THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN by Orrin Grey (Book Review)

THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN by Orrin Grey (Dunhams Manor Press)

THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN (or THE CULT OF HEADLESS MEN, depending) is a limited (to 150) horror novelette in the olden tradition of the weird; and it’s a fucking blast. Taking place in the ‘60s, Kirby Marsh is a film producer determined to ride the cusp of the British Horror boom (think Hammer Horror). He’s pretty much Roger Corman, which should make several of you excited immediately. We follow him to a friend’s family Manor in England, where Kirby has hopes to film several films. What begins as a short history of the place ends with some incredibly awesome cult action, ancient science and the dark arts, noises in the distance on cold, damn nights, and a terrible secret in the old family crypt.

This book is short, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in atmosphere, chills, and sharp imagery. Orrin is a master wordsmith in top form, conjuring vibes and creating scenes that recollect the weird horror writers of the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s dripping with a classic horror tension and mood that is rarely played with anymore. But he blends that with this 60’s vibe. Many awesome references to 60’s B films and all the Roger Corman-isms you could want. I loved this book. I will be seeking out more Orrin Grey and devouring it as quickly as I can, because this shit is gold.

The title is actually THE CULT OF HEADLESS MEN, but due to a typo the cover says THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN, which the author is quick to explain in the Author’s Note. When they discovered that this had happened, it seems almost too perfect, given all the films produced in that era with names on posters and promotional material that are just slightly off from what the film says. It’s amazing that they kept that in, as a nod to the spirit of the B movie. The cover art is actually what prompted me to check this book out. Michael Bukowski worked some serious magic on this cover, and it so perfectly captures the delightfully fun horrors within. As far as I know, there are still copies available, so please do yourself a favor and check this out before they are all gone! You’ll be happy you did. (Sam Richard)

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RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE by CV Hunt (Book Review)

RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE by CV Hunt (Grindhouse Press)

CV Hunt is officially my new favorite author, and RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE is like a goddamn gift from the darkest gods below. It is the work of a brilliant writer who understands the inner workings of the human mind better than most. There are moments in this book that are so uncomfortable that I physically felt them – and that scene was of a medical procedure, not one of the super fucked up parts. This book is so fucking good that it makes me want to scream. It’s also totally fucked and absolutely fucking perfect.

For Nick Graves and his wife, Eve, the passion, love, and hope in their marriage has long since passed. Resentment abounds and Nick is ready to move on, to let go and admit defeat. His plans disintegrate around him when Eve reveals that she is pregnant, something they had agreed they didn’t want. Not wanting to been seen as someone who would abandon his wife and unborn child, Nick plots some serious fucking revenge. She made a major life decision without his input, so why couldn’t he do the same? After finding the perfect house in the country, Nick and Eve move to a community of terrible secrets, architecture that doesn’t make sense, statues built with faeces, and mystery that will unfurl into their unhappy lives.

There is so much anger and resentment built into the Nick character, and it screams from a place of truth, of experience. If you’ve been in a bad relationship that just simmers with hate, you’ll know the feeling that this book produces. I don’t want to dig too far in, as to avoid spoiling anything for you, but trust me that you will want to read this book. It’s nasty, fucked, cruel, and speaks to a truth that many of us have felt in our lives. Everything in this book is totally where it should be, and the story is able to carry itself through some pretty rough territory without running off the rails. If I get a chance to meet CV Hunt, I’m buying her a beer and thanking her for being able to write a scene that actually made me cringe. Buy this fucking book. Buy it now and read it as soon as you get it. (Sam Richard)

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X’s FOR EYES by Laird Barron (Book Review)

X’s FOR EYES by Laird Barron (Bizarro Pulp Press)

This short novella is filled to the brim with Old Gods, a Himalayan Assassin School, a Murderous Cult, Corporate Espionage, and in the midst of it are the Tooms brothers. Like a twisted, sociopathic version of Hardy Boys, Johnny Quest and Haji, or the Venture Brothers; the Tooms brothers frantically stumble through this 1950’s cosmic sci-fi, pulp-adventure story. It’s hallucinatory, weird, and full of snappy, pulp-ridden dialogue.

I’m a pretty massive Laird Barron fan, with THE CRONING being one of my favorite books of the past decade, but this doesn’t quite scratch the itch I thought it would. But it does do something very different, something I’ve not seen from him. He’s in new territory here. He’s played with all the pieces presented in X’s FOR EYES, but never assembled them together, or in this sequence. Honestly, I found it a little difficult to follow and it’s not my favorite of his works, but it’s got its own charm and isn’t lacking in the weird category. It’s a difficult book to talk about because it’s packed full of so much cool shit, but is written in such a feverish way that the events in the story feel like a dream. And while it isn’t my favorite thing he’s ever written, it’s still pretty awesome, albeit a bit of a challenge.

The story takes some…ok a lot of twists and turns, ultimately revealing an awesome cosmic element that was the highlight of the book, for me. If you’re looking for a book that really has no peers, a book so singularly strange and bizarrely executed that I can think of no other that combines the these elements, I suggest you check it out. It has a density to the way that it’s written, which is a nice contrast against the ease of reading most weird literature that it’s actually refreshing. Not my favorite Barron, but something wholly unique and interesting that I can’t help but love it. Additionally, the cover art by Matthew Revert is incredibly sharp and captures a bit of the madness within. Get at it, you won’t be the same after you read it. (Sam Richard)

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A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS by Garrett Cook (Book review)

A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS by Garrett Cook (Deadite Press)

Somehow this was the first Garrett Cook book that I’ve ever read, this is something that will soon be rectified. A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS is an inside-out, violent, emotionally driven haunted house story. Only the haunt is the narrator of the story, and whatever he says he is – he isn’t. The house takes great pleasure at the pain of its inhabitants, both physical and emotional. The lines between time blur and characters trapped in the house from different eras are given to each other as a means of controlling them, inducing madness, and bringing their traumas and neurosis into startling clarity.

With A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS, Garrett Cook has created the kind of haunted house story devoid of the gothic trappings the genre is known for. This book is cruel and harsh; he puts his characters through terrible things, often at their own hands. The exploration of anorexia is particularly difficult to get through, and is also written so fucking well. It’s shocking and rough and hard to stomach, but goddamn if it isn’t fucking good. And that’s really what this whole book is. It’s full of horrible violence and inhumanity and yet its emotional center holds together and the writing is incredibly good. It has these moments of intense and blindingly bright genius. Combine that with all the fucked up cruelty and you’ve got a monster of a book.

My one minor complaint is that occasionally it feels a little messy, like one more round of editing would have sharpened up a few of those moments where things aren’t quite on the level of the rest of the book. That slight complaint aside, this book is fucking awesome. It sucks you in and fucks your head up a bit and opens your eyes a bit too wide at the horror and then, in 158 pages, it spits you back out, left to deal with the trauma that you were just subject to. A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS is proof that Extreme Horror is alive and well, kicking at the fringes, forcing us to witness all the unpleasantness the world has to offer, with a knowing, toothy grin that we’ll (or, at the very least, I’ll) gladly come back for more, time and time again. If you like it hard to take, interesting, and haunting, get A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS before it gets you. (Sam Richard)

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BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN by Paul Michael Anderson (Book Review)

BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN by Paul Michael Anderson (Dark Regions Press)

I’m ashamed now to say this was my first time reading anything by Paul Michael Anderson but after experiencing this magnetically dark collection of stories I can tell you it won’t be my last. BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN left me with such a gnawing feeling in my gut, from the foreword and introduction I had a feeling this was going to be one of those special reads and it really was.

The title story in this collection revolves around a woman named Karen and her struggles with slipping quite deeply into depression, losing herself and her mind, it’s the closer, and a very intense story but the others are equally intriguing and very well written.

The other offerings here you will find a great mixture of genres, displaying Anderson’s versatile style as he drifts between creature horror, Lovecraftian darkness and speculative fiction, it also feels gritty and pulpy as well. After reading this, I’m confident he could take on any genre he put his mind and pen to. This collection is like a gathering of many minds, melding them into one to create a striking horror experience. I look forward to reading more from Paul Michael Anderson and really encourage those looking for a spectacular reading experience to give this one a shot. (Michelle Garza)

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FRAGILE DREAMS by Philip Fracassi (Book Review)

FRAGILE DREAMS by Philip Fracassi (Journalstone Publishing)

Young Matthew Calvert is about to have one of the most important events of his life, the big job interview.  He is literally at the receptionist’s desk awaiting instruction as to how long and where to wait for his call when there is a low tremble, then a violent pitch. Before we can catch our breath the entire city is rocked by an immense earthquake.  Matthew doesn’t get his big interview. He gets buried under rubble, trapped in a dark and dusty womb of rock and metal and broken glass.  Injured and terrified, he soon discovers he is not alone.  There is a fellow survivor, close enough to talk to but there are other things in the dark with them.  They scuttle and dig and bite.

I’ve been a fan of the work of Philip Fracassi since I read his chapbook, MOTHER, earlier this year.  He followed that with another entitled ALTAR, which I also liked.  I have since been lucky enough to call this man a friend and read many stories of his (some published, some not) and I can tell you that he is a man with a lot to give.  His other gig of screenwriting makes his style a little different than most. He writes in a lean and mean way that is very clear and clever in orchestration.

With FRAGILE DREAMS, he brings his horrors to a new level. There is a deeply tragic and sad sense of horror at work here.  A helplessness and fear-stitched quilt that covers our main character as he lays injured in the darkness and ponders his future–a future.

A short but poignant read, I can’t recommend enough. (John Boden)

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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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