SQUEEZE by Christopher Rhatigan (All Due Respect)

Squeeze by Christopher Rhatigan (All Due Respect)

I loved this short noir tale. Lionel Kasper is an amateur reporter, a drunken gambler who’ll do anything to get a headline. He’ll even fabricate a story and lay on a SQUEEZE. In his quest to stay ahead of the competition Kasper even blackmails the local senator. But his past catches up with him when a rival reporter, Greg Hulas, becomes suspicious and looks into Kasper’s invented stories. Things spiral out of control as Kasper desperately tries to cover his tracks and save his job.

It’s not what I expected, slower in pace than what I normally read. My crime fix is usually fast paced and hard-boiled – so I had difficulty comparing this – but the story doesn’t suffer. I really enjoyed it. SQUEEZE is timeless – set in the present, but it could just as easily the 1950s. I found myself sucked in and I kept asking myself: how the hell is Kasper going to get out of this? Christopher Rhatigan (author of the collection, WAKE UP, TIME TO DIE) leaves you guessing where Lionel Kasper’s exploits will eventually take him. I can feel the journalist’s despair has he hopelessly losses control. Will he manage to con his way through or will his nemesis – rival reporter, Hulas – get the better of him? Excellent stuff! (Jack Bantry)

squeeze

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Last few copies of Splatterpunk 7…

We are down to the last five copies of SPLATTERPUNK ZINE issue 7. The latest issue features fiction by Jeff Strand, Adam Cesare, Kristopher Rufty and Garrett Cook. Illustrations from Dan Henk, Nick Gucker, Jim Agpalza and Robert Elrod. Plus non-fiction, A Hostel Fever in the Inferno: In Defense of Eli Roth by Jeff Burk.

“Splatterpunk is 100% the real deal, and if seedy-but-brilliantly-written hardcore horror is your pleasure, guilty or otherwise, I’d say this zine is essential reading.” – Kit Power, Ginger Nuts of Horror

Splatterpunk 7 Cover small

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A MIXED BAG OF BLOOD by David Bernstein (Book Review)

A MIXED BAG OF BLOOD by David Bernstein (Sinister Grin Press)

Some Authors really enjoy putting their characters through the worst things they can imagine. Some of these authors are tender hearted and treat their characters like their own children, never really allowing something too terrible to happen to them. Then we have authors like Mr. Bernstein, here.

Bernstein is the George R.R. Martin of short horror fiction; he creates these compelling and life-like characters that pull you into his eclectic universe that he has built for the story at hand and if you like happy ending’s, you’re better off going to a massage parlor. This is my first time spending quality time with the authors work, and I have to say, I can’t wait to check out more.

A MIXED BAG OF BLOOD is pretty short, and I actually read a few of the stories twice. Sometimes a story is so good, you just have to go back and read it again. There were times I was sure I was reading an anthology instead of a single author’s collection, as Bernstein’s ability to change his style is obviously some kind of evil superpower he gained from injecting himself with radioactive ink.  It’s a fun collection to read, at times emotionally investing, scary, darkly comedic, and always engrossing.

There is something for everyone in this collection; vampires vs. zombies, aliens, revenge, small-town horror, more zombies, and plenty of gore to whet any horror hounds appetite.  Whether Bernstein is telling the story of an alien invasion, vampires on the verge of extinction because of a zombie outbreak, or four families protecting their town’s dark secret, his ability to bounce around amongst familiar tropes both within and outside of the genre with the flair of Q-Bert on crack is astounding, and as a fellow author who loves to run his characters through the meat grinder, I tip my hat to Mr. Bernstein.

EATEN UN-ALIVE and THE TROJAN PLUSHY were two standouts that I’m sure I will revisit again soon. EATEN UN-ALIVE is such an original take on a zombie apocalypse in a world of vampires, that I immediately reread it. It felt like a modern day Matheson tale, and I had to make sure I had read it right. I did. THE TROJAN PLUSHY is a deliciously twisted tale of revenge that reminded me of reading those dusty old horror comics I’d find at flea markets as a kid. A total Crypt Keeper style of story here, folks.  Both of these stories show the authors strongest strengths without taking away from the rest of the collection, and that is a hard trick for any magician to pull off.

Other standouts include THE BOOGLIN, a tale of a booger and a boy that I laughed through every page of.  BAD CUTLERY, a tale of a knife that does much more than cut meat on your plate, and STD, another gross-out tale that left my stomach sore from laughter and made me wary of ever encountering this author at a gross-out competition in the future.

Originality is often hard to come by, and if you like stories with great characters, monsters, and settings that will give you a couple nights of solid nightmare fuel, than you’d better lay back and let Dr. Bernstein inject the I.V., just make sure he’s wearing gloves. (Cory Cline)

bernstein

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Graveyard Love by Scott Adlerberg

GRAVEYARD LOVE, by Scott Adlerberg (Broken River Books)

Kurt Morgan is a mid-thirties writer living in Upstate New York with his overbearing bohemian mother. After losing his job as a journalist, Kurt is making ends meet by ghostwriting his mother’s memoirs, which chronicle her vast sexual history; needless to say, Kurt is struggling with this project.

Mother’s house overlooks a cemetery.  From a telescope in his bedroom, Kurt observes a frequent visitor to the boneyard, a beautiful redhead whose nightly vigils to one particular tomb piques Kurt’s curiosity and fires his imagination.

The lonely Kurt projects his fantasies onto the woman, Catherine, and what begins as a seemingly harmless crush – or so Kurt, our narrator, would have us believe – soon spirals into dangerous obsession, and murder.

To reveal too much of the plot would spoil the fun, for the joy of this book is the telling.  Kurt is a classic ‘unreliable narrator,’ an engaging mix of Jim Thompson and Poe.  His narration is quite insidious, as he matter-of-factly justifies his increasingly disturbed behaviour; to hear Kurt tell it, it’s quite reasonable to stun gun a woman, and abduct her to a tomb to confront her personal demons.

This creepy and compelling depiction of psychosexual obsession recalls filmmaker Brian De Palma’s early work: Body Double, Blow Out, Dressed to Kill.  And of course, in Kurt’s relationship with his overbearing mother, we see shades of Bloch/Hitchcock’s Psycho.  Often darkly humorous, events conspire to a bleak and bleakly funny ending that rivals the gut punch of Sluizer’s The Vanishing.

Graveyard Love is a perfectly paced potboiler with a terrifyingly ‘harmless’ protagonist, and just the right recipe of crime, mystery and psychological horror.  Stalk it immediately! (Adam Howe)

graveyard love

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CUT CORNERS VOL. 2 (Sinister Grin Press)

Cut Corners Vol. 2 (Sinister Grin Press)

The second volume of Sinister Grin Press’ CUT CORNERS brings readers three fresh short works from the talents of Ray Garton, Monica J. O’Rourke, and Shane McKenzie.  While none of the three is particularly novella-length, each is a fairly lengthy short story, providing readers an enjoyable serving-size of splatterpunk.

CUT CORNERS VOL. 2 opens with Ray Garton’s “A Flat and Dreary Monday Night,” a terror-filled tale of a bizarre home invasion that takes the calm beginning of the piece’s ironic title and turns it up a notch by the second page, getting more and more intense with each word.  While some elements of Garton’s story do fall a bit short (e.g. the predictable ending, our protagonist’s choice of weapon that gets thrown in), the story’s strength really comes through the tense action sequence which, wonderfully, is more or less the entirety of the story.

Monica J. O’Rourke’s “Exposed” is the second piece, creating the filling for the bloodied horror-short sandwich that is CUT CORNERS VOL. 2, and is my personal favorite piece of the trio.  The story of Mary, a woman out for heroics, revenge, or perhaps something else entirely, she captures a known pedophile and brutally tortures him in her search for her daughter.  Well-paced with solid imagery and a monster of a torture scene, O’Rourke’s first-person narrative paints a picture of a frantic hero with a crumbling psyche.

Capping off the collection is Shane McKenzie’s “Bleeding Rainbows,” the dark story of a supernaturally endowed serial killer that is “just doing his job.”  While throughout the story, McKenzie’s explanations of the killer’s powers and purpose come off as a bit fumbling at times; the story’s nameless protagonist really does wind up well characterized as his story weaves between that of a lonely child and ruthless killer.  From the story’s dark opening scene to the startling climax, McKenzie’s killer protagonist grows to a complexity that shows his taste for blood has much more hiding under the surface.

CUT CORNERS VOL. 2 is a bloody collection of fucked-up people doing fucked-up things from three of contemporary horror’s wildest authors. (Nathan Crazybear)

cut coners 2

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FURNACE by Joseph Williams (Book Review)

FURNACE by Joseph Williams (Severed Press)

When Lieutenant Michael Chalmers, navigator of the Rockne Hummel spaceship, wakes up early from hyper-sleep to find the ship is off course, things are tense, but are only heating up. Forced to take the ship down on a mysterious planet called Furnace, Lieutenant Chalmers is immediately struck with horrific visions and finds himself and the crew under attack. He survives the first battle, wounded and struggling, but he has no idea what awaits him on this desolate planet. Chalmers takes us through his journey in the form of an official narrative document to explain what happened on the planet of Furnace. How does that many people die and what explanation is there for such atrocity? Oh, there’s an explanation all right.

Joseph Williams is a hell of a writer. I’m not the biggest science fiction fan, but his ability to effortlessly weave a narrative culled me into the story, and before I knew it I realized that FURNACE is far more than just another sci-fi novel about a spaceship discovering some strange planet with odd inhabitants like an episode of Star Trek. Far more. There’s a lot going on in FURNACE and soon enough you realize that Williams is straddling horror and science fiction and he does it well. The planet of Furnace is full of dirty tricks, but there’s also a lot going on in our narrator’s haunted mind that causes the reader to feel for him and root him on as he struggles his way through a planet that seems bent on killing him.

Isolation, claustrophobia, and the disastrous consequences of extreme alienation are only a few themes coursing through the pages of FURNACE, a book that is intent on taking the reader through a veritable roller coaster of intensity that never lets go. To be isolated in a foreign land would be bad enough and certainly cause overwhelming loneliness, but imagine the horror of a planet with clown demons, corpses aplenty, maddening visions, and the ability to get inside your head and fuck with you. But what exactly is Furnace? That’s the mystery, the secret that will shatter your mind in the end, and just another reason to read this book.

For fans of science fiction (clearly, just look at the cover), but more importantly (at least for this reviewer), for fans of horror, yes horror!, for the horror abounds and the intensity of FURNACE is something of a force that’s trajectory is aimed right for your cerebral cortex. You will not soon forget this novel after reading it, for the nightmarish imagery Williams creates and the stomach dropping terror you feel as you are guided through the disastrous events that occurred on a planet of pure evil through the no-nonsense narration of our brave, yet troubled navigator Lieutenant Michael Chalmers will stick to the inner walls of your mind like literary paste. (Robert Essig)

furnace

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I Will Rot Without You by Danger Slater (Book Review)

I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU by Danger Slater (Fungasm)

The dedication at the beginning of I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU is the obvious heart and genesis of the novella, succinctly it reads,

“To: All the girls who helped me start this story,
And, The one girl who helped me finish it.”

This dedication is the best way to describe the journey that awaits the curious; it leaves out all the blood, mold, bugs, goop, and melting, but it strikes at exactly why this book is so effective. Writing about love is always a precarious thing, it so easily becomes a song among thousands, full of cliché and worn out tropes, the same is even truer when writing about breakups. How many poorly written, emotionally void books are there that seek to address this most human of experiences? How many of them feel like the same old, tired bullshit you’ve heard/read/seen regurgitated again and again? This book, thank the dark gods below, is not one of those stories.

It’s a pretty simple tale: girl leaves boy, boy doesn’t even understand how to function without girl, roaches and mold smash into boys life, boy meets new girl, new girl is tragically involved with an abusive asshole who sews parts of himself to her, etcetera, etcetera, and so on, until the awesome final chapter. It’s a story we all know and love. And fuck if I didn’t love it. Slater has such a way with language that while describing the protagonist literally falling to pieces, I visualized each loss, each drip, and each crumble. There is a scene with a neighbor and his mummified wife that I could fucking see, as I read. At one particularly bug-heavy scene, I swear a cockroach ran across my couch. This book grips you and doesn’t let go, it shakes you until you feel like parts of you could so easily fall off and be forgotten.

There’s a pretty profound scene towards the end where the nature of relationships is deconstructed with a fierce eloquence and rich understanding of how broken we all are, and how we seek another to repair that damage. At its core, I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU is an authentically human book about loss, identity, and the cost of moving on. It is also wonderfully gross. I regret that I hadn’t sooner dove into the works of Danger Slater – a regret I will be rectifying sooner than later. (Sam Richard)

danger slater

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