth of her love for dark tales for all ages. Optioned by Warner Bros, the series embraced fascinating stories while educating young readers.
When she was a little kid in Waynesboro, she wanted to be either a writer, actress, or horse when she grew up. The last two didn’t pan out (although she did perform in a variety of local theater shows back in the day and she could cut loose with a fine whinny), but the first finally came true. She juggled teaching middle school life science during the day and typing (no computers for her until the mid-1990s) books and stories at night for nine years before taking the scary plunge into full time writing.
Now Beth juggles writing and life with her wonderful husband, illustrator Cortney Skinner (she tried juggling him, too, but…), in their country home in Augusta County. She’s had more than 30 novels and collections published as well as countless short stories in anthologies and magazines and is constantly bombarded by ideas for new tales. She and Cortney like to place and find geocaches, spend time at Starbucks, and drive around, seeking roads they’ve never traveled before. Beth is fascinated by abandoned amusement parks, hospitals, and houses and always keeps an eye out.

Continue Reading

Review: Madame Cruller’s Couch by Elizabeth Massie

cover of Madame Cruller's CouchMadame Cruller’s Couch and Other Dark and Bizarre Tales by Elizabeth Massie
Crossroad Press (August 2021)
290 pages; hardcover $31.99; paperback $18.99; e-book $4.99
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Elizabeth Massie is an American literary treasure. Yes, she’s won the Bram Stoker Award twice but she’s far more than a horror icon. Ameri-Scares, her middle-grade series that tackles dark legends in every state, was optioned by Warner Horizon. Then there’s the mysteries, psychological suspense, historical fiction, and simply great weird stories.
In this new collection, readers will be treated to a wide swath of masterful stories, from the horrific to the oddly weird and everything in between.

Continue Reading