Review: To The Bones by Valerie Nieman

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.Continue Reading

Review: Bloody Walls – A Collection from a Fractured Mind by Thomas Scopel

Bloody Walls: A Collection from a Fractured Mind by Thomas Scopel
Independently Published (July 2019)
236 pages; $7.99 paperback; $0.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

A corpus is technically defined as a collection of a single writer’s work or grouped writings about a particular subject—in this case, Thomas Scopel and his horror scrivenings. Given there are eleven tales of terror in this volume and about an equal number of speculative dark fiction shorts, there is certainly something here for everyone.Continue Reading

Review: Grim Harvest by Patrick Greene

Grim Harvest by Patrick Greene
Lyrical Underground (September 2019)
197 pages; $7.85 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

Grim Harvest by Patrick C. Greene is the second novel of “The Haunted Hollow Chronicles,” a planned series centering on Ember Hollow, an isolated community in the American heartland where cell phones and the internet simply don’t work. When, at the annual Halloween Harvest, events take a nasty supernatural turn, they have only themselves to count on. 

And that may not be enough.Continue Reading

Review: Every Foul Spirit by William Gorman

Every Foul Spirit by William Gorman
Crystal Lake Publishing (October 2019)
112 pages; $9.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

In horror fiction, there are often remote towns and villages such as Oxrun Station (Charles L. Grant), Cedar Hill (Gary Braunbeck) and even Ulthar (H. P. Lovecraft). In these wicked places on the backroads of fear, dark forces gather and do evil upon the innocent and not-so-innocent. These are off-the-main highway places where malignant entities rise and make a bloody and horrifying mess by ravaging pets, murdering children, compromising priests and virgins, befouling police officers, and corrupting any responsible adult who doesn’t have the sense to get the hell out of town when the first flesh-stripped beheaded corpse appears. Continue Reading

Review: The Last Ghost and Other Stories by Marie O’Regan

The Last Ghost and Other Stories by Marie O’Regan
Luna Press Publishing (April 2019)
148 pages; $11.99 paperback; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

O, modern reader, do you think you are too sophisticated to fear a wistful Gaussian blur hovering above your bed in the dead of night? You tell yourself it doesn’t exist. It can’t. Surely just a retinal trick in dim light.

Then why pay attention to the rustling beneath the bed? Or the persistent scratch at the door? (Look! The cat is sleeping soundly at your feet.) Too late, perhaps, an unseen hand coldly brushes your cheek or grasps your throat. Continue Reading

Review: Hollow Heart by Ben Eads

Hollow Heart by Ben Eads
Crystal Lake Publishing (November 2019)
156 pages; $11.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

If you like your horror fast and furious and your gameplay unrelenting, then Hollow Heart by Ben Eads will suit your fancy. In this telling of the birthing of a cosmic horror, the subtext is minimal, the text is visceral, and the hypertext feels like a drug rush when everything simultaneously makes sense and no sense at all.Continue Reading

Review: Night of 1,000 Beasts by John Palisano

Night of 1,000 Beasts by John Palisano
(April 2018)
208 pages; $14.95 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

The scariest things at a ski resort are normally daily ticket prices, $20 hot dogs, and the prospect of a twisted ankle or broken neck. This is hardly true in the gripping Night of 1000 Beasts by John Palisano, in which a hot-shot group of skiers find themselves in a horrific cosmic event where it becomes obvious that some of them have taken their last lift ride to the top.Continue Reading

Review: Here’s to My Sweet Satan by George Case

Here’s to My Sweet Satan: How the Occult Haunted Music, Movies and Pop Culture, 1966-1980 by George Case
Quill Driver Books (March 2016)
210 pages; $16.67 paperback; $8.69 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

“1971. I drop the turntable needle onto black vinyl and slip on headphones. I lounge on the waterbed. Later, after a few hits off the hash pipe, I play “Stairway to Heaven” in reverse. There, among the eerily garbled sounds, I detect a mysterious incantation:

Here’s to my sweet Satan/The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan/He will give those with him 666/There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.

The world spins darkly, I fall asleep.”Continue Reading

Review: Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost

Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost
Black Raven Books (February 2018)
266 pages; $13.95 paperback
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

Presented for your consideration are sixteen Twilight Zone-inspired tales and ten dark poems in Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost. Paying homage to Rod Serling, these stories are told in a highly omniscient style that slips between character point of view and occasional god-like narration. Generally this approach provides a satisfying read but this stylistic choice comes at the cost of emotional depth in some of the stories.Continue Reading

Review: Sussex Horrors by Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall

Sussex Horrors: Stories of Coastal Terror and Other Seaside Haunts by Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall
Herbs House (January 2018)
156 pages; $12.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne

Unlike the common horrors of a typical seaside vacation, this anthology doesn’t involve overpriced hotel rooms or poorly cooked meals— although there is one rather nasty gift shop. Sussex Horrors: Stories of Coastal Terrors and Other Seaside Haunts brings together the combined talents of authors Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall to surprise and delight with enough gruesome horror to make us immediately rush for the perceived safety of the big city where things simply make sense. Preying on the fear of life outside the predictable and exploring the seldom-trod back roads of Sussex, this volume presents twelve well-crafted tales of terror.Continue Reading