Pain Cages by Paul Kane

Books of the Dead founder James Roy Daley has an eye for talent, so when he chooses to publish someone, the standards are set rather high. Enter: Paul Kane. Paul is a member of the British Fantasy Society and has dedicated a large amount of his time to discovering new talent in literary Sci-Fi. He’s also quite well versed in horror, having penned an episode of Fear Itself, titled New Year’s Day. He’s also an expert on HellRaiser (Clive Barker himself bestowed that title). With three novels and a slew of non-fiction titles, Pain Cages is (at press) Kane’s most recent publication. I initially mistook this to be a full length novel, but rather it is a collection of 4 stories. Do they stack up and bring the pain, or are readers backed into a cage? From the website:

…the blindfold slips a fraction.

I can see a little through my right eye; there isn’t a lot of light, but I see metal bars in front of me, all around me.

A glimpse of the cages on either side: a man, no more than forty, cowering in the corner of his. A woman––the one who’d told me I’d get myself killed––is transfixed by something right in front of her, tears tracking down her cheeks.

I follow her gaze, and wish I hadn’t…

Okay, so that’s actually part of the title story, PAIN CAGES. As you can see, our protagonist Chris is in a little bit of a situation, in that he’s been kidnapped and locked in a hanging cage. He’s not alone, as there are several other cages with varying occupants surrounding him. The story centres around Chris’ plight to escape his cage, and find out the identity of his captors. The subplot revolves around interludes, flashbacks to varying points in the past that Chris must connect to his present condition. The interplay between the past and present is confusing at times, though they do tie themselves up by then end of the story. Religion and death play enormous roles as themes, and are executed very well. The ending isn’t terribly original, but it is a convincing twist to the story that the reader thinks Kane is building. Graphic violence and gore are kept to a minimum, but are done exceedingly well and have an emotional impact on the characters that can sometimes be lacking in these types of stories. The emotional turmoil at the conclusion is a fitting end, though it might seem forced to some readers. Overall, I enjoyed this story immensely.

HALFLIFE documents what happens to teenage werewolves when they grow up and are forced to deal with the consequences of their misguided youth. A hunter stalks the secretive group of middle-aged lycans, picking them off one by one without any hint of his reasoning. The characters run the gamut that you’d expect: the boss, the pretty boy, the family man and so on. The subplot centres on Neil the family man and his continued persistence that his life can be simple (he just has to go to work for a 3 day weekend once a month, no big deal). Kane explores inner turmoil combined with marital apathy to drive the reader to feel sympathetic for Neil and his struggle for normalcy. The werewolves kill discriminately, select their targets carefully and hide any evidence before day breaks. This is a truly refreshing take on werewolf lore, especially given the fact that the story is set in the present, and a rabid monster would most likely become extinct rather quickly. I’m a bit of a sucker for werewolves, but even without my prejudice this story satisfies.

Kane next brings the reader on an astrological train ride. SIGNS OF LIFE quite simply revolves around a passenger train derailment and how it affects each survivor. The scenes are spliced with horoscopes, the signs determined by which character(s) will be focused on in the upcoming passage. I found the interludes to be intrusive and detrimental to an otherwise well-crafted story of human perseverance. The characters are complete and mostly believable. In comparison to the prior two entries, this story is tame and not necessarily what I’d consider horror.

The final story is emotional, challenging, and eerily creepy. THE LAZARUS CONDITION focuses on Matthew, a man trying to put the pieces of his past back together. Kane crafts a brilliant tale, weaving trauma, distress, religion and death into an intricate tapestry affecting Matthew and all of the supporting characters. I am purposely leaving out one rather massive plot point, because you need to read this story. It’s not exactly horror, but it doesn’t need to be. I was attached to almost all the characters (Father Lilley annoyed me, but that’s totally subjective) and the gore, again while not abundant, is done properly and has a deeper impact on the story than simply being there for splatter effect.

Pain Cages is a book I’m happy to have read. While it can be argued that two of the stories aren’t really horror, the overall vibe of this tome is creepy, and well worth a look. To pick up your copy of Pain Cages, visit the Books Of The Dead store. For more information about Paul Kane, visit his website.

Anything Can Be Dangerous – Matt Hults

Books of the Dead Press is all about quality horror, so you can imagine my joy when founder/editor James Roy Daley handed me a copy of Anything Can Be Dangerous at a gathering this past August, all while mentioning that Matt Hults is an author to watch. Can anything be dangerous, or is this just a husk of a collection?

Anything Can be Dangerous contains four amazing stories, plus a preview to the highly praised novel Husk, by Matt Hults. The stories include:

Anything can be Dangerous ~ the simple things in life can kill.
Through the Valley of Death ~ a dark vampire story that will make you remember fear.
The Finger ~ zombie literature has never been so extraordinary.
Feeding Frenzy ~ lunchtime in a place called Hell.

We begin with the titular piece, Anything Can Be Dangerous. Greg’s life is going very well, having just met a wonderful woman, yet superstitions passed to him by his mother seem to haunt him at every turn. I got the sense that the reader is supposed to fear for Greg’s sanity, as it’s not often that plastic bags attack humanity. Hults creates a frenetic pace for his character, at times perhaps a bit too frenetic as there isn’t much time for suspension of disbelief. A very enjoyable story, yet there are better in this collection.

Feeding Frenzy is next, and offers up a very unique spin on Hell. Two friends conspire to reopen an abandoned roadside restaurant, but their first walk through inspection ends up being their last. This story straddles a line between haunted house and zombie eat-pocalypse quite nicely. The logic used by the protagonists is very solid, and the interactions between protagonists and antagonists are very natural. It’s a quick read, but a very good one.

Hults then takes the reader on a walk Through The Valley Of Death as a family is stranded roadside in the dead of winter, with a snowstorm imminent. The family trudges through the woods with all characters acting as the reader would expect, and Hults takes special care to make the 3 year-old daughter an incredibly sympathetic figure. The antagonists are based on real folklore, and truly had this reader expecting the worst for the antagonists. The final plot twist is enough to make the reader ask for more. A thoroughly enjoyable tale.

Hults saves arguably the best for last, and gives us all The Finger. Jimmy is either a genius or incredibly stupid, depending on the reader’s perspective. What begins as a not-so-simple get rich quick scheme ends up with Jimmy being hunted down by both the law, and the undead. Hults truly lets his creativity flow with this piece, but thankfully not at the expense of plot and believability. A fine end to the completed works contained herein.

The reader is treated to a very (too) short preview of Matt Hults’ debut novel, Husk. Again, my only complaint is that it’s a preview and not the whole book. Wow.

Matt Hults indeed proves that Anything Can Be Dangerous, and that he is a new force in the horror literature world. To pick up your copy of the book, visit the Books of the Dead Store. For more information on Matt Hults, please contact Books of the Dead.


This is my first round of news reporting ever, so please be gentle while I flesh this thing out. I’m going to start out with sales and new releases, jump into “Flash”, which are quick one-line news bits that don’t fit anywhere else. The prior sections will deal with traditional large and medium scale publishers because I’m going to finish up with “The Indie Shot”, where I’ll post some tidbits about authors that you don’t yet know of. On with the show!


We’ll start with a little tidbit of info regarding a sale from Samhain Publishing. Dangerous Grounds by Shelli Stevens is FREE all December long. It’s in ebook format, so get your Kindle or Nook copy by December 31st.

Rolling on with more sale news, Permuted Press is having their “Black December” sale, where 5 recently released ebooks go for $2.99 each, 5 bestsellers the same, and there are 5 ebooks that are absolutely free. Go here to see the selection and scoop up some horror for just a couple bucks.

Kensington Publishing, or rather their Pinnacle imprint just released the latest offering from C.E. Lawrence, Silent Kills. This released on December 6th, and joins Silent Screams and Silent Victim on the shelves.


Books of the Dead press recently showed us some love, and announced that they’ve changed their web address to


Anachron Press, the one-man outfit otherwise known as Colin F. Barnes, have released the first City of Hell Chronicles as of December 1st. Featuring 8 stories total, the buzz surrounding this book has been quite good. We’ve got our copy, and of course we’ll share our thoughts.

Rather truncated first effort, but that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be doing this again next week, so please leave some feedback and let me know what worked and what didn’t. Remember to follow Dreadful Tales on Twitter, like us on Facebook and make us your browser’s homepage. If you’d like to get to know me better, the best way is to find me on Twitter.