Ginger Nuts of Horror
John Foster has been cutting a swath through the horror genre for the last few years, beginning with his wildly macabre noir-revenge-amnesia tale, Dead Men. I didn't get to read the critically-acclaimed Mister White so when I was asked if I would review his collection, I jumped at the chance.
The opening tale was one I am quite familiar with, having been one of the initial "Yes" votes when we accepted it over at Shock Totem years ago, in it we venture by train on a journey to Detroit by way of some passes that are otherworldly and full of monsters. "Burial Suit" concerns a the son of a man killed by mobster's and the supernatural and violent revenge exacted. "Talk To Leo" gives us a troubled man who does not speak and his ventriloquist's dummy who maybe says too much.
"The Willing" is one of my favorites, in a bleak future where we have been invaded and seemingly driven back to caves by aliens, a group of rag-tag soldiers craft a plan to call up an ancient evil, a dark and hungry god to conquer the invaders. This one is mad as hell.
In "Meat" a group of smugglers crash land on a planet where there are no other forms of life save for trees. Trees that hunger for flesh and thirst for blood. "Girl Six" involves an interrogation of a man possibly involved in the deaths of a trawler crew. But what happens as the questions fly and the answers wrestle them to the concrete floor is a wild and psychotropic miasma of surreal/governmental conspiracy is exhilarating. "Red" is one of the wildest alien invasion scenarios I've ever read and also one of the most brilliantly slapstick.
"Dead on Sunset Strip" gives us a group of hippies at a rock show in the tale end 60's/early 70's and when an outbreak of the living dead consumes the city (the world?) how can these stoned -free love folks possibly survive? "A Lamb To Slaughter" Is a wonderful sliver of surreal and deeply troubling horror as a man is hired to travel the country and witness executions. We close with the title tale, 'Baby Powder" in which a couple who run a paranormal investigation scam, meet their match in a house so haunted it has a reach of miles and miles.
Foster creates believable worlds, populated with realistic characters. Even the wilder scenarios ring true given the prose he uses to render them. With a blade that has a razor-sharp extreme side and a softer quieter weird side, he just cuts his way through. I already knew I was a fan of his work, now I am absolutely positive of it.
Baby Powder is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
From the author of Dead Men and Mister White, John C. Foster continues his odyssey through the horror genre with his debut story collection. Within these pages, you will board a train to Detroit on a route littered with the darkest monstrosities the mind can imagine ("Highballing Through Gehenna"); a man avenges his father's murder in a series of violent mobster slayings ("Burial Suit"); a mute ventriloquist and his chattery dummy seek a therapist ("Talk to Leo"); future soldiers summon forth an ancient evil to battle an alien menace ("The Willing"); body smugglers crash land on a world where sinister trees feed on flesh ("Meat"); an interrogation takes a strange, psychedelic turn ("Girl Six"); a special agent investigates a potential alien invasion ("Red"); the undead infiltrate the Whiskey-A-Go-Go ("Dead on the Sunset Strip"); a man is hired by a nefarious agency to witness prison executions around the country ("A Lamb to Slaughter"); and a pair of paranormal scam artists suffer when they confront true evil ("Baby Powder").
Ali is pouring her blood, sweat and tears into making a name for herself in the fashion world. She has a building reputation as one of the rising stars in the scene. her designs are doing well, but still not as well as the lauded designs of the mysterious Dream Dress company. When Ali decides to break a few rules in order to find out the secrets behind this competitor things take a dark turn.
What begins in the heated and catty world of small scale fashion shows soon escalates into a seedy and sordid psycho-drama peopled with addicts and supernatural substances, monsters and chemistry. In less than ninety pages we get a glimpse into a strikingly contrasting world.
If I'm honest this novelette reads a tiny bit fragmented but that might be because it is a teaser for an upcoming longer collection of stories all tied around the characters and events that happen in this story. That isn't to say this doesn't work as a stand alone, it certainly does. In fact, I greatly enjoyed it. The only shortcoming I can cite is my lack of knowledge when it came to some of the lingo/slang used in the fashion industry. It kept pulling me out of the story a little bit, but I'd wade tight back in.
Johnson gives us very real and flawed characters. One of the zaniest fashion villains this side of Cruella Deville and one hell of a second act. Really, if the collection ups the ante to the hand he's played here. I'm all in.
Dream Dress is available from Amazon.
What is a Dream Dress? It's a dress that makes you remember what clothes can do for you, a dress that makes you feel young and beautiful again. Or, for some, it's a dress that makes you forget everything around you, no matter how terrifying.
It is the summer of 1874, and nine years since the end of the American Civil War. An ex-preacher named Silas Flood sets out in search of The Yellow House - allegedly a hotbed of supernatural phenomena in the titular Vermont mountain town of Moriah.
It's a relatively simple premise, but it's the execution of it which makes Moriah the captivating, haunting book it is. A mishmash of perspectives, each with its own distinct voice, lends an almost filmic quality to the narrative; it's almost possible to sit back and imagine the story being recounted directly to the reader, and imbued with the primary emotion each narrative demands: Flood's solemn, regretful melancholy, Ambrose's confused, almost childlike sense of fear, and the jaw-clenching anger bubbling inside of Thaddeus.
A fascinating cast of characters make the story which, at its heart, is about ghosts. Not only the traditional, spiritual kind but the kind that live inside of us: Mrs. Ambler's regret, vividly recounted by the enigmatic woman herself, the powerful grief of the Bauers. The secret tragedy carried by Silas Flood himself, all of whom have come to The Yellow House ostensibly in search of spirits; the hope that they may speak, through the power of the Lynch brothers, with those they have lost. There is Ambrose Lynch, who speaks with spirits and seeks solace in a mysterious girl he calls Spring Willow, and taciturn Thaddeus Lynch, upon whose shoulders rests the fate of the Yellow House and all who reside there. And then there’s Sally, the youngest of the Lynches, whose concerns are resolutely corporeal but no less disturbing.
Moriah is a ghost story, then, but more than that, it is a story about people. It is about secrets, and how they destroy us. It's a resolutely gothic tale, with an undercurrent of distinctly American religious terror - both alien to me as a heathen Brit and compellingly horrific, especially in the context of the Lynches brutal, authoritarian father.
In his capacity as journalist, Flood sets out to investigate and report on the strange goings-on at the Yellow House. But when the dead begin to talk, it soon becomes apparent that the provenance of their voices matters far less than what they have to say.
Silas Flood is a broken man in a broken country. Nine years have passed since the end of the American Civil War and Flood is helpless to escape its shadow.
In the summer of 1874, he is dispatched to the mountain village of Moriah, Vermont to investigate sensational claims of supernatural happenings. There the brothers Thaddeus and Ambrose Lynch are said to converse with spirits and summon the dead.
As Flood investigates the true nature of these phenomena, and the difference between the hauntings of the living and the dead, he must first come to terms with his own past and with the hold it has upon him—before he can behold the mysteries of the other side.
For many of us, death is scary and shocking, even surreal.
For Gonzalo, it’s the family business.
After a lonely childhood among the caskets of his parents’ funeral home, Gonzalo, the protagonist of Andrew J. Stone’s first novella The Mortuary Monster, has become a bitter man. Unable to connect with the living, his only companions are the buried dead.
That’s not just a poetic metaphor. It’s quite literal: Gonzalo’s only friends are walking, talking, rotting corpses. Though they make their homes deep in cemetery soil, they can come and go as they please. At least, so long as their coffins aren’t sealed permanently from the other side.
The dearly departed aren’t merely Gonzalo’s friends, however. They’re lovers too. When he unexpectedly finds himself father to a baby that is half-human and half-cadaver, he becomes determined to give his son the life he himself never had, whether the boy wants it or not.
A Soundless Dawn by Dustin LaValley is certainly quite a departure from the books we usually associate with Sinister Grin Press. ‘A Soundless Dawn’ is a collection of thoughtful flash fiction pieces, micro fiction pieces and short stories that seem somewhat autobiographical in nature, though at other times can appear completely unconnected to anything else within the book.
BY TONY JONES
“A challenging and original literary debut reimagining the filming of a 1979 horror film, partially inspired by the notorious ‘Cannibal Holocaust’”
I stumbled across Kea Wilson’s rather marvellous debut novel “We Eat Our Own” while on a recent trip to the States and although it is not strictly a horror novel it has much to offer genre fans, as well as those who prefer literary fiction. Whichever you prefer, prepare to be swept away by layers of sweaty, paranoid horror and dark nights in the jungle. I devoured the 300 pages over three evenings, gripping me from the start, and as I spent my days in America doing tourist stuff, my mind frequently wandered back to this beguilingly strange and unsettling novel. Thus far it has picked up great reviews from literary presses, but I think it deserves to be covered by horror websites also. Paul Tremblay is the only author I have seen recommend it so far, and he is a man who frequently recommends great titles.
By George Ilett Anderson
Into the Void
The Return of the Old Ones is the second collaboration between editor Brian M. Sammons and Dark Regions Press and the spiritual successor to World War Cthulhu. Whereas that anthology dealt with the eternal struggle against the Old Ones, this time around the battle has been lost, the stars are right and humanity has been relegated to the bottom of the food chain.
What I’d have to say straight off the bat is how much I enjoy reading Brian M. Sammons’ edited anthologies, especially the ones with a Lovecraftian hue. He has this innate ability to seek out a nice balance of stories and contrasting styles that make for very entertaining and fun anthologies. Well, perhaps “entertaining” and “fun” aren’t strictly the right words to use in this context. This is after all a bleak and nihilistic hued anthology about the Old Ones wiping the slate clean and reclaiming their dominion over humanity. Hardly the epitome of lightness and joy but methinks you’ll most definitely find some things in amongst the nineteen different apocalyptic perspectives to enjoy. I know I most certainly did! The approach that Sammons has taken with the anthology is to divide the book into three sections that mirrors his introductory quote from The Dunwich Horror; “The Old Ones were, The Old Ones are, and The Old Ones shall be.” So in effect the apocalypse from a pre, during and post event perspective. And it works an absolute treat.
'A Long December' by Richard Chizmar is a huge book! A novella and 30+ short stories means that you get some serious bang for your buck! As I do with anthologies and short story collections, when I've finished the book I look back through the story titles and see just how much I can remember. It is testament to the quality of the storytelling here that many of the tales included can be considered good to excellent. In fact, I don't believe there were any that didn't elicit some sort of emotion or enjoyment.
Kaaron Warren's The Grief Hole has just won the Best Horror Novel category in the 2016 Aurealis Awards, it's a worthy winner and a one I fully endorse. Her novel is exceptional, and featured in my top 5 novels of last year, you can read my review of this exceptional book here. When the book was first announced there weer a number of options available for purchasing the book in a hardback format. One of the options was to have to included a copy of The Grief Hole Illustrated: An Artist's Sketchbook by Keely Van order. IFWG publications now have this book available as a seperate purchase. And much like its source material this is a fascinating and gorgeously put together book.
If you have ever wonder what goes through an artist's mind when they come up with the cover and interior artwork concepts for a book, then this is an essential read.
The illustrated guide tracks the passage from Keely's initial concepts right through to the final drafts of the images, aided by deeply inciteful notes that reveal the lengths a great artist will go to find the perfect style and tone for the book, and it's not just the art that she ponders over, the development of the fonts for the cover shows that the artist really connected with this book.
My personal favourite section of the book was the one that dealt with the development of the Sol Invictus, the books big bad guy. When reading a story we all have a mental image in our heads about what the characters look like, however if like me you have a hard time picturing people's faces, you are often left with a character with a blank face.
And while Keely's illustration of him doesn't actually give anything away, her drawing of him captures the spirit, desire and motivations of this most menacing monster.
The production quality of this book is exceptional, sharp detailed prints of the original artwork reveals a lot of hidden dept to Kelly's drawings as a look inside the mind of an artist this is a fascinating read, but as a companion to deep and moving novel this is almost a required reading.
Lovecraft's reach and influence can still be felt almost 100 years since his death. With new novels and anthologies hitting the shelf almost every week, the cosmic horror fan has never had so much material to choose from to satisfy their needs for adventure from the other realms. However, as is the case with most genres, the Lovecraftian genre is filled with so many substandard works. Poor pastiches that fail to understand what source material was trying to convey, or even worse, where the author tries and fails to sound like the source material and ends being Cthulhu played by Dick Van Dyke.
Luckily for us, there are a few writers that are capable of writing an authentic, yet original story based on the Lovecraft Mythos, Gary Fry is one such author and his novella The Rage of Cthulhu the latest in Horrific Tales fine line of premium novellas brings a new update to Call of Cthulhu.