Ginger Nuts of Horror
Thanks to the brilliant Amazon Prime series the Hap and Leonard stories have reached a much larger audience, and while this hapless pair has been a firm favourite within the genre for many a year, we always knew them as a firmly cemented pair of friends. Friends who would take a bullet, beating or a bashing for each other, but where did this unbreakable friendship come from? Blood and Lemonade is, in Joe R. Lansdale's words a "mosaic" novel, a set of connected stories, which don't follow a linear timeline, more akin to listening to two friends reminisce about past times than an actual traditionally plotted narrative. It's a clever move from Lansdale but is it a move that works?
REVIEW BY JOHN BODEN
I just finished reading this for the second time. I was first lucky enough to read it as a submission (one that we unfortunately passed on...during a very trying period at Shock Totem) The pass had nothing to do with the stories quality (I loved it then) but everything to do with the struggles we were having as a publisher and time frames. Luckily for the authors (and the readers) it found a home with Crystal Lake Publishing. All that said, in the essence of full disclosure I must warn you that this is in fact a "Zombie" tale. It is not, however, like anything I've read before. I plead for you to give it a chance, as the story here is so much more than that dreaded device.
Where The Dead Go To Die is set in a hospice, I don't recall it being given a name and that is unimportant. It is a place where the infected go for to pass their remaining time--the infection has an incubatory period that is anywhere from a month to years--and many of these people have lingered a long time. We meet Emily, a single mother and nurse starting anew with her daughter, Lucette after their own family was marked by tragedy. Her boss is a woman named Woods, who is all business-most of the time. We are introduced to Mama Metcalf, an elderly volunteer who is quick to adopt Emily and her daughter as almost surrogate family.
As we manoeuvre these dark and wounded halls, we see people doing their best to cope with the nightmare that is this virus as well as the protesters outside and the mostly hidden pain in their own lives. And this is well before the introduction of Robby, a young boy who was infected in a horrific manner and left on the hospice steps like an unwanted pet. His arrival sets in motion a series of event s that will forever change those involved and even a few who aren't.
I've been a fan of both of these writers for a while. Gunnells is a writing machine, churning out more stories than anyone else I know and I greatly enjoyed the fact that he and Aaron harmonized so well here. Aaron is another writer I consider myself a fan of and while I feel I could detect some of his prose in here, overall it was seamless. This story wears its heart on its sleeve. It proudly offers tears and tragedy but in a weird and dark way hope. Yes, it involves the undead but in a fresh way, and not in the forefront. I implore you to give this one a chance. Pretend you have no idea what it's about and just go in. I'm fairly certain you'll be glad you did.
Where The Dead Go To Die is available from Crystal Lake Publishing.
Review by John Boden
James is a young boy working the summer at his father's hardware store. He's awkward and shy and totally has a crush on Amelia, the girl who comes in one day and leaves after accepting a date proposal from James.
The two decide their date will consist of canoeing across a lake, which is connected to another lake and then a secret third lake. The third is not the pristine and clear calm waters of the first pair. The waters of the third lake are darker, carry a strange stench...and harbor a house beneath their caul. After deciding to dive down and investigate, the two find themselves developing an obsession with the strange dwelling in the lake. They find that obsessions talons firmly gripping their blossoming relationship in a weird and wonderful way. As the weeks roll on and their visits increase in frequency, they come to realize maybe the house isn't empty after all. And also that they've got a little more inside of them that they did before discovering it.
Malerman smacked us all across the face with his debut novel, Bird Box. A strange and brooding novel of isolation and fear and blindness. This short novella has more in common with the work of Neil Gaiman and the voice is rich and honest in its assurance. We feel these kids, their giddiness and almost unwieldy feelings for one another and then later for the house. We swim down through the murky depths and then dive with them into the waters of the lake and do it again.
A House At the Bottom Of A Lake is available from This Is Horror Press.
Review by Kayleigh Marie Edwards
I approached ‘The Terminal’ as an Amber Fallon virgin – this story is my first experience of her work, and what a jolly good time I had! For those who hate spoilers, turn back now, for there will be a few scattered throughout this review.
So this is the story of a dude who finds that his entire world crumbles around him at an airport terminal. Strange and disastrous things start to happen, and it quickly becomes clear that this is some sort of apocalyptic, alien invasion. After witnessing the death of the love of his life, he manages to evade death himself and begins his survival mission.
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.