Fatale, Book Three: West of Hell by Ed Brubaker

51HS12RL94L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been following Fatale for a while now. In fact, I can tell you the first time I saw a cover for this series. It was back sometime at the beginning of 2013, maybe the end of 2012, and it was nestled in beside a few copies of fellow new release Revival – a series I am absolutely IN LOVE with. (More on that at a later date)

I was immediately drawn to the cover – a thing of fantastic noir beauty, married with what looked like a Lovecraftian feel. This cover, in particular, made me think of a combination of Ralph Steadman and Ben Templesmith, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now, anyone who knows me well will probably tell you how I feel about H.P. Lovecraft. I appreciate his work and completely understand his value in the genre… but he’s not for me. I’m more of a Poe guy – high drama and a lot of “woe is me.” I had to play the Argento/Fulci game here. Sorry.

That said, I usually find myself shying away from things like Edward Lee’s more recent HPL output, even though I’m a huge fan of the Lee. See what I’m getting at? I hope you’re still with me.

But Fatale, despite my initial judgements, had me intrigued for some reason. There are a few things about this title that I’m obviously not immediately a fan of, but there’s something else there – something I still haven’t nailed down, that just reels me in a keeps me fully connected. Is it the story of a beautiful woman embroiled in an eternal struggle? Is it the images that Sean Phillips and Dave Stewart splash so skillfully across the page? Is it Brubaker’s unquestionable expertise at crafting smooth, solid, engaging stories?

I have no fucking clue. What I DO know is I’m a fan, and I have no choice over the matter.

From the dark days of the depression, to the middle ages and the old west, these tales of horror and myth and the mystery of the Femme Fatale reveal secrets even our heroine doesn’t know about yet. Bold and experimental, this is pulp noir horror at it’s finest.

- from Amazon.com

While that’s not much of a synopsis, it’s still a hell of a teaser doncha think?!

Now.. what was I saying?
YES! Okay.

This is one hell of a book, folks! I hate to admit that I usually love my GNs a little more on the bloody, revealing side of the genre (Crossed, Locke and Key, Revival), but there’s definitely something to be said for the shadow-play and ethereal nature of the images and story herein.

Fatale has a long extended arc revolving around the Femme Fatale character and her unrelenting desire to uncover more knowledge into her past, present, and future. She’s been plagued by nightmares, denied answers, and endangered her whole life – and in this issue she’s only that little bit closer to finding out exactly what’s going on.

The readers are treated to a generous smattering of stories detailing Fatale’s interesting past, and brought into a world that reads like a unique piece of work, but pays a good deal of homage to the authors of yore – the aforementioned HPL, and extending all the way to carry hints of Louis L’Amour’s western flair.

Brubaker’s engrossing story, coupled with Phillips and Stewarts’ noir infused images, makes Fatale a definite must-have for anyone who appreciates their horror GNs to be more than pages and pages of flashy gore and relentless Big Bads.

Fatale, Book Three: West of Hell, is available at Amazon, Image Comics, and other retailers.

Colder by Paul Tobin

9781621158622_p0_v1_s260x420Jesus Christ. Just when you thought it was safe to be insane… then in walks Paul Tobin with characters like Nimble Jack and his “dinner” dates Declan and Reece, ruining the whole notion that crazy is fun, and making me want to talk to a mental health specialist. Or not. No, if this is Tobin’s world, it would be safer to be completely sane a boring. Insanity ain’t what it used to be, folks.

Seriously… where do people come up with this stuff? Colder is the stuff of loony-bin nightmares, tempered with a generous amount of armchair psychology and a healthy sense of humour that borders on, er, well… insane, itself.

Declan Thomas is an ex-inmate of an insane asylum that was destroyed in a fire, he has the strange ability to step inside a person’s madness—and sometimes cure it. He hopes to one day cure his own, but time is running out, as a demonic predator pursues him.

- Amazon.com

First off, I have to say that every review I’ve read about this book has been shouting volumes about the visuals of this mean little beast, and while I don’t disagree, I have to say that the story is definitely the showstopper here. Let it be said that Ferreyra certainly does have a way with the pencils and colours, but it’s the power behind the idea of a sort of mental-inter-dimentional travel, and the proposed ability of actually visiting the terrifying worlds that unstable minds create within their own noggins, and are subsequently tortured by, that held my attention.

Crazy is as crazy does?
Moving on…

I thought I was in for something completely different when I snatched the book up and took a gander at the cover. It’s nothing like what I assumed I would be in for at all.

The story itself is completely engrossing, showcasing this author’s ability to create empathy for the mad, and still hand the reader a healthy dose of sheer terror at the aforementioned Nimble Jack. Seriously, he’s one scary-ass mutha’. I haven’t come across a villain so honestly spooky in a long while, and I sincerely hope I don’t for some time to come. I mean, this dude feeds on fear, but I sincerely doubt he intends to be nearly as damned scary as he is.

While the story does take about half an issue to actually get into gear, and then another chapter or two to hit its stride, it doesn’t relent when it finally gets there. Tobin does a fantastic job of explaining Declan’s current mental state, as well as the goings-on of the currently unravelling solution (come book Issue 5) but there are definitely some issues left trussed up but uncooked in the end.

The question as to how, exactly, Declan got to the clink, as well as – if he was in a looney bin for a good reason (i.e.: if he was actually loony) – how did he go from crooked brained to straight in the 5 issue run? I may have missed something integral in the telling, but to me this felt like a big hole that needed some expert filling.

Shut up. That wasn’t meant to be dirty. Jesus… I don’t know what to do with you people sometimes.

Regardless, Colder is a stellar contribution to the genre and definitely a must have for anyone who likes their horror to be both James Wan disturbing, and psychologically terrifying as well.

Shit, if the idea of a bad guy killing you in your dreams was scary as hell to you back in the 80s, you can definitely consider this somewhat of an homage to the NOES of yore, but with a modern, goth visual aesthetic somewhat like a highly polished, more refined, bigger brother of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac.

Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlín R. Kiernan

16136945This book… This book is… I don’t know. It’s so many things.

I haven’t seen a book run around, tagging so many horror-centric clichés this much, and yet still manage to stay true to itself and remain steadfastly interesting at the same time.

Like the title suggests, this is a book about Werewolves. But that’s being too specific and under-selling it a ton. It’s about a lot more than just Werewolves – which is something I never thought I’d actually write, EVER. Just Werewolves? Who says that? Nobody sane, anyways.

What this book is really about is faith, belonging, and a whole helluva lot of fire – both in its metaphoric and in physical guise. And hot damn, if it doesn’t cause a stirring in your hero-loving heart, I don’t know what will. (see what I did there? A helluva lot of fire? Hot Damn? Eh? Eh?)

Personally, this one felt like Kiernan was channeling a little bit of my beloved Brite with the creation of a character like Dancy, but I could be completely off base with that. This is my first actual experience with the acclaimed author’s writing, but it definitely won’t be the last.

Any reader in their right mind is liable to be drawn to this story. I mean, here… take a look at the synopsis:

Dancy Flammarion may look like a frail teenage girl, but her journey through the swamps and byways of the American South brings her into battle with werewolves, monsters, and grotesque secrets, armed only with a knife and a mission to destroy the deadly creatures that lurk in the shadows.

- from DarkHorse.com

Side note: I love spell-check. How many mistakes were in that paragraph, right there? You’ll never know. HA! Ugh.

With Alabaster: Wolves, Kiernan breathes a new sort of life into Dancy, a character from the world of her own short stories, and plants her firmly in the land of pictures and colour, much to this comic lover’s delight. Sometimes you just need to see the story instead of read it. And honestly, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately – so this was a welcome experience.

The overall dynamic between all of the characters from the get-go is incredible. The main character, Dancy, sits in her own headspace, relives her own wounded past, and throws threatening barbs at her villainous counterpart just as easily as she trades sarcastic remarks with a very cleverly crafted and simply loveable new animal friend/feathered annoyance. It’s a testament to the author’s ability to set such powerful scenes and have them also be so strongly driven by rich dialogue.

I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this tale could surely exist as either a graphic novel or a short story – Kiernan is truly able to transcend both of the mediums involved.

The art and colouring involved in Wolves are a thing of beauty, as well. Not only do they marry the skillfully crafted words to the scenes so well, but they also help create something of a relaxed feel to what should really be a more urgent story. It’s hard to think about a werewolf story being anything even remotely resembling “relaxed”, but that’s exactly how this one feels. From the introductory few pages, all the way to the climactic scenes of each issue, the pace is set wonderfully, and never urges the reader to hurry along in order to reach a “money-shot”, to use the term loosely.

Kiernan, Lieber and Rosenberg are masterful at allowing the reader to believe they’re in control, when in fact they’re being drawn from panel to panel hand-in-hand the whole way through a wonderland of terror, mystery, and modern, horror-centric fairytales.

Alabaster: Wolves is available at Dark Horse and on Amazon.com.

Dreadful Tales Book Club – February 2014 Edition

Hello, you delicious and dreadfully dangerous Dreadites! I hope you enjoyed last month’s read and are ready for some more!

Now, I’m not your familiar emcee for these monthly little shindigs, but Meli and I did have a wee little chat,  and we ultimately decided we should do something special, not only for Women in Horror Month, but also to celebrate our 2014 Bram Stoker Award Challenge!

I’ve been brutalizing my eyeballs for a few days now, reading everything on the Prelim Ballot and wondering why the hell I do things like this to myself all the time. Now it’s YOUR TURN to join me! And, lookie lookie, what do we have here? What ditty have I chosen for y’all to dance to? Why it’s A Necessary End by Sarah Pinborough and F. Paul Wilson.Ness_zps3a6b12c2

Yeah… I know – Wilson is the opposite of a Woman in Horror, but Pinborough ain’t. And honestly, it’s worth it to read anything by these two stellar authors, regardless of what month it is.

Make sure you shimmy on by and chat with about the book here at The Mortuary, the official meeting place for the Dreadful Tales Book Club.

We’ve never had a chance to look at a Maelstrom title for the Book Club before, so this is an exciting first for us! If you’ve ever read the above two authors, you should already know what you’re in for. If not, take a look at the synopsis:

LIFE CAME OUT OF AFRICA…

But now it’s death’s turn….

It spreads like a plague but it’s not a disease. Medical science is helpless against the deadly autoimmune reaction caused by the bite of the swarming African flies. Billions are dead, more are dying. Across the world, governments are falling, civilization is crumbling, and everywhere those still alive fear the death carried in the skies.

Some say the flies are a freak mutation, others say they’re man made, but as hope of beating them fades, most turn to the only comfort left and see the plague as God’s will. He sent a deadly deluge the last time He was upset with mankind. This time He has darkened the sky with deadly flies. And perhaps that is true, for so many of the afflicted speak with their dying breaths of seeing God coming for them.

But not everyone dies. A very few seem immune. They call themselves mungus and preach acceptance of the plague, encouraging people to allow themselves to be bitten by “the flies of the Lord” so that they may join Him in the afterlife.

Nigel, an investigative reporter, searches the apocalyptic landscape of plague-ravaged England in search of Bandora, a kidnapped African boy. On a quest for personal redemption as well as the truth, his search takes him away from the troubles he can no longer face at home, and into the world of the head mungu, a man who speaks truth in riddles and has no fear of the African flies.

A Necessary End is about apocalypse, about love, about the fragile bonds that hold marriages and civilizations together. But mostly it’s about truth – how we find it, how we embrace or reject it, and how we must face the truths within ourselves.

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed award-winning author of horror, crime and YA fiction. She has also written for ‘New Tricks’ on the BBC, and has a horror film and an original TV series in development. She lives in London.

F. Paul Wilson is an award-winning, NY Times bestselling author of over 50 novels in many genres and numerous short stories translated into twenty-four languages. He is best known as creator of the urban mercenary Repairman Jack.

You can pick up a copy of A Necessary End in paperback format or for Kindle then come on over to The Mortuary to chat with us about the book! In the past, we have had a lot of success engaging the authors on the message board in discussions of their stories, so it should be a good time.

Find out more about Maelstrom and keep up with all things Thunderstorm Books at their website here.

-Colum

Dust Devils by Jonathan Janz

I’ve long been a fan of the Horror Western but for my money few writers manage to write them convincingly. When I discovered that Jonathan Janz’s next novel was a horror novel set in 1880s New Mexico I had high hopes for a wild ride and I was not to be disappointed.

Dust Devils is at its heart a story of revenge and redemption, its protagonist Cody Wilson is a young man who has married a wanton woman and ostracised himself from his own family into the bargain. After allowing a savage band of vampires who travel New Mexico masquerading as itinerant actors to seduce and slaughter his wife he saddles up in search of revenge, but he also has a few inner demons with which he needs to battle. Catching up with the vampires it isn’t long before the hunter becomes the hunted and joined by a young boy who is the soul survivor of another of the vampire’s rapacious attacks a desperate pursuit ensues. Seeking succour in the small town of Mesquite he finds himself trapped by the brutish and evil men who run the town, the clock is ticking and Adam Price’s feral gang of travelling vampires will soon descend upon Mesquite bringing hell along with them.

Dust Devils is a tense and riveting tale which reaches a ferocious and breathtaking crescendo in the towns saloon where all hell breaks loose. Janz’s vampires are thankfully not the simpering lovelorn creatures we have seen plague horror literature of late; instead they are relentlessly vicious and monstrously carnal. As with Janz’s other novels this fantastic story is grounded by wonderfully drawn characters and it is almost a shame to see even some of the evil ones ripped to bloody shreds.

First and foremost a traditional Western Dust Devils is also a gripping horror story suffused with terror and no holds barred bloody action. With this novel Jonathan Janz lets fly with both barrels blazing.

With its publication imminent I thought I would ask Jonathan a few questions about his novel.

DARK MARK: Why a Western? I felt a love of the genre shone through in the novel but what were your inspirations for the tale?

JONATHAN JANZ: That’s wonderful to hear! I’ve always enjoyed western films, but it wasn’t until about a decade ago that I got into western novels. Now I love them. I think what attracts me—and many people—to westerns is the lawlessness of the environment. Strangely, I think it’s similar to people’s attraction to the zombie subgenre. Essentially, both genres beg the question, “What happens when all threat of punishment is erased?” Outlaws thrived in the Old West because there was very little law to thwart them. Many people turned a blind eye to their crimes. Others joined them in victimizing innocent people. But just as there will always be people who choose the easy route, or even the despicable one, there will be good men and women who will do what’s right because that’s the kind of people they are. Because western stories plumb the depths of humanity, the heroes who rise up to stand against evil shine all the brighter. We like zombie apocalypse stories because we want to see who will loot and pillage and victimize in the absence of authority, but we also watch these stories to witness the revelation of the good within our hearts. So too do the best westerns distil good and evil and dramatize them in the most unflinching way. My inspirations for the novel were the works of Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, and Larry McMurtry, as well as the films of Clint Eastwood and the recent 3:10 to Yuma. For example, in Leonard’s Last Stand at Saber River, the protagonist has many opportunities to choose the easy way out. But he knows that in doing so he’d be compromising his beliefs, setting a bad example for his sons, and disappointing his wife. The protagonist of my novel grapples with some of the same issues, and I hope I do that internal conflict justice.

DM: I thought Cody Wilson’s relationship with his father had a ring of truth to it, was it based upon that of an actual father and son?

JJ: I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. That relationship might just be the most important one in the entire book. I grew up without a father in the house (at least, until my mom remarried when I was in junior high). A father was something I always longed for, and I felt that void acutely throughout my childhood. I often chose television dads who seemed kind hearted to become my imaginary fathers. They’d take me camping, play catch with me, and generally spend time with me. I think the father in Dust Devils, though he’s not perfect, is the kind of dad I wanted to have and the kind of father I want to be. Now, thankfully, I have a son of my own (as well as two wonderful daughters), and I get to experience all the things I missed out on as a child.

DM: The vampires are rapacious and brutally nasty was this a conscious effort to make vampires scary again? Is there a beast within the mild mannered horror writer that must find release?

JJ: Hah! You’d have to ask my wife about the “beast within the mild-mannered horror writer” part, since she knows me better than I know myself. I’m very happy you found the vampires to be brutal and nasty. I certainly wanted them to be frightening. I don’t hate any book or movie, necessarily, but I know there have been depictions of vampires as angsty, less-than-monstrous creatures. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a vampire who can be seductive—in fact, I think that can be a good thing. But for me, there needs to be that other side. That duality. It’s the darkness that makes the seductive side more frightening. I thought Chris Sarandon did a great job in the original Fright Night of capturing both the allure of the vampire and the viciousness of its true nature. His character (Jerry Dandridge) was one of the inspirations for Price, my lead vampire in Dust Devils. Having said that, the bestial, ravening creature hiding behind the human mask is my favorite aspect of the vampire. 30 Days of Night is a film that I thought did a great job of showing how frightening and inexorable vampires could be. So, for me, the best vampires feature a combination of intelligence, seductiveness, ferociousness, and sadism. I hope my vampires exhibit those traits in Dust Devils.

DM: I thought the book would make a great movie, which of your novels if any would you like to see on the silver screen?

JJ: Thank you! I’m biased, obviously, but I think it would make a great movie, too. I think my most recent two Samhain Horror releases—Savage Species and Dust Devils—would make excellent movies. Both would require moderate budgets, but I don’t think they’d be difficult to adapt into screenplay form. One of the tests I present myself as a writer is the Movie Scene Test. Essentially, I go scene by scene through my stories and make things as visual as possible. If the scene isn’t immediate enough to be imagined on film, I either cut it or rework it until I can see it playing out on screen. Even if a scene is a flashback or a dream sequence (though I rarely do those), it needs to contain action, dialogue that crackles, or some other magnetism that makes it unspool like a feature film. I’m not saying I accomplish that every time, but it’s something of which I’m always cognizant. My other novels would also play well on film, particularly The Darkest Lullaby, which wouldn’t need a robust budget. That one could be a small, independent picture. The Sorrows and House of Skin would be great movies, but the screenplays would be very tricky due to the Gothic format of the books. My superhero novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows would be a blast on screen, but it (like The Sorrows) would require a ton of money. Obviously, I’m a total unknown to Hollywood, so I won’t hold my breath for those to be adapted. In reading back through my answer to this question, I realized my words could be interpreted as being self-aggrandizing. I didn’t mean them to be. I just love movies and want my stories to be easy to visualize.

DM: What can we expect next? Can I hope for a sequel to Savage Species for example?

JJ: I’m really excited about the prospect of writing the sequel to Savage Species, but I’ll likely have to wait until, at the earliest, the summer of 2015 to write it. This year I’ll have Dust Devils in February and Castle of Sorrows (the sequel to The Sorrows) in July. There’s also something else coming in July that—to my knowledge—has never been done before, but I’m not allowed to talk about it until the contracts have been signed. But it’ll be a pretty awesome thing. I’m working on my seventh Samhain novel now (to be published in January 2015); I also have two really big and awesome projects to write and complete this spring and summer. So…it’s a busy time, but it’s the best kind of busy. I’m just thankful that people want to read my stuff, and I hope my readership continues to grow in 2014. I’m also thankful for places like Dreadful Tales, which is a place that champions horror and helps make the genre stronger.

Dust Devils will be published on February 4, 2014 by Samhain Publishing and will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or direct from the publishers here as well as from where all good books are sold.

- Dark Mark

Something Wicked Anthology Extended to January 2014

Banner courtesy of Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Banner courtesy of Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Happy New Year, Dreadites! Here’s to a twenty-fourteen full of horrific words and splendid terror.

With all the holiday festivities to be had in December, there just wasn’t enough time to really dig into this collection, so the Dreadful Tales Book Club opens the new year with an extension of its December 2013 title, Someone Wicked: A Written Remains Anthology. The extra month will not only allow readers more time to enjoy the stories, but also a chance to visit The Mortuary message board to chat with some of the contributing authors as well as the anthology’s editors, Weldon Burge and JM Reinbold.

What better way to kick off your New Year than by delving into some disturbing tales of wicked people?

Join usssssssss……

Chat with the editors, authors, and other readers here!

-Meli

Santa Claus Saves The World by Robert Devereaux

Image

Few authors writing today – or those who have come before, for that matter – can push the strength of good taste as well as Robert Devereaux.

There’s a whole new level of fucked-upedness in his writing and nothing brings this to light better than his Santa Claus trilogy, which wraps up with the recent publication of Santa Claus Saves The World. While the book sits as the third in that series it can be read as a stand-alone though I’m going to suggest you take the time and grab Santa Steps Out and Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes.

Ummm… yea, just looking at those titles ought to give you an idea of where you’re heading when Devereaux’s the guide. Let’s just say the North Pole’s never been this hot!

In his latest, out this month from Deadite, the articulate author brings back all the characters from the series with Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all reprising their roles. These roles, though, aren’t the loving, caring characters we grew up believing snuck in to our homes at night to deposit gifts, cash or chocolate. There’s tonnes of deposits in the book but it’s all bodily fluids…

What you need to understand before stepping out with Santa is Devereaux is more concerned with the sexual acts of these beings – who, some readers may know, are actually ripped from Greek mythology – than how they spread cheer and joy. That’s not to say there isn’t a story here but, like the previous two entries, it is buried beneath the various terms Devereaux can come up with for male and female genitalia.

This time, Santa’s made aware the scale of humanity’s future is tipping toward the negative and if he doesn’t step in the world could come to an end. With assistance from God and his No.1 son – JC himself – Santa and his elves begin reconstructing the human psyche and depositing them in to each human. It’s a slippery slope for Santa as this considerably impacts his ‘naughty’ list but under the guidance of his wives – yep, Santa’s driving the old north pole in to more than one gift bag – and his daughter, the Jolly Old Elf nails down the perfect human psyche and creates a much happier human race.
Throw into the mix, however, a Tooth Fairy who is still jilted after Santa blew her off after she blew him many a time and you’ve got the perfect set-up for sabotage.

It’s a bizarre mix of sex, seasonal bliss, bulging balls and morality but goddamn if Devereaux doesn’t make it work. He’s one of those authors who so seamlessly blends vulgarity with beautiful prose that you’re not sure if you should be gagging or gushing. It’s a pretty good mix of both, actually.

That being said, this book does not feel as shocking as Devereaux’s other pieces but that could simply be that we’ve already been exposed to his twisted visions. Santa’s sack feels like it’s getting a little empty in this entry but, compared to some other authors’ attempts to shock, Devereaux still stands high above the rest.

Merry Christmas. Hope Santa leaves you exactly what you want or, at the very least, cleans up after himself and doesn’t use up all your lotion and Kleenex.