Thursday, July 26, 2012

Samson and Denial - by Robert Ford - Fun with a 3,000 year old mummified head

5 of 5 Stars

Samson Gallows runs a pawn shop in South Philly and he's involved in a little side business with his brother, Markey, if you get my drift.

The story starts with a drugy walking into the shop, wanting to pawn a 3,000 year old, mummified head.

Robert Ford's writing is as real as a Philly cheesesteak, one from Geno's or Pat's, if you will.

Bob knows his craft and how to paint a picture.  "I drove back through Rittenhouse Square and saw the bum was still there.  He was ankle-deep in the fountain, standing in his own water-piss, conducting an orchestra of pigeons to whatever music played in his head."

Samson and Denial is filled with great characters defined by wonderful prose.  Take Wimer Finnegan, a 3rd generation barkeep-owner of Finnegan's tavern, who leans over his bar when Samson comes into his establishment for the 1st time in many years, and says, "If you knew everything you needed to know, you wouldn't be here.  If you didn't know anything at all, you wouldn't be here.  And I know damned well you're not here for the ambience of my upscale drinking establishment.  So quit fuckin' around and just ask.  What do you need to know?"

Just when I was wondering why we hadn't heard any more about the mummified head, all hell breaks loose.  Plenty of action with with everyone from the Russian mob to the Crimson Sisterhood (you really need to be there).

Only a novella, damn.  This was just too good to end.  Bob tells me he's mulling over a sequel.  I'd spend my money on it.

Not for the faint of heart, due to strong language and plenty of violence, but frankly, I love that stuff.

Unfortunately the limited edition paperback has sold out, but it's now avaible for the Kindle from for 2.99 or you can borrow for free from the Kindle Lending Library if you have an Amazon Prime membership.

However you get a copy, I highly recommend Robert Ford's Samson and Denial.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sex, Death & Honey - by Brian Knight - Here comes trouble!

5 of 5 Stars  (Review Copy)

When I read, I generally read for fun.  It's not that I don't like to learn, but my job in IT requires that I learn new things all the time and when I'm ready to relax with a book, the last thing I want to do is use my brain.  No problem here, Sex, Death & Honey requires no heaving thinking.  It's like candy for the brain and calories be damned.

This is how the hero describes himself... "My name is Butch Quick, and I deal with Paradise Valley’s less savory residents for a living.  I work for my Uncle Higheagle and his various enterprises.   Depending on his current needs I am a nightclub bouncer, a repo man, a bail bond recovery agent, and pretty much any other job too dangerous or dirty for anyone else to do."

In Sex, Death & Honey it's a simple repo job on a 1968 Mustang convertible.  However, we find out soon enough why the series is called The Misadventures of Butch Quick.

The writing here is direct and refreshing, very down to Earth.  There's also a parrot, sorry...a macaw, with a very colorful vocabulary, used effectively in a comic relief role.

"Nothing says I'm doing something illegal, please arrest me quite like a giant Indian running with a birdcage under his arm."

Once again, I found myself outside of the Horror genre with this book, but I do enjoy a good crime novel on occasion, especially John Sandford's Prey series and James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheau novels.  Both excellent series.  Sex, Death & Honey isn't quite at that level, but it sure was a lot of fun.

If you'd like to sample Brian's writing and take a look at the seedy side of Paradise Valley before purchasing Sex, Death & Honey you can now get Big Trouble In Little Boots in both Kindle and ePub formats for FREE by visting the Genius Book Publishing website.

Sex, Death & Honey will be available on August 17, 2012 in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple ITunes, Kobo and wherever books are sold.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Witch Hunts - A Graphic History of the Burning Times - Rocky Wood, Lisa Morton and Greg Chapman - A Historical Perspective

3 of 5 Stars

I actually had high hopes for this project and 3 of 5 Stars means I liked it, but it failed to live up to my expectations.  After all, when you have two Stoker Award winning authors in Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton, as well as, upcoming Australian writer and illustrator, Gereg Chapman, you have to expect the best.

What I saw was really nothing more than an essay of material on witch hunting in the US and Europe coupled with some exceptional line-art from Chapman to bring the text to life.

I realize this is a work of non-fiction, but I don't think that necessarily means it has to be droll.  If you're looking for facts on witch-hunting, they're here, but if you're looking to be entertained you might want to look elsewhere.

Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times is available as a Trade Paperback from McFarland, as well as from

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Zombie Generation - by Drake Vaughn - A different take on the walking dead

4 of 5 Stars

I found myself having a love/hate relationship with The Zombie Generation.  On the one hand, I like my Zombies to be of the George Romero/The Walking Dead variety.  Able to be killed with a shot to the head, the bashing in of the head, or fire, as well as not being very conversant, other than the occasional groan or moan.  These are not those Zombies. 

Actually in this novel, the undead are not referred to as Zombies at all.  In The Zombie Generation they're called "Buggers".  The "Buggers" tend to be obese, with a penchant for alcohol, they sleep in piles, some of the piles as high as buildings.  It takes much more than a shot to the head to kill them, and they can speak in a childlike manner.

The Zombie Generation actually refers to Warner's generation, "Generation instant" as his father puts it.   But the real story here, the one that kept my interest, is Warner.  Warner suffers from "figs" short for figments, making it difficult to tell what is reality and what is purely in Warner's mind.  As a result, his relationships with others in the story is always suspect.  He's also been scratched by one of the "Buggers" and spends a good part of the time trying to find a cure and trying to figure out exactly when and if he will become one of them.

Overall, I had a very good time in Drake Vaughn's post-apocalyptic world and give him high marks for taking me somewhere I didn't expect to go and keeping me intrigued from start to finish.

Available now as both a paperback and for the Kindle from

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bloodstained Oz - Announcement from James A. Moore

When this is released for Kindle in a few days, do yourself a favor and get a copy.  James A. Moore and Christopher Golden did an amazing job with Bloodstained OZ. Originally $35 as a limited edition and then only on the secondary market for well over $100, soon to be available for the price of an e-book. One of my favorite novellas of the last 10 years.

You know what I like about Christopher Golden? Lots, actually, but in this case I like the fact that he saved me a lot of work.

What work?

All the reviews and pieces of reviews for BLOODSTAINED OZ that I was about to have to hunt down. They're all at his website so I just cut and pasted instead. Why?
Because in a day or so the Kindle version of BLOODSTAINED OZ is going to be available and I want you to know WHY this is a cool thing.

So, here, a few reviews:

Bloodstained Oz

A novella by Christopher Golden and James A. Moore

Introduction by Ray Garton

Art by Glenn Chadbourne

Something's gone wrong over the rainbow.…

1933. The winds of the Dust Bowl have reduced what had been the nation's breadbasket to a desert full of broken dreams and desperate prayers. The water is gone, the crops are ruined and, for the people of Hawley, Kansas, there's little left to struggle for except the chance for another day in hell.

There's a storm coming, one that will rip the roofs from farms and scatter the wretched crops far and wide. One little girl will find a treasure trove in a ruined field and converse with a nightmare. One man will find salvation in the dirt and damnation close on its heels. One woman will suffer the sins of her husband and seek hope in the actions of her only child.

Dying faith will be tested, because that isn't rain wetting the crops; it's blood. Those aren't trinkets and toys that are lying hidden in the fields; they're nightmares wrapped in false promises. And while the darkest storms bring the brightest rainbows, that isn't a pot of gold waiting at the far end; it's an emerald that gleams and flickers with its own infernal light.

Join bestselling authors Christopher Golden and James A. Moore as they show you there's no hell like home . . .

"One of the creepiest pieces of fiction I've read in a long, long time. Golden and Moore take delight in moving the Oz characters and creatures from our dreams to our nightmares."
-- Ray Garton, from the Introduction


"Parents beware, don't read this bedtime story to your kids unless you intend to scar them for life! Wonderfully warped and twisted."


"A fast, terrifying ride showcasing the best of Christopher Golden and James A. Moore. I highly recommend this."

-- Horror World

"This story will rape your childhood memories of Oz. A great, creepy story that will stick with you. It's straight-up horror... and much better done than most of the stuff out there."


"One thing is for sure, after you read this book the Baum classic will be the last thing you think of when Oz comes to mind. These two writers have taken Oz and put it in the blender and hit the puree button. I, for one, hope they have left something for a second helping because after this you surely can't go home without wanting to return. Golden and Moore have crafted a delightfully chilling work that makes the reader certain that they're not in Oz anymore."

-- Baryon Online

"A book that turns the stuff of dreams into nightmares, taking something we as a society know dearly, and twisting it on its heels to create one of the best pieces of short horror fiction I've read to date. If you've ever seen the movie The Wizard of Oz, or even read the story, then you know about the world of fantasy that mimics the stuff from your most vivid childhood dreams; there was a young girl whisked away to a land of bright and vibrant colors, a lion that lacked courage, a scarecrow missing a brain, a man made of tin longing for a heart, a wicked witch and her evil band of flying monkeys, and a wise wizard at the crux of this whole cornucopia of imagination. Now think for just a moment, what if two incredibly talented and gifted storytellers got together to shove all that wonder and amazement of Oz out of your head and replace it with a fear and dread like none you've felt before. One of the finest crafted stories you're likely to read. Bloodstained Oz is the perfect homage to one of history's most fantastical stories. Just don't let the kids read it. This sucker is for adults."

-- Insidious Reflections

"I was really surprised at just how far Golden and Moore were willing to push what could've very easily been a comedic setup. Instead of going for laughs, they go straight for the throat and hold nothing whatsoever back from the reader. It's fast and brutal, but somehow still manages to give enough insight into the characters at its core to make you care for their well being. Bloodstained Oz is plain and simple a really good horror story. Highly recommended. 5 out of 5 Mugs o' Blood."

-- The Horror Channel

"Deliciously gruesome."

-- Publishers Weekly

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dead Heart - by Brandon Ford - A twisted tale of death and love

5 of 5 Stars

There are a lot of free books out there.  Some good and some very, very bad.  This one was great.  I wish I could remember who recommended this one.  It had to come recommended, because I don't go looking for free books any more.  Too much I actually want to read and not enough hours in a week.

Carl is an artist when it comes to bringing the dead to life.  Actually, it's his job to make a corpse look it's best for the family and loved ones when they come for the viewing.  His boss, Xavier would call him an expert restorative artist.  He's even due for a raise, he's that good.

Carl, however has found another way to make a quick buck.  Seems there is a certain element that will pay to be with the dead.

Now, with the death of a Hollywood icon, Carl sees the chance at a huge payday, but when the time comes to collect he gets more than he bargains for.

Dead Heart is a twisted tale of sick desires and everlasting love.  Brandon Ford does a very nice job telling a story of necrophilia without bludgeoning us with all the lurid details and taking us to a place unexpected.

I highly recommend this short story and right now, it's available for free at

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nice To Matter - by Lincoln Crisler - The making of a superhero sidekick

4 of 5 Stars

Been hearing a lot of nice things about a recent anthology Corrupts Absolutely? edited by Lincoln Crisler.  Haven't read it yet, but I definitely plan on doing so.

When I saw Lincoln had a free short for the Kindle, I decided to check it out.

It's a quick read about how Natasha Fox, teenage runaway, goes from being a hooker to a genuine superhero sidekick.

The story covers a lot of ground in a short amount of space, but hey, that's why it's called a short story, right?

The superhero is known as Top Cop and he got his powers as the result of a containment failure at an industrial plant.  He can fly short distances, catch a speeding car, take automatic rifle fire to the chest, and even lift a packed city bus over his head.

The story is about how Natasha goes from working the streets for Big Dom to fighting crime as the Black Streak, Top Cop's sidekick, and the unlikely way she winds up with super powers of her own.

Lincoln had originally written this piece for inclusion in Corrupts Absolutely? but decided to not use a work of his own in the anthology.  If this is a sample of what didn't get in, I'm really excited to see what did.

Nice To Matter is FREE through Friday, July 13th, at and like just .99 cents after that.  It's worth it either way.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ghost In the Machine - by Dean Giles Interesting speculative fiction

4 of 5 Stars

A very nice Novelette  from the world of "What if?"

The concept of being a Ghost In the Machine goes back a ways, even before that's what it was called.  I'm thinking, the movie, Tron is an excellent example.

In this story, Dexter Newman, is a working man with a passion for gaming in his off hours.  His game room is pretty sweet and he's taken to a drug called DEEP to enhance his VR (Virtual Reality) experience.

Lately, his job performance has been suffering, ever since his family disappeared.  Eight weeks earlier, his wife and children just took off and Dexter's been beside himself trying to find them ever since.

He's heard of a new method of going deeper into the cyber-world that might allow him to effectively track down his family.  It's called APEX.  Dangerous as the procedure might be, Dexter goes for it and gets much more than he expects.

It's difficult to go more into the story without spoilers, but let me just say, I was pleasantly surprised with where the author took me on this one.  A quick and enjoyable read.

For a way to get Ghost In the Machine or one of Dean's other works for free, just "Like" his Facebook page at  Also available from Smashwords and from

Sunday, July 8, 2012

White Picket Prisons - by Kelli Owen - Horror at it's finest

5 of 5  Stars

Before I get to the review, let me comment on the cover art.  It just jumped out and grabbed me at first look.  Noted artist Alan M. Clark did a wonderful job and after reading the book, I have to say he really captured Kelli's work brilliantly.

Mark Baker is a police detective, he's good at his job, sometimes - too often - defense attorneys are just better at theirs.  It can be so frustrating  to see good police-work go for naught, just because of some legal technicality.  And it's been one of those days.

Once married, now divorced, Mark is currently in a loving relationship with Gina who is carrying his child and at least that part of his life is right.

What turns everything upside down is a letter from his estranged sister, Sarah.  They haven't been in touch for 10 years and Mark reads the letter as a cry for help, even though there is no return address.

Mark's PI friend, Reilly, helps to locate Sarah in the very small village of Valley Mill, Wisconsin.  This is where things get interesting.

White Picket Prisons is, at times, a very disturbing story.  The scene that starts off with "...wet, sucking sound, like a suction cup being pulled from a steamed window..." was one of the most cringe-worthy scenes I've read all year.

I love the little things in a Kelli Owen piece. Simple prose that adds so much to a scene, like, "A loose piece of cellophane from a cigarette pack floated across his path, dancing on the light breeze snaking it's way down the street like it was funneled between the buildings directly at him."

Kelli has the ability to describe those moments many of us have had, so succinctly.  "He tried to slam the door as he went through it, but the hydraulic arm prevented his anger from venting through noise and quietly pushed the door to a close."  Damn, I hate it when that happens.

Expect the unexpected from the beginning right through to the final page.  This one comes highly recommended.

White Picket Prisons is available as a limited edition hardcover from Thunderstorm Books or for your Kindle from

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Skull Flowers - by Jazon Dion Fletcher - Disappointing

2 of 5 Stars

Anyone who's read one of my reviews over the last year will know that I rarely give fewer than 4 or 5 stars.  That's primarily because I tend to know what I'm getting into when I pick a book to read.  It's either an author I've read before or one who comes highly recommended.

This time, I was contacted by the author, Jazon Dion Fletcher, who asked if I would read his book, Skull Flowers, and write a review.  I've done this a few times, often with good results.  This time, not so good.

In his e-mail, describing his work, Jazon told me it is "...a mixture of Contemporary Sci-fi / Fantasy / Horror", elsewhere, I've seen it described as Cyberpunk.  Don't get me wrong, I like the occasional Cyberpunk in my reading life.  I particularly liked Rudy Rucker's Postsingular.  That being said, perhaps I've set the bar too high, Postsingular was just an amazing read.

The writing style is somewhat unusual.  Almost formatted as a movie script or play.  Character names appear in...

with dialog below and then any additional action or other incidental information is
below the dialog in italics

Having read both plays and scripts in the past, this was similar and at the same time, like nothing I've ever read before.

The writing style itself is not what caused me to give the work 2 stars.  I could get around that, but even when dealing with the wild and wacky way this is writen, there are certain rules which should be followed.  Things like "here him out" being used when it should be "hear him out", or using "try's to trap" instead of "tries to trap", and twice I spotted "passed" used when it should have been "past".  Believe me there are many more of these.

In addition, there's being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous which seems a bit silly to me.  "Inside the Occult Bureau's Drone Transport Alexis sits alone handcuffed with Charm Bracelet's."  That is the whole sentence.  And really, "...handcuffed with Charm Bracelet's"?

For those of you who might be curious about the book, here is the Amazon Book Description...

"Skull Flowers is the story of Alexis, her robot 808, and her bumbling friend Officer Whistle Britches as they set off on an adventure to find out who and what was behind the assassination of her father Governor Champagne. Along the way they encounter many villains including Special Agent Scarzensky, Mistress LaReaux, and Dr. Necropolis and explore many strange places including the Death Factory owned by Controlled Substances Inc., the polluted bayou along Fiddlers Creek, and the Pyramid ov tha Priestess ov Mars. In her journey she is aided by her mentor Professor Proxy, her pirate friend Junebug, and his girlfriend Minx. Where the stars will shine eternal, where the sky it never ends, where all will ride eternal, where the moonlight shall attend, amongst the riots and make believe."
I'm a reader, not a writer.  I don't even aspire to be a writer, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's been said that I like to eat.  When I read, I read for pleasue and Skull Flower was not a pleasurable experience for me.  The bottom line is that the work is very amaturish, like something a student might submit in a writing class.  A first draft at best.  And to make my overall experience even more bizarre, Skull Flowers, has more than 40 reviews on Amazon, 35 of them 5 stars and another 4 stars.  This makes me wonder what I'm missing, but I have to be honest and say that I would not recommend this book for anyone. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Corporation - by J. F. Gonzalez - Just enough truth to make this frightening

4 of 5 Stars

Since meeting JF Gonzales, last Summer, at Horror Saturday, at the York Emporium in the quite community of York, PA, I've gone from never having read one of his books to now posting my 4th review of one of his works.

It all started when I asked what he would recommend for someone new to his writing.  His quick recommendation was Primitive which turned out to be one of the best books I read in 2011.  Second, only to Stephen King's 11/22/63.

Since that time,  also read and reviewed Clickers and Clickers II: The Next Wave, the later co-writen with his friend, Brian Keene.  Both excellent escapist fare.  And I plan on reading the 3rd and 4th entries in that series before years' end.

Needless to say, when it was time to make the June selection from the Kindle Lending Library through Amazon Prime, and I saw The Corparation was available, I jumped at the opportunity.

The idea of the "corporate Zombie" has been around quite a while.  Working in the IT Support field, I see this type all the time.  I'll get a call from someone in the company, on vacation, who can't get to their company mail and needs to have problem fixed immediately.  My thought at that point is to forget about the company for 5 minutes and go do something fun with your family.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  It's evident that JF Gonzalez knows the type, as well.  He's just added a few extra elements to take that company-centric mindset and twist it into something more evil or even demonic.

Michelle Dowling is looking to re-enter the work force.  She'd rather work as an artist, but when the opportunity comes for her to work for the Corporate Financial Consultancy Group, at a very good wage and unheard of benefits, she's quick to accept the position.

Michelle's boyfriend, Donald Beck, MD, is involved with a solid medical group in the Lancaster, PA area.  Neither one of them has any idea about how twisted their lives are about to become.

More and more people are burying themselves in their work, forsaking family, friends and themselves.  It's been going on for a very long time, but seems to be more prevalent in recent years, particularly as Corprate Financial takes on more and more clients.

Each story about how companies are coercing workers to do more and more on their own time, bringing them back from Vacations, Sick Days, Retirement and basically keeping them from having a life just made me more and more angry.  I had to keep repeating, "It's only a book, it's only a book".  But it's really just an extension of what's been happening in the corporate world more and more every year.  Do more with less, screw the worker, outsource this to China, outsource that to India.  All so the pockets of the CEO, the Board of Directors and the Investors are lined with cash, this at the expense of the working class.

True, The Corporation is a work of fiction and there is certainly an element of the fantastic in JF Gonzalez's story, but it's the ring of truth that adds a good deal of horror to the tale.  I dare you to read this and not get more than a little angry about the way things are.

While checking on where you might buy The Corporation, I stumbled over the following quote from JF Gonzalez that I thought was interesting...

"Actually, when I wrote that book, I wasn't consulting (I am now). Much of the background of the book was gleaned from working with consultants and high-end corporate types. And yes, they were like a cult. It was kinda creepy. Much of that mind-set influenced the book, including your personal life, which is a big no-no in my book. I'm constantly surprised by how many times people open their personal lives at work and then are shocked when it slaps them upside the head later when it is used against them for something stupid. I have always made it my mission to never really much of anything about my personal life in any kind of day job I have taken. "

If you want a book that's likely to grab you, shake you, maybe even beat you up at bit, then get your copy of  The Corporation from one of my favorite writers, JF Gonzalez.  Available in a variety of formats from numerous resources, including