Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Jacob's Descent

Jacob's Descent Jacob's Descent by Sandra Brannan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: JACOB'S DESCENT by Sandra Brannan
(A Liv Bergen Mystery Book 6)

I read Books 1-6 in 9 days; I truly adore this series, and I hope it continues on and on (lots more on which to expand). Liv is recuperating with her family in South Dakota following the tragic losses of Book 5. But where Liv is, often as not will be not peace but controversy, not safety but danger. As in WIDOWS MIGHT, history plays an essential, if ugly role. Liv will face danger, deception, and modern-day feuding families. Like Book 5 and earlier, this was a one-day read, as I just couldn't stop.

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Review: Solomon's Whisper

Solomon's Whisper Solomon's Whisper by Sandra Brannan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: SOLOMON'S WHISPER by Sandra Brannan
(A Liv Bergen Mystery Book 5)

One of author Sandra Brannan's many talents is encompassing topical subjects. In the first in this series, she examined culture and Art, delineating the fine narrow line separating genius and insanity. Next she examined the outlaw biker counter-culture, then eco-terrorism and history, followed by child abuse. In SOLOMON'S WHISPER, the topic is Vigilantism, and how it grows out of a dissatisfaction with America's criminal justice system. There is also a continuation of the child abuse thread found in NOAH'S RAINY DAY, and much examination of the protagonist and her personal life. Prepare to have your emotions turned inside out. Ms. Brannan really managed to fool me, so that the denouement I truly did not expect.

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Review: Chilly da Vinci

Chilly da Vinci Chilly da Vinci by Jarrett Rutland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: CHILLY DA VINCI by Jarrett Rutland

I love to find children's books that not only provide a neat story, but also offers more: inspiration, encouragement, a moral lesson. CHILLY DA VINCI is a delightful tale of an inventor penguin. Chilly is creative and "thinks outside the box." Like Thomas Edison, his inventions aren't always perfect on the first attempt, but that never fazes him. He just keeps on.

Inspiring, encouraging, and delightful, CHILLY DA VINCI is a good read, both for reading children and reading to younger kids.

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Review: Noah's Rainy Day

Noah's Rainy Day Noah's Rainy Day by Sandra Brannan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

REVIEW: NOAH'S RAINY DAY by Sandra Brannan
(A Liv Bergen Mystery Book 4)

Liv Bergen is an extraordinary protagonist, of whom I've become extremely fond, extremely fast. Born into a mines-owning large family (Liv Is one of 7 sisters and has 2 brothers), she has always been an inveterate puzzle solver, and just can't let a mystery go. She joins the FBI almost accidentally (or is it fate?) and becomes an applauded Special Agent. This installment, like the following two novels, is a tearjerker, also stomach churning because of the plot (although the author doesn't over detail the situation). Liv' s nephew Noah, who has cerebral palsy, but a brilliant intellect and great powers of observation, is the star.

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon_April 28, 2018

This is held semiannually, in April and October. Yesterday was my first go. I started 2 hours, 50 minutes late.

I read for 12 hours, 45 minutes (of 24).

I read (in entirety): SOLOMON'S WHISPER, Book 5 in the Liv Bergen Mystery Series By Sandra Brannan;

CHILLY DA VINCI, a children's picture and text story by Jarrett Rutland.

Finally I read 13% of THE TWELVE by D. E. McCluskey, a terrifically engrossing horror novel.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Review: Widow's Might

Widow's Might Widow's Might by Sandra Brannan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: WIDOWS MIGHT by Sandra Brennan (A Liv Bergen Mystery #3)

This third installment of the Liv Bergen Mystery Series follows directly and immediately from LOTS RETURN TO SODOM (Book 2), while Liv is preparing to leave Rapid City, South Dakota, to return to home at Fort Collins, Colorado, and employment as Division Manager of the family quarry. But seemingly fate (or Liv's unconscious plans) has other ideas. Tapped by FBI Special Agent Streeter Pierce to become the new handler for Liv' s late friend's FBI trailing (manhunting) dog, Liv has also been tentatively asked to consider applying to the FBI.

While Pierce is assigned temporarily to the Rapid City FBI Office, he is tasked to consider a long series of cold cases attributed to a perpetrator tentatively labeled "Crooked Man." Turns out, the trail isn't quite cold, because the killer isn't finished, and this one directly endangers Liv' s family, and Liv. The plot is immensely convoluted, and clearly demonstrates the famous dictum of historian George Santayana:
"Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it."

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Lot's Return to Sodom

Lot's Return to Sodom Lot's Return to Sodom by Sandra Brannan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: LOT'S RETURN TO SODOM by Sandra Brannan
(A Liv Bergen Mystery)

I fell in love with this series from the very beginning of the first mystery, IN THE BELLY OF JONAH. I loved this one also, though due to the subject matter it was personally uncomfortable. Ms. Brennan delves deeply into the psyches of her characters (which I find personally gratifying) and she continues to set up complex patterns and plots.

Protagonist Liv Bergen returns to her home town of Rapid City, South Dakota, for a brief convalescence with family as she continues her recovery from the near-fatality of IN THE BELLY OF JONAH. It so happens that her visit coincides with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and multiple murders. Liv' s puzzle-loving mind can't resist interfering, especially since one elderly deceased was a long-term family friend, and the murdered young lady was shortly to become Liv's brother's beloved fiance.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: In the Belly of Jonah

In the Belly of Jonah In the Belly of Jonah by Sandra Brannan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: IN THE BELLY OF JONAH by Sandra Brannan
(A Liv Bergen Mystery, #1)

An extraordinary commencement to what promises to be an extraordinary series, IN THE BELLY OF JONAH is, without exaggeration, unforgettable. Those opening scenes!... Not just those, the entire novel. The empowered female series protagonist, the FBI Special Agents, the victims, the secondary characters--and the Villain. Oh my. Ted Bundy, step aside. This is a novel in which a number of characters are brilliant intellects: Liv Bergen, the protagonist; a few of the FBI agents, and the Villain. So, as with the real-life killers Leopold and Loeb of 1920's Chicago, there's a constant "battle of the minds" which raises the story level (and the stakes). Then, too, a strong cultural framework contains the story's tapestry (Art), balanced by the bizarre psychology and methods of the Villain.

Thankfully I own the first six books in the series and am making this a marathon read.

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Friday, April 20, 2018


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: LAND OF BONES by Glenn Rolfe

By turns heart-touching, heart-tearing, oh! My!, and almost always Scary!, Glenn Rolfe's new collection showcases this author's variety. I'd say there's something here to terrify almost everyone, even the most jaded reader of horror, dystopia, or apocalyptic scenarios. There's also a thoughtful and heartening introduction from author Erin Sweet all-Mehairi, the talented editor of this collection.

I thought I could select one or two stories to call "my favourites" in this set. Didn't work that efficiently. Found I had several. For the "Oh!My!" factor, there's "Wish." (If I was a little more puritanical, and thought Jonathan Edwards was peering over my shoulder, I'd sling this story into the "Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out" folder. Of course, these stories ARE set in New England....)

Then there's the delightfully painful "Not Kansas Anymore," which is set in Maine, there are no flying monkeys but something worse--and you really, really, do not want to see the "man" behind the curtain.

"Fire"--tore me up. I'm sure there will be nightmares. Inescapable and implacable, maximally.

"Simon"--hello, Mr. Lovecraft, and plenty of "Oh! My! Oh! No!" Factor. Very scary. What hurt worst? The little girl voices it. Read and see.

Finally, the story that cast me back to an earlier work by this gifted man, "The Ghosts of Spears Corners." If you've read Glenn's impactful CHASING GHOSTS (a book whose memory STILL wakes me up at night gibbering), race at the speed of light to read "Ghosts of Spears Corners" first {read it in sunlight}.

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Review: The Shimmer

The Shimmer The Shimmer by Carsten Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE SHIMMER by Carsten Stroud

To date, I have never met a Carsten Stroud novel I haven't adored. Each one steals my breath and provides the most important criterion in reading: total engrossing absorption. In THE SHIMMER, he takes on time travel, metaphysics, serial killing, and body thievery, and renders it all completely believable.

An extraordinary Florida Highway Patrol sergeant tracks a suspicious SUV, opening a case that will literally result in life and death and time travel. You won't know what's next, but you won't be able to stop. Prepare for a couple of sleepless nights!

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

SCARBOROUGH FAIR Series by Margarita Morris_Tour and Reviews

Historical Mystery/Thriller
Date Published: 20 March 2016
Publisher:  Landmark Media

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Scarborough Fair
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

1899: Alice isn’t mad. So why has she been put away in a Victorian lunatic asylum without any hope of escape?

2016: Rose is excited when Dan asks her to go to the fair with him. But an encounter with some dangerous men leads them to an abandoned lunatic asylum with dark secrets of its own.

Visiting Scarborough over a century apart, Alice and Rose’s stories are nevertheless connected in mysterious ways.

Scarborough Fair is the first in a thrilling historical trilogy. Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Historical Mystery/Thriller
Date Published:  16 December 2016
Publisher: Landmark Media

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Scarborough Ball
A party should be fun. Not a matter of life and death.

1923: A New Year's Eve Ball at Scarborough's Grand Hotel promises fun and excitement. But for Lilian it soon turns into a matter of life and death.

2016: At the start of term, Rose is keen to make new friends. Instead she makes an enemy. Someone is out for revenge. And Rose is the target.

Scarborough Ball is the second in the Scarborough Fair series, a thrilling historical trilogy.

Historical Mystery/Thriller
Date Published:  13 January 2018
Publisher:  Landmark Media

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Scarborough Rock
The thrilling conclusion to the Scarborough Fair series.

1957: In post-war Britain, Rock ‘n Roll is sweeping the nation, but some forms of love are against the law and pre-marital sex is a taboo subject. Sandra and David find themselves in entirely different, yet comparable, circumstances. Is love ever enough?

2017: All Rose has to do is give evidence in court and her nemesis will be put behind bars for a very long time. But Max isn’t going to let a group of teenagers stand between him and freedom. He will fight till the end. No matter who gets hurt.

The events of the past come back to haunt the present. Nothing is without consequences.

Scarborough Rock is the final book in the Scarborough Fair series, a thrilling historical trilogy.

About the Author

Margarita Morris was born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She studied Modern Languages at Jesus College, Oxford and worked in computing for eleven years. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons.

Contact Links

Purchase Links Amazon

RABT Book Tours & PR

The Haunted Reading Room's Reviews
Scarborough Fair (Scarborough Fair, #1)Scarborough Fair by Margarita Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


SCARBOROUGH FAIR is an endearing time travel contemporary and Victorian romance with a sociological impact, first in a trilogy. In 1899, a London lady vacations in Scarborough, Yorkshire, a beach resort, hoping to achieve clarity on the subject of her betrothal. What she discovers is danger, not clarity, subjected to a nightmarish involuntary commitment, for her betrothed is a megalomaniac gold digger. Her maid, Mary, however, achieves a happy life, settling in Scarborough.

In the present time, sixteen-year-old Rose of London spends the summer in Scarborough with her grandmother, Mary's granddaughter. She encounters friendship, enduring romance, and danger from a vicious local criminal ring.

SCARBOROUGH FAIR is a YA novel, but is certainly an enjoyable read for adults as well.

Scarborough Ball (Scarborough Fair, #2)Scarborough Ball by Margarita Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This trilogy would be well worth reading if only for the story of Rose, Dan, and Scarborough. The time travel aspects and the historical components make the novels that much more scrumptious. The author draws her characters and settings so vivid, clearly delineating the historical figures and the contemporary characters, and showing us Scarborough as it was and is. This one has its historical period December 1923 into 1924, the silent film and Jazz Age era, post-World War I.

Scarborough Rock (Scarborough Fair, #3)Scarborough Rock by Margarita Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: SCARBOROUGH ROCK by Margarita Morris

SCARBOROUGH ROCK {think : "Rock Around the Clock" era} is third in this enterprising and truly entertaining series {think: rereadable}. In the present day (2017), Rose and Dan are hoping to finally achieve at least some level of closure as hopefully sociopathic criminal "mastermind" Max faces trial. Of course, the ideal solution would be to turn back time, back to before Dan's dad hooked up with criminals, before Rose' s grandmother passed on, before Rose nearly died.

Turning back time Is also a thread in the 1957 component, a horrible era in which to "be different," a bad time to be alone and without wise guidance or help, a time when some of the characters of that era suffer unbearable grief.

I am so thrilled with this series. YA it may be, nevertheless: I love it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: The Dead Game

The Dead Game The Dead Game by Susanne Leist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Oasis, Florida, is in a jewel of a setting, overlooking the Atlantic in North Florida. Lovely older homes (read wealthy owners) and tasteful modern construction, plus a beach, seem to blend in a tapestry of delight. Not so: Oasis is a weird community: very weird. In fact, paranormal. And not lovely sweet fairies and angels, either. This is Bad Weird. Evil. Disappearances. Murders. Corpses. Not to mention, don't mix with the Old Guard. Never, never, never. Or else.

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A novel that manages to be simultaneously scary, metaphysical, and heartwarming, FREAKY FRANKY focuses on the religion of Santa Muerte, the Mexican Saint of Death. The story is set in Mexico, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. Emphasis on family and interpersonal relationships balances with an interweaving of the nature of Saint Death and aspects of her worship. There's also a heaping helping of poetic justice.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: Lies

Lies Lies by T.M. Logan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: LIES by T. M. Logan

Wow! Wow! Wow! LIES fulfills every hype blurb I've ever read about psychological thrillers, maximally! I couldn't catch my breath; I couldn't stop. Feckless Protagonist Joe Lynch is an unassuming secondary teacher of English literature in a London private academy. He loves his wife and is very devoted to his four-year-old son, William (quite possibly more devoted than William's mother). As often happens, Nice Guys (and the Feckless) don't succeed, and often either life dumps on them or they are viewed as a patsy by the winner-takes-all mentality. For Joe, a combination of these suddenly kicks into play, and Joe finds his personal world topsy-turvy, his reputation a shambles, his career destroyed, his marriage collapsing, and himself under suspicion of murder.

No matter how I tried and twisted possibilities, the denouement was still a knockout punch. What a novel!

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Review: Shivers

Shivers Shivers by Heather Beck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: SHIVERS by Heather Beck

SHIVERS is a short story collection with a rather wide imaginative range. Not only is horror included, but also some speculative sci fi, including a creative exposition on time travel which I truly enjoyed, and some marine horror (always a go with me). There's also a wildly imaginative view of --well, I don't know how to explicate!--involving an intelligent, compassionate pair of twins, an aging neighbor, and a bonsai. SHIVERS begins with a bang with a story about a town I never want to visit!

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THEY FEED by Jason Parent_Tour and Review

They Feed by Jason Parent
Sinister Grin Press
They Feed synopsis

Print Length: 254 pages
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2018

The night uncovers all we wish not to see.

A troubled man enters a dusky park before sunset. A young woman follows, hidden in shadow. Both have returned to the park to take back something the past has stolen from them, to make right six long years of suffering, and to find justice or perhaps redemption—or maybe they'll settle for some old-fashioned revenge.

But something evil is alive and awake in those woods, creatures that care nothing for human motivations. They’re driven by their own insatiable need: a ravenous, bottomless hunger.

The campgrounds are full tonight, and the creatures are starving. Before the night is over, they will feed.

An unrelenting tale of terror from Jason Parent, acclaimed author of People of the Sun and What Hides Within.

They FeedThey Feed by Jason Parent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THEY FEED by Jason Parent

Looking for a horror novel with a speed-of-light pace that will take your breath away with terror and suspense? Jason Parent's newest, THEY FEED, delivers in immense spades. "They feed," all right--and guess the favourite dish on their menu?
Horror does not get much more implacable than the creature species Mr. Parent chooses to terrify even the most mind-hardened, iron-stomached, jaded reader.

This novel is set in Kansas, at a State Park, in a beautiful scenic locale...well. That normal, peaceful, background only intensifies the terror, because from these woods and that lake, there is no escape. The terror is implacable. Can't run, can't hide, can't escape, can't survive. They Feed. And Feed. And Feed.

Biography of Jason Parent

Jason is an author of horror, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, and dark humor, though his many novels, novellas, and short stories tend to blur the boundaries between these genres. From his award-winning first horror/mystery novel, What Hides Within, to his widely applauded police procedural/supernatural thriller, Seeing Evil, Jason’s work has won him praise from both critics and fans of diverse genres alike. His work has been compared to that of some of his personal favorite authors, such as Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, Tess Gerritsen, and Joe Hill.

Jason grew up near Fall River, Massachusetts, the setting for several of his novels. He has lived in New England most of his life, currently residing in Rhode Island.

 Praise for Jason Parent

"Seeing Evil has some very special moments and is a very fast read. There's no denying Parent has talent." - Glenn Rolfe, author of Blood and Rain and Boom Town

"Jason Parent has done it again! He has created a brilliant story that will grip you tight and won't let go! I found myself turning page after page to see what happens next. From start to finish, this book is mind blowing!" - Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews on A Life Removed

"Wonderfully original tales of horror... Wrathbone and Other Stories gets my highest recommendation." - Cemetery Dance

"From the eerie opening tale to the grisly closer, and all of the wonderfully mean-spirited tales in-between, Wrathbone is a winner!" - Jeff Strand, author of Dead Clown Barbecue

Purchase Link


For all your other horror, fantasy, or sci-fi needs, check out Sinister Grin Press!


If interested in featuring They Feed or Jason Parent, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Publicist/Marketing: Erin Al-Mehairi
Contact: hookofabook@hotmail.com
Follow along the tour with these hashtags:
#TheyFeed #SinisterGrinPress  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: X3

X3 X3 by C.M. Saunders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

X3 by C. M. Saunders

In his third collection, Mr. Saunders once again stretches our imagination and leaves us with plenty to ponder. Questions such as "Do curses really exist and can they be effectual?" "What is REALLY beneath that old stone bridge in rural Wales?" {And do I really want to know?} "How many bands have done what the Delectable Hearts did--and has my favourite band {fill in name}?" Then there's also poetic justice: "Slots-a-Pain," "Altitude Sickness," "What Happened Next"; the Cosmic Horror of "The Elementals and I"; and the answer to Life Itself, in "The Answer in Darkness." I know I'll be staying awake pondering these questions; won't you join me?

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Jurassic, Florida

Jurassic, Florida Jurassic, Florida by Hunter Shea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: JURASSIC FLORIDA by Hunter Shea

NOBODY handles Cryptozoology Horror like Hunter Shea. This man has an encompassing imagination and a jolly sense of humor in the face of danger. He can make you drop every nano-ounce of disbelief, make you incinerate your skeptic suit, and toss you whole-hog into the midst of inescapable terror--and love it.

On Florida's lower Gulf Coast, a tiny community braces for a before-season hurricane. No surprise there. But a few months earlier, an eco-terrorist attack destroyed an oil rig and the Gulf' s delicately balanced ecosystem. Now unleashed are creatures--iguanas--every bit as huge, hungry, and implacable as extinct dinosaurs. Mankind's on the menu--go get em', champs! Dinner bell' s rung!!

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Review: Ghost Virus

Ghost Virus Ghost Virus by Graham Masterton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: GHOST VIRUS by Graham Masterton

(Release May 1)

A master never fails, and Graham Masterton has been an acknowledged Master of Horror for decades. GHOST VIRUS is a breathless, breathtaking, read, with horror so implacable the reader can't believe there will ever be any escape alive, nor any end. Caught up with the characters--both local police and citizens--readers are immediately immersed in the tale, a particular gift of this author's. From the explosive and compelling first chapter (which had me shouting "No! No! No! Stop!") racing through to the end (a feat in a 400-page novel), I could not stop nor could I consider reading anything else. Mr. Masterton not only delivers horror, he also serves up history, medicine, psychiatry, culture, and folklore.

For Graham Masterton fans, this is a must. For those who haven't met the Master, come on in. Prepare for the run of your life.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Review: The House of Long Shadows

The House of Long Shadows The House of Long Shadows by Ambrose Ibsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS by Ambrose Ibsen

This novel is incredibly scary. After a lifetime suffused with horror, I no longer scare too easily. But HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS brought back that rare experience of total terror. It frightened me so much it took three days to read (Monday night-Thursday night) cause I was afraid to read it late at night! I can't wait for the sequel, MALEFIC, in May.

Protagonist Kevin Taylor is a really likeable guy, easy-going, yet driven in his work, with a sad, sometimes terrifying childhood he has striven to overcome. He is VideoTube' s FlipperKevin, a home repair and renovation "genius," very popular. His goal is to host a TV network series, doing house renovations and flipping (fixing-up and restoring). Sounds promising, and indeed, a home improvement network is watching him.

Kevin, a Florida native, decides to find a fixed-upper in the Midwest, to renovate in 30 days with daily video updates on his Internet video channel. Finding a house "with good bones" (sturdy, enduring structure) built about 1975, in a Detroit neighborhood completely abandoned (even the nearby graveyard garners no attention or maintenance).

This wouldn't be a horror novel if everything went swimmingly. Although the house is a steal, and the renovation should be timely, there are very real troubles. The house is infested, and not by termites. This infestation and the consequences for Kevin will keep readers in nightmares for sure.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Roger Keen Guest Post (LITERARY STALKER)

Literary Stalker, Metacrime and Metafilm
by Roger Keen

Though Literary Stalker is primarily a psychological crime/horror novel about revenge, another important aspect is the metafictional dimension, the nested novels-within-novels and the self-conscious play with the different levels of the ‘real’ and ‘fictional’. When I mention a word like ‘metafiction’ I can almost hear the groans of some readers, expecting to get a lecture on highbrow postmodernist writing of the kind practised by Borges, Nabokov, John Barth, Doris Lessing and Martin Amis…to name but a few. Or on films by the likes of Fellini and Truffaut. Yes, all that self-referential deconstructionist stuff hardly conjures up a vision of a fluent entertaining read or watch, but still the principles of metafiction have filtered down into the mainstream somewhat, and have also reached works of popular culture.

One of the best examples in cinema is Wes Craven’s Scream and its sequels, where the characters are aware of real horror films and their plot devices, and use the knowledge to analyse what is happening around them, anticipating the likely pitfalls of being in a horror movie themselves. That tongue-in-cheek element and the accompanying layer of humour served to energise what was in fact a viable slasher movie plot in its own right, and audiences responded, joining in the nudge-wink game. In Scream 2, the awareness of it being a sequel was similarly used – everything must be bigger, better and more elaborate – adding to the self-referential fun, but by the third movie the jokes were wearing a bit thin.

Craven had explored metafilmic territory before in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, where the fictional parameters of the previous Freddy Krueger movies invade the ‘real world’ of this one. Nightmare actress Heather Langenkamp plays herself, and as signs of Freddy start to come out of the woodwork she visits Wes Craven himself, whose verdict isn’t reassuring, playing in postmodern fashion to that old franchise maxim: you can never kill a killer. New Nightmare and Scream’s meta-knowingness touched many films in the horror and associated genres from the late ’90s onwards, becoming almost de rigueur. Heather Langenkamp herself was involved in the 2012 self-referential horror film The Cabin in the Woods, and similar ideas crop up in Amityville: The Awakening, Seed of Chucky and Deadpool.

Moving on to metahorror in written form, a marvellous example is the first story in Joe Hill’s collection 20th Century Ghosts. I include Joe as ‘himself’ in Literary Stalker, alluding to the time I met him at a convention in 2006, when he was just emerging onto the scene and I bought that collection and read that first story upstairs in my hotel room. ‘Best New Horror’ is flesh-creepingly brilliant in a way so many horror stories fail to be. A world-weary horror anthologist – who knows all the horror angles and tropes, as in the Scream series – tracks down the elusive writer of a bizarre, transgressive and ultra-violent story he wants to publish, and finds himself literally descending into a horror story himself – sucked in inexorably by his own fear. It is an outstanding, completely successful horror piece whilst being self-knowingly stereotypical, which is no mean feat. And that self-knowledge marks it out as ‘metahorror’ as much as the nested narratives – inner story and framing story.

And in the field of ‘metacrime’ fiction, there are many examples, including some from those highbrow writers I mentioned earlier. Take for example Jorge Luis Borges’ story ‘Death and the Compass’ which involves a detective applying impeccable meta-reasoning to foretell the time and place of an impending murder – but he fails to grasp one important detail till too late: he is the actual victim! In The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, author ‘Cameron McCabe’ is himself is a character – and murder suspect – who uses layered texts, deconstruction and rug-pulling to further complicate the ‘real’ mystery – if there ever was such a thing. And Martin Amis’s London Fields features an unreliable narrator/author who creates a murder novel based on the ‘real-life’ efforts of the victim, who is apparently precognitive and aiding and abetting her own demise.

Many of these metafictional tropes influenced the writing of Literary Stalker, where unreliable narrator/author Nick Chatterton writes a novel in which his protagonist murders his real enemies according to the plots of famous crime/horror movies, copying the methods of Theatre of Blood. Therefore Nick’s novel is a projection of his wishes, a realisation of the revenge he desires in real life. And as the story progresses, the lines blur, fiction and reality interchange, as Nick is progressively ‘taken over’ by his own fictional ideation. Which is a very ‘horror’ idea, with elements of psychological aberration, but standing in for any classic ‘supernatural’ influence there is the intertextuality, acting as a plot device wild card.

So the games and tricks of metafiction – the self-conscious play with the different levels of ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ – synergise with the story and the psychology of the main character. There are many ‘nudge-wink’ moments throughout, and towards the end the undermining and rug-pulling gets stronger, till the twists at the climax which leave you wondering what exactly is ‘real’ and what isn’t. But I was careful not to take the confusion too far, because ultimately any work, no matter how innovative and experimental, must still stand up as a piece of valid storytelling. That’s one thing you must never pull the rug out from under!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Review: Literary Stalker

Literary Stalker Literary Stalker by Roger Keen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: LITERARY STALKER by Roger Keen

Nick, oh Nick, whatever are we going to do with you? I love that you're a horror author, I love that you've worked in bookshops and libraries, I love your dedication to your work. But Nick, your personal life is a shambles, and though I agree, you do need to up your writing game, the approach you eventually take is not going to hack it. Sorry. You are one incredibly feckless dude. I spent the entire novel wanting to shake sense into you and shout at you, “Don't be such a doormat! Stand up for yourself! Learn some self-respect!” Well—eventually you did stand up for yourself, but the path you chose is not the one I had in mind....

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: Widow's Point

Widow's Point Widow's Point by Richard T. Chizmar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: WIDOW'S POINT by Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar

An outstanding, "don't miss," novella, WIDOW'S POINT takes as its framework the classic haunting trope (cursed land/stones/region) and mutates it into a meditation on the nature of reality and the possible existence of a plane of metareality. In a truly Lovecraftian turn, the authors delineate an unreliable narrator (oh, very), whose stated desire to Know Truth eventually results in the descent into madness. This Lovecraftian trope of the Quest for Knowledge leading inevitably to insanity as the revelation of Cosmic Truth collapses the finite limits of the human capacity plays over and over in WIDOW'S POINT. We are driven to Discover, and in Discovering, Madness descends. So the reader, who is chilled to the bone, is left to inquire, "What, truly, is Real?"

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review: The Atrocities

The Atrocities The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: THE ATROCITIES by Jeremy C. Shipp

A Gallery of Grotesqueries, a House of Possession and Utter Madness, a Merging of Twin Realities. If Agatha Christie had fallen through a Lovecraftian Portal, and then penned a locked room mystery, with illustrations by William Blake, the result might resemble the vast estate, "The Atrocities," and its family, in this stunning Gothic panorama. (Or consider "The Fall of the House of Usher," if a collaboration by Lovecraft and Mary Shelley.

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