Ginger Nuts of Horror
Review by Kayleigh Marie Edwards
‘The Secret of Ventriloquism’ is a debut short story collection by Jon Padgett – probably one of the best writers you might not have even heard of yet. It is fantastic; I have never been so delighted to review a collection. Let’s get into it.
Padgett has a very clear author’s ‘voice’, yet somehow manages to pull off each story (particularly those written in the first person) with the individuality of the protagonist in question. His stories, individually and as a whole, are excellently structured, and his vocabulary and use of language compliments his wonderful, fluid writing style. Each story has a theme unto itself, yet all are linked to give the sense of a grander whole, if you will. There’s the narrative in the story, and then the overarching theme of the book.
An anxious man and his young daughter are on the road in a stolen car. She cradles a shoebox full of bird's eggs. She saved them after the birds disappeared. As the girl sleeps, the father recalls the events that led them to this point. We find out about Wanderer's Folly, a disease that causes delusions and eventually murderous and/or suicidal outbursts. We find that his wife held a key to a possible cure, and that the doctors and scientists used her up, leaving a husk that died in a hospital room, that was when the doctors set their sights on his daughter, Ellie. That was when David Arlen fled.
Making their way out west, where David hopes to connect with his wayward brother, the pair encounter a few groups of survivors. The promise of acceptance and settling down and safety always tenuous and rarely a truth. The road is slick with tears and blood and paved in double-crosses and unease. Still, they make their way and in doing so discover that the possible key that Ellie holds is much broader and stronger than a possible cure for the Folly, it could be a cure all.
Malfi spins us a yarn that is loaded with sadness and tragedy. Every ounce of suffering beads up and smears the pages. These people have been through the wringer and always seem to end up on the ropes again and again. Fenced in by paranoia and legitimate fear, their world is perilous and harrowing. I've been a fan of Malfi's work for some time but I think this is his strongest work yet. He really channels some heartfelt sadness here, the kind you can't fake and lays it all out for you to read.
The Night Parade is available from Kensington Books
By Tony Jones
“Do we really need another book on the true story behind The Exorcist novel and film?”
Any long-term horror worth their salt has probably had at some point a passing interest in the 1949 ‘true’ story which inspired both William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist” (1971) novel and the hugely successful film which followed two years later. Although it has copied, cloned and ripped-off countless times since, the story is once again in the media spotlight with the new “Exorcist: the TV Series” currently doing the rounds. Considering both the family involved and the priests involved never publically spoke to the media, it’s pretty incredible that it seems to run and run…
By John Boden
I have been lucky to get on board as a Cesare fan since way back in 2012, when John Skipp started singing praises for his debut novella, Tribesmen. I have been fan since reading it. I've met Adam in person many times and his over all knowledge of the genre is staggering. And after reading The Con Season, I can tell you he has yet to let me down.
This book will hold a lot more for those who have frequented the convention circuit and paid close attention than it will for those who don't, which is not to say it will be a less entertaining experience. It means that there will be many instances of nuance and sly winking that may soar right over your head.
The book begins with Scream Queen Clarissa weathering through yet another convention weekend. She's tired and weary of it all. And to kick her while she's feeling down, she discovers her manager has not-maliciously lost her money--damn near all of it. That's when she finds an invitation to a convention in her spam folder, a con that promises not only loads of many but a unique experience guaranteed to put her back in the saddle so to speak.
She accepts the invite to what promises to be a "fully immersive" fan convention, thinking it will be yet another weekend of horny basement-dwellers and acne-dotted kids. She would be wrong in that assumption. The folks who are holding the convention are fans, a different kind of fan. They're fans of the psychotic behaviors, the blood and the death. Clarissa and her fellow "guests" are in for an experience like none they've ever had.
Like all of Adam's work, The Con Season scorches with it's wry observational voice and liberal doses of satire and gore. It's cinematic pacing and realistic characterizations are added ammunition, being lobbed at you as you dodge and dive to avoid the punches.
Adam Cesare is a name you can trust, a go to for highly effective horror and darkly disturbing fun.
The Con Season is available from Black T-Shirt Books and Amazon
BY LAURA MAURO
Sequels are a tricky thing. No less so when you’re writing the second book in an intended trilogy. You’ve got to maintain the momentum gathered by the first book whilst simultaneously weaving in new plot threads and new characters. A good thing then that Simon Bestwick is eminently up to the task.
By Martin Summerfield
“He knew something of sorrow, remembered joy, and devoutly hoped – as much as he consciously hoped for anything other than proper allotments of sunshine and rainfall – never again to encounter either of those old annoyances.”
It’s very tempting to close yourself off to the world around you and want to retreat to nature. The protagonist of In Calabria, Claudio Bianchi is a taciturn farmer, sometime poet and full time hermit. He is a man who has closed himself off to the world around him. With the exception of weekly visits from the postman, Romano, his goat Cherubino, and his cat “Third Cat” Bianchi has virtually no contact with another living creature. This all changes when the preternatural makes an incursion on Bianchi’s life in the form of a unicorn, an inciting event which forces Bianchi to confront his past and question his carefully cultivated solitude. The unicorn’s presence inspires Bianchi to write poetry at a prolific rate, and in a lesser book this might be the focus of the story, but as Bianchi only writes poetry for himself, he just does what Emily Dickinson did and puts the untitled poems in the kitchen drawer.
By George Ilett Anderson
Paint it Black
I have to be honest and say that this year hasn’t exactly been a bundle of joy for me on many levels. Over its course, I’ve noticed a growing sense of detachment and disconnection from the world around me; things that normally would have given me great joy and pleasure such as reading and reviewing have disappeared into this hazy, numbing fog through which very little penetrates. Part of me thinks that this state of affairs hasn’t exactly been helped by my choice of reading material which has tended to err on the darker side of horror fiction encompassing tales of despair, alienation and loss. So I find it somewhat of a surprise that the book that I’ve just read has resonated so strongly with me and cut through the emotional dissonance that I’ve been experiencing. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a book that I would define as being filled with light and joy. In fact, “Bones are Made to be Broken” by Paul Michael Anderson is quite the opposite, a trawl through some of the darker and more disturbing recesses of the human condition.
When I heard that A Congregation of Jackals was a thing, I knew without hesitation that I had to read it. My favorite book of this type was a horrific, bloody brutality-fest by the same author titled Wraiths of the Broken Land and the script for the groundbreaking horror/western mash-up, “Bone Tomahawk” was also penned by S. Craig Zahler so I had high hopes for this title. Fortunately for me, Raw Dog Screaming Press is always accommodating and editor Jennifer Barnes offered me a review copy before I even had a chance to ask for it, and I can tell you in advance that it more than exceeded my lofty expectations.
Jake Leonard is a big man with a more than passing familiarity with problems. He's rapidly approaching middle age, stills struggles with Bipolar Disorder and all the memories that go with that, including a stint in juvenile jail for a violent crime committed pre-diagnosis. He's eeking out his existence in the rural south, training dogs and breaking horses, An honest-to-God cowboy. He's got a young and pretty girlfriend and He's medicated and almost happy for once. Almost.
His girlfriend, Nikki, happens to be the sheriff's daughter and a small time drug dealer. She sells weed to Jake who gives it to his best friend who's battling cancer. Nothing good lasts forever and so Nikki and Jake's relationship jumps track and she spirals into a seething pool of harder drugs, alcohol , satanic metal and low-budget porn. Jake reconnects with his ex-wife and things get even headier.
Jake is a man with a problem, many problems. Only medication and the big ol' muscle in his chest keep him in line and the power they wield over Jake Leonard and the flaming wreckage that was his life is tenuous.
The Ruin Season is an amazing read. Jake's mental condition is treated as much as a character as is Nikki or Sheriff Kelton, it's not prettied up or dumbed down, presented as honestly and sincerely as possible, not a gimmick. It is a tremendous story, it is richly rendered in character and setting and an emotional clarity that rings that Lansdale/McCarthy bell and puts the thrill in thriller.
With The Ruin Season, Triana guts you. It's with a slow and tragic blade, slightly curved and deftly sharp. He gauzes the wound with sadness and sympathy and stitches it ragged with loss and longing. These wounds will not heal quickly nor will they do so without scars.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is fantastic!
The Ruin Season is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Press.
This last few months has been a bonanza for fans of horror supremo Adam Nevill, but they better make the most of “Under a Watchful Eye” as this is the author’s last release until 2018. I practiced what I preached and following my own sage advice, read this rather tasty and fiendishly well plotted supernatural thriller over six very enjoyable evenings. It was great company and with all novels by this author was sad to close it for the last time.