<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - BOOK REVIEWS]]>Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:47:29 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[WALLFLOWER BY CHAD LUTZKE]]>Wed, 14 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/wallflower-by-chad-lutzkereview by John Boden 
I have had the pleasure of calling Chad a friend for well over a year now. I've read a lot of his stuff in beta stages and I'm usually pretty impressed with what he delivers.  I was lucky enough to have done the same with this, his most recent novella.  I loved his coming-of-age story from last summer, Of Foster Homes And Flies and was excited to see how he'd follow it up.  Well, I can tell you that Wallflower is an about face.
Wallflower is the first-person account of Chris, a young man--a boy in a lot of ways who is just starting to feel his way in the world. Trying on adulthood while desperately clinging to youthful ideals of responsibility and mortality. While out with his friends one day, they break into an abandoned house--urban exploring, I think the kids call it--and while inside they discover a derelict sleeping in one of the rooms. The boys end up assaulting and injuring the man before they flee the scene.  Chris however decides he's going to go back. he wants to see that the man is okay but he has another reason.  He noticed the hobo's drug paraphernalia lying about and wants to try heroin, just to do it. Chris embarks on a needle-fueled journey that goes deeper than he ever intended  as he discovers that there are perils and pitfalls that were never covered in the after-school specials.  
What plays out is an odd take on the master/apprentice arc, shoved through William Burroughs fedora. It's bleak and haunting. Brushburn raw and brimming with dark realism and it is honestly horrific.
Wallflower is available on Amazon.
After an encounter with a homeless man, a high school graduate becomes obsessed with the idea of doing heroin, challenging himself to try it just once. A bleak tale of addiction, delusion, and flowers.

<![CDATA[POSTAL BY MATT SHAW AND J.R PARK]]>Mon, 12 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/postal-by-matt-shaw-and-jr-parkReview by George Ilett Anderson

 A Very British Purge

We probably all had that feeling at one point or another where someone has committed some act or said something unconscionable and you’ve just thought “I’d love to see you get your just desserts.” It’s an idea take to its logical extreme in the enjoyably sharp collaborative novella from J.R. Park and Matt Shaw, “Postal.”
Set in a contemporary England, the current government has decided to instigate a new piece of legislation, the “Postal Execution Grant” as a means to subdue and control the population. This official letter grants thirteen members of the population the right to commit legalized murder on any other person they deem worthy of receiving their wrath, free from any legal or ethical complications. I think it’s probably fair to say that Park and Shaw serve up quite the menu of deserving characters!
 The story starts out introducing a disparate group of individuals going about their daily business. As the novella unfolds, it becomes clear that the majority of characters fates are inexorably intertwined and it is going to be an eventful and memorable day for all the wrong reasons. I have to say that this is one story where you are positively itching for the main characters to get their just desserts. The main antagonists are a thoroughly unpleasant bunch of narcissistic and arrogant characters intent on using and abusing all around them. Thankfully in amongst their bile, invective and rage is the character of Janet who provides a nicely contrasting story about the role of morality and individual choice in society.
However, you probably aren’t reading “Postal” for the character dynamics or the subtle social commentary but more the inventive and wonderfully nasty levels of retribution dished out by the recipients of the aforementioned letter. As one would expect from Park and Shaw, two writers steeped in the more extreme end of horror, the punishments must fit the crime and what you have here are some deliciously inventive and nasty slices of retribution.
“Postal” comes across almost like the bastard love child of Grand Guignol and a comedic farce; interspersed amongst the gleefully creative and graphic deaths is a healthy injection of jet black sardonic humour and sharp slices of social commentary. The novella takes some well aimed pot shots at English notions of civility and duty, politics and society’s lurid obsession with violence and social commentators who like to stir the pot. Suffice to say that “Postal” is a sly and sharp slice of visceral wish fulfilment that is well worthy of your time and money.
From Matt Shaw (Sick B*stards) and J R Park (Upon Waking)...

It was a bold move, an initiative by a truly inspirational leader.

The scheme was a simple one. Each month a letter would be sent to selected people; thirteen in total. Within that month the receiver of the letter was given the lawful right to kill one person. It didn’t matter who it was or how they did it. The receiver granted the right to commit murder with no legal consequences.

Each month people wondered whether this time they’d be randomly selected. Whether they’d be chosen to make their lives that little bit easier by killing the person who was making it unnecessarily harder.

Praise for the authors

“Park is a much-needed shot in the arm for gritty pulp horror.” – DLS Reviews

“Uncompromising and savage, Matt Shaw's writing ensures that the future of the horror genre is in good hands.” - Shaun Hutson, author of 'Slugs'

<![CDATA[SACCULINA BY​ PHILIP FRACASSI]]>Sun, 11 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/sacculina-by-philip-fracassiReview by Tony Jones 
“There are much, much nastier things at sea than sharks…..”
The kindle was made for this perfectly pitched slice of sea horror, making great novellas that might have been tricky to track down a few year instantly accessible. Fortunately for me I had the luxury of reading “Sacculina” in under ninety minutes whilst flying to a family wedding, but if I had been sailing to that same wedding I doubt I would have enjoyed it so much! In recent years the horror world has been enrichen by the renaissance of the novella and I’ve really enjoyed stuff by the likes of Josh Malerman and Ted E Grau and so now I have Philip Fracassi to add to my ‘must read’ pile. Obviously I’ve been aware of his growing reputation for a while, as he’s been making big waves as a writer of short horror fiction, but this was my first read. It certainly will not be my last.
“Sacculina” was a very tight and compact story set entirely on a small day-trip fishing boat. Jim is the younger brother of Jack, who has just been released from prison after six years inside for housebreaking. After his release he says the first thing he wants to do is go fishing, something neither of the brothers have done before. Chris, who is Jack’s larger than life best friend tags along, Jim suspects that Chris may have been an accomplice in the activities that sent Jack to prison. Their father Henry joins, now a shadow of his former self after his son’s imprisonment and the death of his wife from cancer. Fracassi’s easy knack with words very quickly develop believable backstories before the four men hit the sea, looking to find an escape in fishing, possibly from themselves.
Ron is the captain of the boat and the only other character of note in the novella. Initially he didn’t fancy the weather that day, the other four should have listened to him, instead intimidated by Chris the captain takes them out to sea and into something very, very nasty. The family dynamics are an important part of the story as Jack has obviously changed considerably in his six years away and this friction is maintained right to the final conclusion. Along the way there are a couple of terrific flashbacks/nightmares as the story is told from Jim’s point of view, the first of his dying mother and the second involving a fight with his brother when they were boys. Both sequences really ramp up the atmosphere.
Obviously the trip doesn’t go to plan. Diesel fumes from the engine ruins the scenic journey and when Captain Ron finally finds a fishing spot he likes Jim catches the first fish of the day. Once they land the fish they realise it looks odd and has weird bulbous lumps on it which Captain Ron says are barnacles. He also says it is impossible for barnacles to lash onto a fish so small. Soon they realise these barnacles are all over the place. To say any more of the plot would ruin it…..
If you like your horror full of dread, tension and atmosphere then this is for you as it really covers all the emotions in a pretty brief read. I also loved the way the author refused to pad the story in any way, even though there were plenty of opportunities to do so. There is a knack to writing great novellas, the balance between too many ideas and the one dimensional, and Fracassi balances it just right. “Sacculina” cleverly develops one small horror idea and builds a punchy self-contained story around this concept. It’s a pretty simple horror concept: five men go out to sea and something horrible happens. So let Philip Fracassi take you on a ninety minute voyage, at least the reader can abandon ship or switch your kindle off…… Recommended.
Tony Jones  

Read John Boden's excellent interview with Phillip here 

"SACCULINA is a smart, terrifying, and poignant tale of creeping menace. I devoured it in one frenzied sitting... this Fracassi guy is damn good."
Richard Chizmar, author of A Long December and co-author (with Stephen King) of Gwendy's Button Box 

When Jim's big brother Jack is released from prison, the brothers - along with their broken father and Jack's menacing best friend - decide to charter an ocean fishing boat to celebrate Jack's new freedom.

Once the small crew is far out to sea, however, a mutant species rises from the deep abyssal darkness to terrorize the vessel and its occupants.

As the horror of their situation becomes clear, the small group must find a way to fend off the attack and somehow, someway, return to safety; but as the strange parasitic creatures overrun them, they must use more extreme - and deadly - measures to survive.

<![CDATA[THE METHOD BY DUNCAN RALSTON]]>Fri, 09 Jun 2017 07:13:46 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/the-method-by-duncan-ralstonReview by Tony Jones 

“Marriage problems?
​I’d recommend divorce before rerolling in ‘The Method’”

A few months back I nominated ‘The Method’ for possible publication for a new venture by Amazon called ‘Kindle Scout’ where by reading previews and a voting system readers can help choose which books will be published on kindle. As Duncan is both well known in the horror community, and has an entertaining online presence, I was not surprised ‘The Method’ was picked up for publication. Because I voted for this book, I received a free copy prior to release. This was a nice touch from Amazon.
Since Ralston appeared on the horror scene a few years ago his popularity has grown pretty quickly and I think that ‘The Method’ will most definitely increase his reach. In my old age, I’ve turned into a bit of a wuss, so I generally avoid the ‘extreme horror’ banner he sometimes writes under, but have enjoyed ‘Harbringer’ and some of his other shorter work. However, I’m pleased to say that ‘The Method’ shows that Ralston is most definitely widening his range and stretching his versatility as a writer. This work has elements of horror, but is also a very decent thriller which doesn’t rely on gore, violence or shock value to tell a story that moves at a fair old lick.
I whizzed through this page-turner of a novel which cleverly revealed its secrets very slowly. I expected the ending to be somewhat of a disappointment or anti-climax, but it bobbed and weaved right to the end. Any hard-core Ralston gore hounds out there should not be put-off either as there are still a couple of pretty graphic scenes, one with a bear-trap which will have you wincing, and a pretty elongated torture scene which was unpleasant for the psychological effect, as much as the fact that it pulled few punches.
Linda and Frank have been having marital problems, nothing too serious, but after meeting up with old friends Dillon and Trevor are convinced to go on a weekend retreat (which is very pricy) which the other couple assure them will help them with their marriage. Dillon and Trevor try very hard to get Linda and Frank to sign up (DON’T DO IT GUYS!) and of course they do…. There are early warning signs.... such as why are Dillon and Trevor covered in bruises? All they’ll say is that it was “a very intense experience” and they really weren’t lying…..
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but the couple arrive at the remote retreat and have their mobile phones confiscated and soon realise they are being monitored through secret cameras in their room before meeting another strange couple. Realising they have signed contracts without reading the small print Duncan Ralston takes us on an entertaining,  journey which has a good few twists, plot jumps, introducing a range of nasty characters, but where nothing is what it seems. Sure it gets a bit far-fetched, but it is never dull.
‘The Method’ is not a long novel and it was fun company for a few hours. More often than not you know where most novels are heading, but I think Ralston particularly enjoys throwing curveballs at the reader.  ‘The Method’ deserves to be a success on Kindle Scout and will hopefully find the author some new readers in the thriller end of the market as well as horror.
Tony Jones    
The Method by Duncan Ralston horror book fiction review
How hard will you fight for the one you love?

Frank and Linda's marriage is falling apart. When old friends tell them about an "unconventional therapy retreat" called The Method, they jump at the chance to attend.

Dr. Kaspar's Lone Loon Lodge is a secluded resort deep in the Montana wilds. The staff is friendly. The other couple joining them is intense. But when a death occurs events quickly spiral out of control, leaving Linda and Frank unable to trust anyone but each other.

Nothing is what it seems, and only one thing is certain: Love Is Pain.

<![CDATA[CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON BY C. T. PHIPPS]]>Wed, 07 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/cthulhu-armageddon-by-c-t-phippsReview by Dave Heeley 
I recently watched Predator with my teenage daughter. I hadn’t actually seen it since the ‘90s but I thought it was still a fantastic movie. Imagine how I felt and how taken aback I was when my daughter later asked me if all the men in action films - "back in the day" - were so over the top? Forced to reply in the affirmative, I received the 'eye-roll of death' and I was left feeling embarrassed at enjoying such a display of overt machismo.
Cthulhu Armageddon had much the same effect on me.
C. T. Phipps has created an interesting contribution to the Cthulhu mythos here.  He is a self-professed gamer who has utilised his comprehensive knowledge of the role-playing game, Call of Cthulhu, to produce a novel that clearly shows its influence throughout. Fans of Mad Max, The Dark Tower and the computer game franchise Fallout will feel right at home with the post-apocalyptic setting of this story.
Cthulhu Armageddon is the first in a series of novels that are set a century after the great old ones such as Cthulhu, Hastur and Nyarlathotep have risen from their watery resting places. They have remade the Earth to better suit themselves, after nearly wiping out the whole of humanity in the process. The chief protagonist of the story is John Henry Booth, an elite ranger for the United States remnant and an overall badass with a level of masculinity that would make Schwarzenegger blush. The tale is a classic one of vengeance and retribution with Booth hunting the mad scientist/ arcane sorcerer Ward who plans to remove the problem of humans once and for all. Helping Booth on his travels are a range of supporting characters that includes a woefully underused, centuries-old ghoul who provided both comic relief and an interesting link to the world before it fell.
The issue of supporting characters now brings me to my main critique of the novel. The author’s female characters are, without exception, terribly one dimensional. In fact, his portrayal of women came across as quite immature - with every female encountering Booth falling in love and acting quite irrationally. At times their lack of character development meant I had to stop and check which person was in dialogue with Booth. Hopefully, as the series progresses that might change and I sincerely hope it does.
While I did have some gripes with the novel, I can say I rather enjoyed it. It’s a welcome addition to the mythos and I'm also looking forward to reading the second novel in the series. After all, there's always room for a little bit of machismo in our lives.
“Under an alien sky where gods of eldritch matter rule, the only truth is revenge.” CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters). John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and suspicion he’s “tainted.” Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends. It’s the one thing he has left.

<![CDATA[THE BOULEVARD MONSTER BY JEREMY HEplER]]>Wed, 07 Jun 2017 09:45:39 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/the-boulevard-monster-by-jeremy-helperReview by DeAnna Knippling 

So once upon a time there was this guy.  He meant well.  Or at least...51% well over 49% ill.  On average he meant well.  And then he made a mistake.  One teensy, tiny little mistake.  But clearly not one that shifted the balance the other direction.  Clearly he's still a good guy.  Who at least still means well.  

One teensy, tiny little mistake after another, and he's not sure where he is anymore.  Did he mean well?  Or ill?  Or something else?  Is ANY of this his fault?  Surely not all of it is his fault...

You've read that story before; it's the classic tale of a life gone wrong.  Almost always, for reasons that vary from book to book, it was already going wrong anyway, before the monsters and uncanny stepped in.  

What sets The Boulevard Monster apart is the warmth that fills the pages.  Unlike many of the anti-heroes that carry out their own self-destruction, aided by the supernatural, bad luck, and Very Bad Men, our hero Seth Fowler is actually, genuinely likable, not just a self-justifying jerk of an unreliable narrator.  He spends his time caring for other people, trying to make their lives a little easier.  He has fond and even delightful memories of the past; he is grounded in solid realities rather than ambition and drive.  When the time comes for him to make an ethical choice (at the very beginning of the book), he makes it without hesitation:  in fact it's his ethical choice that gets him in trouble.  When he digs himself deeper and deeper into gray and then black areas of morality, you know that he's making a very clear-cut choice between bad and worse.  The mistakes he makes are the ones that we all make every day, out of the desire to help our loved ones, or prevent them from coming to harm.  And his family is actually worth it.  

This is no whiny, self-centered character who you secretly wish would get a two-by-four-sized clue stick to the side of the head.  This is a genuinely nice guy, which gives the classic tale a lot more impact than I expected.  I couldn't hold myself back and go, "Well, if only he'd admitted that he was wrong here, here, and here, then he would never be in this place."  There was never a moment where I could say that.  The actions that the character take throughout the novel have nothing but admiration and sympathy from me.  Even during Seth's worst moment, I went, "Ahhhhh...I'd have at least been tempted."

The ending, in my opinion, nailed it.  I'd like to see more in this universe, too.  Recommend.


You say that I am a madman. You say that I am dangerous. You say that I am the one who has been abducting women, slaughtering them, and burying their corpses all around this city for years. You are wrong, because only part of that statement is true…


I know that you probably won’t believe me. Not now. Not after all that has happened, but I need to tell my side of the story. You need to know how this all began. You need to hear about the birds, but most of all, you need to understand…


DeAnna Knippling is a writer and editor of dark speculative fiction, mystery, and horror.  She has ghostwritten over a million words since 2013, and has had multiple short stories published in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Black Static, and more.  She's currently working on a series of cheesy 80s horror novels involving fairies.  The first novelette, By Dawn's Bloody Light, about three women who take revenge on a serial killer, will be released July 1.  You can find out more at www.WonderlandPress.com.  You can also find her on Facebook andTwitter.

<![CDATA[SKITTER BY EZEKIEL BOONE]]>Mon, 05 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/skitter-by-ezekiel-booneREVIEW BY GEORGE ILLET ANDERSON 

​The Bold and the Bristly

Ezekiel Boone’s “The Hatching” was a thoroughly enjoyable pulp fiction novel about the global emergence of a prehistoric species of carnivorous spider and humanity’s desperately ill prepared response to this invasive threat.  It was just a really fun escapist creature feature full of thrills and spills with enough eight legged action to send any self respecting arachnophobe scurrying for cover.
Alas, lightning hasn’t struck twice with its sequel, “Skitter” and what you have is a book that manages to be light on scares, heavily reliant on exposition and cut out and keep characters.  Following the events of the first novel, millions have died and the world is bracing itself for what follows next. The initial wave of spiders has died out, leaving egg sacs secreted throughout the world and humanity bracing itself for their inevitable return. Set against a biological countdown, the characters face hard decisions about how to best combat the impending threat and save humanity.
It isn’t that “Skitter” is a badly written book; it’s just that it reads and feels much like the state of the spiders throughout, dormant and lacking life. Its predecessor worked as there were frequent arachnid set pieces that broke up the story and kept you guessing and on edge as to where and when the next horror was to take place. Unfortunately the absence of the spiders for much of the novel highlights the limits of the first novel’s approach. The spiders are a background threat for most of the novel and Boone is reliant on his human characters to take the strain.
And herein lays the problem as the absence of the spiders means that Boone fills the spaces with more characters. That old adage about less being more certainly feels true in this context as multiple characters briefly appear, disappear or reappear across multiple locations. Some get the briefest of introductions whilst others get three or four pages of exposition heavy background filler. Add into the mix the returning protagonists from its predecessor and you end up with something that feels rather soap opera-ish in its execution. This feeling isn’t exactly helped by characterisation that can best be described as gossamer thin. Much as the title implies, this is a novel that feels very light on its feet and doesn’t make much impact.
Whereas The Hatching played around with those morbid fears about something that has more than four legs along with healthy doses of body horror, this feels curiously restrained. In its predecessor, the spiders had a healthy interest for fresh meat and also a biological imperative to perpetuate the species by laying eggs inside random people thus allowing their distribution far and wide. Whilst this was very effective first time around, here it feels almost like a secondary consideration to the human and political cost of the aftermath. The visceral undertow of the initial novel has been replaced by lots and lots of fragmented exposition with only the slightest hint of dread terror.
Admittedly there is one scene about half way through the book which does strike the right note of visceral terror as the new spiders hatch and have the lovely habit of paralysing, cocooning and eating you alive but its brief and can’t make up for the acres of talking that seem to populate this novel.  The spiders, rechristened “Species X” or some such, are the foot soldiers to mysterious glowing sacs that sporadically populate their conquered territory. It all feels a bit like a blockbuster remake of “Kingdom of the Spiders” mixed in with “World War Z” in its execution and delivery.
I can appreciate that “Skitter” is the middle part of a trilogy but it reminds me of those novels you pick up at a train station or airport for a quick read. It’s effectively a disaster novel masquerading as a horror novel written for people who don’t like horror. I’m sure it will sell loads and get heaps of 5 star ratings but it feels curiously restrained and insubstantial compared to its predecessor. Things don’t really get going until the last 20% or so but by then it is too little too late as the second wave hatch in a couple of throwaway scenes and the characters debate whether the nuclear option is the best route after all.
I think that the best thing I can say about “ Skitter” is that if you are in the market for a novel that doesn’t tax the brain cells, has about as much terror as a piece of puff pastry and is a comparatively easy read then “Skitter” might just be the ticket for you. Me? I found this to be a huge disappointment with a title that evoked body horrors connected to something else entirely.

Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Gruyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up.
Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack is discovered, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a weapon to defeat the spiders. But even if they succeed it may be too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol.
Every country must fight for itself. And the spiders are on the move...

<![CDATA[WE CAME BACK BY PATRICK LACEY]]>Tue, 23 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/we-came-back-by-patrick-laceyREVIEW BY JOHN BODEN 
Melvin Brown is a loner. A strange pariah who skulks and mutters through his days, drawing monsters in his notebooks and talking himself out of doing terrible things.  He is picked on and bullied and one tragic day, he has his fill.  Shooting himself in front of a cafeteria full of fellow students and the bullies who brought him to that point.  But hatred is tough to kill.

Years after his death, in the town of Lynwood, a strange young man shows up in town. He's the splitting image of the dead Melvin and he's dating one of the smartest girls in school.  Another  of the town's teens is lured to the old school while jogging and introduced to someone or something with grand designs . Soon after, things start to change. The jocks and the brains and the popular kids all start to transform into that which they never understood and readily tore apart.  They dress in black and seem paler. They are angsty and the air around the thickens with malevolence.  Their numbers grow daily, they earn a nickname from the faculty-and then the town- The Lynwood Vamps.

Their epicenter seems to be the condemned school where the tragedy took place all those years ago. They have a plan and they have a leader and before long, the entire town will understand that sometimes bygones can't just be bygones. Things swept under the rug don't always disappear, sometimes they grow fangs and slither.  Sometimes turning the other way will get your neck broken.
Patrick Lacey's novel is a truly fun and well-rendered throw back to those glory days of pulp horror.  We Came Back is the gory and shadow-shrouded offspring of Salem's Lot and Sixteen Candles.  It delivers honest portrayals of  troubled teenagers as well as flawed and troubled adults. The struggles of both groups to come to grips with what's going on and played parallel and perfectly so.  The pacing is quick and logical and the prose is lean and mean and licked-bone clean.
Recommended, very much so.

We Came Back is available from Sinister Grin Press.
"WE CAME BACK is an emotional trip through our darkest fears. One of the best books I've read in years."--Kristopher Rufty, author of SOMETHING VIOLENT and DESOLATION.

Growing up dead.

Melvin Brown sees things that aren’t there. Monsters with tentacles and razor-sharp teeth. Ever the social outcast, he is bullied to the point of suicide. And his hatred of those who did him wrong does not die with him.

One decade after Melvin's death, something strange is happening to Lynnwood High School's smartest and most popular students. They begin to act out and spend time at the former high school, now abandoned and said to be haunted. And their numbers grow at an alarming rate.

Is this just a passing fad or are the rumors true? Does Lynnwood really have a teenage cult on their hands?

<![CDATA[TERROR TALES OF CORNWALL EDITED BY PAUL FINCH]]>Wed, 17 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/terror-tales-of-cornwall-edited-by-paul-finchReview by Joe X Young 
The task of a reviewer is straight-forward, to appraise the material and give an honest opinion. With a novel, short story or movie there’s more of a singular focal point of whether or not the entirety of the story is any good. With anthologies and collections things are not so simple, as there are far more individual stories to assess, and I think it would be fair to believe that there’s no anthology or collection in print anywhere where every story is as good as the others. Terror Tales of Cornwall, for me at least, has three levels as there are good stories, very good stories, and excellent ones. That’s good news right? I think so. Though it’s going to be a very personal opinion as to which stories did it for me and which didn’t, this being based on my experience of Cornwall as I lived there for a dozen years or so.
I’m going to briefly cover a couple of little issues before discussing the stories. First of all is the matter of the individual story editing. I found it a little hit-and-miss, with some of the stories having a few typos/mis-spellings while other stories were flawless. It looked to me as if each writer took care of their own editing. That doesn’t detract from the book overall though, it’s just a little something I noticed.

Second issue is the abundance of ‘link pieces’, short articles interspersed between the main stories highlighting different Cornish legends. Jumping from fiction to legend and back again was something I found not only extremely interesting, but for me it strengthened the tones of the fiction, giving them a credence they may not have had were it a straight anthology of pure fiction. The articles were often fascinating, all informative, and gave the overall appearance of being extremely well researched and very well presented. It isn’t made clear who wrote those links, but it’s a damned fine job no matter who did it.

Now for the stories proper in order of appearance. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers.

We Who Sing Beneath The Ground: Mark Morris.

This is a great start, a story of a teacher, a little boy and a rather unusual ‘Show and Tell’ item he brings to school one day. The boy is a bit of a cliché, but in this case he somewhat has to be in order to make sense of the general events. When he doesn’t show for class the teacher goes to his home to find him, and finds significantly more than she had bargained for. I liked the simplicity of the story and wasn’t expecting the unusual item to be what it actually was and that’s a very pleasant surprise.

In The Light of St Ives: Ray Cluley.

For those unfamiliar with St Ives, or indeed Cornwall as a whole, it’s a bright and sunny place in general, but it goes deeper than that as there’s something about the quality of light which appears unlike any other place I’ve been in Britain, or indeed out of it. It’s a clarity which appeals to artists, and St Ives is one of many places in Cornwall where painters accumulate to make the most of the natural beauty and the exceptional light. The artist in this story, Clare, moves to a studio/cottage in St Ives as a painting retreat to perfect her craft, but things take a turn for the bizarre, culminating in a fire and her subsequent hospitalisation. Her sister Emily visits from up country and tries to make sense of what has happened as it appeared that her sister went crazy and started the fire. All is not as it seems, and as the reality of the situation unfolds the story actually gets surreal. It’s a good story, well told, but I think it was taking me to very unfamiliar places.

Trouble at Botathan: Reggie Oliver.

For me the trouble isn’t merely at Botathan, it’s with making sense of this story. Perhaps I am missing something as I couldn’t really make out much of what it was about in amongst the interminable references to notable works of others and allusions to cultural superiority. Maybe it’s excellent and I’m just not smart enough to figure it all out, but it also appears that this story, unlike the previous ones, has nothing particularly Cornish about it. Sorry Mr Oliver but this one just didn’t do it for me.

Mebyon Versus Suna: John Whitbourn.

There’s a very harsh sound, that of a nail being hit squarely on the head, and this tale resonates the same way. I’ve known Cornish people of the dyed-in-the-wool breed, those who have never set foot from their native soil and have nothing good to say about anyone or anything from outside of the county (or indeed Country to their way of thinking). This is the tale of one such man, who has to move to the other side of his world, in this instance Devon, and of the consequences of taking his Cornish sensibilities with him. The idea is fun, superbly handled and smart, with extreme and extremely funny moments throughout. One of the gems in this anthology.

The Unseen: Paul Edwards.

“The Black Remote” is a horror film which appears to be a snuff movie, or is it? Lee is determined to find out no matter the cost by seeing the uncensored version. It’s a good story even though it reminded me of the Nicolas Cage film 8mm in places and had an ending which was somewhat obvious from early on. The Cornish connection is tenuous; I was thinking that the anthology would be based upon particularly Cornish themes, yet this story could have been set anywhere in the British Isles or indeed much of the Western world, as there’s nothing other than a few Cornish locations to fit the remit. Still, an enjoyable story.

Dragon Path: Jacqueline Simpson.

Mick Trelawney tells tales of Celtic legends; of Ley-Lines, Druids and of great ancient magic, but his friends don’t really care, until one fateful day on Bodmin Moor when they discover the cost of taunting him. A story as Cornish as pasties and every bit as delicious.

The Old Traditions are Best: Paul Finch.

A totally Cornish tale of the ‘Obby Oss’, it’s an ancient tradition and a weird one at that, and Paul Finch succeeds in bringing it to a modern audience in a practical and atmospheric way with a smattering of dark humour.

The Uncertainty of All Earthly Things: Mark Valentine.

Sancreed and what lies in wait in the dimensions beyond there is the cornerstone of this fine tale of Tarot cards and Triple Headed Kings. I found this to be a beautifully simple and relaxing story which really feels like the more mystical Cornwall I know.

His Anger was Kindled: Kate Farrell.

David Densham has a job to do; he has to inform Reverend Luke Prideaux that his under-performing Church is no longer valid and that the Parish Council has plans to redevelop the site. What follows is a bizarre fight for life in one of the stranger stories in this anthology. It begins in a staid even mundane fashion before hitting us with rage and inventiveness in a truly original story.

Four Windows and a Door: D P Watt.

This is a beauty. I’ve been on the same boat trip in this story and saw similar things as described. It’s the story of a little girl, a derelict house and a tragic mystery, more than that I can’t say without giving stuff away. It’s a creepy gem of a story and one of the highlights of the anthology.

Claws: Steve Jordan.

When I reached this story title I was expecting some kind of Cornish sea-monster, but oh boy was I wrong. For me this is the stand-out story of the bunch because it pushed every one of my buttons. It’s setting is an amusement arcade in Newquay. I’ve spent way too much time (and money) in Newquay’s arcades and Steve Jordan captured the essence of them as if he was a local. The characters, location and details are trapped in amber from my time there and the horror is interwoven with such humour that I laughed out loud in places whilst being suitably horrified in others. It’s not trying to be big and clever but achieves both. Loved it.

A Beast by Any Other Name: Adrian Cole.

The Beast of Bodmin is on the prowl, but not everything is as it seems as murder, greed and Cornish tin mines get an outing in this strong tale from Adrian Cole. When I started reading this one I had a fair idea of the direction it was going in, but once again in this anthology I was wrong. I like that.

Moon Blood-Red, Tide Turning: Mark Samuels.

The Minack Theatre is partly the backdrop for this strange tale of an aspiring actress and a rather unusual performance. By this point in the anthology I had been thoroughly entertained with a variety of vastly different stories, the majority of which have a distinct Cornish-ness about them, but this one was another of those in which the location wasn’t important. I was ultimately left thinking that there was an opportunity to tell a bigger story here which was overlooked during descriptions of largely irrelevant things.

The Memory of Stone: Sarah Singleton.

This is a gorgeous study of obsession, destruction and madness, with a touch of the supernatural. Nothing more to say.

Shelter From The Storm: Ian Hunter.

Billy, Murray and Juggs are three Explorer Scouts who have got lost whilst trying to get to Port Isaac. The weather and failing light are against them, but they have tents, supplies and extra beer so they just need to find somewhere to pitch the tents where the wind won’t slam them around. The ruins of an old church provide a better prospect for shelter, until they find out what’s under it in this enjoyable yarn from Mr Hunter.

Losing Its Identity: Thana Niveau.

Miranda is in her seventies, she lives in Porthkellis and loves going to the cove known as ‘Lost Moon’, much to the annoyance of her daughter who is worried about her mother’s failing health and mental capacity and the ever more treacherous route to the cove. Their relationship is as rocky as the Cornish coastline, which is in every bit as much danger from constant erosion. Out beyond Lost Moon is a pathway, one which takes Miranda to a very different Porthkellis to the one she grew up in. A multi-layered story of love and loss brings this fine anthology to a fitting end.

Although there are a couple of stories in this anthology which didn’t quite do it for me I have to admit that even their overall quality is good, I just preferred the others. I have no problem recommending this to anyone whether they are interested in Cornish legends or otherwise. A cracking anthology.

Cornwall, England’s most scenic county: windswept moors, rugged cliffs and wild, foaming seas. But smugglers and wreckers once haunted its hidden coves, mermaid myths abound, pixie lore lingers, henges signal a pagan past, and fanged beasts stalk the ancient, overgrown lanes …

The serpent woman of Pengersick

The screaming demon of Land’s End

The nightmare masquerade at Padstow

The feathered horror of Mawnan

The terrible voice at St. Agnes

The ritual slaughter at Crantock

The hoof-footed fetch of Bodmin Moor

Chilling tales by Mark Morris, Ray Cluley, Reggie Oliver, Sarah Singleton, Mark Samuels, Thana Niveau and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre.
<![CDATA[THE BODY HORROR BOOK]]>Wed, 17 May 2017 14:12:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/the-body-horror-book
There’s much to be said on the subject of body horror, that flesh-rending subgenre of fiction which turns our own meat against us and cranks the squick factor up to 11. Curious, then, that it’s taken this long for a publisher to release a non-fiction compendium studying it.

Funded on Kickstarter (with portions of the money raised also going to Epilepsy Action Australia), The Body Horror Book is clearly something of a passion project for Australian author Claire Fitzpatrick and her newly founded Oscillate Wildly Press. It brings together essays by nearly two dozen writers—including both established names from the Aussie horror scene and relative newcomers—with engaging albeit mixed results.

In her introduction, Fitzprack writes “This book is something to be dipped in, sipped on, rather than gulped in a single sitting. Some essays are larger than others, some personal, others academic. Some essays required detailed attention, others are more conversational. Some essays rely entirely on existing political knowledge, others are meant to be feasted on, devoured, to teach, sculpt, and retain an impression or idea in your mind.” These comments accurately sum up The Body Horror Book’s greatest strengths, but also its greatest weaknesses.

To wit, there’s a tremendous diversity of perspectives on display here, with essays touching on the genre as it’s expressed in everything from classic literature and musical theater to “horrorcore” hip-hop and Reptilian conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, the bulk of the material here is dedicated to the silver screen. Hardly a surprise, as that’s arguably where body horror is most visible and intensely felt. All the usual suspects make appearances--AlienThe ThingHellraiser, practically everything David Cronenberg’s ever done—but there are also some less expected yet much appreciated cameos—Brian Yuzna’s Society, Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, Marina de Van’s In My Skin.

When The Body Horror Book is on the ball, it’s invigorating. Kirsten Imani Kasai’s essay, “Eat, Drink, and Be Wary: Autosarcophagy and Autoerotism in Body Horror Cinema,” draws parallels between female self-mutilation, plastic surgery, and self-cannibalism, then recontextualizes them as assertions of feminist agency. Meanwhile, J.J Roye’s “Insertion and Transformation” asks why body horror strikes such a resonant chord with audiences in the first place, and investigates how viewers disassociate those underlying terrors from the necessary physical processes they experience in so-called “normal” life.

Ciaran Bruder’s “’It Wants to Become Like Us!’ The Dialogue of Adaptation and its Embodiments in the Body Horror Genre Through Literature and Film” is a lengthy and ambitious comparative survey of the various methods used in disparatemediums to effectively convey body horror messages. It touches on not only film theory and production history, but psychoanalysis and sociopolitical critique as well. Kaaron Warren’s “Personal Confessions” proves particularly interesting in that it’s not about interpreting the work of another creator but is instead a self-reflective meditation of the manifestations of sex, self-image, death, and disease in her own fiction.

The thing is, The Body Horror Book isn’t always on the ball. Cameron Trost’s “Hall of Mirrors: Politics Reflected in Horror” pays only lip-service to the “body” part of “body horror,” instead choosing to be a broad overview of political themes throughout the horror genre in its entirety. Similarly, Benjamin Orchard’s “The Singing Freaks of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim” briefly mentions the trope of deformity-as-metaphor in stage musicals like The Phantom of the Opera, but doesn’t expand on the idea beyond a mere two sentences. Still other essays do even less than that.

This inconsistency extends to essay formatting as well. It’s a minor gripe, but while some articles end with the requisite list of references, others embed their references within the body of the text, and still others don’t include references at all. Very few adhere to any professional style guidelines, at least in the prerelease ebook copy provided for this review. Take it with a grain of salt; considering there’s still placeholder text present on the acknowledgements page at the time of this writing, it’s likely—or so one hopes—that there will be some differences in the final product.

Regardless, the fact that The Body Horror Book casts its net so wide might be a problem for some readers. Those looking specifically for thoughtful analysis will be put off by articles more anecdotal than academic, while those looking for personal narratives with an emotional core will find the drier textbook-type material an absolute slog. Certainly the project could have benefited from the enforcement of a standardized essay format, a separation of the essays into different sections (with the academic articles segregated from the more casual ones), and the application of greater scrutiny in the final vetting process so as to keep the focus on content explicitly relevant to body horror.

Nevertheless, what it lack in cohesiveness it makes up for in variety. For all the flaws, there’s still more good here than bad. Those without a dog in the academic-vs-casual fight will find plenty of quality insights to ruminate on. Hell, even those essays whose connections to body horror appear shaky at best are still worth reading on their own merits. The equal opportunity approach ensures there’s something for everyone, and even the stuffiest analysis is unlikely to leave any reader feeling in over their heads.

Fascinating and accessible, The Body Horror Book is a strikingly diverse exploration of horror that is interested not simply in getting under your skin, but also in finding out just what you’ve got hiding under there.