By Martin Summerfield
“He knew something of sorrow, remembered joy, and devoutly hoped – as much as he consciously hoped for anything other than proper allotments of sunshine and rainfall – never again to encounter either of those old annoyances.”
It’s very tempting to close yourself off to the world around you and want to retreat to nature. The protagonist of In Calabria, Claudio Bianchi is a taciturn farmer, sometime poet and full time hermit. He is a man who has closed himself off to the world around him. With the exception of weekly visits from the postman, Romano, his goat Cherubino, and his cat “Third Cat” Bianchi has virtually no contact with another living creature. This all changes when the preternatural makes an incursion on Bianchi’s life in the form of a unicorn, an inciting event which forces Bianchi to confront his past and question his carefully cultivated solitude. The unicorn’s presence inspires Bianchi to write poetry at a prolific rate, and in a lesser book this might be the focus of the story, but as Bianchi only writes poetry for himself, he just does what Emily Dickinson did and puts the untitled poems in the kitchen drawer.
By George Ilett Anderson
Paint it Black
I have to be honest and say that this year hasn’t exactly been a bundle of joy for me on many levels. Over its course, I’ve noticed a growing sense of detachment and disconnection from the world around me; things that normally would have given me great joy and pleasure such as reading and reviewing have disappeared into this hazy, numbing fog through which very little penetrates. Part of me thinks that this state of affairs hasn’t exactly been helped by my choice of reading material which has tended to err on the darker side of horror fiction encompassing tales of despair, alienation and loss. So I find it somewhat of a surprise that the book that I’ve just read has resonated so strongly with me and cut through the emotional dissonance that I’ve been experiencing. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a book that I would define as being filled with light and joy. In fact, “Bones are Made to be Broken” by Paul Michael Anderson is quite the opposite, a trawl through some of the darker and more disturbing recesses of the human condition.
When I heard that A Congregation of Jackals was a thing, I knew without hesitation that I had to read it. My favorite book of this type was a horrific, bloody brutality-fest by the same author titled Wraiths of the Broken Land and the script for the groundbreaking horror/western mash-up, “Bone Tomahawk” was also penned by S. Craig Zahler so I had high hopes for this title. Fortunately for me, Raw Dog Screaming Press is always accommodating and editor Jennifer Barnes offered me a review copy before I even had a chance to ask for it, and I can tell you in advance that it more than exceeded my lofty expectations.
Jake Leonard is a big man with a more than passing familiarity with problems. He's rapidly approaching middle age, stills struggles with Bipolar Disorder and all the memories that go with that, including a stint in juvenile jail for a violent crime committed pre-diagnosis. He's eeking out his existence in the rural south, training dogs and breaking horses, An honest-to-God cowboy. He's got a young and pretty girlfriend and He's medicated and almost happy for once. Almost.
His girlfriend, Nikki, happens to be the sheriff's daughter and a small time drug dealer. She sells weed to Jake who gives it to his best friend who's battling cancer. Nothing good lasts forever and so Nikki and Jake's relationship jumps track and she spirals into a seething pool of harder drugs, alcohol , satanic metal and low-budget porn. Jake reconnects with his ex-wife and things get even headier.
Jake is a man with a problem, many problems. Only medication and the big ol' muscle in his chest keep him in line and the power they wield over Jake Leonard and the flaming wreckage that was his life is tenuous.
The Ruin Season is an amazing read. Jake's mental condition is treated as much as a character as is Nikki or Sheriff Kelton, it's not prettied up or dumbed down, presented as honestly and sincerely as possible, not a gimmick. It is a tremendous story, it is richly rendered in character and setting and an emotional clarity that rings that Lansdale/McCarthy bell and puts the thrill in thriller.
With The Ruin Season, Triana guts you. It's with a slow and tragic blade, slightly curved and deftly sharp. He gauzes the wound with sadness and sympathy and stitches it ragged with loss and longing. These wounds will not heal quickly nor will they do so without scars.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is fantastic!
The Ruin Season is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Press.
This last few months has been a bonanza for fans of horror supremo Adam Nevill, but they better make the most of “Under a Watchful Eye” as this is the author’s last release until 2018. I practiced what I preached and following my own sage advice, read this rather tasty and fiendishly well plotted supernatural thriller over six very enjoyable evenings. It was great company and with all novels by this author was sad to close it for the last time.
By John Boden
A few years ago, Jack Bantry launched a new horror magazine, called Splatterpunk. It was a labor of love and an amorous letter to the genre that apparently started a fire in the man's black heart. I reviewed, I believe every issue (and even managed to land a story and an article in issues #5 and #6) and the vision he goes after is quite clear. Splatterpunk was the punk rock boyfriend of mainstream horror. It was the leather-clad, earring in the fucking nose wearing weirdoes who stomped around the dance floor while those preppie lame-Os were dancing like they were having mild seizures.
Recently, Bantry has focused on books. With a chapbook seeing its release earlier this year and the recent release of this title, Splatterpunk's Not Dead. With this book, Bantry is excitedly nodding to that genre that sparked his vision. And he has enlisted the talents of some of the new crop of writers and artists working in the field. Some of it is extreme, some bizarro and some toeing the line between.
After the wonderful introductory essay by Bizarro godhead, Jeff Burk we get right to the story meat of the matter. We begin with Nathan Robinson's "Another Bunch of Flowers By The Road." This top-fuelled piece about grief and evening the perceived score is almost funny in its cartoonish quest for the tipping of the scales that were it not so rooted in tragedy and grief you could laugh, a little. This is followed by Robert Essig's "High Fashion" where we meet a young designed and his less-than-normal approach to design inspiration.
"Beware the Beverage" by Jeff Strand shows us one possible and horrific scenario that our love of energy drinks could lead to. "Eggbeater" is the weird and wild story of a strange boy with a unique, um...birth defect. 'Please Subscribe" by Adam Cesare is another of his sharp almost satirical-were-it -not-chillingly-possible commentaries on social media and etiquette. "Abstinence" by Shane McKenzie is a tale about what it's titled after. But if you're familiar with Shane's work then you expect the extremes we're dealing with here.
"the Androgyne" by Brendan Vidito is a wet and wild foray into the fusion of flesh. We end with a tale called "Walter's Last Canvas" by Paul Shrimpton, this one has a more traditional feel than some of the others, a story of old evil and art.
Not all of these stories wowed me. Some did, while the other more bizarro ones didn't --not being bad just didn't get me in the sweet spot as much. This is a good chance to check out some newer authors whom you might not be familiar with. It's a solid read.
Splatterpunk's Not Dead is available through Splatterpunk Press
By Nancy Mullins
I love a good end-of-the-world story. Some may regard post-apocalyptic fiction as tired and overdone, but I’m endlessly fascinated; it’s a subgenre rife with possibilities, wide open for new takes on old ideas. And I don’t even mind the occasional z-word.
BY CHARLOTTE BOND
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood is a remarklably well written book, but it needs to find the right audience or else it risks being underappreciated.
Littlewood’s debut novel, “A Cold Season” was a bestseller and featured on the Richard and Judy book club. It was modern, well-paced and full of conflict and threat. Its sequel, “A Cold Season” was along the same lines. The Hidden People is a very different affair, and those picking it up expecting it to be along the same lines, might be surprised at how different it is.