Dreadfully Approved: Canadian Writers…

Welcome to the little corner of our library where we keep all of our favorite reads. It’s here you will find the folks who carry the Dreadful Tales stamp of approval – a label we bestow upon some of our favorite dark/horror fiction and non-fiction writers.

Now, keep in mind that these are OUR favorites. You may have your own choices and we encourage you to share your favorites with us in the comments. In fact, it’s that kind of action that will get you noticed, and help your fellow genre fiction fiends find the authors that they may come to cherish.

Take a look around. See if you can find anything you like. Our library is open all day long, come rain or shine. Just make sure to close the door on your way out. Wouldn’t want any of these beasties making their way out into the world…

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All Hallow’s Read (Day 22) A scary book for…

…someone who likes Canadian authors.

World at-large, meet one of my all time favorite writers. His name is Steve Vernon and he’s written everything from YA, Weird West, Campfire Tales, and all the way back to Straight Horror. This man is a master storyteller with an amazingly lyrical gait, a phenomenal wealth of knowledge when it comes to honing your craft, the tradition of oral storytelling, and pretty much everything under the sun in regards to horror literature.

Whether you’re looking for zombified buffalo (Long Horn, Big Shaggy), a superhero that may or may not be very “super” at all (Nothing To Losemy personal favorite), time traveling spiders (Plague Monkey Spam), Campfire Stories (Wicked Woods), Sea Monsters (Sinking Deeper), gypsies that save the world (Gypsy Blood), and more – Steven Vernon is your man. Go forth and hunt this man’s work down.

All Hallow’s Read is a book-giving tradition thought up by author Neil Gaiman. We’ll be making book suggestions all month long in case you need ideas!

Vanishing Hope by Tobin Elliott

Jesus… I wasn’t expecting this one from Burning Effigy Press – a micro press that I pride myself on having most, if not everything they’ve published. When Monica announced on Twitter that she would be releasing a book from a completely new and unknown author, I was very intrigued. After all, I’ve enjoyed just about everything that’s come out from this press. And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy this chapbook. What I’m saying is… I wasn’t ready.

And I don’t think you are, either.

And that’s what makes Vanishing Hope so goddamned good.

The book knows your dark places. It knows your weaknesses. It knows your innermost desires. It feels your pain and knows how to twist it to its own needs. It knows how to become our best friend.

All the things we can do together…

Talia is nine years old. The book is ancient. Talia hates her life. The book explois hate. It shows you all the things you can do to those you hate. All the ways you can hurt them. Talia is powerless. The book is power. Now the book has found Talia.

With that synopsis, the reader only gets the slightest hint of the darkness yet to come. It seems as if you know the grand idea as to what’s coming down the pipe, but really… you don’t even know the half of it. This chapbook is incredibly visceral, agressive, and supremely effective at making the reader uncomfortable, all in a good way. In all honestly, this is an incredible story written by an incredible author, published by a fantastic press that is willing to take a chance and do something daring, and something you really don’t want to miss.

Vanishing Hope is the kick in the ass that the small press publishing world needs and, more importantly, something that I, as a reader, have been looking for all over the place. This is fresh, new, and unabashedly raw. It makes no apologies for what it is, and begs for no forgiveness either. What it does do, however, is provide the reader with a glimpse at the new blood of the genre. With our current sociopolitical and economic climates, we really only had to wait so long before someone penned a tale that matched the feel that is permeating the streets these days. What Elliott has achieved with Vanishing Hope is just that – a literary release of aggression and pain that forces the reader to face some┬áincredibly uncomfortable situations head on.

Elliott excells at matching the ebb and flow of the main character’s feelings, starting out with a tone that feel somewhat innocent and unthreatening, all the way to the climactic scenes of the chapbook where her mental state and aggressive nature can only be described as frenetic and utterly pissed. It’s virtually impossible to retain any internal composure when reading this little story, and it seems that when Elliott wants to drive a scene home, he does so in the highest gear possible.

The main character, Talia, is a beautiful child, but exhudes a terrible mean streak that Icertainly hope my kids don’t harbor deep down inside themselves. It’s terrifying to think that something so small and innocent could be so damned malicious. The fact that Elliott took a chance with this piece of fiction and created this circumstance from the perspective of a child, well, that’s one for the books, folks. I haven’t seen something this daring since Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door.

At the end of the chap, way back there in the author bio, I found a shimmering ray of hope. It seems that this chapbook is essentially acting as a prelude to a full length novel featuring this subject matter, and even gives a quick little peek at who the major players may well be. Personally, I’m excited to see what Elliott can bring to the table in terms of longer fiction. His ability to capture the reader’s attention and use their emotions against them is phenomenal. I hesitate to call Vanishing Hope a “sleeper hit”, but really… you didn’t see this coming. Guaranteed.

Vanishing Hope was officially released just prior to the 2011 Festival of Fear. Elliott can be contacted at his website, and on Twitter. Burning Effigy Press can be contacted at their website and on Twitter, as well.

In related news, I’ve got 2 signed copies of Vanishing Hope to give away. Go hit up and “like” our Facebook page and hang tight. Leave a comment in the thread featuring this review, and we’ll see if we can throw this your way. I’ll let the winners know by the end of the week.

C.

This Little Light Of Mine by Nate Southard

This story is amazing.

The first 8 pages alone are just so brutally gut wrenching that it is virtually impossible to look away. Having read nearly everything Burning Effigy has to offer in terms of horror, I am not in the least surprised. What I am surprised about, however, is how someone can like Southard, for example, can come strolling into the genre, take a few well placed swings, and completely own everything and everyone in sight.

If Nate Southard is the face of the new breed, I’m happy to say that the genre is in incredibly capable hands.

It was supposed to be a normal day for Brandon, but then the earthquake came, trapping him in a collapsed parking garage with a pair of strangers. Now, he’s buried underneath Manhattan with no light, no food, and no way of knowing if rescue is on its way. And there are sounds in the darkness. Something’s coming, and saving Brandon is the last thing on its mind.

The first couple of minutes that the reader will spend with this story are absolutely wonderful. The beauty that Southard conveys through the relationship between Brandon and his wife Amanda is absolutely wonderful. This author obviously knows how to control the emotions of his captive party (the reader), and ultimately exploits that ability with the snap of his fingers, and the turn of a phrase. Within the space of 5 minutes, I went from being very interested to absolutely riveted.

And then the action started.

To say that this book surges forward like a typhoon of relentless action and purpose would be an understatement. The sheer amount of lyrical prowess that this author holds in completely awe-inspiring. One minute the main character is talking on the phone, thinking random thoughts, and living a normal life – and then a moment passes, and the world comes crashing down around him. Almost literally.

Southard’s ability to describe a scene vividly is brilliant. He has such a way with words that one cannot help but be absolutely forced to see what he wants them to see. In my opinion, that’s very rare these days. The style is not grandiose or over-dramatic. On the contrary, it’s rather subdued and meticulous. The author seems to choose his words very carefully, placing everything in the best possible order that they could be in. The result is an overwhelming success, bringing the reader to his/her knees with the finality of it all.

While Southard does allow space for the imagination to run free, he also paints a very detailed, terrifying landscape for the adventure. Southard’s characters in this story are thick, layered, complex, and surprisingly heavy for a piece this short. They’re instantly identifiable, perfectly sympathetic, and not at all unbelievable. While speculative fiction usually relies on the reader’s ability to suspend their disbelief, This Little Light of Mine and it’s characters never ask that of their audience. The story is there, and will go on even without being read.

It is, in and of itself, one of the most perfect pieces of fiction that I have ever read.

Now, that being said, I would like to express the fact that I’ve read Southard’s work before, and have become quite used to his style. His novel Red Sky blew me away, but his short story “In The Middle of Poplar Street” left me wanting more. Granted, I have yet to read the author’s complete works, but I can say with authority that this is a writer to watch. He is a master of his craft, and deserves to be known the world over.

Southard’s writing does more than grab the reader and force his/her attention to be focussed on what transpires within the page. He takes the reader away on a journey. It just so happens that it’s sometimes to a place filled with things one would rather not see. I would take a trip with Southard anywhere, any day.

This Little Light of Mine can be purchased from Burning Effigy Press. While you’re there, I implore you to check out some of the other titles available. Burning Effigy has been one of my favorite small presses for some time, and I can guarantee you that the quality of these stories is the absolute top notch.

You can visit Nate Southard at his website, and connect with him on Twitter, and Facebook.

Colum McKnight