ODD MAN OUT by James Newman (Book Review)

ODD MAN OUT by James Newman (Bloodshot Books)

Once in a while a book comes around that exceeds the expectations of its genre. Its reach goes beyond just entertainment and becomes something bigger than just a horror story; it becomes a mirror reflecting the evils that hide in the corners of our society. James Newman isn’t afraid to shine his spotlight into those dark corners where things like hate and group mentality eagerly waits. We are taught that the worst monsters hide in the dark and ODD MAN OUT proves that the worst of those monsters are within us.

Newman gives us a coming of age tale with a message in ODD MAN OUT; a task that can sometimes seem forced, or perhaps seem like the author is selling you a jar of snake oil. In this savage tale set in the late eighties, Newman takes readers back to the good old days of summer fun and boys-will-be-boys shenanigans at the Black Mountain Camp for Boys. Readers will smell the pine in the trees around the lake that Dennis and his fellow campers spend as much time as possible in.

One of those campers is Wesley Westmore, an old friend of Dennis’ who was always a bit different. Dennis never realized how different until the camp bully finds evidence that Wesley may be gay…fear and anger begin to pollinate the air around the camp as the other campers begin to rally behind the bully.

Newman is at his best when he’s turning up the heat in a tale that could be non-fiction. If you think Jack Ketchum’s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was intense than prepare to be shattered. Newman takes us into that dark cabin where Dennis’ life is forever changed and doesn’t hold back from showing the reader what happens when a mob forms from an irrational fear of difference. The emotional storm that follows is enough to anger anyone who believes people should be allowed their happiness.

ODD MAN OUT is the type of story that should be shared, amongst friends, family, and anyone who has or will ever be in a situation where they are witnessing the darkness that dwells within humanity.  We have all seen it, or heard it… But how many times can it be ignored before we decide that enough is enough and stand up to people who spread hate and fear like a plague…

It’s time we say something, make a stand. You never know when that will save a life, and I think anyone who follows James Newman into the darkness within this book will do exactly that when faced with something that deep down, they know is wrong. (Cory Cline)

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CRAWLERS by Ray Garton (Book Review)

CRAWLERS by Ray Garton (RGB Publishing)

Ray Garton returns to Mt. Crag in this sci-fi fused horror novella that will make you think twice the next time you have to buy flowers for your wife.  Garton’s return to the sleepy mountainside town from his Folks series will warm the cockles of many of his readers, unfortunately, what he does to the town later will chill those cockles before they get a chance to get too comfy.

It all starts with a meteor shower… and just like that, there are flowers everywhere; strange alien flowers that no one has ever seen before and they are growing everywhere. When people start picking them, putting them in pots, and bringing them inside, it doesn’t take long for them to realize that these flowers are not as pretty as they look.

Garton has a knack for building suspense and character in few words. The people of Mt. Crag are a full cast of multidimensional, eclectic people learning about the plants at the same pace as the reader until Garton switches gears once the brakes are cut and reveals some of the cards he’s playing with. You may find yourself yelling at his characters to watch out as the dangers they are about to face begin to unfold.  His ability to create an entire cast full of independently unique characters so quickly only forces the horrors to shroud over the canvas of his outlandish premise.

CRAWLERS will make readers yearn for those cheesy B-movies from the fifties and it’s obvious that Garton is a big fan of those corny old movies where something strange attacks a town in the middle of nowhere. As characters fall victim to the invasion and others are trying to find loved ones and escape, Garton’s poker face never flinches and his take no prisoners approach to the art of entertainment will guarantee that readers haven’t been this shocked since the ending of Stephen King’s, THE MIST.

Ray Garton didn’t get this far in his career by pulling his punches and CRAWLERS is a knockout for fans of horror, sci-fi, creature features, and Gardening Monthly. If you don’t have a green thumb, this book will definitely not inspire you to get one after reading – In fact… You may want to load up on some weed killer. (Cory Cline)

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PERVERSE HUMANITY by Kyle Lybeck (Book Review)

PERVERSE HUMANITY by Kyle Lybeck

This is Kyle Lybeck’s debut collection (I read and reviewed his most recent a few months ago) and this is a much more violent creature than his newer one.  Lybeck came out with a super-soaker full of gore and some designs on aiming for the ceiling of extreme horror.  For the most part, he succeeds.

We open with MR PLUNGER a twisted tale of a “cleaner” who creates a lucrative side line gig for himself only to discover that it doesn’t quite hold the payoff he’d been hoping for.  LITTLE SISTER is a gruff and harsh tale of some kids who invites the new kid in to be a part of their group,  but the new kid is a monster of dangerous proportion and the path they take to vengeance is a gore-slick and slippery one.

DECAF, LIGHT ROOM is a weird gut punch with some mad science leanings. PUREBRED is a vile sliver of rage-fueled hate as a man goes on a quest to clean his city.  IN OUR FINAL MOMENTS is a stark and hysterical prediction of what mankind would do when given any notice that the end was in fact coming soon, and we think we’re animals now?!

I’m not going to single out any more, but all the stories here are pretty enjoyable. All seem to operate in that Twilight-Zone-end-twist style, but more HG Lewis than O Henry.  Lybeck doesn’t shy away from the hardcore. And while a few times, I found myself thinking it was a little too familiar, the veers he took from the road at other points more than made up for it. (John Boden)

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CHASING GHOSTS by Glenn Rolfe (Book Review)

CHASING GHOSTS by Glenn Rolfe (Sinister Grin Press)

Naples, Maine is a small town like any other. Except for beneath the idyllic New England beauty and folksiness, there is something sinister lurking.  The Cobbs were a feeble and unsettling clan of woods people.  Some died off and others just disappeared. The people of Naples are fairly certain they know the lore and they whisper it to their children to keep them in line.

Luke moves to the town with his mother.  Living in the shadow of tragedy, Luke is eager to make new friends and get a somewhat normal teenage thing going.  He meets up with a pair of local kids who invite him on an adventurous past time they refer to as “chasing ghosts.”  They end up at the abandoned home of the Cobb family and learn the hard and bloody way that it isn’t as abandoned as they’d hoped.

There is also the matter of a punk band arriving to play a private party at a local dive. Their singer ambles into the woods and comes face to face with a horrific beast of legend and before the night is over the town will be reminded of bloodshed and loss and most of all, the Cobbs. And all the while, personal dramas play out – jealousy and tempers add unneeded distraction while folks are trying their best just to stay alive.

Glenn Rolfe has delivered a love letter to those pulpy novels that filled the racks in the 80’s.  He weaves together favorite threads like small town horror and an inbred-monster family into a tough and binding rope.  It’s an easy and fun read.  I had one helluva time with it. (John Boden)

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JUDGING BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS by Robert Essig, with Evans Light.

 

JUDGING BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS
(and Some Words with Evans Light)
by Robert Essig

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, as if publishers purposely place unrepresentative covers on books just to grab the consumer’s attention. They wouldn’t do that. Right? I mean, look at the original mass market paperback cover of Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, featuring a cheerleader with a skeleton head. If ever there was an example of a cover that does not fit the story,that one takes the cake. Who knows, maybe people bought it because a skullhead cheerleader embossed cover was just too damn alluring on a rack of paperback horror titles that all featured skeletons, creepy dolls, and monsters. It was the eighties and nineties, after all, and horror was a goldmine of great talent drowning in a sea of hack writers and lurid covers that, in retrospect, are pretty damn cool and entertaining. Those old covers, cheesy covers if you will, remind me of seventies and eighties rock/metal album art. Catch the consumer’s attention, dammit. Get them to buy the book. In some cases, the reader was bummed out or just plain frustrated when some sweet-ass cover convinced them to buy and the book either sucked or was seriously misrepresented by the cover art. In other cases, such as Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, the book is so damn good you forget about the skullhead cheerleader. And then when you’re finished you look at it and think, “What the fuck?”

15139452_10202637913944810_734965349_n Continue reading

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SPOORLOOS – The Hill (Music Review)

SPOORLOOS  – The Hill album

Spoorloos is a solo project written/recorded and performed by Thuringwethil ( Larissa Elaine Glasser) She is an academic librarian, a writer of dark fantasy and horror fiction, and is co-founder of the Witching Metal band, Hekseri. The project is named after the classic 1988 Dutch/French horror film.

The Hill is an album of unhinged, haunted, atonal solo-acoustic murder ballads and ambient soundscapes primarily influenced by Slint’s Spiderland  and Swans My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky. That is cribbed directly from the liner notes but for my money there are slobbering shadows of the Suspiria soundtrack and early Jethro Tull (when they were noisy).

To say this is a challenging listen would sound harsh and almost insulting but indeed, it is.  IF one is not a daring adventurer in the sounds they seek and IF one cannot break new aural ground and sit tight while doing it, then it will definitely prove a challenge. But if you can anchor yourself to giving it a good sold hear (preferably through headphones so you get ever nuanced, suffering sound) then you’re in for a hellishly creepy ride.

Thematically the music on this disc, could have no higher a horror pedigree. Based on classic works by writers such as Sheridan Le Fanu, Oliver Onions and Arthur Machen.  There are also songs that grapple such slithery subjects  as cultism, Occultism, serial killers, intolerance and murder.

The influence of early dark metal is clear as well as that strange landscape that borders it, where the cacophonous and dark lope and squirm but not wearing denim and leather. Where bands like Big Black and Rapeman can toe the line against Venom and Possessed.

The Hill walks heel-toe one the line that splits that landscape.  These songs, mostly  acoustic and percussive, churn and build like a softly whispered mantra that swells to a rending shrieking chant.  Whispers and snarls flit about like bats in a small room and the din threatens to suffocate you but keep listening and it all comes together.  It swirls and envelopes you in a cocoon of dead skin and dark deed. (Reviewed by John Boden)

Spoorloos “The Hill” is available through CD Baby, iTunes and Bandcamp or you can contact through their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/Spoorloosmass

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PUNK ROCK GHOST STORY by David Agranoff (Book Review)

PUNK ROCK GHOST STORY by David Agranoff (Deadite Press)

Take an entire discography of old school punk and hardcore, a haunted van, add a dash of angry youth, a liberty Mohawk, some drugs and alcohol, and you’ve got yourself a driving force of a novel that pushes the boundaries of the serial killer and ghost story tropes and binds them together with the gritty underground of 80’s punk. What I’m talking about is David Agranoff’s PUNK ROCK GHOST STORY.

So there’s a modern day punk band from Indiana called People’s Uprising. They’re about ready for their first tour, and their singer Nate, who’s obsessed with old school hardcore, wants to hit the rode like the punks used to, crammed together with their equipment in a van listening to music at maximum volume. There’s a local punk legend about a short lived band called The Fuckers, whose lead singer Frank disappeared in Houston while on tour. Nate is helplessly focused on not only The Fuckers’ music, but what happened to Frank on that one tour the band embarked on. When Nate locates the very van The Fuckers toured in, he buys it for People’s Uprising to tour in. Soon he begins to learn the secrets of that fateful Fuckers tour in 1982 and his band-mates lives will never be the same. This is the story behind Frank Fucker’s disappearance, and it’s a hell of a good ride.

Yes, this is a ghost story, but there are no haunted houses and rattling chains and spirits whose bones yearn for the discovery that will finally put them to rest. There’s more to the ghost motif. For one, Agranoff examines the social duress of punk rock from its brazen early days of being the new whipping post for conformist hatred to becoming everything punk was never to be. I bet you bought that Misfits shirt at Hot Topic, didn’t you? Times are always changing and there is often a need, a longing for nostalgia, to experience times past vicariously through books or movies or music. PUNK ROCK GHOST STORY captures this sort of longing through Nate’s obsession with the ghosts of punk rock’s past, but living through the music isn’t enough. This book also deals heavily with obsession and the negatives that can come from drowning in the stuff.

I would be remiss not to mention that this book, yes, a Deadite Press release, a horror story, is also a love story. Sure, Nate’s love for Hardcore music, but a human love story as well. The question is, does Nate’s love for the scene (or at least his romanticized view of a scene long past), rival what he feels for the girl of his dreams?

It is clear that David Agranoff has a serious passion for punk, and I suspect that his personal views on how the scene has permutated over the years bleeds onto the pages of this story. That’s what makes it so real. That’s what makes me believe in the ghosts, the punk rock ghosts. (Robert Essig)

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