WHO

WHO'S COMING DOWN YOUR CHIMNEY TONIGHT?




Charles Stross, "Overtime"

2016: CTHULHU FOR CHRISTMAS

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume II

Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume II Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume II by Mark McLaughlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of CRANIAL LEAKAGE: TALES FROM THE GRINNING SKULL VOLUME II

An engrossing 17 tales of literate horror to keep you awake at night, peering over your shoulder, identifying sounds out of place, this wonderful second collection from Grinning Skull Press inspires both thought and imagination. I won't pick a favorite, but I will say I am STILL checking over my shoulder, hoping not to see an Ifrit (or a hungry stray cat). I recommend tasting one story at a time, maybe at bedtime--or when home alone--or during a thunderstorm, reading by flashlight after the lights go out. It's really better if you don't turn around.....

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Review: Asylum

Asylum Asylum by Mark Allan Gunnells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: ASYLUM by Mark Allan Gunnells

Love 80's gritty horror films? Love campy horror? Love horror with a "Bite"-- no, not vampires: real-life issues--addiction, fear, social anxiety, sexual addiction, love, obsession, terror, bigotry of many stripes, true love and its loss, bitterness, resentment, peace in oneself, lack of internal peace..Author Mark Allan Gunnells bravely approaches these themes, and honey, the Zomb'pocalypse ain't the worst you need to worry over. Check out the additional new piece, "Lunatics Running the Asylum." The dead are actually nicer than the living, and far more considerate.

Mr. Gunnells introduces the Apocalypse in a new venue, a gay club owned and operated by an Earth Mother trans cross-dresser, who wants to help "gay orphans" like our protagonist Curtis, who don't have a strong support group. Now for Curtis (20-year-old university student and virgin. I'm really beginning to love the Feckless Hero category. Curtis is right in this category, but feckless and naive doesn't mean dumb or worthless. Curtis tocks, and so does his sexy heart object Jarvis.

This novella, and it's accompanying short story sequel, are sweet and entertaining, and still scary.

View all my reviews

Review of ASYLUM by Mark Allan Gunnells

Review: ASYLUM by Mark Allan Gunnells

Love 80's gritty horror films? Love campy horror? Love horror with a "Bite"-- no, not vampires: real-life issues--addiction, fear, social anxiety, sexual addiction, love, obsession, terror, bigotry of many stripes, true love and its loss, bitterness, resentment, peace in oneself, lack of internal peace..Author Mark Allan Gunnells bravely approaches these themes, and honey, the Zomb'pocalypse ain't the worst you need to worry over. Check out the additional new piece, "Lunatics Running the Asylum." The dead are actually nicer than the living, and far more considerate.

Mr. Gunnells introduces the Apocalypse in a new venue, a gay club owned and operated by an Earth Mother trans cross-dresser, who wants to help "gay orphans" like our protagonist Curtis, who don't have a strong support group. Now for Curtis (20-year-old university student and virgin. I'm really beginning to love the Feckless Hero category. Curtis is right in this category, but feckless and naive doesn't mean dumb or worthless. Curtis tocks, and so does his sexy heart object Jarvis.

This novella, and it's accompanying short story sequel, are sweet and entertaining, and still scary.

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Guest Post: WHY I LOVE ZOMBIES by Mark Allan Gunnells

Mark Allan Gunnells is a prolific author whose novella ASYLUM is currently featured.

ASYLUM

My review of the novella will be posted here, tomorrow (August 19). Meanwhile, enjoy Mark's guest post:

WHY I LOVE ZOMBIES

Zombie tales—be it in fiction, television, movies, even video games—has been hot for quite a while, and yet for all the fans of zombie stories, there is an equally vocal contingent of people who decry them. They say that zombie tales oversaturate the market and are actually killing horror. While I understand that certain types of stories aren’t for everyone, I am firmly in the camp of those that love a good zombie tale.

And the more traditional the better! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy when a storyteller employs a fresh and unexpected take on something familiar to the audience, but for me there’s something about the traditional, mindless zombie that just really appeals. I think there are several reasons for this.

First, other traditional horror monsters like vampires and even werewolves often have personality and a tortured quality that make them the focus of the story. That can be quite enjoyable (I’m a fan of all the classic monsters), but with the zombie being such a blank slate, it opens up the story to focus more on the protagonists, the human drama that comes from trying to survive something that cannot be reasoned with, that is driven purely by an instinct to kill. A lack of deeper motivation makes the zombie somehow more frightening.

As an extension of this point, the traditional zombie can often be used as a mere framework for telling very human stories. You get a band of disparate survivors together (trapped in a farmhouse or a mall or a bunker, or in the case of some of my work a gay club or a college dorm building), and then you can start to study group dynamics, personality conflicts, power struggles, bigotry, mental instability. This type of story paves the way for creating a microcosm of society in which you can deal with a lot of serious issues in an exciting and entertaining fashion.

What the late George Romero showed so powerfully in his own films was that zombie stories are perfect vehicles for social commentary that doesn’t become overly preachy. I can respect that, a story that engages as well as provokes thought and discussion.

>P> All of these things were in my mind when I sat down to write ASYLUM, my first real piece of zombie fiction. I went with a very traditional type of mindless zombie, and a familiar setup, having a group of characters trapped inside a gay club while the undead tried to force their way in. I used this as a springboard for a story about prejudice and self-loathing and insecurity and addiction, all wrapped up in what I think turned out to be a very entertaining piece of fiction. I was able to continue this in “Lunatics Running the Asylum,” a short story that picks up where the novella leaves off which is included in the new edition from Apex Publications.

I realize that just by nature of being a classic zombie tale, there are certain people out there that won’t even give ASYLUM a try, but as a writer I have to be true to my vision, my passions. I love zombie stories, and I’m happy to put my own stamp on the subgenre.

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: The Devoured

The Devoured The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE DEVOURED by Curtis M. Lawson

I am in awe of author Curtis M. Lawson, who brings to the table a towering intellect (my brain stretches reading his work) and a wide-ranging imagination. He also possesses an incredible grasp of language, laying down phrases like you wouldn't believe (but yet, here they are on the page). Often I pause to savour a turn of phrase, or a description, before continuing. I wouldn't classify his cosmology as fully Lovecraftian (he's far too clever to let his philosophy be limited) but it is Lovecraftian enough to suit this aficionado, and his writings acknowledge that Beyond so far distant from the puny concerns and miniscule concepts of humans (check out his collection BLACK PANTHEONS).

On the surface, THE DEVOURED is a tale set in California near the end of The War Between The States (and oh, the perspective author Lawson puts on that war resounds with clarity and discernment). An adolescent boy, oversized in body, with a good mind, devotion to his Paiute mother, and admiration for his Nordic father, finds himself in charge after Father travels to Texas in aid of the doomed Confederacy. His beloved mother falls ill and approaches death. When the God of Israel seems to provide no answer nor healing, he seeks out his shaman maternal grandfather, an evil man, also dying. Emmett gradually discovers planes of existence, entities, and evils not known to the majority of mortals. Not only the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: The Rest Will Come

The Rest Will Come The Rest Will Come by Christina Bergling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE REST WILL COME
by Christina Bergling

Poor feckless Emma, our heroine; she does “everything right,” only to have nothing go right. Marriage, debts, jobs, dating—she just can't reach her goal, can't grasp that brass ring; is not even sure any more “after all these years” that there is a brass ring—for her. Poor Emma. Then one day—maybe it's years of repressed anger, maybe it's frustration—one day she hears those insulting words once too often: “my heart's just not in it,” and Emma is instantaneously off on a whole new path. Serial murder? Well, these days it just doesn't pay to play fast and loose with Emma, for you may find yourself playing with the Grim Reaper. Emma's had enough...and now that she realizes that, just maybe “the rest will come.”

For all those single women (and can't commit men) who can't catch a break, here's a novel that mingles gore and hilarity, humor and death. Enjoy the catharsis. You'll be glad you did.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Review: Kind Nepenthe

Kind Nepenthe Kind Nepenthe by Matthew V. Brockmeyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review of KIND NEPENTHE
by Matthew V. Brockmeyer

Beautifully scenic, but humanity renders it depressing: Southern Humboldt County in Northern California. KIND NEPENTHE is a literate horror novel (I loved the epigrams the author's chosen), but I prefer to categorize it as Northern California drug culture noir. Populated by an almost completely sorry cast of lowlifes, KIND NEPENTHE only allows some to surface briefly, to try to be “somebody” with purpose, and then submerges them again. Rebecca wants to be completely organic, and be a sterling mother. Calendula (Mark) is a permaculture designer, or so he hopes. Diesel wants a second chance through his soon-to-be born grandchild, not to mess up as he did with his son and his wife. Actually, the only “winners” in this patch of noir are the hauntings...and we're never really certain what their foundation is, although we see it acted out in certain formerly living individuals. Mr. Brockmeyer does a sort of Henry James-ish horror, the kind that you know is present, but too shadowy and unspecific to get really frightened...until the end, when literally everything and everybody goes raving insane in a fast-paced few pages rolling like a bullet train.

{On a personal note, while I read KIND NEPENTHE, I also commenced another drug culture noir, this one set in New Mexico. Life imitates art.}

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: A Twist of the Knife

A Twist of the Knife A Twist of the Knife by Becky Masterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of A TWIST OF THE KNIFE by Becky Masterman

This third in the Brigid Quinn series, starring a fifty-nine year old female former FBI Special Agent, takes place in Florida instead of Tucson: specifically Fort Lauderdale, Vero Beach, and Raiford. FBI Agent Laura Coleman, prominent in the previous novel, FEAR THE DARKNESS, also encores. We learn a lot of backstory of Brigid's dysfunctional family {I am reminded of the family of cops in Karin Slaughter' s COP TOWN}. We are also treated to defense attorneys on a quest to overturn a possibly wrongful conviction, and the terrors of children missing. A horrible crime committed sixteen years ago resulted in the disappearance of three children, and the convicted is finally scheduled for execution.--but was the conviction righteous, or juggled?

View all my reviews

Review: Fear the Darkness

Fear the Darkness Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of FEAR THE DARKNESS by Becky Masterman

This second in Becky Masterman's Brigid Quinn series is my favorite of the three so far (published). I'm thinking it very well might be the author's exquisite depiction of sociopathy, its whys and therefores, and delineates so well how sociopaths can fool: both the "normal," and those who are themselves on the sociopathic continuum. Each mystery in this series is a pageturner, but I found this the most suspenseful and riveting.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Roofworld

Roofworld Roofworld by Christopher Fowler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: ROOFWORLD by Christopher Fowler

I first learned of this book from Paul Cornell's THE SEVERED STREETS, which highly recommended both Neil Gaiman' s NEVERWHERE and ROOFWORLD. I am glad to see the republication of ROOFWORLD, an intricately plotted novel of a civilization existing "above" London, a sort of "superstructure" invisible to the "Insects" living on London's surface (normals). Intended as an escape, a high-minded improved society, it has degenerated into vicious war and megalomania, as both sides strive to fulfill an occult potential.

View all my reviews

Review: The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE CHALK MAN by C. J. Tudor

A glorious mystery/thriller/coming of age novel, THE CHALK MAN is at once both riveting and engaging. The narrative interweaves the first person viewpoint (limited first-person) of our protagonist at 12, and at 42. Ed Adams is all in all an imperfect character, but his constant self-awareness of his faults renders him all the more likeable. At 12, he and his cronies are still primarily innocents, poised near the cliff's edge of adulthood. At 42, he looks around himself and mourns all that has never materialized. But even at 12, these boys are exposed to "adult" issues: tragedy, death, murder, hatred, fear. They don't always understand but they have to live it anyway. With this talented author, we live it all too.

View all my reviews

Review: The Doll Who Ate His Mother

The Doll Who Ate His Mother The Doll Who Ate His Mother by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE DOLL WHO ATE HIS MOTHER by Ramsey Campbell

This 1976 publication is not my top-favourite of Ramsey Campbell (so far, that's ANCIENT IMAGES and the collection HOLES FOR FACES) but I quite liked it. Unusually, my 5-star rating is not due to the horror and paranormal elements. Instead, I rated it highly due to Campbell's incredible grasp of and ability to delineate, character. This applies to his human inhabitants, but also to animals and to Place. Looking back through my reactions to the novel, I remember many occasions when I marveled at his revelation of character--just when I thought he had peeled back the remaining layers, he demonstrated more! The horror element is well done, and it's subtle, but I shall remember the novel for its characterizations.

[Note: in the case of Mr. Campbell's explication of the "villain's" inner state, the resonances are positively Poe-ish. See for example, "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Telltale Heart."]

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: Abode

Abode Abode by Morgan Sylvia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: ABODE by Morgan Sylvia

Rare is it in this era of splatter horror to find a book such as ABODE, in which the horror is all too prevalent and real, but is treated oh so subtly, as in a mystery where the reader tiptoes through clues. The author tantalizes us, not bludgeons us. ABODE is richly atmospheric, in the vein of Henry James' 19th century classic "Turn of the Screw." There are Lovecraftian overtones; there are also tragic psychological sufferings. There is evil. Above all, the reader revels in the exquisitely-tuned atmosphere.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Was Taken

The Girl Who Was Taken The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by Charlie Donlea

I recognized Charlie Donlea as an exceptional new author when I read his debut novel, SUMMIT LAKE. His new stand-alone, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, is equally superb. In the small and peaceful, quiet community of Emerson Bay, North Carolina, young women have disappeared. In bordering states, other girls have also gone missing, and some are discovered months, even years, later. Concomitantly, a young man trolls true crime groups and Internet chat rooms, seeking skewed individuals with a similar dark mind-set to his own. Dr. Livia Cutty is a pathology fellow at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh. Her autopsy of a corpse suspected to be a bridge jumper begins the unraveling of a complex and deadly mystery as Livia perseveres to reveal truth, no matter how unpalatable.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 28, 2017

Review: Welcome to the Apocalypse

Welcome to the Apocalypse Welcome to the Apocalypse by D.L. Richardson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE by D. L. Richardson

A subtle sense of humor, a speedy thriller with tons of unexpected moments, a frisson of anxiety over control by a computer, and really intense characterizations of individuals who can't help eliciting readers' empathy and understanding, weave together into a roller coaster of suspense leavened with romance, friendship, family bonds, as well as grief and unrequited longing. From page one on, you'll be thinking "what next, what happens now," and living vicariously through the characters, cheering them on. Thankfully, this is first of a series; I can't wait for more.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: Foxlowe

Foxlowe Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: FOXLOWE by Eleanor Wasserberg


FOXLOWE is a complex work of literary fiction which delves deep into its characters, peeling back their layers to reveal their natures. It is also an English stately house, set on the moors a short distance from standing stones. Foxlowe House is also the setting of a commune, semi-hippieish in its drive to sustainability, and semi-pagan in its emphasis on meditation and healing, and the essential importance of the Summer and Winter Solstices. The story is narrated by Green, a young girl who cannot remember "life outside," as Foxlowe' s inhabitants term all the world not Foxlowe and the Standing Stones. As Green grows, she narrates the microcosm that comprises life at Foxlowe.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: Final Girls

Final Girls Final Girls by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager

Oh my! A somewhat tiptoeish start soon tossed me onto a runaway rollercoaster of thrills, terror, and mystery. In this environment, I couldn't be certain who was who, who was culpable of what, and who could be trusted, if anyone--including our protagonist, the woman who insists she is "normal" despite the past everybody remembers except her.

Quincy Carpenter, like two other young women earlier, survived a massacre of sorts: one at a sorority house (Lisa of Indiana), one at a motel (Samantha of Florida). Quincy was the sole survivor of a group of friends at a weekend retreat in a forest cottage in Pennsylvania. The press terms them "Final Girls," like the sole remaining heroine in B-grade horror movies. (I prefer the concept of "Last Man Standing," as in Westerns; surviving ought to imply some skill and strength of will, rather than simply be left alive because the killer died or was captured.)

FINAL GIRLS "blew me out of the water". After six decades of voracious reading of mysteries, thrillers, and horror, the author still managed to blindside me, and I truly "didn't see it coming." I can't wait to read this novel again.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Cavern Of The Damned

Cavern Of The Damned Cavern Of The Damned by Russell James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: CAVERN OF THE DAMNED by Russell James

Exciting creature horror with a huge dose of implacability leavened with hope and a strong helping of the endurance of the human spirit, CAVERN OF THE DAMNED introduces readers to an unopened, unmapped, cave system in Montana. Folks, this cave was blocked to good purpose. Unfortunately, greed is near unstoppable, and the combination of a Hollywood producer and a caver banned from Yellowstone for illegalities will get it open to exploration, with disastrous results. Sometimes it's best not to breach a barrier.

Author Russell James delivers heart-in-mouth unstoppable action and terror. If you love creature horror, paleontology, megafauna, and scares-a-minute, love this!

View all my reviews

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: The Late Show

The Late Show The Late Show by Michael Connelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE LATE SHOW by Michael Connelly (Renee Ballard #1)

Michael Connelly delivers a certain presence in every novel, a presence which pulls the reader straight into the story and makes us live it vicariously. THE LATE SHOW is the first mystery-police procedural in a new series, focused on Detective Renee Ballard of the Los Angeles Police Department. Ballard is a tough and gritty character, akin to a bulldog when she gets an intuitive scent on a case. She is also vulnerable, as a female in a career that still has a male-dominant mind set.

THE LATE SHOW deals with very up-to-date issues: transgenderness, club shootings, the presence of evil. It's a nonstop thrilling read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case

The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case by James Neff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE WRONG MAN by James Neff

I was a toddler in a neighboring state when housewife Mrs. Marilyn Sheppard was brutally murdered in July 1954, leaving a seven-year-old son and a husband. Of course I knew nothing about it at the time, but in 1967 when the TV series "The Fugitive" debuted, I immediately became hooked on the story of a doctor wrongly accused of his wife's brutal murder, seeking justice and striving to clear his besmirched name. Associating this plot line with Dr. Sam Sheppard, I decided he too must be innocent but beleaguered by the disbelief of law enforcement and courts. Then when I began THE WRONG MAN and discovered Dr. Sam's personality faults (temper, philandering, an addictive personality), I changed my opinion and considered him guilty (for a time).

The lack of clarity and sheer failure to properly investigate may be equaled only by the investigation of the murder of Jon-Benet Ramsay in Boulder, Colorado in 1996. Too much belief in Dr. Sam's guilt and refusal to entertain other possibilities meant a near-railroading of Dr. Sam. Certainly no justice for Marilyn nor closure for her family was ever achieved.



View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Cavern Of The Damned

Cavern Of The Damned Cavern Of The Damned by Russell James
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Review: CAVERN OF THE DAMNED by Russell James

Exciting creature horror with a huge dose of implacability leavened with hope and a strong helping of the endurance of the human spirit, CAVERN OF THE DAMNED introduces readers to an unopened, unmapped, cave system in Montana. Folks, this cave was blocked to good purpose. Unfortunately, greed is near unstoppable, and the combination of a Hollywood producer and a caver banned from Yellowstone for illegalities will get it open to exploration, with disastrous results. Sometimes it's best not to breach a barrier.

Author Russell James delivers heart-in-mouth unstoppable action and terror. If you love creature horror, paleontology, megafauna, and scares-a-minute, love this!

View all my reviews