All Hallow’s Read (Day 6) – Goth: A Novel of Horror

Goth: A Novel of Horror, by Otsuichi (Hirotaka Adachi) is an All Hallows Read for goths. Or not. You see, it talks about death, murder, decay and longing… from the perspective of two teens with very dark hearts, but it’s not really about the subculture at all. A good thing too, since according to the Encyclopedia Gothica, a sure sign of being goth is that you claim to be not goth at all. Ergo; Goth is so totally not goth.

I’d buy this book for any of my horror loving friends who also love rainy overcast days and deserted cafes. Have you ever followed the news of a serial murder in the paper? Perhaps in high school you spent more time studying Jack the Ripper and Zodiac than you did, say, Harper Lee. If so, this one is for you.

Those who are not horror fans but enjoy literary slice-of-life works that delve into the psychology of awkward or dysfunctional relationships will enjoy Goth as well. It is about a serial murderer, after all.

Well, it is really more about the two high school students following the murders. One fits the modus operandi far too well, as a girl. Fits like a future victim. The other fits all too well into the lives of each – the girl and the murderer – due to his narrative.

For those who enjoy quiet horror told from a very calm and realistic point of view, any Otsuichi would fit, but Goth was my gateway drug. Told as a kind of serial anthology, each chapter is a story in and of itself. A novel digestible as brown leaves to a worm, you may find it sticking with you after. I did. And that, to me, is what good horror is all about. It crawls under your skin and whispers to you for days or weeks after. Not that it makes the shadows any darker, but this book sheds pale moonlight. Recall that scene in Fight Club where Tyler takes the ID of a young man and threatens his life, then has him run away? “Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted”? Well, that is how you will feel after reading Goth. You step into the shoes of Raymond K. Hessel without even knowing it. That is something few horror novels can make you feel – to feel like you survived, like you made it out alive. If it takes a lot to scare you, if the hatchet barely makes a dent and no amount of blood could drown you, try this one for Halloween.

I fangirl hard for this book, as seen on youtube. Find more on this book at Goodreads.

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 2)

Today’s suggestion is for the Hardcore Fan of true, unadulterated horror. And you know what? I’m gonna throw a wrench in your guesses. Because that’s what you’d least expect when you’re guessing what I’m… Yeah…

Anyway, I know what you’re thinking. You’re sitting there going “He’s going to throw down with Laymon. Or Ketchum. Yeah… he’s going that route. No? Then he’ll definitely pick one of the classics. Or Keene. Yeah, it’s gotta be Keene.”

Nope.

Let’s bring it down a bit in age brackets, why don’t we…

ScowlerI want you to suggest Daniel Kraus’ Scowler to the next person who professes to be all Hardcore in their love of horror and dark literature. Not only is this novel horrifying, but it’s also a literary emotional endurance challenge. Reading this novel put me through my paces, and I’m sure it will do the same to all of you. Regardless of age.

Go get you some. And hell, while you’re at it, go out an buy his previous novel, Rotters – by far the best YA horror novel I’ve ever read. Bar none.

Dreadful Tales Book Club – October 2013 Edition

Thanks to my Darkness, Mark Brown a.k.a. Dark Mark for the lovely banner

Thanks to my Darkness, Mark Brown a.k.a. Dark Mark for the lovely banner

Happy October, my wonderfully spooky lil Dreadites! I’m sure for all of you, as for all of us here at Dreadful Tales, October is simply the best month of the year. Suddenly, we’re no longer the weirdos. Every man, woman, and child is obsessed with monsters and any marketing exec worth his weight in cufflinks is catering to our every desire. Today is the first day of this blessed month and already I’m drunk off the fumes of pumpkin spiced lattes and candy corn…. Perhaps drunk on a bit of witches brew too.

Because this month is the greatest of all the months, we hope to keep our dreadful cyber pages jam packed with book reviews and whatever other spooky treats we can come up with.  To kick off the month, I have our October Book of the Month announcement.

Whether it’s a book that has collected dust on the shelves for far too long, a celebrated classic that never quite made it into the to-read pile, or a favorite author’s latest release, every Book of the Month is worth getting excited about. Still, I have to say that October’s title has me particularly pumped. So pumped in fact, that I must abandon September’s book Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, despite being an oft favorite among King fans and a title that I have neglected since I can remember. I’ll level with ya, I didn’t even break page 100. Nothing against the King, but work, family, and all that good life stuff has wreaked some serious havoc on my reading time. Normally, I would just keep chugging along, at a snails pace if I have to, until I finish every last word of the book I’m reading. But, after a vicious Dreadful Tales board meeting in which hair was pulled, flesh was clawed, and relationships were damaged beyond repair, the October Book of the Month was chosen!

I’ve kept you waiting long enough, so without further adieu (assuming you didn’t catch it in the banner) – the October Book of the Month is John Everson’s Violet Eyes! John Everson holds a special place on my bookshelves because he was my first taste of modern horror fiction. Several years before Dreadful Tales, Colum sent me 3 modern horror fiction titles, one of which was John Everson’s The 13th. While it sounds hyperbolic, that book changed the course of everything for me. It was horror pulp like I had only experienced in late night B movies. Everson gave me boobs, blood, and beasts. He offered just the right mix of eroticism and gore and it is a delicate balance I’ve loved in his work ever since. I’m sure the sex and blood is rampant in his latest novel Violet Eyes as well, but what I’m most excited about is the sci-fi element. Everson is no stranger to the supernatural, but a straight up sci-fi novel about murderous spiders!? Everson was born to write this! Just take a gander at this synopsis:

The small town near the Everglades was supposed to offer Rachel and her son a fresh start. Instead it offered the start of a nightmare, when an unknown breed of flies migrated through the area, leaving painful bites in their wake. The media warned people to stay inside until the swarm passed. But the flies didn’t leave. And then the radios and TVs went silent.

 

That’s when the spiders came. Spiders that could spin a deadly web large enough to engulf an entire house overnight. Spiders that left stripped bones behind as they multiplied. Spiders that, like the flies, sought hungrily for tender flesh… through Violet Eyes.

I am thrilled to read Violet Eyes with you all, some Everson virgins, some long time fans. While King’s classic vampire tale can wait, my heart will not rest at the promise of a sci-fi pulp yarn spun (haha!) by my favorite, ever romantic, erotic horror author John Everson.

Hopefully my rambling did not scare you off. Please join all us crazies here to discuss John Everson’s Violet Eyes throughout the month of October. Pick up a copy of the book here and for more about Everson and his work visit his website here.

-Meli

Dreadful Tales Book Club – September 2013 Edition

NOS4A2Join us this month at Dreadful Tales and The Mortuary as we return to Stephen King to revisit his second published novel the classic Salem’s Lot. King himself has describe this novel as his favourite of all his books. Inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula it is King’s imagining of what would happen if a vampire visited 20th century small town America and with it he breathed life into what was a well worn horror staple. If you have read it I hope like me you relish the chance to revisit this masterpiece and if you haven’t I believe you are in for a treat.

I’m sure you will enjoy meeting Mr. Barlow and he’ll enjoy you!

-Dark Mark

Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Tatterdemon begins in 1861 as Preacher Fell is locked in mortal combat with a powerful witch Thessaly which leaves both of them dragged down in to the cold earth but not before Thessaly has laid a powerful curse upon the town of Crossfall. Flash forward 300 years where Maddy Harker murders her abusive husband Vic and buries him in the very same field, though you can’t keep a bad man down.
The evil lying in the soil is a palpable force of dread which appears to have seeped into the unfortunate souls who inhabit Crossfall. The story is populated by a diverse cast of characters each of whom holds within them sinister twisted desires and secrets. All of the people of Crossfall harbour a skeleton in the closet of indeed a body in the freezer and not one of them appears to be completely sane but this is nothing compared to the madness that follows.
Three days later Vic rises again as a terrifying revenant and all hell breaks loose in a delirious maelstrom of slaughter and chaos. The body count rises quickly and the dead walk again as a malevolent and implacable undead army which falls upon the town and carnage ensues.
Vernon weaves a wonderfully gripping tale told in his inimitably lyrical style and suffused throughout with a wicked sense of black humor. Tatterdemon is told by a master of his craft, the novel progresses rapidly and it is a real page turner which I found difficult to put down. Hold on tight because this is a fabulous dark hayride which leaves you breathless and in wonder at Vernon’s marvellous and mercurial imagination. I highly recommend this novel as it is a terrific barnstorming read that evokes some of the great horror fiction of the 80’s and 90’s.

I thought I would ask Steve a few questions about Tatterdemon and what we can expect from him in the future.

********

DARK MARK: Tatterdemon boasts a wonderful and diverse cast of characters are any of them based upon people you know?

STEVE VERNON: Now there’s a question.
The truth of it is that EVERY character in every one of my stories and novellas and novels are generally a compilation of people who I either met or know or heard about – or even watched in a movie or read about.
For the main character, Maddy Harker, I chose to model her after one of the toughest women I know – my wife.
Earl Toad was a combination of a pair of uncles of mine who were two of the toughest shortest men I ever met.
Wilfred has a strong streak of Matt Dillon – from Gunsmoke – in him, that is, if Matt Dillon had ever decided to put Miss Kitty “on ice”.

DM: I’ve noticed a delightfully dark sense of humor pervades much of your work. Does this occur naturally in your writing process?

SV: Funny just naturally goes along with scary.
How many times in a horror movie has that dude in the hockey mask jumped out of the shadows and you browned your skivvies just a little and maybe even went eek or oh-my-god or just a heartfelt “HUH!!!” – and then right afterwards you sort of giggled and let your breath slide on out.
Part of that was most likely you trying to manfully cover up your inadvertent display of the chicken-shitters – but the bigger part of it was a whole lot more basic than that.
Every scream starts with the seed of a giggle.
It’s like sunshine and shadow – you need one to find the other.

DM: The characters in this novel are I think defined by their secrets. Are there any skeletons in your closet or bodies in the freezer?

SV: We ALL have secrets.

DM: Which writers do you admire and take inspiration from?

SV: I’m inspired by the work of Joe Lansdale, Stephen Hunter, Robert Parker, Stephen King and Norman Partridge – for starters.
I’m always looking for a good storyteller – somebody who can spin a yarn that is so very compelling that you feel you have no choice except to pull up a rock to the campfire and give that story a long, hard listen.
A book – for me – is just that. It’s a story. When I sit down at my keyboard I don’t see a screen in front of me. I see a campfire – and people waiting to be entertained. The yarn-spinner inside my soul takes over from there.
The fact is – I read an awful lot of books. Fact is, if you claim to be a writer you NEED to be a diehard seriously addicted devourer-of-words. I’m a book junkie – I can’t walk into a bookstore without buying SOMETHING!

DM: What can readers expect next from Steve Vernon?

SV: Something different, I expect.
If you’re looking for a couple of suggestions I would DEFINITELY recommend picking up a copy of SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME – a tale of hockey and vampires.
Fans of the weird west genre might want to pick up a copy of LONG HORN, BIG SHAGGY: A TALE OF WILD WEST TERROR AND REANIMATED BUFFALO.
If you want something more along the lines of end-of-the-world sci-fi, you might want to grab the first episode of my continuing series FLASH VIRUS. It’s the story of the end of the world as told by a teenager – and you can pick up Episode One for free on Kobo or Kindle.
I’m currently working on a young adult novel involving the Cape Breton Bigfoot, Coyote, the ghost of Sam Steele, a Spirit Bear, the Great Lakes Sleeping Giant and the great trickster Raven.
You know – just the same old thing…

To follow Steve Vernon check out his blog YOURS IN STORYTELLING… or friend him on Facebook.