Although I loved the history of Washington DC, the familiar buildings, and insights into the Masons that are scattered throughout the novel, I found t...moreAlthough I loved the history of Washington DC, the familiar buildings, and insights into the Masons that are scattered throughout the novel, I found the characters acted largely in unbelievable and downright stupid ways. Langdon in particular seemed to be a dunderhead, running off to Washington with a secret, valuable object that had been entrusted to him, solely on a cell phone call from someone he didn't know. Really? There are similar instances of stupidity and naivete throughout--necessary for the plot perhaps, but still irritating. I can see Brown's wealth of research and I'm envious of his suspenseful pacing, but I find this book inferior to Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I hope the next Langdon book (if there is one) is more believable.(less)
Pill Hill Press—a small publisher in Nebraska—has been publishing excellent speculative fiction anthologies since 2007, extending into a wide range of...morePill Hill Press—a small publisher in Nebraska—has been publishing excellent speculative fiction anthologies since 2007, extending into a wide range of genres from epic fantasy to science fiction to erotica. But, Pill Hill’s superb horror anthologies are, in my opinion, the best in its growing catalog.
A fine example is “Dark Things II,” edited by Ty Schwamberger. As with most anthologies, some of the stories are stronger than others, but the twenty-two tales included provide something for anyone who loves horror fiction. Here you will find a smorgasbord of terror, everything from the slightly creepy to the profoundly disturbing.
A number of stories stand out for me. I particularly enjoyed the “creature feature” tone of A.J. French’s ROT—ROT—ROT as well as the dark humor at the end of Scott Sandridge’s The Interview Nobody Wants. I also savored the historical settings of The Devil’s Footprints by Jack Horne and The Chevalier Sisters: A Tale of Voodoo. And who wouldn’t enjoy the subtle creepiness of Piper Morgan’s Delicious Morsels, a different take on the thing in the closet, or the not-so-subtle creepiness of Matt Kurtz’s Bug Boy, which is about . . . well . . . a boy who loves bugs (and his sweet revenge)?
The diversity of writing styles in this eclectic collection of dark and strange tales makes me want to rush out and buy the other four anthologies (so far) in the “Dark Things” series!
(Review originally appeared in Suspense Magazine.) (less)
If you’re not familiar with the award-winning noir anthology series published by Akashic, you’re missing something truly grand! Launched in 2004 with...moreIf you’re not familiar with the award-winning noir anthology series published by Akashic, you’re missing something truly grand! Launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir, the series now has anthologies set in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, D.C., Las Vegas, Phoenix, and many other U.S. locales, as well as cities and places around the globe, including Toronto, Paris, Mexico City, Havana, Dublin, Moscow, London, and many others. Each story is set in a distinct neighborhood or location within each respective city. It’s a spectacular publishing effort that is still expanding, with editions set in Cape Cod, Pittsburgh, and San Diego scheduled for publication this year.
The recently released anthology, Philadelphia Noir, is another fabulous addition to the series. As editor Carlin Romano writes in the introduction: “Per capita, Philadelphia matches any city weirdo incident for weirdo incident. But we trump everyone on history.” It’s not surprising that the 15 stories included here not only hint at the mood and flavor of this great city, but imbue a sense of history to their noirish sensibilities.
I particularly liked three stories that harkened back to Philadelphia’s history: “Lonergan’s Girl” by Duane Swierczynski, set in the Frankford area in 1924, with its sudden violence on the Frankford El; “Ghost Walk” by Cary Holladay, set in Chestnut Hill in 1899, and its creepy bartender; and “The Ratcatcher” by Gerald Kolpan, set on South Street also in the mid- or late 1800s, about rodents and entrepreneurship. Like the other stories in the anthology, each had its own distinctive voice and style, and provided keen insight on the culture of Philadelphia over the years. Well done and entertaining!
Some of the stories stretch the definition of “noir”—but all are of high literary quality and well worth reading. And if you’re familiar with Philadelphia, you’ll have fun matching the stories with the locales that you’ve visited (or may even currently live in).
Insanity wears many masks. This is the apparent theme of the fine collection of 20 stories in “Pellucid Lunacy: An Anthology of Psychological Horror,”...moreInsanity wears many masks. This is the apparent theme of the fine collection of 20 stories in “Pellucid Lunacy: An Anthology of Psychological Horror,” edited by Michael Bailey, author of the novels “Palindrome Hannah” and “Phoenix Rose.”
Here you will find stories about the danger of dating cougars (“Gasoline”), xenophobia and the loss of innocence (“Moonman”), the risks of psychokinesis (“Newton’s Third Law”), and the hell of shopping malls (“Sweaters”). Some stories are subtle in their horror (“I Wanted Black” and “The Truth Box”); others are unabashedly weird and stretch the imagination ("What the Walrus Hears” and “Eraser”). Perhaps the creepiest stories are those about characters who willingly embrace insanity (“Always With Me,” “This Blaspemous Mockery,” and “Sizzle”).
Themed anthologies tend to be “hit or miss” when it comes to content. Every story in “Pellucid Lunacy,” however, is a gem, and the diversity of voices and styles is impressive. If you love stories focused on madness and twisted humanity, be sure to put this anthology on your “must-read” list.
(All profits from the sale of this anthology are being distributed to charitable organizations.) (less)
Nicholas Close is a haunted man. After his wife's sudden death, Nicholas begins to see dead people--ghosts who must suffer their hideous deaths in end...moreNicholas Close is a haunted man. After his wife's sudden death, Nicholas begins to see dead people--ghosts who must suffer their hideous deaths in endlessly replaying, silent loops before his eyes. He returns to his childhood home in Australia, where he sees the ghosts of terrified children (including his best friend, Tristam, who was murdered when he was ten-years-old) yanked by invisible hands into a dense, dark forest outside of town. More victim than hero, Nicholas is forced to face his childhood fears and confront an ancient evil when a local child goes missing, and he knows other innocent children will die if he doesn't act. The story builds intensity from there, stacking bodies and scares, and never lets up until the astonishing conclusion. The last chapter is absolutely chilling.
This stunning debut horror novel is part The Sixth Sense, part Blair Witch, part Stephen King's It, with a liberal helping of the darkest of Grimm's tales. Such comparisons, however, do little justice to Irwin's work, which stands strong on its own. His writing is elegant, highly descriptive and well-paced. Any novel revolving around the gruesome murders of children requires a skilled hand and deft control; Irwin handles these elements of his story well. I found the novel deliciously creepy and disturbing. We can expect more from this fine Australian author in the future!
(By the way, if you suffer from any degree of arachnophobia, this book is definitely not for you!) (less)
Shane Gericke's novel, Torn Apart, is a rollercoaster ride of a suspense thriller, and not for the faint of heart. There is a dark underlying humor in...moreShane Gericke's novel, Torn Apart, is a rollercoaster ride of a suspense thriller, and not for the faint of heart. There is a dark underlying humor in the book, which I always enjoy in the novels I read. And, of course, there is plenty of bloody mayhem. The characters are well-defined, the dialogue is dead-on realistic, and the action is non-stop. The intertwining of subplots is expertly orchestrated, and the actions scenes are so well choreographed that you feel that you're right there in the middle of the violence, dodging bullets and body parts.
I will be picking up the other two books in the series, and look forward to Shane's future thrillers!(less)
Who doesn't like ghost stories? (Heck, the Ghost Hunters show on Syfy is one of my guilty pleasures!) Not only do I love reading ghost stories, but I...moreWho doesn't like ghost stories? (Heck, the Ghost Hunters show on Syfy is one of my guilty pleasures!) Not only do I love reading ghost stories, but I love writing them.
Static Movement's anthology Ghosts and Demons, with 33 stories filled with apparitions, demons, and paranormal mayhem of every stripe. My short story, "Blue Eye Burn," is included. This is one of my favorite stories, originally published in Out & About, a Delaware magazine, back in 2004. The tale is about a Vietnam vet who is visited by a child from his past, a child long dead.
Some of the many other stories I enjoyed include:
*"Death Comes for Gil Bates" by William Wood--what the future holds for the Grim Reaper
*"Walking the Dog" by Rick McQuiston--will make you take a second look at man's best friend
*"The Green Washing Machine" by Gayle Arrowood--a different take on appliance hell
*"The Winter Experiment" by William Todd Rose--a chilling encounter with Yuki-onna, the mythical snow woman
*"Happy Slapping" by Jason D. Brawn--a violent street punk gets his just reward
*"The Rendezvous" by Gregory Miller--sometimes it's better to avoid old loves
*"Slouching Towards Bethlehem" by Ken Goldman--a story involving a langsuyar, a malevolent ghost of a woman who has died in childbirth ... but much more
This anthology also contains five works by Yolanda Sfetsos, a writer hailing from Australia. The book ends with three of her stories, which are preludes to her novel HELLBLAZE.
If you enjoy horror stories--and ghost stories in particular--you'll find plenty to enjoy in this anthology! (less)