About Mr. Dreadful

Horror lover, Father of 3, Punk Rocker, Freelance Writer, Hooligan, and knitter.

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

All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 14)

I know my fellow staff might be a little upset with me by doing this, but I’m hijacking this post today.

birthday12-hp

See, today is my birthday. Even Google knows it, so… I figure they can’t be too mad.

Now, generally, I hate the fucking day, and I just want to make it through without strangling someone, and today is definitely no exception.

But today I want you to do something for me, and I’m calling in whatever birthday powers there are that I might have at my disposal.

Today I want you to help someone in need. Call it a gift to me, call it an All Hallow’s Read miracle, or just call it good karma. Whatever you do, just try to do it.

25-Steve-Niles-bisSteve Niles, the creator of the impeccable 30 days of Night series, Criminal Macabre, The Golem, and countless other seminal comic book stories, has lost nearly everything he owns in a flash flood that slammed Austin, Texas this past weekend. And it’s not over yet. From the news reports I’ve read, they’re bracing for more soon.

You can send a donation via Paypal to help Steve get back on his feet at HelpSteveNiles@gmail.com.

Think about it. You could spend a few bucks on a coffee today, or a buy Kindle e-book, or hell… you could spend your money on a birthday present for a friend.

Or you could help someone in need…

C.

All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 4)

Today’s suggestion is for all of those folks who thought 50 Shades of Grey was the bee’s knees, and oh so sexy. Pssshhh. What a load of garbage.

Before I go off on a tangent and whip out some heavy BDSM references and Knotty Boys suggestions you might want to try, I want to be clear of something:

If you thought any part of the 50 Shades of Grey series were even remotely sexy and are now wading into the wide world of vanilla bondage and sissy spanking, we need to talk. And by talk, I mean really talk. There’s a serious conversation we need to have, and it’s going to be just about as awkward as whatever you think your kids felt like when you tried to tell them about the birds and the bees. Because today’s post is apparently brought to you by bees. So deal with it.

It’s sad when the world’s majority finds this bullshit fluff to be enticing, especially with pornography being so damned available these days. You’d think we’d have learned from our prudish days of yore. You know, really open up. But nooo. We didn’t.

I mean, really?
Is it so hard to tell your significant other to lay a smack down on your rump just that much harder?
To hold you by the throat and squeeze just a little bit tighter? .

No. It’s not, and I find it completely offensive that we, as a culture, can be so damned overt in our sexuality with our reading material, like reading this tripe on the subway, but it’s all blush and “No, I couldn’t possibly…” in the bedroom.

Fuck that noise. That’s a deal-breaker. And rightfully so.

Now, getting back to today’s suggestion, for all of you obviously sexually starved individuals, this shit is about to get reeeeaaaaaal.

NightWhereI’ve gone on the record to name John Everson the KING of erotic horror, and I did so for a reason. He’s the best there is at capturing the emotional and physical aspects of sexuality and the act of sex not only from a literary and visual angle, but also from a deep, philosophical angle as well. Everson knows what his readers yearn, and he delivers on the desires of his readership. There’s so much more I can say about this man and his insights, but we’ll leave that for another day. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if novels like The 13th, Sacrifice, Covenant, Siren, and his most recent his novel, NightWhere, become cult classics in the BDSM and goth scenes like his predecessors Barker and Brite.

This is an author who can, and will, take you for an erotic thrill ride and leave your breast heaving with excitement and satisfaction.

Mark my word, all of you sex-starved grannies, if Everson’s NightWhere doesn’t get your boat a-rockin’, nothing will.

Storm Demon by Gregory Lamberson

stormdemonStorm Demon, the 5th instalment in the Helman canon, takes Jake further into the fire than ever before, and sees him face down a bigger and badder villain than he’s seen in… well… 4 books. Trust me when I say this: If you weren’t completely invested in this series by now, you’re doomed to become a super-fan from here on out.

And thus we commence my annual drool fest for another volume of the Jake Helman series: 

Jake returns to New York City, anxious to start a new live with NYPD homicide detective Maria Vasquez. But the supernatural forces making his life hell have no intention of leaving him alone. 

When Psychic healer Laurel Doniger disappears, Jake lays his life on the line to bring her back alive. With time running out, he must uncover the truth behind Laurel’s secret past. He’s drawn into a conflict with a being who has existed since the dawn of mankind. She’ll destroy New York City to take revenge on those who interfere with her plans. This beautiful creature is known by many names – Lilith, succubus, witch – but Jake and his allies will come to know her as the Storm Demon. And the world will never be the same. 

– from the back cover

The Helman files have been rife with huge baddies and epic plots depicting insane situations for our favorite ex-cop/detective to endure. First we had ‘the Cypher’, then we had Lamberson’s take on zombies with his drug induced zonbies, and then came Avademe and, in the next book, the Demon Kalfu… and now this. I won’t go into any detailed explanations because I’m just going to assume you’ve been following the series, but if you haven’t, you should at least know that the aforementioned bad guys describe a drastic escalation in craziness for our main character from book to book.

Jake has been through hell more than I could possibly imagine, and this installment is no different than the rest… save for the massive amount of action involved. Truth be told, Lamberson has always made his best efforts to keep the pace going at an even keel, but this particular story sees virtually no lull long enough to even refresh a coffee or, god forbid, sleep. 

Where the previous outing, Tortured Souls, took me a little while to get through, Storm Demon wouldn’t allow for that. Tortured Souls was a fantastic book, and I gave it a very positive review, but, in retrospect, I almost feel that setting the story in the midst of a political revolution, and moreover, in a foreign land, gave it a bit too much room to breathe, if you follow me. It’s understandable that the probability of pulling off such a dynamic and detailed plot would have been next to impossible on American soil (or North American soil, for that matter), but the claustrophobic, familiar setting of this novel made the suspension of disbelief that much easier. 

Given the fact that I, and many other readers, have actually been to most of the locations described in the book, it’s far easier to see a gigantic storm ravaging Manhattan, or a giant stone angel slamming through the garden of a beautiful Eastchester mansion (because that stuff happens for real … right?) as opposed to an army of political dissidents attempting to stage a coup in a war torn country that, despite all of my OCD-like 

And that’s where Storm Demon steps up and slams the ball out of the park. Every setting, character, and situation is accessible. There’s no room for tangents or speculation. It’s all go-go-go. Which is, as you’ve no doubt figured out by now, how me likes me stories.

Tight, fast-paced tales make for some of the best horror fiction there is, and especially when you’re talking about a series. Now, there’s something to be said for explaining a  back story and/or catching a reader up on a series through info-dumps, and if I’m going to be honest, it’s something I absolutely hate in genre fiction, but sometimes it’s necessary. Lamberson is undoubtedly guilty of this in the Helman series, and it’s understandable. What I really dug about this entry is the fact that it’s pulled off so effortlessly – it’s almost negligible, yet it’s definitely in there. An author always wants their reader to know what’s going on when and where in their novels, but sometimes it’s to the detriment of pacing or at the behest of an overzealous copy-editor. Not this time, folks. Storm Demon is one of the best examples of a balls-to-the-wall action/horror and how it’s done right. 

Not only is Lamberson on the top of his game with Storm Demon, but he delivers one of the best “YOU’RE FUCKING KIDDING ME!?” moments of recent memory, with a twist even I wasn’t expecting. And that’s saying a lot, given the years I’ve invested in this series. 

The author’s depiction of Lillith is also one of most brutal and sexy depictions set to paper that I have ever read. I would love to be in the company of this woman, but am also aware that I wouldn’t last a moment. Hell, nobody would, really. She’s a storm. A force to be reckoned with, in the truest sense of the phrase. 

Lamberson outdoes himself with every installment of the Helman files, leaving this reader exhausted, yet begging for more with the end of every book. Storm Demon is no exception. 

Like I’ve said a few times before – I can’t wait for the next one. 

C.

not only

All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 3)

ThirtyMiles

Today’s suggestion is for all of the newbies to the genre. No doubt you came to our dark neck of the woods from Mystery, Thriller, Crime, or some other sort of speculative fiction genre, but have you ever faced a piece of writing that combines pretty much all of the above?

Thirty Miles South of Dry County is not only a brilliant foray into Kealan Patrick Burke’s unique style of storytelling, but it’s also an amazingly fun romp through a crazy, far-out-there, dystopian world that, well, isn’t actually too far-out-there. 

One of the greatest things about helping new readers along the path of finding great stories is that I get to throw my absolute favorite reads at them. I read this novella when I was looking at the 2013 Stokers Finalists and, in all honesty, I think it should have won.

While Gene O’Neill’s winning novella, The Blue Heron, is a phenomenal piece of speculative fiction, Burke’s entry is so instantly memorable it would easily make incredible viewing as a TV show, a la The Walking Dead or The Killing. Easily. (Burke, if you’re reading, you need to pitch this, man. Pitch it!)

It also helps that Burke is a looker, and a good face to have at the forefront of the genre, right ladies? (Yeah. I went there)

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