Ginger Nuts of Horror
Recently released by DarkFuse publishing in their ongoing series of limited signed and numbered novellas, we have this little entry from prolific powerhouse UK horror writer, Gary Fry. In this story we have Meg, who has moved to a countryside residence with her upwardly mobile husband, following the tragic stillborn death of their unplanned baby. At least to Meg, it seems a tragedy, whereas her husband Harry, appears to possibly favour this turn of events. While recuperating in a remote cliff-side house near Whitby (yes, that Whitby), Meg is beset by odd dreams, thoughts, paranoid suspicions about Harry, strange sounds and visions, and a growing obsession with a local abandoned mine...
Many authors are limited by style and genre, and when they write outside of their comfort zone the resulting book can feel like a letdown.
Regular readers of this website will be aware of how I feel about Mark West's writing. He is one of those rare breed of horror writers that is capable of wrapping up a horror story within a framework full of heart and soul. His stories have a deep emotional core that elevates them to a whole new level. So what happens when Mark decides to take his writing in a new direction.....
There are short story collections and then there are short story collections that break out of the confines of the short story to deliver a collection that brave, inventive and full of wondrous stories.
Autumn in the Abyss collects five stories from the mind of John Claude Smith that explore themes such as good and evil, balance in the universe, the extreme ends of humanity, all wrapped up under the gaze of cosmic horror. Autumn in the Abyss will make you think, and might make you look at our place in the grand scheme of things in a different way.
There was a time when an A-Z was a rather dull map and list of places to go. However thanks to books such as this and Phobopobia, the A-Z has transformed into a much more entertaining book. Within the pages of this tome are 26 tales featuring a catalog of mythical beasts and demons from such great authors as Barbie Wilde, Mark West, Adrian Chamberlin, Tim Dry, and Raven Dane. The Bestiarum Vocabulum, is a wonderful menagerie of tales that cannot fail but entertain you.
Water contrary to popular belief is not life, it is death, judging by the stories in this anthology. Dead Water is the fifth in a themed series of anthologies from Hersham Horror in what is fast becoming a must read set of books for all fans of horror.
Following in the footsteps of Stuart Young and Mark West, horror legends Maynard and Sims have edited this superb anthology based around the theme of water. Featuring Simon Bestwick, Alan Spencer, David Moody, Daniel S. Boucher and Maynard, Dead Water is one of those anthologies where every story hits the mark dead on.
Third in the series of novellas from Spectral Press sees something a little different from previous releases, yet is wholly in keeping with the atmosphere of the publisher.
It's 1971 and the famed actor, Peter Cushing, is still reeling from the recent death of his beloved wife Helen. He is all but become a recluse, receiving neither visitors nor offers of work and spends his days either in solitary misery in his house or wandering aimlessly around the town of Whitstable, where he and his wife had relocated in the vain hope that the sea air might help with her ailing health. It is on one of these sojourns that Cushing is approached by a young boy who tells him matter of factly that his mother's partner and future step-father is a vampire. What follows is Cushing's increasing involvement in the life of the boy, Carl, and his tormentor, who may be human but an all too real 'monster'... It is also a ghost story, albeit one in which the ghost lives on in memory.
King's latest novel seems, at first look, to veer off into previously uncharted territory for the prolific author. It concerns retired police detective, Bill Hodges, who spends his free time sitting in front of trashy TV shows and idly contemplating what it would be like to put his father's pistol in his mouth and pull the trigger. He is on a downward slope, not least because he is still haunted by the cases that were ongoing or never solved when he retired. The worst of these cases concerns a Mercedes car driven by an unknown assailant into a crowd of people waiting in line at a job fair. It resulted in eight dead and many more injured. The murderer was never caught. Hodges gets a chance and a new lease of purpose when a letter is put through his door claiming to be the Mercedes Killer...
"Children do that to a man. Good men are always affected by their children. Bad men infect their children" - Nathan Robinson
Some books despite their genre of choice have a power to affect the reader in a profound and deeply moving manner. These are the sort of books you pick up, with expectations of a straightforward narrative where the good guy faces the bad guy and the good guy wins through and saves the day.
This is Elliot's story of loss. Twenty years ago his son disappeared from their back garden, an event which unsurprisingly changed his life forever. For twenty years he has lived his life as a tortured ghost, barely living he has haunted the areas around their town hunting for clues that could reveal what happened to his son. Barely tethered to our plane of existence he is a true hollow man.
Set twenty years after his son vanished, Elliot has now become a drifter in a motorhome scouring the country with posters of what his son might look like now. He has lost everything except the hope of finding his son. A chance encounter in a roadside diner suddenly changes everything for Elliot. Is this the night where his quest finally comes to an end, will it lead to redemption or something much, much worse?
On the surface this books sounds like a typical thriller, the sort of book where you expect a tight action packed narrative where the hero wins through in the end. You certainly don't expect to be put through an emotional wringer. You certainly don't expect to be so touched by the protagonist's plight that you have to put the book down while reading it on the bus for fear of having the other passengers seeing a big grown man with tears in his eyes.
This is a powerful story, after setting the scene in the diner, Nathan Robinson takes us back twenty years to the point where Elliott's son disappeared. He then takes us on a deeply emotional journey of loss, despair and the breakdown of marriage. The writing here is first class, with a real power to move the reader, that comes not from gushy overly sentimental manipulative prose. Rather the emotional core comes for a skillful use of an almost matter of fact style prose, that strips the story right down to the exposed nerves. A great example of this is when Elliot encounters one of his son's school friends at an assembly at the school. Robinson's description of this meeting, and especially the final act of the girl will have you straining to keep the tears back.
After the reader follows Elliot's through his bleak and barren journey to the roadside diner, the narrative style shifts into one of filled with knife edged tension. With the horror of losing a child being replaced with the horror of facing an enemy that you once thought to be the stuff of pure fantasy.
There is always a danger that integrating this sort ending onto a completely tonally different first act feels forced and out of place. Robinson cleverly gets around this by dropping little hints and clues during the first act. For example the mention of a mysterious van, and mentions of other missing people. So when this twist in the narrative is revealed it doesn't feel forced or false. Yes the chance of Elliot encountering what he encounters is a million to one, but hey if it wasn't for million to one chances there would never be any great horror books written.
Ketchup on Everything, is a brilliant novella, tense, emotional and utterly satisfying this is one of those stories that will leave a mark on your emotional core.
"His life should have ours to lose, not yours to gain. You're a misery thief. You stole my grief "
For the past twenty years, Elliott Tather has been living a life of mourning that almost destroyed him. After losing everything he held dear and bound by a consuming sorrow, Tather travels the country attempting to fix a wrong that haunts his every waking and dreaming moment. But one evening after pulling into a roadside diner to settle down with a simple cup of coffee, the door opens and everything changes. The nothing he had, and the regret that filled it will never be the same again. Whatever you do, make sure you order Ketchup on Everything. From the author of ‘Starers’ and the short story collection ‘Devil Let Me Go’ comes a troubling, heart wrenching tale of despair, loss and what might come afterwards.
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When you read as much as I do you begin to notice new trends forming, some of them you run away from and some of them you embrace. The Feast of Saint Anne is hopefully part of a new trend of linked novellas that form one whole novel. I like the idea four self contained yet interlinked stories working off each other to form a satisfying complete book.
"Welcome back to the village of Wyvern Falls...here along the Hudson in that sleepy region with the witching influence in the air" exclaims the blurb from the back cover. These sort of opening lines are like comfy cushions on my favourite reading chair, there is something about a series of books set in special location that calls to me. Even before opening a book these sort of phrases help to calm me down, they make me feel as though I am entering a world full of wonder and awe, where the possibilities for adventure are limitless.
Horror while being a genre that is in a constant state of innovation, is also a genre that likes its staples. Just go and check the shelves, you will find numerous zombie novels, and numerous vampire books. You will also find what is probably the Granddaddy of all horror staples, the Haunted House story. When you consider the heritage and the vast period of time that these books have occupied a space on your dusty bookshelf it is surprising that these books still have the power to unsettle a reader. Perhaps it is because they deal with a real fear. Our home is our castle, and the fear of it being invaded by either natural or supernatural forces is one that sits deep down in everyone’s subconscious. You may not be aware of it but this fear is there in all of us, and when a book or a film manages to tap in that fear, and elicit an icy chill that rises in the pit of your stomach, then you know you are onto a winner.