The Girl on the Glider by Brian Keene

Glider-e-book-2-662x1024It’s veritably impossible, right now, to go through the usual intro/pre-review spiel that I’m wont to do with every single blabbering piece that I write. There’s really no need for it here.

You’re either familiar with this author’s previous work, or you’re not.

Most average horror/speculative fiction readers that inhabit the hallowed, stinky halls of this genre can admit to reading one, if not at least a few, of Keene’s novels, but there are a few of us who have followed his work for a long time who finally get to a piece that we aren’t familiar with, or that doesn’t tie into something else he’s done… something larger and more “labyrinthine”, for lack of a better word.

Simply put – The Girl on the Glider is Brian Keene’s best piece of work to date – something I would hate to see going unnoticed in the awards circuit. A piece this powerful deserves more recognition beyond the Keene brand, and very well could be one of the modern classics of our time. Continue reading

Earthworm Gods: Selected Scenes From The End Of The World by Brian Keene

earthwormgodsselectscenes-1-2With no shame at all, I’ll admit Brian Keene has made me cry.

No, it’s not because he’s failed to respond to my countless invitations to dinner, or the way his eyes seem to see straight into my heart. Oh… wait. That’s unrelated. Best you just ignore that.

Keene first brought my rotten heart back to life when he broke onto the horror scene with The Rising. That tale of father Jim Thurmond trying to get to his son, Danny, in the midst of a zombie apocalypse is both terrifying and a tear jerker. As a young father who was going through a divorce and worried the end of his first marriage would devour his relationship with his son much like the zombies in Keene’s debut novel, the book spoke to me and introduced me to an author I grew to admire. Continue reading

An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley by Brian Keene

Que the Ennio Morricone.  Grab your Stetson and saddle up.  Brian Keene is about to take you to the Old West (with a sasquatch or two)…..

From Deadite Press:

The Old West has never been weirder or wilder than it has in the hands of master horror writer Brian Keene.

Morgan and his gang are on the run—from their pasts and from the posse riding hot on their heels, intent on seeing them hang. But when they take refuge in Crazy Bear Valley, their flight becomes a siege as they find themselves battling a legendary race of monstrous, bloodthirsty beings. Now, Morgan and his gang aren’t worried about hanging. They just want to live to see the dawn.

To say this is a weird Western may be a bit misleading.  It is weird in the same way that McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a weird western.  Both are firmly planted in the era of the Old West and adhere to the preexisting conventions of the genre but both do it in a refreshingly new  fashion.  McCabe & Mrs. Miller toys with the viewer’s sense of traditional locale by setting the film in the snowy Pacific Northwest while An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley (although also toying with the traditional setting) has the reader examine what constitutes good and evil in a Western.  Keene doesn’t have a posse hunting a group of outlaws.  No way, that would be too easy.  Instead, Keene creates a race of monsters ,known as the “crazy bears”, who have been wronged by this group of rogue thieves.  The “crazy bears” follow the standard conventions that most heroes adhere to in classic Westerns except, y’know, they are scary as all get out.

These “crazy bears” are no joke!  Imagine of you took the savage humanity of the cannibals in Off Season, mated them with the fierceness of the beasts in The Cellar and filtered it through some down-and-dirty Bigfoot mythology.  These are the “crazy bears” and they mean business.  They may be visitors from space or they may be biblical beings that have been hidden away for centuries but either way, they are angry and out for revenge.

I’ve been on record as saying that Brian Keene can write about the working man like nobody’s business.  His words drip with the authenticity that can only come from the pen of a man who has been through the ringer and lived to tell the tale. This is his strength.  This is what makes him so important to so many readers.  We can identify with the characters on the page- even in a story set in the Old West, involving a pack of terrifying humanoid beasts and a band of despicable bandits.  Keene takes his “every man” sensibilities and applies it to a group of murders and thieves with superb  results.  This are the working class of the era and, after an initial brush with senseless violence, the readers grows to care about these characters who are left to fend off a group of crazed animals.  Again, this is Keene’s strength and this is what makes An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley such a fun and effective story.

The dynamic of Morgan’s gang is very intriguing because a normal author would have you hate these people based on their background.  Not Keene.  Keene even adds fuel to the fire by having an opening chapter which invites the reader to despise Morgan and his cronies. I honestly believe that Keene enjoys the challenge of trying have the reader relate to a character they once hated. The story then begins to slowly build these characters up in very convincing fashion.  We see their faults and fears and begin to feel for them as they fight for their lives.  Eventually, we are a member of Morgan’s gang and we, too, are fighting for our very survival. This is the hallmark of Keene’s writing and this why a story about crazed sasquatch set in a long-gone can feel so damn personal.

An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley is a fun story that packs a whole lot of tension into a very small space.  This is definitely “read in one sitting” territory here, folks, and I guarantee you’ll leave the story fully satisfied. Check it out if you’re looking for something a little off-beat!

 If the review above doesn’t sell you, there is also a short story included.  “Lost Canyon of the Damned” is a fun little tale that finds Keene venturing gloriously close to bizarro territory as he tells a story that is one part Western, one part Zombie with a heaping helping of prehistoric, inter-dimensional weirdness.  This is a fantastic piece for those interested in Keene’s upcoming bizarro piece that he has hinted at for the past few years.

Alone by Brian Keene

When it comes to Keene’s fiction, it’s usually hit or miss with me. I’m not a rabid fan, nor am I a hater, and the man has some serious chops, that much we all know. It’s not often that I don’t like a piece of the man’s writing, mainly ’cause he’s got the genre in the palm of his hand, but when his fiction is a “miss” in my eyes, it’s usually his shorter fare. This, thankfully, is not the case with Alone. Well, that’s not true. I didn’t dig the ending so much, but the first two acts of the novella are borderline brilliant.

Insomuch as Keene’s signature voice is very strong in this tale, he’s coming from a place of loneliness and despair, hinting at the fact that the man knows what it is to go through some serious pain. It also just so happens that I read this book during a very tough period of my life (which I’m still not even halfway through), and so it hit home in so many different ways. Loss, desperation, separation, and the overwhelming sense of being alone… sigh… such is life. And Keene does a great job of taking a story and embedding the emotions right into your heart, giving you no choice but to feel what the main character is feeling – even if you’ve work oh so damned hard to stomp that shit down into a corner of your soul.

Thanks for dredging this stuff up, Dr. Keene. I hope someone has a couch appointment available for me soon…

When Daniel Miller wakes up one morning, something has gone terribly wrong. The power is out. The phones are dead. The house is silent. The street is shrouded in fog. Both his partner and their adopted daughter are missing. So are their neighbors. And so is everyone else in the world. Daniel Miller is the last person left on Earth… or is he?

So, in the midst of a separation and a brutal case of the blues, I ventured forth and started reading a story titled “Alone“. Smooth move, Poindexter. And no doubt, it had to be written by one of the kings of lonely, beaten down characters, Brian “more metal than your mom” Keene. Seriously, what was I thinking? I’ve read his work before. I knew what I was getting into.

He kicked my ass with Dark Hollow, one of my favorite books this genre has to offer; whooped me silly with Dead Rising and City of the Dead; did a number on me with the short story Burying Betsy; and played with my emotions through a few other pieces of genre mastery (even his entry in the hard to find Excitable Boys, Full of It, which is just wonderfully disgusting). Granted, I wasn’t so much a fan of Ghost Walk, Urban Gothic, An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley, or The Damned Highway, but most of what this man has to offer hits me in a place that usually stays quite well hidden. It’s literature like this that speaks to the blue-collar boy in me, and evokes something that I try to keep out of the public eye for the sake of retaining some semblance of composure. Something that was utterly torn out of hiding with Alone.

See, when Keene wants to talk to you about being alone, being scared, or being separated from that which you love, you have no choice but to identify with it. That’s what this novella does without blinking – it makes you feel.

Now, I know my usual snarkiness and sarcastic banter is what keeps people coming back for more (if only to figure out how not to review a book), but I’m going to have to put that on hold for a minute and tell you why this story is so goddamned different from all of the other pieces of horror fiction you’re apt to find out there.

First of all, Keene opts to introduce a main character in a homosexual relationship – something I can’t possible applaud louder for. Growing up on Poppy Z. Brite and Clive Barker, being a huge fan of LGBT horror fiction, and being one of the most sexually secure man-droids you’ll ever meet, I have to give it to Keene for taking the initiative to step outside of the boy’s club suppositions and do something else with the character in this work. And what’s more is the fact that Keene writes his character without a single stereotype or misgiving about the man’s sexual orientation. This is a big and down-to-earth move for such a notable fixture in the genre. Why others can’t do this, and that includes authors that are heavily into the LGBT scene, I don’t know.

When I started reading this novella, I wasn’t really sure what I was heading into, but it started off feeling a little like Darkness On The Edge Of Town. I dug the hell out of that book, and was sure that I was in for a good old Levi Stoltzfus kind of tale. I was wrong, as I’m usually told by the ladies, and was instead treated to Dan’s silent torture and mental collapse.

Keene uses the idea of suspending one’s disbelief well with this one, creating scenarios and rules that make a helluva lot of sense in his world, and not a lick of such in reality. It’s not until the end where you find out just why things happen the way they do, and by that point it doesn’t even really matter what’s going on. I felt like my ears were plugged, by breath was catching, I was claustrophobic, and sure that Keene had watched the last 4 months of my life from behind a tree – creepy Bollywood style.

The ending played out a little too easily for me, but it still rings true with the intention put forth for the entirety of the story. You can tell where the tale is going, but if you’re like me, you read for the sake of absorbing, and not for the whole “what happens at the end” crap that some other folks do. Keene’s got his swagger on high, but it’s this ending that makes things feel a little rushed. Regardless, he writes a mean story of heartache and loss when he wants to, making this reader feel a little uncomfortable when things hit this close to home.

Not to say that I’m stuck in a muffled, grey covered world or anything. I can just empathize with poor old Dan’s “what the fuck is gong on”, is all.

For a buck or two, Alone is a brilliant tale that will kick your heart’s ass, and beautifully exemplifies Keene’s ability to write you into a state of awe and woe, and keep you coming back for more.


News: Brian Keene Has Something Very Mysterious On His Site

UPDATE: The poll is now closed!

Every morning I check all of my favorite literary sites to ensure that I am hip to all of the goings-on in the genre.  This morning, while visiting Brian Keene’s site, I noticed a very interesting poll.  Of course, this is pure speculation on my part but it appears as if Brian may be interested in starting his own convention which would be huge.  Currently there are a handful of conventions devoted to genre literature (which is mildly surprising given the abundance of shows dedicated to genre films) and even fewer conventions that are run by authors for the fans.

We have seen many genre lit conventions go under and others cut down on their literary guests.  Just take a look at how the guest list was handled for Horrorfind this year.  Sure, they have secured two of my favorite authors with Ronald Malfi and Hunter Shea but it wasn’t given the same treatment as past years.  Maybe there isn’t money to be made with genre authors or just maybe the perceived popularity isn’t there.  Who knows?  What I can say is that we need something big.  We need a gathering that attracts authors from all of our beloved genres- not just horror. I picture something like WHC mixed with BizarroCon and set in a punk rock club.  Sure, this may just be me dreaming but one can never be sure when Brian Keene is involved.

Now I have no idea what Brian has planned but if history is any indication, this will be a show unlike any other designed for the ultimate fan experience. I encourage everyone head on over to Brian’s site to vote and show him support in this endeavor.


Dreadful Tales interview with Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni and JF Gonzalez.