A Soundless Dawn by Dustin LaValley is certainly quite a departure from the books we usually associate with Sinister Grin Press. ‘A Soundless Dawn’ is a collection of thoughtful flash fiction pieces, micro fiction pieces and short stories that seem somewhat autobiographical in nature, though at other times can appear completely unconnected to anything else within the book.
BY TONY JONES
“A challenging and original literary debut reimagining the filming of a 1979 horror film, partially inspired by the notorious ‘Cannibal Holocaust’”
I stumbled across Kea Wilson’s rather marvellous debut novel “We Eat Our Own” while on a recent trip to the States and although it is not strictly a horror novel it has much to offer genre fans, as well as those who prefer literary fiction. Whichever you prefer, prepare to be swept away by layers of sweaty, paranoid horror and dark nights in the jungle. I devoured the 300 pages over three evenings, gripping me from the start, and as I spent my days in America doing tourist stuff, my mind frequently wandered back to this beguilingly strange and unsettling novel. Thus far it has picked up great reviews from literary presses, but I think it deserves to be covered by horror websites also. Paul Tremblay is the only author I have seen recommend it so far, and he is a man who frequently recommends great titles.
By George Ilett Anderson
Into the Void
The Return of the Old Ones is the second collaboration between editor Brian M. Sammons and Dark Regions Press and the spiritual successor to World War Cthulhu. Whereas that anthology dealt with the eternal struggle against the Old Ones, this time around the battle has been lost, the stars are right and humanity has been relegated to the bottom of the food chain.
What I’d have to say straight off the bat is how much I enjoy reading Brian M. Sammons’ edited anthologies, especially the ones with a Lovecraftian hue. He has this innate ability to seek out a nice balance of stories and contrasting styles that make for very entertaining and fun anthologies. Well, perhaps “entertaining” and “fun” aren’t strictly the right words to use in this context. This is after all a bleak and nihilistic hued anthology about the Old Ones wiping the slate clean and reclaiming their dominion over humanity. Hardly the epitome of lightness and joy but methinks you’ll most definitely find some things in amongst the nineteen different apocalyptic perspectives to enjoy. I know I most certainly did! The approach that Sammons has taken with the anthology is to divide the book into three sections that mirrors his introductory quote from The Dunwich Horror; “The Old Ones were, The Old Ones are, and The Old Ones shall be.” So in effect the apocalypse from a pre, during and post event perspective. And it works an absolute treat.
'A Long December' by Richard Chizmar is a huge book! A novella and 30+ short stories means that you get some serious bang for your buck! As I do with anthologies and short story collections, when I've finished the book I look back through the story titles and see just how much I can remember. It is testament to the quality of the storytelling here that many of the tales included can be considered good to excellent. In fact, I don't believe there were any that didn't elicit some sort of emotion or enjoyment.
Kaaron Warren's The Grief Hole has just won the Best Horror Novel category in the 2016 Aurealis Awards, it's a worthy winner and a one I fully endorse. Her novel is exceptional, and featured in my top 5 novels of last year, you can read my review of this exceptional book here. When the book was first announced there weer a number of options available for purchasing the book in a hardback format. One of the options was to have to included a copy of The Grief Hole Illustrated: An Artist's Sketchbook by Keely Van order. IFWG publications now have this book available as a seperate purchase. And much like its source material this is a fascinating and gorgeously put together book.
If you have ever wonder what goes through an artist's mind when they come up with the cover and interior artwork concepts for a book, then this is an essential read.
The illustrated guide tracks the passage from Keely's initial concepts right through to the final drafts of the images, aided by deeply inciteful notes that reveal the lengths a great artist will go to find the perfect style and tone for the book, and it's not just the art that she ponders over, the development of the fonts for the cover shows that the artist really connected with this book.
My personal favourite section of the book was the one that dealt with the development of the Sol Invictus, the books big bad guy. When reading a story we all have a mental image in our heads about what the characters look like, however if like me you have a hard time picturing people's faces, you are often left with a character with a blank face.
And while Keely's illustration of him doesn't actually give anything away, her drawing of him captures the spirit, desire and motivations of this most menacing monster.
The production quality of this book is exceptional, sharp detailed prints of the original artwork reveals a lot of hidden dept to Kelly's drawings as a look inside the mind of an artist this is a fascinating read, but as a companion to deep and moving novel this is almost a required reading.
Lovecraft's reach and influence can still be felt almost 100 years since his death. With new novels and anthologies hitting the shelf almost every week, the cosmic horror fan has never had so much material to choose from to satisfy their needs for adventure from the other realms. However, as is the case with most genres, the Lovecraftian genre is filled with so many substandard works. Poor pastiches that fail to understand what source material was trying to convey, or even worse, where the author tries and fails to sound like the source material and ends being Cthulhu played by Dick Van Dyke.
Luckily for us, there are a few writers that are capable of writing an authentic, yet original story based on the Lovecraft Mythos, Gary Fry is one such author and his novella The Rage of Cthulhu the latest in Horrific Tales fine line of premium novellas brings a new update to Call of Cthulhu.
I've been following Kristi DeMeester's progress as a writer since she first appeared on the old Shock Totem forums. We've had the pleasure of watching quite a few of our former "Totemites" do well for themselves- Damien Angelica Walters, Michael Wehunt, some cat named Adam Cesare. And we're quite proud of them . Kristi released and sold out of her chapbook, Split Tongues, published by Dim Shores last year. She has a collection in the works currently and this, her debut novel, drops in a few weeks. And let me tell you something. You needs all of these. Every. Single. one.
Beneath is the story of Cora, a reporter assigned a story about a snake-handling church in the rural south. She has a lot of baggage and issues from her own childhood and the church is more of a looming monster than a place of refuge. She reluctantly accepts the gig. She arrives to find a town in the midst of a dark transformation. Children are missing and adults are dying or disappearing. Things are slithering in the dark. A reclusive woman and her wayward daughter seem to be at the heart of it, not far from them is the minister of the church. A man who wears a mask of faith and guidance but who is in reality a darkly lost soul. All of these people and events are building and the soil they chose is quicksand and squirming. There is something terrible coming from underground and it's not very happy.
I absolutely loved this. It hit the sweet spot of almost 80's pulp horror with supremely weird fiction. It reminded me of Sarah Langan's The Keeper in some ways, not in story or style but in the repulsive and horrifying images that are thrust upon you as your turn these pages. The prose is poetic at times and hammer-blunt at others. The characters are layered and flawed, just like the rest of us.
This novel is going to propel DeMeester onto that list of authors you'll want to follow. I guarantee it.
Beneath is soon available from Word Horde.
When reporter Cora Mayburn is assigned to cover a story about a snake-handling cult in rural Appalachia, she is dismayed, for the world of cruel fundamentalist stricture, repression, glossolalia, and abuse is something she has long since put behind her in favor of a more tolerant urban existence. But she accepts the assignment, dredging up long-buried memories as she seeks the truth.
Philip Fracassi painted his name on the wall last year with a fistful of wonderfully horrific novellas, Mother, Altar and Fragile Dreams. He lets no moss grow under his feet, or fingers I guess we should say as he now graces us with his debut collection, Behold The Void.
There are 9 stories contained here. Some are more in the weird/cosmic horror end of the pool while others have an almost pulpy tone to them. All are wonderful. And I mean, really, if you can get Laird Barron to write your introduction, you must certainly have the goods, no?
On to the stories, We open with "Soft Construction Of A Sunset" a wildly bizarre Dali-esque tale of a lover scorned and the brutal and surreal revenge he exacts with his newly gained yet bizarre powers. This is followed by "Altar," where a simple afternoon trip to the community swimming pool turns into something monstrous and vicious. "The Horse Thief" is a razor-gash of a tale concerning a thief and his fight with the Yakuza over control of a horse god's soul.
"The Baby Farmer" is a hauntingly creepy tale about a priest who is researching the local history of a serial killer and opens up a very dark and damning chapter to the story. This one if superb. "Mother" gives us a heart-breaking tale of a marriage dying, slowly bloating and decaying into something horrible. Something that skitters and spins silk. The collection ends with "Mandala" a harrowing story of boys playing on the beach when the harmless game they play becomes anything but and the circumstances escalate into a custody battle that goes beyond death and the grave.
I skipped touching on a few of these, not because they are bad in any way, but I have to leave some surprises, right? Fracassi works in film and his style shows it. It's a lean prose but not simple. He gives you so much to pay attention to, rich and realistic characters, expansive settings and set-ups and plots that are as twisty as John Merrick's skeleton (I'm a terrible man...) He's definitely one to place your bets on.
Behold The Void is available from Journalstone.
BEHOLD THE VOID is nine stories of terror that huddle in the dark space between cosmic horror and the modern weird, between old-school hard-edged horror of the 1980’s and the stylistic prose of today’s literary giants.
Revenge takes a monstrous form when a scorned lover acquires bizarre, telekinetic powers; a community swimming pool on a bright summer day becomes the setting for a ghastly nightmare of sacrifice and loss; a thief does bloody battle with a Yakuza for the soul of a horse god; a priest must solve the mystery of a century-old serial killer or risk the apocalypse; a newly-married couple discover that relationships-gone-bad can be poisonous, and deadly; a child is forced to make an ultimate choice between letting his parents die or living with the monsters they may become; and when a boy is trapped on a beach at low tide, he must face death in many forms – that of the rising water coming to consume him and the ghost of his dead mother who wants him back, reaching for him with dark, longing arms…