Ginger Nuts of Horror
First up, it’s important to note this is emphatically part 3 of a trilogy. I cannot emphasise enough how little you’ll get the full impact of this story if you jump on here. Luckily, parts 1 and 2 are also available, and they are awesome. So if you haven't’ yet, go check them out.
To the rest of you, welcome. It’s been a long time coming.
I guess the main order of business is, does Graeme Reynolds stick the landing on this epic story of bloody violence and lycanthropy? And the short answer is, hell yes, he does.
For starters, there’s the sheer scale of this volume. Book one in the series was essentially a coming of age story, albeit with werewolves and all the bloody mayhem that implies. Book two built off that narrative into a complex pursuit/chase story with huge emotional stakes. And Warewolves. In the final part, Reynolds expands the scale massively, taking in an international campaign, whilst still preserving the intense character work that has typified the series so far.
In some ways, it’s a tough one to review - the plotting remains as tight and intricate as we’ve some to expect, perhaps even more so. At the same time ,the scale has dramatically increased, leading to some action horror set pieces that I found utterly breathtaking. But it’s hard to talk about too much without giving anything away, and I really don’t want to give anything away, because so much of the joy comes from the many, many twists and turns. What I will say is that Reynolds has pulled out all the stops for this final installment, and on every level - plot, characterisation, prose, pace - he’s never been better. This is a grand and fitting finale to what has been an extraordinary journey, and I was left thoroughly satisfied, if slightly mournful at the notion that my time with the characters of High Moor is done. I guess that’s what re-reads are for…
Chris Barnes returns as narrator for the final part and, like Reynolds, Barnes has also upped his not inconsiderable game. His pacing and delivery are beat perfect, and his characterisation confident and assured. Barnes instinctively understands the cadences and rhythms of Reynolds prose, and he deploys that understanding with a light, deft touch, to maximum effect. He clearly relishes the challenges that the broader canvas and wider cast of characters presents, and in the process demonstrates just why he is becoming such a sought after narrator. It’s superb work, and for my money cements Barnes’ reputation as an incredible voice talent that the indie horror community is very lucky to have.
Overall, I found the High Moor 3 audiobook to be a compelling, exciting, and moving experience, and I really cannot recommend this trilogy of audio books highly enough.
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Somebody wants answers.
North Devon, England. 1995. A born-again revival meeting in a public building. The usual mix of the faithful, the curious, and the desperate. And one other – an atheist suicide bomber. He's angry. He wants answers. And if God doesn't come and talk to him personally, he's going to kill everyone in the building...
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Simone is a good looking man who lives in the Welsh town of Porthcawl and has a dark past and even darker secrets he hides every day. As a boy, he was raised by his single mother and would occasionally be left in the care of his older sister – a sister who would sexually abuse him at every opportunity.
Since childhood, Simone has had an odd group of friends, whom he refers to as his “crew.” The crew is a group of toys that include a clown and G.I. Joe figurine, and he hears each of their voices in his head. As he talks to his toys and they talk back to him, you instantly know there is something very wrong with Simone.
At the beginning of the story, Simone calls a local Samaritan hotline and gets in touch with Toni, a university student who works at the centre part time and one who looks forward to each subsequent call from Simone as he tells her all about his childhood and his Mistress, Chaos. With each call, Toni becomes more infatuated with Simone and her infatuation leads to her giving him her mobile phone number so they can talk when she's not at work. Eventually the two decide to meet.
I'm not going to give away any more major plot points because if you are an extreme horror fan, you need to dive into the complexities of each character and experience story itself. However, I will warn you that many parts of this story are difficult to read. We get detailed descriptions of the sexual abuse Simone is subjected to as a boy, and Chaos is not a pleasant person when it comes to what she does to her “slave,” Simone. As the story progresses, it becomes more violent, disturbing, and gory, all the way up to its shocking conclusion. These things, blood, uncomfortable sexual situations, and violence are all right up my street, but some may find them a bit too much. If you're easily shocked or offended, steer clear of Wind-Up Toy.
This is my second book by this author and although I wasn't a huge fan after the first one, Wind-Up Toy effectively captured my attention and held it with its brilliant character development and vivid descriptions that made me feel like I was there, watching the action unfold. The writing and dialogue are a little clunky in spots, but the story drew me in and I couldn't stop reading until I found out Simone and Toni's fate. I was impressed with how each piece of the story eventually came together to paint a horrifying picture of how and why Simone ended up like he did and why he makes the choices he makes. Wind-Up Toy bounces around a bit from Simone's childhood to the present, but the author did a great job of making the story flow well and never once did I confuse the past and present.
Overall, I think this is a great entry into the world of extreme horror and the more Hughes writes, the better he gets. I look forward to seeing what else his warped imagination comes up with.
This is a book of extreme horror. Please do not purchase if you are easily shocked or offended.
After ten years of marriage, Mike and Emilia's relationship falls apart after Emilia admits to having an affair - an affair with a man who gave her HIV. Once Mike finds out what she's done, he will go to any length to ensure she dies a slow, painful death, just like the one he's sure his wife has sentenced him to.
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So we’re back again in Cesare country, and this time we’re taking on Exponential, a novel that pays heartfelt tribute to the creature feature genre of horror movie, albeit with some nods to the literary tradition too.
For example, one of the really fun aspects of Exponential in the early chapters is what I think of as the ‘James Herbert’ structure (he may not have invented it, but The Rats is the first time I remember coming across it). This is where, roughly speaking, you are introduced to a new character at the start of each chapter, and either they make it to the end of that chapter… or they die, gruesomely. The pattern, typically, is not quite alternating, so you can never get 100% comfortable, but nonetheless, it allows the story to fall into a certain rhythm, and of course such an approach all but guarantees drama and good clean gruesome fun.
Please don’t misinterpret this highlighting of formula as a criticism, however. It’s a classic for a reason - it’s efficient, keeps the scares coming, and it’s fun to read. It also plays to Cesare’s formidable strengths, especially in the areas of quick characterisation. The author has what I’m starting to appreciate is a rare gift at sketching a character so effectively that within a few hundred words, you feel as though you know them. He’s so good at doing this, in fact, that any of the people you meet are plausible lead characters in their own right, making the will-they/won’t-they-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-chapter game really fun.
Fun too is the creature itself - as the title implies, something that eats and grows and eats some more. Cesare’s description of this process is glorious and gleeful, and I found it to be one of the highlights of the book - again, it builds on existing traditions in the genre, but the specifics felt original, to me.
Somewhere just before the halfway point, events pivot, and from there the rest of the story plays out in a different mode entirely. I have to admit to finding the pacing change a little jarring at first, alongside the subtle genre shift (or maybe sub-genre shift). That said, Cesare can write claustrophobic character work just as well as the more freewheeling sections - which is to say, very well indeed - and when the action does start to ramp up, it’s suitably impressive - Cesare takes full advantage of the unlimited effects budget that a novel enjoys, without ever losing sight of the characters that drive the narrative.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Exponential. It wasn’t my favourite of Cesare’s work - that’s still a toss up between Tribesmen and The Summer Job, right now - and as I said, that mid-book shift in tone just didn’t quite land for me. That said, there’s still an awful lot to enjoy here, from memorable, vibrant characters, to exciting horror action set pieces and a genuinely original monster. If creature feature novels are your bag, I predict you’ll find this one to be a really enjoyable ride.
Can anything stop a creature that won't stop growing? Sam Taylor just wants a friend. Is that too much to ask? His only mistake is finding that friend in Felix, a lab mouse that Sam rescues from the top-secret facility where he works as a janitor. Shortly after his rescue, the mouse begins to change, to swell. There's something new growing underneath Felix's fur. Growing very fast. Holed up in a roadside bar, four survivors-a woman who's lost everything, her drug dealer, a tribal police officer, and a professional gambler-are all that stand between the rampaging beast and the city of Las Vegas. But as the monster keeps growing-and eating-how long until it's able to topple the walls protecting them?
Music has charms to soothe the Savage Breast
As I sit here contemplating how to start this review, the music is on and already my neurons are firing off with a multitude of thoughts, images and ideas. That’s the beauty of music I guess, that magical ability to influence, inspire and shape what you hear, think, feel or see. Doesn’t matter what the genre, the artist or the song, everyone interprets what they hear differently. Which in the case of Savage Beasts, the music inspired anthology from Grey Matter Press, makes for a fantastic delve into the dark and twisted imaginations of eleven talented writers of horror and dark fiction.
You know the movie Smokey And The Bandit? Reading Sam W. Anderson's The Nines is like remembering it but instead of Jerry Reed as the Snowman, replace him with a middle-aged, steroid-abusing, muscle-bound beast named Artimus. Instead of humping a trailer full of Coors across the state line, he's ferrying a much more sinister cargo on a stretch of American highway known simply as The Nines. This is the arterial thoroughfare of the country, all the bad shit, the stuff that is everywhere but no one seems to know how it got there...this is how it gets there.
Artimus just hauls and drops, no questions asked. His "Bandit" is a the less-than-sane Baily. She's stern and all-business and she talks the her hand. This book starts out with our man Artimus about to embark on what should be just another run. But his twin brother, Henry has another idea. See, Sheriff Henry has an addiction to meth and Asian porn...and he likes to be naked. Sheriff Henry is feeling real bad about leaving his woman and daughter in Vietnam after the war. So he's decided that doing the right thing for once might just cause all the dominoes to fall in a line and put him of the path to happiness and a good life. Boy, is he wrong.
The Nines is every bit as enjoyable as Anderson's American Gomorrah omnibus. I love the dark and gritty noir and the hyper-fucked up characters that weave the fabric of his work. The one's mentioned above along with Sister Dazy, the nun who could drink the late Oliver Reed off his stool and have no problem blowing him at the same time. David Howard the film-obsessed young man with the mail-order bride and the sinister agenda. The burn-scarred Deputy Bear and Deacon Rice (one of the most vile villains in modern fiction) help carry the load of this twisty turny story. It's equal parts Lansdale and Coen Brothers on the set of Movin' On. It's the great green gobs of greasy grimy guts that America keeps in it's ever-puffed out chest.
The Nines is fast-paced and fun. The populace so deeply flawed and fractured yet inherently human and funny all at the same time. I enjoyed the ride. And what a ride it is.
The Nines is available from Rothcopress.
Normally non fiction and in particular tomes dedicated to one subject have normally bored me to death, I have problems with keeping focused on one topic at a time. To that I have never really been a fan of books that look at and dissect films, however having said that, after reading Jez Conolly and David Owain Bates excellent entry in the Devil's Advocates series of books that look at classic horror films, I am now a convert.
Dead of Night was one of those films that if you asked me I couldn't tell you if I had watched it or not from the title alone. It was released a mere matter of days after the end of World War II. It was the prototype portmanteau horror film and featured some of the finest directors and writers to work in British films.
For those of you who don't know, in Dead of Night, architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) arrives at a country house party where he reveals to the assembled guests that he has seen them all in a dream. He appears to have no prior personal knowledge of them but he is able to predict spontaneous events in the house before they unfold. The other guests attempt to test Craig's foresight, while entertaining each other with various tales of uncanny or supernatural events that they experienced or were told about. These include a racing car driver's premonition of a fatal bus crash; a light-hearted tale of two obsessed golfers, one of whom becomes haunted by the other's ghost (cut from the initial USA release); a ghostly encounter during a children's Christmas party (another tale cut from the initial USA release); a haunted antique mirror; and the story of an unbalanced ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) who believes his amoral dummy is truly alive. The framing story is then capped by a twist ending.
This really is an archetypal film (not least that it has an architect in it) and Conolly and Bates have honoured the importance of this film with with a beautifully researched, passionately presented and captivating read that delves into the darkest corners of British film making to present a book that never fails to be entertaining.
Before delving into the film proper, they set the scene wonderfully with a "road map" to the film which sets the scene by referencing some of the themes and plot devices used by the film and contextualising them postulative thoughts on the country at the time. It also gives us an informative history of the film and its relationship with film TV and DVD.
It then moves on into a fascinating detailed look at each of the stories, including the interlocking story that bookends the film. From reading this book it is clear that the writers have a huge love of not just this film, but of British filmmaking as a whole. The passion that they both share is evident in every single sentence of this book. It was a joy to read such a detailed and informative deconstruction of a film. This is an intelligent well researched book that looks past the basic plot of the film and shows us how this film tapped into the zeitgeist of the time. Unlike some books of this nature, the links to cultural themes never feel like they are clutching at straws for something to say, and end up being very enlightening. Dead of Night is a must read for all fans of supernatural cinema.
there is a woman guarding a great secret and he's supposed to kill her.
John C. Foster has delivered a truly unique thing with his novel, Dead Men. A severely dark and gritty supernatural noir mural, painted in broad strokes of blood and ash and fear, probably using a torn scalp for a brush. It's a feral book, skittish and baring teeth and probably disease in its frothing drool. A fistful of quarters connecting with your jaw is what Dead Men is.
John Smith wakes up after dying in the electric chair. Clad in a slit-back suit he is paired with another John Smith (nicknamed Alice) who is the British mirror image of himself. And a third John Smith who is the most fiendishly sketched psychopath I've read in a long time. John Smith I and Alice roar off in a black caddy looking for a girl, this is their mission. During which signals will get crossed and double crosses are common currency. They need to find and kill this woman, that was the order.
If only the mission ere that simple. When Smith slowly starts to assemble the chunky pieces of his memory and realize what kind of mess he's been placed into, that is when the book really catches. The sizzle of the fuse you've been holding pops and crackles into a full blown flame, chugging its way to the keg of powder that promises to be the follow up. Wait? Did I neglect to tell you this is only the first of a series. I'm sorry.
Dead Men: Libros De Inferno/Book One. The writing is razor sharp and scalpel thin. Held deftly between thumb and forefinger it creates clean wounds that sting and heal nicely. The language and imagery are shadow pitch on the sole of your boots as you walk the streets at Midnight. That dark. Foster is a force to be reckoned with, a voice to be listening to and a writer to be reading.
I mean it.
Dead Men is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.
And from Amazon UK
They Say Karma is a bitch,
13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough, or a lot of school girls do nasty things to each other all in the name of popularity, might seems like the stuff of Sunday afternoon movie fare on Channel 5, a means girls for the damp and dreary UK, however 13 Minutes is so much more than that. It is a deeply layered book that keeps the readers second guessing the truth of the mystery, while at the same time giving us a brutally honest and sometimes bleak look into the hearts and mind of a modern teenage girl.
A recent Facebook conversation reminded me that I never got around to reviewing Splatterpunk #7, which is borderline unforgivable. So let’s get to it, shall we?
The Chomper by Kristopher Rufty - A nifty little tale of that perfect suburban location, and the lengths a couple is willing to go to keep it. I really enjoyed the tension between the husband and wife in this, and I couldn’t quite see how the story was going to pan out, which was gratifying.
Awakening by Jeff Strand - My flash fiction piece of 2015. Gross, twisted, and hilarious, all at once, it’s worth the cover price for this one alone. Seriously, note perfect. The dialogue is a special triumph. Like if Douglas Adams did splatterpunk horror comedy. Gold.
Pas de Deux by Garrett Cook - Yeah, this one is twisted. An exploration of a relationship that goes way beyond the bounds of S&M play, I found this one compelling and repellent in equal measure. Genuinely dark, intelligently written. Haunting, and pulls no punches.
Readings off the Charts by Adam Cesare - Someday, this cat will write a bad story, Today is not that day. Cesare’s grasp of character, ability to sketch relationships and a sense of place are as keen as ever here, and he recreates well the horror movie experience of wanting to yell at the protagonist to NOT DO THE THING, even as we’re unsure what, exactly, it is about doing the thing that will turn out to be bad. This story will be included in ‘Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Vol.1’ edited by Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax. The economy of the story telling, always a Cesare strength, is especially at the fore here. Cracking conclusion to the Zine.
Chuck in a spirited defence of Eli Roth by no less a legend than Jeff Burk,and the usual round up of horror fiction reviews, and it’s another superb outing from editor Jack Bantry. Splatterpunk is 100% the real deal, and if seedy-but-brilliantly-written hardcore horror is your pleasure, guilty or otherwise, I’d say this zine is essential reading.
Purchase a copy here
the Village Witch will unleash almost four hundred years of resentment, hatred and homicidal rage on the town.