Thursday, September 26, 2013

Horror Without Victims - An Anthology from DF Lewis

3.5 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

An interesting collection of stories that came from the following call for submissions.

"Horror Stories, Weird Literature, Ghost Stories, Literary Fiction. Each story must either subtly or directly reflect the title of the anthology."

Unfortunately, only a handful of stories seemed to pull that off. It's possible I didn't fully grasp the concept, but the anthology definitely got started on the wrong foot for me as the first story seemed to be more of an essay on reading and how weather or music can compliment the reading of a book.  Since the first story in any anthology should really set the tone, I was not looking forward to the rest of the tales and nearly decided not to read them.

For the most part, the stories were of a more literate nature than what I'm used to, that's not a bad thing, but I kept coming came back to the title of the anthology.  If the title is Horror Without Victims and the protagonist is dead at the end of your story isn't there something wrong with that?

Don't get me wrong, there are some very entertaining pieces here.  Take "Clouds" for example.  The clouds are erasing buildings and soon much more.  The tale is quite original, it's entertaining, there is certainly an element of horror, but again, there are victims.

If you've ever tried to come up with a horror story without a victim, it's a lot tougher than you might think.  I applaud the authors in this collection who succeeded where others failed. Alistair Rennie was one such writer who contributed, "The Carpet Seller's Recommendation" to the anthology.  You get plenty of horror and in the end, there is no real victim.  Another story that delivers on the anthology's theme is, "The Yellow See-Through Baby," by Michael Sidman.  A ghost story told by a toddler going through potty training.  A charming horror tale that works on many levels.

To sum things up.  I enjoyed more stories than I didn't, but I was bothered by what I saw as a lack of faithfulness to the theme of the anthology in many of the tales.

Horror Without Victims is available as a paperback from or directly from the printer

If you enjoy literary horror there is a lot to like in this book, just don't be surprised if you find a few victims along the way.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Montrosities - by Jeremy C. Shipp - 10 shorts in the bizarro fiction sub-genre

4 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

Having read some some shorts from Jeremy C. Shipp in the past, when I saw he was looking for reviewers for his newest book of short fiction, I jumped at the chance.

When you're reading one of his stories there's no telling where your going to end up.  You just know it's going to be strange...bizarre really.  Combine that with a stream of consciousness style of writing and there's really no way of knowing what's around the next corner.

Here, Jeremy has collected ten twisted tales for our enjoyment. Each one more demented than the last.  Not all of them hit the mark for me, but enough do to make Monstrosities worth your time.

I particularly liked, "The Little Glass Soul," the story of Ash, her stepmother and stepsisters. A rather perverse retelling of the children's classic "Cinderella," and both "Clown Hands" and "Googly" were both out and out creepy.

Another good entry from this collection is "Cold."  From that story... "Here's Shark, pointing his 22-caliber phone gun at the dead-eyed department store mannequin, and here I am, trapped in a chair made of ice, held down with rope that isn't there."

I would say, if Bizzarro Fiction is your passion, Jerremy C. Shipp is your man.  If you're not sure if it's your thing and feeling adventurous, take a chance on Monstrosities.  If your still not sure this is up your alley read a few of the author's shorts for free at the author's website If this definitely isn't for you, then steer clear.  Thus, the 4 of 5 stars.  Recommended for mature readers.

Monstrosities is available now for the Kindle at

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jack & Jill - by Kealan Patrick Burke - A preview of his new novella coming in December of 2013

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

I've just finished reading an advance copy of a new novella to be released at the end of 2013.  If you're a fan of Kealan Patrick Burke or of Cemetery Dance Publishers you may have already ordered the limited edition, signed, hard cover of this one.  If you missed that window, don't despair, Jack & Jill will also be available as an e-book, probably in December.

The story starts with a dream, a nightmare really.  Gillian is a wife and mother of two.  She and her brother John were victims growing up.  Her brother is long gone and all of those events weigh heavy on her mind, even after all these years.  When they were young, they would often spend time rolling down a hill together.  "Though my brother's name is John, and mine is Gillian, between us we are Jack and Jill.  It is a fantasy, an escape, a secret identity no one can touch, further strengthened by this weekly ritual."

Jillian's two children are about the same ages as she and her brother John were in those days.  Sam is nine and Jenny is fourteen.  Maybe that's contributing to the dreams...nightmares.

For the most part, the horror in Jack & Jill is mental stuff as we watch Gillian's slow descent into madness or is that really the case, perhaps what Gillian perceive's is reality.  Either way, Burke does an excellent job of walking the fine line between the two, leaving much to the reader's imagination and personal bias.

The author has posted the first chapter of Jack & Jill at his website,, and has graciously allowed me to re-post that chapter here. Enjoy.


A sky-spittle speck of rain hits my cheek. My heartbeat thunders in my ears, competing with the hollow sound of my own breath bellowing in and out of my lungs.

I tell myself this is why I can’t hear John.

Gradually, I roll over on my side. I look at the school. The windows are black, neither reflecting the world nor showing what might exist within. I feel a vague tightening in my gut at the thought that soon it will consume us. To the right, I note that the man is gone. Further right, John is sprawled on his back, arms splayed out as he too stares up at the sky.

Unsteadily, I get to my feet, black sparks pulsing in my vision. I fear I might be sick, but close my eyes and allow the last of the disorientation to pass.

“You win,” I call to John, because even though I’m not sure which one of us reached the bottom first, it is safe to assume it wasn’t me. Besides, there is no competition here. There never is. I love John more than anything else in the world. Alone, the events we’ve been forced to endure would have destroyed us. Together, we can find solace in a world that seems to shun it.

There is blood on the grass.

I stop walking as more rain pats my face, not yet able to fully register the long thin shadow that edges its way into my periphery as the man I thought was gone reappears.

The blood, an odd color, more like bad movie blood than anything I have seen in real life, forms a thick wide ragged carpet leading from halfway down the hill to where John lays unmoving three feet away.

The man waits, in no hurry for me to discover his handiwork, and I am in no hurry to look upon him. I know who he is.


I step closer to my brother.

Ferocious agony locks my chest and I drop to my knees in grief. I’ve been here before, though the horror never gets old. I know all too well the pattern of this malignant dream and my throat closes, trapping a scream. My breath catches. I try to close my eyes, and find that I can’t.

The stump of John’s neck paints the grass crimson.

My heart crashes against my ribs. Bile fills my mouth.

Fear and terror turn to rage, as I finally look to my right, to the thing awaiting my attention. I do all of this because it has been rehearsed, practiced a thousand times over twenty-odd years of dreams.

The man is tall and thin, and though a clear plastic bag has been wrapped tightly around his badly decomposed head, I recognize his face.

It is my father, and his mouth is wide open, filled with maggots that tumble free only to be trapped again in the folds of the bag. They move languidly against the plastic.

He is wearing a funeral suit stained with dirt. His white shirt and bare feet are spotted with my brother’s blood.

I weep and bring my hands up to cover my eyes, but they too are made of plastic and hide nothing. Certainly not the gruesome gleeful bobbing of my father’s suffocated head, nor the senseless fact that he has rusted clothes hangers for hands. Like a fish, John’s head has been hooked through the roof of the mouth on one of them. His handsome little face now looks like a poor imitation, absent in death of everything that made it beautiful in life.

Finally the scream escapes, a train of utter anguish that plunges free into the cold air. It is mimicked by a peal of thunder as the sky splits and the rain falls in sheets that have more weight than is natural. I am soaked in an instant. Rising from my knees feels like I am struggling to stand underwater.

The plastic bag turns a foggy gray as hurried, excited breath obscures my father’s face. Behind and above him, darkness rushes across the gravestones, creeping down the hill like spilled oil.

He raises the unburdened clothes hanger to show it to me and I hear his voice inside my head. Such a good girl. Do you remember how it felt to have it inside you? Twisting? Turning? It takes guts to know, and I know your guts. Such a good girl.

* * *

If you'd like to read more from Kealan Patrick Burke.  I can highly recommend his novel, Kin, the highly successful Timothy Quinn series and my personal favorite, Currency of Souls.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Hungry 4: Rise of the Triad - by Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon - A strong entry in the Penny Miller saga

5 Stars    Review Copy

You would think after three other entries in this series it might start to get a bit tedious.  Not so at all.  The writers continue to breath life into the Penny Miller saga, this time taking the action to the California coastline where the threat of zombies is little more than the occasional rumor.

At the outset, it's just Penny Miller, the former Sheriff of Flat Rock, Nevada and her boyfriend, Scratch trying to keep a low profile.  If you've read any of the previous books in the series, you already know that can't last long.

I was excited to get my hands on The Hungry 4: Rise of the Triad.  It was akin to being on a crash diet for six months and stumbling onto a bag of Halloween candy left unattended.  It might not be good for you, but it sure tastes sweet.

I love how the story gets right to the action, "The woman moved like a heat-seeking missile.  She closed the gap, lifted her bloody hands, reached out, and grabbed Carlos by the sides of his head.  She leaned closer in, as if to kiss him on the lips.  Alex felt queasy.  It was on."  It certainly was.

There were several plot twists that allowed us to get away from the incessant onslaught of zombies, oh there are still plenty of zombies, just that it's not ALL zombies, ALL the time, which I found refreshing.   Plus, there are characters and places that I thought were gone forever, but are back in book 4 and the explanations are quite acceptable.

One thing I found missing in book three was the snarky dialog from Penny Miller.  Well, it's back.  Stuff like, "We have to be careful as a virgin with a vibrator."  And, "They were both as dead as Lindsay Lohan's acting acting career."  As well as many not suitable for this review.  Did I mention The Hungry 4: Rise of the Triad is recommended for a mature audience?

The official release date is Friday, September 20th, but I see it available now as a paperback and for the Kindle at  It's not 100% required that you read the first three books in the series to enjoy The Hungry 4: Rise of the Triad, but you're missing out of some great zombie fun, if you don't.

I absolutely give my highest recommendation to this one.  Will there be a book 5?  I think the authors already have the story idea, it all depends on if the interest in the series continues to grow and I don't see why not. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Revenant Road - by Michael Boatman - Monster hunting

4 of 5 Stars

Dark Fuse Publishers knows how to present a book.  What a great cover for this first novel from Michael Boatman, yeah, that Michael Boatman.  The same man who played Carter Heywood for the entire run of the Spin City TV series. No, he hasn't given up acting, he's still busy as an actor, but he's been writing Dark Fiction for a number of years and is now a published novelist.

Revenant Road is a strong debut, the story of a reluctant monster hunter and his introduction into life on the road.  In the protagonist's own words, "My name is Obadiah Grudge...This is a chronicle no one will ever believe...I'm rich, black, thirty-eight years old...Let me tell you about a demon I once met."

At the outset the story bounces around a bit, but once the various pieces of the overall tale have been established, Boatman does a good job of weaving the pieces together into a cohesive work filled with likable characters who play their parts well.  Obadiah's mother, Lenore, for one, "she can decapitate a man at twenty paces with one slash of her tongue" and Neville Kowalski, for another.

Obadiah learns of Neville and his father's partnership after his father's funeral.  What he learns changes the direction of his life and as much as he protests draws him into the family business.

There are plenty of creatures, blood and some snarky dialog, "'Shouldn't we call the police?' I whispered.  'And tell 'em what?'  Kowalski said.  'That an ancient Chinese forest spirit that walks like a man and devours human beings only to vanish mysteriously, leaving behind a skunklike stench and a haunting scream is stalking an abandoned Lutheran church in Northwest Seattle?'"

Although bumpy at times, Revenant Road is worth the trip, particularly if you love a good monster story.

For more on titles from Dark Fuse you can visit them online at  Revenant Road is available now, in various formats, from   BTW, if you are a member of Amazon Prime, this is one you can borrow for FREE through the Kindle Lending Library.

Another read I can definitely recommend.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Translators - by Gord Rollo - Starts with the end of the world and then tells us the story of how we got there

5 of 5 Stars    Beta copy

The following synopsis, found on the opening pages of The Translators, sets the stage better than I ever could.  "Most people think John is crazy.  He's not.  The doctors think he's schizophrenic.  He's not.  The government thinks he might be humanity's last flicker of hope. but unfortunately he's not that either.  What he is is something no one - including himself - could ever have imagined..."

I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Gord Rollo's new novel from publisher Enemy One and while I expected it to be good, I never thought it would be on par with a new thrill ride at some world class theme park.  Wow!  What a ride.

The story starts 17 hours before the end of the world and then rewinds a bit over 2 years to show us how we got there.

What we have here is a story of biblical proportion that takes us around the world, but keeps coming back to one man, John Taylor.  A rather milquetoast individual, living with his fiance' Shelly and her son Robbie. John hears voices in his head, voices which, among other things, can instantly translate any language he hears, even though John has never studied any foreign language.

The Translators is easily the most original story I have read this year.  To return to the thrill ride analogy, the story builds slowly, like the long climb to the top of an extremely tall wooden coaster and then you plummet over the edge going faster than you thought possible careening around hairpin turns and climbing hack up to the top to do it all over again.  What a rush!

The journey takes us to Area 51 in Nevada, Roswell in New Mexico, Loch Ness in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru and to the ends of the Earth, but trust me, it's not what you think.  Every time I wanted to take a break, I'd get to the end of a chapter only to plow ahead, eager to see where the author would take me next.  I would love to see this one make it to the big screen someday.

One of my favorite books of 2013 will be released on September 20th and if you're up for a great story and plenty of action, I promise The Translators will not disappoint.

Highly recommended.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Demon's Wife - by Rick Hautala - A Novel of the Supernatural and Attempted Redemption

4 of 5 Stars    Review Copy

On March 31st, 2012 writer Rick Hautala picked up a Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Acheivement, no one could possibly know that just shy of a year later Rick would be gone, taken from his family and the horror writing community at large by a heart attack in March of this year.

Prior to his passing, JournalStone Publications announced a two book deal with Rick and The Demon's Wife is the first of those two books.

Clair McMullen spends her days cooped up in a small office "her only lifelines to the 'real world' were cruising Facebook and listening to WXPN, a radio station from Philly that she streamed over the computer."  I loved that Clair listened to what is likely the best listener supported music station in the country that's right here in Philly.  How a New England native like Rick came to know about WXPN is anyone's guess.

I was immediately drawn to the concept behind The Demon's Wife and that was solidified by Rick's smooth writing style.  When Clair meets Samael she has no idea he's a demon.  The reader, however, is in on the fact that what Claire believes to be happening on the night she meets Samael is not what really happened, but we can't do much about that, other than let Claire figure things out for herself and by then, she and Samael are both hopelessly and helplessly in love.

Not everyone in Samael's world is happy about what is happening to their old co-worker, and that leads to plenty of conflict for the story.  

At times charming and often horrifying, The Demon's Wife  is a thoroughly enjoyable read that got better and better, to where I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.  Although there is no Fairy Tale ending for our happy couple, their love is strong and I wish them the best.

The official release date for The Demon's Wife is September 13, 2013, but it looks to be available now in a variety of formats from and

I can definitely recommend you add this one to your To Be Read list.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Smog/Baggage of Eternal Night - by Lisa Morton/Eric L. Guignard - JournalStone's DoubleDown Series, Book II

4.5 Stars    Review Copy

JournalStone Books second release in their Double Down series is another winner. This is where JournalStone puts together a single volume featuring two novellas, one from an established writer and another from a relatively new voice in horror.  Three months ago they released Book 1, Only The Thunder Knows & East End Girls, from Gord Rollo and Rene Mason.  Both stories about horrors in Great Britain's past and both well received.

This time the action takes place in the good old USA in the early to mid 1960s.  Up first is Smog from Bram Stoker award winning author Lisa Morton.  The setting is a suburb of Los Angeles called San Diablo.  The opening paragraph is perfect, "I was twelve years old in 1965.  It was a year when the world was changing: Walter Cronkite reported on civil rights every night; we were sending troops to a country called Vietnam; men were walking in space, and the Rolling Stones were making rock and roll music sound nasty.  Computers filled up entire buildings at NASA; the internet was decades away; our biggest war was cold and telephones were still things that were wired into walls."

Michaela Jo Donohue, who goes by Joey, is the one telling the story.  I loved the way Lisa Morton sets the stage by capturing the times so clearly and then throws in an unexpected event to combine with the area's Smog and what started out so sweet and innocent begins a downward spiral into insanity happening all around.

Smog is a lot of fun, but ends a bit too soon.  I would have loved it to have been longer, but the writer does do a nice job of tying up the loose ends in the epilogue while still leaving plenty to the imagination.

The second story is from Eric J. Guignard.  And 
Baggage of Eternal Night is his debut work of long fiction.  A fascinating, original tale set in Detroit in the early 1960s.  Charlie Stewart tells the story of what happened to his pal Joey Third, real name Joey Thurston, so called because he was the Third Joey gambling one night at Little Louie's and the name just stuck, after picking up an odd leather suitcase at a baggage auction.

Guignard shows excellent story-telling skills and the mood is like a really good episode of The Twilight Zone.  In a short amount of time, the writer manages to create genuine characters that I really cared about, flaws and all, and takes us on an improbable journey into the world of Rasputin, Russia's Mad Monk.  Baggage of the Eternal Night is really worth your time.

The official release date for Smog/Baggage of Eternal Night is September 6, 2013, but I believe it's available now in a variety of formats From the JournalStone website and

This is one I can strongly recommend.  I'm already looking forward to JournalStone's DoubleDown Series, Book III.