INVOKING COSMIC FORCES: A Conversation With Greg Lamberson

I’ve never made any apologies for the rave reviews I’ve written regarding Greg Lamberson and his novels, and never will. His work is something that sits with me well. Be it the dialogue, the settings, the character descriptions, or the monsters; they all live freely and wonderfully in my head without a single qualm from my picky little brain. The Jake Helman Files is one of my favorite series of books, blending crime fiction with a surreal supernatural element that defies genre trappings, and delivers vibrant, oft times violent stories that satisfy my greedy literature needs. So it was a no brainer that I should sit down with the author and pick his brains on all things Helman.

It also just so happens that the third book in the series, Cosmic Forces, was recently released. A book that I strongly urge you to check out. Not only does it break genre conventions and turn horror literature on its head, but it also tackles everything from giant freaking monsters to religious subtext. Cosmic Forces is, in my opinion, Lamberson’s most ambitious book, but does he think the same of it? Well, you’re going to have to listen to find out.

A little bit more about the man and his work can be found within this chat. We literally talked about everything and anything. I’m honored to be bringing this to you guys. It was a pleasure to speak with the man, and I look forward to doing it again very soon.

INVOKING COSMIC FORCES_ A Conversation with Greg Lamberson

C.

 

 

 

 

All Hallow’s Read (Day 19) A scary book for…

…someone who likes a series.

Jake Helman is one badass character, packing more attitude and swagger than you could possibly imagine. The Jake Helman Files, a supernatural/noir series by Gregory Lamberson, is 100% Dreadfully Approved, and worth every second. Start with Personal Demons, move on to Desperate Souls, and then throw down with Cosmic Forces. You won’t be disappointed. Tortured Spirits, the 4th book in the series will be available in October 2012.

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!

Cosmic Forces by Greg Lamberson

I love Jake Helman. I love him, I love Greg Lamberson for bringing him to me, I love Medallion for bringing it to print, and I love… well, everything about this series. And I’m so happy to report to you that this is the best book in the Jake Helman Files to date. Cosmic Forces is full of action, suspense, gore, hilarious one-liners, and a hero that puts all others to shame.

And a really friggin’ big monster.

Oh yeah, this one is huge.

The whole damned book is huge. From concept to characters, action and plot, this whole thing feels like holding a million pounds of creativity packed into a small, book shaped package.

When the wife of New York City mayor Myron Madigan hires private investigator Jake Helman to spy on her husband, the trail leads him to Karlin Reichard. The wealthy industrialist and kingmaker leads to a cabal that has secretly manipulated world affairs for generation. In order to bring these powerful men down, Jake must join them. But at what cost to his own soul?

Battling human assassins and supernatural creatures, Jake pursues a quest to uncover the mystery behind the Order of Avademe and a monster willing to destroy heaven and hell to rule the earth.

In what is definitely the biggest, most ambitious plot in the Jake Helman series, Lamberson dishes out heaping loads of pain, torture, and terrifying situations to (in my opinion) the best damned hero of modern fiction. Not only that, but Lamberson expands upon the world that Helman inhabits, revisiting some of his earlier cases, and setting up more questions about some of the secondary characters that we just knew had something more to them. The year-long wait for this follow-up to Desperate Souls and Personal Demons was well worth every single literary withdrawal symptom I experienced. Unfortunately for me (and you folks, too), we’ll be waiting until 2012 for the aptly named follow-up – Tortured Spirits.

Getting back on track – this time around we find Jake fighting all manner of creepy-crawly nasties in search of information pertaining to his current case. Lamberson has always excelled at creating incredible characters, as Jake Helman’s undeniably strong and larger than life existence will tell, and the folks in Cosmic Forces are no different. From the get-go, Lamberson throws nothing but true, realistic dialogue, and emotive characters into the mix, really fleshing out the story for all it’s worth. From Madigan’s wife to his dwarf-like assistant, Lamberson surrounds Jake and the entire plot with a spectacular cast that showcases his practiced ability to give the reader what they want, and the author’s own incredible understanding of character creation.

Again, Lamberson has given the reader not just a story, but also the literary equivalent of the cinematic experience. It’s not hard to imagine this series as a film franchise, but given the extremely detailed plots, it would hard to believe that Hollywood or any other film maker would be able to do it justice. Not to mention the sheer amount of time it would take to create some of the monsters that Lamberson has dreamed up this time.

Now, earlier I said that this is the most ambitious of all of the Jake Helman books. I said that with good reason. Lamberson has upped the ante in this one considerably. Not only is Jake going head to head with a giant monster, the likes of which I won’t explain for the sake of the spectacularly grand reveal in the novel, but he’s also going up against several very powerful men and the powers of good and evil themselves. The team-ups in this novel are incredible as well, making Cosmic Forces switch from a dark, noir-ish tale to a full on comic book style replete with some of the best action we’ve seen so far. The ending just begs for a huge and triumphant orchestral score to punctuate every Biff!, Bam!, and Boom! that Jake and his fellow renegades deliver to their enemies. I was compelled to read this scene twice, just because it was so damned fun.

There are some incredibly detailed and creative biblical references in this book, as well. All of the mythos draws from some sort of religious background, with under (and over) tones of occult themes thrown in for good measure. Lamberson travels a great distance to create his own mythology in this story, crafting an almost entirely believable back story that could very well serve as a cult belief in and of itself. Like his previous efforts, and his novel The Frenzy Way, Cosmic Forces is incredibly well researched, and will satisfy almost every answer that could pop into your head regarding the information contained herein. The only pieces left untouched hint at a story that would be very welcomed as a follow-up. If I’m right, Tortured Spirits could very well be even better than its predecessor.

This book really has everything I, as a reader, could ever want i a horror/crime crossover story. Apart from Mike Oliveri’s The Pack: Winter Kill, I have yet to find a series that grabs my attention as much as this one does. Lamberson knows exactly what he’s doing, and creates a different, more emotionally charged, and thematically huge story with every subsequent release.

You won’t be disappointed with these books, folks. This series is 100% Dreadfully Approved.

Check out Medallion Books here, and Greg Lamberson’s website here. For a limited time, you can grab a free e-copy of Personal Demons – the 1st book in the Jake Helman Series – at Amazon, and other online retailers.

C.

News: Greg Lamberson and Medallion Press give you Personal Demons

Greg Lamberson, the creator of the Jake Helman Files series, and Publisher Medallion Press are inviting you to download the first book – Personal Demons – FOR FREE!

See the Media release after the cut!

This is one of my favorite books/series, and I am beyond excited to bring this news your way.

The Helman books combine one of the most perfect mixtures of horror, supernatural, and crime fiction set to print. You’ll be missing a lot of you don’t check  this out. Check out our reviews of Personal Demons here, and the follow up book Desperate Souls here.

Greg has several other books in print including Johnny Gruesome (review), and The Frenzy Way (review).

Lamberson is set to release
book 3 in The Helman Series, Cosmic Forces, this October, and the follow up to The Frenzy WayThe Frenzy War – in June 2012.

C.

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The Top 5 American Badasses of Twisted Fiction

The Dreadful Tales family is an international entity. Although our staff are only currently represented by America and Canada, Dreadful Tales is connected to writers and fans all over the globe. I have a special connection with Japan and a deep love of Canada, for both their contributions to horror and the friends I’ve made there. But this weekend it’s all about the U.S.A.! Typically this is an excuse to exhibit our independence by getting drunk in the early afternoon, blowing shit up, and eating brats until we pop. This year I started to reflect on all the fictional characters I would want to spend Independence Day with. I orchestrated a fantasy BBQ with my favorite all-American authors and their bigger than life creations. In celebration of America’s independence I offer my picks of the greatest Patriots of modern fiction. These are the men and women who protect us from evil, monsters, and the general riffraff who threaten our freedoms. Enjoy beyond the break!

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Book Review: Johnny Gruesome by Gregory Lamberson

Welcome to Dreadful Tales and the inaugural review on this 1st of July. It seemed fitting to open with a Gregory Lamberson novel and in particular his 80’s slasher, EC comic inspired revenge from the grave novel Johnny Gruesome. Lamberson is one of the Dreadful family’s most beloved authors. His literary talent and fascinating supernatural worlds have captured our imaginations and have even in part inspired this website. For all the disappointments horror fans face at the box office, Lamberson makes up for in the pages of his novels by opening up new realms of possibility. Whether his reimagining of the werewolf mythos in The Frenzy Way or a supernatural twist on crime noir with The Jake Helman Files series, Lamberson is redefining the horror genre and solidifying his place as master of the action / horror mashup. Oh, and when I say “reimagining,” I don’t mean an anemic version of something you once loved, which is what that word seems to mean in the world of film. Fans of horror fiction can rejoice in the fact that there are authors reinventing classic tropes to entertain the modern audience with their own unique style, passion for the genre, and a fearless attitude. Lamberson is one of the most talented among them and his revenge from the grave tale Johnny Gruesome is a great example. Here is a novel that proves Lamberson is just one of the monster kids and lucky for us, talented enough to recreate the experiences that made us horror fans to being with. Enjoy!

Gregory Lamberson originally formed his Johnny Gruesome story as a screenplay some 23 years or so before the release of this novelized version. Long before I Know What You Did Last Summer and the stalk-and-slash teenage revenge films that followed, Lamberson had created the heavy metal “headbanger from hell” Johnny Grissom. Revisiting his original screenplay in the wake of these films posed a problem for Lamberson. How do you keep your story fresh when there is a stream of popular teen slashers with essentially the same storyline? Lamberson’s Johnny Gruesome succeeds in originality in a couple important ways. One way Lamberson keeps this corpse fresh is by drawing inspiration from his stomping grounds growing up. Instead of a cookie cutter town in Anywhere, USA, Lamberson brings the town to life by including details from his experiences as an adolescent. Whether it’s Johnny’s over the top personality or up close and personal look at the art of autopsy, Lamberson takes time to expand on certain aspects of his novel proving Johnny Gruesome has more meat on his bones than the average zombie.

The plot to Johnny Gruesome is pretty simple. A coked out Gary, jealous of Johnny Grissom, kills him during a late night cruise with friends. Johnny’s girlfriend Karen and childhood friend Eric are forced to help him cover up the murder. Johnny returns from the grave seeking vengeance, mayhem ensues. This is an exciting EC comic-inspired yarn with a charming central character that brings a lot of laughs, some gross outs, and quite a few scares too. Just like the slashers that inspired it, the reader more or less knows who will die but the fun is in finding out how Johnny will do the deed. Lamberson is able to indulge in the kills in ways that wouldn’t be possible on his small budget films, which makes Johnny Gruesome a rip-roaring good time you won’t be able to stop until it’s finished.

The meat on Lamberson’s bare bones plot is the colorful cast of characters, especially our hellion from the grave Johnny Grissom. Johnny is a likable anti-hero who enters as Eric’s savior from a failed attempt at swimming thus solidifying their friendship. Johnny is Eric’s inverse, an anti-establishment teen rebel who “wore the regalia of a heavy metal warrior,” yelled “Fuck you, Father Webb!” every time he rode past the town church in his 2-door Cutlass Supreme – also known as The Death Mobile – and takes on the high school jocks. It’s hard not to be charmed by Johnny’s badass heavy metal persona and fearless attitude. He’s the hero of misfits and social outcasts. You’ll cheer him on as those who have wronged Johnny each get their comeuppance.

Johnny’s supporting cast is just as engaging. Eric is the opposite of Johnny. He aims to defuse conflict rather than engage in it, is more conformist than his heavy metal counterpart and less outspoken and confident. Eric is a sweet, unassuming version of Johnny. Conversely, Gary is rebellious like Johnny, but without the same heroic purpose. He is reactionary always for selfish reasons whereas Johnny, the hero of misfits, is fighting to restore balance between the haves and have-nots in his high school hierarchy. The reader will be charmed by both Eric and Johnny, Eric for his pathetic circumstance and Johnny for his unbreakable spirit and sense of humor while Gary plays the despicable villain you love to hate. While these are necessary archetypes, Lamberson’s Johnny, Eric, and Karen have heart and aren’t the disposal teen wastoids you would find in an I Know What You Did Last Summer or Urban Legend.

Drawing inspiration from actual people from his hometown, Lamberson populates the Johnny Gruesome world with believable characters, some who are just as important and integral to propelling the plot as the main four. The reader will care just as much about the High School English teacher and her husband the cop as our protagonist and the friends who wronged him. By drawing from personal experiences growing up, Lamberson breaths life into the town of Red Hill giving it distinct personality.

While Lamberson’s Johnny Gruesome has enough personality to stand out among the crowd, it still has the stalk and slash staples fans of the genre love, like creative kills. The great slashers of yore wouldn’t be quite as memorable if its creators didn’t come up with new and inventive ways to kill off victims. With all the resource material available, Lamberson still manages to come up with his own unique scenarios of murderous mayhem that will stay in the reader’s consciousness long after the book is finished. The kills are sick, twisted, and often ironic. This is where Lamberson pays homage to old EC comics like Tales from the Crypt by playing around with the doomed characters and offing them with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

This love letter to horror, especially the golden age of 80’s horror, is a must read for its dedicated followers. In a market dominated by living dead fiction, Lamberson offers a gritty, tongue in cheek entry that is both humorous and touching at times. Johnny is such a cool cat, one of kind killer who is not just another one for the fire.

Pick up Johnny Gruesome in trade paperback format from Medallion Press and be sure to check out all the other Johnny extras via Lamberson’s website http://www.slimeguy.com/gruesomeindex.htm.