We all know Leonard excels at pacing, dialogue. He burns through the plot and doesn't waste time. This sleazy little number shows these strengths, andWe all know Leonard excels at pacing, dialogue. He burns through the plot and doesn't waste time. This sleazy little number shows these strengths, and while it is not truly a high watermark of crime literature, it still has its place in the hierarchy. Did I mention this was sleazy? Porn theaters, photo shoots, snuff sessions, heavy drug use, rape and revenge. It is steeped in 1970s sensations; lurid, neon-lit, steeped in reefer. Basically it's a tale of extortion. The main player, Mitchell, is put on the hook for owing three scumbags a whole shitload of money. If he doesn't pay up, they'll tell the police that he iced his mistress. They have the film footage and the gun to prove it. The 1st half of the book is the set-up, the 2nd half is the square-up. Mitchell doesn't just sit back and take it. Elmore Leonard makes it look easy. Many have tried to duplicate his style, and failed. There is one terrible scene - 'reunited and it feels so good'-type of schmaltz between Mitchell and his one-dimensional wife that really hurts to read. Otherwise, this one is a well-sculpted steamroller of a short novel. Motor City Noir....more
A stellar, haunting debut. The apocalypse here is redefined with subtlety and suggestion. Far from the 'epic horror' of a 1000-page roach-killer withA stellar, haunting debut. The apocalypse here is redefined with subtlety and suggestion. Far from the 'epic horror' of a 1000-page roach-killer with a huge ensemble cast ('The Stand', 'Swan Song'), and even further from the Grand Guignol slasher novel, 'Bird Box' relies on the sensations of sound, memory and touch. Nature has been turned on its ass but the author Malerman doesn't overdo it. Taking a cue from a far different apocalyptic novel, 'The Day of the Triffids' (John Wyndham), blindness cripples the main characters, but in this case, it is self-inflicted and preventative. Blindfolds are worn. Windows are covered with black sheets. The outside world is forbidden. A walk through your neighborhood could take days. A noise at nighttime could be a feral animal, or a neighbor seeking safety. The evil here is the unseen - this is not horror fiction where the evil slaps you in the face and you clearly see 'the monster' in painstaking detail. Far from it here. 'Creatures' from an unknown dimension have infiltrated our own. And with one look, madness and suicide are the outcome. Author Josh Malerman holds back the reigns and diligently tosses in some suggestions of the surrounding dangers without telling the reader too much (one during a river sequence that is like a cold piercing stab to the spine - most brilliant). In a world blacked-out, Malerman stays true to the thematic world he's created. Top-notch, top-shelf horror literature. ...more
One of the lesser novels in the Goodis canon. Not much happens here, and while I was frustrated with its bare-boned approach, I soon realized that isOne of the lesser novels in the Goodis canon. Not much happens here, and while I was frustrated with its bare-boned approach, I soon realized that is the point. It's a book about stasis, boredom, big dreams gone to shit. Set in the usually downtrodden Philadelphia, four layabouts try to find work during the hard times of the Depression. But instead of writing the epic narrative, Ayn Rand's rags-to-riches, Goodis weeps out this little novel (at 150 pages) that reads like a minimal discourse in loser-speak & failure. Poorly-written at points, dare I say, lazy. But in free-wheeling spurts, there is the usual brilliance associated with Goodis. I imagined this as a black & white sitcom about depression-era losers, ghost-written by Sam Beckett, staged by a young John Frankenheimer, and designed by a skid-row misanthrope born & bred in the tenement burbs outside of Philly. Floors are bare, walls are cracked, jackets are torn and pockets are weighed down with a penny and not much more. In the end, the cast of character's dreams skitter and twitch, and then resume their static state. Sex-starved blondes even hang their heads in shame. It's a dismal world not worth taking advantage of - the message, just give up now so it hurts less later. Read the other Goodis novels before this one, and then give it a chance. It'll cement your view that Goodis is one of the most misanthropic authors out there this side of Selby Jr. and H.P. Lovecraft. ...more
Lindqvist has done it again - creating a quiet epic set on Domaro, an island in the archipelago along Sweden's coast. Instead of fueling ahead with hoLindqvist has done it again - creating a quiet epic set on Domaro, an island in the archipelago along Sweden's coast. Instead of fueling ahead with horror tropes and usual devices, he focuses on his characters, who are desolate, lost, unforgiven, real. Lindqvist takes his time with them, paints their shortcomings & desires via history and myth, and in the end, it's what makes this novel four-stars.
The often used, and sometimes misappropriated term, 'quiet horror' could apply here. Like Lindqvist did with zombies in his 'Handling the Undead' here he changes the direction usually traveled by the genre and creates a rural drama that dances the line between a ghost story and a tale of cosmic horrors beyond human perception. And one thing, he writes of loss with such eloquent skill, avoiding the melodramatic flourishes than turn the prose purple. Sweden's answer to Stephen King - yeah, we've heard that one before. Lindqvist is in his own category, and this novel shows why. It'll make you look at the ocean a little bit differently, that's for sure....more
I'm not sure this collection of interviews lived up to my expectations. While practically every name from the 1980s Golden Age of Horror fiction is inI'm not sure this collection of interviews lived up to my expectations. While practically every name from the 1980s Golden Age of Horror fiction is included within these pages, the interviews don't truly enlighten the process on what makes their novels and collections so horrible, so frightening, so memorable. Most of the writers do divulge their some of their writing methods and writing schedules, and at times, they enlighten the reader on what scares them. But after getting through the halfway point, I felt like all the interviews blended into one. Really, I think a far more interesting way of getting to know the author (and most of them would probably agree) is to read their fiction and take it from there.
Of course, some of the writers give wonderful insights to their genre, but unfortunately as a whole, not enough. I guess I wanted more of a precise approach to specific works, dreams, nightmares, that kind of thing. There are some interesting insights into the 'quiet horror' vs 'splatter-punk' arguments that were happening in that decade, and also some good advice for the aspiring horror novelist, especially from Joe Lansdale and Charles Grant. Whitley Strieber comes across a bit defensive in light of his writing the 'Communion' books, which in a way, distanced himself from the genre. J.N. Williamson keeps it light and airy and doesn't take himself too seriously, while Dennis Etchison waxes on the philosophical importance about the genre. King and Straub give some good banter, and Ramsey Campbell as always, enlightens.
A small step up from the 2nd installment, 'Doom City'. This time the fictitious Greystone Bay is given a sharper focus -- 'The Seaharp Hotel' is an elA small step up from the 2nd installment, 'Doom City'. This time the fictitious Greystone Bay is given a sharper focus -- 'The Seaharp Hotel' is an elaborate and stately old hotel along the ocean, and every story here takes place in the rooms and hallways beneath the gabled roofs. There are far too many stories of the aging character coming back to Greystone Bay -- to die, or on the run from some guilt-ridden past -- and halfway through the collection, the reader may stiffen up with boredom as the story lines become repetitive and somewhat empty. However, there are some nuggets. Nancy Holder's 'Ami Amet Deli Pencet' is a moody thriller about amnesia, and spirits submerged deep in the watery graves of one's subconscious. Holder has a knack of conjuring surreal images without over-flourishing the language. Steve Rasnic Tem's 'Aquarium' shows the authors mastery of subdued horrors, things seen from the corners of the eye, and by the end, the reader feels unsettled but really can't pinpoint why. There are some pulpy renderings here that are solid. Thomas Monteleone's 'No Pain, No Gain' is a bluntly lurid tale of parasites and the grue associated with symbiosis. Al Sarrantonio's 'The Coat' adds to the 'possessed garment' tale and keeps the darkness in the right places. Besides the mediocrity and one-note blandness to some of these tales, it is required reading for the 'Greystone Bay' quartet. The next and final book is 'In the Fog' and I have the inclination that this one will return to the widescreen form of the 1st....more
This is the 2nd installment of the Greystone Bay Chronicles quartet put out by Tor paperbacks in the 1980s. Edited by the masterful editor/writer, ChaThis is the 2nd installment of the Greystone Bay Chronicles quartet put out by Tor paperbacks in the 1980s. Edited by the masterful editor/writer, Charles L. Grant, this 2nd book pales and withers compared to the first, 'Greystone Bay'. This first collection painted this haunted New England seaside community with tales of historical horrors, inward landscapes of broken psyches, tales of curses seeking out the wrong-doing through a vengeful thunderstorm or a creeping fog, and shorts full of pulp-inspired grue. However this 'Doom City' reads like a first draft - the tales just don't seem to gel, and when a horror is hinted at, it seems to get lost in the same fog that cloaks the bay day in and day out. I'm not sure if Grant laid down his mode of 'quiet horror' too much, but I must admit I was bored with most of the stories.
I'm not much of a fan of vampire fiction but two of the best tales in the book dealt (or hinted at) with the bloodsuckers. Nina Kiriki Hoffman's 'Waiting for the Hunger' is an understated gem, full of lush atmosphere on the outside, yet inwardly and meticulously obscured. Galas Elfandsson's 'An Overruling Passion' pulls the reader into the desperate mind of a New Yorker coming to Greystone Bay to win back his wife from her odd family. On a similar note, Kathryn Ptacek's 'Dead Possums' is a sad tale of a father trying to win back his wife and daughter from a left-wing cult. And Thomas Sullivan's 'Prayer Wings' has some sinister images that expose the unlikeliest of winged insects as the antagonists.
Despite my feelings towards 'Doom City', I'm still looking forward to reading the next one, 'The Seaharp Hotel'. My faith in Charles L. Grant has not been tarnished....more