FLANAGAN by James H. Longmore (Book Review)

FLANAGAN by James H. Longmore (Sinister Grin Press)

Chris and Helen are a young–though not as young as they try to behave–married couple. Being teachers, they are ecstatic that spring break is upon them and they have plans for a great and relaxing vacation filled with all of their favorite activities. They’ve been married for a decade and hope to reconnect with one another, if you catch my drift.

They stop off in the small town of Flanagan on their way to their destination. They visit a local flea market and get a first hand sampling of the quaint and bizarre denizens of Flanagan. A stop at the local convenience store ups the ante on the scary redneck meter. Then they hit the hotel, which is kind of gross and cheap but it’ll work. The owner/clerk is a greasy redneck in a death metal t-shirt. After ignoring the myriad of warning signs things spiral into a whirlpool of violence and sex. What starts as a rednecks-gone-wild-on-the -city-folk’s story steamrolling into a twisted and not-quite-what-you think tale that leaves you feeling unsettled and gross.

I’ll be honest, I’m not much for the extreme horror these days. I mean, I’m not a prude and not easily offended but I tend to prefer quieter things, weirder things. That said, I enjoyed this one, mainly for the thick veins of dark humor that marble it. The violence is there and usually used a catalyst for the pitch black relationship satire at work. James H. Longmore is a solid writer and if very dark and brutal comedic horror is your thing, then this is for you. If you are weak of heart and easily embarrassed, then stay far away. Aw hell, read it anyway. (John Boden)

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MY NIGHT AS A ZOMBIE by Nathan Robinson (Non-fiction)

MY NIGHT AS A ZOMBIE by Nathan Robinson

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to attend Zombie Uprising in Chesterfield. It’s a claustrophobic, real world shoot-em-up with air-soft weapons, where you complete missions in a derelict factory with the threat of zombies (just humans dressed as zombies; don’t worry) around every corner. It’s great fun and a bargain at the cost/exhilaration ratio, as it’s run with professional precision by a marvellous group of actors.

Then I heard they were hiring zombies. I had the chance to view the other side of the business, immersing myself in the other side of the ultimate zombie experience.

Time: 1630 hours.

Location: Kirton Lindsey RAF Barracks.

After the base was decommissioned a few years ago, RAF Kirton lay in a state of limbo. It’s too big to do anything with. The people of the town don’t want anything done with it, so as to not crowd their picturesque setting in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds. It’s a large sprawling site, larger than the village it’s named after. Numerous buildings are dotted about, all left to ruin, the grass is overgrown, windows are broken, rubbish is strewn about. To say it looks apocalyptic is an understatement.

It’s perfect.

The staff are divided into two groups. ZEUS, who are decked out in army fatigues and SWAT team paraphernalia, looking every bit like a paramilitary force ready to stage a coup; and the zombies, who are ushered into a staff room and told to pick and well-worn overall that fits and grab a mask and goggles if you don’t want to lose an eye.

I was a “trial”, one of several new zombies brought in to fill the voids on this massive site with something roughly zombie shaped. You can never have enough zombies, I am told.

I wouldn’t call it hazing as such, but the “trials” are ordered to line up, facing away, ready for a pain test as we’re all shot in the back with different weapons of varying force. The biggest, the staff gun on rapid fire, hurts like ten bee stings at once. But the pain soon fades and I’m thankful for the smelly overall dampening the blows.

We have a meeting about the evenings event in an abandoned cinema, going over the order of the organised insanity which is to follow. With all the military persona, backchatting banter and anticipation of adrenaline, it feels like the colonial marines briefing scene in “ALIENS”.

The Kirton site is vastly different from the Chesterfield one I’d previously experienced. It’s more spread out, so the missions take a little longer to get going as the customers are ferried from building to building, so there’s a little waiting around between the arrival of the “fresh meat”. But later I’m thankful for the breather.

The first group arrives. I’m located in the “Morgue”, a former health care centre set on two floors, with a central stair case and numerous rooms leading off. I close all the doors to help contain the mystery of what might be lurking behind. I channel my inner zombie, develop a slight limp and test my roaring growl.

I chose the upstairs, hiding in the reception area because it means I can cover two doorways at once. What follows next is essentially a prolonged version of BOO! In which my fellow zombies and I stalk behind doorways and jump out at people. The shock on the punters faces is real. Being a horror author I’m used to scaring people from afar (sometimes I put fake spiders in books I sell, because I’m evil), so this is different. I love scaring people, so the malicious part of me delights in this. I roar at people. We all roar and the punters scream back. The real fake fear starts to bleed out of their foreheads as they begin to perspire. It’s not real, they’re telling themselves. But it is real, because it’s reality and someone is trying to get them. I see eyes gape in fear. I hear real screams of fear. The men crying out just as much as the women.

I hide behind doorways. I trap people in rooms as my fellow zombies stream in from another door. I set booby traps behind doors so objects fall to the floor, creating noise and distraction whilst we creep elsewhere. It’s fun frightening people, and I took to it like a natural.

By the time we reach the end of the final mission, it’s dark and all the customers have to light their way with a sparse number of torches and the dull lights of a couple of beaten up pick-up trucks. The finale is a well-orchestrated scene in which all of the zombies are brought together en masse in a terrifying spectacular worthy of any zombie film. It’s chaos, and it’s beautiful.

After a meet and greet and photo ops with the weirdly grateful customers, the zombies remove sweat filled masks and goggles. We get a bottle of water, a chocolate bar and a wage for our troubles. The new starters get a pat on the back and I’m invited back after proving a job well done. I hoarsely reply my thanks. My voice has gone from all of the screaming. It takes a full day before the croak fades and I get my dulcet tones back.

It’s gone 11pm by the time I get home. I have a whiskey and head for bed without having a shower.

I sleep well. I dream of zombies.

Zombie Uprising is an exhilarating night out, whether you’re paying customer or happy to be a zombie for the night. There’s numerous sites in the North of England, and I can’t wait to visit another one. I suggest you do the same, because it sells out very quickly.

Check availability and for the opportunity of being a zombie at www.zombieuprising.co.uk

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SPLATTERPUNK editor Jack Bantry’s novella, THE LUCKY ONES DIED FIRST is available on paperback and digital from DEADITE PRESS. With stunning cover art by Matthew Revert!

“The final showdown between the monster and two of the book’s characters is splatterpunk blood and gore at its finest.” – Kevin Lintner, Sanity’s Graveyard

“Immensely fun cryptid horror…” – Adrian Shotbolt, The Grim Reader

“It’s like JAWS but with Bigfoot!” – Shane McKenzie, author of Muerte Con Carne


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MAPPING THE INTERIOR by Stephen Graham Jones (Book Review)

MAPPING THE INTERIOR by Stephen Graham Jones (Tor Books)

There are books that touch a nerve, that raw primal feeling of unease and sadness that dances with awe and fear. I have yet to read anything from Stephen Graham Jones that does not fall within that realm. I would be lying were I not to state outright that he is my favorite writer working today. I am constantly-entertained, inspired and awestruck by his work. MAPPING THE INTERIOR is no exception.

 The novella begins with fifteen-year old Junior standing at the living room window, peripherally he sees a man in full Blackfeet dancer regalia cross to the doorway to the back of the house. To the utility room, his bedroom. He sleepily decides it is his father, a long-dead man who people felt was destined to be a Fancy dancer but who never danced or wore the attire in his life.

Obsessed with finding out why his father is haunting them and their house, the boy explores every inch of their home looking for proof what he saw was real. He draws intricate maps and notes and does all of this while playing surrogate Father and bodyguard to his younger brother, Dino. A little boy with not-so-little problems. Then he finds the bead and realizes there is much more exploring to be done.

One of the reasons that Jones is such a fantastic writer is that he puts so much of himself in the work.  The thoughts and feelings articulated here are familiar and possibly universal. Some he attributes to Native American culture but most are simply things that can only be seen and felt when we occupy that weird cusp of child-teetering-on-the-edge-of-adulthood. When our honesty has not been tarnished and our willingness to believe the unbelievable and ponder the proudly peculiar is as strong as wet leather.

There is an honesty that exudes from every phrase and word that you simply cannot fake. With MAPPING THE INTERIOR, he has opened floodgates. It is a simply breath-taking and tragic narrative that will leave you wrung out. It is an intricate and introspective and at its heart, terrifying story. (John Boden)

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ENTROPY IN BLOOM by Jeremy Robert Johnson (Book Review)

ENTROPY IN BLOOM by Jeremy Robert Johnson (Night Shade Books)

There are original writers, those who break the mold and then there are those who never saw a mold to begin with, those who sprung from the womb with pen in one hand and a feral desire to inflict implicit damage with it. Jeremy Robert Johnson is both of those. Familiar with his work (SKULLCRACK CITY made me woozy and giddy and also made me feel like I might be the dumbest fellow on the planet) I was eager to delve into this collection.

The first story is called THE LEAGUE OF ZEROES and tracks the future fad of extreme body modification to disturbing and insane proportions. PERSISTENCE HUNTING gives us the account of a young man and his illegal hobby of petty theft and robbery which spirals as he meets a stripper with a grander scheme.  THE OARSMAN is a sliver in unsettling poetic apocalypse while THE GRAVITY OF BENHAM FALLS brings you a haunted house story unlike the others. DISSOCIATIVE SKILLS delivers a gut-punch of gore and tragedy that will leave you dumbstruck. SNOWFALL – I can’t even elaborate on for feel it will rob you of the impact but I will say, My God!

WHEN SUSURRUS STIRS is a Cronenbergian fever dream of a young man and his parasite but it’s so much more. LUMINARY tells the tale of a young man with a flair for natural and organic science.  This one is possibly my favorite. It read, to me, like the greatness of early Stephen King and Ray Bradbury sewn together. TRIGGER VARIATION explores the world of extremes and how far we are willing to go to belong. CATHEDRAL MOTHER is motherhood, mutation and message. SWIMMING IN THE HOUSE OF THE SEA is a laceration that you can’t stop touching, can’t keep your fingernails from bothering the angry and screaming edges. It’s a wound of story and it will scar.

SATURN’S GAME brings us a lesson in consequences and repercussions and mental illness. THE SHARP DRESSED MAN AT THE END OF THE LINE is a post-nuclear war tale of a man in his special suit and survival. A FLOOD OF HARRIERS is a tale about collecting debts, regardless of how much time has passed and it’s a doozy. STATES OF CLASS finds a troubled woman in a motel/hotel. The grand finale is a novella titled THE SLEEP OF JUDGES This one is every brutal agent/drug dealer/Tarantino-meets-Peckinpah hallucination you’ve ever had. Drenched in raw pain and anger, it soaks through the page and leaves your fingers sticky. Brilliant.

I say again, brilliant. There is not a bad story in the bunch here. Every single one is an exercise in tight writing and language and giving a middle finger to convention. Johnson tells them well but the way he wants to. I applaud him for that. (John Boden)

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An interview with David Agranoff


I recently read the novel Punk Rock Ghost Story, published by Deadite Press, and I immediately knew that I had to interview author David Agranoff. Here we talk about said novel, PRGS, and his love for punk music.

Tells us a bit about yourself.

“I am a weirdo like everybody else. I grew up in Indiana, which is in the Midwest of the states. I was a hardcore kid, grew-up in the punk and hardcore scene. From that I got into militant Animal rights activism, but I was always a horror and Science Fiction nerd the whole time. So I always had a love for reading horror and Science Fiction. When I was a teenager my heroes were Clive Barker and John Carpenter.”

What made you want to be a writer?

“Well a few things. I was always a reader and before I could even write them myself I was telling Science Fiction stories my mother would type up on her typewriter. Wish I still had those! I was a Mother’s boy all the way but she passed away when I was twelve. I think my love of horror started there. I needed to explore the darker side of my thoughts and feelings. I discovered a local horror host – Sammy Terry – who dressed like a goofy ghoul and showed horror movies on TV. I was hooked. He was followed by Black Belt theatre so I would tape these amazing double features that were Hammer Horror movies and Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu movies. This influenced my novel Hunting the Moon Tribe which is a hybrid tribute with Chinese Vampires. I am super proud of that novel.

It was also reading Stephen King’s The Raft which was a light-bulb moment for me. I figured out how he did it. How he built the terror, suspense and never lost sight of the story. I actually taught that story in a class for the Horrible Imaginings film fest here in San Diego. The Body Polotic by Clive Barker was also a huge early influence that taught me that concepts can’t be too weird if well thought out and how to make a political point about the real world through fantasy.

Today John Shirley is probably my biggest influence and my favorite author. I am also a huge fan of F. Paul Wilson, Robert McCammon, and Sarah Pinborough.”

How do you write? Do you do it daily, on a weekend, etc?

“Whenever I can find a moment, I work full time as a Teacher’s Aid in a school for kids with special needs. I always write on weekends, but I have started a wake up at 4am program before leaving for work at 7am. This is new for writing the current novel in progress.”

Does anything else influence your writing?

“I am always reading – that is a huge influence – but I love movies and right now I love long form story telling on TV. I have a rotation of TV shows I watch. Some of my favorites at the moment include Sense8, Fringe, Millennium, Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and Terriers. I love Shane Black. Anything he writes. I love his dialogue. Tarantino. I love Wuxia Kung-Fu fantasy movies. I think all those things influence my writing. “

Punk rock and horror are a big part of who I am, do you think punk and horror are similar?

“It is outside of mainstream culture so of course they are similar. Punk, hardcore and Death Metal are all important to me as music I enjoy but these are scenes I grew-up in. There is a sense of community and Us Versus Them attitude that is similar in both. I wanted to tell horror fiction stories set in the punk realm because it was the world I grew-up in. Certainly John Shirley who was a pioneer in the Portland punk scene was the same in the genre community. His introduction to my short story collection Amazing Punk Stories is one of the proudest moments of my life. I mean John’s novel Wetbones is my favorite horror novel of all time.”

Your novel, Punk Rock Ghost Story, is about a haunted van, and set in the world of hardcore punk, where did you get the idea from for the book?

“The ghost story is a fantastic way to explore the difference between eras. I was thinking about how different the modern punk world was compared to the early days in the early 80’s. I mean the post Nirvana/Green Day punk rock was very different to the early days of American hardcore. I started to think what could bridge those times. Time travel or a ghost story and ghost story seemed clear to me. I have explored the idea of a haunted punkhouse but the idea of the van kept coming back to me. I mean I feel the energy of the shows that happen in classic venues or basements never really die. The ghost of past shows still haunted venues. The idea that the spirit or the energy of punk being trapped inside a tour van. It just made a weird kind of sense to me.”

You mention some great bands in the novel (Zero Boys, Black Flag, Negative Approach, Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, Bad Religion, and even Propagandhi and Beastie Boys), what are your favourite punk bands; How did you get into the punk scene; and do you get to many shows?

“I don’t go to many shows, I sometimes go to see fellow old farts like Agnostic Front and Slapshot when they hit the road. As for favorite punk bands, I am a dork for early Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks and I am from Indiana so gotta rep Zero Boys. I actually listen to more Death Metal these days Morbid Angel, Celtic Frost and At The Gates are favorites. I am Vegan straight edge and have been for 25 years so hardcore 90’s Vegan mosh is my favorite Race Traitor, Day of Suffering and Earth Crisis. But of course when I wrote Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich I listened to a ton of Oi! ha-ha.”

PRGS is set in the now and flashes back to the early 80’s. How do you think the scene has changed in that time?

“That was the major theme of the novel. 80’s it was new, and not at all accepted by the mainstream. People didn’t like or accept people being different. You had jocks and rednecks who wanted to beat you up and bully you just for being different. These days these frat guys are at Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day shows. That is the biggest difference. Hot topic in the malls, I mean we had to scrap and claw to find music, punk kids today can google anything. Just booking a tour, or finding music without the internet I don’t think kids today have a clue what it was like. Certainly this was a major theme of the novel. I mean it is a horror novel, and it should operate just as a scary story but for those interested in the deeper theme that is the thing I was exploring.”

With PRGS you originally wrote it way back in 2007 yet it didn’t come out until 2016. How did this happen?

“There were several reasons the version in 2007 was not ready. I wrote it in 33 days. I had this idea that I wanted to write it like I was on tour. Like a tour journal. Sounds neat but the final product was not worth reading. I wanted to spend time building the “legacy” of the band in the novel, the F*ckers. So I thought a few years seeding the history of this band in subtle ways was something that should happen over time. Also I wanted this to be the third and final book in a thematic trilogy of Punk books, with Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich and Amazing Punk Stories. This is something my editors at Deadite/Eraserhead, Jeff Burk, Rose O’Keefe and I have been planning for since 2010 really. I mean Jeff and I talked about the marketing campaign and the “Documentary” 6 years before we ended up doing it, kinda crazy when you think about it. Once Amazing Punk Stories was out I knew Punk Rock Ghost Story was next and I also knew the old draft was not nearly as good as my current work. So I drew out the old draft pulled out the outline I worked from in 2007 and started from scratch. I copied the three quotes that open the novel and started over never looking at the old draft. It was 20,000 words longer, ha-ha.”

Do you have anything new planned in the near future?

“I am working on several projects right now. A solo horror novel is in the first draft stage and it is the most savage thing I have ever written. I have a TV pilot I am developing with Anthony Trevino a super genius young writer who has a novella out called King Space Void. This project is called Nightmare City and will likely be turned into a novel series that we will co-write. Anthony and I are also in a series of Anthologies called the San Diego Horror Professionals. Six local authors edited by Ryan C. Thomas. We have two volumes out it also includes Bryan Killian, Robert Essig and Chad Stroup. They are really good.

The next published novel will be Flesh Trade Co-written with Portland science fiction author Edward Morris. It is an epic noir space opera and will be put out by Grand Mal Press. Think of it as Taken meets Philip K. Dick.

Thanks for the interview. I hope people will check out my work, I’m an indie author who values every purchase. If you can afford to get my work, I would love if people request my books at their library. Mosh!”

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JUST LIKE HELL/MR. GRAY by Nate Southard (Book Review)

JUST LIKE HELL/MR. GRAY by Nate Southard (Sinister Grin Press)

Nate Southard has a way of making you uncomfortable. Most of what I’ve read by him has left me with what I refer to as “That Gummo feeling.” You feel upset and unnerved and sad and anxious and kinda dirty and frightened. You also go back again and again. Like that sore spot on your gum you can’t keep your tongue away from. That basket full of cobras in your soul, Southard is gonna flute those fuckers all wiggly and hissing as soon as you start reading.

This book is a pairing of two older novellas. The first is JUST LIKE HELL. Dillon is a hero, a high school football star with schools frothing over him and a life full of rich prospect kneeling at his feet. However, there are things about Dillon that aren’t public knowledge, things kept from his family and friends. When Dillon’s secrets are discovered things take a dark and violent turn and by the time it’s over things will never be the same. This story is absolutely gut-wrenching. It’s timely and angry and tragic and terrifying. This is horror, truly.

MR. GRAY is the second story and in it we follow a young man and a girl as they do their best to save a child from a very dark force. A force that both of them have personal history with, think The Exorcist by way of Funny Games. Characters as flawed as they are well-meaning. And a terrifying villain, that will most certainly haunt you for some time. Southard really hits a stride here, one that barely allows time to gasp before the next blow is delivered. Brilliant. (John Boden)

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