Ok first off let me say I was never a fan of short stories. Main reason I picked it up was a blurb and the kick ass cover. Let me just say it's a bloody good book. From start to finish the stories kept me reading. I loved how the stories are somewhat connected but at the same time not. Yes that makes no sense. Buy the book and find out yourself what I'm talking about. For being Janine's first collection of stories it was soooo good. I don't think any of the stories will disappoint anyone. Just for the record because of reading this I've found a new love for short stories. So go check out twisted tainted tales. Easily a 4.5 out of 5.....
Twisted: Tainted Tales
by James Chambers
A book review by Daisy Lyle
That said, Chambers didn’t write much horror – he usually dealt in popular romances and thrillers and produced just two volumes of weird tales, only a handful of which actually deal with the King in Yellow (a cursed play that either makes its audience mad or leaves them dimensionally compromised in very bad ways, depending on how you look at it.) This, of course, leaves the field open for new writers to develop his mythos today. In recent years there have been quite a few anthologies of King in Yellow-themed stories, and now it’s the turn of Hippocampus Press.
The first section, “Dawnings”, looks at the origins of the mythos. Chambers didn’t actually invent Carcosa – that honour goes to Ambrose Bierce, who later disappeared in the Mexican desert to the great delight of decades of conspiracy theorists. This is addressed in the opening story, “Robert Chambers Reads The King in Yellow” by Lisa Morton, which builds on the Chambers story “The Repairer of Reputations”. It’s a strange choice to kick off an anthology of this kind, since it’s hardly complimentary to Chambers. He appears in person as a writer of vulgar romantic slop, who is only inspired to write his Serious Weird Fiction following the supernatural intervention of the King in Yellow’s crew. Based on what I’ve read of Chambers’ non-mythos material, this seems kind of mean – there are a lot of modern horror authors who could take a few tips from Chambers when it comes to style and plotting. Anyway, Hippocampus are themselves bringing out a cross-collection “best of” of Chambers’ short fiction (as a companion volume to Under Twin Suns) so we can all make up our own minds about his non-mythos stories.
Fortunately the anthology soon recovers from this false start with John Langan’s “Helioforge”. John Langan is the author of my very favourite modern KiY story, “Sweetums”, and this story is a less overtly horrific but still unsettling look at the remains of the American railway dream, featuring a night-time economy running on a strange type of fuel. “The Inn of the Fates” by Sarah Read, was probably my favourite story in this book, with a vibe of misty, gentle Surrealism. It’s visually beautiful, with the imagery of a Leonora Carrington or Remedios Varo painting, and is the only story here that succeeds in channelling some of the intense charm of Chambers’ quieter stories such as “The Demoiselle D’Ys” or his Parisian fantasies.
King in Yellow mythos fiction seems to have two main failure modes, and both are represented in this anthology. The first is about style. Although Chambers himself was a good, relatively economical stylist for his day, his impersonators often opt for an overwrought, consciously “Decadent” style which is closer to Lovecraft than Chambers. This kind of writer is always preoccupied with finding new and interesting ways of saying “yellow” - as night follows day, you know that any KiY anthology is going to contain the word “xanthous” and at least one character is going to be called Flavia. And of course, because Chambers is a very Gallic kind of American writer, you get those authors who are just bursting to show off their wrong French. There are some real howlers here, though the John Langan story actually features some right French, which is something so rare it really should be celebrated.
The other failure mode is narrowness of setting. There are too many stories set in American cities. Chambers was a very urban writer so the “towniness” isn’t a problem in itself, but all the cities kind of feel the same. There are too many attempts to engage in the kind of neo-hard-boiled style that Laird Barron has wandered off into in recent years, but without Barron’s technical expertise.
One way this anthology does stand out from the crowd is its high political content, with the titular King’s absurd tyranny transferred to our world in a number of alternate-history versions of the early twentieth century and beyond. The book’s second section “Directives for Dominion” is pretty much devoted to showing what would happen if we let the King take the reins in our world. The political comment on offer here is definitely not subtle, but I enjoyed “The European Theatre” by Trevor Firetog (a wartime drama which also addresses the pressing question of what happens to translators of the cursed play. Nothing good, needless to say.) “Field Trip” by Patrick Freivald is probably the most effective takedown of fascist procedure and benefits from a likeably horrible female narrator, while “The Order of Wilde” by Marc L. Abbott also provides some fun ideas and much-needed comic relief.
The star of the last section, “Veiled Intentions”, is ‘Suanee’ by Steve Van Patten. After the success of Lovecraft Country it’s no surprise to see Chambers’ mythos being given a racial politics spin, and Van Patten hands in the most unremittingly horrifying tale in the collection. Crucially, Van Patten doesn’t just limit himself to providing a pious depiction of the everyday horrors of racism. Out of all the authors in this book (apart maybe Sarah Read) he also has the best grip on the absurd, and the ways in which it acts as both a by-product of fascism and fuel for it. Again, this is hardly subtle stuff, but what with the current political situation in the West, you can’t really blame these authors for screaming their message rather than whispering it.
Finally, I liked “Wasp Honey” by Kathleen Scheiner, which reminds us that yellow isn’t just the colour of madness and Decadence, but also one of Mother Nature’s hazard warnings. A few of the stories in this collection tackle the dynastic, inherited nature of evil, but this one’s my favourite, and its modern, everyday domestic setting was a nice change after all those subways, sidewalks, yellow flags and endless Lethal Chambers.
Under Twin Suns, as a whole, is more about depth than breadth. Some themes and aspects of Chambers’ work are investigated repeatedly, while others are largely ignored. I don’t think this is an anthology with universal appeal, but fans of the mythos should appreciate the overall standard of writing, which is very decent. Fans of the recently departed Chambers supporter Joseph S. Pulver will also be interested in “…less…light”, an unfinished novella that has been completed by Dominique Lamssies.
Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign
by James Chambers
Robert W. Chambers’s classic work of weird fiction, The King in Yellow (1895), contained two stories that have exercised wide influence in the genre. “The Repairer of Reputations” introduced the world to The King in Yellow, a play in two acts, banned for its reputed power to drive mad anyone who reads its complete text. Another story, “The Yellow Sign,” used the experiences of an artist and his model to elaborate on the mythos of the Yellow King, the Yellow Sign, and their danger to all who encounter them. In those tales Chambers crafted fascinating glimpses of a cosmos populated by conspiracies, government-sanctioned suicide chambers, haunted artists, premonitions of death, unreliable narrators—and dark, enigmatic occurrences tainted by the alien world of Carcosa, where the King rules in his tattered yellow mantle. In Carcosa, black stars rise and Cassilda and Camilla speak and sing. In Carcosa, eyes peer from within pallid masks to gaze across Lake Hali at the setting of twin suns.
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THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR FICTION REVIEWS
A Book review by Richard Martin
Jaws (Peter Benchley) and The Rats (James Herbert) proved that there was an appetite out there for books that weren’t ashamed to go all-out horror. The publishing industry took note and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, companies such as Zebra, Tor and Pinnacle published a seemingly endless supply of books promising unspeakable terrors and sporting covers that had to be seen to be believed. Sometimes the content was great, other times… not so much, but one thing that you could always be guaranteed was a fun and entertaining read.
By the mid-90s, horror paperbacks were seemingly out, and thrillers were in. Gone were the lurid covers of skeletons, evil dolls, creepy kids and flesh-hungry critters. The horror was still there, it just wasn’t marketed as such, treated like a shameful secret. As titles fell quickly out of print, many of the horror authors and their work became increasingly forgotten by all but the most avid fans and collectors.
Enter Will Errickson, Grady Hendrix and ‘Paperbacks From Hell’.
In 2017 Hendrix and Errickson released their seminal love letter to the horror paperbacks of a bygone era, shining a light on some long-forgotten classics and renewing interest in the mass market horror paperbacks of the 1970s and 80s. Not content to simply share their passion for these oft-maligned but much-missed books, thanks to their partnership with Valancourt Books, we are being treated to new reprints of the best of these decades-old, forgotten gems.
To date, thirteen reprints have been published (with a fourteenth on the way), retaining the original cover art and boasting brand new and insightful introductions from Hendrix and Errickson. In this series, I’ll be reading each and every one and posting articles at Ginger Nuts of Horror looking back at the best books two decades of horror has to offer.
Kicking off this series is ‘The Nest’ by Gregory A. Douglas. Originally published in 1980 and written under a pseudonym by Eli Cantor (a businessman, composer, novelist, playwright and poet who deserves an article all of his own. Seriously, Google him). The Nest epitomises what the common consensus of a Paperback From Hell should be; gory, silly, over the top nonsense. It is also a pretty damn good book.
Set on a small island off the coast of Cape Cod that is home to a small number of families and small communities of desirable holiday homes, the picturesque Massachusetts getaway becomes the breeding ground for a deadly new strain of cockroach that grows to abnormal size and gains a taste for human flesh.
When a pair of scientists are called in to investigate strange animal behaviours and various unexplained phenomena, what they discover is a hive mind capable of taking down and devouring a human being within seconds. The body count is rising and it becomes a race against time to save the island and its inhabitants before they find themselves tumbling down the food chain.
I’m going to hold my hands up and confess that I have an absolute bias toward any horror book, particularly those from this era, that could fall under the ‘When Nature Attacks’ category. The more outlandish the creature the better! Crabs (Guy N Smith), Cormorants (Stephen Gregory), Pike (Cliff Twemlow), Jellyfish (John Halkin), Worms (John Halkin again) and even Caterpillars (God bless John Halkin), if there is a creature that doesn’t have a Paperback From Hell dedicated to it, then somebody needs to right that wrong.
As a self-confessed fanatic of this kind of book, I can confidently say that this is one of the better ones I have read. While rampaging cockroaches sounds a little off-putting, scary is hardly the first word that would come to mind, but this book can certainly ratchet up the tension, and the creatures are a genuinely unsettling presence. A big part of this is the amount of research that has clearly gone into this book. Douglas certainly did his homework and for such a silly premise, his treating things seriously and providing real scientific detail does go a long way into making this more deep and immersive than a book about man-eating cockroaches really has any right to be.
The books biggest strength is also its undoing to some extent, in that Douglas is given absolute free reign to do whatever he likes and as a result seems torn as to whether it is a literary novel or pure gory entertainment, and switching wildly between both. The author namechecks Maxfield Parrish’s artwork (yes, I had to Google him too) and quotes Shakespeare on one page (I’m not joking, a character actually quotes Shakespeare, at length) but bookends these nods to high art with gleeful descriptions of eyeball feasting and cockroaches entering the human body via the most painful sounding route imaginable. The thing is though, both totally work. Douglas sure knows how to turn a phrase. One of my favourites in the opening chapter read;
“The rats were cloaked in sequins of death; a nightmare scene out of an animal hell”.
If there’s another book that contains a more beautiful and eloquent description of cockroaches eating rats, then I’ve never read it. The Nest is chock full of great lines like this but when it comes to the carnage and mayhem, he’s all business. There’s blood, bones and fluids aplenty and nobody is safe. I mean it. Any moral rules that big screen horror follows about the kids and the animals making it to the credits unscathed goes out the window here. If anything, the kids and the animals get it worse. The more adorable, the worse their ultimate fate.
The Nest is exactly the kind of book that the phrase “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore” was created for. It is WAY too long and so incredibly self-indulgent that you can’t imagine an editor was even allowed in the same room as the manuscript prior to publication, but at no point is it ever a boring book. The level of research that’s gone into making a cockroach apocalypse at least be a scientifically sound one is very impressive and despite being overly long the pacing is set to ‘breakneck’ throughout and never fails to keep you engrossed. Highly recommended to fans of these type of man vs nature stories, and a killer start to this series of rereleases.
Join me next time when I’ll be sharing my thoughts on When Darkness Loves Us by Elizabeth Engstrom. If you’d like to read along with this series and want to pick up copies of the books, or learn more about Valancourts’ Paperbacks From Hell line, visit their site at www.valancourtbooks.com/paperbacksfromhell
The Nest (Paperbacks from Hell Book 1)
by Gregory A. Douglas
Following in the footsteps of other “animal attack” classics like Jaws and The Rats, Gregory A. Douglas’s shocker The Nest (1980) is an ’80s paperback horror classic and was the basis for a 1988 cult film adaptation. This edition features a new introduction by Too Much Horror Fiction blogger Will Errickson.
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A book review by Holley Cornetto
Lourey does a great job of capturing a sense of small-town life from an outsider’s perspective. Frankie’s relationship with her father and her struggles in adjusting to a new town while carrying around guilt and grief that she has no one to share with is touching. When she lost her father, she didn’t just lose a parent, she lost a best friend. In the aftermath, she finds herself in a place where she’s essentially on her own.
The weakest parts of the book for me included the fact that people “in the know” talk a lot about nothing. They all say enough about her father or The Game to try and seem mysterious, but when pushed for answers, they aren’t forthcoming. It felt like a device, like the author creating a false sense of mystery. In reality, there was no mystery here. The author gives away the “bad guys” immediately. Every time Frankie meets someone that gives her a “bad feeling” you can pretty much guarantee that person is in on it. Also, as typical of this sort of narrative, she makes multiple bad decisions, going places she knows to be dangerous for very little reason.
The abuse part is present in the story, but the Satanic aspect only really amounts to a couple of mentions of Satan and a pentagram painted at a crime scene. I was hoping for more on the ritual/cult aspects to make this story take advantage of the real-life story it was based on, but nothing overtly Satanic takes place in the story. It could just as easily have been a ring of pedophiles.
Despite my criticisms, I did enjoy this book. I thought the characterization was well done. I got a feel for the distinct personalities of each character, good and bad. The description of Sly, in particular, and his behavior, creeped me out to the point that I wished I hadn’t read that chapter right before bed.
Recommended for those looking to read a dark coming-of-age story set in a small town, but for those looking for mystery or thriller, perhaps look elsewhere.
by Jess Lourey
The Amazon Charts bestselling author of Unspeakable Things and Bloodline explores the darkness at the heart of the rural Midwest in a novel inspired by a chilling true crime.
In the summer of ’84, fourteen-year-old Frankie Jubilee is shuttled off to Litani, Minnesota, to live with her estranged mother, a county prosecutor she barely knows. From the start, Frankie senses something uneasy going on in the small town. The locals whisper about The Game, and her mother warns her to stay out of the woods and away from adults.
When a bullying gang of girls invites Frankie to The Game, she accepts, determined to find out what’s really going on in Litani. She’s not the only one becoming paranoid. Hysteria burns through the community. Dark secrets emerge. And Frankie fears that, even in the bright light of day, she might be living among monsters.
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Some of the stand-alone stories are great. “Men Playing Games, Playing God” offers something rare and precious, a realistic and nuanced depiction of old people living in a retirement home. Despite the ageing of the reading population, most horror fiction either steadfastly ignores the old or traps them in hackneyed depictions of appalling geriatric care doled out for cheap scares. The lives of the main characters – a quartet of men and one woman in their seventies and above – are far from ideal, but their living conditions are adequate and the main terrors they negotiate are of the emotional and psychic variety. This makes for some sophisticated characterization, with old people presented as individuals with pasts and futures and (in the narrator’s case) a great sense of humour, rather than just zombified victims surrounded by uncaring staff. The plot loses its way a bit towards the end, with a brief incursion into Coccoon territory, but overall it’s a fun character study, slow-moving but never dull.
“Pendulum” is a very affecting story with a structure successfully mimicking the to-and-fro movement of the titular oscillator, told from the point of view of a single mother whose attempts to bring up her autistic son are derailed by the selfishness of the boy’s father and the general horribleness of the world. In a collection where most of the narrators are men it’s also a convincing depiction of a woman who is routinely forced to put her own trauma to one side to keep on being a good mother, while the father of her child gets to loaf through a carefree existence courtesy of the gaming industry.
“The Things That Get You Through” is an entertaining macabre story about one man’s attempt to survive the death of his ex-girlfriend, with a structure based on the famous ‘five stages of grief’. At first glance it seems more light-hearted than some of the stories here, but it’s a deceptive, brittle jollity and by the end no reader will feel short-changed in the horror department. All these stories are characterized by gentle but meaningful experimentation with form, an avoidance of cliché and a keen eye for metaphor, simile and imagery.
That said, there is a lack of variety in tone and theme that becomes a problem as the collection wears on. Nearly all the stories have the same slow, depressed grand-father clock rhythm which, when coupled with an often joyless outlook, leads to a cumulative effect that is not so much hypnotic as deadening. Where the collection came unstuck for me was the trilogy of related framing stories, a frame so heavy it eventually brings the whole structure crashing down.
“So Many Heartbeats, So Many Words”, “The Harder it Gets The Softer We Sing” and “This House Is Not Haunted” deal with psychological disintegration in the nuclear family, as told from the point of view of a worried stay-at-home father. The man’s family – a weird-kid son who may or may not be autistic, a mother with pretty eyes whose life revolves around reproductive calamity, and a distant father with dementia - didn’t have enough realism to appeal to me. The narrator, on the other hand, is almost too realistic in his self-absorbed and passive trudge through a life that seems emptied of beauty or enjoyment of any kind, unless you count his paternal pride in his son’s speech and communication problems, which he finds poetic and life-affirming in the finest Guardian lifestyle columnist tradition.
Of course, you can write very good stories without a single likeable character in them, but you still need a bit of snap and momentum. An in-depth examination of mould, miscarriages and mucus, augmented with reflections on the nature of autism and the vagaries of the British publishing industry, can only be dragged out so long under these conditions. And personally, while I could handle the mould and the miscarriage just fine, I could’ve done with a whole lot less mucus. This isn’t just a trilogy about a lone snotty child. This is a whole fictional universe slick with bodily fluids of all kinds, and if I had to describe the aesthetics and technique in a single word, it would be “viscous”. Of course, this is a matter of taste, and some readers may actively enjoy the viscosity - if they have a seeping child of their own, perhaps. If in doubt I recommend allowing yourself to be guided by the book’s cover art, which is absolutely nailed onto the trilogy.
The bolshy po-mo tendencies are harder to forgive. The narrator regularly refers and responds to criticisms other characters have made of “his” writing (i.e. the standalone stories in the collection) which might be intended as self-deprecation but more often feels like an attempt to parry criticism before it arises. And when you’ve made a commitment to reading over a hundred pages of something that doesn’t really float your boat, it’s frustrating to be told that what you’re reading isn’t mere fiction, it’s Reality. After a while it even spoils your enjoyment of the stand-alone stories, because you find yourself parsing them for references to the framing narrative (which may be exactly what the author wants you to be doing, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.) As the concept falls in on itself, even aspects of Dines’ writing that initially appealed start to become tiresome, like the over-reliance on metaphor and compulsive soul-dredging.
Ultimately what you have is a collection with some very good writing in it, but which is let down by its overarching concept. Still, at least it bothers to have a concept, which is quite rare in genre literature nowadays, and several of the more middling stories show that Dines is trying hard to expand his range, so with any luck it won’t be long before he’s able to put out a really great varied collection.
LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING NOT WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN
BY STEVEN J DINES
This stunning debut collection of dark, literary fiction drowns the reader in its themes of grief, regret, love, and hope.
A family is torn apart by tragedy and misadventure, their future creaking under the weight of judgment. Old men play at being ghosts while a young boy sees real ones wherever he turns. A wandering immortal desperately seeks an end to his pain.
Intimate, unflinching, and poignant, these eleven tales of the broken and the unmade include the two previously unpublished novellas, dragonland and This House is Not Haunted.
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SPLASHES OF DARKNESS: POWERS FEARFUL AND DIVINE
(COMIC REVIEW BY DION WINTON-POLAK)
Powers Fearful and Divine is a Kickstarter project from Blue Fox Comics, created by *Cy Dethan, one of my favourite comic writers. I've just had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of the first issue, so I thought I'd share some thoughts.
The artwork by RHStewart reminds me of some of the European comics I used to read and review, with their muted tones, realist figurework, and love of the urban longshots. Time, place and tone are nicely captured without going overboard; where some Euro comics tend to excessive detail, Stewart gives us the gist, allowing colour blocks, shadow and the readers' imagination fill out the rest. The layouts are quite busy, but they flow pretty well, drawing the eye for full impact. Less successful are the speech bubbles which are a little domineering and occasionally confusing in their order. Of course, this is a preview and such elements will be tweaked as the Kickstarter progresses. Don't let it put you off because the story is a cracker.
Illustrated by RHStewart
Lettered by Nic Wilkinson
Published by Blue Fox Comics
Reviewer: Dion Winton-Polak
* Forgive my returning to him so soon. I'd already submitted the White Knuckle review when I found out about this project - and timing is everything when it comes to crowd-funding.
** The awesome, intricate, meta-cultural comic by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, rather than the crappy film adaptation.
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I would not bother reading Born to the Dark unless you have read The Searching Dead as they are very strongly interconnected. The plots are set three decades apart and feature many of the same characters, locations and form part of a very long three book story-arc. The first entry in the series was a departure for Campbell, as the main characters were children who were just starting secondary school and the plot nails their developing adolescence perfectly. Set in Liverpool of the 1950s, the novel beautifully recreates a city which still lived in the shadow of the war and where schools were strict and cruel places. The setting was a major strength of the original and by moving the action forward thirty years, the sequel lacks the natural childhood vitality and innocence the youngsters bring to the original.
The Searching Dead is narrated in the first person by Dominic Sheldrake who is about to start secondary school, making his parents proud by winning a place at the local Catholic grammar school, his best friend Tommy also attends, and the third friend Bobby (Roberta) goes to another school for girls. On the cusp of puberty, the three friends do everything together and their interactions, embarrassments, and trials were a major strength of the book. At a certain point Dominic realises one of his favourite teachers, Mr Cristian Noble who lives locally, leads a local Spiritualist Church and after developing some suspicions goes snooping where he should not, leading him into a dark and sinister world involving life after death and experiments into it.
Born to the Dark picks up the story in 1985 with Dominic (now known as Dom), once again, narrating the tale and with his two old friends returning in supporting roles. Simply put, eighties Liverpool is not as atmospheric as the fifties, and an argumentative middle-aged man does not engage in the same manner his younger self does in The Searching Dead. Sadly, the spirit of youth has long since departed Dom and he has turned into somewhat of a bore who seems to rub everybody else the wrong way, including his wife, old friends, and boss at the college where he works. He was reminiscent of other leading characters in recent Campbell fiction, from the beleaguered author in Somebody’s Voice to Patrick Torrington in The Wise Friend. He was supposed to be in his early forties but came across as much older and crankier, in some sections he tested my patience by repeatedly answering questions with other questions or losing his temper far too quickly.
Like its predecessor, the supernatural for the most part was beautifully understated, atmospheric and low key until the last fifty pages or so. There are no “Boo!” scares or demons rising from the depths of Hell, it is much subtler that that and is in tune with much of Campbell’s character driven recent fiction, focusing on disintegrating family dynamics, supernatural ambiguity and secrets. However, that is not to say the novel does not have its scares and the second coming of Dom’s old teacher Mr Christian Noble was well worth the wait.
I do not want to say too much about the plot of Born to the Dark as it might provide spoilers for those who have not read The Searching Dead. As a boy Dom dreamed of being a writer, instead he has become a lecturer on cinema and has a fractious relationship with his boss and also seems at odds with some of his students. When his young son Toby begins to experience strange nocturnal seizures that no medical help seems able to treat, it is suggested that he tries alternative therapy, ‘Safe to Sleep’ is suggested, and this brings him into the orbit of his old adversary Mr Noble and his strange organisation. More on the cult is being held back for the final book, but I would still have liked to have found out a taste more on their innerworkings and also seen Noble play a bigger role.
The relationship (or is it an obsession?) between Dom and Noble is an interesting one, as although they share very few scenes together, Dom definitely has an unhealthy obsession in his old teacher and has obviously never truly come to terms with what happened when he was a boy. The Lovecraftian influences hinted at in book one is developed considerably in this continuation and these scenes, generally seen through the eyes of his son Toby, were amongst the strongest in the novel. The childish interpretations of these dream visions were also incredibly unsettling, and one could feel the helplessness the parents felt towards their child.
Born to the Dark is a fine middle volume which slowly unveils the malevolent cosmic menace that was only hinted at in the first book in greater detail, but Campbell takes his time, and much is held back for the conclusion in the trilogy. Make sure you keep the lights on for the (almost) ending where Dominic and his policeman friend find themselves in a seemingly abandoned house and make a very unwise turn. If you are discovering these books for the first time you are in for a treat.
Born to the Dark (The Three Births of Daoloth)
by Ramsey Campbell
Book 2 in the Three Births of Daoloth trilogy.
1985. Dominic Sheldrake is now a lecturer on cinema. His and Lesley’s small son Toby has begun to experience strange nocturnal seizures that no medical help seems to be able to treat. Meanwhile Dominic assumes the occultist Christian Noble is out of his life, but his influence on the world is more insidious than ever. Roberta Parkin has become a journalist and infiltrates the new version of the Nobles’ cult, but are the experiences it offers too powerful for her to control? In order to rescue his son from the cult, if he can, Dominic must undergo them too…
FLAME TREE PRESS is the imprint of long-standing Independent Flame Tree Publishing, dedicated to full-length original fiction in the horror and suspense, science fiction & fantasy, and crime / mystery / thriller categories. The list brings together fantastic new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices. Learn more about Flame Tree Press at www.flametreepress.com and connect on social media @FlameTreePress
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A GIGANTIC SOUNDTRACK BY ASHLEY STOKES
the heart and soul of horror fiction reviews
A novella of great human and supernatural monstrosities.
Blurred follows a photographer called Phil whose work once won a Pulitzer prize. Now Phil is reduced to taking cheap paparazzi shots to pay the bills whilst unable to face his own demons. Whilst driving to some red carpet event in California, Phil witnesses the serious car wreck of a minor celebrity. Instead of pulling the celebrity from the about to explode wreck, Phil agonizes about getting a quick photo to sell. In the end he takes the photo then the car explodes, killing the celebrity. From this moment on, Phil is haunted by blurred dots and disturbing images. Worst of all whatever photo he takes is unusable, a true tragedy for a man whose mission in life is to create the next big iconic shot. After this tragedy, Phil joins a prize winning writer Xavier on his quest to meet and interview the mysterious El Dorado in a war torn imploding country. The haunting visions only get worse for Phil in there journey through poverty, war and visions, all in per suite of the perfect story and the perfect photograph to go with it.
A number of themes seem to be present within Blurred’s narrative. Such themes include paralysis by fear, watching or documenting instead of helping people in crisis and that hell, monsters, evil and past mistakes are inescapable. On a more positive note, towards the end of the narrative there is also the theme of making better choices in the present and future. Just remember that just because you can’t see the evil, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Now one of the big things about Blurred is just how unlikeable both Phil and Xavier are. It’s not just Phil’s inaction at the start of the story, as you find out more about him you like him even less. On their trip through the war zone, both men come across as annoyingly pathetic, whining and even spoilt at times.
I also didn’t like the beginning much, I just found Phil and his self pity and self absorption annoying. But the story got better once Phil and Xavier left California. I also liked the descriptions, especially the descriptions of the decay Phil sees as he fails to shake the visions that haunt him.
This is a good story with a large degree of character development and complex themes. Yes the main characters are arse holes, some stories are like that, there is a satisfaction from watching them learn from their experiences.
Review by Astrid Addams
by Peter Fugazzotto
Beneath the veneer of our world, darkness roils, kept at bay by a thin veil. Murderers, evil, and tentacled beings loom in the shadows. Every once in a while that veil tears…
Phil Waterston, former Pulitzer Prize winner, has not taken a great photo in years. Unless you count shots of drunk celebrities and car crashes. So when he’s asked to shoot an elusive Latin American drug lord, he jumps at the chance to capture the first ever photo of El Diablo.
But capturing that photo will come with a price. And his quest will become a living nightmare as his crippling guilt about his dead wife and visions of a tentacled monster erode his sanity.
Will Phil shoot the elusive drug lord, or will his demons consume him? Buy Blurred today and be dragged into a terrifying vortex of cosmic horror.
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