Dreadful Tales Book Club – November 2014 Edition

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November is upon us, and how better to while away the buffer month between Halloween and Christmas insanity than with a good old yarn? You with me? Let’s distract ourselves with words while we silently dread the snow covered, stress raising, rage inducing month of December. Because Christmas is… just… around… oh god… kill me… please…

WHOA! Okay. Let’s do this properly, folks.

I’m especially excited about this month’s book for several reasons, the most important being that I’m a huge fan of Kevin Lucia’s work. Now, I know a fair amount of you might not know his stories, but you should. You really should. Based on his scholarly achievements (he is currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree, and teaches High School English… *shudder*), his work as a submissions reader for Cemetery Dance, and his Podcast, Horror 101, you can rest assured that this is a man who knows his craft.

Lucia’s released all manner of short stories, some novella length work, poetry, and a bunch more. My first introduction to his work was Hiram Grange & The Chosen One which had so much incredible imagery and action in it that I devoured it in one go and became an instant fan.

With Devourer of Souls, a twofer of novellas, folk are saying that Lucia would be the bastard son of Lovecraft and King, if ever they spent a night together under the stars. I don’t disagree at all. Take a look at the synopsis:

Welcome to Clifton Heights, an average Adirondack town. It’s nice enough, really. Except after dark. Or on cold winter days when you’re all alone…

Sophan

An ancient game of chance and Fate. One boy’s smoldering hate, another boy’s need to make things right, and a father’s ghosts of Vietnam past. These are the key players in this latest tale of revenge and reparation performed on the stage of the strange Adirondack town of Clifton Heights, NY.

The Man in Yellow
 
Tahawus is a small, isolated Adirondack town just north of Clifton Heights. A quiet place filled with simple people of an ardent faith, nothing much ever happens there…until the man in yellow comes calling. He knows your worst nightmares, and he can offer your fondest wish. All you need is faith…and a mouth from which to scream.

That said, please join us as we blast into the cold month ahead, pick up a copy of Devourer of Souls, and join us at The Mortuary to discuss this cosmic tale of horror.

– C

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Dreadful Tales Book Club – October 2014 Edition

October Banner

ROCKtober is upon us, kiddies, and it’s time to get serious about our reading. Personally, when I think about the books I want to read in this, the best month of the year, I tend to cycle back to writers I’m familiar with – people who have scared or affected me in one way or another.

But this month is also a bit weird. The book that was chosen for the club this time around isn’t scheduled to drop until around October 14th (a day before this writer’s birthday… *cough cough* buy me all of the things…)

So the Midwest Monster (Meli) came up with a brilliant plan. Let’s read a novella in the first half of the month, and run out the Halloween season with a novel I know a few of us have been waiting for.

That said, here’s what we have on deck for the October Book of the Month Club at Dreadful Tales:

By Insanity of ReasonBy Insanity of Reason is touted as an unforgettable story by two of the genre’s favorite authors – John R. Little, and Lisa Morton. This little novella clocks in at 107 printed pages, and 74 in its digital format, and was released by Bad Moon Books and Crossroad Press (Digital edition) this past september. It looks to be a great first course to this month’s club reads.

Here’s the synopsis:

By Insanity of Reason is the story of Crystal, a woman whose life has been shattered by a chain of mysterious murders. Her husband, Richard, struggles to help…or is he working against her as she tries to regain her sanity?Told in a unique style, with each scene moving further back in time, secrets and plans are unveiled that have led to Crystal’s unfortunate state, leading to the final shocking origins.

You can pick up a copy at Bad Moon Books, on Amazon.

Frenzy WolvesWhich brings us to the second portion of our monthly meal – The Frenzy Wolves by Gregory Lamberson. This is the long awaited final installment into the Frenzy Cycle Series, and the follow-up to The Frenzy War – a book that Meli called a “…noir upgrade to the classic werewolf tale” and one of a few stories that sees this reader being slaughtered in a harrowing and gruesome way. Ask Desmond Reddick over at Dread Media about his cameo, too. Good times.

Here’s the synopsis:

With the aid of his elite squad of super cops, NYPC captain Tony Mace has defeated the werewolf slayers known as the Brotherhood of Torquemada. But now a new enemy has risen to persecute the peaceful Wolves, and Tony’s loyalty to Gabriel Domini, leader of the pack, places him at odds with his department.

Gabriel’s brother Raphael objects to Gabriel’s efforts to integrate the Wolves into human society, and seeks to start a war against mankind. When Rodrigo Gomez, the Full Moon Killer, escapes from prison, his quest for vengeance draws Tony into a battle for supremacy among the Wolves which could lead to a far greater war for both species.

– from Amazon.com

As I said above, this book drops in October 14th, and will be available from Medallion Press, and on Amazon.

So please join us as we usher in the Halloween season with TWO stories by masters in their field. And don’t forget to join us at The Mortuary to discuss these two stories!

– C

The Waiting by Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is a new author to me but one with a growing reputation as a writer of paranormal thrillers, so when the offer to read and review his latest novella arose I leapt at the opportunity.

Cassandra Pagano falls desperately ill on her wedding day leaving her in a semi comatose state and kept alive by life support machines. Her new husband Brian decides to take her out of hospital and care for her in their new home along with mother-in-law Alice. If this scenario wasn’t nightmare enough there is an entity in the house, a phantom of a boy which appears to show particular interest in Cassandra who is trapped in limbo between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Shea writes a taught chilling little thriller and his characters are so well drawn that you viscerally feel their anguish. We particularly feel for Brian who with the strong support of his mother-in-law and Cassandra’s nurse tries desperately to maintain a normal existence against the odds, hoping that his wife will start to recover and that they may begin their life together anew. If this were not more than enough to cope with he has to contend with the spectre whose presence pervades their home. By grounding his tale firmly in such a awful and tragic scenario and populating it with believable and sympathetic characters Shea deftly makes the incursion of a supernatural more believable and terrifying.

As the plot unfolds and the terrible secret and purpose of the sinister child is revealed the tension and palpable dread mounts towards a climax which will haunt you for a long time after you put the novella down.

Shea delivers a classic ghost story with a refreshingly fresh feel, well and concisely written with a delightfully spooky child and enthralling plot which chills its reader to the bone. This may be the first I have read by him but will certainly not be the last.

Stuck On You by Jasper Bark

STUCK ON YOU coverWith a tag line by the publisher that actually says “Warning! Do not buy this book, gentle reader”, how the hell can I actually stand here (I’m totally sitting, guys) and say that you shouldn’t buy this book?

Because you know what? You should really buy this book.

If you like slashers, you should buy this book.
If you like Deadite Press and their nasty nastiness, you should buy this book.
If you like flesh dripping, genital torturing, disgusting prose, you should buy this book.
If you like Nora Roberts and those Evanovich books, you should… um… not buy this… fuck it, you should totally buy this book.

Why?
Because you’re never going to read something both horribly disgusting, and so brilliantly written, ever again. Ever.

So yeah, I am fully supportive of you all buying this book. It’s horrendously disgusting, and actually made me write to the publisher and ask “What the hell was that?” (Check that with Joe. He’ll back me up.)

Warning! Do not buy this book, gentle reader.

No really, we mean it. Move along, click away from this page and go look at some Dino porn instead. We’re not kidding. The only reason we published it is because award-winning author Jasper Bark has got some serious dirt on us. Honestly, there’s no other reason to put out something this depraved.

This is the sickest, filthiest and most horny novella you’re likely to read this year. It will turn you on even as it turns your stomach. Think you’ve seen everything there is to see in horror and erotica? Think again! Just when you think this story can’t get any lower it finds new depths to plumb.

Why are you still reading this?! Oh God you’re going to buy it aren’t you? You can’t help yourself. You’re going to click on that purchase button and download this little bad boy.

Well don’t say we didn’t warn you…

 – from crystallakepub.com

Flo realz, people. This is the real deal.
Okay… enough talking like an idiot.

The synopsis basically says nothing about the piece itself, but tell you everything about the nature of the style and the delivery of the story. It’s gritty, nasty, depraved, and highly sexually charged. I wouldn’t even hesitate to say that this could be the forefather of a true erotic horror movement, albeit very extreme “horrorotica”.

The story centers around a husband, Ricardo, who has been sent on an errand to Mexico by his wife, Ellen, to pick up a few odds and ends for their “artisan trading” business. The biggest problem with this? Whether or not Ellen can trust Ricardo to behave himself while in Mexico alone. Recently, Ellen had caught Ricardo in an attempted affair, uncovered more past indiscretions, and confronted him violently. Though she still allowed him to cross the border in search of items to sell as their booth in Arizona.

And that’s when he met Consuela. And everything gets worse from there.

When I say “everything gets worse”, I really mean it. Well, everything but the writing.

This sick puppy of a novella, ringing in at 58 digital pages, starts at disturbing, and takes an escalator up to the next level of the weirdo shopping center, to the over-the-top grossness store, and restocks its shelves with cans of whatthefuck pasta (with extra sauce) and vomit flavored Ramen noodles.

There’s nothing else I can say about this that won’t be a spoiler, save for the fact that it’s one of the most imaginative and excessive horror/erotica stories I have ever read. When Bark’s collection hits the shelves, I’m going to be first in line to get my sticky little hands on it.

C.

Note: Being turned on by this story worried me a little bit, but the cover reminds me of a ham steak for some reason and I’m actually kind of hungry… and that’s really beginning to worry me more…

People Live Still in Cashtown Corners – Nightmare Fuel

The edges of my vision are flickering as vertigo climbs my legs. This is normal. My diet has been out of whack and I’ve been fighting a head cold for, oh, maybe three weeks. It seemed like a good time to settle into reading “People Live Still In Cashtown Corners” by Tony Burgess. Or, maybe it was the worst time. Who knows.

After picking this up at the last ChiSeries Ottawa night – which was the last reading I did on October 9 for the launch of Postscripts To Darkness IV – I resolved to move it to the top of my reading pile. “Pontypool” was a favorite and with that reading night and launch, I was technically published alongside the man. As usual, I bought other books since then that leapt to the ‘top of my reading pile’ burying the book alive.

After wrapping another novel, I basically turned its last page into the first page of “Cashtown”. That was at ten o’clock this morning. I was finished by noon. On the button. I know this because the last line rung in my mind as I put the book down in order to come back to planet earth when the church bells began to sound off.

If I were to recommend not only the book, but the environment in which to read it, I’d have to say it must be read in one sitting at the very least. Perhaps adopt a bad diet a few days before hand. If you drink, stop for a week. Be ill. Influenza, a cold, it doesn’t really matter. Be confused. A little social drama brewing in a circle twice removed will help. Be out of sorts. Feel weird. This will only help to heighten the experience.

Sure, the experience will be different for everyone, but I must say this one chilled me sufficiently. Looking for short but very hard-hitting horror? This is a good bet. I like true-crime so the images included did the fun job of building the story for me. All in all, the look and feel of the book helped. It is not average book size. It is not average book length. These are more things that take you out of the ordinary and sell Cashtown Corners to your imagination, other than the fact that the physical location actually exists. I enjoy the first-person point of view which is done extremely well in this case. I also enjoy finding one barely noticeable typo in good books. I found one, and it has a typo too. 

Sadly, I can’t imagine this being shoe-horned into a screenplay let alone made into a film. Since Burgess is also great at scripting, he’d be the obvious choice but I just can’t let go of the story in my mind to trust anyone to bring it to life in just the right way.

Take one part ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, your favorite Saladfingers episode, and kill scenes from the film ‘Maniac’ then stir until you are well shaken and that is what reading “People Live Still In Cashtown Corners” is kind-of sort-of like. While it does have quiet parts and revolting parts, the storytelling is where this grabs you by the throat with both hands to whisper in your ear. Hearing the inner dialogue of Mister Clark and nothing else is a trip through a dark, dark madhouse. You can’t help but put yourself in the head of this man since you are led there with a beautifully set up world crafted by a gifted author.

“Bob Clark owns the Self Serve in Cashtown Corners. It’s the only business there and Bob is the only resident. He’s never been comfortable around other people. Until he starts to kill them. And murder, Bob soon discovers, is magic. People Live Still in Cashtown Corners is Bob’s account of a tragedy we all thought was senseless.” – ChiZine

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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Failure by John Everson

My first experience with John Everson’s writing was with the Stoker Award nominated NightWhere which I found to be a gripping plunge into erotically charged terror and depravity. Hoping for similar thrills from this earlier novelette I was delighted not to be disappointed. Originally published in 2006 and long out of print Failure has recently been re-released as an exclusive kindle edition.
Here Everson weaves a terse and cautionary story about a disparate trio of teenage delinquents who are willing to do anything for the promise of some elicit drugs or sex, including performing sexually for a depraved stranger Aaron. Little do they realise that Aaron is actually a wannabee warlock who is using them as part of a diabolical conjuration which will end in a welter of bloody screaming terror.
Told from the third person perspective of his characters Everson is insightful about their motivations and relentless when it comes to the terrible consequences of the poor choices they make. The real strength of this story was the way in which Everson allows the reader into the hearts and minds of his characters, they are a disparate group of desperate souls who have strayed far from the path but we are made to empathise with them and share their awful plight. This is no mean feat as none of the protagonists are particularly likable but the punishment they receive is so extreme that it is impossible not to feel some emotion for them. That said having spent much of my youth straying from the path of righteousness, I found these protagonists all too familiar. If you thought that unwanted teenage pregnancy was the worst consequence of youthful abandon then think again as far more dreadful penalties are meted out to these foolhardy teens and the wages of sin are a fate worse than death.
This story though short is an extreme and visceral experience which lingers with you long after you have finished reading it and has the power to make even a jaded horrorphile squirm. It’s a brutal and gruesome tale which is not for the squeamish but one that will delight connoisseurs of the dark. Some authors show us evil but John Everson believes in thrusting his readers headfirst, kicking and screaming into its terrible, stygian depths. If you missed this nasty little novelette the first time around I heartily recommend that you get it now.

I decided to ask John a few questions about Failure and what we can expect from him in the future.

Dark Mark: The vulnerable delinquents who feature in the story are very believable characters, are they based on anyone you know?

John Everson: They’re not based on anyone in particular, really. I went to a Catholic high school (30 years ago!), so there were a lot of “Raymond” kids there – people with plenty of affluence who still felt empty and suicidal. And there were girls like Cind who would go under the bleachers to score a nickel bag, and guys like Sal who would do anything to get both the girl and the nickel bag but felt that they were too homely to ever get the girl without a little “help.” In some ways, I think these kids feel things that we all felt in high school – displacement, wanting to just chuck it all, desperation for a score on sex or substances (alcohol or marijuana, pick your poison).

DM: Terrible things happen to the characters in your works. Is there any act of depravity that you have found too strong to write about?

JE: I generally don’t involve kids as victims in my horror stories. There are sacrificial things involving the unborn in The 13th, but I don’t dwell on that aspect and they are not “characters” in the story. I like to deal with characters who have enough maturity to potentially understand and escape from their situations (which their own flaws may have caused). Young children don’t have that maturity, and so I don’t put them in that mix, though their peril would certainly be disturbing. Kicking a young kid or a puppy is definitely horrible, but I just have no interest in using that as a focal device in my stories.

DM: Which authors do you admire and take influence from?

JE: I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, and discovered Richard Matheson, who worked both in the science fiction and horror milieu (both in print and on television, via The Twilight Zone). I loved the twist endings in his tales. Later, when I began reading horror, I found the character development of Stephen King an amazing, enviable thing. And then I discovered the gothic beauty of Anne Rice and the dark depravity of Clive Barker. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been enthralled by the work of Edward Lee, whose novels are among the only ones in my adult life that grabbed me so much that I’ve had to read a couple of them start-to-finish in one sitting.

DM: Is there any chance that we might see a sequel to Failure?

JE: I’ve always wanted to write a sequel to this story… but considering that a decade has passed since I finished it… I make no promises!

DM: What can we expect next from John Everson?

JE: My seventh novel, Violet Eyes, is due to be released from Samhain Publishing in less than a month! This is a fun arachnid novel in the tradition of Kingdom of the Spiders. I have also just put the last design touches on a re-issue of my very first short fiction collection, Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions. That book was originally issued by Delirium Books in 2000, but has never had a paperback release. I got the rights back to it earlier this summer, and reissued it in e-book via my own Dark Arts Books imprint. The trade paperback edition will be available (at last!) in about a week.

To find out more about John Everson check out his web page John Everson: Dark Arts and you can purchase Failure for the kindle from Amazon here.