First off, I have to admit I'm not a big fan of westerns. Once in a while I'll watch a movie but never a novel or short story in the genre. I have a...more
First off, I have to admit I'm not a big fan of westerns. Once in a while I'll watch a movie but never a novel or short story in the genre. I have a massive amount of respect for Mark Justice, the author of THE DEAD SHERIFF. I first heard of him through his groundbreaking Pod of Horror podcast, and I loved his collection of short stories LOOKING AT THE WORLD WITH BROKEN GLASS IN MY EYE. He's a great writer and a super nice guy (check out my 2011 interview with him http://vintagehorror.com/2011/05/an-i...). I gave this western a chance for two reasons. First, because of my faith in Mark's writing ability, and second because it's more than just a western. It's a supernatural-western, which is much more my speed.
THE DEAD SHERIFF: ZOMBIE DAMNATION is a fast-paced, exciting adventure. Mark's versatility is displayed through his crafting of these fun characters, the high adventure, natural humor, and my favorite, strange supernatural magic.
The Primary Characters: The Dead Sheriff: a lawman risen from his grave to rid the world of evil-doers. Bullets don't stop him, and he can't be bought. Cheveyo: the Dead Sheriff's Indian side-kick, at least that's how he is perceived by the world, but in truth, he is far more than he appears. Richard O'Malley: a Boston reporter who leaves his unfulfilling life behind to write about a mysterious undead vigilante traveling through Texas taking out power-hungry criminals. Reverend Ludlow Skaggs: preacher-supreme to the town of Damnation who's seeking to expand his high-profit church. He's a dynamic speaker who uses his influence to manipulate the masses into doing his bidding.
The Setting: We get to travel with the bounty hunting Dead Sheriff and Cheveyo on their way toward their climatic showdown in Damnation. This world has lots of potential. There's mention of several other masked vigilantes popping up throughout the country. I was interested to learn more about them, and with future Dead Sheriff books planned, I may get that wish.
The Supernatural: Any story about a dead cowboy walking around killing bad guys is going to have its share of supernatural elements to it. What makes it click is the internal logic of it all. The magic of this world has rules that must be followed, and there are mysterious otherworldly forces at play here that even the practitioners don't understand.
Overview: This is a fun, quick read with a very cinematic flow to it. I could easily picture it unfolding on the big screen. When a writer's really enjoying his work, there's an energy that shines through on the page. With THE DEAD SHERIFF: ZOMBIE DAMNATION, it's obvious Mark Justice is having a blast. I'd recommend this book to any fan of pulps, westerns, horror, and even superhero stories. If you give it a try, I'm confident you won't be disappointed.
I first became aware of Joanna Parypinski when we shared space in the anthology INDIANA SCIENCE FICTION 2011. I...moreReview of PANDORA by Joanna Parypinski
I first became aware of Joanna Parypinski when we shared space in the anthology INDIANA SCIENCE FICTION 2011. I was impressed by her work, so when I heard her first novel was coming out I picked up a copy. I'm glad I did. Joanna has populated her fictional town of Sickle Falls with a number of well-rounded, engaging characters. There's Ben, the good kid who's relentlessly bullied by a trio of miscreants, and Edna, a successful writer whose stories may be starting to affect her mind, just to name a couple. The tale's protagonist is Maria, a woman who moves to Sickle Falls with her husband Chris for a new teaching position that awaits him there. The basement of their new house is filled with grim paintings of a demonic-looking woman. Maria also finds an intricately carved ivory box. Trouble soon sweeps across the town after their arrival, bringing supernatural chaos and death with it. Joanna's ability to juggle multiple story lines from different points of view is masterful. I found each one intriguing, so there's no let down when it shifts from one character to another. It's amazing how much is packed into this short novel. I was personally drawn in by the rich characters, haunted house aspects, and an ancient evil antagonist. That's not all that's here though. There's a mass murderer at large, a nice bit of mythological history, a descent into madness, and more. I have a feeling we'll soon be hearing the name Joanna Parypinski mentioned as a major force in horror fiction, so get in on the ground floor with PANDORA. That way you can say you were there from the beginning.
This anthology is the first offering byACID GRAVE PRESS, a new e-publisher. It’s edited by David T. Wilbanks and Craig Clark. Each writer was asked to...moreThis anthology is the first offering by ACID GRAVE PRESS, a new e-publisher. It’s edited by David T. Wilbanks and Craig Clark. Each writer was asked to produce a story using the name of one of their favorite hard rock or heavy metal bands as the title with that bands music for inspiration. It’s a good collection of stories to be had for an excellent low price (I bought mine for the kindle for $2.99). There’s a nice blend of story styles here, but all contain some element of horror to them. Here’s a quick glance at the stories involved.
“Spooky Tooth” by Randy Chandler – A successful rock and roll reporter gets an interview with a legendary rock star who is also reputed to be a wolf man. Lots of rock and roll histories here with an inventive take on classic heavy metal album covers.
“Iron Maiden” by Matthew Fryer – A band preparing for a gig in London find themselves lured aboard a mysterious old ship docked nearby. This is no ordinary ship, however, as it has an undying captain at its helm and carries a deadly cargo from a mythical age. This is a great tale, thick with atmosphere, mystery, adventure and horror.
Black Sabbath by Steven L. Shrewsbury – This story begins at the end of a devastating zombie apocalypse. The protagonist finds himself at odds with a rival who, driven by jealousy, will go to any lengths to get his revenge, even if means initiating a new zombie threat onto the world. This is a high tension tale of survival with a great villain.
“Judas Priest” by David T. Wilbanks – A woman finds herself drawn into a conflict between two ancient, dark forces in order to save her rogue brother’s life. This adventurous story contains lots of black magic, exciting action and mystical horror.
“Motorhead” by Kent Gowran – A man, with the ability to animate his snake tattoo to surrealistic proportions, uses it and his motorcycle to hunt down a group of thieves who attempted to rob his gas station in this psychedelic, high speed chase story.
“Slayer” by L.L. Soares – The lives of an aging, dysfunctional rocker and the disciple of a vicious, bloodthirsty saint intersect in this grim tale of death and destruction.
This story is told in first person by Travis Glasgow, a writer who has just moved with his wife Jodie into a lake house near his brother’s family. Th...more This story is told in first person by Travis Glasgow, a writer who has just moved with his wife Jodie into a lake house near his brother’s family. The relationship between Travis and his brother is difficult due to a tragic accident during their childhood and the proceeding years spent struggling to cope. While still children, Travis’ younger brother drowned in a lake near their house. Travis has blamed himself ever since
The lake near their new house has an unusual feature. A staircase ascends out of the center of the water. A young boy, who lived in the house before Travis moved in, disappeared while playing on this floating staircase. When Travis begins to witness signs the house is haunted by a child’s ghost, he becomes obsessed with uncovering exactly what happened to the boy. This obsession further strains his relationships with his family. His wife worries he’s descending into a despair similar to what he’d gone through in the past which nearly lead to their divorce. His brother shares her concern and balks at having the results of his department’s original investigation challenged
Parallels between the boy’s case and that of what happened to his younger brother years before, drives Travis relentlessly forward. The search for what happened at the house before he moved in takes him down a perilous path into the depths of his soul to find the answers he seeks.
I generally avoid novels written in the first person because I thinks it’s tough to pull off for an extended piece, but it can be done well. Graham Masterton’s PREY did an outstanding job of it, and this novel did as well. It maintains the right feel throughout, and the voice used is never distracting. This novel contains an intriguing mystery, a variety of interesting characters, and some good supernatural happenings. I would have preferred more supernatural elements than were present, but that’s probably just because I’m a hopeless supernatural junkie. Overall it was a good, fast paced read that kept the pages turning.(less)
House of Fear is an anthology of 19 haunted houses stories (although some aren’t really houses, i.e. a derelict RV and a greenhouse.) I’ve always love...moreHouse of Fear is an anthology of 19 haunted houses stories (although some aren’t really houses, i.e. a derelict RV and a greenhouse.) I’ve always loved haunted house stories, so this was an easy buy for me. Editor Jonathan Oliver did an excellent job assembling it. Most of the stories were very strong, with two standouts. My favorites were: “Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear” by Lisa Tuttle, “Driving the Milky Way” by Weston Ochse, “Muse of the Copenhagen” by Nina Allan, “Villanova” by Paul Melroy, “Widow’s Weeds” by Christopher Priest, and “The Doll’s House” by Jonathan Green.
The two I absolutely loved were “In the Absence of Murdock” by Terry Lamsley and “What Happened to Me” by Joe R. Lansdale. These left me in awe long after reading them.
Here is a brief synopsis of the stories:
1- “Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear” by Lisa Tuttle (2011) – A woman and her ex-husband attend an event in the town where they used to live. They’re both haunted by the strange cabin they saw from an overpass in the early days of their marriage but could never reach.
2- “Pied-a-Terre” by Stephen Volk (2011) – A self-conscious woman travels to view a perspective house without her husband, who tells her she should be able to make decisions on her own. She hears and experiences strange things inside as the real-estate agent shows her around.
3- “In The Absence of Murdock” by Terry Lamsley (2011) – When successful mystery co-author Murdock suddenly vanishes from a room, Franz is asked to check it out. What he finds in Murdock’s house is bizarre and supremely creepy. This fantastic story is reminiscent of M.R. James.
4- “Florrie” by Adam L.G. Nevill (2011) – A man buys his first house, a definite fixer-upper. It, however, seems to be changing him more than vice-a-verse.
5- “Driving the Milky Way” by Weston Ochse (2011) – A group of kids on summer break hang out in Arizona. They congregate at an abandoned RV. After being told some Indian legends claimed stars were actually traveling spirits, they decide to look for ancient, buried bones. This is a well-written Ray Bradbury-esque tale.
6- “The Windmill” by Rebecca Levene (2011) – A hardened prisoner witnesses strange things at the windmill visible from his cell.
7- ”Moretta” by Garry Kilworth (2011) – A man inherits a gothic mansion. Its history includes the suffocation death of several people, making it impossible to sell or rent. He and a friend decide to stay the night to solve the mystery.
8- “Hortus Conclusus” by Chaz Brenchley (2011) – After the death of a close friend, a group goes to help his widow repair his house to sell. When they start on the old greenhouse, they seem to encounter resistance from his spirit.
9- “The Dark Space in the House in the Garden at the Center of the World” by Robert Shearman (2011) – A take-off of the Adam and Eve story with ghosts.
10- ”Muse of the Copenhagen” by Nina Allan (2011) – An uncle calls his nephew to warn him to get rid of the house he will inherit upon his death without going there or taking anything from it. This seems prophetic as the uncle dies soon afterwards. The nephew, however, fails to do as promised. This tale reminds me of Oliver Onion’s “The Beckoning Fair One”.
11- ”An Injustice” by Christopher Fowler (2011) – A group of amateur ghost hunters investigate a house where the apparition of a woman’s face appears in the window.
12- “The Room Upstairs” by Sarah Pinborough (2011) – A thief stays at a bed and breakfast awaiting a job. He finds himself attracted to the demure widow who runs it but is woken every night by mysterious cries and pounding from the unoccupied room above.
13- “Villanova” by Paul Melroy (2011) – A father takes his daughters to a campground for vacation. The over-helpful attendant shows signs of having suffered terrible burns, and the area is surprisingly devoid of other campers.
14- “Widow’s Weeds” by Christopher Priest (2011) – A stage magician travels to meet a beautiful woman at her mansion. A sign in front of her house details an amazing list of skills and abilities she has mastered.
15- “The Doll’s House” by Jonathan Green (2011) – A woman’s life begins down a dark path when her mother brings the childhood doll house, which she always hated, for her newly-born granddaughter.
16- “Inside/Out” by Nicholas Royle (2012) – A man, obsessed with a beautiful twin since they shared a passing kiss, follows her in this surreal story.
17- “The House” by Eric Brown (2011) – A writer believes an old play he wrote is haunted.
18- “Trick of the Light” by Tim Lebbon (2011) – A terminally-ill woman buys a house seven years after her husband vanished. When she arrives, she thinks she sees a figure watching from the tower window.
19- “What Happened to Me” by Joe R. Lansdale (2011) – A college student rents a house near the college he and his three roommates are to attend. The other two abandon the place quickly after spending time there. They won’t say what changed their minds but were obviously terrified by something. The remaining student is left alone to deal with increasingly bizarre and threatening occurrences. What resides in the nearby forest is far older and more dangerous than a ghost.(less)
Wordsworth reprints several classic story collections by great horror writers of the past. One such collection, IN GHOSTLY COMPANY by Amyas Northcote,...moreWordsworth reprints several classic story collections by great horror writers of the past. One such collection, IN GHOSTLY COMPANY by Amyas Northcote, was suggested to me by Amazon due to some previous purchases. It mentioned him as similar to M.R. James, who is a favorite of mine. I received it for Christmas this year and read it straight through. The Introduction by David Stuart Davies that begins the book gives some background on Northcote. Not an easy task, I’m sure, due to the obscurity of this writer. Born in 1864, his father was Sir Stafford Northcote, lord of a manor and powerful politician. I found it interesting Amyas attended Eton College the same time as M.R. James, although it is unknown if the two ever met. This collection of ghost stories was his only published work. It came out in 1921. Unfortunately, Amyas died just eighteen months after its publication, making it difficult to promote and relegating him to obscurity. He might have been forgotten altogether if Montague Summers hadn’t included one of the stories, “Brickett Bottom”, in his influential SUPERNATURAL OMNIBUS (1931). It makes me wonder how many great writers have become lost to time because of similar circumstances. While I wouldn’t put Amyas Northcote on the same level as M.R. James, I did enjoy these stories. “Brickett Bottom”, “In the Woods”, “The Steps” and “The Governess’s Story” were personal favorites of mine.
1- “Brickett Bottom” (1921) – A vicar’s daughter spies a house on her way home she hadn’t noticed before. Her nearsighted sister is unable to see it. They plan to visit the following day, but the nearsighted sister injures her foot and can’t go. When the other goes alone, she fails to return.
2- “Mr. Kershaw and Mr. Wilcox” (1921) – A business arrangement between two neighbors sours, leading to dark consequences in this tale of subtle supernatural underpinnings with a twist ending.
3- “In the Woods” (1921) – A lonely 17 year old girl finds herself enthralled by the woods near her home. She spends her spare time there and begins to view the trees as her only friends. She yearns to learn their mysteries and begins to sense the area observing her. As she slips further from normal life to become more in tune with the woods, she starts to feel that although the woods have great beauty, it also hides powerful evil.
4- “The Late Earl of D.” (1921) – A solicitor witnesses a phantom reenactment of a violent crime.
5- “Mr. Mortimer’s Diary” (1921) – The diary of a man found dead under bizarre circumstances tells of his being haunted by a diabolical ghost.
6- “The House in the Woods” (1921) –Two men are forced to spend the night in a secluded house in the woods.
7- “The Steps” (1921) – A young woman is haunted by the approaching footsteps of a man whose love she spurned.
8- “The Young Lady in Black” (1921) – An artist is approached by a young woman in black who implores him to paint her portrait but is unable to sit for him longer than a half hour. He encounters her a few times afterwards, each under strange circumstances.
9- “The Downs” (1921) – A man traveling through downlands at night finds himself accompanied by a mysterious stranger.
10- “The Late Mrs. Fowke” (1921) – A man secretly follows his wife on one of her journeys out of town to find her partaking in occult activities.
11- “The Picture” (1921) – A girl becomes enthralled by the portrait of a dead Count in a manor house.
12- “The Governess’s Story” (1921) – A governess keeps hearing someone running and opening a window from a room above her every night. These unearthly footfalls are tied to a grim family secret.
13- “Mr. Oliver Carmichael” (1921) – A man enters a shop to buy a handkerchief and meets an unattractive, female clerk. When their eyes meet, he is filled with an inexplicable dread. From that point on, he is haunted by her and begins to feel evil growing in his soul as it is tormented each night as he sleeps. (less)