Die, You Bastard! Die! by Jan Kozlowski

Every once in a while a book comes along that totally side swipes you. A piece of fiction in this genre almost always allows you to experience some sort of emotional peak, but it’s rare that one lulls you into a sense of security, only to flip around and turn someone you’ve become accustomed to, or even begun to find yourself attracted to, into a goddamned human pincushion.

And yeah, I’m looking right in the direction of Jan Kozlowski at the moment.

This small imprint is beginning to look a lot like the island of misfit toys to me, complete with deranged clowns and outcasts who have more passion and ability in their little finger than the masses on the mainland. When I saw that Kozlowski had a book coming out, with a title like this no less, I was actually quite surprised. Here’s a woman who looks so completely unassuming, is always painfully polite or excited about the genre, and she’s releasing a story with the legendary John Skipp. Shit, I still remember the first time I read Skipp and Spector’s Book of the Dead back when I was just about to head into my teens.

Based on that, I should have seen this coming.

Claire is a first-rate paramedic, with a heroic devotion to saving lives. She is also a survivor of unspeakable abuse, who has rebuilt herself entirely, as far from home as she could get.

But when her aged father is hospitalized, after a crippling fall, Claire is dragged back into a brutal nightmare of sexual depravity, and deepest betrayal. Where the only question left is, “How can I possibly survive?”

 And the only answer is, “DIE, YOU BASTARD! DIE!”

from amazon.com

Die, You Bastard! Die! opens up with an intriguing plot and a heart-wrenching scene of sadness that won’t leave your mind any time soon. The big bastard that this author depicts is the epitome of human scum who preys on the smallest and weakest members of our society. An act like this is definitely something that makes me, as a father, uncomfortable as hell, but it’s also something that would make any person with a heart and a brain cringe with horror on a regular basis. I don’t care how fucking hardcore you are, child abuse and sexual molestation is an act that should reward you with pains beyond that which a cenobite can deliver. End of story.

Now, when Kozlowski sets the scene with her main character, it’s easy to assume what’s coming next. About halfway through the story, you feel a sense of closure overcoming the plot, and literally wonder what’s coming next. I really looked at the rest of the story and wondered what the hell all of these extra pages were for if this was going the way I thought it was.

I’m also starting to wonder if the word “gullible” is in the dictionary or not because I totally fell for the ruse.

This author kicked the shit out of me like only Jack Ketchum did when I read Off Season for the first time. My mistake was in the fact that I assumed, and we all know what assuming does.

Yeah, I’m an ass.

But so are you if you think you’re going to walk away from this one unscathed.

Sheer will is the one of the only ways a reader could possibly sit through the rest of this book, and retaining the hope that redemption will be sought is the other. The crimes perpetrated on this main character are absolutely atrocious, but Kozlowski has her own brand of justice to mete out by the climax of the tale. And my, oh my, does she do it with style. Think I Spit On Your Grave mixed with a little bit of the most depraved Japanese hardcore spatter flicks you can muster, and then reinvent it in your own mind. If you have an imagination like mine, you’re totally screwed. Sorry.

Kozlowski is definitely fresh breath in this stagnant genre. Her voice is unassuming and works much like a lullaby before a terrifying scene in horror movie. She has a mastery over the written word unlike any other, and truly knows how to craft a brutal scene. The fact that this one affected me so much actually pleases me, as it’s something I find doesn’t happen all that often. Mind you, I read this while I was in the middle of a really good run of books, and it still kicked my ass. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the beginning of an incredible career for this author, and will be waiting with baited breath for more of her output.

Personally, I want to thank her pre and beta readers for being the guinea pigs to such a wonderfully poignant, but brutal work of fiction. The core of the tale is unfortunately true, as children and young people all over the world are exploited and wounded all of the world on a daily basis. While I usually balk at the idea of reading and reviewing a piece of work that centers around this issue (it’s a sore spot for me that I really don’t like visiting), I have to congratulate Kozlowski for not exploiting the nature of the beast, and delivering a very fact oriented and interesting story.

Like I’ve said before, Ravenous Shadows is definitely in the right place at the right time, and I have no trouble saying that this little imprint will become a powerhouse in years, or even months to come. And for those of you who are questioning whether Skipp can “pull it off” again? You bet your sweet ass he can. This line of novellas is proof that the man is on top of his game, as always.

If you’re not afraid to traipse into a world of depravity and sorrow, grab yourself a copy of Die, You Bastard! Die! at Amazon today.


Catching Hell by Greg F. Gifune

Samhain is back with another novella in their horror line that is just bristling with energy, viciousness, and an 80s slasher appeal that leaves no corner of the horror genre to rest. Gifune is in top form here with Catching Hell, unleashing a barrage of classic b-movie intensity and a writing style worthy of being compared to my beloved Richard Laymon, and the Splatterpunk legends of yore (even if they hated the title). So, buckle your seatbelts kiddies. We’re about to go on a ride.

Summer, 1983.

As fall approaches and the summer stock theaters on Cape Cod close for the season, three promising young actors and a stagehand pile into an old Ford Fairlane and head for a vacation resort in Maine. Hoping for a relaxing getaway before pursuing their dreams, the instead encounter a bizarre storm while on a lonely stretch of highway and soon find themselves stranded in the strange rural community of Boxer Hills.

At first glance it seems a harmless little backwoods town, but Boxer Hills has a horrible secret and a deadly history. It’s a place of horrific age-old rituals and a legendary evil that will let no one escape without paying a terrible price. Before the sun rises on a new day, they will have to fight their way through the night and out-of-town, or risk falling prey to a demonic creature so profane few will even speak its name.

They were young, reckless and chasing Hell. What they hadn’t counted on was actually catching it.

When Samhain launched their horror line with Don D’Auria at the helm, I knew we’d be getting some stellar works from the genre’s best midlist authors. What I didn’t bank on was the mostly romance publisher upping the ante and letting loose some great e-book novellas as well – something that most of the bigger publishers in the genre don’t do. First up we were given the incredible literary stylings of Ronald Malfi. Borealis was a blast and an absolutely terrifying read. Now we’re being treated to the whirlwind, chaos-driven madness that long time genre heavyweight Greg F. Gifune has to offer. If this keeps up, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to catch my breath.

In the case of Catching Hell, Gifine pulls no punches, opting instead to go straight for the throat, effectively leaving all subtlety to the amateurs and the scribes of the creeping dread. This novella is about catching hell, and with that the author rips straight into the story and provides a wild ride bereft of anything even resembling meandering or slow. The order of the day here is speed, folks, and that’s just how he executes this novella – at a break-neck velocity capable of wowing and completely blowing out any ideas of a leisurely read.

Gifune’s characters are strong. That’s pretty much the only thing than can be said about them that won’t sound like I’m blowing smoke. These kids are strong-willed, strong minded, and powerfully written. The choices they make are all rational, realistic, and don’t end them up in a happily ever after kind of scenarios, but instead have actual consequences that directly affect their present situations. This, in my opinion, is very rare in the horror genre. Gifune remarks at the end that this novella is loosely based on a real-life event that he, himself, was a party to. If it was anything like the craziness that goes down in this novella, I want to hear more. This is the stuff of nightmares.

The major attraction with this novella is that while Gifune delivers, as I’ve said, a great piece of Splatterpunk/80s b-movie styled fiction, he completely avoids massive clichés and other heaps of genre silliness. The brunt of the story is told in a matter of fact way that barely requires the reader to suspend any disbelief. The only instance where the reader might find it to be absolutely necessary is upon revealing the ‘demon’ or ‘bad guy’, his cloaked minion (a defrocked minister), and the description of the evil thing, itself. I tend to like my demons with a little more exposition, but this one will do in a pinch. It’s not hard to find information on the ancient demon Lithobolia (a demon who seems much more frightening in other works of literature), but Gifune’s incarnation is the first I’ve read about it in modern tales but, unfortunately, feels hardly like an adversary worthy of such fear, and more like filler for an explanation as to why this cult is effecting such horrible practices on innocent parties that wander into the backwoods town of Boxer Hills.

Regardless of the demon itself, Catching Hell is a wickedly fast-paced ride through Gifune’s madness, and a piece destined to become a ‘best of‘ somewhere down the road. This is easily one of my favorite reads of the year and makes me want to check out more of this author’s work.

Catch some hell over at Samhain Publishing and/or Amazon. You can check out more information at Greg F. Gifune’s webpage, and say a big ol’ hello over on Facebook.


The Narcissist’s BLT : The Beauty, The Linguist, and the Triathlete by Sèphera Girón

Whenever I talk about Erotica and Horror in literature, you can bet your ass I’ll utter the name Sèphera Girón several times in a single conversation. Why? ‘Cause she’s that damned good at what she does, that’s why. Whether blazing a path through the literary lanscape of pulp horror, or writing straight-up erotica, this author has it all.

The tingles that Giron is capable of creating, whether sexual or scary, make up the meat of what I look for in my horror fiction. The Narcissist’s BLT is Giron’s return to the horror, and with what reads like an updated and erotic version of The Modern Prometheus, the genre should be on their feet welcoming her back.

Dr. Miriam Frederick craves perfection and love and great sex. Since she has the tools and the intelligence, she spends her time trying to create the perfect lovers. These journals record her bloody sex fuelled experiments as she seduces her “subjects” and reinvents them in her own image.

The Beauty: A gorgeous woman.

The Linguist: A best-selling author of high intelligence

The Triathlete: A handsome man with the best sexual stamina.

Playing the sex card straight away, Girón invites us into a very intimate and personal account of sexual experimentation and curious deviancy through the diary and notes of Dr. Miriam Frederick, a scientist with a special mission – to create the perfect lover. The author never lets the reader believe that she’ll pull any punches, and promises nothing more than a great story with a few choice scenes of depravity, sexuality, and chills. And my oh my does she deliver.

Like Dr. Frankenstein in Shelley’s classic novel, Girón’s main character is in search of something more from her experiments. In Dr. Frederick’s case, she’s looking for the perfect lover – someone who embodies everything she holds dear in all of the experiences she’s had throughout her life. She takes into account the thoughtful nature of one man, the sexual stamina of another, and the beauty of a woman who entices her homosexual tendencies, and tries to mix them all into one comfortable living space. Where Girón really sells the piece is through her use of science to justify the actual transformation of the characters from autonomous to basic, but conscious, sexual slavery. That in itself is kind of terrifying. How far can science take us, and where will our modern Frankensteins decide to go next?

The way that Girón describes the process of change in these characters is completely believeable, but comes second to the pain and want that lies just beneath the surface of the main character. It’s very obvious that Girón uses Dr. Frederick’s career and goals as a scientist as a sort of trojan horse to the fact that she is severely wounded and lonely. Her mental stability is also at question, being that she’d even consider a venture such as this. Employing the use of nano-technology towards an almost pavlovian conditioning, Frederick basically seduces her quarry through mind-control and electronic vibrations. With believable realism, Girón crafts a story that sits on your conscience and sinks it’s way into your mind a little like the experiments that her main character employs on her subjects.

The brutality and gore in this novella are not shucked for the sake of erotic and/or sci-f infused horror themes. Make no mistake: Sèphera Girón has what it takes to bring you to the brink of the most uncomfortable situations, and writes with the best of the bad boys in the genre. Her descriptions range from slightly painful to full out gross, painting the literary canvas with enough blood and bodily fluids to sate even the most hardened of genre fans. There’s a point in the novella where the good Doctor finds herself in a very compromising position, and Girón doesn’t hold back on her at all. The author plays favorites with nobody, apparently, and doles out the punishment fairly throughout the entire piece. All of the characters in this novella feel the pain in one way or another, promting some of the most original and welcomed death scenes this reviewer has read in a while.

When it comes to sex, Girón writes with the best of them. Combining gore-filled scenes and murderous themes with some of the most erotic prose you’re likely to come across, Girón provides a full out assault on the reader’s vulnerable senses. From sleazy sex clubs to one-off trysts in a restaurant bathroom, Girón knows what the reader wants and delivers with aplomb. Her descriptions of all things carnal are beautifully described and never fall short of the mouthwatering, heart-pounding, exciting nature that I’ve come to love and expect from this author.

The Nacissist’s BLT has a bit of everything for those looking to spice up their horror with a little bit of the naughtiness that Erotic fiction has to offer. Girón is in top form with this release, and doesn’t look like she’s going to stop. And I pray to every little god and demon that she doesn’t.


Borealis by Ronald Malfi

Borealis, Ronald Malfi’s latest release from Samhain Publishing, was originally released as a novella in New Dark Voices 2 (2009), which was edited by Brian Keene and brought to you by Delirium Books. Almost 3 years later, we’re proud as hell to tell you that it’s been released as part of Samhain’s inaugural launch of their new horror line.

To lead off with a book this powerful is a brilliant move by the predominantly romance-centric publishing house. Couple that with having a heavyweight in the horror industry like Don D’Auria taking the throne as editor and you have the makings for a complete and total takeover. Are we complaining? Hell no! We want more! Being that this was our first introduction to the press, we’re super excited to see what they have up their sleeves and we have complete and total faith in D’Auria and his ability to find great horror fare for us literature junkies.

On a routine crabbing expedidtion in the Bering Sea, Charlie Mears and the rest of the men aboard the trawler Borealis discover something unbelievable; a young woman running naked along the ridge of a passing iceberg. The men rescue her and bring her aboard the boat. But they will soon learn her horrible secret. 

By the time they find out why she was alone on the ice – and what she truly is – the nightmare will have begun, as one by one she infects them with an evil that brings about unimaginable terrors. 

Oh, Malfi. How we love this man at the Dreadful Tales office. Not only does this author have a literary staying power that transcends genres, but he’s got the chops to completely justify any move he chooses to make. His characters are flesh-and-bones real, and his story lines are tighter than anything we’ve seen this side of the classics. Borealis is no different than any of his other output quality-wise, save for the fact that it was written years ago, and shows the natural progression of Malfi’s writing ability. While not as tight as work such as, say, Floating Staircase, it’s still light-years ahead of the standard genre fare. In fact, to say that Malfi’s writing is standard isn’t anything but an insult. His prose is haunting, poetic, and timeless.

Borealis follows a common trend present in most of Malfi’s stories, at least thematically, in that it’s set in a mostly barren land that just so happens to be snow covered. For any of those who have read Snow, Malfi’s 2010/11 release with both Leisure and Altar 13, you’re well aware of this man’s ability to chill you to the bone with some seriously incredible scenes of terror, and literally freeze you with his words. In this particular tale it’s “so fucking cold my goddamn lighter’s giving up the ghost!”

Not only is the bone-chilling weather palpable, but once the girl comes aboard the entire atmosphere turns terrifying and dark. The presence Malfi creates with his creature is creepy and unsettling. It’s rare that an author can actually make the elements drift off of the page and affect the reader like that. It’s a special thing, really.

Another theme that seems to permeate throughout Malfi’s work is the loss of identity.  Stories like The Separation, The Floating Staircase and Passenger all find their protagonists pitted in a battle of the mind in their quest for true identity. This loss of identity usually runs parallel to the loss or separation from a loved one. Borealis is no exception as the characters are forced to combat an unimaginable evil as they attempt to save and maintain their individual personage and overcome their spiritual demons as well. That is, if they survive. This theme is the backbone of Malfi’s work and it serves to make his stories so damn relatable. Readers will be particularly touched by Charlie’s internal struggle with his estrangement from his son.

As usual, Malfi also achieves the ultimate effect on his readers with Borealis – he not only terrifies them with his wicked, lithe prose, but he also affects the reader emotionally, hitting where it counts the most. This story is so heavy, engrossing, and phenomenally paced, that it’s almost impossible to stop the tears from flowing in the end. It’s beautiful, man. *sniff* Beautiful… and terrifying! The baddie in this novella, for instance, is not only incredibly unsettling, but she’s also hot as hell. Malfi absolutely nails the physical description of this character right on the head, creating something that can be both vile and disgusting, at the same time as being lustful and sexy.

It’s amazing, really. We loved this book, the characters, and the story. The landscape is wonderful, the set pieces tangible, and the overall feel is foreboding and evil, if also absolutely heartbreaking at times. Borealis is a truly amazing book for anyone who isn’t familiar with Malfi’s work, and a great read for the die-hard fans of this man’s work. Either way, readers will be pleased to see the power in this story, and most likely chase the rest of Malfi’s stories for future reading.

Colum, Pat, and Meli.

Ursa Major by John R. Little

“What a story!”

That’s exactly what I said when I put this one down. I’d never read Little’s work before, but after the nail biting insanity that is Ursa Major, I just found myself completely at a loss for words. This is an intense and brutal ride. Little is obviously a master of his craft.

A peaceful camping trip turns ugly as a step-father and daughter come face-to-face with a blood thirsty, mindless force. What happens when you have to make decisions that have no pleasant options?

There’s little in the way of an explanation in that synopsis. I know, I keep talking about “synopsis this” and “synopsis that”, but I find that with the right bit of information, you can make a book sound as intriguing as it’s supposed to sound. Ursa Major deserves something on a much more grand scale. Something like – “This book will make you weak in the knees before throwing you to the ground in utter despair, begging for the writer to stop before your heart explodes.” Yeah, something like that. Ursa Major is really exactly that. It’s a whirlwind trip into the mind of an author who is not afraid to make his readers severely uncomfortable with the situations he is likely to put his characters into.

Little’s characters are 100% rock solid, giving the reader more to latch onto, but also making it that much harder to watch as they face excruciatingly terrifying trials and tribulations. We see what’s ahead of them, and know full well that this will not end nicely. Hell, it says so right in the synopsis – “…no pleasant options…” The author doesn’t even stop with that, instead pickingup the pace, making the unthinkable happen, and then bringing the world crashing down all over again. His power to deceive the reader into thinking on a different path is brilliant. For one, I thought that the main character was a believable, likeable man, only doing what he thought was right. It was painful to see what Little put him through. After all, he could be any one of us. And after this novella, I won’t be camping up North any time soon. That’s for sure.

The story is short. It’s 64 pages. Short. But it’s packed with so much action and so much stress, it’s damned near impossible to come away from this without losing one’s breath. There really isn’t a slow point during the telling of the tale, at all. Even the back story  that is interspersed throughout is rapid fire. From my description, one might surmise that the wasy Little writes is like a machine gun on full auto, but it’s not. If you haven’t read Little’s work before, let me tell you something here: You’re aout to find out what it is to see writing that is so damned close to perfect, that’s it’s almost unbelievable. He makes this look easy. Everything fits perfectly where it should, and stands as if it was waiting for its time to shine. The prose here is beautiful. I’m now a John Little fan, through and through.

Ursa Major was released by Bad Moon Books in June of 2011. You can grab a copy at their website, or take a gander at other online retailers. You can check out Little’s website here.

I’ve got a copy that I’m willing to hand over to the right person, as I think this is a book that needs to be read by anyone and everyone. I’ll pick one of y’all from comments here, and on our facebook page at random.