by Charlotte Bond
This story isn’t very long, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s short, punchy and brutal when required. Its impact on me might be explained by the fact I’d just finished a gentle, thoughtful book; this novelette couldn’t be more different.
We start in the basement of an unknown man who is creating the most unique range of dolls, ones which have human hearts placed in them. This book launches us straight in at the deep end, the author cleverly crafting a very creepy introduction to our main character and his “hobby”. The intersperced speech of an unknown speaker – living victim? Ghost? – adds to the tense atmosphere.
The author limits his cast to just a few characters, meaning that even in the short space of 56 pages, I was totally invested in the characters. I thought that Daniel, a father of a past victim, was the most interesting. It is pretty obvious from the beginning who is the serial killer, but Couper writes deftly so that you enjoy the dramatic irony rather than feeling it’s a predictable story.
The pacing is good and doesn’t let up. The twist at the end I saw coming, but that was because the author foreshadowed it carefully and I still enjoyed watching it unfurl.
If there are flaws in this book, then they lie in the details. Having read several books on serial killer methods, I can’t see a successful killer taking his next victim in broad daylight from the school gates by injecting them with an incapacitating drug. Too risky, too exposed; a much better approach for this character would have been that of Ted Bundy, to lure the victim into helping him with something into his van, then going from there. In addition, given the final twist, I felt that Olivia’s relationship with Kim didn’t strike quite the right note. But these are minor flaws in an otherwise brilliant little book.
At only 56 pages, this is the perfect little book for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Go treat yourself!
Olivia Richmond is a young widow. She hasn't had much success in love since the death of her husband, however she has been finding herself attracted to Lowell Thomson. When he asks her out on a date, she is delighted.
Daniel Farrington's life was destroyed when his daughter disappeared. He thinks Lowell is the one responsible. He suspects Lowell has taken a number of young girls over the years. No one will believe him.
When Daniel discovers Lowell is seeing Olivia and that Olivia has a daughter, he sets out save the girl and her mother.
The post-apocalyptic novel has always been a firm staple of the genre, and with the way things are going in the world today, it seems as though they may soon be transitioning from fiction to "How To" status.
However, as a genre, it is a hard one to get right, let alone rise above swathes of Mad Maxes, and Randal Flagg clones all jostling to get centre stage. It is a genre that probably suffers more from the long shadows of its past than any other. Yes the vampire genre has the likes of Dracula and Vampire Lestat, and zombie genre has The Rising and Autumn looking over it, but the post-apocalyptic horror genre always seems to be living in the stark stare of The Stand and Swan Song.
It is a hard place to be, but when a debut novel makes you sit up and take notice, and shed your preconceptions of the genre, that's when you know you are on to a good thing.
Defender by G.X Todd is one such book....
REVIEWED BY TONY JONES
“The annihilation of mankind is but a heartbeat away”
It is most definitely odd to be reviewing a novel which even though it was only published by Subterranean Press in 2015, is already incredibly difficult to locate. Unless you are fortunate enough to snag the odd copy on Ebay or have the resources to pay the current Amazon UK price tag ranging from £83 to £476 that is what it costs to read this book. But why is there such a hefty sum to read Robert McCammon’s rather excellent “The Border”? I did a little digging…. Subterranean Press only produced a single hardback edition, one pressing only, with no prospect of a second. There is, for an unknown reason, no future prospect of a paperback edition. However, if you live in America, you can pick the novel up on ebook. That’s it, folks….
Something of a litmus test, this one: following in the wake of disillusionment cast by the entertaining enough but largely disappointing Scarlet Gospels, Clive Barker's Infernal Parade had the opportunity to re-establish the man's status as a supreme maestro of the absurd, the strange and distressing.
Those of you who follow my work on this site and other outlets will know that my history with Barker's work is significant: examples such as Weaveworld, Sacrament and Imajica are the reasons why I started writing myself and served to inform my fledgling imagination (and more besides; without the expanded contexts they provided, my perspectives; the function of my mind, my very personality, would not be as it is now. In a very real sense, I am as much a creation of Barker and those others whose work I have consumed as any of his metaphysical monstrosities or deranged divinities). It's therefore a fairly melancholy business for me when I have to report dissatisfaction with something that bears his name, the emotional response almost that of the faithful finding some contradiction or immorality in a holy scripture.
But in this instance, I don't have a great deal of choice; not if I want to maintain any integrity in myself or to my own small coterie of readers:
Great Britain is blessed with a rich and varied folklore, from the Celtic legends of Scotland, Wales and Ireland to the pagan folklores of rural England, and they all share a common thread. A thread of darkness and malevolence. These are not your Disney Elves or Faeries, even the so-called heroes of our legends are cursed with a dark streak.
This dark thread of our collective consciousness as been utilised by numerous writers and filmmakers over the years, Hekla's Children by James Brogden is the latest novel to take us on a journey through the stygian darkness of our primeval fears.
Occult Detective Quarterly is devoted to those intrepid investigators who investigate the weird, exotic and bizarre. These are the people who explore the darkness, both within and beyond, often to their own peril and the expense of their very lives and sanity.
The concept of an ‘Occult Detective’ actually goes back many years to writers of the 19th century like Poe, William Hope Hodgson, Algernon Blackwood, E. & H. Heron and many more. We’ve long been fans of the genre and now seek to celebrate it in all its forms in this new magazine from Electric Pentacle Press
What mysteries lurk within the shadows of a struggling second hand bookshop?
This very clever ninety page novella published by Dark Regions Press and illustrated by Santiago Caruso, recently surfacing on kindle is a very enjoyable psychological thriller horror which provided excellent company for almost three hours the other evening. “The Booking” is also available in various signed versions directly from Dark Regions Press, but the near £4.00 on kindle is by far the most agreeable price.
REVIEW BY JIM MCLEOD
Fungi, not just the life and soul of the party, they are an everyday part of our life. From the great to the bad our lives would not be the same without them. For every case of ringworm, there is a great beer to be drunk, for every case of athlete's foot, we have an excellent tangy blue cheese to take our minds off it. Let's face we need fungus way more than they need us.
REVIEW BY JOHN BODEN
An anthology of stories that all concern transmissions and signals--radio, television, computer--the only premise missing here is a haunted hearing aid. These stories are wide-reaching in scope and theme but the common thread of them all is they're unsettling.
After a keenly insightful introduction by Scott Nicolay, we get going with the stories, opening with a tale by a man who has created an entire mythos around the theme of otherworldly radio and awkward audio, Matthew Bartlett. His tale (or tales as he has two present in Lost Signals) "If He Summons His Hero" is the story of a boy and his new friend, a strange kid with a large radio. They both give in to the siren's call of the boom box and follow it to very dark places. "Transmission" by T.E. Grau is a tale of a man not quite certain if he's running away or toward the blackness that is encroaching upon him. "Sharks With Thumbs" is a gritty and wild slice of modern paranoia served up as only David James Keaton can.
"How The Light Gets In" by Michael Paul Gonzalez is a powerful beast of a story, dealing with a couple--one a photographer--who detour from their vacation to take in a place of rumored weirdness. There is supposed to be a tear in the sky and once they reach their destination, they discover that to be true and that a rip is another word for a door. George Cotronis tells a tale of distance and loss and sadness with his short "Darkhorse Actual", wherein a group of soldiers are confronted with their personal ghosts but some real ones as well. "Rosabelle Believe" by Amanda Hard is a tale worthy of a Bradbury nod, when he was at his darkest. A man grows concerned with his sons growing interest in an old ham radio set, especially when all the boy does is scribble numbers of code every waking moment...
Gabino Iglesias appears with a story entitled "The last Scream" about a college assignment presentation that goes horribly awry. Artist/author Dyer Wilk tells us the terrible tale behind "The Man In Room 603." We end the collection on a story by James Newman, "Something In The Code" which, is like nothing I have ever read before...and we'll leave it at that. This story is like a hidden track on a cd, appearing only after the others have been read and you've waded through the "About the authors" section.
I could easily have touched on all of the stories here, as they ere all great and effective, but I try to keep these short as the average person only has an attention span of about two minutes. Lost Signals is a strong anthology, with a strong premise. The writer's gathered are some of the best we've seen in the last decade, as well as plenty of fresh faces. With a roster that includes folks like Damien Angelica Walters, John Foster, Betty Rocksteady, Christopher Slatsky and so many others, how can you go wrong?
Max Booth III and Lori Michelle has done a wonderful job of executing and stitching this monster together. You want something that will get under your skin, something that will stick in your mind and make you think twice about turning on the radio on a long night drive--this is that something.
Lost Signals is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Press
Thanks to the brilliant Amazon Prime series the Hap and Leonard stories have reached a much larger audience, and while this hapless pair has been a firm favourite within the genre for many a year, we always knew them as a firmly cemented pair of friends. Friends who would take a bullet, beating or a bashing for each other, but where did this unbreakable friendship come from? Blood and Lemonade is, in Joe R. Lansdale's words a "mosaic" novel, a set of connected stories, which don't follow a linear timeline, more akin to listening to two friends reminisce about past times than an actual traditionally plotted narrative. It's a clever move from Lansdale but is it a move that works?