Ginger Nuts of Horror
Published as part of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing’s One-Night Stands series of digital chapbooks, we have Anthony Cowin’s The Brittle Birds, the tale of Mathieu, who lies sickly in bed while being terrorised by the tiny malevolent creatures of the title. He flits between the present and memory as these microscopic flocks of countless creatures peck, scratch and burrow their way towards him, causing dissolution in everything they touch…
Cowin has created a very interesting concept here, the idea that all illness and decay is caused by The Brittle Birds, a metaphor (or, in the context of the story, entirely real) for entropy, disease and death. As Mathieu lies helpless in respite, he falls back into memories of first contact with these creatures (real or no, it stems from a childhood prank played on him by his brother, Dominic, which results in injury). There is also the mysterious figure of Hohokw, some kind of bird-related deity or harbinger, who proceeds to injure Mathieu’s eye, allowing the first of the Brittle Birds to take up residence. From this moment, Mathieu is haunted by these creatures, seeing them in every incidence of damage, in each bout of illness – they are the world’s decay.
Cowin's prose is effusive and fulsome, almost overwhelmingly so at first and I did find it a slight barrier in the first few paragraphs. But to me, reading (and writing) is about challenging yourself and once I found the flow of the story, it rattled along fine. Each sentence is carefully crafted and filled with delightful word and meanings. It serves as a (necessary) distraction from the stark reality (or otherwise) of the central creation and its inherent horror. You are delighted with the wonderful words and it's only seconds later that the true meaning clicks in. This is sustained right to the very end of the story, which is apocalyptic, melancholic and heartfelt in equal measure.
Reviewed by Paul M. Feeny
Paul M. Feeney
Paul M. Feeney has been watching horror films since he was a young, impressionable boy and before the lunatic hysteria reached his parent's censorship. This transferred to the written word when he was sixteen and read his first Stephen King book. He hasn't looked back since (except to check over his shoulder that there aren't any monsters following...).
The past few years have seen him turn his hand to the writing of his own fiction, in the arena of horror and the supernatural. He expects to be published soon, wit fame and riches following soon after...
This has to be one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.
Dr Bond, a doctor in Victorian England, is asked by the police to look into the Jack the Ripper killings. As more bodies appear on the streets of London, it becomes clear to Bond that there are two murders at work and that, as horrific as Jack may be, the Thames Torso Killer is far worse. With some unlikely and unexpected allies, he sets out to track down the killer to protect not only London but also the people he loves. Throw in a growing opium habit and some supernatural shenanigans, and you have yourself one hell of a read.
Timing is a wonderful thing, some of us have it and some of us don't. It can turn a funny joke into a hilarious one, it can also add an extra depth and poignancy to a great book.
Every once in while an author will show great timing by releasing a book that taps into the current zeitgeist, whether intentionally or unintentionally when this happens it cannot fail to add an extra layer of depth to the book.
OK I might be stretching the horror remit of this website a little bit in reviewing this rather splendid little children’s book, but here goes.
This charming tale of a little mouse, who after reading only the first part of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein decides to create a friend made out of socks and buttons. Silly little mouse she should have read the whole book, she would realised that the book ended in tragedy. And so her creation Doodeedoo is formed, and much like the source material he initially feels lost and alone, well wouldn't you if you were made out of socks and buttons, especially as it is not made clear if they are clean or not. Imagine going through life smelling of dirty socks.
This being a children’s book don't go into it expecting lots of death and chucking of kids into lakes, of course all is made well and Doodeedoo finds peace with himself and makes a friend for life.
Told in rhyme Doodeedoo is lovely little tale that will keep your young ones entertained. Lovingly Illustrated throughout this is a perfect bedtime read. If you want to make the book even more special then do what I did and go for the audiobook version of it, narrated by Chris Barnes. Chris has one of those made for TV Scottish voices, imagine that bloke for Coast crossed with Ewan Mcgregor. His narration adds a lovely lilt to an already lovely story.
THE SPECIMEN BY PETE KAHLE
Debut novels are always an interesting subject matter for a reviewer, it's almost like finding a kitten trying to hunt for the first time, it knows how to do it, but it just needs a bit of refining. Which is pretty much the case with Pete Kahle's debut novel. This doorstep of a novel is a satisfying and accomplished read, however it could have done with being reigned in bit. The sheer scale and scope of this novel prevents it from being a fantastic read. Nevertheless it's still a good read, that clearly shows that Kahle has potential for great things.
The last 18 months or so has seen an explosion in the number of short story anthologies and collections. It feels as though every man and his dog are throwing a bone in the arena. A lot of these books are generally rather poor when it comes to the quality of not only the stories but in the quality and care taken with the production of the book. Thankfully there are still pedigree editors and publishers out there capable of winning best in breed.
Mark Morris and Spectral Press have teamed up to bring us The Spectral Book of Horror Stories. Featuring a line up of authors that almost beggars belief, this should be one of the anthologies of the year....
I bought this book at a convention because it caught my eye and I’d got chatting to the author. As a kid, I loved reading books about local legends and folklore then retelling them to my friends at sleepovers or on the dull bus journey to school. The title and cover appealed to this nostalgic part of me.
This is a great book, if you come at it from the correct angle. I wasn’t sure what to expect and at first was a little disappointed by the level and style of writing. Reading the first couple of stories, it felt rather plain and lacking in verve, particularly if you compare it against the stories in the Mammoth series of anthologies, one of which I’d just finished reading. The imagery in Campfire Chillers is not grand and the prose is remarkably uncomplicated.
The Exiled by William Meikle starts of as a gruesome crime story centered around the disappearance of several young girls from in and around Edinburgh. The only thing that links these mysterious disappearances is the mutilated corpses of black swans. Leading the investigation is police detective John Granger who, when following his reporter brother to a farmhouse that may hold hold the answer to the abductions. There he discovers that the answer to these crimes is something beyond the scope of human reasoning, something far more dangerous than anyone could have imagined.
When I bought this book, I had recently read an excellent short story in Black Static about a group of people hunting something nasty in the woods. With my tastes whetted, I eagerly downloaded this book as the synopsis seemed to paint it along the same lines. Although I enjoyed reading it, I didn’t finish this book and I’m not sure I’d pick it up again, even for closure.
The writing is visceral. The atmosphere is set from the first scene with the traditional death of the hapless wanderer in the woods. Dunbar’s writing drew me in to such an extent that I could almost feel the heat of the humid air on my face and in my lungs. I read on with morbid glee as the victim was hunted down, and then I was completely put off by the sexual overtones of the kill. It wasn’t blatant or excessive, but it was clear and it made me uncomfortable.
Still, I read on. In particular, I applauded Dunbar’s choice of disabled heroine. He never lets the reader forget her disability, yet his focus is always on how her disability has forced her to confront unpleasant truths throughout her life, which has equipped her for dealing with this new, nasty threat. While her disability makes her the most physically vulnerable character, she is clearly the mentally strongest one, and a true heroine. That said, I could have done with her being a little less self-pitying in her quieter moments!
The mother-son relationship in this novel is also non-traditional and a refreshing change from the mawkish sentimentality you sometimes get in horror novels. To stop you losing all sympathy with the mother, there is a blossoming romantic relationship between her and the ostensible hero which shows her softer side.
There are plenty of killings, all of which are suitably gruesome, if you like that sort of thing. Dunbar keeps you guessing about the creature’s true nature until the big reveal and then, I must confess, I put the book down. The creature and its killings drove the book and, while the characters and their relationships are interesting, I really didn’t connect with any them beyond wanting to know that they had dealt with the threat and were safe.
Throughout the book, Dunbar’s description of the Pines is gloriously oppressive, a perfect environment for the murders. If you enjoyed the gruesome aspects of novels such as the High Moor trilogy, check out this book. A good read, but not one for delicate stomachs or for those who are sensitive when it comes to adding sexual elements to murders.
Charlotte has had several short stories published in various formats from print to electronic and even audio. She has a novella out with Screaming Dreams publications, and a short story anthology due out this year. She is currently working on a novel and some radio productions.
Charlotte is thrilled to join the Ginger Nuts of Horror team, and is looking forward to indulging in two of her favourite things - reading new books and spouting opinions.
Originally from North Yorkshire, Charlotte now lives in Leeds and that's as far south as she's prepared to go. She is married and lives with a small child and a very fluffy cat. One of them is a small bundle of hurricane-level energy which tears up everything it passes; the other leaves hairballs wherever it sits. It is left up to the reader to decide which is which.
This is an outstandingly fun little book. It’s one of a series of anthologies, each focussing on a different area of England. I read this while on holiday in the Lakes and I got a delicious thrill from reading about places I’d been or was planning to visit.
For the opening tale, Adam Nevill’s writing is vivid and terrifying. Yet while I enjoyed his story, it didn’t leave me with the lasting unease that some of the others did. I believe I can attribute this to the fact that it was not focussed on a particular place that I could identify on a map, and so was too easy to distance yourself from once you’d put the book down (although it scares the hell out of you the minute you start reading it again).