Ginger Nuts of Horror
Those of you who know their genre history will know who Professor Challenger is. Those of you who don't shame on you. Professor Challenger is the creation of the master of story telling Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not as well known perhaps as his fictional brother Sherlock, but to this reviewer he was by far my favourite. When I heard that this character was going to be brought back from the literary graveyard, I could have banged by head against a wall in despair, however, when the name of William Meikle was attached to the project my forehead was sparred a bashing.
How better to start a story but with talk about mysterious lights over an English moor, and a letter from Professor Challenger summoning his associate Mallone to investigate. The investigation soon leads to a research station in the Bristol Channel, where our heroes will face a ravenous terror from a time before man.
Regular readers to this blog will know all too well about my sheer joyous love for the works of William Meikle, a love that has out lived the very book store where I bought my first ever Meikle book. You see Willie write books I want to read, no need to read. These are the sort of books that will bring a big cheesy grin to your face. And this one is no exception. Willlie's lean writing style, strips away any superfluous prose, to throw the reader into a non-stop, action packed and glorious Saturday Morning matinee style romp, that will not fail to entertain.
This may well be a highly entertaining story, but for this story to really work, it has to stand up to being a Professor Challenger novel, otherwise there is no point in it being marketed as one. Rest assured folks Willie does a grand job in capturing the essence and spirit of what made these books a favourite of mine. If ever there was a character that Meikle was destined to resurrect then I think Professor Challenger is it.
It is always a good idea when launching a new imprint to ensure the lead publication sets the bar for all future releases, and judging by the quality of this novella, the bar has been set extremely high.
Eyepennies, tells the story of Mark, a musician, who after suffering a near death experience, is trying to piece his life back together. However hindering Mark's rehabilitation is his concern that he hasn't come back complete, he thinks something has been left behind.
With Mark, who is loosely based on a real life musician, O'Driscoll has painted a classic tragic, battered, bruised and rather unlikeable artist. The sparse and sometimes pared down to the bare bones of writing narrative works really in conveying the demons that Mark carries around in his head. The splintered way in which the story is told, with the narrative jumping between the past and the present, also helps to hold up a mirror to the splintered mind of Mark. O'Driscoll has really put a lot of effort into making Mark a truly hateful character, from his spiting the dummy out tirades as he tries to record new music, to the shocking way he treats his wife. However there is a scene, that shocked me to the core, a scene that involves a pet, personally I don't think this scene was needed, however I can sort of see why it was included in the story.
Like may of the great supernatural stories the reader is left wondering whether what you are reading is real or if it is just a figment of Mark's broken mind. This is a brilliant story that pushed me as a reader, as much with it's clever writing and beautiful prose as it did with some shocking scenes.
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It's the late 70s and Max and Little Billy are back from Vietnam trying to mind their own business when they stumble onto the murder of a local boy. With organized crime and local thugs on their trail, it's up to these two local heroes to solve the murder.
This is one of those books, that you pick up and and decide to give it a quick preliminary read, and suddenly you realise, that all those things you had planned on doing that day just aren't going to get done. In fact this book should come with a warning. "Blokes if the wife has left you a to do list, DO IT FIRST"
With Dead Dog, Cook has added a new entry into the rich compendium of brilliant, dark, twisted, but utterly loveable anti-heroes. The likes of Repairman Jack and Hap and Leonard, have a new brethren with Max and Little Billy.
There was a time when I wasn't really a fan of the short story. I know, I know I sound like a heathen. However in recent years I have slowly but surely changed my opinion, I now look forward to getting my hands on the latest anthology, don't get me wrong there is still a lot of poor anthologies out there, anthologies where both the production values and the stories held within fail to deliver. So how do you make sure you get a good anthology? Well for one, you can go back and read my reviews, or you could just pick up a book that has been edited, collected and published by an editor who knows their stuff. Johnny Mains is one of those editors, and with The Screaming Book of Horror Johnny has collected together one hell of an anthology. I don't know if it's my impending middle age, or the fact that world is due to go into Apocalypse mode just before my birthday in December, but, lately I have been talking a lot about books that take me back to that long forgotten time, where the only thing I had to worry about was where I was going to the money to pay for my next book. And Johnny's book is anther one of those books.
Some writers thrill me with their action packed all guns blazing horror. Some chill me to the bone with their dark and scary imaginations, and some authors dig their icy talons deep into my emotional cortex and tear it to pieces. Mark West is one of those authors, his stories have always struck an emotional chord with me, and this, the latest chapbook from Spectral Press is no exception.
At first this may seem like a simple tale of a man going back to his home town to lay the ghosts of his past to rest, but look behind the veil a little and you will see a story that is both rich in period and emotional detail. Those of you, who, like myself and Mark, whose formative years were in the late 70's and early 80's will instantly be transported back in time. You'll smell that favourite jumper drying on a clothes horse, you'll hear the faint sound of your favourite TV programme playing in the back ground of your mind, but most importantly your remember a time where it didn't seem as though there was danger lurking around the corner of your street.
However, where this story excels, is Mark's amazing talent at intertwining the stories narrative with an emotional depth and detail, that will stir the emotions of the reader. At no time does this ever feel mawkish, or forced. Mark West's writing has a heart and soul that many writers would kill for. And the finale of this story gets going the chill factor is raised to freezing point. Stories where the protagonist goes back to his childhood home are ten a penny, What Gets Left Behind, is a £100 note in a pocket of small change.
In 1981, Gaffney was terrorised by the Rainy Day Abductor.
Local girls went missing.
And two boys made a terrifying discovery.
Now one of them has come home, to try and lay the past to rest.
"Very strong writing and a nice evocation of time and place. West conjures the sense of a particular era with skill and the horrors he finds there are universal." Gary McMahon
26pg A5 print booklet with card covers, signed and numbered, 100 only – published September 2012.
Available from the publishers - Spectral Press, 5 Serjeants Green, Neath Hill, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK14 6HA, UK for £4 (plus 50p P+P) either through Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or cheque (made payable to ‘Simon Marshall-Jones’) to the address above. Subscriptions for 4 issues available for £16UK/£23.50EU/$45US/$45RoW – payment details as above.
I feel it is time for another real time review, and I can think of no better book to review than this collection of short stories from one of my favourite authors. Splinters is published by Timeline Books , the book is due to be published on 01 November 2012, in a strictly limited edition of 500 numbered and signed copies.
To whet your appetite, you can read one of the stories Gaolbreak from the above link.
If you go down to the woods today, the teddy bears picnic will be the least of your worries.
The forest has always been there, and the high hedge around it has stood since Roman times. No one remembers anymore why the hedge was built, and bit by bit, as houses and modern life advance, the ancient barrier is being torn down. Slowly, creatures that have been trapped within for centuries are creeping through the gaps in the wall, hungry for revenge for their long imprisonment. As murder and horror spread through the nearby town of Hedge End, a stranger arrives, eager to give the residents a May Day celebration they will never forget.
How time flies, it has been almost 4 years since I read Peter's debut novel Demon, in fact I can clearly remember reading it on Boxing Day 2008, in the bath, recovering from a rather hectic and hangover inducing Christmas day. Demon impressed me enough to put Peter on my must buy list. Now four years later we come to Hedge End.
Hedge End, is one of those books that I feel I was put on this earth to read. I love books that mix olde worlde legends and myths into a modern day setting, The sort of books that Masterton was writing in the 1980's and early 1990's, and like Christopher Golden's Beyond The Vale Novels.
In this book, the myths and legends of Medieval Europe are given centre stage to run amok in glorious style through the town of Hedge End. Some of them you will be familiar with, this is one of the reasons why this book works so well. In a genre swamped with vampires zombies etc. it is refreshing to read a book that deals with something other than the usual stale staples of the genre. The book is also helped by the fact that Peter knows how to to keep a reader interested in the story. With well rounded characters and a narrative that doesn't get bogged down with unneeded swathes of over complicated writing. This is the perfect sort of book to read by an open fire with a cup of steaming hot chocolate, by your side. You will be hooked right from the start with the splendiferous initial death scene. By the time you have finished reading this excellent book you will have developed an new found respect for the old Gods, sprites, and creatures of the forest.
Hedge End is a perfect read for the the Haunted Halloween season, highly recommended.
Not content with scaring me witless with his last novel, Ritual, a novel that still has me look over my shoulder, and jumping at every sudden noise, when I go for a walk in the woods.
Adam Nevill, has now decided to pile on the scares, chills and horror with his latest stunning masterpiece. And I don't say that lightly, Nevill, really is a master of the genre, he effortlessly combines bone chill scares, and atmospheric settings, with realistic dialogue, and above all characters, that aren't your typical cookie cutter protagonist. If you are looking for a book populated with handsome heroes and dazzling heroines, then you should look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for novels where the characters act real, characters that when faced with unnatural situations don't automatically turn into the muscled super hero beloved by many books, but actually act much like you and I would. The moan, bitch, argue amongst themselves and generally stumble there way to the books conclusion. It's these characteristics that makes his books special, well that and Nevill's ability to chill me to the very core of my being.
One of the best things about doing a horror fiction review blog is discovering new and talented authors. I'll admit it is getting harder and harder to find authors worth reading, as the signal to noise ratio is getting to the point where it's easier to tune in Tokyo. However there are some great new authors out there. When I say new, when I say new, I really mean new to me. Some of the authors listed below will not be new to a lot of you, and some of them I may well have read in the past as part of an anthology. However they get to make a entry on list list, as this is the year that their writing made me sit up and listen.