Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

BOOK INFO

Length: 384 Pages

Publisher: Gallery Books

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Ania Ahlborn is one of my favorite horror authors today and she is one of the few writers that I would order a book from sight unseen. I forget how I first happened upon her smash hit debut Seed, which started off as a self-published work, but after reading it I was hooked. It was brutal and terrifying and Ahlborn unleashed some truly wicked twists and turns that cemented me as a fan for life. I have followed her career ever since and devouring every new release as soon as I get my hands on them. There is no denying her talent and there is something about her writing that just grabs my attention and refuses to let go until I finish whatever story it is I happen to be reading.

The Devil Crept In opens with 12-year-old Jude Brighton missing and his younger cousin Stevie and the residents of Deer Valley combing the woods searching for him. He disappeared that Sunday after spending the day with Stevie collecting broken two-by-fours to complete their fort in the woods. Despite the large manhunt, hope is dwindling as no one has found a trace of Jude. Making matters worse is the town’s dark history that looms over the search. Years ago, another child named Max Larsen was missing until his mutilated body was discovered not far from the woods. Deer Valley residents feared that a killer was on the loose in their sleepy town and the fact that no one was ever charged with the murder put the town on edge and they tried to scrub it from existence by never speaking of the murder ever again.

Stevie fears that his cousin’s reputation around Deer Valley means the adults will not give the investigation the attention it deserves. He decides that he is his cousin’s only hope, armed with his knowledge from the cop shows he loves so much and his notebook. He hits the streets determined to find the truth about his cousin. While searching for Jude in the woods, Stevie can’t help but fear the worst and his thoughts keep drifting back to the dilapidated and eerie house that sits secluded in the woods not far from their fort. Is there a connection? However, his search for his cousin leads him to truths that are far more terrifying than he could ever imagine. Something isn’t quite right in Deer Valley and just what did happen to all of the town’s pets?

Ahlborn has some outstanding setting work in this novel, particularly the scenes of the woods. After the loss of his cousin, the forest went from being a source of wonder to a source of dread for Stevie. “But now, standing at the gaping maw of what suddenly felt like a forbidden land, all he could do was coil his arms around himself and stare into the green-glowing gloom”.Nondescript scenery like ferns and moss are given ominous descriptions that make them seem dripping with malice. Then there is the description of the abandoned house. Ahlborn paints a vivid picture of the house and if I could, I would include the whole section here because it captures the eeriness of the house and cultivates a tension that there is something not right with that house. The descriptions work because many, if not all, of us have had those moments as kids. That abandoned house or section of woods where rumors swirl and imaginations conjure up the scariest and darkest possibilities imaginable.

What makes The Devil Crept In such an engaging read is the originality of the premise. Throughout the novel, Ahlborn makes readers question just what exactly is happening in the woods of Deer Valley. There are hints scattered throughout this seemingly sleepy small town that something isn’t right, but you can’t quite place your finger on it. That nagging sense of mystery is part of the fun of this novel. Reviewing this book is near impossible because of the potential for spoilers. I will say that of all the crazy ideas that ran through my head, cobbled together from years of reading horror novels and watching horror films, the truth behind what happened to Jude never crossed my mind.

Ahlborn’s characters are fantastic and I normally can’t get into novels that function primarily around young protagonists. However, Ahlborn does a wonderful job with Stevie and Jude. Stevie is an outcast who is constantly teased at school due to his stuttering problem and the hallucinations that plague him every day of his life. He has no friends except for Jude, so when Jude goes missing he feels it is his responsibility to save his only friend. He has a love of true crime shows and that obsession fuels his search for Jude. While Stevie is a sympathetic character, Jude is borderline obnoxious, but it plays wonderfully in the context of the story. Jude is seen as a menace around town, someone who is always causing trouble and drawing extra scrutiny from the adults around town. When he goes missing, Stevie and consequently the reader, wonder if maybe the town isn’t so concerned with bringing him back home. That maybe, just maybe, everyone’s lives would be a little bit better if he just stayed missing. What keeps Jude from reaching full-blown annoying territory is the fact that he suffered a great tragedy that may have helped shape the world view and attitude that makes him the pariah of Deer Valley.

I have seen in interviews for The Devil Crept In that Ahlborn’s where she mentions that the novel takes a look at the differences between the worlds of adults and kids. That theme is hammered home throughout the novel and it is one that I think is very interesting. I remember when I was growing up, and I am sure anyone else reading this can as well, being absolutely convinced that there was something large and terrifying hiding under the bed or peeking out of a slightly open closet door. Part of it is the darkness and shadows playing tricks on you, but you are convinced that something is in there. Inevitably, you scream for your parents and when they come in they explain to you that monsters aren’t real. The older we get, we largely outgrow those experiences. But why do we have them? What if there really was something strange going on? That is largely highlighted to a degree by Stevie and the way he is portrayed throughout the novel. His biggest struggle is trying to get someone, anyone to listen to him. But they shrug him off or look at him funny because he is a 10-year-old boy, which would be hard enough for him to deal with. But Stevie also has a mental illness, one that his family tends to overlook. This all combines to make it damn near impossible for him to get anyone to believe him.

While as of this writing The Bird Eater still reigns supreme as my favorite of her books, The Devil Crept In is another stellar offering from a gifted storyteller. An original premise, vivid characters and a great sense of atmosphere (not to mention some truly unnerving scenes) all mesh together to create a thrilling reading experience. If you haven’t read any of Ahlborn’s work yet, I highly recommend grabbing at least one of her books. I have a feeling once you read one, you’ll be hooked, just like I was!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Ania Ahlborn Official Website

Gallery Books’ Official Website

Purchase The Devil Crept In: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Gallery Books, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About Ania Ahlborn

Ania Ahlborn is the bestselling author of the horror thrillers Brother, Within These Walls, The Bird Eater, The Shuddering, The Neighbors, and Seed, and the novella The Pretty Ones. Born in Ciechanow, Poland, she lives in South Carolina with her husband and their dog. Visit AniaAhlborn.com or follow the author on Facebook and Twitter @AniaAhlbornAuthor.

BOOK INFO

Length: 102 Pages

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Release Date: April 22, 2017

Review copy provided as part of Cut Corners Vol.3  Blog Tour

Since starting up The Horror Bookshelf, I have been lucky enough to discover a ton of quality small presses that are releasing quality horror and helping to keep the genre alive and well. I have a host of favorites, but one press that has been catching my attention as of late has been Sinister Grin Press out of Austin, Texas. I think the first time I discovered them was through reviewing Jonathan Janz’s stellar Children of the Dark . They host an impressive roster of authors – many of whom I consider among my personal favorites – and are one of those types of presses where I know I will love anything they release.

Cut Corners Vol. 3 is the latest installment in Sinister Grin Press’ Cut Corners series. Cut Corners is a collection of three stories from some of the biggest names in horror and this is my first journey into the collection.  I haven’t read any of the other volumes (yet!), but what I enjoyed about this volume is that it centers around timely topics in society. Whether it is our addiction to our technological devices or fascination with celebrity culture, there is an eerie amount of things that readers can recognize in the world around them.

Cut Corners Vol. 3 kicks off with a new one from Kealan Patrick Burke called “Andromeda”.  This story follows a girl named Hannah, who is glued to her cell phone almost constantly and seems to be more at ease finds within the virtual world than the one around her. She has a strained relationship with her mom, who doesn’t get her daughter’s attachment to her virtual life and tries her hardest to get Hannah to interact with her friends at school and experience her idea of a “normal” life. While arguing with her mom, she stumbles across an article that mentions something weird occurring in the Baltic Sea. She has an interest in weird phenomena, so she files the story away to read that night. It isn’t much later that she gets a bizarre text that she writes off due to having a number that used to belong to someone else. While hanging out with her friend Fiona, they begin to notice strange things happening around them, but find every reason to write them off as normal. However, it doesn’t take long for Hannah and Fiona that something is really off in their town and it will test the very boundaries of their sanity.

While all three of the stories in Cut Corners Vol. 3 are real treats for horror fans, “Andromeda” is easily my favorite. This is a tough one to talk about without spoiling some of the events that occur within, but there are a few stories that this reminded me of as I was reading it. There is nothing overly terrifying or bloody in “Andromeda”, but that doesn’t keep Burke from crafting some chilling moments that stick with you long after reading. What makes this story such a blast to read is the small, unsettling moments that Burke sprinkles throughout the story to indicate just what sort of danger Hannah and Fiona finds themselves in. Although there are some truly disturbing and creepy moments that readers are able to see, what makes “Andromeda” stand out is the use of dialogue (the message from Hannah’s mother…yikes!)  and ordinary situations being warped into something strange. I love stories like that. It builds a sense of dread and confusion as you try to piece together the mystery unfolding on the page. Burke conjures up a foreboding atmosphere that permeates every page of “Andromeda” and kept me glued to this story until the very end!

Bryan Smith’s “The Barrel” is another story that utilizes an intriguing mystery to snare readers, and “The Barrel” starts with some strangeness right off the bat. Martin Sanchez is a recently divorced man whose life is now in shambles, with nothing eventful happening in his life since the divorce. That is until he wakes up one morning to find a mysterious black barrel in his back yard when he lets his dogs out. The barrel is seemingly ordinary, but when his dogs notice it, they are in full-on attack mode and growl at it. Martin’s imagination runs wild at what could be contained in the barrel and he struggles with how to handle his bizarre new discovery.

I love how Smith ties The Barrel’s arrival into social media with the use of #blackbarrel, the pull of a social media game almost impossible to resist. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered something strange and used the internet to figure out what the hell it is. Though if a mysterious black barrel showed up in my yard, I don’t think that would be my first reaction! While the subject matter of the two are wildly different, I couldn’t help but think of the final scene from Seven while reading this story. What makes this story interesting is that for a bulk of it, the reader’s imagination is the focal point of the story. There could be literally anything in that barrel, and being a horror story, I’m sure readers will conjure up all sorts of wild and imaginative scenarios. While this is the strength of the story in my opinion, it is also part of the minor issue I had with the story. After conjuring up all sorts of wild scenarios, the reveal was a bit of a let down. Don’t get me wrong, Smith still does some original things after the reveal, but I was hoping for something a little different. That being said, “The Barrel” is still an enjoyable story.

The final story in the collection comes from Ray Garton, the only author to appear in every installment of Cut Corners. “Afterparty” follows the life and career of Jarrett Baffometti, the biggest pop star in the world. Cy Weintraub is his manager and gained wealth through working with some of the biggest stars in the entertainment business. Jarrett’s career has been going off the rails as of late, racking up D.U.I’s and other arrests and falling down a rabbit hole of drugs. Cy knows that things are bad and has seen it with other young stars he has managed, but he feels that something is different with Jarrett’s situation. When he arrives at Jarrett’s mansion, he discovers a surreal scene that proves his suspicions were correct. Garton then takes readers back five years to show how Jarrett’s career really launched after attending a mysterious cocktail party at the request of his manager who promises that if he just does what the hosts say and makes a good impression, he will be set for life. Sounds easy enough, and Jarrett is no stranger to partying. However, when he shows up at the mansion, he realizes that nothing could have prepared him for that night.

Cy is an interesting character, possibly even more so than the mysterious group that has such an interest in Jarrett’s career. Without getting too much into the plot, let’s just say it’s hard to pinpoint his exact allegiances. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel about this story going in, but by the end, I was blown away. Garton throws a little bit of everything into this story and yet it all works to make for a delightfully strange and creepy story. Garton’s story is a little more extreme than the others and is filled with drugs, sex, violence and the allure of fame. I loved the little twists added within the story. While the group’s motivations and goals seem fairly straightforward, there is an aspect of their plans that I didn’t anticipate. “Afterparty” works extremely well as a short story, but I can’t help but think of the potential it has as a novel. I would love to learn more about this mysterious group and the process behind their agenda.

While I will always love losing myself in horror novels, I am finding myself being drawn to shorter horror fiction lately, whether it be short stories or novellas. This probably has to do with my new schedule, but there is also something to be said for a shorter format for horror. While I love expansive world-building and watching the terror of these stories slowly unfold, there is something visceral about the immediate impact of the short story. Cut Corners Vol. 3 is an excellent collection that is a perfect introduction for readers who are new to horror or for die-hard horror fans looking for a quick read from some of the best writers in the genre!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Cut Corners Vol. 3: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sinister Grin Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Cut Corners, Volume 3! – #CutCorners3 #horrorshorts #SinisterGrinPress

Cut Corners, Volume 3 Synopsis

Late, dark nights are perfect for reading surreal and terrifying tales from some of the best story tellers in the horror business. Grit your teeth, sit by the fire pit, and be prepared to possibly not return from underneath the spell of their writing prowess, but if you do, we’re certain you’ll have a sinister smile to share. All these modern stories have an element of thought-provoking surprise and style.

“Andromeda” –Kealan Patrick Burke

A  grim story of a teen girl hooked to her cell phone that will make you think outside of your comfort level.  Kealan Patrick Burke is a hauntingly lyrical and original writer of horror that will leave you breathless.

“The Barrell” – Bryan Smith

When a surprise barrel shows up out of nowhere on the back stoop, and the dogs start to bark at it uncontrollably, Martin becomes very suspicious and intrigued.  Bryan Smith is a versatile and horrifying author who will leave you squeamish and chuckling.

“Afterparty” –   Ray Garton

Jarrett is getting famous on the entertainment scene, but what will he have to do to remain in the industry?  Brought to you by Ray Garton, a master of explicit detail and tense horror that entrances readers and doesn’t let them go.

About The Authors

Kealan Patrick Burke

Born and raised in a small harbor town in the south of Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke knew from an early age that he was going to be a writer. The combination of an ancient locale, a horror-loving mother, and a family of storytellers, made it inevitable that he would end up telling stories for a living. Since those formative years, he has written five novels, over a hundred short stories, six collections, and edited four acclaimed anthologies. In 2004, he was honored with the Bram Stoker Award for his novella The Turtle Boy.

Kealan has worked as a waiter, a drama teacher, a mapmaker, a security guard, an assembly-line worker, a salesman (for a day), a bartender, landscape gardener, vocalist in a grunge band, curriculum content editor, fiction editor at Gothic.net, and, most recently, a fraud investigator.

When not writing, Kealan designs book covers through his company Elderlemon Design.

A number of his books have been optioned for film. You can find him at http://www.kealanpatrickburke.com.

Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is the author of numerous novels and novellas, including Depraved, Slowly We Rot, The Killing Kind, and 68 KILL. The film adaptation of 68 KILL recently won the Midnighters audience award at SXSW. Bryan lives in TN with his wife Jenn and numerous animals. Visit his home on the web at thehorrorofbryansmith.blogspot.com and find him on his author fan page on Facebook.

Ray Garton

Ray Garton is the author of the classic vampire bestseller Live Girls, as well as Scissors, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Ravenous, and dozens of other novels, novellas, tie-ins, and story collections. His new Moffet & Keoph investigation Vortex, the novella Crawlers, and his collection Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth are available for Kindle. He has been writing in the horror and suspense genres for more than 30 years and was the recipient of the Grand Master of Horror Award in 2006.  He lives in northern California with his wife Dawn where he is at work on a new novel.

Want to Feature?

If you’d like to review Cut Corners, Volume 3 by Burke, Garton, or Smith, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Sinister Grin publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

BOOK INFO

Length: 356 Pages

Publisher: Midgard Books

Release Date: January 7, 2017

Review copy provided as part of Jackals Blog Tour by Confessions Publicity

Jackals is Stuart R Brogan’s debut novel and focuses on a shadowy group of killers known as Jackals who descend on the small town of Wells, an affluent city known for being a hotbed of Masonic activity. One of their own has been captured and they enter the station driven by bloodlust and a singular mission preached by their bosses: embrace the Primitive. The aftermath of their arrival finds an entire police force brutally murdered and chaos brewing in the city. The group is careful to leave no evidence at the crime scene with the exception of a mysterious sigil painted on the wall in blood.

Detective Inspector Lewis Class is a cop nearing the end of his career and to put it bluntly – his life is a mess. He’s totally alone with no family or any real close friends and things aren’t much better at work. He basically goes through the motions, knowing that he isn’t that great of a cop and looking forward to the day he doesn’t have to worry about the responsibility the only things he really enjoys are drinking and the occasional hit of cocaine. Class is the last person you would expect to tackle the brutal slayings of the officers in the police station, but that is what he is tasked to do. If you had to conjure up an image of him in your mind, he would be a polar opposite of what you would expect an action hero to be like. He realizes quickly that this case is above his head and he had little chance to solve it, his only real leads being the sigil and a suburban couple whose car was found not far from the massacre.

Earlier on readers are introduced to Jesse Reid and her husband Damien. They have been married for 16 years and are an average married couple. They love each other but each have their own faults and occasional rough patches. Damien loves his wife with everything he has, but he has jealousy issues and is easily intimidated. Jesse suffers from severe depression that seems to stem from a strained relationship with her father and other dark events buried in her past. While out celebrating their anniversary and an ordinary evening until they have a fateful meeting with a mysterious woman who will change the course of their lives forever and kickstarts a deadly cat and mouse game that serves as the driving factor of Jackals.

Brogan’s main strength in Jackals is that he does a good job of establishing tension and has a keen sense of pacing. Jackals starts off a little slow at first, but within a few pages it’s off to the races and Brogan injects a sense of urgency that permeates almost every page of Jackals. These days reading time seems harder to come by, so for me to be invested in a story, the author needs to grab me. That doesn’t mean it has to be nonstop action on every page, but whether it is through action-packed scenes, strong character development or just an intriguing premise, I need a reason to keep turning the page. Jackals definitely delivers on all of those areas. When I first started it, I would read in quick bursts whenever I had a spare minute before putting it down for the night. However, it took less than a few chapters before it became harder and harder to tear myself away from Brogan’s world full of ruthless killers and shadowy secret societies.

Brogan also does a good job of building up the mystery behind the Jackals, who work for a mysterious known only as “The Order”. While the name may not strike fear in the hearts of those who encounter it, they are a diabolical group. Jackals is an accurate name for the people they employ –  Bloodthirsty killers who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals of achieving the “Primitive”. These people are clearly deranged, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or sloppy in their work. They are like ghosts in that they aren’t in the system and are able to blend into society fairly well. They also put a lot of planning into their attacks and account for every possible contingency, making them a pretty formidable group of antagonists.

I won’t get too much into the history of the group because that would ruin the suspense, but they are an interesting group that stands out a little bit from your typical cult that you see in most stories. They have a pretty warped view of the world that drives their goals and share some similarities with other groups that pop up frequently in the horror and thriller genres, but what is interesting and helps set them apart is the set of rules they follow. I also loved the way Brogan created a hierarchy within The Order which also adds originality to the novel. I wish we got more scenes showing the inner workings of the different groups, like how the Jackals are selected from the general public or what Internal Security has done to secure their deadly reputation. This isn’t a negative toward the novel because leaving some of these things a mystery makes The Order and their factions even more interesting, but just wishful thinking on my part.

Brogan’s excellent characterization doesn’t just apply to The Order (though that is what will initially grab the reader’s interest), but to the other characters as well.  My personal favorite is Jesse Reid, easily one of the strongest and most interesting characters in the novel. Despite all of the demons in her past and the self-doubt that appears early in the novel, she is incredibly resourceful and brave. When the Jackals deliver their ultimatum to her, it would have been easy for her to run and hide (I know I would have!), but she jumps into full on survival mode. She gathers supplies and starts formulating a plan that if I’m being honest, I would have been too paranoid and scared to think of if faced with a similar situation. I thought it was brilliant how readers get to see her evolve over the course of the novel and she is a badass in every sense of the word!

Jesse and Class make for an odd pairing, but they have a remarkable amount of chemistry. Despite coming from two different backgrounds, they open up to each other and share some of their darkest secrets with one another. There isn’t anything romantic there, they just forge an incredibly close bond while facing chaos and a group that would love nothing more than to see them both dead.

While there is a lot to enjoy about Jackals, there were a few parts of the story that didn’t quite work for me. Early on, when two detectives are interrogating a mysterious stranger described simply as “Gaunt Man”, Brogan reveals the man’s true intentions a little early, which kind of ruins the suspense cultivated at the beginning of that scene. That is a minor complaint though considering later scenes do a much better job of keeping things vague. Also there are a lot of times early on where the book is too heavy with the DC/PC stuff when talking about the different officers. A mention here and there may be important to establish the characters, but it kind of jumbles up some of the early scenes.

Jackals is a pulse-pounding thriller that is bursting with blood-soaked scenes, great characters, and plenty of plot twists that will keep you guessing all the way to the final page of the novel. I have never read Brogan’s work before, but Jackals is a very impressive debut and I will definitely be looking forward to his future work. If you enjoy thrillers or real-life horror, don’t let this gem slip under your radar!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Stuart R Brogan’s author Facebook page

Purchase Jackals: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Jackals Synopsis

From the aftermath of a brutal massacre at a rural police station, two survivors leave behind a swathe of bodies and a cryptic sigil painted on the wall, in blood.

A disgraced Detective Inspector begrudgingly starts to investigate the crime scene but as the facts begin to emerge the trail appears to lead into the highest echelons of power, making the policeman himself the next target.

As the conspiracy spirals ever deeper and with no-one to trust, both prime suspect and policeman are forced into an unlikely alliance to prove, not only their innocence, but the existence of a force so ingrained into our society, it could rewrite the very fabric of human nature.

About Stuart R Brogan

 Stuart R Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and unwaveringly proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people’s minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people’s brains out with fast paced, gut wrenching, thrilling horrors.

Harley lover, extreme metal drummer and avid movie nerd, Stuart has never followed the crowd but instead carved his own path and danced to his own tune. Since his early years, Stuart found escapism in both the written word and the silver screen. A huge fan of 80’s Action / Horror movies such as The Thing, Aliens, Predator & Die Hard and literary heroes such as Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, Richard Layman and Brian Lumley, Stuart endeavours to bring an unapologetic cinematic eye to his fiction in the hopes of rekindling his childhood sense of wonder, all whilst blowing through vast amounts of ammunition down his local shooting range.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog “Poppy” where he co-owns a kick ass Viking / Asatru shop, fiercely named “Shield Maiden”.

BOOK INFO

Length: 378

Publisher: Pinnacle

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Review copy provided as part of The Jersey Devil Blog Tour

It’s no secret that Hunter Shea is one of my favorite horror writers working today. I have raved about all of his books and I think part of what draws me to them is the fact that Hunter is also a huge fan of the genre. He is a lover of all things horror and has a fascination with cryptids that rivals my own. Every time I read one of his books – whether they be about cryptids, ghosts, or anything else really – I am reminded of why I love horror and I get the same feeling of excitement I got when I first started getting into horror and the weird world of the unexplained. This time around Shea tackles a cryptid that is near and dear to my heart, The Jersey Devil. I didn’t live in New Jersey, but growing up I lived close enough that The Jersey Devil legend was one of the first I discovered right after the big two – Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

The short version of the legend basically goes that a Pine Barrens resident named Momma Leeds gave birth to 12 children and when she was found out she was pregnant for the 13th time, cursed the child and said it would be the Devil. When the child was born, it transformed into a bizarre creature that varies in appearance depending on who you hear the story from. The Jersey Devil is a well-known folklore story that has ingrained itself in the fabric of the state and community that spawned it and was one that always fascinated me.

The Jersey Devil starts off with a bang as readers are introduced to Jane Moreland, a women whose husband has just died and she is frantically trying to get rid of the body. Her husband Henry was abusive and after putting up with years of torment and fantasizing about all of the ways she could kill him and be free of him for good. That’s all they were though were fantasies, so she was beyond shocked when a drunken accident and Henry’s own temper proved to be his demise.  Unable to call the cops – all of whom were friends with Henry – her only choice is to try and dispose of his body in the Pine Barrens. Worrying about how she will be able to deal with the aftermath of Henry’s accident, she hears a blood-curdling screech rip through the Barrens. Something is growling, stalking her in the inky darkness of the night. Whatever it is swoops down and carries the 200 lb Henry off into the trees. Jane barely escapes with her life after partially burying herself. Moments from freedom, Jane realizes there really was something horrible hiding in the Barrens.

Present Day

Sam Willet  – known to his family as Boompa – is 80-years-old and tough as nails. Despite his age, he is a formidably imposing figure and has the strength and stamina of a man half his age. He lost his wife tragically ten years ago and her death fueled his vendetta against the creature known as The Jersey Devil. Boompa has been chasing the elusive beast for years, but he knows that with every passing year, his time is running out. The monster has plagued the Willet family for 3 generations, though it has kept a low profile for decades. However, there have been a massive increase in sightings and disappearances that cause the family to get excited. After years of training and an all consuming desire for revenge, The Willet family team up with cryptozoologist Norm Cranston and march into the desolate Pine Barrens armed to the teeth in search of a monster that defies the laws of nature.

Shea does an excellent job juggling a large cast of characters by giving them all very distinct personalities and back stories.  Boompa is hands down one of my favorite of the Willet clan. While Boompa is old enough to be considered by many as elderly, he is still an imposing figure who is bursting with vitality and a determination that is almost infectious. After suffering numerous tragedies and coming face to face with something that defies all logic, he is chomping at the bit to confront an evil that would send most normal people running for the hills. While Boompa is tough as nails, there are some great interactions with his grandson Daryl early in the novel that are indicative of his sense of humor and shows how close he is with his family.

Norm Cranston is another key figure in The Jersey Devil. He’s 42-years-old and a world famous cryptozoologist, who just got back from tracking a Bigfoot-esque beast in Ohio known as the Grassman. Despite gaining a level of notoriety and popularity from being featured on countless cable shows, he lives modestly and alone with his cat Salem. He has been friends with Sam Willet for years after a chance encounter after filming an episode about big cats in New York and is aware of his story involving the Jersey Devil. After stumbling across two sightings in as many weeks, Norm knows he has to get in touch with Sam as there is something brewing in the Pine Barrens that could be huge for both of them.

Shea does a great job portraying Norm’s introduction into the field after his dad shared his own personal account of a Bigfoot encounter while he went hunting. This caused a young Norm to dive headfirst into the world of cryptids, reading every book he could get his hands on from the library. I absolutely loved Norm’s character because it kind of reminds me of myself. Growing up I had the same sort of wonder over cryptids and would read every book that I could find from my local library. That sense of wonder and fascination of the unknown that Norm displays in the novel is the same I felt growing up, so I was instantly drawn to his character.

The way Shea portrays the locals talking about the Jersey Devil in the novel is realistic and kind of representative of communities that have their own unique legends. When two minor characters who are looking to cash in on the legend to run camping tours ask locals for some key spots pertaining to the legend, they get the sense that everyone buys in to the legend. Some even go as far as begging them to stop searching for the hideous creature that calls the Pine Barrens its home. While not everyone may actually believe there is an evil creature hiding out in the Pine Barrens, it is important to note that many people take pride in local tradition. Even if they don’t believe it’s true, a part of them likes to keep the story alive.

One of the things that helps bring this novel to life is Shea’s excellent description of the Pine Barrens. I have never seen them myself, but Shea makes them come to life and gives them an eerie, unsettling power that helps fuel the tension of the novel and amplify the terror of the creature that could be lurking in the dense trees. Sparsely populated, dark and vast, they are the perfect setting for something to hide and for people to leave bodies. Shea even dedicates a short chapter to making the Barrens seem alive, vines and vegetation growing rapidly to hide the vehicles of some poor victims that fell prey to the mythical beast that calls the Barrens home.

I love the way Shea handles the big reveal of the Jersey Devil in his book. He doesn’t let readers get a real good look at the creature early in the book, but instead utilizes small fleeting moments that build up the anticipation and make the big reveal that much of a better pay off. It starts with sounds – growls, shrieks, and flapping of wings – then slowly builds as the attacks escalate due to the Jersey Devil getting more brazen. What started off as a few hit and run style attacks become more frequent and the Jersey Devil starts allowing itself  to be seen, which is a drastic change from its original behavior, along with its taste for blood.

I love that Hunter sticks with the traditional look of this famous cryptid. The Jersey Devil is portrayed as being about the size of a grown man with an appearance that looks like a hybrid of a horse and goat with a whip-like tail and large leathery wings. Honestly, if you were to look up a sketch of what The Jersey Devil looks like based on eyewitness testimony, you would be tempted to laugh. Hell, I almost did the first time I did. The Jersey Devil is a creature with larger than life name and reputation that brings to mind some kind of hulking beast, but the reality is, it looks almost cartoonish. However, there is nothing funny about Shea’s Jersey Devil. While it borrows from the traditional look, Shea manages to warp this creature into something truly frightening and capable of unimaginable chaos and carnage. It also isn’t just some mindless monster, it possesses an intelligence that far surpasses anything they thought it was capable.

What makes The Jersey Devil such a great novel is the care Shea shows in the research behind the legend. Well, that and tons of gruesome, frightening scenes that are guaranteed to keep your adrenaline pumping for almost the entire novel. While Shea has shown quite a bit of range in his writing and has tackled numerous different subjects, I have always thought he was at his best when tackling cryptids. He has already tackled The Montauk Monster, skunk apes, and The Dover Demon just to name a few. Just like with all of those books, they would be fantastic reads for lovers of the bizarre and unknown, but Shea always adds his own touches that make the story that much better. I don’t want to get too much into how Shea differentiates his version of the Jersey Devil mythos because I feel that would ruin a portion of the story, but he manages to take the traditional legend and amplify it to terrifying heights.

This was one of my most anticipated books of last year and it ended up being one of my favorite reads of the year as well. Shea is an excellent storyteller who manages to draw readers in almost instantly and never let go throughout the entire journey. Every time I pick up one of Hunter Shea’s works , I know I am in for a wild thrill-ride. I have read just about everything Hunter has released and one thing I can say is that I am never bored. He knows how to keep readers wanting more and has mastered the art of pacing and The Jersey Devil is no exception. There is plenty of action, bone-chilling scenes and horrific beasts throughout. If you are a fan of cryptids or prefer monsters with your horror, you can’t go wrong with this one!

If you are a Hunter fan, stay tuned in the coming weeks as I will have reviews coming for Loch Ness Revenge and We Are Always Watching! I have a ton of other reviews in the works as well and then I look forward to tackling Shea’s latest Savage Jungle.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Hunter Shea’s Official Website

Kensington/Pinnacle Official Website

Purchase The Jersey Devil: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!  

The Jersey Devil Synopsis

THE LEGEND LIVES

Everyone knows the legend of the Jersey Devil. Some believe it is an abomination of nature, a hybrid winged beast from hell that stalks the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey searching for prey. Others believe it is a hoax, a campfire story designed to scare children. But one man knows the truth…

THE DEVIL AWAKES

Sixty years ago, Boompa Willet came face to face with the Devil—and lived to tell the tale. Now, the creature’s stomping grounds are alive once again with strange sightings, disappearances, and worse. After all these years, Boompa must return to the Barrens, not to prove the legend is real but to wipe it off the face of the earth…

THE BEAST MUST DIE

It’ll take more than just courage to defeat the Devil. It will take four generations of the Willet clan, a lifetime of survivalist training, and all the firepower they can carry. But timing is critical. A summer music festival has attracted crowds of teenagers. The woods are filled with tender young prey. But this time, the Devil is not alone. The evil has grown into an unholy horde of mutant monstrosities. And hell has come home to New Jersey…

Praise for Hunter Shea

“Shea delivers a tense and intriguing work of escalating tension splattered with a clever, extensive cast of bystanders turned victims…An otherwise excellent, tightly delivered plot…Fans of cryptid creatures are likely to revel in this love letter to a legendary menace.”– Publishers Weekly

“Bloody good read!  This guy knows his monsters!”- Eric S Brown, author of Bigfoot War and Boggy Creek: The Legend is True, on Swamp Monster Massacre

“Hunter Shea is a great writer, highly entertaining, and definitely in the upper echelon in the current horror scene. Many other writers mention either loving his work and/or having the man influence their own, and for just cause. His writing suits anyone with a taste for the dark and terrifying!” –Zakk at The Eyes of Madness/The Mouth of Madness Podcast

About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weaned on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself.

Publishers Weekly named The Montauk Monster one of the best reads of the summer in 2014, and his follow up novel, Hell Hole, was named best horror novel of the year on several prestigious horror sites. Cemetery Dance had this to say about his apocalyptic thriller, Tortures of the Damned – “A terrifying read that left me wanting more. I absolutely devoured this book!”

Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come. Copies of his books, The Montauk Monster and The Dover Demon, are currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME.

He wrote his first novel with the express desire to work only with editor Don D’Auria at Dorchester (Leisure Horror). He submitted his novel to Don and only Don, unagented, placed on the slush pile. He is proof that dedicated writers can be rescued from no man’s land. He now works with Don, along with several other agents and publishers, having published over ten books in just four years.

Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light-hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, crytid and ghost hunters, directors and anyone else living in the horror lane.

Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hot dogs when the craving hits. His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.

You can follow his travails at http://www.huntershea.com, sign-up for his newsletter, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 278 Pages

Release Date: March 17, 2016

Review copy provided by publisher 

Longtime readers of The Horror Bookshelf know that I am a huge fan of Grey Matter Press and the stellar anthologies they have released over the years. So when I heard that they were branching out into novels and other formats, I was ecstatic! The first novel to be released under the Grey Matter Press banner is John C. Foster’s Mister White, a continuation of his short story that was featured in Dark Visions – Volume 2. When I came across the short story version of Mister White, I was hooked. I am pleased to write that the novel version amplifies the power of the original short story and adds even more mystery to the legend of Mister White.

Foster’s story opens with the line “Who is Mister White?” which is the last thing Abel hears on a static-filled phone conversation that leaves him shaken. Later that evening, Abel is on his way to a clandestine meeting in a graveyard—seriously, how creepy is that?!—when he hears the same question over and over again: “Abel? Sin sie das?” It sets his hair on edge and when he arrives at the meeting place, what he sees sets in motion a series of events that will fracture his sanity and place everyone around him in danger.

Russia

Lewis is watching a video of his fellow operative Abel torturing himself in order to survive a bizarre and hellish prison. Abel is forced to inflict this punishment on himself by an entity known only as “The Voice”. The commands are very bizarre and this is just one of the many scenes that stood out while reading Mister White. The psychological torture employed here is bizarre and frightening because you don’t know what to expect next. Not only does this scene unnerve readers, it also causes Lewis extreme paranoia while he is holed up in his study miles away, checking his security footage. As he watches this unfold, he gets a call from Bierce, the leader of all the agents and tells him about the disturbing footage. Once he mentions there was a name – Mister White – Bierce tells him he is beyond sanction and to get out of there right now. Lewis realizes he has made a grave error and initiates a protocol to help ensure his family’s safety as he is now left all alone with no resources to make it back to his family to protect them from the hell that is unleashed.

The truth is, I really struggled with the review for this novel, which is unlike anything I have ever read. How many times can you say something is brilliant? Because make no mistake about it, that’s what Mister White is. The creation of Mister White the character is the sort of thing I would imagine a horror writer would kill for – the chance to create an iconic monster. What makes Mister White so terrifying is the fact that we don’t really know for certain exactly who or what he is. He is mentioned in hushed tones and never by name due to his reputation. What readers will find out much like I did when I read it, is speaking his name is a very bad idea and if you ever cross his path, you’ll regret it. He is a legendary figure, someone who strikes fear into the hearts of operatives who deal with deadly situations on a daily basis in a career that calls for nerves of steel.

Not only does Foster do an excellent job breathing life into one of the scariest supernatural forces I have ever encountered, he builds an incredibly fascinating mythology and history around Mister White. There are a few scenes that seem to indicate one of the characters in this novel have at least some knowledge of Mister White’s origins. I don’t want to get too much into the details of that as it is part of the fun of the novel, but it leaves ample room for more stories. I am the type of reader who is often torn between wanting to know every detail about a book and having some mystery left behind, and Foster does a great job of leaving just enough mystery to keep readers intrigued. My imagination ran wild thinking about where Mister White came from, what his goals are, how he got mixed up in the world of espionage and a variety of other questions that popped up while reading. Mister White does a great job blending the occult with tinges of bizarre real-life programs in the intelligence world. One of the few things that is known about Mister White, is that he feeds off the fear of those he chooses to hunt down. Not only does it sustain him, but he derives enjoyment from it and will often toy with his victims. He is able to listen for his name and travel to anyone who mentions his name to attack them. Besides the mysteriousness of his origins, what makes Mister White such a great character is his unpredictability. With a lot of horror novels, you know what to expect whether it is a sadistic killer on the loose, a monster, or some other evil unleashed on the world. With Mister White, his motivations are a mystery. Foster does a masterful job building tension in this novel and when Mister White finally makes his grand entrance it is incredible.

Foster’s characterization is excellent and this cast of flawed characters leap off the page. Each character has a complex history and it’s clear early in the story that this isn’t your stereotypical squeaky clean family, they have secrets from each other. When we first meet Lewis, he is an operative who has been out of the game for quite some time. A family man who went from doing field work to more schmoozing with delegates and other members of the Russian elite that are of interest to the CIA. However, after years of not being in the field, his old training springs to the forefront of his mind and his only goal is survival once he realizes he is in danger. The tactics and logistics are fresh in his mind, but it takes a little while for his body to get used to the exhaustion of being on the run. His family is vaguely aware of his career, but they do not know the full extent of his past. His wife Cat has an affair to help push away the loneliness of constantly being separated from her husband and the distance and career choices that makes him appear to be preoccupied. There is a great section that talks about Cat’s life and how she got to where she was. Lewis is once again overseas without her and their only child, Hedde, is in high school. Her relationship with Hedde is now guarded when it used to be open. The loneliness she feels drives her to consult from home instead of going into the office and she has even taken up day drinking to help numb the pain.

Hedde is an interesting character and one of my favorites. She is a bit of an outcast and described by classmates as being addicted to drugs or “Most Likely To Become A Serial Killer”. She wears outdated clothes and while classmates tease her by calling her “Wednesday Addams” and “Lizzie Borden”, that doesn’t keep them from asking her to use witchcraft to solve their problems. Without giving too much away about Hedde, there are hints throughout the novel that she is far from your average teenager. I give Hedde credit, she is a hell of a lot braver than I would be if I were facing a supernatural entity hellbent on destroying my family. She does show fear, but she pushes through that in an effort to combat the sinister Mister White. Bierce is a fascinating character as well and I honestly thought for a while that he could be Mister White based on his description. He is completely hairless and has such a pale complexion that he seems white.  As you read Mister White, readers will learn that Bierce has a very interesting connection to Mister White and his shadowy involvement with the government.

There is a sense of isolation that not only amplifies the more terrifying scenes of this novel, but informs the characters personalities as well. It seems like each member of the family has adapted the sort of intelligence credo of distancing yourself from others and severing emotional ties to protect themselves from potential traumas. It is interesting to see a group of people who deal with the very real threat of danger on a daily basis try to use their training and protocols against a force that simply cannot be stopped. Lewis instituted a protocol list for his family years ago, which shows he was prepared for something like this to happen as soon as he started a family with Cat. They are a fractured family coming apart at the seams, but this event forces them to try to band together even though they are separated from each other with multiple continents between them.

Foster manages to craft a dark atmosphere that highlights the suspense and dread that lurks on every page. There is no cheap jump scares here, each scene is well thought out and deliberate. One of my favorite scenes was  the discovery of a bizarre coffin connected to Mister White and a creepy candlestick phone. The scene with these objects is absolutely brilliant. It takes a lot to truly unnerve me and something about these scenes, though devoid of any supernatural presence or violence, really rattled me. Foster manages to catch that darkness and distill it into potent blasts of fear that make for a truly frightening read.

Foster uses razor-sharp prose to draw readers in and can amaze with even a single line, like this one that describes an accident early in the novel “A two-by-four had crashed through the windshield like a spear, impaling the driver through his mouth and penetrating out the back of his skull, exploding like a brain, blood and bone grenade, until the wood lodged itself in the rear window”. While Mister White isn’t overly gory, there are a few blood-soaked scenes that he uses sparingly and effectively with sentences similar to this one.

It’s really hard to talk about Mister White without spoiling the novel and its many twists and turns that frankly are what make this such a standout novel. Foster weaves in so many bizarre and frightening moments that it’s jarring to the senses, but in the best possible way. Mister White is a truly exceptional novel that is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre and honestly, one of the best novels I have read this year. I honestly think Mister White is worth of being classified as a modern classic and I am sure this novel will have a lasting legacy. It blurs the lines between numerous genres and is a novel that I could honestly see myself re-reading multiple times. If you are a fan of any type of dark fiction, do yourself a favor and snag a copy of this immediately. The last 40 or so pages rocket by and reach a stunning conclusion unlike anything I have ever read. I loved this novel and I can’t wait to read what Foster has in store for us all next!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

John C. Foster Official Website 

Grey Matter Press Official Website

Purchase Mister White: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Grey Matter Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

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BOOK INFO

Length: 290 Pages

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Release Date: August 23, 2016

Review copy provided as part of the I Can Taste the Blood Blog Tour

I vaguely remember when I first heard about this project. John F.D. Taff announced he was working on a shared title anthology, and even with minimal details, it rocketed to the top of my most anticipated books list. I have been a huge fan of Taff’s for years now, and I knew that if he was assembling the authors for this anthology, it was guaranteed to be good. Taff got his inspiration for the story after stumbling across the phrase “I Can Taste the Blood” scrawled at eye level in a dive bar bathroom. Taff even includes a picture of the original graffiti that inspired this collection, a nice touch that shows readers the beginnings of the project. That little detail alone made this an intriguing read for me. How would five authors with very distinct styles approach a similar title? The result is a unique and mind-bending novella collection that will appeal to dark fiction fanatics of all types.

Vision I – Josh Malerman

The lead off story – which are referred to as “Visions” – comes from acclaimed author Josh Malerman, the author of Bird Box. I remember reading that novel and being blown away by the concept of eliminating one of the key five senses. Ever since reading Bird Box, I have been a huge fan and look forward to checking out anything Malerman writes. Vision I opens with an introduction to Madmannah and his family. They were used to living in poverty, nomadic in nature and traveling the brutal heat of the dusty desert until their fortunes changed rapidly from a quick thinking lie on Madmannah’s part. They were used to meeting all sorts of outcasts on their travels. Madmannah and his family are finally able to enjoy the safety they always craved and sought after, but they still look back and remember how they used to do whatever it took to get by. Madmannah is sitting around the table with his family, celebrating his good fortunes when a mysterious traveler named Rab shows up, pounding on the door asking for refuge from a depraved man/demon he has met along the road and overcome with fear and panic.

They are unsure of whether or not to let this man, but their sense of goodwill as they were vagabonds and travelers once and a curiosity convince them to let the man in. Rab proceeds to tell them a story of the mysterious and dangerous  man he met out on the desert. As Rab tells them his story, it sets them on edge and makes them question their safety and deeply unsettles them. Though they are on edge, they urge him to press on and are captivated by his story.

This story from Malerman crackles with energy and the whole time you’re wondering if Rab’s story is for real. There are plenty of moments when the secret start swirling and the reader is held captive by the narrative much like the other characters in the story. At every moment where you think you have the story figured out, you are thrown a curveball and it helps keep your fear elevated. There are some truly dark scenes in this story that I didn’t expect and they are deeply unsettling, some particularly cringe worthy.The art of storytelling drives this novella and is another stellar offering from Malerman. I don’t want to give too much about this one away, but I love that there are key details littered throughout this story that once you reach the end, finally click into place.

Vision II – J. Daniel Stone

Stone’s story opens with a man named Bok waking from a nightmare. His nightmares are so debilitating that he often wakes up tasting blood, screaming in his sleep so forcefully it tears up his throat. Bok gets a call from a mysterious man with a German accent. All he wants to do is to say no to him, but with jobs hard to come by and the fact that the German man has paid him well before, Bok takes the call. Bok lives in an apartment that is a mess as Bok misses his boyfriend who is gone and never coming back. He catches a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror and is shocked by its skeletal appearance.

Bok’s boyfriend Jared is a film buff with a wide variety of interests from Italian splatter giallo and science fiction to the most experimental films. It is through Jared and his love of film that Bok is introduced to the mysterious Laurenz, a purveyor of the darkest and most experimental films on the market. Bok believes this man drove Jared insane. They get tangled up in his web of influence and the darkness calls out to them both as they attempt to capture the magic they so desperately crave. Laurenz is mysterious and it is obvious that he holds his own dark and warped secrets. The two characters descend into madness as they are drawn deeper into Laurenz’s dark world.

J Daniel Stone has a lush, evocative writing style that I absolutely love and the way he captures the dark, gritty aspects of this novella will definitely captivate readers. I loved the way he portrayed the relationship between Bok and Jared. They have a passionate relationship and Stone weaves readers through that passion while also showing how they were swallowed up by the darkness of addiction and the desire to be a part of something unique and horrific. Laurenz Althaus is also a very interesting character. The less I say about him the better, only that I found it interesting that he isn’t physically imposing in the least bit, but his charisma looms over the characters and his eye for people’s inner darkness and secrets make him a formidable force.

Stone also does an excellent job in transporting readers into his settings. I have never been to New York City, but reading this novella definitely helped me envision what it must be like. I really can’t stress enough how much I enjoy Stone’s writing. Just take a look at this line: “This part of town was interesting because no matter the weather or time of day, it was always balmy and dark with smog. Great plumes of steam shot up from the sewers, and exhaust spit out of the countless delivery trucks. Nobody wanted to live here, no gentrification robots or big business tycoons. Not yet anyway.”

There is a scene where Bok first starts to discover the sort of films that Laurenz is into and that is where the story first starts to descend into some truly dark and violent territory. I don’t want to get too much into what they see there, but it is pretty wicked and not for the faint of heart. Stone isn’t afraid to shine a light on the violence and depravity of this story. and the final scenes of this story are definitely extreme horror. This is one of my favorite pieces of Stone’s work.

Vision III – Joe Schwartz

Two small-time criminals, Joe and Sam, are out a stake out waiting for a woman who has somehow crossed their boss, The Caretaker. She is their latest mark in a slew of jobs that have found them navigating the seedy underbelly of the city they live in. Sam and Joe seem to work well enough together, but it seems more out of necessity than anything else. Joe is a massive imposing figure with a penchant for letting little slights blow up into a personal affront. This garners him a violent reputation as he supposedly killed a guy who ignored his request for help loading boxes. He’s crude and doesn’t care if he offends anyone because the way he sees it, no one could possibly have the balls to stand up to him. Rumor or not, Sam says that the job they do is not for the weak or the brave, but the dregs of society who have nothing to lose. Joe also has a passion for the job, lighting up with glee when it was time to grab their target whereas Sam just views it as a job and safer than his old job transporting drugs across state lines.

Readers are shown flashbacks of Sam’s life of crime, living on the fringes, and dumpy motels that drove him into a career as a criminal. All of those moments throughout Sam’s life led him to this moment, a job that will forever alter the course of his life.

What really makes this story standout to me is all the little details Schwartz utilizes in this tale about the criminal life. Schwartz mentions cars with fictitious registrations where anything could be in the trunk from drugs to a body. Even when he talks about the blind luck involved and how guys could do runs for years without getting busted and others get busted on their first delivery. They are relatively small details, but stitched together throughout the story, they add authenticity to Sam’s story.

Schwartz’s characterization of both Joe and Sam is top-notch. Sam actually seems to have a good heart, all things considered. He is only 5’9 but has a mean streak that keeps him safe. He also isn’t ashamed to admit that he takes more beatings than he gives. He has limits to what he will do and views the pain he inflicts as being earned. Pain inflicted on grown men who should have known better and now serve as an example for the rest of the degenerates that operate in his world. Joe seems to enjoy his work a little too much and that friction with Sam leads to some great moments. The one thing they both have in common though is their reputations for getting things done. Undesirable things that only people with warped morals or desperation would dare dream of carrying out.

This was my first exposure to Schwartz’s work and I am kicking myself for not finding out about him sooner. This is awesome stuff! Schwartz’s tale stands out as being the one that doesn’t really contain any elements of the weird or supernatural. Instead, it is a straight-up crime story that hits like a freight train. I was drawn into this story from the opening scene. Brilliant characterization and larger-than-life characters that leap off the page, tons of action, there isn’t a single lull in this story. I don’t know how I have missed hearing about his work until now, but these stories are incredible and I need to go out and grab all of his books and give them a read!

Vision IV – Erik T. Johnson

The story introduces readers to a man named Canny, who is prone to long-recurring nightmares. Every night he meets with a hooded figure and Johnson takes us into the surreal mindscape of Canny’s mind.

Canny lives at home and has for his entire life. His mother is the only person he talks to, but their interactions with each other get less and less as the years drag on.  She threatens to kick him out on the street if he even makes one friend. He doesn’t mind though as he never really cared for people. He’s allowed to do whatever he wants, but must remain in isolation. She has a tendency to wear a black bathrobe, which is similar to the hooded figure in his dreams. She also wears a miner’s helmet that is equipped with a blinding lamp to prevent Canny from looking at her directly in the face. Why is she hiding her face? What secrets lie there? As you read, you will find out. If that isn’t weird enough, Canny doesn’t know his family history, birthday or who his father was. It’s like he has no personal history at all.  After introducing readers to Canny, Johnson takes readers on a journey through a world that is filled with bizarre creatures responsible for delirium-inducing nightmares.

My favorite part of Johnson’s novella was his creation of the town, Episode Lake. It is a dark, seedy town full of dangerous and deranged people. There are rumors of people like Mister Sunday, The Man Who Doesn’t Knock. He is a supposed escaped mental patient living in an abandoned institution built beneath a rubber factory. He creeps out to steal children from their homes. Then there is the Whore-Bug Witch who haunts nondescript locations like discount stores or nail salons or a duo who give a whole new meaning to the saying never take candy from a stranger. Each of these creatures/people have  their own rhymes, that I could only imagine sounding like the unsettling song from the Freddy movies (you know the one).

I will be honest right off the bat and say that I am only about 30% sure I understand what was going on in Erik T. Johnson’s tale (why 30%? I don’t know it seemed like a good number). That being said, I appreciated this mind melting novella which featured some really bizarre monsters. Vision IV seems to be a mashup of a variety of styles and it is easily the most divisive story in the collection. If you prefer more linear types of storytelling, this one may not be your cup of tea. However, if you are open to experimental writing styles, you will find a lot to appreciate in Johnson’s story.

Vision V – John F.D. Taff

Taff’s story opens with a cold open, a person scrunched up inside of a water tower. The man is someone who has worked with his hands his whole life and knows every mark on them and his fingerprints. Right off the bat, John hooks you with an opening that gives you just enough details to be drawn in and build a sense of dread, especially when you hear the sounds Click-clack. Trust me, you will know why that noise sends shivers down my spine as soon as you read this story!

We are introduced a man named Merle, a 50-year-old man who lives in the dying small town of Norton. His life is falling apart around him, starting with the failure of his marriage. They were a typical married couple and there was no violence or anything else, they simply drifted apart after seven years. Now, Merle doesn’t have much going on in his life aside from drinking with his childhood buddy James Derringer aka “Gun” at the Rest- Ezee. It is one night over a few beers that Merle begins to get an inkling that something isn’t quite right in Norton. He has a strange wound on his arm that he can’t recall how it got there and isn’t it strange how many blood drives have been popping up all over town? Later that night, Merle feels a bit off and sees something that not only scares him, but sets in motion a chain of events that alters his life and makes him question his own sanity. All small towns have their own secrets!

I absolutely loved Taff’s offering in I Can Taste the Blood. His novella is full of realistic characters and captures small-town Americana perfectly.  Taff excels at crafting stories that truly immerse readers in the world he has created. I can’t talk to much about the plot of this one without spoiling it, but even after Taff unleashes some truly crazy stuff, you are still able to suspend your disbelief. It still feels like you know these characters and that you know Norton like the back of your hand, just like Merle does. Taff’s utilization of little details like that breath life into the story and that is what has always drawn me to his work since I first discovered The Bell Witch. His description of the bar Rest – Ezee is top-notch too. From the Christmas lights behind the bar to the cigarette smoke hanging in the air, I would swear Taff was writing about my neighborhood bar. While Vision V is a terrifying and unsettling story, there is still humor at times. There is a particular line about the children’s magazine Highlights  that had me laughing my ass off.

Taff’s story was one of my favorites not just because I am a huge fan of his work, but because it marked him trying something a little bit different. A lot of the stories I have read from Taff seem to be geared more towards emotional horror which helped him get the nickname “The King of Pain”, but Vision V is a more straightforward horror tale. It is a violent body horror piece that features more gore than any of his other stories and that sort of unexpected twist makes this one a knockout piece.

Thoughts on the collection

Overall, I Can Taste the Blood more than lives up to the hype that has been surrounding it. I had already read three of the authors previously – Malerman, Stone, and Taff – so getting to read new stories from them was something that I was obviously looking forward to and the main selling point for me in regards to checking out this book. However, I was also able to discover two new writers who I really enjoyed. I honestly haven’t read anything like Johnson’s entry before and while I don’t know if I will ever fully grasp the meaning of that story, it was a fun journey. As for Schwartz, his story made me want to run out and read everything he has ever written. I mean he is that good.

This is another stellar entry into the Grey Matter Press catalog and is an essential addition to any dark fiction fans library with its variety of styles and unique vision. While there is no denying Taff’s talent as an author and storyteller, I Can Taste the Blood also shows that he is one hell of an editor and I hope this isn’t the last project he assembles (though I would hate for it to impact his writing output!). I Can Taste the Blood is a brilliant collection and a really fun read. I really can’t recommend this one enough!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

I Can Taste the Blood Official Anthology Website 

Grey Matter Press Official Website 

Purchase I Can Taste the Blood: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Grey Matter Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

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Use these hashtags to help spread the word about I Can Taste the Blood! – #ICanTastetheBlood #5uniquevoices #horroranthologies #OneNightmare

I Can Taste the Blood Synopsis

Five Unique Voices.
From international bestselling author of BIRD BOX and Bram Stoker Award-nominee Josh Malerman — the newly minted master of modern horror — and Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS, John F.D. Taff; to the mind-bending surrealism of Erik T. Johnson; the darkly poetic prose of J. Daniel Stone and the transgressive mania of Joe Schwartz, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD offers up five novellas from five unique authors whose work consistently expands the boundaries of conventional fiction.

Five Disturbing Visions.
I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD opens the doors to a movie theater of the damned; travels the dusty, sin-drenched desert with an almost Biblical mysterious stranger; recounts the phantasmagoric story of birth, death and rebirth; contracts a hit that’s not at all what it seems; and exposes the disturbing possibilities of what might be killing Smalltown, U.S.A.

One Nightmare.
As diverse as they are, in voice and vision, the work of the five celebrated authors assembled in this stunning volume of terror share one common theme, one hideous and terrifying nightmare that can only be contained within the pages ofI CAN TASTE THE BLOOD.

Praise for I Can Taste the Blood

“Only a group of psychopaths would assemble a book such as this. Bloody brilliant, and beautifully executed. Taste this.” – Michael Bailey, Bram Stoker Award-winning editor of THE LIBRARY OF THE DEAD

I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD is a tour de force for Grey Matter Press and for the five outstanding dark fiction authors gathered here. If you’ve read their work before, then you’ll know what we’re talking about, and if you haven’t, you won’t find a better place to start than right here.” – Shane Douglas Keene, THIS IS HORROR

“Very unique and the stories are very very different. A powerful, unexpected collection. A real page turner.” – Robb Olson, BOOKED PODCAST

“It is the slow burn, the creeping doubt, the inherent violence, the lore made real. Through exotic locations, where the wind blows from within; flashing across the silver screen, violence echoing into the night; pulled from the trunk of a car, dark deeds that deserve retribution; a monster lying in wait, one more city down every road. Haunting and disturbing, even now, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD– Richard Thomas, author of BREAKER and TRIBULATIONS

“While this quintet of authors may taste the blood, we readers will feel the frightof their nightmare visions, sense the dread, the thrills, the awe of their standout voices. MALERMAN, STONE, SCHWARTZ, JOHNSON, and TAFF: The five points of a brilliant star that herald short horror mastery.” – Eric J. Guignard, fictionist, winner of the Bram Stoker Award and finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award

 Praise for Grey Matter Press

“Grey Matter Press has managed to establish itself as one of the premiere purveyors of horror fiction currently in existence via both a series of killer anthologies —SPLATTERLANDS, OMINOUS REALITIES, EQUILIBRIUM OVERTURNED — and John F.D. Taff’s harrowing novella collection THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS.” – FANGORIA

“The dark, all-encompassing theme seems to be the trademark of Grey Matter Press. When asked for a referral I often state without hesitation to the very press that has enchanted my reading attention.” – Dave Gammon, HORROR NEWS

Author Biographies

Josh Malerman

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Josh Malerman is the author of Bird Box and Ghastle and Yule and some forty other novels and stories that he wishes he could release all in one day… and he just might do that! He lives in Michigan with his fiancee Allison Laakko and their two cats Dewey and Frankie. Used to be three cats, but Dandy died on Halloween, begging the question: will the color orange always make Josh sad? Or will he see Dandy amongst the pumpkins, deliriously, happily, for the rest of his days…

J. Daniel Stone

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Daniel Stone is the pseudonym for a hotheaded Italian kid from New York City. He has been a menace to society since 1987 and continues to terrorize local bookstores, art galleries and dive bars.

When he is not causing mischief, Stone reads, writes and attends as many rock shows as possible. He is the intermittently proud father of two bastard children: The Absence of Light (2013) and Blood Kiss (2016). Somewhere, out there in the dark, one can find more of his illegitimate spawns telling imaginative stories. Find him on Twitter @SolitarySpiral.

Joe Schwartz

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In 2008, Joe’s Black T-Shirt: Short Stories About St. Louis was published as a personal favor for friends of Joe Schwartz. The idea that people outside of Schwartz’s limited Midwestern world could find these dark, and occasionally personal, stories entertaining was as exciting as it was mysterious for the first-time author. Since then, he has written two more collections of short stories as well as the novels A Season Without Rain and Adam Wolf and The Cook Brothers – A Tale of Sex, Drugs and Rock&Roll. The kind of stories he tells have been described as “a sharp punch to the gut” and disarming “like a sunny day in Hell.”

Erik T. Johnson

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Erik T. Johnson doesn’t believe in order or boxes. He became a writer because he can’t make a straight line to save his life—since stories consist of terrifically asymmetrical, random sequences of random shapes. Also because of what Georges Bataille meant by: “I write the way a child cries: a child slowly relinquishes the reasons he has for being in tears.”

Johnson is a Written Backwards DARWA Voice Award-winner whose fiction appears in renowned places, such as Space & Time Magazine, Tales of the Unanticipated, Qualia Nous, and all three volumes of the award-winning Chiral Mad series.

Erik is certain unreliable narrators don’t exist—only unreliable authors. He will prove his uncompromising reliability when his first book of short stories is published in 2016.

Visit Erik at http://www.eriktjohnson.net.

Stalk him on Twitter @YES_TRESPASSING.

Curse him at your own risk, do other stuff when it suits you.

John F.D. Taff

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John F.D. Taff has been writing for about 25 years now, with more than eighty short stories and four novels in print. Six of his stories have been awarded honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror & Fantasy.

His collection Little Deaths was named the best horror fiction collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk. His 2014 collection of novellas, The End in All Beginnings, was published by Grey Matter Press. Jack Ketchum called it “the best novella collection I’ve read in years,” and it was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection.

Taff’s work also appears in Single Slices, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories andThe Beauty of Death.

He lives in the wilds of Illinois with a wife, a cat and three pugs.

Like to Feature?

If you are a professional blogger or media outlet, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi at hookofabook@hotmail.com about a review copy or to schedule an interview or feature with any of the authors.

nightparade

BOOK INFO

Length: 384 Pages

Publisher: Kensington

Release Date: July 26, 2016

Review copy provided as part of The Night Parade Blog Tour

The Night Parade opens in the thick of the action, with David Arlen and his 8-year-old daughter Ellie on the run from authorities. A disease known as Wanderer’s Folly is sweeping across the globe, killing millions of the people in the worst outbreak in recent memory. He is consumed with fear about what he may need to do to keep his daughter safe and it has been at least 2 days since he has slept. All they have with them is some extra food and clothes, $600 and some games. He also has a gun with 2 boxes of ammo, but he has never shot one before and doesn’t know if he will even be able to use it on someone should it come to that. David and Ellie are racing across the country, trying to survive and elude the people who are after them both. David is keeping secrets from his daughter about why they are on the run and what really happened to her mother. As they journey across the United States, David and Ellie will be faced with horrifying challenges that will put their relationship to the ultimate test.

The Night Parade is a novel that made a lasting, emotional impression on me and as is the case with most of Malfi’s work, his characters and the way he handles their personalities is large reason for that. The Night Parade is meant for any reader, but as a soon-to-be father, the characters of David and Ellie are the ones I gravitated towards the most. Malfi does an excellent job bringing readers into their family dynamic and getting to know them is part of what makes this novel great.

I am about to have a daughter of my own and I couldn’t help but connect with David. Sure, he makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but I can relate to his desire to protect his little girl at all costs. It is the small moments that occur throughout the novel that really show these characters personalities and makes the characters come to life. While David and Ellie are on the run, David is often overcome with doubt about his plans to keep them safe and to keep people from recognizing them. That doubt is very realistic. Most post-apocalyptic novels feature ordinary people who adapt to their environment with ease, mastering the art of stealth and survival almost instantly. As much as we would all like to think that is how we would react in an apocalyptic scenario, the truth is most of us would probably be like David. David has some good ideas on how to stay safe, but it is clear he is an amateur in situations like these and he is often filled with doubt and fueled by adrenaline.“I learned that when you become a parent, you become a secondary character in the story of your own life.” That one simple line struck a chord in me and really sums up David’s character pretty accurately. He is always putting his daughter first, consequences be damned.

While I connected to David the most, I think Ellie is the most interesting character in The Night Parade by far. Ellie is intelligent and often asks David probing questions while they are on the run that proves she doesn’t necessarily believe everything her father is telling her. Ellie may only be 9-years-old, but she is incredibly brave and resourceful. No matter what horrors she faces, she never seems frozen by fear and sometimes her actions are the only reason they get out of danger. There are quite a few moments in The Night Parade where it may seem like some of the things she does seem unrealistic given her age, but once you learn more about Ellie, it makes perfect sense.  She also serves as a moral compass to some degree. When David breaks into an abandoned store, she scolds him for breaking and entering. When he tries to joke that there is no cops, she says that it still doesn’t make it right. She also is constantly questioning her father’s choices, asking him why they made that choice and asking how it is different from what other people do. It really makes you question what you would do in that situation. I really wish I could talk more about what makes Ellie such a great character, but that would ruin the journey for readers. Trust me though, once you get to know Ellie, you’ll love her.

While they are great characters on their own, the strength of these characters comes from the great portrayal of their relationship. David is trying his best to keep her safe, but Ellie is often mad when she feels like David is treating her like a little kid. As the novel progresses, we see David struggle with the fact that his little girl is growing up and Ellie begins asserting her independence. While you would think David would be the one primarily taking care of Ellie, they form more of a partnership. There are moments where David relies on his daughter, like when he is inspired by Ellie’s childhood quirk of lining toys up in front of the door. David remembers that memory and sets up mace and lighters in front of the door like an alarm system. There are also scenes where they are faced with real horrors and danger, and David uses jokes to try to take Ellie’s mind off of the craziness going on around them.

I also really liked David’s brother, Tim. Tim is the type of person who was born to survive these situations. He has always been paranoid over government surveillance, so he stopped carrying a cell so the NSA couldn’t track him. He also loved living off the grid, so he was able to cultivate the skills to be self-reliant well before the outbreak occurred. Tim is bursting with personality and has the ability to crack a good joke. Where as he was portrayed as kind of an oddball earlier in the novel, he is a really interesting character. He is entrepreneurial even in the face of the apocalypse and runs all kinds of businesses, including making his own moonshine. He is also super smart, using a childhood memory as a code between him and David. He is a pragmatist, but he does hold out hope for optimism.

I also thought it was interesting that Malfi takes a look at how society may react to such a horrific disease outbreak. In the aftermath of the outbreak, cult-like groups begin popping up all over the country. The most well-known group is the “Worlders”. They believe the Folly is a biological version of the biblical flood, a way to wipe the slate clean and start over. They are one of the more widely known groups and are frightening in their methodology, but they are far from the only group out there. I thought the addition of these groups was a nice touch because it makes the events surrounding the Wanderer’s Folly outbreak more realistic. It only makes sense that people would band together to form groups to help cope with the new reality they are faced with and in some cases, use to exploit their agendas.

While the characters of this book are what really connected with me, I was impressed with Malfi’s catalyst for the apocalypse. Wanderer’s Folly is a devastating disease that is unlike anything scientists have ever seen before. One of David’s co-workers likened it to The Black Death, where there are no answers or ways to stop it because no one has ever seen anything quite like it. No one is sure where it came from or how it is contracted. All scientists really know is that it poisons, attacks and ultimately kills the brain. Due to how widespread it was, it was initially thought to be airborne, but that was later proven to be a myth. Others thought it was already in the human body, just waiting for a trigger to set it off. It has a varied incubation period and people who have the disease could last for hours or weeks.

What makes Wanderer’s Folly so interesting isn’t that it is incredibly lethal or the effects it has on people (though those are important components to the story), but rather the fact that it is believable. It seems like Malfi did a lot of medical research in order to make Wanderer’s Folly a believable illness that will chill readers because it sounds like a supercharged version of a real-life disease that already affects millions of people worldwide.

The reaction to the disease is also very realistic.  People wear those cheap carpenter masks over their mouth after it was initially suggested that the disease was airborne. Though it was quickly proven that they were useless, people still clung to the hope they provided. People also wore them as a status symbol almost to show they were free of the disease, a sort of xenophobic reaction that caused divides among people. That attitude let people to be suspicious of even the most minor, ever day things.

I really liked Malfi’s use of setting. There are some lines that Malfi uses to describe his setting that are so simple, and yet beautiful in how striking they are. Take this one for instance, “He could smell gasoline and could hear the buzzing cadence of insects in the surrounding trees”. Trying to pick out all of the great settings in The Night Parade could be a review by itself, but I loved Tim’s compound. There are “No trespassing” signs everywhere, the windows are all shuttered, and there are antenna’s all over the roof. Basically, it is exactly what you would imagine a conspiracy theorists house to look like.

The Night Parade is a post-apocalyptic novel and while you may have preconceptions about what the world is like, I really liked the way that Malfi approached it. It wasn’t complete devastation with the world turning into nothing but one indistinguishable swath of wasteland, it was a gradual change. The events take place over the course of about two years. Over that time, there is chaos and paranoia, but the world Malfi envisions in The Night Parade is halfway between normal and the sort of apocalyptic scenario you would imagine. The grid hasn’t collapsed and people still go about their lives, it’s just that they are so debilitated by paranoia. They are staying in a motel in a rural downtown area and most of the shops were closed. There is great description here about blackened windows, weeds bursting from cracks in the sidewalks. However in the midst of all that disrepair and seeming desolate stretch of town, there is a convenience store that is still open, despite the fact all of the stuff inside seems old and mismatched.

David and Ellie also spend some time in a town long thought to be abandoned called Goodwin. However, you can’t always believe what you read as Goodwin isn’t as empty as it appears. When they first arrive, they see signs with biblical messages and crosses erected all over the shoulder leading into town.

The Night Parade has an interesting structure in that it alternates between flashbacks showing the origins of the disease and the present. As the main narrative progresses, so does the “flashback” story line. Any time there are alternating timelines, I feel like that is a risky choice because it can confuse the reader. However, Malfi pulls it off with ease. Each narrative is engaging and it helps keep the novel from hitting too many lulls. By relegating the outbreak largely to the flashback chapters, it allows Malfi to dive in right to the action and the mystery it cultivates hooks readers and makes them want to learn more. Also, rather than have everything result from one devastating incident, the outbreak of Wanderer’s Folly is slowly revealed over the period of two years until it finally merges with the “present day” story line. There is also a lot of foreshadowing that goes on and that attention to detail and nuanced storytelling is why Malfi is one of my favorite writers.

There are plenty of creepy scenes throughout The Night Parade, but they are more about building a feeling of dread than over the top scares or buckets worth of blood and guts. A majority of them come as a direct result of the Wanderer’s Folly, where Malfi takes situations that would otherwise seem harmless and mundane and warps it into something deeply unsettling. A prime example of that would be an early scene where David and his wife Kathy hear ice cream truck music in the dead of winter. That is the first time in my life I have ever been afraid of that recognizable jingle and once you read it, you will understand why. It is moments like that and the interactions David has with people afflicted with the disease that make the Wanderer’s Folly scarier than any supernatural being or monster. It inflicts a surreal element into everyday life and that sense of strangeness is downright frightening. Then there is the moment that David and Ellie meet Solomon. I still can’t get over that scene!

While The Night Parade is a post-apocalyptic novel with one of the creepiest, most devastating catalysts that I can remember,  it really boils down to one family’s fight for survival and to stay together at all costs. There are so many reasons that I could list for The Night Parade being one of my favorite novels of the year –  great characters, a brilliant disease that launches  the apocalypse, or some truly pulse-pounding scenes – but the main reason I loved this was its emotional impact. I mentioned why I was so drawn to David and my own personal situation that made this book standout for me, and that is a big part of it. But man, there is just no denying Malfi’s ability to get readers to emotionally invest in his characters. After riding across the country with David and Ellie, you get to know them intimately and there are numerous moments between them that just tug at the heartstrings. I’m not going to lie, there were quite a few times while I was reading this that I got a bit misty-eyed. That almost never happens, whether it is a book or a movie, but I’ll be damned if this book didn’t make me tear up a bit. This story is scary, but it has a ton of heart. I really can’t praise this one enough, and if you enjoyed Josh Malerman’s Bird Box or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, you are going to love The Night Parade!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Ronald Malfi’s Official Website

Kensington Publishing Official Website

Purchase The Night Parade: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

The Night Parade tour graphic v2

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Night Parade! – #TheNightParade #WanderersFolly #apocalyptichorror

The Night Parade Synopsis

First the birds disappeared.
Then the insects took over.
Then the madness began . . .

They call it Wanderer’s Folly–a disease of delusions, of daydreams and nightmares. A plague threatening to wipe out the human race.

After two years of creeping decay, David Arlen woke up one morning thinking that the worst was over. By midnight, he’s bleeding and terrified, his wife is dead, and he’s on the run in a stolen car with his eight-year-old daughter, who may be the key to a cure.

Ellie is a special girl. Deep. Insightful. And she knows David is lying to her. Lying about her mother. Lying about what they’re running from. And lying about what he sees when he takes his eyes off the road . . .

Praise for Ronald Malfi

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting, the words, the ending. Color me impressed.” –Melissa Reads on The Night Parade

“The Night Parade has a creepy vibe and some genuinely terrifying moments. I even teared up a time or two. It’s everything I look for in a great read.” – Frank Errington on The Night Parade

“One cannot help but think of writers like Peter Straub and Stephen King.” FearNet

“Malfi is a skillful storyteller.”—New York Journal of Books

“A complex and chilling tale….terrifying.”—Robert McCammon

“Malfi’s lyrical prose creates an atmosphere of eerie claustrophobia…haunting.”—Publishers Weekly

“A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride that should not be missed.”Suspense Magazine

About Ronald Malfi

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Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author of many novels and novellas in the horror, mystery, and thriller categories from various publishers, including The Night Parade, this summer’s 2016 release from Kensington.

In 2009, his crime drama, Shamrock Alley, won a Silver IPPY Award. In 2011, his ghost story/mystery novel, Floating Staircase, was a finalist for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award for best novel, a Gold IPPY Award for best horror novel, and the Vincent Preis International Horror Award. His novel Cradle Lake garnered him the Benjamin Franklin Independent Book Award (silver) in 2014. December Park, his epic childhood story, won the Beverly Hills International Book Award for suspense in 2015.

Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi’s dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, and eventually relocated to the Chesapeake Bay area, where he currently resides with his wife and two children.

Visit with Ronald Malfi on Facebook, Twitter (@RonaldMalfi), or at www.ronmalfi.com.

Want to feature this book/author?

If you are a blogger, author, or member of the media and you would like to feature The Night Parade or Ronald Malfi in a review or interview, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com. Thanks!

Chasing Ghosts cover

BOOK INFO

Length: 102 Pages

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Release Date: August 1, 2016

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

Anyone who has been following my blog knows that I am a huge fan of Glenn’s books. I have been following his work ever since his debut The Haunted Halls and it seems like he just keeps getting better with each book. So when Chasing Ghosts was announced, it instantly shot to the top of my list of most anticipated books. As soon as you crack the cover on Chasing Ghosts, you will notice the novella is dedicated his to Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene and Jonathan Janz. If you are a fan of any or all of those writers, this should give you a good idea of what to expect and it definitely captures the spirit of those writers.

“Rumors were usually born from some kind of truth”

The novella opens introducing readers to Jesse Gerrard, a bit of a rebel who occasionally gets into trouble with his friends who dare each other to do crazy stunts like blowing up M80’s at school. Jesse knows his father is cheating on his mother and it is weighing heavily on his mind. Trying to flee his tense situation at home, Jesse grabs his coat and storms out of the house to meet up with his buddies Davey and Luke at the old Cobb place. While his dad attempts to stop him and talk to him about the incident with the M80’s, he tells his dad he is “chasing ghosts” and then he is gone. Those are the last words he will ever say to his father.

When they get to the Cobb house, it doesn’t take long for the dares to begin and each one trying to prove their toughness. Davey dares Jesse to pick up a rotting rabbit carcass, which he does with no problem. The smell is stomach churning, but Jesse’s ego won’t let him look like a chicken in front of the new kid. However, Jesse takes it a step further and chucks it through a window into the now abandoned home. Glenn builds great tension by slowly incorporating the legends that swirl around the Cobb house, like that Zachariah ate his own baby and their reputation as a group of redneck cannibals.

Luke instantly is filled with fear and is trying to convince Davey and Jesse to run, but while they are bickering and before they can move a muscle, they hear an ominous grinding noise coming from inside the Cobb House. Jesse thought they were out there all alone, but that sound indicates otherwise. They duck for cover, but once again, Jesse’s desire to prove his toughness leads him to go right up to the house. Even though his friends are scared, all he can think of is showing off and he climbs inside the house! I know I am a horror fan, but if I am being honest, I am a scaredy-cat in real life. There is no way in HELL I would be going inside that place if I was Jesse!

It doesn’t take much longer for all hell to break loose. I won’t get into what happens, but I was reading this and my jaw dropped because it is so early in the story and Glenn just goes straight for the jugular. It is right around this moment I knew Chasing Ghosts was going to be one hell of a ride!

Following that opening, we are left to ponder the fate of the group of friends in the woods and the story shifts its focus to another group of characters. Jack, Ian, and Connor are members of the punk band The New 45 and they are on their way out to a gig at a secluded cabin in the woods where a wild party is taking place. While they complain about having to play in the middle of nowhere, they are planning to have a great show and have fun partying until all hours of the night.

After meeting the band we are introduced to Jesse’s parents Derek and Heather, who are dealing with the fallout over their son’s disappearance. Heather found out about Derek’s girlfriend Melody and the stress of the affair and their son’s disappearance has left the couple’s marriage in shambles. Derek is beaten down by the emotional toll of losing his son and while his wife holds out hope he is still alive, he knows that he is gone. After their fight, Derek goes out on his bike and finds himself rocketing toward Cobb Road. He remembered his son liked to come out here and cause Zachariah trouble. As he is traveling down the road, he sees a strange person crossing the road and a frightening encounter ultimately leads him to the cabin where the band is playing.

When the band’s lead singer goes missing, Derek can’t help but think if the strange person he saw out on the road. He joins Connor and Ian as they search for their friend and they will find themselves battered, bloody, and doing whatever they can to survive the hell they have found themselves in.

One of my favorite scenes in Chasing Ghosts is when Derek’s best friend Mike fills Melody in on the wild history of the Cobb’s and the woods they called home. Now, I don’t know how other readers will feel about it, but I loved that Rolfe gradually explained the legends surrounding the woods. By giving out a little bit of the history at a time, it helps amplify the mystery that haunts the pages of this story. Mike’s retelling gives readers a more complete history of the Cobb’s and sets a very creepy atmosphere for the back half of the novella. The way Mike tells the story with perfect pacing, it feels like the sort of campfire ghost story that has you ready to leap out of your skin at the smallest noise.

Glenn’s characterization is truly exceptional in Chasing Ghosts. Glenn manages to introduce a variety of interesting characters and none of them feel like they get lost and the action never lags, even as we jump from different characters view points. Even the minor characters pop off the page, like the scraggly hipster that first greats the band at the cabin. The depiction of Jesse and his friends relationship is perfect and kind of reminded me of the kids in Stranger Things. They get each other to do stupid dares like screwing around at the Cobb Place and blowing up M80’s at school. They have no problem teasing each other, but you get the sense that their friendship is incredibly strong and that they would do anything for each other. Out of all of those characters though, Luke was definitely my favorite. He is one of the youngest characters in the book and is subjected to horrors that would break most anyone regardless of age. Despite all of the stuff he endures throughout the novella, he never gives up and fights for his life every step of the way.

I also loved the way Glenn portrays the killer that attacks the band and Derek out in the woods. He is over six feet tall and a physically imposing figure. Connor tries to attack him, but when he hits him full speed, he does little more than make the guy stumble. The group’s run-in with this guy made me think of classic movies like Friday the 13th, where even the strongest character couldn’t even phase Jason with their best effort. Connor, Ian, and Derek try to take him on and inflict an extreme amount of punishment, but it hardly phases him and still kicks their asses. This fight scene was one of my favorite moments of the book, unrelenting action that is pumping with adrenaline. There are other aspects about the Cobb family that I thought were extremely well done, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book yet. Trust me though, you won’t be disappointed! More than once I got chills while I was reading this.

Honestly, Chasing Ghosts is one of the scariest books I have read in a while and it may just be Glenn’s darkest work yet. Once you get to the back half of the novella, it is pretty much a barrage of action and extremely bleak situations. I mean lines like this: “I could see his brains on the leaves. I could see his brains on the leaves” are devastatingly effective and only scratch the surface of the blood-soaked brutality that plays out in the woods surrounding the infamous Cobb property. There is also one scene with one of the characters in the woods towards the end of the book that honestly made me wince because I could only imagine the pain that character was experiencing.

I remember reading a blog post about this one and Glenn mentioned how he wanted to capture the tone of the Leisure Books that he was a huge fan of and I feel he does that in spades. Chasing Ghosts has the feel of a vintage horror novel that is chock full of blood, guts, and pulse-pounding action. I love all of Glenn’s different types of stories, but it was awesome to see him go back the extreme horror that was on display in his debut. This was a blast to read and as a horror fan, Chasing Ghosts has everything I could want in a great horror story. I grew up around the woods and while it can be a peaceful place during the day, as a young kid who loved horror movies, the setting was terrifying at night. Rolfe definitely taps into that fear with Chasing Ghosts, which is definitely my favorite novella of the year. I highly recommend grabbing a copy and I can’t wait to see what Glenn comes up with next!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Glenn Rolfe’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Chasing Ghosts: Amazon, Barnes & NobleSinister Grin Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Chasing Ghosts tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Chasing Ghosts! – #ChasingGhosts #Rolfed #WoodsPeople

Chasing Ghosts Synopsis

The Cobbs were ignorant woods-people that died off and left nothing to fear. Locals in Naples, Maine think they know this story. But are they wrong?

Luke Howard and his mom move to Naples and Luke’s eager to make new friends. When Jason and Davey invite him out to the abandoned Cobb place for a game they call “chasing ghosts,” he’s ready and willing. However, the boys will come to discover that some vacant houses are better left to die alone.

Meanwhile, a punk band set to play in a rented cabin out of town feel eyes upon them. Somebody’s watching, but not their usual audience. When their lead singer strays too far from the group and disappears, his band mates set out in the darkness to find him.

Police Chief Walt Henderson is about to discover that there’s more going on out in the woods of his town than he ever imagined.

Chasing ghosts is more than just some children’s game.

Praise for Glenn Rolfe

Things We Fear is a compulsively readable tale of obsession and dark suspense, with one of the creepiest villains I’ve encountered in recent years.” — Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of All Flesh

“Glenn Rolfe’s new thriller is addictive. A quick, compelling read. Rolfe creates tension with a minimal amount of words. His characters are so well-drawn they come alive (before they die).” — Duncan Ralston, author of Salvage

 “Fast paced and tense, with one of the most interesting monsters I’ve read about in recent times.” — Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to Be Paid

“Glenn Rolfe is quickly establishing a name for himself as one of a number of excellent new writers to ensure the horror genre is kept alive and well.” — Catherine Cavendish, author of Dark Avenging Angel

“There is a definite old school feel about this novella (Things We Fear). It isn’t an over the top gore fest. Instead, what we have is a tense, psychological thriller that builds steadily towards a fitting climax.” – Adrian Shotbolt, at Ginger Nuts of Horror

Glenn Rolfe Biography

Glenn Rolfe author photo

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author the novellas, Abram’s BridgeBoom TownThings We Fear, and the forthcoming, Chasing Ghosts; the short fiction collection, Slush; and the novels, The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain.

His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, was released in March 2016.

Media? Wish to Feature?

If you are a member of the media or a blogger that wishes to review Chasing Ghosts or feature Glenn Rolfe, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicity and marketing, Sinister Grin Press, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

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BOOK INFO

Length: 232 Pages

Publisher: EyeCue Productions/The Sinister Horror Company 

Release Date: July 25, 2016

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

I have heard a lot of great things about Duncan Bradshaw’s work and the independent publishing company he helped found, The Sinister Horror Company, so I was excited to join the blog tour for his latest novel Hexagram. Hexagram is an interesting novel because it is made up of six distinct stories that take place over many centuries. The novel starts off with a prologue of sorts that is ironically titled, Journey’s End. This opening features a father and his young daughter making a perilous climb up the side of a mountain, racing to the summit for something. There is green vapor swirling around the top and as their energy starts to fade, they wonder if they will ever reach the top.  Behind them, they can hear sounds of torment and claws down below which helps them press forward. When they reach the top, they see other groups of people who made the same journey watching the stars too.

This beginning is kind of confusing, but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine it starting any other way. It helped me invest in the story because I had so many unanswered questions swirling in my head like “Where are these people from?” and “What is the significance of the journey?” It mentions they had to survive a journey and six trials to get there and I would have loved to hear about those sections! The little girl asks her father which star is hers and he replies for her to be patient, it is yet to be born. With that, Bradshaw begins to take readers on a windy, joy ride that spans centuries and offers a look at a variety of different situations and people. The easiest way to talk about Hexagram is to take a look at each individual sections, so I broke down what I liked about each section and then added my thoughts on the novel as a whole at the end.

Cuzco, former Inca Empire March 4, 1538

The first story opens with a man named Matias, who is wasted and on his way to his barracks after a night on the town. Stumbling home after a night with Palla, he runs into a group of mysterious priests who knock him out. When he wakes up, he is tied up in a cave with the priests preparing him for some sort of ritual. He is restrained and after they anoint him with a greasy liquid, the horrific ritual begins. Bradshaw displays a lot of great detail in this ritual scene and readers can feel the terror Matias experiences in the cave. Bradshaw makes readers cringe with simple, descriptive lines like, “Further waves of pain washed over him as nodules of bone were scored and clusters of dense nerve endings severed”. It is lines like these that prove Bradshaw definitely isn’t going to shy away from violence and there are plenty of gruesome scenes here that will appeal to readers who don’t mind a little blood and gore in their horror.

In the midst of the sacrifice, there is a battle of ideologies that unfolds between two priests in the religious order, Poma and Amaru. They share the goal of raising the sun-god Inti, to use against the conquistadors, but they have differing opinions on what tactics to use. Poma only wants to sacrifice pure Inca people, but Amaru insists his way is faster,  and will also get them revenge against those who have come to their land and destroyed everything they hold dear.

Rodrigo Quintaro is the leader of conquistadors and he is shocked when his men find Matias, completely hollowed out, hanging from a belfry at Santo Domingo. Despite there calls for blood and vengeance, Rodrigo does not want to go on a war path as he only cares about one thing – his quest for El Dorado and grabbing up as much gold as he can. Unfortunately, it is this greed that leads Rodrigo and his men into a deadly showdown that sets off a chain of events that will last for centuries.

While Hexagram may sort of seem like a mash-up of a few genres, there is no denying this is a horror novel. One of my favorite scenes in this story is when one Incans were sacrificed and should have been dead, she sits bolt upright and screams. Had this been a movie, I probably would have rocketed out of my seat! There are also some truly awesome fight scenes between the conquistadors and priests as they go back and forth trying to kill each other off. This is a great story to kick off the collection and there is hardly a dull moment.

Presidio Santa Maria de Galve Pensacola, Florida 1716

This story is written in a confessional style format from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who is accused of horrific crimes. He was the captain of a ship that was tasked with retrieving treasure from the new world, but the ship went through a terrible storm that killed a lot of his men and left them stranded in the new world. While this story ultimately picks up steam later on, I thought it started off kind of slow.

After a few days spent adjusting to their surroundings, the stranded sailors took to living in caves and there is now only 37 of them out of the 112 that originally worked on the ship. They are barely clinging to life when they begin getting attacked by the Native Americans, who impale the head of one of the crew on a spike to send a message. The crew has been living in caves and the fear of suffering more gruesome displays of violence begins to drive them crazy. The natives psychologically torture the narrator and his men and when they finally come face to face, the leader of the native presents them with the scalps of his men, setting the stage for war. The war ultimately leads the narrator to find information about the rituals introduced earlier in the novel and allows this knowledge to consume him.

This story marks one mans descent into madness and depravity as he begins to enjoy the carnage he inflicts. This seems to be what the knowledge does, slowly driving people over the edge. That is what makes this version of events so chilling is this man went from an average sailor to someone whose very sanity has melted away and caused him to commit horrific acts.

While this story did start off a little slow, once the sailors clash with the natives, the story really kicks into high gear. The fighting in this story is savage and features some of the bloodiest scenes in the novel. I mean, there is literally a scene where Native American warriors repel down a ridge on the entrails of their enemies! Bradshaw also uses military strategy to help bring these battles to life.

Kolb’s Farm, Cobb County, Georgia Civil War 1864

This is the story of a Confederate soldier named Rusty, who is wounded in a horrific battle at Kolb’s Farm that sees most of his friends and fellow soldiers torn to shreds. As he lies injured on the battlefield, he can’t help but think of the memories of his childhood spending time on the Chattahoochee River. This section is fairly short, Bradshaw captures them perfectly with vivid descriptions that capture a sort of tranquility that shows that he is capable of more than just blood, guts, and destruction (though he his damn good at portraying that stuff too!)

As he lies there, Union soldiers look for survivors and make sure everyone is dead. Just when Rusty fears he may be discovered, the soldiers take off after hearing sounds of another fight in the distance, sparing Rusty’s life at the last-minute. Rusty is saved by a mysterious stranger in a robe. He is taken to a basement in a nearby church and finds that there is a whole group of these people who wear robes made out of a coarse fabric, almost like a burlap sack. He falls in love with a woman named Molly who is the one that primarily takes care of him. While he is recuperating, Molly explains that she belongs to the Church of the Saviour’s Star. The gold thread and the fact that there are hexagrams embroidered on their robes, makes me think they are somehow connected to the Incan priests at the beginning of the story.

However, as Rusty is recovering, he begins to have his suspicions about the group and their motives. Especially when the other patients who were all around him go missing. When Rusty finally uncovers the truth, it may be too late.

Rusty is one of my favorite characters in the novel, probably right after Pastor Gimball (who we will get to later). There is a moment when facing imminent death, Rusty fights back and displays an incredible amount of bravery. He has been through hell since the opening pages of this story and no matter how bad things get, he never stops fighting.

One thing that I didn’t initially pick up on but I did with this story is that Bradshaw uses real places and events as the backdrop for his stories. He manages to put his own unique spin on them with the mythology he has created around the star-dust and other aspects of the Hexagram universe. I was also impressed with his ability to perfectly capture the bloody and brutal violence of the Civil War.

The Clarence Pub, corner of Great Scotland Yard and Whitehall, London, United Kingdom 1888 

I have always had a fascination with the Jack The Ripper case, so this was a story that caught my attention instantly.

This story opens with an investigator named Norton who was assigned to the Jack The Ripper Case meeting a colleague at a local bar. Norton gives Swanson a bit of info that not many other investigators have figured out. Norton thinks that the killer has been killing for over twenty years, but only recently has the killer slipped up leading him to attract police attention. Norton also claims to know the identity of the killer, but he insists that to get the information, Swanson must listen to his recounting of his investigation.

Norton earned a legendary reputation after solving the huge Tower Hill case, but left the big city for a quieter life in Salisbury, Wiltshire. That all changed in April of 1885 as he was handed a murder case. A local worker happened upon an open stables and when he went to check on what was going on, the killer burst past him. Inside were seven bodies, all of which were missing their internal organs. The fact that there were that many victims led Norton to believe that there was more than one perpetrator. As Norton begins to unravel the web of secrets regarding the murders, he makes a startling discovery that has ramifications not just for his career, but his life.

I loved the characterization of this story. The way Bradshaw handles the tense history between Swanson and Norton is excellent. In between Norton’s recounting of the case, we learn bits and pieces about their professional relationship. Swanson was a drunk who almost screwed up the Tower Hill case and this information plays a vital part in how Norton tells his story. I was also impressed that despite the contained nature of this story – two investigators talking in a bar and going over memories of a shared case – that this was one of the most gripping stories in the collection, which is a testament to Bradshaw’s writing.

Also, this story may be the one that had the most cringe worthy scenes for me. The part where Norton finds some of the victims will absolutely make your stomach churn!

Gimbaltown, New Providence, Bahamas December 8, 1981 

This story was another one of my favorites from Hexagram. Pastor Gimbal is the leader of Gimbaltown and he rules the community with an iron first. He is wired to notice any slight deviation from his plans and even something as minor as buying a generic brand of soda is liable to have deadly consequences. On the eve of Gimbaltown’s biggest moment, Gimbal is even more unhinged than usual. As events and bodies keep piling up, Gimbal continues to lose control and leads to a confrontation that lives on in infamy.

Bradshaw does an incredible job with the characterization in this one, particularly with the larger than life Pastor Gimbal. While he is definitely a terrifying, awful person, he is one of the most memorable characters in Hexagram.  He is capable of extreme violence  but he also comes up with some fairly humorous jokes. While some of them did get me to laugh, they only ramp up the tension because it contrasts just how detached he is from the violence he commits. The dialogue  throughout this story is fantastic, pitch-perfect and  totally believable. There is obvious nods to Jonestown in this one, yet again Bradshaw is able to put his own spin on it by introducing the star powder.

Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom

This section follows two twin sisters Esther and Stella, who attempt to carry out the ritual that started centuries ago and somehow ends up in their home. Esther is a gifted artist and she uses those skills in her job at the local funeral home to make bodies look alive. While Esther takes pride in her work, she has an ulterior motive for working at the funeral home. It isn’t long until Esther and Stella feel pressured to speed up their plans and they go from under the radar to being super stressed out and facing trouble at every turn. As the pressure begins to mount, Esther and Stella are faced with a choice that could decide the fate of mankind. What choice will they make?

Esther and Stella are as close as most twins are, but they definitely have a tendency to bicker with each other. The sisters share a dark secret and the scenes portraying their relationship are great for a variety of reasons. Despite their real jobs, they seem to be relatively well-adjusted. However, as they are working they talk about it nonchalantly with a detachment that left me wondering how long their lives have been like that. There is also a cool twist that I honestly suspected, but the way it was handled helps to this final installment in Hexagram and it really helps the collection finish strong.

Overall Thoughts on Hexagram

One of the things I liked about Hexagram was the style choices Bradshaw made through out in regards to telling the story and formatting. Since each story has a distinct cast of characters, setting and overall tone, it is important that they are differentiated and Bradshaw does an excellent job in that regard. It is hard to describe, but if you read books from the 19th century or early 20th century, you will notice they have a distinct tone that is different from modern writing. The stories that take place in earlier  time periods such as the Ripper story or the story of the man whose crew shipwrecked, Bradshaw is able to perfectly capture the cadence of that style of writing and it really helps strengthen the stories and book as a whole. I also like the various modes of storytelling he utilizes. There are stories that are set up in a traditional format but then there is a story that takes the form of a confessional, a story largely between two characters and utilizing flashbacks, and a story that uses bits and pieces of police documentation.

I also really enjoyed the way Bradshaw was able to connect all the stories together. I will be honest, when I first started reading Hexagram, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I thought the connecting thread would fall apart and that the novel would come across as feeling disjointed. However, I think Bradshaw does a great job connecting all of the stories without having to shoehorn in summaries or explanations to make it work. I don’t want to point out all the little connection pieces, but I thought it was brilliant how Bradshaw continued to link all of the stories together. They all share a common narrative thread (the star-dust and a few other surprises) but there are also little nods to previous stories that are littered throughout Hexagram almost like Easter Eggs.

There are some unanswered questions that swirl around Hexagram, but they feel more like deliberate choices than glaring omissions. Talking about them too much would spoil the novel, but let’s just say I would love to find out more about how the knowledge is passed on through the generations and if there is something supernatural at work behind its constant presence. There are enough hints that I was able to form my own opinion and back story in my head, but I can’t help but think there could be a really good story in there somewhere!

Although I had some reservations about Hexagram at the beginning, I am really glad I kept reading because I was rewarded with a richly layered story that was fresh and unique. I am sure Hexagram will appeal to fans of horror and other speculative fiction genres. If you like copious amounts of blood and guts in your horror, you definitely won’t be disappointed with some of the stories in Hexagram. This may have been my first exposure to Duncan Bradshaw’s works, but I am sure it won’t be my last!

Rating: 4/5 

LINKS

Duncan P. Bradshaw’s Official Website

Sinister Horror Company’s Official Website

Purchase Hexagram: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sinister Horror Company, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Hexagram v2 tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Hexagram!- #Hexagram #IncanRituals #HookofaBook

Hexagram Synopsis

Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.

Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.

Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.

We are all made of stars.

When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet…the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed

Praise for Hexagram

“Hexagram is a visceral journey through the dark nooks and crannies of human history. Lovecraftian terror merges with blood sacrifices, suicide cults and body horror as Bradshaw weaves an intricate plot into an epic tale of apocalyptic dread.” – Rich Hawkins, author of The Last Plague trilogy

“A rip-roaring boy’s own adventure yarn. This novel contains multitudes, and the sheer scale and breadth of the story is exhilarating. A glorious, unhinged thrill ride.” – Kit Power, author of GodBomb!

Praise for Duncan Bradshaw’s writing

“Duncan Bradshaw has a fantastic writing style. He gets you engrossed in the characters from the very outset. His mix of comedy and horror and real life are superb.” – Confessions of a Reviewer

“The true genius of Duncan P. Bradshaw is the rollercoaster ride of words and expressions.  I have never seen an author go from the depths of dark and gore to laugh out loud all within the same paragraph.” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“Remember, you’ve now willingly plunged yourself into the mind of Duncan Bradshaw. You’re completely at the mercy of his strange imagination and all the eccentric oddities that his curious mind can conjure up.” – DLS Reviews

“Bradshaw is able to weight the horror set pieces with a dry humour and plenty of laugh out loud moments.” – UK Horror Scene

“One of the first things that I did after reading The Black Room Manuscripts, was to go out and buy Class Three by Duncan Bradshaw. I just found his writing in Time for Tea to have this gleeful kind of undertow to the carnage he wrought on his tea drinkers and wanted to see what his writing was like in a longer format.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror

Duncan Bradshaw Biography

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Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read.

Why not pop over to his websitegive him a like over on Facebook, or read his ravings on his blog.

Want to Feature Duncan Bradshaw?

If you’re a member of the media or a blogger and you’d like to feature Duncan Bradshaw or Hexagram, then please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com

consequences

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Self-Published

Length: 245 Pages

Release Date: April 11, 2016

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

John Quick’s Consequences is based on a real-life serial killer legend from his hometown so that coupled with the synopsis for this one had me intrigued and I jumped at the chance to join this tour! Everyone has some sort of story or urban legend from when they were growing up, so it was a real treat to see an author take that inspiration and bring it to life in a novel.

John Quick’s Consequences opens with a bang, detailing a horrific crime in 1971 at the Grayson family home on the outskirts of town, near the local airbase. Judy Grayson is on the way home late from a party, worrying about how her dad is going to react after he learns she defied his wishes. She arrives home to find all the lights off in the home and the front door open, something that almost never happens. As she begins to explore the eerie darkness that has taken over the home, she gets a sense that something is not right. Everything seems fairly normal until she finds a large pool of blood. She checks all the rooms of the house before noticing the back door was open. Once she goes out there, she sees something so terrifying and brutal that it alters her life and leaves a lasting mark on the town forever.

Over 40 year’s later we are introduced to a group of teenagers, seven friends who are getting ready to graduate and want to plan one last big blowout before they all go their separate ways. The first location for the party is at Jacob’s  lake-house they planned on fell through, so Austin and Jacob come up with the bright idea to sneak out to “Crazy Freddy’s” house and have their blowout there instead. They figure this would be the perfect place to hold the party since the legends surrounding the house  would not only allow them to impress the girls, but ensures that they will have the place all to their selves. However, once they get out there, it is obvious someone or something is out there watching them. An innocent disagreement between two of the friends sparks a chain of tragic events that will forever alter the lives of those teenagers and place them in the crosshairs of a sadistic killer that will stop at nothing to get his revenge.

One of the things that I really loved about Consequences was that it was written in a style that is reminiscent of vintage slasher films. If there is one thing I love as much as horror literature, it is a good horror movie. Between the  brutal opening scene that sets the tone for the novel and the killer begins picking off victims one by one, Quick does a great job capturing the style of vintage slasher films. There is also some great tension because after their initial confrontation, the killer obviously gets away and they are left wondering if he is coming back for them. That brings up a level of psychological torment that has them constantly looking over their shoulder and it also serves as a catalyst for the growth of the characters.

The characterization in this novel is also very well done. Christopher, one of the main characters of the novel, is your average teenager, never really getting into any trouble and he pines after his childhood friend Hannah, who he has been friends with since the 2nd grade. Since she’s moving to California, this summer is Christopher’s last chance to say something to her. Quick nails their complex relationship perfectly, especially early on when they are still trying to figure their relationship out. Anyone who has ever fallen for a close friend, can definitely relate to these scenes of self-doubt and mixed messages. Even as their relationship begins to change and grow throughout the novel, it happens organically and is totally believable, never once feeling forced or overly cheesy.

I also liked Special Agent Jack Cochran who works for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He struck me as being genuine and a really good investigator. Though I couldn’t help but feel bad for him at times because Chris and his friends put him through hell. I mean the poor guy is just trying to do his job and they really cause him some headaches! All kidding aside, I loved their interactions together and I only wish there was more of him in the middle parts of the book.

While Quick does a great job with all of his characters, I thought Alexis had the best arc and she was by far my favorite character. At the beginning of the novel she’s portrayed as being an outsider with low self-esteem that is looked down on by everyone. It isn’t until an honest moment with Tyler that she begins to think that maybe people are wrong about her and she can do whatever she wants, regardless of people’s impressions about her.  As the novel progresses – aside from a short period where she was consumed with grief – Alexis begins stands up for herself and exhibits more strength than any of the other characters combined. She takes charge of the group when they realize the killer is targeting them and without her masterful internet sleuthing skills, they wouldn’t have stood a chance in their quest for answers. Simply put, Alexis morphs into a complete badass!

Quick’s killer in Consequences is definitely a force to be reckoned with and unleashes tortures so vicious and horrific, it will definitely make you squirm! There is a scene at a lake house part way through the novel and what he does to the poor person he snares in his trap was scary as hell and one of the sickest things I have read in a long time. I don’t want to give away too much about this killer’s methods or his history, but Quick makes him more interesting than your run-of-the-mill horror psycho. He has a code that he follows, or at least tries to follow. Although he is obviously deranged, he possesses intelligence that allows him to blend in as we see him cruise past checkpoints without a problem and even feels comfortable talking to the officers. He also has incredible patience, often waiting in the same spot for hours while tracking the characters. I liked that he was introduced early on and that his identity was left a mystery for a while, but you learn very quickly the sort of violence he is capable of and that he is definitely not someone you want to cross.

The only issue I had was with some of the backstory for this character. Once his identity is revealed and you learn more about him, it is easy to see why he wants to hurt Chris and his friends. However, there are still a lot of questions that make his thought process unclear. He consistently mentions “Luck” being on his side, by where did this fascination come about? Also, without spoiling his identity, there is little mention of what made him first become a killer. There are some clues, but it would have been nice to get just a little more insight into his background to see what turned him into a killer.

The dialogue in this story is fantastic. It really rings true for the most part, especially when you read some of the opening lines of the father figure or “Crazy Freddy” as he is affectionately known. Judy recalls him saying to “close the damn door” and that she wasn’t “raised in a goddamned barn”. Lines like that give you a sense of what this man is like and you can practically hear his voice in your head. There are also a few more graphic ones that indicate he’s abusive and controlling. Quick does a great job of bringing this character to life with little moments and believable conversations, especially when the friends all gather around to talk about their hopes and dreams.

Quick’s debut novel is a really fun summer read that will appeal to any horror fan, but particularly those who enjoy a good slasher story. This book stands out on its own, but as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think of Kristopher Rufty’s Desolation, so if you enjoyed that I think you will love Consequences. Consequences hints at a very bright future for Quick, who has already signed to Sinister Grin Press for his follow-up novel. One of my favorite things about covering dark fiction is discovering new authors, so I am glad I was invited to join this blog tour. Quick is a talented new author and I think the wait for his follow-up will be unbearable!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

John Quick’s Official Website

Purchase Consequences: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Books-A-Million, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Consequences tour graphic v2

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Consequences!- #Consequences #summerofterror #crazyfreddy

Consequences Synopsis

It was a summer of blood and terror…

For seven friends, graduation night was supposed to be a time to celebrate the end of their high school careers and the start of their real lives.

But when an accident while partying at the local haunted house results in tragedy, they find themselves being hunted by a maniac for whom the stakes are decidedly personal.

Thirty years ago, Crazy Freddy hung his family up with barbed wire and skinned them alive. Now, the survivors can only hope for such a kindness as they are forced to accept that for everything they do, there will be CONSEQUENCES.

Praise for Consequences

“The character work here is pretty impressive, particularly for a first-time novelist.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Let Go

John Quick takes you inside the mind of a psycho path in this thriller. I read it in only two sittings because the pacing kept me turning the pages. Very well written, I enjoyed the dialogue very much, especially the young people being hunted by the killer. It felt believable and well developed.” – Michelle Garza, co-author of Mayan Blue

John Quick Biography

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John Quick has been reading and writing scary and disturbing stuff for as long as he can remember, and has only recently begun releasing some of his creations upon the world.

 His debut novel, Consequences is available now as a paperback or digital eBook. Watch for his next novel to come from Sinister Grin Press in 2017. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his wife, two kids, and three dogs that think they’re kids.

 When he’s not hard at work on his next novel, you can find him online at: http://johnquickauthor.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook and Twitter.

Would you like to feature?

If you would like to review Consequences or feature John with an interview or guest article for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com .