FALLEN SOLDIER by Rich Hawkins (Book Review)

FALLEN SOLDIER by Rich Hawkins

From the author of THE LAST PLAGUE, FALLEN SOLDIER is a (long) short story about Joseph, a young soldier who returns home after serving 4 years on the Front, battling the horror of the trenches, where he is unable to save his men from war and disease. On his return to the ancestral home Joseph is greeted by horrors unimaginable.

This time will he be able to do anything about it?

Joseph is a man who has survived the trauma of World War 1, only to come home and find his mother chained to the wall in the cellar. Joseph’s comfortable world – the one he has return to after escaping the horrors of the war – is turned upside down.

FALLEN SOLDIER is bleak, traditional horror. It’s tight, fast paced and well-written, a pleasure to read. I’m looking forward to more fiction by Rich Hawkins. (Jack Bantry)

Fallen Soldier

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BLACK CAT MOJO by Adam Howe (Book Review)

BLACK CAT MOJO by Adam Howe (Comet Press)

A downtrodden dwarf porn star, a couple of moronic redneck crooks who see a big payoff in a dog’s ass, an ex-gangster living in witness protection who is conned by a kid, and the tale of a carnie and Ed Gein’s car pretty much sums up Adam Howe’s BLACK CAT MOJO, a collection of three novellas and a short story. With a voice that’s all his own and a mind that is clearly comfortable wallowing in the weird and depraved, Adam Howe brings the goods with these gritty, absurdist crime stories.

The first story, OF BADGERS & PORN DWARVES, is an in depth look at the life of a little person who is well endowed and has made quite a living for himself in the adult entertainment industry. In the wake of his floundering career, he finds himself a victim of his own vices and owing the wrong people a considerable amount of money. He agrees to quite an absurd arrangement to pay off his debts, but you’ll never guess where this story is going and how it will end. There were moments when I was tired of reading about the dwarf’s exploits, but in the end this turned out to be quite a roller coaster of an odd crime story.

JESUS IN A DOG’S ASS was the weakest of the bunch. Amongst religious zealots, idiot redneck criminals and brainwashed fools, there is absolutely no one to give a shit about. I would have been pleased to have the entire town in this story bombed. The writing is tight, because Howe knows his craft, but this one just didn’t do it for me. On top of that, the ending fell flat.

The final two stories are where this book shows its teeth. FRANK, THE SNAKE & THE SNAKE is a story about an ex-gangster living in the witness protection program. He has a book out detailing his rise and fall as a mobster and after years as a grease monkey, one of his biggest fans recognizes him, but this fan wants more than just an autograph. This story is great, hands down. Frank has a rich, complex story and though he used to mingle with the mob, you can’t help but root for him. As is the method Howe seems to approach with the stories in this collection, this one takes enough twists and turns that the reader can’t possibly predict where it is going.

The final story THE MAD BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD’S CHARIOT OF DEATH only upstages the preceding story in that the subject matter is even more interesting. Carnies? Check. Ed Gein? Check. Third-rate amusements? Check. This story is based on the guy who actually carted Ed Gein’s car around the carnival circuit after buying the vehicle at auction. People ate this shit up, but Howe tells us the real story, because what could go wrong with showcasing Ed Gein’s car, right? I can tell you this, what you’re thinking is not what happens, because if there is something you will understand at this point in reading these stories, it’s that Adam Howe knows how to take his readers on a different kind of trip, one that you most likely haven’t thought of, and though his characters are heavily flawed, they have qualities that the reader can identify with (well, except for the dopes in JESUS IN A DOG’S ASS), and that, in addition to the stories being so goddamned weird, is why they work so well, and why I will be looking for more work by this author. Adam Howe is one to look out for, and what better place to look than with BLACK CAT MOJO? (Robert Essig)

black cat mojo

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STRIPPER POLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Eric Beetner (Schlock Zone Drive-In)

Short, pulp horror from hardboiled crime writer, Eric Beetner. It’s the end of society as we know it. Janet has lost her fiancé, her job and her leg. Yes, in an explosion she lost her leg, forearm and was left needing a metal plate in her head! The Collapse hasn’t been kind to Janet. Struggling on a prosthetic leg which doesn’t fit properly, and trying to use crutches with half an arm she travels across Center City to look for a job at Sammy’s strip club, a strip club which employs damaged girls, like Janet. Unfortunately for Janet, travelling with one leg is the least of her worries. Groups of starving cannibals roam the city seeking out fresh meat to satisfy their hunger.

When the strip club is attacked by a gang of cannibals, Janet and the occupants of the club: a regular pervert; some bikers Sammy, the fat owner; a barman with a haunted past; and the other damaged girls, must fight to survive, and Janet is a survivor – a survivor dancing the stripper pole at the end of the world…

STRIPPER POLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD isn’t exactly what I’d associate with Eric Beenter, the man behind hardboiled crime novels like THE DEVIL DOESN’T WANT ME, RUMRUNNERS and RUN FOR THE MONEY. Beetner is part of the new generation of noir crime a writer’s, whereas STRIPPER POLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD is homage to 70’s and 80’s schlock horror, like Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD and Raimi’s EVIL DEAD. STRIPPER POLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD is set in a near futuristic world like Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and because Janet is under siege in a strip club – with the usual array of characters – it reminded me of Tarantino’s FROM DUSK TILL DAWN.

STRIPPER POLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD is pulp goodness, that’ll leave you reminiscing about watching all those classic horror films in your geeky, fun-loving youth. (Jack Bantry)

stripper pole

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PUPPET SKIN by Danger Slater (Book Review)

PUPPET SKIN by Danger Slater (Fungasm Press)

“Everyone gets strings when they become adults, that’s how it works.”

That line from Danger Slater’s new book, PUPPET SKIN, is Bizarro horror at its best! Danger Slater (what a cool name, right?) wrote one hell of a fun book here and it hit all the right notes with me; the bleakness of alienation, the terror of rejection and scorn of being different, thinking different and doing different. Published by Fungasm Press, PUPPET SKIN was a therapeutically frightening read.

The plot is simple enough: Hannah is going to graduate from middle school soon, and she is about to turn into a puppet. Everyone does when they turn into adults. But before she gets her strings, she notices the world that she knew is not as it seems. As she investigates, the mysteries of adulthood spiral deeper than she could have ever imagined. The last few chapters are a bang to read and while the novel starts out slow, it is a pleasant burn to the horrors that Hannah uncovers in search of the truth behind the absurdity of life. The characters are vivid and varied.  The protagonist, Hannah, is skillfully written and fully realized. And what Hannah uncovers in the end blew my mind!

If you get a chance, add PUPPET SKIN to your collection. You will not regret it. (Chuck Rios)

Puppet skin

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GREENER PASTURES by Michael Wehunt (Book Review)

GREENER PASTURES by Michael Wehunt (Shock Totem Publications)

I read before I go to sleep, collections are my favorite books to unwind with and slip into dreamland. You can read a few stories and pick it up the next night at another set of tales all together. I prefer horror to put me to bed, to fill my head with strange dreams but rarely do I experience nightmares…note that I said rarely.

I have been hearing a buzz about GREENER PASTURES from many people, so I decided to give it a go and what I discovered was something truly wonderful, it was beyond horror, from the first few sentences I could tell that this book was really something else. Wehunt binds together feelings of darkness, dread and unease seamlessly and makes it all feel so effortless and natural to him by the way his prose flows. At moments his stories tread into magical territories that could be considered beautiful in an unsettling kind of way, men sprouting feathers and women falling from the sky. His offering is not gore for gore’s sake or heavy handed, the tales seep into your mind like truly dreadful things should. The first story I read holds a special place in my heart for having a set of twins in it, sisters that lead unnaturally long lives after drinking blood from a mountain.

Michael Wehunt knows just how to invoke scenes of heart ache and loss, a particular story about a man in a desperate search for his missing child really tugged at my emotions being a mother, the ending left me feeling as if I had stepped into the twilight zone and I say that in the best possible way, being a lifelong horror fan it’s hard to shock me, carnage and brutality aren’t anything that bother me, so when a story feels like a punch to the gut I know this writer has truly mastered drawing me into their work.

Another of my favorites is, “Greener Pastures”, a story I could imagine being told around a campfire, it’s one of those that build that sense of dread at an expert pace until you are left absolutely freaked out. It’s about a trucker who has an unwanted conversation with a fellow driver, he tells the main character of hearing voices coming through his radio, how they tell him to park his truck on the roadside and come into the darkened wilderness beyond. You get the true sense that whoever or whatever these voices are disguised as loved ones, they want to lead you to your doom like the will-o-the-wisps of olden tales. It is here that I recant my boasting of never getting nightmares from reading because one night I awoke after dreaming of hearing my son’s voice speaking through my car stereo. I immediately went to check on him but was a little frightened as I walked down the dark hallway to his bedroom. I believe this came from how the story inspired true fear, it was not a blood bath that relied on gore and violence to scare its audience but instead it created a feeling of engulfing darkness and the hopelessness of having nothing to stop it from swallowing you up.

Wehunt has a true gift of storytelling, a unique voice and a talent for words and all of those things equal a five-star rating in my book. I can’t wait to read more from him. (Michelle Garza)

greener pastures

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DARK MUSING’S by Xtina Marie (Book Review)

DARK MUSING’S by Xtina Marie (Fat Lip Press)

I don’t read as much poetry as I should. Yes I am one of THOSE people. I enjoy well written poetry, while being admittedly bad at writing it, but I just don’t seek it out. After reading Xtina Marie’s DARK MUSING’S, I will now make an effort to remedy my reading habits.  Not to mention my reviewing habits… I can’t just tell people what a poem is about like I can with a book. There is no plot, no characters, no back story, just emotions translated into words and mixed with a little blood and dead tree pulp.

Xtina reaches deep into the darkness that hides all of our most powerful emotions, blisters of devastating rage, and sadness seeping with the insanity of a twisted psyche.  She writes dark, soulful poetry and puts her readers on an emotional ladder, only to take an axe to that ladder and gleefully hack away as she watches the reader hang on for dear life.  Many of the poems speak on their own merit, but a few of my favorites were; “Diseased”, “My Dear”, and “The Middle of Darkness”.  When you put the book down to allow the words you’ve read to sink in, the author has done justice to those words, and I found myself doing so often through her book.

She writes the kind of poetry that speaks to people, reaches out to them, and I’m sure, for some, her words will carry them from those dark bridges and give them hope in the realization that they are not alone.  Poetry is not about entertaining, it is about cutting yourself open and watching the words that form on paper as the blood runs out.

Lyrical darkness written with a sharpened pen and a wicked mind, Xtina is waiting, in the darkness and she will cut you. I promise, you’ll love every minute of it. (Cory Cline)


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Run To Ground by Jasper Bark (Book Review)

RUN TO GROUND by Jasper Bark (Crystal Lake Publishing)

Some authors leave you with a feeling that you have been reading their work forever. You become so comfortable with their words that you forget you are reading, and you fall into a kind of trance that leaves you with the feeling that you have always been reading their works.  Jasper Bark is one of those authors.

I’ve read his STUCK ON YOU AND OTHER PRIME CUTS collection, and enjoyed it greatly, and his new novella, RUN TO GROUND is another twisted entry into the mind of this talented and slightly disturbed author.  In this novella about a cemetery groundskeeper with mother issues who is chosen for something much greater, I felt the fingertips of Poe & Lovecraft teasing me as Jasper introduced the otherworldly horrors that lay beneath the graves of an ancient land.

Jasper introduces us to Jim, a groundskeeper who loves his mother and the graves he cares for in… non-traditional ways so to speak. Jim is weird and immature and his story will bounce around a bit. At first, I found myself feeling bad for this guy, but Jasper won’t allow that for long once he reveals Jim’s true motivation. The madness continues and escalates as the story unfolds and Jasper adds his flair for the gothicly grotesque that would make the above mentioned masters of horror blush from beyond their own graves as he madly chums the waters of hell’s vast oceans.

If this isn’t enough… The publishers were kind enough to include a short story that was part of Jasper’s STUCK ON YOU AND OTHER PRIME CUTS. “How The Dark Bleeds,” which I enjoyed the first time I read it and couldn’t resist reading it again, is a short and sweet descent into madness by way of monsters and mythology that still left me with a sense that I should never sit around a campfire and listen to Jasper’s stories. Not on a full stomach, anyway.

Read this book. Read every book you can find by Jasper Bark. It takes a special author to convey such grotesque and bloody fare while keeping his finger on the pulse of the story to drive it forward with tension and the kind of atmosphere that makes you wary of the shadows your reading light is casting. Jasper Bark – a word magician of the highest order; prepare to have your mind blown… (Cory Cline)

run to ground

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