Posts Tagged ‘psychological thriller’

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Jason Parent, the author of the dark, brutal thriller A Life Removed – which is out now – and a ton of other great books. I have a review scheduled for tomorrow, so I won’t dig too much into the novel, but if you are familiar with Jason’s work, you will love this one. Jason’s post is a follow-up piece to the guest post from Stuart R Brogan on publishing. Both authors make great points and I recommend checking out both of them for some insight on their experiences in publishing.

Before I turn over the blog to Jason, I want to thank him and Nev of Confessions Publicity for having me on the tour!

Early in May, Stuart R. Brogan, author of Jackals, wrote a guest post for The Horror Bookshelf entitled, “Going It Alone,” in which he explained why he chose to self-publish instead of going the traditional or small press route. I enjoyed the article and even commented on it at the time, not realizing I would be doing a guest post for the same blog a month or so later.

First let me say this: I don’t think any author being honest with himself/herself would balk at a book deal with one of the Big 5 if he/she has never had such a deal before. To have one’s books in brick and mortar stores all over the U.S. or U.K., maybe in bookstores on several continents, is a dream most authors share, not necessarily for the fame or the (perceived) money, but to be read and to know that one’s words are being felt, enjoyed, pondered, and maybe even considered and dismissed by readers everywhere. At least for me, that’s all I want: for others to find meaning in my work, and if it’s a whole lot of others, then I know I am not alone in my beliefs and world views.

But only a select few horror authors are actually published by the Big 5, and a few more if you count those that pass off their horror as “thrillers” (not that I know anyone who would ever combine horror and thrillers, wink wink, nudge nudge). Many of the best, most popular, and most critically acclaimed horror writers have never had a deal with the Big 5.

So, I don’t waste my time and don’t really have the time to waste. I would need to find an agent, be prepared to market the book strenuously, both on the publisher’s and my own schedule, and give up a whole lot for potentially big but more often than not, little gain. Just finding an agent takes a ton of research, the sending of query after query, and hours upon end that could have been spent writing. That is not to say that the right agent would not be a boon for a writer’s career, and a great agent always will be. I had an agent once, and though it didn’t pan out to anything, I do not regret the experience and would undertake it again if the right circumstances arose.

But for most small presses, where my books find their homes, I have not needed an agent. Again, good agents open up more doors, so they can be very helpful. In the small press world, they are simply not a necessity.

Which brings me to why I choose small presses over self-publishing. Without the guidance of an agent or other business professional, I’d be a mess. The road to publication would be much longer as I lack the know-how with respect to formatting, cover art, and other aspects of book creation that the small press brings to the table. For those with this know-how, like Mr. Brogan, self-publishing may be the right way to go, as the author maximizes his royalties, though while simultaneously bearing the burden of all costs.

I’ve been published by several small presses now, and I have turned down a few others. Different presses have different strengths and weaknesses, but all should provide quality editing, a decent royalty split and strong cover art. Never should they charge the author any sort of fee. They provide varying degrees of promotion as well, some having publicists or setting up blog tours, while others submit to Net Galley or book promotion sites. With more hands in the pot wanting the book to succeed, it would stand to reason that there’d be more people desirous of putting out quality work.

Obviously, if one self-publishes, he or she goes all these routes alone. The quality of the work he or she produces depends on the extent of his/her knowledge, integrity, and commitment to producing a work worthy of the reader public and that of the persons he or she enlists to assist.

What is better for one may not be better for another, and there are good and bad small presses just as there are good and bad self-publishers. For my needs, and sometimes overwhelming schedule, the single most important plus with respect to small publishers is the time it saves me after the writing and editing are done.

For now, I am happy where I am and with the small presses I have chosen (and who have likewise chosen me) to work with. That said, the future is a hazy thing, and I could easily see myself self-publishing or rolling the dice on an agent with a novel I think a good fit with a Big 5 publisher. Of course, any agent or Big 5 publisher that wants to seek me out, make like the Price is Right and come on down!

LINKS

Jason Parent’s Official Website

Red Adept Publishing’s Official Website

Purchase A Life Removed: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  Red Adept Publishing or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

A Life Removed Synopsis

Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette have put plenty of criminals behind bars. But a new terror is stalking their city. The killer’s violent crimes are ritualistic but seemingly indiscriminate. As the death toll rises, the detectives must track a murderer without motive. The next kill could be anyone… maybe even one of their own.

Officer Aaron Pimental sees no hope for himself or humanity. His girlfriend is pulling away, and his best friend has found religion. When Aaron is thrust into the heart of the investigation, he must choose who he will become, the hero or the villain.

If Aaron doesn’t decide soon, the choice will be made for him.

About Jason Parent

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it’s harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that’s another story.

When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody’s head off – he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Please visit the author on Facebook at , on Twitter, or at his website for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him.

 

BOOK INFO

Length: 416 Pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Back when I first started The Horror Bookshelf I remember reading a novel of J.D. Barker’s called Forsaken, which totally blew me away. It was one of the books I received through a direct author request and I remember reading the synopsis and feeling intrigued at the premise of a famous novelist that slowly loses his grip on reality as he works on his novel Rise of the Witch, which was inspired by an antique journal that is hundreds of years old. Once I finished Forsaken, it was even better than I could have imagined, striking the perfect balance between full-blown horror and a more tense, atmospheric approach. I was totally mesmerized by that novel, which was one of the scariest I had read in some time. So when the opportunity came around to review his latest novel The Fourth Monkey, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Fourth Monkey is more of a psychological thriller, but it mines the same dark depths of the human psyche for inspiration that Forsaken did, making it a must read for fans of both genres. The Fourth Monkey opens with Detective Sam Porter receiving an early morning text from his partner Nash about an accident downtown that he swears Porter is going to want to see for himself. When he arrives on the scene, he realizes the reason Nash was so anxious for him to visit the crime scene is that the man appears to be the infamous Four Monkey Killer. The Four Monkey Killer was a vicious serial killer who terrorized the city of Chicago for over five years, brutally torturing his victims before he killed them. While investigating the crime scene, Porter and his partners realize that the killer was on his way to mail one of his signature packages – a white box tied with a black string – when he was hit by the bus. This means that the Four Monkey Killer had one final victim who may or may not still be alive somewhere in the city.  The man only had harmless, every day items in his possession including a dry cleaner receipt, a pocket watch and .75 cents in change. However, closer inspection revealed he was also carrying a diary, one that details his story in his own words. Detective Porter finds himself drawn into the mind of this psychopath, hoping it will provide some insight into the Four Monkey Killer’s motive and help them locate his final victim before it’s too late.

The characterization of this novel is stellar. Early in the novel when Porter realizes his wife Heather went out to run errands, he dials her number and reaches her voicemail which paints a vivid picture of her as a carefree woman who has an excellent sense of humor and probably helps keep Sam grounded. It is these minor moments, that when placed in the context of the entire novel, really make these characters shine. While there are a number of people who make up the Four Monkey Killer task force, Porter is the clear-cut leader and primary character of the novel. Early on Barker hints that there is more to Porter than meets the eye as many of the characters keep asking him how he is holding up, indicating something has happened to Porter that puts his mental state into question. While The Four Monkey Killer always seems to be one step ahead and is extremely intelligent, Porter is possibly the killer’s closest equal. There is a scene that highlights this perfectly. The task force stumbles on a crime scene where Porter mentions the man was probably alive for two days before his death. His coworkers ask how he could possibly know that, and he states the man was well-groomed and probably shaved once or twice a day, yet he has a few days of beard stubble. It is small moments like that where it becomes clear that Porter is a special investigator. For all of his skill as a detective, it is clear he is a bit old school when he doesn’t know what Twitter is.

There is also great chemistry between Porter and Nash and it is evident they have been partners a long time considering the ease in which they bust on each other throughout the novel. Nash seems to be a bit more reckless and quick with jokes, but Porter is able to hold his own in their verbal sparring matches.

Then there is The Four Monkey Killer, an antagonist whose presence looms over the entire novel. What makes him such an interesting character is that he is like a ghost, never leaving behind any clues other than the ones he wanted the police to find, like the boxes that he mailed to taunt his victims. He was highly intelligent and skilled as evidenced by the fact that he was able to toy with the cops for over 5 years without them even remotely coming close to capturing him. Most of his character development comes from the diary portions of the novel. It seems he is playing a game with whoever is reading it, taunting them to listen to his story and agenda. His opening entries seem to portray a normal home life and you almost begin to connect with him until he hints at a depravity that demonstrates he was unhinged from an early age. Just like Porter, reader’s are thrust into the personal thoughts of a psychopath who details exactly how he transformed into the figure everyone refers to as the Four Monkey Killer.

I thought it was an interesting choice to have the Four Monkey Killer’s story largely play out through the scenes from his personal diary. Often with stories that focus on serial killers, whether they take place in novels or film, the events unfold after the person has already made the choice to unleash their darkness and violence on society. The Fourth Monkey takes a different approach and focuses largely on the events that shaped what could have been an ordinary kid into a savage killer. I don’t want to spoil any of the details, but let’s just say that the Four Monkey Killer’s formative years were anything but normal and it’s no surprise he turned out the way he did.

I also thought it was interesting to have the book pick up with the death of the Four Monkey Killer, which isn’t a spoiler considering it is part of the back copy. A lot of times thrillers work with the killer still on the loose and the cops slowly gathering clues and going through a variety of suspects before finally arriving to a final showdown of sorts. This story sort of works in reverse of that, the novel instead picks up with the killer already dead and the police trying to unravel his motives and get into his mind to try to save his final victim. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of twists and turns involved in this novel, as Barker has plenty of surprises up his sleeve for readers. Just when you think you know where the story is going, Barker throws you a curve ball.

There are a lot of things to love about The Fourth Monkey, but one thing that stands out is something that also stood out with his debut novel Forsaken. Throughout the course of the novel, Barker shifts between chapters (mainly from Sam’s point of view, but sometimes other detectives) focusing on the police investigation and that of The Four Monkey Killer’s diary. A lot of times this can cause the entire pacing of a novel to fall apart if not done correctly, but Barker avoids these pitfalls by placing them at strategic points of the narrative and also by making each story line compelling in its own way. It’s almost like you get two novels for the price of one and honestly, the diary portions of the story could have made for a compelling novel in their own right. The result is perfect pacing that keeps the novel from hitting any lulls. Another minor yet highly effective structural choice is that near the end of the novel, Barker utilizes short, punchy chapters to help ratchet up the tension which snares the reader in a web of excitement.

Although it is only a small detail, I loved the casual mention of Thad McAlister from Forsaken throughout the novel. It could just be a casual nod to fans of his work, but a part of me wants to believe that it’s part of something larger at work, that perhaps the two stories take place in the same fictional universe.

The Fourth Monkey is being described as Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs and that is a pretty accurate comparison. The novel doesn’t necessarily borrow heavily from either of those works, but there are some similarities that fans of those works will appreciate. Make no mistake about it, there is some truly dark and disturbing moments in The Fourth Monkey. Without getting into spoiler territory, I will just mention that there are a few scenes featuring rats that may make your skin crawl. The Fourth Monkey is a chilling thriller that is compulsively readable and offers up plenty of twists and turns that make it an essential addition to your summer reading list.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

J.D. Barker’s Official Website

Find J.D. Barker on: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

Purchase Garden of Fiends: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Contests

To celebrate the release of The Fourth Monkey, J.D. Barker is holding two pretty cool contests for people who purchase a copy of the novel. The first is the chance to win one of three draft copies, featuring handwritten notes and different story elements from the finished novel. Here is the link to the contest which will give you the full details on what you need to do to win! Enter to win one of three draft copies of The Fourth Monkey!

The next is a chance to appear as a character in J.D. Barker’s next novel. Here is a link with details on how to enter that contest.

About J.D. Barker

J.D. Barker (Jonathan Dylan Barker) is an international bestselling American author who’s work has been broadly described as suspense thrillers, often incorporating elements of horror, crime, mystery, science fiction, and the supernatural. Barker splits his time between Englewood, FL, and Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife, Dayna.

the-monster-underneath

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 219 Pages

Release Date: April 5, 2016

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

I remember reading some early praise for The Monster Underneath from Ronald Malfi, Rena Mason and John Everson and thinking that this was a book that I just had to read. So when Erin from Hook of a Book Publicity offered me a spot on the blog tour, I jumped at the chance!

Max Crawford has offered therapy to inmates for over 6 years at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville through a secretive government program. He has unique abilities to read minds and enter the dreams of the inmates and he utilizes these gifts in order to help rehabilitate violent offenders. His goal is to talk his patients through their crimes in the hopes that they will feel remorse for what they have done and begin to rehabilitate so they may reenter society. His identity is largely kept a secret in order to protect him and his family should some of the more violent inmates ever be released. He hardly ever meets them face to face and solely interacts with them through their dreams. The reason he gets their consent first is it makes his therapy more effective.

Max has been content using his abilities in secret at the tiny jail in Huntsville, but one day his life is changed when FBI agent Charles Linden shows up and asks for Max’s help. Linden is well aware of Max’s gifts and wants him to help get a confession from one of the country’s most notorious serial killers, William Knox. At first glance, he seems relatively harmless. He is a husband and father who is well-respected within his community and is a well-regarded English professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Despite his squeaky clean public image, he is the prime suspect in a series of murders of young women that stretched from Dallas to Arkansas. Other than the fact that his victims were all women, there was no clear motives for his crimes. The FBI has been unable to break Knox no matter what tactic they try, which is what convinced Linden to reach out to Max in a last-ditch attempt to get a confession. Max normally has the consent from inmates to enter their dreams, but Linden wants this to be a more covert operation. While this makes Max uncomfortable, he has no choice but to agree to Linden’s plan if he hopes to help get justice for the victims’ families. Max enters Knox’s mind with the goal of gaining his trust by any means necessary and once he is inside Knox’s mind, he is in a race against time to uncover the truth about the murders.

I liked the concept behind The Monster Underneath and while I have read a few books with a similar premise, this one stood out to me. Most of the stories I have read that were fairly similar involved detectives who used these abilities to either prevent attacks or to catch a killer that is still on the loose. Max’s abilities and his background as a therapist intrigued me because he strictly worked with criminals who are already in jail. Also, while he is able to enter prisoner’s minds at will, he tends to only works with inmates who have granted him permission to enter their dreams. This is interesting because when Max meets with his patients, he already has knowledge of their crimes and how they were committed. A lot of his work when he enters their dreams is figuring out why they made certain choices and trying to help them feel remorse in an attempt to rehabilitate them should they ever be released from prison.

This is interesting because when Max meets Knox, he has the same abilities and knowledge to draw on, but he is plunged into a situation that is vastly different from what he is used to. He is attempting to gain Knox’s trust without prior consent and he is using his abilities to figure out the details of a crime through a person’s dreams for the first time. Max’s previous work and knowledge allows him to identify things easier, but his case with Knox is tricky because he needs to sift through what is fiction conjured up by Knox’s mind and what may be real memories of his crimes.

I loved the way Franks handled the dream world and the sort of rules that govern them. While there aren’t too many similarities I couldn’t help but think of Russell James’ Dreamwalker while reading some of these scenes. I also enjoyed the way Franks describes Max’s abilities. Mind reading comes like second nature to him and he really has to work on keeping other people’s thoughts from merging with his own. However, the ability to enter dreams was something he had to work at. I like that it wasn’t something easy, but rather an ability he had to develop. A great example is the very descriptive scene of how Max first discovers his ability to enter dreams, which he ironically discovered while trying to read the thoughts of one of his patients at a sleep clinic he worked at during college. Franks puts a lot of detail and thought behind the description of Max’s powers and the protocols that Max establishes as a result of his experiences with his abilities. I don’t want to spoil too much of this because it is one of the many things that make The Monster Underneath an entertaining and unique read.

I also loved the interactions between Max and Knox. Their relationship is the major sense of tension throughout the novel and although Max is trying to keep Knox locked up, they develop a toxic and bizarre pseudo-friendship. As Max gets deeper and more involved in Knox’s dream reality, the lines that separate the real world from Knox’s dream world begin to blur a little bit. The case is extremely stressful for Max and for the first time in his career, he starts to doubt himself.

The only issues I had with the novel were a few instances where the transitions between chapters took me out of the story. I also had a few issues with the ending, but it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the novel too much. Overall, The Monster Underneath is a gripping psychological thriller that I couldn’t put down!  The novel works well as a standalone story, but while I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of more books containing Max and having him possibly team up with Agent Linden again. While Linden can come off as abrasive at times, I do think it would be cool to see them work together more closely on a case from start to finish. So, I was excited to read in Wag The Fox’s great interview with Matthew Franks that there is indeed a follow-up currently in the works!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS:

Matthew Franks Official Webpage 

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase The Monster Underneath: Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Amazon (Australia), Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or your favorite bookstore!

The Monster Underneath tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Monster Underneath! – #TheMonsterUnderneath #psychologicalhorror #dreamsvsnightmares

The Monster Underneath Synopsis

Reality can be the difference between a dream and a nightmare…

Max Crawford isn’t a typical prison therapist. He uses his unusual psychic ability to walk with convicts through their dreams, reliving their unspeakable crimes alongside them to show them the error of their ways.

Max always has to be on his toes to keep himself grounded, but the FBI agent waiting for him in his private office immediately puts him on edge. The bureau wants Max to go way outside his comfort zone to enter the dreams of suspected serial killer William Knox.

To get a confession and secure the future of his prison program, Max must gain Knox’s trust by any means necessary—and survive the minefield of secrets waiting inside a murderer’s mind. Secrets that could turn Max’s reality into a living nightmare.

Praise for The Monster Underneath

“An assured, gripping, totally engaging debut, Matthew Franks will have you burning through the pages of this taut supernatural thriller at breakneck speed. If Christopher Nolan and Stephen King ever teamed up to write a novel, this would be it. Highly recommended!” Ronald Malfi, author of Little Girls

“What if you could see inside the dreams of anyone you came in contact with? Would you dare to look? Could you handle the things you’d find within? The Monster Underneath is a real nail-biter – one of those ever-spiraling stories that you just can’t put down until you reach the surprising end!”John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and The Family Tree

The Monster Underneath is an intense and clever debut in which reality is more terrifying than the nightmares and twisted dreamscapes of a madman. Author Matthew Franks is a name to remember, his stories you won’t soon forget.” Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Evolutionist and East End Girls

“Matthew Franks’ debut novel takes you through the darkest, twisted alleys of a killer’s mind and then drags you several steps further, beyond the status of observer and into the disturbing realm of accomplice. A harrowing tale of murder and delusion and moral ambiguity.” Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of DamnableDiabolicaland the dark thriller collection, American Nocturne

About Matthew Franks

Matthew Franks headshot

Matthew Franks lives in Arlington, Texas with his beautiful wife and children. He studied psychology and creative writing at Louisiana State University then obtained a Master’s Degree in counseling from Texas State University. When he’s not working on his next story, he’s counseling adolescents or trying to keep up with his three highly energetic daughters. You can connect with Matthew at: authormatthewfranks.com.