Eat the Rich, a fantastic grotesque look into the idea that we can all be equal. Abolish money, abolish the oppressive nature of the so-called ‘1%’ and live out our lives as equals. We each receive the same food, the same clothing, just all the basics we need to survive. Yeah... it’s just never going to work is it? We humans are an interesting breed. We want to be equal, we shout a lot about equal rights, equal pay, equal this that and the other. But if it ever comes to that, whether it be through an alien invasion or some other means, we all know it’s not what we want. This book does a great job of highlighting this, “No reason to work harder or to even dream about anything. It’s all just what it is and it’ll never change if the aliens have their way. I find that disheartening”. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly believe that things need levelling up as it were, really, come on, 2018 and we still have people living on the streets and children having to be fed from food banks. There is absolutely no need. But total equality in every way, that is where we lose ourselves. It’s our hopes and dreams that drive us, the hope of a promotion, dreaming of that perfect life we have long desired. It’s this that keeps us going. Hope is a powerful tool. If we have nothing to aim for, nothing to strive for, what do we have? I think as a species we are still a long way from that Star Trek utopia where poverty is gone along with money. The idea of working to better ourselves is a noble one indeed, realistic and achievable? I really don’t know.
This is a great read; you have alien invasion, gruesome murders, cannibals, and plenty of rebellion. It’s rather funny in parts too, plenty of quirky one liners from human and alien alike. Ed is the unlikely hero, just a ‘regular Joe’, materialistically rich through debt, living with a lazy wife who is just in it for what she can get. He leaves her and his life behind to be free. Living on the streets he soon gets himself tangled up in this mess, first getting arrested, then infiltrating the alien camp and winding up in a mental ward, finally becoming the forced face of the alien invaders and finally the leader of a rebellion.
I couldn’t decide who I actually was supporting in parts, human or alien. Both sides I have to say had valid arguments, and I can completely see why our alien overlords thought they were doing the right thing. I didn’t think I was one of those supporters of government until they were all destroyed... They may suck and their jobs, some more than others naming no names. As a country though, we do need the structure. Without some form of structure, anarchy will prevail.
This book is most definitely a conversation starter, I can hear the political debates in my head already.
Enough from me though now.
I really did enjoy this book and would love you all to give it a go. You can find it hear via Amazon
And it’s free (who doesn’t like freebies) via Kindle Unlimited.
Give it a go. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Housewife of Horror
A few preambles.
I have not seen the new Halloween film. That review is in the more-than capable hands of my esteemed colleague, Tony Jones (Read the review here). This is my reaction to the book alone.
And while I may pretend that the book exists in a vacuum, I also have to acknowledge that this isn't really the case. So I want to make sure it's clear that whatever criticisms I may be putting down here, I can't really hang it on John Passarella. While I'm sure he was given some room to roam, because this is a novelization, it means he was handed this story, fully formed for the most part. The writing is actually entertaining and engaging. The issues I have with the story would be decisions that were made before Passarella even came into the picture.
To start on a positive note, one thing that set Halloween (the original Carpenter film) aside from the other two massive franchises of the decade was in its use of atmosphere and foreshadowing. Michael seems to be constantly on the fringe of the story, floating in and out as a vague presence in many scenes, lending a beautifully bleak feeling of what is coming. This all is aided of course by a fantastic score.
With that fact as a kind of marinade to my point here, in general I would say that I preferred the first half of the book and I felt like the use of similar tension and foreboding was done well. As the reader with extra insight I liked the feeling of hopelessness for these characters as they go about their lives, not knowing what's coming for them. Michael is appropriately frightening in his silent implacability. And naturally, most of those in charge don't seem to take him seriously as a threat. And as would be expected from this franchise, we all know he's going to escape. Still, when that scene finally arrived I thought it was done well.
One big promotional aspect for the film has been the return of Jaime Lee Curtis to her iconic role although, to be fair I'm not really sure why. Not that she isn't an outstanding actor (she is) but of the nine movies set in the original film's continuity, she's appeared in five. I can't think of any other franchise where an actor, save for the monster has appeared in so many installments. And this isn't even the first "return" she's made to the franchise. Maybe they should have called this H40.
More relevant I think than just JLC's presence is that this is essentially the establishment of a new iteration of the John Carpenter universe, seeing another possibility for how things could have ended up for Laurie Strode following the fateful events of that night.
And as such, I think some great potential is present at the start of this book in the relationship Laurie has with her family. On one hand you have her daughter who grows up traumatized herself, having to live with a mother who is constantly paranoid and emotionally unstable, sure that there are monsters poised to strike out at them. And in the middle of this estranged pair is the granddaughter, now of a similar age to Laurie in the first movie.
Unfortunately, this dynamic never really seems to go anywhere. The focus jumps from one to the next, so much that the book ends up not really being about any of them. You get some broad brush strokes every now and then but for the most part, everyone just felt flat for me.
And as for Laurie as a character, I was kind of let down. I'm normally a fan of sequels in which we see how damaged our main character really is and how just because the monster might be beaten, her torture still carries on. I'm appreciative when a writer is willing to show their heroes as being broken. Unfortunately, I thought that Laurie in this became a little bit too much Sarah Conners from T2. We start from quiet, unassuming Laurie in the first movie and now she's somehow managed the resources and funds to amass a massive arsenal in her home, which is also outfitted with so many security features that it almost becomes cartoonish. And I'm not saying that's it's unbelievable that she could end up a fully loaded bad-ass. I'm more than willing to take that journey. It's just that the transition felt wrong and unexplained to me.
Frankly, I think I would have been more intrigued by a story exploring the effect violence can have on a family. Laurie's daughter has no memory of the first encounter with Michael. That's always been theoretical for her. But it's the reason why she's raised with guns and knives and self-defense training, rather than birthday parties and toys. Instead of standard slasher-flick fare, this could have been a great aspect to the story but I think by adding both a daughter and a granddaughter, it became too complicated for any of them to get a good amount of focus.
And in my biggest complaint, because I guess they just had to have a Loomis type character, the doctor who is shoehorned into this role is a fail for me. Michael's doctor has an arc in this story that has no narrative momentum to hold it up. And he ends up taking actions at the end that makes no sense to me. You can't have a character whose only role is to act as a twist.
The book has some great, brutal scenes involving peripheral characters but once we get everyone to Laurie's Bat Cave, much of the sense of peril kind of dwindled away for me.
After as many installments as this franchise has seen, I suppose it's inevitable for the plot to feel a little on the bland side. Still, for me, this book mostly goes down as a case of lost potential.
I’d heard a lot of great things about Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach earlier this year, so I requested this book from my library’s interlibrary loan because my library didn’t have a copy on its own shelves. It FINALLY came in and I dove right into it. It was hard to put down. This is the first book I’ve read by Dathan and I plan to read more of his work.
The story’s main character is a young man named Ben. Ben had taken his three-year-old brother, Eric, to the supermarket one afternoon while his parents were at work. Ben had taken Eric to the restroom and had turned toward the sink only for a minute - when he turned back, Eric was missing. Ben tore through the store looking for Eric, calling his name and asking everyone in the store if they’d seen his little brother.
On that day and on every day in the five years between then and now, Eric was never found.
This has to be a sibling’s/parent’s/relative’s worst nightmare. A missing child is a nightmare in itself, but to have a toddler disappear while you are supposed to be responsible for them...that must be the most nauseating, the-bottom-has-dropped-out-beneath-me feeling.
So that’s how the book starts, and the nightmare continues.
Ben searched tirelessly for years. He put Missing Child fliers up all over town. He went door-to-door with copies of the fliers to anyone living remotely near the store asking the residents if they’d seen Eric. Hell, even when he noticed that any of the houses were sold and new people moved in, he would take the flier to the new people to ask them to be on the lookout for Eric. Ben was also a frequent visitor to the local police department, asking if any new leads had been called in and demanding that the police search for his brother just as intensely now, years later, as they had been in the first few days after Eric’s disappearance.
Ben’s home life had never been the same since Eric’s disappearance (understandably so). His step-mom Deidre no longer works and spends her days roaming the house or spending time in Eric’s room, humming or talking to her lost boy. Ben’s father is a ghost of the man he was, working hard to make ends meet. Life at home becomes even more tenuous when Ben takes a night-shift job at the same supermarket from which Eric disappeared, but it was the last place in town that had accepted his application.
Working at this supermarket was hard for Ben. His brother’s Missing Child flier was still hanging on the bulletin board along with all of the other missing kids, so he must walk past that every day. His new boss is cruel and uncaring, and Ben suspects he may know something about his brother’s disappearance and never told the police. Plus there are strange noises coming from strange places in the supermarket at night, and a haunting energy seems to run through the place that Ben can’t exactly pinpoint.
Ben still searches for Eric when he’s not working. When a coworker learns more about Ben and his relation to Eric, he claims he’d seen the boy a few months ago, alive. Ben’s efforts become even more fervent and he notices some strange coincidences. And a haunting symbol started cropping up in different places at work, and Ben is convinced they are related to Eric’s disappearance.
That’s enough about the plot - I don’t want to give anything away. I want the story to unfold as unexpectedly for you as it did for me! The book is full of mystery, pain and the undying efforts of a young man looking for his lost brother.
I really like Dathan’s writing style. He has a very lovely way of describing the setting, people, and the actions around you. He could describe the way the wind moved so that you could see it without seeing anything the wind was carrying. He could describe a person so that you could feel their presence. Everything in the book felt so real and tangible it was hard to imagine you weren’t seeing it on film.
I will admit that the book felt a little too long and that the plot was a little more complex for me than I like, so sometimes it was hard for me to follow or tie things together. And I’m a little undecided about the ending, which is the only reason the book didn’t receive 5 stars from me. I feel like I’m missing some pieces to the puzzle. I tend to be someone who wants everything to fall into place or come to light by the end. I felt like there were some plot holes that I expected would be filled in, but I didn’t catch the revelations if they were there.
Overall Bad Man is well worth the read. I look forward to reading Dathan’s Penpal as well.
This is something of a ‘Bonus’ review, not requested, not scheduled but nonetheless happening. The reason is quite simple: I was on day 2 of a 10-day holiday. I haven’t had a proper holiday in years, largely for health reasons but even though I have a waning dose of ‘man flu’ I had headed off for a 5 day break in Dresden. But hey, I said ‘10 days’ earlier, well we had stopped off for a few days at my better-half’s Mom’s on the way and we caught the train on the Monday morning and then it’s five days in Dresden, a couple of days back at Mutti’s and then home to Frankfurt in time for supper.
Due to the aforementioned ‘man flu’ I’m under a self-imposed quarantine and have spent much of the past two weeks resting, organising files, writing and reading, basically absolute bliss or business as usual depending on how you look at it. The big difference is no internet connection at Mutti’s and so I was not arsing about on facebook as much as usual. Luckily I had plenty of time to relax, and I usually spend it watching movies to review, but not this time, this time I decided to read for the pure joy of not having to do it for a particular purpose.
Not so long ago I reviewed the ‘100 Word Horrors’ book of ‘drabbles’ from KJK Publishing and was highly entertained by it, there were dozens of authors involved and the wealth of short stories were a joy to read. In the wake of my largely positive review the anthology’s publisher, Kevin J Kennedy, thanked me for the review and offered up his latest book as a willing sacrifice, not for review but just because he’s a decent sort and wanted to see what I thought of it. ‘You Only Get One Shot’ is a collaboration between him and J.C. Michael, and it’s well worth reading. I started it early in the day as a little light reading while relaxing and suddenly found myself engrossed in the tale(s). Partly because it’s hitting a little close to home, with the core concept being that of revenge against four more-established writers who were very negative about a newcomer’s story to the point where said newbie commits suicide. The four writers become involved in the ultimate story competition in which the writer of the best short story gets the ultimate prize… they survive.
I think that’s one hell of a concept, but it isn’t actually that straight forward as the four combatants have to write a story that day and post it publicly, somewhere easy to find. It will then be judged, but the writer will not know the outcome straight away, win or lose they will have to sweat it out until the mystery accuser decides it is time for the losers to die. That in itself is a great story, but then we are actually treated to snippets of the lives of the four authors, and the actual stories that they write, and so it’s four stories within an overall plot, which is something I have always liked the idea of and which is done to great effect here.
I will not tell you what the four stories are about except to say that they are all very different and absolutely suit the characters who allegedly wrote them, even though in truth there are really two writers penning this book it does come across as somewhat schizophrenic with multiple voices and a very slight difference in quality deliberately injected into the stories. With impressive finesse the writers pull off a seamless thriller interspersed with enough horror to make this a gripping read. So much so that I read it in one sitting and although originally read it to pass some ‘me time’ I found I couldn’t let it go without a review, so this is it.
It’s the second book I have read from KJK Publishing, and the second book I found ‘unputdownable’. I’m eventually going to read more of their back-catalogue to see if the quality is consistent across their range, if that’s the case I’ll let you know, if it’s not I might just keep it to myself in case I suffer the same fate as the characters in ‘You Only Get One Shot’.
Available now on Amazon. Dirt cheap and well worth it.
With this, her debut collection, Doungjai Gam delivers a stunning menagerie of work--mostly short pieces that walk the razored-wire between poetry and flash fiction. Every one of them using the economy of words to inflict the perfect amount of raw emotive power. Some are, even at their short length--sprawling murals of tragedy and sadness while others are dizzying finger paintings of brutality and honesty.
An example: "Christmas Lights in February" is a slap across the face, the slapping hands fingers laced with barbed-wire.
Another example: "Repose" is a blindfold soaked in despair and tied tightly across the eyes, not to inhibit sight but to force them to see what it hold so very, very closely.
On more example: "Divorce and Road kill" a short story that reads more like prose but regardless of what you want to label it--it is a weapon of anger and strength and dark as a miner's lungs.
The slivers of wordage displayed in here are grim and dire, sharp and stony. They are a million screaming pebbles on the beach of your mind and they have much to say and scream. The glimpses of what has got to be personal suffering and sadness are tremendous and took undeniable strength and more than a fistful of love. All of what I said here--the ridiculous metaphor and simile--it's all true. Every single thing I said about this collection, I speak with honesty. Doungjai has crafted a helluva debut and has craved her name into the walls of the genre as a person to keep watching. I know I will be, I'm certain that it's a name that will be seen with much more frequency in the future.
Glass Slipper Dreams, Shattered is available from Apokrupha.com
Editor Eric J. Guignard and psychologist Jessica Bayliss, PhD also include companion discourse throughout, offering academic and literary insight as well as psychological commentary examining the physiology of our senses, why each of our senses are engaged by dark fiction stories, and how it all inspires writers to continually churn out ideas in uncommon and invigorating ways.
Featuring stunning interior illustrations by Nils Bross, and including fiction short stories by such world-renowned authors as John Farris, Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z. Brite, Darrell Schweitzer, and Richard Christian Matheson, amongst others. Intended for readers, writers, and students alike, explore THE FIVE SENSES OF HORROR!”
Our five senses: Touch, Hearing, Sight, Taste and Smell. All of which are explained and explored from both a psychological perspective, and from that of the horror writer.
A wonderful collection of short horror stories, split into five sections (the five senses obviously), all with fascinating introductions explaining the psychology behind the sense. I found those introductions, courtesy of Jessica Bayliss, PhD, very insightful and thought provoking. The short stories themselves were all very well chosen, fitting in even so well with their specific sense. The introductions for me seemed to also add to the feelings I had while reading each story. It felt like the explanations to our responses to fear stimuli actually invoked a fear response from me before I read the story itself. That may have been helped along though by a long discussion about the fear of spiders – I hate spiders.
It’s quite difficult to choose a favourite. They are all so good. If pressed though, I would have to pick ‘In the Cave of Delicate Singers’ by Lucy Taylor. This short story I found to be especially haunting.
***beware of spoilers***
The Brotterling cave complex is a deep network of caves, chambers and tunnels, with a dark history behind it.
This doesn’t sway Matthew and Lionel Hargave, brothers, and experienced cavers. They both went in, but only one, Lionel, returned. In a cruel twist of fate, Lionel was the lucky one; he had lost his hearing in Iraq years courtesy of a roadside IED. This terrible accident was what saved his life here; he could not be called by the maddening siren song within the depths of the cave.
A search and rescue team are dispatched, confident and disbelieving of the rumours and stories of death. They are soon to find out the caves history is all too real.
Karyn, a junior member of the team goes solo against orders to try and rescue her friends. What she finds are mutilated corpses, her friend and one time lover, Pree, being absorbed into the cave itself.
This is a song that must be heard.
“Madness made tangible.
Contagion by sound.
It spews from my lips – a song of such deadly beauty and unholy allure that I experience only the briefest frisson of horror – an emotion something inside me instantly quells – when their mouths fall open, songstruck, enthralled, and they begin to rend their own flesh and tear each other apart”
A story that definitely resonates with today’s busy modern world of chaos is ‘Sounds’, by Kathryn Ptacek. This tells a tale of a woman plagued by sound - the constant din of the town where they live, the never ceasing intrusive soundtrack of life - to the point of madness.
This is a particularly relevant story I felt, especially as I live in quite a built up area. We never get complete peace and quiet. There is always something going on. Whether it be the neighbours banging, cars revving, the garbage truck or the mail. There is always noise of some description. It is never ending. It’s easy to see how very real this story’s conclusion could become in today’s society.
What is most frightening though, is that we have done this to ourselves.
This is a wonderful anthology of stories from some great authors, which will appeal to all walks of horror fan. It contains a wonderful mix of the paranormal, the supernatural, as well as the most terrifying side of the human condition.
Highly recommended and worth a read as soon as you get the chance.
Lesley-Ann (Housewife of Horror)
The magazine Occult Detective Quarterly, “devoted to those intrepid investigators who explore the weird, exotic and bizarre,” is up to its fifth issue as of the time of writing, with an average 100+ pages each time of “strange crimes, where hardened investigators and supernatural sleuths dare the darkness to seek out the truth.” The success of ODQ, as well as the high production values and original artwork of each issue, demonstrate in style that there’s plenty of support and reader buy-in for the whole proposition of the occult detective. The parallel success of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, Peter Ackroyd’s occult investigation novels, and almost too many other series to count shows that there’s also considerable appetite for occult detection at greater length than ODQ’s preferred 6,000-word upper limit. As co-editor Dave Brzeski reports in the preface, “we already had a good number of excellent stories that broke the 6,000 word barrier by a considerable margin and we really wanted to use them.” Which is where Occult Detective Quarterly Presents comes in.
Supported by a Kickstarter which went almost $1,000 above its $2,000 target, Occult Detective Quarterly Presents collects stories submitted to ODQ that ran above its target length, from novelette to full-length novella. The Kickstarter stretch goals enabled artwork for each story, as well as additional material. The final volume runs to a generous 404 pages, with 8 long stories, plus a substantial essay by critic and anthologist Mike Ashley on “the birth of the occult detective in literature, and developments up to the latter part of last century.”
Occult Detective Quarterly Presents, as co-editor John Linwood Grant adds in his Foreword, “is open to any interpretation of the occult detective which involves a good story well told.” This is a hybrid genre, as he points out, where “there is no certainty as which element should come first - the occult or the detection - or which should predominate. It’s even been said that the bulk of supernatural stories are occult detective tales in one way or another.” Accordingly, the stories range wide across settings and epochs, from Biblical Palestine to Seventies Harlem, from classic English country house detective territory to the full-on bizarro Pulpworld of Adrian Cole’s novella “At Midnight All the Agents.” As per the Kickstarter terms, each is accompanied by a monochrome plate from a different artist: the stories will have already caught your imagination, but the images are a definite bonus.
In a collection of this kind, naturally not all of the stories are going to chime in with a reader’s preferences or elicit their awe. To my mind, the most striking tales, in quality of prose as well as imaginative conception, are those that challenge expectations and push the boundaries of this already pretty amorphous genre. Edward M. Erdelac’s Harlem man[?]hunt “Conquer Comes Correct” is one of the stories that sticks most adhesively in my memory, as does Charles R. Rutledge’s classically flavoured “A Shadow Against the Stars.” Most of the investigators here are already seasoned plumbers of the paranormal, from Willie Meikle’s gritty Scots gumshoe in “Farside” to S.L. Edwards’s father/daughter duo in “Ritual Killings,” but that doesn’t imply any descent into cliche. Some stories are fully tongue-in-cheek, others are as noir and as dark-toned as they come.
I won’t comment on whether the longer form truly suits investigative fiction best, but I do know that many of the investigators here are so flavourful and engaging that I hope the authors feature them again in other stories. Today’s crop of occult detectives are on the case, as Occult Detective Quarterly Presents demonstrates, and solving ever more uncanny mysteries in ever more bizarre and fascinating ways.
[About the reviewer]
Paul StJohn Mackintosh is a Scottish writer of weird and dark fiction, poet, translator and journalist. You can see more of his work at https://www.amazon.com/Paul-St.-John-Mackintosh/e/B00CEH18BM.
There a few descriptive words that have the ability to make me reach for a packet of painkillers when reading a book, in the vain hope to stem an oncoming headache. One of these words is "meta", hell I can feel the cold shiver running up my spine to give me a literal painful brain freeze. In my experience in at least 80% of the cases of a horror novel being described as meta, is just an excuse for the author to write a self-indulgent scree of nonsense that is neither as gripping nor half as clever as the author thinks it is.
Literary Stalker by Roger Keen is a mother of all of meta novels, I'm getting a headache just thinking about how I am going to describe the story within a story within a story etc. etc. To the point where I am almost tempted to use one of my most hated phrases in review "I don't want to talk about the book for fear giving it all away" tempted, but I'll not go there without a fight.
Right here goes, Nick Chatterton, the narrator of the novel is using the plots of classic genre films as the templates for revenge killings of all those people who dared to slight him. But and here comes the killer meta bit, he’s not actually committing the murders, they are just the plot of his latest book The Facebook Murders, and, take a deep breath here, the story of Literary Stalker is the story of the composition of that novel-within-a-novel.
The Facebook murders are actually being committed by Jago Farrar, Nick’s alter ego and narrator, and Jago himself is writing a novel – Social Media Avenger – based on his murders, which is narrated by Miles Hunniford. Got that, are you sure because I'm not going even to attempt to clear that up. I needed to go for a lie down after typing that up.
My tone so far in this review may sound a little a dismissive, which it is, and it isn't, you see I'm trying to be meta with this review and write it in the style of the persona, that so many people mistake me for having. A meta-review for a meta-book that sounds like someone trying to divide by zero, doesn't it? Maybe I should stop before I create a review paradox.
In all seriousness, though Literary Stalker is an ambitious book and one that for the vast majority of its length works exceptionally well. This is a rich and slightly darkly comic novel that has a lot to say about the not so new culture of social media and the instant unearned quest for fame and validation. Taking its inspiration from Theatre of Blood the classic film of artistic revenge on critics, Literary Stalker is no mere rehash of the film. Keen litters the narrative with insightful jabs fame, and the desire to be a creative in a world where everyone is a critic. Keen could have taken the easy route and written this a straightforward novel with a linear narrative, but Keen isn't your average writer, and his use of a story within a story multidimensional narrative is more than just a gimmick, it takes reading experience into a whole new level of cleverness. Don't get me wrong there are a few occasions where this reviewer was scratching his head wondering what was going and just who was doing the killing and whether or not the murders were real or only part of one of the "fictional elements" of the of the book. But that is a by and by, for when the final page was turned over, everything had fallen into place, and the sheer genius of this novel was laid bare for all to see.
One of the strongest elements of Literary Stalker is the way in which Nick Chatterton, who could be described as the real narrator of the book is handled. Straight male authors have been using characters who are gay for as long as books have been written, and it always doesn't work. However, Keen's portrayal of Nick comes across as being extraordinarily authentic and more importantly extremely sympathetic. Nick feels human rather than some poorly written cypher who is just there to pin one of the narrative threads on.
Literary Stalker is a book that will be instantly recognisable to many readers when they read the back cover synopsis, however, this is a unique reading experience that really has to be read to be believed, compelling, funny and disturbing, Keen has written a novel that will challenge the reader as much as it rewards them.