Ginger Nuts of Horror
" On the one hand, it’s a masterpiece of writing with its bleak setting empathetically mirroring the soullessness of the inhabitants and characters who grab you from the outset "
In trying to write a review for this book, I find myself torn in two, much like this novel. On the one hand, it’s a masterpiece of writing with its bleak setting empathetically mirroring the soullessness of the inhabitants and characters who grab you from the outset and won’t let go. On the other hand, it single-mindedly charts one man’s obsession with rape and manipulation.
I am perhaps making it out to be worse than it is. The crux of the story is that Lucky has an ability to sway the minds of those around him. Every woman he encounters desires him instantly and gives herself to him, but it’s not consensual since they are being brainwashed by his uncanny abilities – sometimes with fatal consequences. Holloway thus writes “consensual” sex scenes that still have the tang of rape to them. Lucky also influences men not to disagree with him and so garners his nickname as the man who gets away with it all. He is charismatic, deadly and an engaging character for any reader to follow.
But before reading this book, you should ask yourself the following questions. Do you have a problem with rape? Are you squeamish when it comes to beastiality? Can you stomach scenes of animal cruelty? If you answer yes to any of these, then elements of the book are not going to be for you.
If none of that stuff bothers you in fiction, then this book is definitely worth a read. At first, I put it down when I was disgusted by one character’s attitude to rape (interestingly, not Lucky’s), but I went back to it. I think that is probably a form of praise in itself: despite my dislike of the content, I enjoyed the writing sufficiently and cared enough about the characters to continue reading.
Holloway’s characters are valiant but flawed. Strangely, I found his strongest characters to be the ones on the periphery. Kenny, arguably the main protagonist, was one I couldn’t get on with. In fact, it was Kenny’s thoughts on the rape of his daughter which made me put the book down in the first place – an opinion which seemed to have even less merit when you learn of Kenny’s childhood experiences with Lucky in part two. I wonder if this throwaway comment might lose Holloway some readers who, unlike me, would not return to the novel. Personally, I would much rather have followed the story through the eyes of Kenny’s kids, Jenny and Jake. They seemed far stronger characters, more proactive while their father remained a reactive character only.
You may look at this list of flaws and think that this is a book to avoid, but that isn’t the case. If you go into it knowing what to expect, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the tale. It’s dark, evocative and doesn’t pull its punches. Lucky’s preaching that nature and the people need unifying is reflected throughout with the dry and barren lake and township that Holloway describes which matches perfectly the washed out citizens of Elton. Some of those inhabitants get swallowed up by their fate, and some of them rise above their surroundings and their nature to be unlikely heroes. Holloway’s writing keeps you guessing as to whether characters are going to be heroes or prey.
So while I would have given this book four, if not five, stars overall if I’d been rating it that way, instead I’d feel inclined to reduce that somewhat given the opinions and themes within the novel. That said, they’re very personal to me and won’t apply to everyone. So pick up a copy and give “Lucky’s Girl” a go; you may just love it.
High Moor is a complex, tightly plotted werewolf story, split between 1986 and the present day. The narrative follows a group of children living in the town of High Moor during what proves to be a very eventful summer, before pivoting to the here and now for the conclusion.
The children of High Moor are incredibly well realised – well rounded, pleasingly un-PC and just the right side of amoral. The dialogue between them crackles with authenticity, and the characters of the different children are swiftly drawn with great skill. I found myself very quickly getting to know and like these kids – they felt very real, very unsentimental. This drew me in immediately, and when bad things inevitably started to happen, I felt invested in the outcome.
It's always a tough thing to read and critique something written by a friend, or, at the very least, someone you know and like. I try to be as honest as possible while also bearing in mind the fact that the author might feel stung by any seemingly 'negative' comments. I'd temper this by saying that if the feedback is genuinely meant, the 'negative' comments should serve to highlight possible areas for improvement and in effect, make the author a 'better writer' (bearing in mind the subjective nature of much of this).
Those of you of a certain age will remember an era without widespread internet, hell some of you will remember an era where there was no internet. In those dark days we had to rely on things like zines to get our fix of horror news, reviews and fiction. Hand crafted magazines that conceived out of love and born out of a photocopiers. It's an era that has sadly all but gone, luckily for us though there are still folk like Jack Bantry and his rather special Splatterpunk to keep the flag flying.
When I was a young lad growing up in the 1980s (mid to late, specifically), it was a heady time. It seemed as though everyone was into all the same stuff, especially where films were concerned and we generally cared not a jot about genre labels (maybe they didn't exist back then...). Comedy, action, horror, drama, sci-fi, fantasy, cartoons, live-action and so on - all had equal footing in our minds (perhaps this was unique to growing up in the south of Ireland, I don't know). But I can't help feeling that I was affected most by a certain type of film - namely that which used analogue synthesizer music as its score. For some reason, films like this loom large in the landscape of my imagination - The Terminator, Blade Runner, Tron, Demons (yes, I got to see this as a pre-teen...), Firestarter, Near Dark, Dawn... and Day of The Dead - many, many films I love, with soundtracks by Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Goblin, Brad Fiedel and so on. But most prolific of all were the scores by one John Carpenter, composed for his own films. Films like Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China, Christine, Dark Star... (I appreciate most of you will know exactly who JC is, but on the odd chance that one or two don't...).
Short story collections are excellent mediums for a writer to demonstrate their capabilities; most of us cut our teeth on the format, experimenting with more focused and concise forms before expanding into more concerted and expansive works. There are various tricks and techniques one can use to lend such collections degrees of coherence; consistent themes or images; running threads or characters that turn up in each tale. Others take a more “scatter-shot” approach, shifting subject, tone and style from story to story; a means of demonstrating breadth as well as technical capacity.
Who doesn’t appreciate euthanasia with a side of vomit?
First and foremost, author Stephen Kozeniewski can write and write well. Readers who appreciate tightly crafted syntax embedded with carefully plotted literary devices (e.g. theme, symbolism, satire, etc.) really need to grab one of his stories.
I am constantly on the hunt for a truly terrifying ghost story and while I have come across some creepy stories, none has ever really terrified me. When I read the description for Wretched Walls, I thought that maybe, just maybe, this was the one.
Sick B*stards is the story of Father, Mother, Brother and Sister, a family who are seemingly the last survivors of a nuclear war. The family wakes up after the blast with no memory of each other or the situation leading up to their survival struggles. They don’t even remember their own names.
But all is not as it seems...
I always suffer from a slight panic attack in the preceding moments before opening the latest work from one of my favourite authors. Scared that the author has lost his writing talent, it is a very scary time, especially when the author in question has such a high standing. Nathan Ballingrud is one of the most exciting names to come into the horror in recent years his collection North American Lake Monsters stood head and shoulders above any other collection that I read last year. Could he keep this up for the latest release from This is Horror?