Posts Tagged ‘Ray Garton’

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.

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darkvisions1

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 256 Pages

Submitted by the publisher for review

Dark Visions – Volume One is one of the first anthologies released by the stellar horror publishing company Grey Matter Press. A few weeks ago I posted a review of their latest, Ominous Realities, and mentioned that they are putting out some of the best anthologies around. After having just read Dark Visions – Volume One, I still stand by that statement. Edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson and nominated for a 2013 Stoker Award, Dark Visions – Volume One contains thirteen horror short stories that immediately grab your attention and refuse to let go.

I am a huge fan of horror short stories because I love seeing an author build a complete world full of vibrant scenes and characters in such limited space. It builds tension and keeps you turning the pages until you reach the final conclusion, often leaving a sense of ambiguity that allows the story to linger long after it is finished. Dark Visions- Volume One delivers all of the best traits of the format and a diverse selection of authors to create a must-read collection.

Just like Ominous Realities, this collection features writers that I already enjoy and writers that I have not heard of before. There were a few stories from the writers I discovered in Dark Visions that really stuck with me in a profound way and I wish were novels instead of short stories (though that’s just me being greedy).

Jeff Hemenway’s story, “The Weight Of Paradise”, is an absolutely stunning story and ranks as one of my more recent favorites. The story focuses on Alfie, a man who was diagnosed with leukemia and near death before his scientist girlfriend Sophie discovers a cure. While the discovery helps cure him of his disease, it has horrible consequences for everyone involved.

I can’t speak for the author’s motivations for writing the story or his inspiration, but this story instantly made me think of a certain type of horror monster as soon as I read it. Alfie and his friends share some remarkable similarities to these monsters, but there is a fresh and horrifying twist that makes their origin unique (if I am right in my assumption). The story itself is well-written and engaging, but it is the ending’s emotional sucker-punch that really makes “The Weight of Paradise” shine.

“Second Opinion” by Ray Garton is probably the scariest story I have ever read involving writers since Joe Hill’s “Best New Horror”. Garton wastes no time in grabbing your attention by starting his story with a simple yet horrifying question – “Do you know what it’s like to cut up your best friend with a hacksaw?”. What follows is a haunting recollection by an author named Greg, where he explains just what drove him to murder his best friend. What really scared the hell out of me with this story was the fact that it was, for the most part, plausible. Garton throws in a dash of the supernatural, but most of the story is something that could realistically happen in real life. I always wanted to be a writer, but after reading Garton’s tale, the prospect scares the shit out of me!

Milo James Fowler’s “What Do You Need?” is the haunting story of a man named John who wakes up in a mysterious room devoid of any windows, doors or other means of escape. There is little in the room except basic necessities, an ominous television broadcasting nothing but static and a telephone. The telephone does not seem to work in any capacity until finally a voice asks, “What do you need?” There is no other communication from the person on the other line, despite John’s multiple requests for answers, just the same phrase every single time he picks up the phone.

I loved “What Do You Need?” for its psychological elements. I couldn’t even begin to imagine being trapped in an inescapable situation, and Fowler does an excellent job putting the reader into John’s shoes and conveying the desperation someone would feel in that situation. Another reason I probably connected so much with this story is it had the atmosphere of a classic “Twilight Zone” episode and that is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.

Brian Fatah Steele’s “Delicate Spaces” focuses on a small group of paranormal researchers who are drawn to the Rayburn Hotel in order to investigate the numerous reports of unexplained phenomena that occur there. Most of the incidents seem to occur in the back hallway of the hotel where two mysterious items are stored. The items in question are a decorative mirror and a tapestry with an abstract design that hangs on the wall directly opposite the mirror. Most of the sightings that originate from the Rayburn Hotel occur when visitors look at the tapestry in the reflection of the mirror, causing them to see things that are not really there. Many of the sightings are seemingly harmless, until a woman says she sees an army in the tapestry and flees the hotel.

After not experiencing any of the alleged activity during their stay, one of the researchers decides to conduct a last-ditch experiment in the hallway with low-frequency generators. This experiment leads to the shocking revelation of what exactly is occurring at the Rayburn Hotel and it is definitely something you will not see coming. I don’t usually get scared that easily, but after reading “Delicate Spaces”, it is only a matter of time before the events of the story wind up in my nightmares!

I also loved “Mister Pockets” by Jonathan Maberry and “Show Me” by John F.D. Taff. These stories were the ones I was looking forward to reading the most when I first received Dark Visions and they were every bit as good as I hoped. This is an absolute “must read” anthology chock full of scary tales and you are guaranteed to find at least one new author you will love!

Rating: 5/5

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of authors and stories featured in Dark Visions – Volume One

Purchase Dark Visions – Volume One on Amazon