Archive for June, 2016

mayan blue cover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 149 Pages

Release Date: May 25, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Mayan Blue

Mayan Blue is the debut from authors Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, a twin sister writing duo who have been accurately dubbed “Sisters of Slaughter”. I can’t speak for their short fiction (which I definitely want to track down), but Garza and Lason prove they are certainly not afraid to pile on the violence with Mayan Blue.

Garza and Lason open with a strong, pulse pounding introduction that is only a small sampling of the craziness that is unleashed throughout the brisk pace of Mayan Blue. A priestess is in the process of committing a ritual sacrifice in order to seal away something evil that is plaguing her village. She is in a subterranean tunnel with two local boys and all three of them bear the same blue pigment known as “Mayan Blue”. They seal a set of large stone doors with a circular seal that is etched with the story of the fall of their civilization and their blood is the only offering strong enough to seal the unimaginable terror from the outside world.

In the present day, Professor Lipton is a man who has overcome all odds by beating cancer and is now on the verge of a discovery that could re-write the history books. He finds himself in caverns that have been untouched for centuries and is alone when he makes his discovery of a disc inscribed with markings that proves his hypothesis and will silence the members of the scientific board who have doubted him for so long.

Professor Lipton’s associate Wes along with students Alissa, Kelly, Dennis and Tyler are racing to meet up with the professor and help him recover an artifact that proves the Mayans may have settled in Georgia. They drive for hours before arriving at a dead-end where they have to set out on foot. There is no cellphone signal and they are without a GPS, which any horror fan knows is a recipe for disaster.

The group arrives at their meeting point, but find that Professor Lipton’s camp is deserted. However, they discover Professor Lipton has the proof that he needs. Once they set their eyes on the disc, they are in grave danger. Wes tells the group that the disc tells of the destruction of the Mayan society and tries to scare the group with his depiction of the Mayan underworld. They all laugh it off and think of it as nothing more than a spooky campfire story. Later that night when they hear cries coming from the caves, the group thinks the professor may be in trouble. They descend deep into the earth to try to find the professor and what they uncover defies belief and rattles them to their core. They realize that it wasn’t just famine and disease that led the Mayans to flee their home, it was something far worse.

Mayan Blue is a strong debut that hints at an extremely bright future for the The Sisters of Slaughter. What makes this novel stand out is the original premise and extensive world building that went into Mayan Blue. A bulk of the story takes place in the Mayan underworld of Xibalba and they bring this world into frightening focus with nightmarish descriptions. I don’t want to describe it too much because exploring Xibalba as the story unfolds is part of the enjoyment of Mayan Blue.  There is also an added level of mythology that makes this land of fear and death a great setting for a horror story.  I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say that the simple act of setting foot in the land of Xibalba is dangerous, even if you remove the ghoulish creatures that thirst for blood and human flesh.

Garza and Lason place their characters through the wringer and they definitely prove that they are far more than ordinary people once they are faced with death. These characters step up to the challenge of survival in a place that honestly, would probably find me curled up in a corner somewhere. They undergo not only physical torture but psychological torture as well. Once the group finds themselves in Xibalba, they must undergo trials to prove their worth and attempt to buy them more precious moments of survival.

I love history, so I was impressed with the amount of research that Garza and Lason did regarding the different Mayan customs and legends. I remember learning a little bit about the Mayans in a college history course, but we never learned too much about their religion and beliefs that made up their culture. I was always interested in learning about the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods, so I enjoyed learning about the various dark figures that populate the Mayan underworld. Garza and Lason did a great job of weaving these figures into a truly frightening horror story that is unlike anything I have read in a while.

The Sisters of Slaughter live up to their moniker with blood-soaked scenes of brutality and some pretty nightmarish creatures. Mayan Blue doesn’t just feature one big, bad monster but rather a whole army of them that love nothing more than to delight in the pain and torment of the main characters. Ah-Puch’s description is awesome and ripped straight out of the stuff nightmares are made of. He is the Lord of Death and his body is a bloated corpse with the head of an owl and he wears a necklace of disembodied eyes. It was refreshing to read about an entity that hasn’t really been tackled before in horror fiction and after learning more about his abilities, it is amazing Ah-Puch hasn’t made an appearance in horror sooner! While many think death would be a way to escape, Ah-Puch has the ability to continue tormenting his victims even after they have died. Then there are Wayobs, which are disturbing half-man/half-owl shape-shifting demons. I got the chills more than once reading about these creatures and the creative ways they attack their victims. Seriously, this novel is loaded with so many terrifying creatures, it is a horror fan’s dream!

Mayan Blue’s brisk pacing make this a novel that is hard to put down and there isn’t a single moment where the story seems to lag. It feels weird to call a novel like Mayan Blue a fun book to read because of all of the gruesome and hellish visions that Garza and Lason put on display, but I had a blast reading Mayan Blue! The scares here aren’t necessarily the kind that will make you jump, it is more a feeling of dread as you follow the characters journey through a seemingly inescapable hell. Mayan Blue blends plenty of action and vintage horror to create a blockbuster of a summer read. I loved Mayan Blue and it is obvious that the Sisters of Slaughter are capable of some truly brutal, creative and engaging stories. I can’t wait to see what this extremely talented duo come up with next!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason Facebook Page

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Mayan Blue: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Mayan Blue tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Mayan Blue!- #MayanBlue #Mayans #legends #HookofaBook #SinisterGrin

Mayan Blue Synopsis

Xibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world.

These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.

Praise for Mayan Blue

From the outset, Garza and Lason let the blood spill, plunging their small cast of characters into the depths of Mayan hell. There’s plenty of action to go around as the group is confronted with a number of horrors, from the labyrinthine and booby-trapped maze of the newly discovered Mayan temple to the angry gods and their owl-headed, sharp-clawed servants.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Convergence

“Their short works are wonderful to read. However this book proves that they can tackle longer works without missing a beat.” – Tom, GoodReads

”These two show no quarter dragging the characters–and by extension, the reader–into the depths of the Mayan version of Hell. There’s vividness to the scenes they craft that made me want to make sure I was reading in full daylight, or at least with most of the lights on.” – John Quick, Author of Consequences 

Biography

MelissaMichelle

Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza have been writing together since they were little girls. Dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editors of Fireside Press. They are constantly working together on new stories in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Their work has been included in FRESH MEAT published by Sinister Grin Press, WISHFUL THINKING by Fireside Press, WIDOWMAKERS a benefit anthology of dark fiction.

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 235 Pages

Release Date: May 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for The Invasion

My wife and I watch a ton of true crime shows – The Investigation Discovery channel is usually always on when we are watching TV – so when I read the synopsis for The Invasion I was hooked. This novel utilizes a real-life scenario and when you throw in the fact that the novel is loosely inspired by true events, I knew I was in for an adrenaline-filled read!

McBean’s The Invasion starts off with a bone chilling introduction that sets the stage for the story. Obviously you know that something terrible is about to unfold, but McBean utilizes an unassuming everyday task and assigns it a creepy quality that sets off warning bells in your imagination even before you step foot into the house located on 6 Hooper Crescent. The house is the home of Debra Hillsboro, a romance novelist who has gathered her family and friends at her home to celebrate Christmas. Debra is going through a bit of a rough patch lately as her books aren’t selling like they used to and she is going through a divorce.

Even with all the turmoil swirling around her life, her home is the one place Debra can feel safe. Debra has lived in the Carmela house for almost 30 years, spending a majority of her life and writing career in the home. However, as Debra and her guests settle in for the night, her illusion of safety is shattered when a group of six strangers break into the home and take everyone hostage. The apparent leader of the group – who calls himself Black Metal Freak –  tells Debra they are there simply to rob her and that if her and her guests cooperate, everything will be okay. However, as the night unfolds, it becomes obvious that the group has sinister ulterior motives and things only get worse when the real leader – Mr. Fear – arrives. Facing the group of intruders, Debra and her family must dig deep within themselves in a struggle to survive the most frightening night of their lives.

The Invasion is a pretty bleak and violent read and there is a lot to enjoy for both horror and thriller fans. There are a lot of things McBean does well in The Invasion, starting with great descriptions of the house, which is the focal point of the novel as both a setting and a character. The house is given a great deal of characterization and Debra even refers to it by name. Also the scene setting where we first get a good look at the house, it is described almost like a flesh and blood person.

Built in nineteen-sixty-nine, the four-bedroom single story split-level had been well-loved, but, like its resident of twenty-seven years, she was starting to look her age.

Making the house a character was a great touch and I like that based on the amount of action that occurs in each room, readers are given an equivalent amount of memories that took place there. For instance, the lounge is a central location in the novel and where a lot of violence occurs and we learn that this was Debra’s safest place. The place where she went to read, entertain guests, and even work through some of the challenging spots in her writing. McBean does a great job of weaving these memories throughout the story to bring the setting into vivid focus and to highlight how all of these years of important memories will now be completely overshadowed by a night of violence and depravity.

The house even has an intriguing history complete with has dark rumors of ritual sacrifices, human burials and cult gatherings. A lot of these rumors trace back to the creepy producer that owned the house before Debra and he seemed to be hiding something. This sort of ambiguity about the house’s past helps build the atmosphere of the novel because it raises the question of if the house is just a house or a beacon of sorts for evil. It is probably nothing more than a coincidence, but when you also take into account the hair-raising dream Debra’s brother Peter had years ago, it really makes you question things.

The events of the novel build slowly at first with quiet, indistinguishable noises that can be attributed to just about any everyday occurrence and the stress weighing on Debra and her family blinds them to the fact that something may be wrong. These simple actions – a click of a door or thinking you hear people talking in another room – aren’t scary by themselves, but McBean uses these small moments to build tension since readers know something sinister is lurking within the pages of The Invasion.

McBean wastes little time in introducing the strangers that invade Debra’s home. At first glance, these strangers seem like an ordinary robbery team. However, throughout the course of The Invasion, this group proves they are anything but ordinary. They are a nihilistic group known as the “Fear Squad” and the members use code names like Black Metal Freak, Mad Vixen, Night Crawler, Child of Osiris, and Raven Queen. The group seems to be very methodical despite their young age and overactive behavior, but their sense of entitlement to do whatever they want occasionally makes them sloppy. While their plans hit snags along the way, they make up for any mistakes with appalling savagery.

I thought the portrayal of the Fear Squad was perfect. It is interesting that the Fear Squad are all tech savvy (almost to their detriment) and that the origins of their group are born from that reliance on technology. It is clear the members of the group have impulse control problems and a sense of detachment from reality, which influences their sadistic nature. It is hard to talk about the main thing that makes the Fear Squad such an interesting group without spoiling parts of the novel, but I will just say that the group has a very interesting origin story and I think there could be a whole novel dedicated to just how the group got started. The only real complaint I had with The Invasion is that at times the members of the Fear Squad seemed kind of flat. They were well-developed as a group, but as individuals they sometimes faded into the background and were kind of overshadowed by Mr. Fear.

Mr. Fear is the mysterious leader of the Fear Squad and while the collective as a whole serves as a very interesting threat, there is something about Mr. Fear that makes him standout. He has a sort of charisma that demands respect from the other members of the group and they idolize him because they think he has special powers. Now, I don’t want to spoil too much about his claim to fame within the group, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a bit of truth to his claims. I personally think he is just a sick man who uses his charismatic qualities to control the group, but there are a few instances where he seems to exhibit the very power he claims to possess. Is he just a normal man or is there something more lurking underneath the surface?

While McBean does a great job cultivating a horrific threat with his characterization of the Fear Squad, I really enjoyed his characterization of Debra and her family. The Invasion is a richly characterized piece and getting to know the intimate details about the characters through flashbacks and their interactions with each other makes you emotionally invested in their fight for survival. They also go through a transformation as the events unfold and it helps make the characters more dynamic. Paul is portrayed as being fairly timid, a stark contrast to his bold and brave boyfriend that isn’t afraid to speak his mind. However, as the night unfolds, Paul exhibits a bravery and strength that he didn’t even know he had in him. Debra’s niece Taryn is probably my favorite character of the novel. Even in the face of paralyzing fear, she shows a lot of bravery and intelligence in her attempt to stop the Fear Squad. She is resourceful and arms herself with household items and fights back against the group with everything she has.

I also liked that the story was contained to just one location – the Carmela house. By keeping the events limited to one location and one night, McBean crafts a claustrophobic atmosphere that transports readers into the story and ratchets up the tension. I also liked the format McBean used to break up the novel. Rather than go with traditional chapters, he breaks the story up by what room the events take place in. Sometimes that makes for short, punchy chapters which are great for the pacing of the novel. It is a small touch, but I liked the inclusion of the map at the beginning of the story. It is nice to be able to flip back to the map and track the events of the story as they unfold and makes for an engaging reading experience.

The Invasion is a terrifying novel that offers a glimpse at real-life horror and some of the darkest behaviors exhibited by people. Home invasions are a terrifying crime and while we may not consciously think about it, it is a fear that is universal. Our homes are supposed to be places where we feel safe and the idea of a stranger shattering that feeling make for an absolutely frightening premise that McBean captures perfectly. While there are plenty of home invasion stories out there, McBean puts a pretty unique spin on the genre that helps this one stand out. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Brett McBean’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase The Invasion: Amazon (U.S.), Amazon (Australia), Amazon (U.K.), Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Invasion tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Invasion! – #TheInvasion #homeinvasion #cults

The Invasion Synopsis

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

Praise for Brett McBean

“McBean’s voice is one that should be heard – a hint of Laymon and Koontz, yet distinctly his own.” —Brian Keene, author of The Rising and Terminal

“Brett McBean is as brash and brutal as a young Jack Ketchum. He visits the dark rooms inside us all.” — Scott Nicholson, author of The Manor and The Farm

The Invasion, by Brett McBean, is a startlingly bleak home invasion story, but one that is wonderfully written. McBean relies on his characters and atmosphere to bring the biggest scares, along with the frightening threat of home invasion that many readers will bring to the reading all by themselves.” — Michael Patrick Hicks, author of Convergence

Brett McBean Biography

Brett_McBean

Brett McBean is an award-winning horror and thriller author. His books, which include The MotherThe Last Motel and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game, have been published in Australia, the U.S., and Germany.

He’s been nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and Ned Kelly awards, and he won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award for his collection, Tales of Sin and Madness.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife, daughter and German shepherd.

Find out more at: brettmcbean.com

 

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Necro Publications

Length: 105 Pages

Release Date: May 21, 2016 

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Motorman

I have reviewed quite a few of Robert Dunn’s books so far since starting The Horror Bookshelf and have enjoyed them immensely. Dunn is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers to read because he is always changing things up and you never know what you are going to get from his brand of dark fiction. So when I was asked to join his blog tour for Motorman, I couldn’t wait to start reading!

Johnny Burris lives a rough, transient lifestyle while always looking for something better, a lesson learned from his absentee father. He loves to work on cars and motorcycles and he has a gift for being able to fix anything mechanical he sets his hands on. Unfortunately his aptitude for cars doesn’t translate over to people, particularly women. Johnny’s gift has helped him achieve a legendary reputation around town for being able to fix anything, it is like the parts speak to him. It is on one of his “get going” nights that we get a glimpse at the sort of life he was fleeing.

While working at U Scrap ’em Auto Salvage, Johnny runs into a man named Luck. As a reader, you just know that Luck’s arrival means Johnny’s life is going to change forever. Johnny spots Lenore, the woman with Luck, in the passenger seat and instantly falls in love. Luck has a proposition for Johnny- fix his beloved Buick Regal and he gets his money up front and two nights with Lenore. The job is tough at first as Johnny stumbles into many problems with the Regal. Johnny falls head over heels for Lenore in the two nights they spend together and promises her the moon in an attempt to win her over. However, Lenore betrays Johnny’s feelings and a horrible crime sends Johnny back on the road in a quest for a new start.

Hiding out in an abandoned barn out in the country, Johnny sees an amorphous, blue blob that causes an eerie silence and it frightens him enough that he stays up the entire night. The next evening, Johnny winds up in a derelict town that was supposed to be nothing more than a pit stop on his quest to lose himself in nothingness. As Johnny waits for the gas station to open, he sees some cars roll up that have the same blue tint he saw in the sky emanating from underneath the hood and realizes there may be something strange going on in this town.

After a tense run-in with Emma, owner of Em’s Garage, Johnny is given his dream job working on cars with access to a junkyard that is home to over a hundred years worth of automotive history. The job and the small room above the garage are provided to Johnny with the blessing of the mysterious “Doc”, a man who is revered by the entire town. Things seem to be going well for Johnny as he handles increasingly more difficult jobs for Doc, who has special plans in store for Johnny and his skills as a mechanic. However, as Johnny realizes the town’s secrets and what Doc’s plans are for him, he has to choose whether to finally stay put or hit the road one more time.

While Behind The Darkness will probably always be the Dunn book that scares me the most (seriously, those aliens are terrifying!), I think Motorman may be my favorite of Dunn’s releases thus far. There is a sort of timeless quality to the story and if it wasn’t for the mention of the ’90s Regal in the beginning, you would swear it could have taken place at any time. Especially when you look at the description of Nowhere, Missouri which is almost the definition of a town stuck in time. The room Johnny lives in above the garage is decorated like it is ripped from the ’50s and the gas station has a classic Americana appearance.

I love that Dunn includes a ton of detail about cars and the mechanics of how they operate. I grew up around cars and going to car shows, but unfortunately I never was able to retain any of that knowledge. Even though I am pretty clueless about cars except basic maintenance, I always had a love for muscle cars, so it was awesome to see the ’69 Camaro make an appearance. It is obvious that a lot of knowledge and a love of cars is woven throughout the story. Although there is a lot of technical car talk in Motorman, it is incorporated into the story in an organic way and it never seems like too much and helps lends a sense of authenticity to the story as a whole.

Dunn’s characterization in Motorman is pitch perfect. I loved the interactions with Johnny and Lenore. The nights that they spent together, there was a frank dialogue between the two and it highlights Johnny’s naive nature. Johnny struck me as a street-smart character, but it is obvious he has a weak spot for pretty women and that weakness causes him more than a few problems throughout Motorman. Johnny’s character is also a pretty interesting one. You can’t help but feel for him because he is a highly talented person who seems to have been dealt a crummy hand in life, but at the same time he has a dark secret of his own and is by no means perfect. I also enjoyed Doc’s character. His presence looms over the events of the novella as soon as Johnny rolls into Nowhere. At first, due to the reverence that surrounds him, you will expect some larger than life person whose appearance strikes fear into others. It turns out that Doc’s appearance is definitely not what you would expect, but it is his intellect and skill at his job that kind of makes him a little bit spooky.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot that makes up Motorman, but some of the scenes towards the tail end of the novella with Johnny and Doc were awesome! I sort of had an inkling of what Doc’s role was in the town, but the scenes still came as a shock when I read them and was a pretty interesting take on the body horror.

I also liked the atmosphere and setting descriptions throughout Motorman. Even though they are simple descriptions, they lend a sense of beauty to the rundown surroundings that Johnny is in. This is one of my favorite descriptions that shows his ability:

Twilight faded from bruised purple to urban dark. City lights sprayed upward to paint the low clouds with sodium yellow

Lately I have been really into the novella format and Dunn’s Motorman is a perfect example of why this format works so well with horror. Dunn crafts a sense of mystery that keeps readers glued to the pages and as a result, the novella rips by at a blistering pace and is easily consumed in one sitting. There are still a ton of questions I had after reading this novella. What the hell was the blue goo exactly and where did it come from? Also, how did the town end up the way it did and why there? While normally these sort of unanswered questions would irk me and feel like loose threads, the way they are handled in Motorman helps keep the story going in my mind as I come up with my own wild theories and leaves me clamoring for more. I know that is the purpose of a novella, but I wish that I could have been able to explore more of this wonderfully weird world of Dunn’s. I think Johnny’s story ends perfectly, but perhaps a Motorman prequel would be pretty cool!

Motorman is an original, fun novella that packs all the punch of a great vintage horror/sci-fi hybrid film and it is definitely one of my favorite novellas this year. Dunn has two more novels scheduled for release this year, The Harrowing and A Living Grave which is the first novel in the Katrina Williams series. Both of these novels sound incredible and I can’t wait to dive in to both!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Robert E. Dunn’s Official Website

Necro Publications/Bedlam Press Official Website

Purchase Motorman: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Necro Publications, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Motorman tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Motorman!- #Motorman #FastCarsandBlueGoo #MadScientist

Motorman Synopsis

Running from a night of humiliation and murder, Johnny Burris leaves his home in an urban junkyard fleeing into the Ozarks countryside. While he flees, mysterious streaks of blue light in the night sky drive him into a bit of nowhere lost in the hills. Johnny thinks he’s found home and good work in an odd little gas station from another time. The station isn’t the only thing strange and Johnny quickly gets pulled into a world where the cars aren’t the only things all chromed out and everything seems touched with a little of the flying blue streaks that led Johnny there.

Enticed and torn between two sisters, one an outcast for her normality, Johnny becomes the pawn of their father. The old doctor is looking for a replacement and Johnny Burris is the man with just the right skills.

But Johnny doesn’t want anything to do with the doctor’s plans so he runs, taking one of the sisters with him. But the people, and the girl, turn out to be even more than he imagined. And his whole world becomes the one choice, live as a monster, making monsters or die like a man. If he chooses to die, who will he take with him?

Praise for Robert Dunn

The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read!  It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story. 5+++ stars!” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“A thoroughly gripping read. Dunn is a writer with guts and the chops to grab his readers by the eyeballs and dare them to look away.” Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon

Robert E. Dunn Biography

Robert Dunn

Robert Dunn was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.

An award-winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.

A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novels Behind the Darkness  and The Red Highway.

Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Comet Press

Length: 250 Pages

Release Date: November 2, 2015

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet

Adam Howe is an author that has been on my radar since the end of 2015. I remember reading a copy of his novella Gator Bait and being instantly drawn in by his totally unique brand of storytelling and placing it in my top 5 novellas of the year. Howe has an early writing credit that I am sure many authors would kill to have – his story “Jumper” won the On Writing contest judged by Stephen King and appears in the paperback and ebook edition. How cool is that? After reading Gator Bait, I was excited to read more of Howe’s work so I jumped at the chance to be a part of his blog tour for Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, a collection of three novellas!

Damn Dirty Apes

Synopsis: Washed-up prizefighter Reggie Levine is eking a living as a strip club bouncer when he’s offered an unlikely shot at redemption. The Bigelow Skunk Ape – a mythical creature said to haunt the local woods – has kidnapped the high school football mascot, Boogaloo Baboon. Now it’s up to Reggie to lead a misfit posse including a plucky stripper, the town drunk, and legend-in-his-own-mind skunk ape hunter Jameson T. Salisbury. Their mission: Slay the beast and rescue their friend. But not everything is as it seems, and as our heroes venture deeper into the heart of darkness, they will discover worse things waiting in the woods than just the Bigelow Skunk Ape. The story the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape tried to ban; Damn Dirty Apes mixes Roadhouse with Jaws with Sons of Anarchy, to create a rollicking romp of 80s-style action/adventure, creature horror and pitch-black comedy.

Reggie Levine is the head bouncer (make that the only bouncer) of a backwoods strip club called The Henhouse. Reggie’s claim to fame (if you can really call it that) was his one and only prize-fight against “Boar Hog” Brannon. His boss Walt proudly displays a news cutting that says “BIGELOW BOY BRUTALIZED IN PRIZE FIGHT”, which says all you really need to know about the outcome of that match. After the fight, Levine took a job at The Henhouse and his penchant for brawling make him the perfect bouncer.

I have to admit out of all of the stories that make up Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, I think Damn Dirty Apes is my clear-cut favorite.As I read, I have a tendency to scribble down notes and highlight passages I liked so that when I go back to write my reviews, I can revisit my favorite passages. As I was reading, I noticed how much I was highlighting. Hell, I might as well have highlighted the whole book! Howe’s writing crackles with energy and the crisp dialogue, humorous observations, and action-packed scenes had me glued to the pages. I can’t remember the last time I had this much pure fun reading a story.

I also loved the twists that Howe was able to weave throughout this story. Let’s face it any story where Swamp Apes are going to play a prevalent role is going to be pretty original and full of surprises, but even with taking that into consideration, this story still had plenty of twists that kept me hooked.

Reggie Levine is also one of my favorite characters of any book I have read lately. He is not exactly what you would picture when you are thinking of a leading action hero. Sure, he was a professional fighter at one point, but his physique and training has gone downhill since losing to “Boar Hog” Brannon. That being said, Reggie’s personality is entertaining as hell and you can’t help but root for him throughout the course of this novella. Sure, he is able to dish out some punishment, but what makes you respect him is his ability to keep getting back up after taking one hell of a beating. While that loss to “Boar Hog” Brannon seems to hang over him like a specter, Reggie Levine finally gets a shot at redemption in one of the oddest fights I have ever come across and definitely didn’t see coming when I started reading Damn Dirty Apes. I know Howe is writing another story featuring Reggie  and I hope it is the first of many new adventures!

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

Synopsis: Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border. Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree. But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity. The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival. Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.

Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet is probably the closest thing to straightforward horror in this collection, offering an original take on the serial killer genre. Howe’s portrayal of the serial killer Terrence Hingle is excellent and he is by far one of the most deranged villains I have read about in a while. Well, maybe until the introduction of the Ritter siblings at least! Howe introduces readers to Hingle’s depravity with a chilling opening where we see his penchant for violence and his utterly warped worldview. What makes him so terrifying is that he appears harmless from a physical standpoint. That outward appearance of normalcy coupled with his intelligence and patience that he honed from a very young age make him an unstoppable monster. However, Hingle has definitely met his match with the Ritter siblings. Even though Hingle’s childhood was rough, he is sort of the epitome of a more sophisticated villain that can hide in plain sight. The Ritter siblings on the other hand are the polar opposite, they are much more crude in the way they commit their crimes. I thought it was awesome to see two very different forms of serial killers pitted against each other and the results of their chance encounter were definitely a surprise.

 

While the idea of a serial killer grudge match is what initially interested me in this novella, I ended up being more invested in Tilly’s evolution as a character. She is portrayed as a total pushover with little to no confidence when she is introduced. As the story progresses, Howe throws her right into one hellish nightmare after another that would break even the most hardened people. Without giving too much away about this story, Tilly responds in a way that definitely shocked me and marks a transformation of her as a character.

There are quite a few scenes in here that are truly horrific and definitely not meant for those with weak stomachs!

Gator Bait

Synopsis: Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.

I have always been a fan of both noir and neo-noir stories and films, but almost everything I have been exposed to in the two genres was exclusively urban. So it was a blast of fresh air to read a story that had everything I loved about the genre but set in the humid swamps of Louisiana instead of the traditional bustling city.  Then there is the presence of Big George, an enormous alligator that has a taste for human flesh. He has a legendary history and strikes fear in the hearts of those who are brave (or dumb) enough to cross Croker.  I don’t know why, but there is just something badass about a guy who has his own killing machine at his disposal.

While reading Gator Bait, it’s no secret what the future holds for a guy like Smitty Three Fingers. That being said watching him blunder through the same situations that got him in trouble in the big city is all part of the fun that makes up this novella. Howe is also unflinchingly honest with his portrayal of his characters and mixes racial tensions throughout the course of the novella. This isn’t purely for shock value, but rather adds authenticity to the story and his characters.

Thoughts on the collection 

While I gave my thoughts for each individual novella, there are traits in each one that make this an absolute must-own collection. One of the things I am drawn too in most books I read is the author’s characterization and the way they utilize details to bring their stories to life. Howe is a master at these components of writing and there were so many times I would just shake my head in awe at his ability to paint a portrait of a character or a scene. In Damn Dirty Apes, Howe nails the images of the biker gang with accurate and hilarious nicknames. You have Blubberguts, Smiley, Shitface and Baby Doll.  Blubberguts alone is an accurate name that conjures up a vivid description. My favorite description is that of the leader Chains who “…wore a Confederate flag do-rag, and a hoop toss of rusted iron chains around his neck, like a skid row Mr. T”.

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet has elements of horror throughout, but it is not strictly a horror collection. Howe crams in bits and pieces of various genres to create stories that are wonderfully weird, highly addictive, and that defy easy classification. What impressed me the most while reading Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet is the originality and confidence that is evident on the pages. Howe has a unique voice and in my opinion, that is the greatest tool in his arsenal. I am sure Howe spends a lot of time working on his craft, but his writing appears effortless and it is like the stories just flow straight from his imagination with ease. My stack of books to review is reaching mythical proportions, but I am definitely going to grab a copy of Howe’s other collection Black Cat Mojo and any other future releases he puts out, regardless of genre. He is that good. I am a fan for life and would recommend Howe’s work to any reader who is feeling a bit adventurous. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Adam Howe’s Comet Press page

Comet Press’ Official Website

Purchase Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet: Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Die Dog or Eat The Hatchet!- #DieDogorEattheHatchet #DieDog #AdamHowe #OnWriting #HookofaBook

Praise for Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

“It’s an explicit, hard-hitting, twisted funhouse ride into pulpish horror wrapped loosely in a tattered skein of irreverent, jet black humor. In short, it’s a freakin’ blast.” – Walt Hicks, author of Dirge of the Forgotten

“With Die Dog Or Eat the Hatchet, Adam Howe hasn’t written one of my favorite books of the year, he’s actually written three of my favorites. Stories that are tight, toned, and genre-confounding. Horror fans and crime fans are going to come to blows over who gets to claim Howe as one of their own, but they’re both going to be wrong because Howe’s his own thing.” – Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen and Mercy House

“The recipe for Adam Howe’s DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET is: Two parts Joe Lansdale, One part Justified, and a heavy dose of WTF. The result is a swampy cocktail darker than any backwoods hayride, stronger than the meanest Sasquatch, and crazier than anything you’ll find chicken-fried at your local state fair.”—Eryk Pruitt, author of Hashtag and Dirtbags

“Adam Howe proves with the three stories in this book that he can basically write anything. And write it very well indeed. To summarise: A three novella collection that you absolutely must have in your collection. I give this one the highest possible recommendation that I can.” – Nev, Confessions of a Reviewer

“Adam Howe’s “Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet,” is equal parts terror and fun, his dark comedic voice dances through each of the works in this collection to create engaging stories filled with bars, dames, rabid dogs, and an ape with one hell of a right hook.” – Nathan Crazybear/Splatterpunk Zine

“Once again this author has sucked me into the darkness of his stories and unleashed the twisted, disgusting and stomach churning madness that I come to expect. In fact, I would have been very disappointed if this book was not even more mind-blowing than Black Cat Mojo. And he did not disappoint. Hats off to Mr. Howe for creating this magnificent novella of pure horror. I would definitely recommend this to readers of horror and make sure you buckle up as you will be in for the most twisted ride of your life!” – Crime Book Junkie 

“I’m pretty certain that whatever genre you like to read, be it pulp, noir, horror, anything really, you will find something to enjoy here. It’s fast paced, action packed and brilliantly written. Comet Press has got a diamond on their hands! 5 stars” – Adrian Shotbolt

About Adam Howe

adamhowe.jpg

Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in Greater London with his partner and their hellhound, Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of SK’s book; he was also granted an audience with The King, where they mostly discussed slow vs. fast zombies. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, The Horror Library, Mythic Delirium, Plan B Magazine, and One Buck Horror. He is the author of two collections, Black Cat Mojo and Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, plus the eBook single, Gator Bait. Future works include Tijuana Donkey ShowdownOne Tough Bastard, and a crime/horror collaboration with Adam Tribesmen Cesare.

Find him on Twitter at @Adam_G_Howe.

vicki-beautiful

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 68 Pages

Release Date: April 26, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Vicki Beautiful

Vicki Beautiful is the story of a group of lifelong friends who always go all out for the “big birthdays” in their lives. The titular Vicki is the oddball of the group who was obsessed with appearing perfect at all times whether it was her own personal appearance or her home. Vicki had a rough upbringing, which is why she always needs to be in control and strives to maintain perfection in all aspects of her life so that she may have the life she always dreamed of. While many people would judge Vicki, her friends Sasha and Brynn love her for it and Vicki was always known to throw legendary parties that were a direct result of her obsession with perfection. She invited her friends over for a lavish birthday feast that she prepared herself. Sasha and Brynn notice almost immediately that Vicki and her husband Ken’s behavior seems off and a feeling of unease begins to descend over the party.

It is during this birthday dinner that Vicki reveals the source of all the weirdness and the real reason she called them all together – the cancer she has been battling for years has returned and this time there is no hope for recovery and Vicki only has months to live. The friends are overcome with sadness and spend the rest of the night reminiscing and trying to make the most of the time they have left together. The next morning, the group suffers another heartbreaking blow – Vicki was found dead in a hotel bathtub with slit wrists.

The day after Vicki’s death, her husband gives Sasha and Brynn letters written by Vicki prior to her death and that is when the true nature of Canon’s debut novella Vicki Beautiful is revealed. It is almost impossible to talk about the rest of the events that unfold throughout the course of Vicki Beautiful without spoiling some of the twists that make this novella shine. However, I will say Canon has managed to craft a stomach-churning premise that really pushes the boundaries of what people will be willing to do to honor the wishes and memory of someone they care about. Vicki’s dark last request creates tension between the lifelong friends and her husband Ken as they struggle with how they will proceed with Vicki’s wishes. Once I found out what Vicki intends to have her friends do for her, I immediately thought of all the things they could have done to get out of going through with it. However, Canon creates a list of fairly plausible reasons why they simply can’t walk away, no matter how much the request disturbs them. I personally wouldn’t have been able to go through with something like this, but the explanations Canon gives at least helps readers understand why Sasha and Brynn struggled with their decision.

There was a moment while reading the beginning of the novella where I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my type of story, but once Vicki’s secret is revealed, I was hooked! I loved the sense of mystery that comes with this book. A lot of times whether it is the title, the cover art or the synopsis, as a reader you generally have a feel for what to expect from a story. Vicki Beautiful keeps its secrets successfully under wraps until the last possible moment, which makes the big reveal devastatingly effective. I generally don’t get too squeamish when it comes to horror books as I have read just about every type of horror story imaginable, but this one definitely sent chills down my spine. I think what makes it such a great story and an unsettling slice of horror is that Canon does a great job of blending moments of normalcy into a completely bizarre situation. A great example of this is in one of the scenes where the two friends have a rational discussion about the logistics of Vicki’s plan despite the nauseating nature of her final request. The whole time I was reading Vicki Beautiful, I was wondering if the story was going to go all the way to the most extreme possible outcome. I obviously won’t spoil what happens, but I loved the way Vicki Beautiful ended!

Vicki Beautiful is a disturbing novella that definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but offers up an imaginative and original premise that I think most horror fans will enjoy. I was impressed with the talent on display in Vicki Beautiful and I am definitely looking forward to reading more of whatever sort of dark stories Canon has up her sleeve!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Somer Canon’s Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Site

Purchase Vicki Beautiful: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Vicki Beautiful tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Vicki Beautiful! –  #VickiBeautiful #WhatsYourLastWish #OneLastTaste

Vicki Beautiful Synopsis

One last taste of perfection…

Sasha and Brynn descend upon the showplace home of their girlhood friend, Vicki, planning to celebrate her surviving cancer to reach her fortieth birthday. As they gather around Vicki’s perfectly set dinner table, though, her husband shares devastating news. The cancer is back, and she doesn’t have long to live.

Her life is cut even shorter than Sasha and Brynn expect—the next morning, their friend is found dead, her flawless skin slit at the wrists. But a tub full of blood is only the beginning. Before the weekend is through, they are forced to question how far they’re willing to go to fulfill Vicki’s last wish.

A very specific, very detailed recipe that only the truest of friends could stomach…

Praise for Vicki Beautiful

I read this at one gripping session and I shall read more by this author. Excellent, original and worth every one of my five stars.” – Catherine Cavendish, Author of The Devil’s Serenade

“At times it reminded me of the cult classic “Eating Raoul” and others “The Big Chill”. Suffice to say, Canon has created an intriguing tale that will not only have you caring about characters put into an awkward, unsettling situation but also wondering how they’ll react to it every step of the way. I highly recommend this unique and entertaining story.” Matthew Franks, Author The Monster Underneath

“This is not the normal type of book that I would read, but the cover sold it to me, and I like reading new authors and genres. This book is beautifully written, the writing flows and you feel you really understand what the character’s are feeling…” Rebecca, GoodReads Reviewer

“The ending of this story was truly horrific. I am an old school horror fan, and have been indulging in the genre since I was old enough to hold a book. I also adore and enjoy the sub-genre splatterpunk, I read Jack Ketchum as a bedside book all the time. It takes a lot to phase me, but even I was turning my head in repulsion at the end. What a wonderful debut story for Somer Canon.” – Badseedgirl, GoodReads Reviewer

“A simple story, but all the more powerful for its simplicity. Four stars. The author has guts and skill.” – Outlaw Poet

About Somer Canon

Somer Canon

Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

Vicki Beautiful is her debut novella.

Find out more about Somer and her upcoming works at her website http://www.somercanon.com. You can also connect with Somer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SomerM.