Ginger Nuts of Horror
I've been following Kristi DeMeester's progress as a writer since she first appeared on the old Shock Totem forums. We've had the pleasure of watching quite a few of our former "Totemites" do well for themselves- Damien Angelica Walters, Michael Wehunt, some cat named Adam Cesare. And we're quite proud of them . Kristi released and sold out of her chapbook, Split Tongues, published by Dim Shores last year. She has a collection in the works currently and this, her debut novel, drops in a few weeks. And let me tell you something. You needs all of these. Every. Single. one.
Beneath is the story of Cora, a reporter assigned a story about a snake-handling church in the rural south. She has a lot of baggage and issues from her own childhood and the church is more of a looming monster than a place of refuge. She reluctantly accepts the gig. She arrives to find a town in the midst of a dark transformation. Children are missing and adults are dying or disappearing. Things are slithering in the dark. A reclusive woman and her wayward daughter seem to be at the heart of it, not far from them is the minister of the church. A man who wears a mask of faith and guidance but who is in reality a darkly lost soul. All of these people and events are building and the soil they chose is quicksand and squirming. There is something terrible coming from underground and it's not very happy.
I absolutely loved this. It hit the sweet spot of almost 80's pulp horror with supremely weird fiction. It reminded me of Sarah Langan's The Keeper in some ways, not in story or style but in the repulsive and horrifying images that are thrust upon you as your turn these pages. The prose is poetic at times and hammer-blunt at others. The characters are layered and flawed, just like the rest of us.
This novel is going to propel DeMeester onto that list of authors you'll want to follow. I guarantee it.
Beneath is soon available from Word Horde.
When reporter Cora Mayburn is assigned to cover a story about a snake-handling cult in rural Appalachia, she is dismayed, for the world of cruel fundamentalist stricture, repression, glossolalia, and abuse is something she has long since put behind her in favor of a more tolerant urban existence. But she accepts the assignment, dredging up long-buried memories as she seeks the truth.
Philip Fracassi painted his name on the wall last year with a fistful of wonderfully horrific novellas, Mother, Altar and Fragile Dreams. He lets no moss grow under his feet, or fingers I guess we should say as he now graces us with his debut collection, Behold The Void.
There are 9 stories contained here. Some are more in the weird/cosmic horror end of the pool while others have an almost pulpy tone to them. All are wonderful. And I mean, really, if you can get Laird Barron to write your introduction, you must certainly have the goods, no?
On to the stories, We open with "Soft Construction Of A Sunset" a wildly bizarre Dali-esque tale of a lover scorned and the brutal and surreal revenge he exacts with his newly gained yet bizarre powers. This is followed by "Altar," where a simple afternoon trip to the community swimming pool turns into something monstrous and vicious. "The Horse Thief" is a razor-gash of a tale concerning a thief and his fight with the Yakuza over control of a horse god's soul.
"The Baby Farmer" is a hauntingly creepy tale about a priest who is researching the local history of a serial killer and opens up a very dark and damning chapter to the story. This one if superb. "Mother" gives us a heart-breaking tale of a marriage dying, slowly bloating and decaying into something horrible. Something that skitters and spins silk. The collection ends with "Mandala" a harrowing story of boys playing on the beach when the harmless game they play becomes anything but and the circumstances escalate into a custody battle that goes beyond death and the grave.
I skipped touching on a few of these, not because they are bad in any way, but I have to leave some surprises, right? Fracassi works in film and his style shows it. It's a lean prose but not simple. He gives you so much to pay attention to, rich and realistic characters, expansive settings and set-ups and plots that are as twisty as John Merrick's skeleton (I'm a terrible man...) He's definitely one to place your bets on.
Behold The Void is available from Journalstone.
BEHOLD THE VOID is nine stories of terror that huddle in the dark space between cosmic horror and the modern weird, between old-school hard-edged horror of the 1980’s and the stylistic prose of today’s literary giants.
Revenge takes a monstrous form when a scorned lover acquires bizarre, telekinetic powers; a community swimming pool on a bright summer day becomes the setting for a ghastly nightmare of sacrifice and loss; a thief does bloody battle with a Yakuza for the soul of a horse god; a priest must solve the mystery of a century-old serial killer or risk the apocalypse; a newly-married couple discover that relationships-gone-bad can be poisonous, and deadly; a child is forced to make an ultimate choice between letting his parents die or living with the monsters they may become; and when a boy is trapped on a beach at low tide, he must face death in many forms – that of the rising water coming to consume him and the ghost of his dead mother who wants him back, reaching for him with dark, longing arms…
Slightly Supernatural Sleuthing
From looking at the cover of “A Study in Grey”, one would suspect that this is a tale about Sherlock Holmes. However, much like Holmes’ penchant for disguise, appearances can be very deceptive and as such he is but a background character in this solidly entertaining novella from John Linwood Grant.
Set during the twilight of the aforementioned detective, the story follows Captain Blake Redvers of the mysterious Section 17 of the War Department as he is tasked with protecting the realm from a potential nefarious plot to destabilise the empire. An influential and high ranking Member of Parliament has claimed he’s receiving advice from his deceased son via a series séances that he’s been attending. With storm clouds gathering on the horizon and the threat of war brewing, the government is understandably perturbed at this turn of events and seeks to find out if there are insidious forces at work behind the scenes.
I have to say that overall I rather liked the style of the novella. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination overtly supernatural or horrific in tone, at least to these eyes. Much like Sherlock’s presence, the supernatural is a subtle background element that intermittently weaves in and out of the story, adding an extra layer of mystery and ambiguity to the proceedings. Grant excels at painting a vivid picture of Edwardian life, rich in the culture and society of the age and peopled with characters familiar to readers of Arthur Conan Doyle and William Hope Hodgson. If sleuths, séances, psychics and subterfuge tickle your fancy then you could do a lot worse than lose yourself in this gripping and tense slow burn of a novella for a couple of hours. Good stuff!
The Edwardian Era has begun its rot into modernity, exchanging all the virtues of Dr. John H. Watson for the vices of Captain Redvers Blake. But a case from Watson's era resurges in the present, ensnaring a high official in what may be a ring of German spies. Not any mere ring of bombs and petrol, but a ring of spiritualism and séances.
The former case was one of Holmes' failures. Despite an illustrious employer, despite Holmes' warnings, and despite a vengeful fire, a young woman married a monster and slipped beyond the Great Detective's ken. Now, she returns to his notice, hostess to the seance ring.
As England prepares for war, Sherlock Holmes and Captain Redvers Blake must solve these two entwined cases at once.
All this, to say nothing of 427 Cheyne Walk's new residents and their role...
Victor Teversham is one of the world's richest men. He is not a bad man, necessarily, but a man who has done some bad things, or more accurately a man who has allowed bad things to be done to further his ventures and investments. While on the phone one night, his wife commits suicide in the bathroom. It is this event that starts the troubling tale squirming.
The late Josephine Teversham made a reservation for her husband at Ballador Country House Hotel in Scotland. So, Victor is compelled to honor the request with no knowledge of why . Research informs him and Harry (his right-hand man) that the Ballador is like no other hotel. Guests are guaranteed terrifying dreams and horrific nightmares., as well as gorgeous rooms and gourmet food. They are proud of their "Haunted Hotel" shtick and play it to a T...except when they aren't playing at all. You see, something evil lives at the Ballador. It's been living there a very long time and it has a plan to get out and see the world. A violent plan that is writ in sweat and blood and draped in dreams and grief and despair. A plan that needs Victor Teversham.
Prince of Nightmares by John McNee is a firecracker of a novel. Fast paced and wonderfully grim. I would describe the imagery and tone as Hell House meets Thirteen Ghosts as recounted by Clive Barker but with a sliver of Wall Street. It's the fine characterization that cements it. Victor's almost humble denial of the fact that he has allowed very dark deeds to transpire in his name, his despair over the loss of his wife. The frets of his advanced age and mortality. There is so much going on here. And the climax that it builds to is ferocious and not easily forgotten.
Prince Of Nightmares is available from Blood Bound Books.
Welcome to the Ballador Country House Hotel. Nestled in the highlands of Scotland, it is unlike any other lodging. Guests can expect wonderful scenery, gourmet food, and horrifying nightmares—guaranteed. Daring travelers pay thousands to stay within the Ballador’s infamous rooms because of the vivid and frightening dreams the accommodations inspire.
Before Josephine Teversham committed suicide, she made a reservation at the hotel for her husband, Australian magnate Victor Teversham. Once he arrives at the hotel, Victor finds himself the target of malevolent forces, revealing the nightmares—and their purpose—to be more strange, personal, and deadly than anyone could have guessed.
by Jonathan Thornton
"The dreams are coming thick and fast. She's impatient for me now. There are no words to express it - the terrible freedom, the malice and rage. To look through her eyes is to know the dark centre of the world. I dread it and it is thrilling."
Catriona Ward's The Girl From Rawblood (2017) is a striking and powerful gothic novel. With its themes of hereditary illness, madness and death, a haunting female spectre and the central domineering presence of Rawblood itself, a crumbling, sprawling ancestral home, the book vividly evokes the tone and feel of the gothic, with loving tributes to classics of the genre from Frankenstein (1818) through to Gormenghast (1946-1959). However The Girl From Rawblood is more than an expertly executed pastiche. Ward uses the tropes and trappings of the gothic to really dig down into what makes the genre tick, exploring and exposing the genre's neuroses to discover what makes the genre so compelling after over a hundred years of gothic fiction, and why the concerns of the gothic are still resonant to us today.
by Joe X Young
I’m about to read a collection of short stories by Mercedes M Yardley. With my regular policy of being upfront about everything I can state that I move in such circles where her name is spoken with reverence, yet to date I have no connection with her and have never read any of her work. Obviously this is about to change, but I have concerns as I have read the foreword by P. Gardner Goldsmith. It gives such an over-the-top build-up of gushing praise to the stories and the author that I fear no one mortal could deliver on the promise. It’s the kind of stuff you’d expect an over-enthusiastic stage-school mom to say about her little darling to anyone within earshot. Makes me wonder what I have let myself in for. Wish me luck
BY CHAD LUTZKE
Sometimes you really can have too much of a good thing. If your town was nothing more than a neon-lit cluster of pizza parlors and VHS rental stores in the 80s, then you know what I’m talking about (actually, that doesn’t sound so bad right now). But sometimes something comes along wearing the skin of something else seemingly quite familiar, only to be stripped down to reveal you haven’t actually seen this before. For me, that skin was Terry M. West’s All of the Flesh Served.
When it comes to both zombie and/or post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction, I think it’s safe to say the market is embarrassingly saturated with it. However, some can never get enough, some just feel comfortable there, and others are searching for the same doomed planet but with different tasting tropes that give a fresh flavor to the otherwise dead horse.
For me, All of the Flesh Served does just that--adds flavor to an increasingly bland scenario.
West paints an ugly (or beautiful, depending on how you look at it) dystopian world impregnated by the lies of its government, establishing values in a paranoid breed of men who are doing what they can to both survive and appease their god. This doesn’t feel like any kind of post-apocalyptic bandwagon being jumped on but a unique world with fresh ideas and characters that are easy to root for (and despise). Plus there’s cannibalism!
While I normally stay clear of rehashing synopses in my reviews, I will say this: Along with the cannibalism, there is action, drama, and a heavy underlying commentary on the world we live in with the author presenting an interesting “what if” scenario.
In the 70s, Black Sabbath wrote doom-filled anthems warning us about the dangers of war and political demons. The 80s brought us punk rock angst as the anger went up a notch, the youth declaring war with their voice. In 2017 Terry M. West lays down his own rebellious medium with a dark picture of the future if man can’t get along and continues to keep on the blinders.
All of the Flesh Served is an intelligent, fresh and tasty dish that every fan of the subgenre should consume before drinking more of the Kool-Aid.
Any record of the 45th that does not recognize him as a prophet is propaganda and a lie. False history. The truth is with the 45th. His word is absolute for it is God's word…
Hundreds of years after the great cataclysm, the Ministry of the 45th survive in a network of scientific bunkers. The last bastion of the old holy order, the 45th are bent on rebuilding the scorched earth and eliminating God's enemies. The Ministry wages a war against the mutant topsiders that occupy the dead states of the Soviet Union of America. Defending the 45th are the Red Guard, genetically engineered soldiers who are programmed to obey through their lifebrand. Dr. Morgan is a serviceman for Unit 468 of the Red Guard. His lifebrand being medicine, Dr. Morgan is the longest surviving field medic to serve. But Dr. Morgan is a deeply conflicted man with violent fantasies that contradict his pledge to preserve life. After escaping an abduction by the topsiders, Dr. Morgan's faith is cracked. During a furlough in the high Chancellor's bunker, Dr. Morgan is hailed a hero and taken off the front lines. But he soon realizes that someone has altered his lifebrand and lifted the veil that concealed the greatest deception ever perpetrated. Dr. Morgan has just become the most dangerous man in the wastelands. And when he discovers who the real enemy is, the revelation unleashes a fury strong enough to destroy what is left of the earth.
All of the Flesh Served is a disturbing vision of what could one day come.
Included as bonus material: the original short story that would become All of the Flesh Served: A Novella.
Chad lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife and children where he works as a medical language specialist. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene including articles, reviews, and artwork. Chad loves music, rain, sarcasm, dry humor, and cheese. He has a strong disdain for dishonesty and hard-boiled eggs. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue and Scream magazine. He is a regular contributor to Horror Novel Reviews, Halloween Forevermore and Heavy Planet. His fictional work can be found in several magazines and anthologies including his own 18-story anthology anthology, NIGHT AS A CATALYST. He has written a collaborative effort with horror author Terry M. West, THE HIM DEEP DOWN. In the summer of 2016 Lutzke released his dark coming-of-age novella OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES. Later in 2016, several more releases will be added to Lutzke's body of work, including his PALE WHITE coming-of-age vampire series, CAR NEX: FROM HELL THEY CAME, 47-16, A David Bowie Literary Tribute and AMERICAN DEMON HUNTERS: BATTLE CREEK with J. Thorn. Stay tuned! Chad can be found lurking the internet at the following address: www.chadlutzke.weebly.com
BY TONY JONES
“Fancy some virtual reality total emersion healing? Zombies included free of charge….”
My kindle informed me that reading Mira Grant’s latest novella “The Final Girls” was going to cost me 135 minutes of my time, having read a few of Mira’s books in the past I was happy to reacquainting myself with her new release. I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint and was an highly efficient mix of horror, speculative and science fiction. This author is particularly effective when she mashes up horror with these other genres. Great examples are the “Newsflesh” series which begins with “Feed” (2010) which has news hungry and techy brilliant teens fighting it out after a zombie holocaust. Also very entertaining is the “Parasite” series, a complex blend of hard science and horror, in which a genetically engineered tapeworm eradicates illness, but the tapeworms soon get nasty and mankind is in serious pearl. Both these sequences are great examples of what Mira can do. However, her real name is Seanan McGuire, and this highly prolific author also writes urban fantasy under that name.
Yesterday saw the ebook launch of Paul Cornell's latest novel Chalk (the paperback version of the book is published next month). And in true Ginger Nuts of Horror style, we have two reviews to celebrate the launch of the book, one from myself and one from our regular contributor Tony Jones.
Is this a meeting of minds or a case of one of us being wrong, read on to find out what we both thought of the book....
We all have secrets that we keep from our loved ones, it's just human nature, but when Angela Gough's fiance Vince's secret life threatens their idyllic life together Vince has to go into hiding, leaving only an enigmatic note as the only clue as to what has happened to him. Angela embarks on a quest to find her lover. A quest that will bring her into contact with the secret world that stands in the sun sheltered place, where she will see the face behind the face of a London far removed from the one we know.