Thursday, December 30, 2010


By Patrick Lee
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, 2010

Back in the 1970s, during the activation of the Very Large Ion Collider at Wind Creek, Wyoming, an accident resulted in the creation of a wormhole, officially named “The Breach.” Periodically, assorted items of alien technology — known as “entities” —would appear. An autonomous organization known as Tangent was created to research, catalog, and control the entities that come through. Paige Campbell, one of Tangent’s leading scientists, is shown a very near-future in which mankind appears to have been annihilated by an entity. Understandably alarmed, Paige rushed off to take this information to the President of the United States. She is no sooner done when an unidentified paramilitary force attacks the motorcade in which she’s traveling, kills her companions, and abducts her. A former member of Tangent, Travis Chase, and Paige’s assistant, Bethany, are enlisted to rescue Paige. They manage to track her to a secret installation in Washington, DC, and manage to free her. However, the mysterious and decidedly hostile group now relentlessly pursues them, even as they attempt to unravel the hellish fate waiting for them and the rest of the world.

Ghost Country is Patrick Lee’s follow-up to his first novel, The Breach, and utilizes characters and concepts he introduced and developed in his earlier book. Regardless, Ghost Country stands alone well enough. Like The Breach, Ghost Country is more a hard-boiled thriller than a science-fiction or horror story, although the alien technology from the other side of the Breach certainly plays a major part in the unfolding of events. Indeed, during my reading of the novel, I found it moving in a very different direction from what I expected, based on the description of the novel and its first few chapters. Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily — the story moves at a clip, and the characters are mostly engaging, particularly Travis Chase, the hardened and occasionally not-quite-so moral protagonist. On the other hand, the back story of the Breach itself, and the entities it unleashes, must be taken on faith, as — by all indications — Lee’s first novel offers no more insight into the actual phenomenon than this one does. I confess to some disappointment at the downplaying of such a potentially fascinating aspect of the overall concept. Regardless, at the heart of the story is the dire need for Travis, Paige, and Bethany to discover the truth, in a hurry, and set things right, if humanly possible. That much the author manufactures with great aplomb.

In the end, having become acclimated to the direction the novel ends up taking, the revelations about the organization against which the protagonists are pitted, as well as the final unfolding of events, come as no great surprise. However, the novel is a fast, solid, and entertaining read; I’ll give it 3.5 out of 5.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Stephen Mark Rainey

Stephen Mark Rainey is the author of the novels Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie, HarperCollins, 1999), Balak (Wildside Books, 2000), The Lebo Coven (Thomson Gale/Five Star Books, 2004), The Nightmare Frontier (Sarob Press, 2006, and in e-book format by Crossroads Press, 2010), and Blue Devil Island (Thomson Gale/Five Star Books, 2007); three short story collections; and over 80 published works of short fiction. Stephen lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with a passle of Damned housecats, and over the past year have become an avid Damned geocacher. For updates on what's happening currently, visit The Blog Where Horror Dwells and/or the News page.


by Joe McKinney
Published by Pinnacle Books

Apocalypse of the Dead is killer. This is an epic tale of human survival in the zombies-are-everywhere-and-I-need-a-freaking-gun tradition. Faced with countless undead, the book's four major storylines follow the survivors of a zombie plague. As the stories interweave, they create a terrifying tapestry of mayhem, weaponry, and gore. When a bite or a scratch can make a friend instantly turn into a drooling, clawing, and hungry zombie, it's a dangerous world indeed.

The story begins two years after the events in McKinney's Dead City. Houston has been walled off with its borders enforced by the Gulf Region Quarantine Authority. Trapped within are countless Infected, along with a handful of non-infected humans struggling to stay alive in a world that has written them off as collateral damage. What they want most is to escape. And escape, they do... accidently taking the undead filovirus with them.

Uncontrolled and unstoppable, the virus spreads around the world and society collapses. The survivors are left to fend for themselves. Needless to say, most are unprepared for such an event. A blind woman, an escaped convict, Florida retirees, a preacher and his flock, a police sharpshooter, a motorcycle gang, and two guys with hookers and an RV, all find themselves living moment-to-moment, fighting for their lives. To make matters worse, not all of the survivors are nice people, and some will do anything to prevail. Anything.

As the stories converge, the survivors are faced with the question of whether it's possible to re-form society in a zombified world. The survivors are embattled and the undead aren't going away anytime soon. To make matters worse, to survive in this new world, one might have to accept the fact that the strong rule, and the weak serve.

McKinney has created his best work to date and it’s a must-read. Reminiscent of The Stand, (not a comparison to be taken lightly), this book starts with a bang and never slows down. The characters come alive (even if only for a little while) and among the twists and turns there are more than a few surprises. Apocalypse of the Dead goes beyond the traditional bash-them-in-the-head-with-a-baseball-bat storyline and offers a few philosophical head-scratchers as well. Not to say that there's not a sufficient supply of rotting flesh, oozing brains, bullets, and leaking body fluids. Yum.

Read this book, if you can. If not, watch out for the headshot that puts you out of your misery.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by R.B.Payne

R. B. Payne is a dark fiction writer. His stories have appeared in Doorways, Dark Discoveries, Necrotic Tissue, and the recent Stoker-nominated Midnight Walk anthology. He is insanely enthusiastic about writing book reviews for Shroud magazine. But rather than continuing to blurb himself by pretending that someone else wrote this bio, he would prefer you seek out his stories and read them late at night. For the record, he lives in Los Angeles and lurks at He would love to hear from you as long as it’s not a beating heart delivered in a cardboard box.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Edited by Bill Moran
Published by PARSEC Ink

Fourth in the Triangulation anthology series, End of the Rainbow provides a diverse selection of fantasy literature. The book boasts quality authors throughout, and the tales range from retellings of cultural myths to science fiction. All of them enjoy vivid imagery and a sense of wonder, appropriate to the title.

David Sklar starts the book strong with “The Rainbow Vendor” as a man struggles to sell his supply of the optical phenomena to an unreceptive town. “The House at the End of the Rainbow” and its teleporting structure imprison an old woman faced with a young stowaway. Meanwhile, Amanda C. Davis utilizes the rainbow as a symbol of wish-fulfillment to chilling effect in “David is Six.”

Tinatsu Wallace’s “A Womb of my Own” follows with a harrowing character study (probably the best in the book), as a gay man, impregnated through surgery, grapples with an identity crisis. Cate Gardner’s trademark whimsy lightens the mood in the first pages of “The Meaning of Yellow” before exploring far deeper themes in a world robbed of color.

Eugie Foster provides his spin on a Chinese creation myth in “A Patch of Jewels in the Sky,” even as Aaron Polson allows those populating the town in “The World in Rubber, Soft and Malleable” to disappear through strange doors in their basements. Cat Rambo’s, “In Order to Conserve” closes the collection proper via a world where a scarcity of color fuels government sponsored fear and deprivation.

After reading such an impressive collection of stories, Editor Bill Moran’s afterword comes off as particularly bittersweet. Each Triangulation is clearly a labor of love, and heavy labor at that. One can only appreciate the care expressed not only for the anthology, but quality fiction as a whole, when too much of today’s audience seems to have forgotten how to appreciate it.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Patrick Rutigliano

Patrick Rutigliano resides in Indiana with his wife, Hannah, and a very peculiar cat he found on his doorstep. He began his professional writing career in 2007 with a sale to Permuted Press. Since then, his work has appeared in History Is Dead, Monstrous, and Shroud Magazine. A full bibliography of his work is available at , although he advises the reader to take any of his rambling outbursts with a grain of salt.


by Stephen King

Pre-release anticipation of King’s latest book, a collection of four novellas, included comparison to similar groupings of his long fiction, Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight. Long-time King fans can’t be faulted for their hopefulness, either. Not only does King nail the novella more often than not, but of the eight stories in the aforementioned books, five were made into movies or television miniseries; some of the better adaptations of his work, depending on whom you ask.

Full Dark, No Stars comes out of the gate strong with ‘1922.’ It is about a farmer who confesses to the murder of his wife in that titular year. There’s more than a touch of the supernatural in the story, but it doesn’t overpower the simple and reality-based ways in which the men’s lives fall apart in the years following their crime. It’s an altogether satisfying tale in the classic King style. ‘Big Driver,’ the second story, is about a mystery writer who does a bit of sleuthing (and leaves behind quite a mystery herself) after being raped and left for dead on the way home from a public appearance. Like ‘1922,’ ‘Big Driver’ could readily be adapted for television, though the latter might be more comfortable on Lifetime.

'Fair Extension’ is the shortest and easily most-disposable story in the book. Calling it a story is a technicality even, since it’s really only a description of the bad things that happens to one man’s family after another throws him under the bus in a deal with the Devil. The collection finishes with ‘A Good Marriage,’ about a woman who discovers that her husband has spent the last thirty years of their marriage as a particularly vicious serial killer. The ending was fairly predictable (there’s only so many credible ways for a story like this to end) but half the fun is getting there, as they say, and this one was true to pattern. It probably wouldn’t make a good movie, as it’s comprised heavily of internal dialogue, but it’s a good read that, in concert with the first two stories, makes up for the third.

Overall, Full Dark, No Stars should satisfy most King fans. The writing style is vintage King, asymmetrical to either his novel Under the Dome or his short fiction Just After Sunset, reminding us why he is the Master.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Lincoln Crisler.

Lincoln Crisler is a United States Army combat veteran and non-commissioned officer and the author of two collections of dark stories, Magick & Misery (2009, Black Bed Sheet) and Despairs & Delights (2008, Arctic Wolf). He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife and two of his three children. You can visit his website at


by Louise Bohmer
Publisher, Library Of Horror Press, September 2009

The Black Act is a suspenseful, heart-felt, dark-fantasy tale based on a unique mythos as to the creation of our world. Written in a well-executed, non-linear fashion, Bohmer’s evocative imagination whisks us away to an old world--- alien, yet familiar.

Ever since the death of their Guild Mother, Anna and Claire’s world has been tough. Anna—a second level initiate into the ways of magic—feels her sister has changed. When Anna starts having strange and vivid dreams concerning the beginning of the world—even the inner-thoughts of those who dwelled within it—she approaches her scribe teacher, Rosalind for advice.

Rosalind instructs Anna to scribe what she has dreamed. It is to be part of The Record. Anna, only a second level initiate questions the motives. She feels she is not ready. But she has no choice. For some reason, Anna is watching the forging of the clans that comprise of the Dalthwein lands and the story must be told.

Her sister Claire spends more and more time with her secret lover, Luthien, from the south woods. Anna can’t take the pain of being put aside by her sister and her secrets any longer. She implores her for answers. Claire appraises her sister’s face to see if she is ready for the truth… the last words their mother spoke before she died.

Once the truth is spoken, Anna’s life is turned upside down with a horrible realization that could re-write history in no one’s favor. Anna’s dreams continue, and when they start contradicting the status-quo of history, she has no choice but to seek help from her Scribe teacher; only to find the harsh truths told by her sister, and the dreams are one in the same.

The Black Act is epic in scope. Bohmer digs deep and immerses us into a world that is fantastical, yet tangible. The use of allegory in history is done very well and is put to good use. The people we come to know along the way are just as human as we are. What truly makes this a gem—aside from creating an entirely believable and fantastical world, unique and rich—is Bohmer’s powerful voice and delivery. All of this coalesces into a tale that haunts you long after finishing it. The Black Act heralds the presence of a formidable story-teller.

Buy it here.

Find out more about Louise Bohmer at:

Review by, Ben Eads


By Joe Schreiber
Published by Titan Books 2010

Confession time. I really like the TV show SUPERNATURAL. Yeah I know, it’s weird and something I don’t admit to everyone. I mean, it’s on the WB, a television network I have no other use for. It stars two hunky guys and only has the occasional hot chick as a costar so there’s no real eye candy in it for me. Lastly, despite its title and premise, I never found it scary. Nope, not once. That said, I do think it’s very well written, with two great characters as the monster hunting Winchester brothers, and while not particularly frightening, it is often funny as hell. I am a diehard horror-head but things that make me giggle are always greatly appreciated.

I was a bit dubious when I got the latest SUPERNATURAL novel for review. I was also more than a bit curious. So with as much of an open mind as I could muster, I dove into THE UNHOLY CAUSE.

This book finds the troubled brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester along with their renegade angle pal, Castiel, down south Georgia way looking into murder and mayhem at a Civil War reenactment. Sadly curmudgeonly father figure Bobby doesn’t have a big part in this story. What starts off looking like not all that difficult of a case involving murder and suicide, soon turns out to be a battle with an ancient evil. How ancient? Like Jesus Christ ancient.

THE UNHOLY CAUSE replicates the essence and feel of the TV series wonderfully. Author Joe Schreiber has penned a novel that reads like a standalone episode of the show. The characters are very well fleshed out and treated with respect for their six years of television history. The book’s plot is suitably mysterious, the mythology it plays with is handled well, and most importantly for me, there’s plenty of snarky, sarcastic humor courtesy of the Winchester boys. Those silly bits are the main reason why I keep tuning into the show week after week. I was happy to see them done right in this novel.

After I finished this novel I learned that there are many other SUPERNATURAL books out there. I can’t speak for any of those, but if they’re anything like this book, I’ll have to give them a read. Look, THE UNHOLY CAUSE is a TV tie-in novel. If you are looking for great literature, you might be disappointed with this. Additionally, if you’ve never seen the TV show, then this one might leave you going “hmmm” as some of the backstory assumes the reader has watched at least some of the series before. But if you are a casual watcher and want a fun, fast, and entertaining read, then give this book a try. If you are a fan of SUPERNATURAL then consider this a must have.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Brain M. Sammons

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Empathy Effect

by Bob Lock

If you've ever felt sorry on behalf of someone else, multiply it by ten and you’ll have an idea of what Cooper Jones goes through in an ordinary day. In The Empathy Effect, put out by Screaming Dreams Publishing and written by Bob Lock, the reader gets a chance to acquaint themselves with Cooper's "gift" in intimate fashion -- the story opens with Cooper bound to a pier and the sea water climbing up to his neck.

From here on in, there's a sense of urgency as Cooper relates the story and all the moments leading up to how he came to find himself in his precarious situation. Set in Wales, Lock's home country, the setting forms the background, immersed in local flavor and characters without alienating readers from across the pond. The narrative is a cross between crime fiction and a comedy of errors, infused with British humor.

From the get go, one would think that having the gift of empathy to the degree that Cooper Jones does would allow him to anticipate disaster before it happens and give him a leg up in life, but his "gift" consistently has the opposite effect -- failing to save him from drunken excess, unable to realize the cute, gutsy officer right in front of him is harboring a crush on our hero, and usually walking into circumstances that backfire with hilarious results.

As a traffic warden who writes out tickets for parking violations, his duties intertwine with a violent incident. A sudden rush of feelings convinces him the van that raced past him is linked to a kidnapping. He attempts to unravel the crime-mystery with the help of his officer friend Janet but soon they become targets themselves.

Bob Lock does an excellent job of describing the kind of physical comedy whose satisfaction usually hinges on the visual; he pulls it off well, bringing to mind the hi-jinks in the movie Snatch, or, in the case of two bumbling police who attempt to apprehend Cooper and fail with gusto, the Three Stooges. The Empathy Effect is a quick and enjoyable read, especially for those who like their crime fiction tempered with humor.

You can listen to the first few chapters narrated by Mr. Lock himself here.

Purchase the book here.

Reviewed by:
Martin Rose lives in New Jersey, where he writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, holds a degree in graphic design, and enjoys blurring the line between art and life. More details are available at


Edited by John Prescott

How come no one ever had this idea before? Or at the very least, taking it to this level? I mean I love monsters, you love monsters, and everyone who is remotely likes the horror genre loves monsters. So three cheers to John Prescott for coming up with the idea and compiling 26 short stories, each based off of a different creature and each corresponding to a letter in the alphabet. Instead of an anthology focused on one of the big bad beasties that goes bump in the night, like we usually get, we have a complete smorgasbord of slithery things, many of which you never see stories about. So this book is a cracking idea, but is it any good?

Well with 26 very short stories, the shortest being just four pages and the longest at fourteen, coving such a wide range of monsters, there are going to be hits and misses. The good news is when the story works, they are great. When they don’t, they don’t miss the mark by far. Out of the tales, only two of them did I really not care for. That’s a pretty good batting average.

I wasn’t thrilled about the story titles being only letters of the alphabet. I guess that might have been done to keep the identity of the monster appearing in the story a secret, but a clever title could accomplished the same thing and would have been more memorable.

I loved liked the number of obscure and off the wall creatures collected here. I mean, do you even know what a XyX, Kul, or a Fatback No Neck is? No, I didn’t think so. Also, I loved the usual monster that came to mind when thinking of a letter of the alphabet is often not the one used. For example; Z doesn’t stand for zombie, there are no werewolves or witches found under W, and while I was sure I would be reading about ghouls under the letter G, I was quite happily surprised at what was there instead. Unfortunately, V did stand for vampires and it wasn’t bad, but still…yawn.

The highlights for me were Adrian Chamberlin’s “W” set around the horrors of World War 2 and about things more deadly than Nazis. Simon Kurt Unsworth’s very weird story where the “N” stands for the horrible, dreaded, unimaginable evil…noodles! The “L” of Aaron J French’s story is about the living dead. I tell you that without ruining this great shocker. Even editor John Prescott pulls double duty by contributing his own demonic story, “D”.

There are plenty of other hidden gems to be discovered here. Form the traditionally monstrous yet usually overlooked beasts like Incubi, the Jabberwocky, and the horsemen of the apocalypse, to the completely unexpected such as the bible’s Goliath, elephants, and the scariest things of all; parents. If you are looking for a who’s who of horrors with stories that range from graphically violent, to chillingly moody, to darkly humorous, then M IS FOR MONSTERS is the book for you.

Buy it here: M is for Monster

Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Sunday, December 26, 2010

PELLUCID LUNACY An Anthology of Psychological Horror

Edited by Michael Bailey
Published by: Written Backward

Though Pellucid Lunacy is a slim volume, it nevertheless packs a wallop! This gem of a book is a collection of 20 short stories--and the operative word here is “short.” They average less than ten pages, making this collection perfect when a little time is all you have. I actually read one of them at a stop light--of course, where I live, you could probably read War and Peace before the light changed. But I digress.

There is something for every taste in this book. The stories run the gamut from speculative horror to the more traditional to mind-melting guilt. I read the entire book in a couple of hours and was quite sorry when I turned the final page.

All the stories were very well written, but I found a few that stayed with me. They were:

“I Wanted Black” by Michael Bailey, the editor of this tome. The story is an exploration into guilt, death and the horrific consequences of being unable to let go. Michael Bailey is someone to keep an eye on. He will find his way to the top of the genre in short order, and it’s a place he deserves.

“Sometimes They Hunt” by Chris Hertz, is a chillingly crafted story of revenge, decades-planned and completely mad. It haunts me still, and it will haunt you, too.

Having worked in retail many years ago, I found myself sympathizing with the poor store clerk in Dan Piorkowski’s “Sweaters” and I will never be able to look at that garment the same way again.

A.J. French’s “Creature” is another one that still makes me shiver--a confession to a dying mother that made me believe that she’d have rested much better not knowing--and that I would have, too.

The raison d’etre for this collection seems to be: Think you know someone? Better think again.

Good advice.

If you’re a horror fan, I highly recommend you give yourself a great gift this holiday season and pick up a copy of Pellucid Lunacy and under your favorite quilt, in front of a roaring fireplace with your beverage of choice, shiver the night away.

Visit: and buy it now.

Carson Buckingham is a writer living in the great American Southwest and she reviews horror/paranormal suspense novels.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The White Faced Bear

by R. Scott McCoy
Publisher Belfire Press, 2010

As often as I deal with his work as a publisher, via Stygian Press and Necrotic Tissue magazine, it is sometimes easy to forget that R. Scott McCoy is a writer in his own right. So here I am, looking down the barrel of his second novel and asking the only question that matters: does this bear bite?

Jeff Bennett and Merrick Polasky don't have much in common, living states and total existences away from each other, but there is that one thing. Nope, I'm not talking about the omnipresent grief and guilt due to the loss of their fathers. There is that, but the ancient, ageless evil magician trapped in the form of a Kodiak bear by one of Merrick's Sun'Aq ancestors and severely po'd by Jeff's father is a tad more pressing. Now they have no choice but to destroy the White Faced bear in a journey that will force them to face the deep dark things inside themselves neither is willing to admit. It's either that, or get eaten by a whole mess of bears.

As McCoy's second novel, The White Faced Bear shows him becoming more focused and confident in the craft. Where Feast was a bit loose and scattershot, in a fever-dream nightmare logic sort of way, the Bear is very concrete and grounded. This, along with the brevity, makes a tight story that speeds through the pages. I also appreciated the down to earth approach to dealing with shamanism and American Indian traditions in modern society.

However, what struck me the most here is how well Scott captures the easy going, somewhat dickish camaraderie that develops between men. Most of the dialog is spent on the interactions of Jeff and Merrick and it feels natural, comfortable and it flows well, but most importantly, it sounds like guys talking. Yes, I know that's vague, but we're dealing with feeling here, not quantifiable statistics.

Unfortunately, there are times that he draws the narrative momentum to a screeching halt to either proselytize or rant at the reader through the mouth of his characters. The worst offense comes up about half way through, via an argument over bitching rights that served no purpose either in moving the story forward or revealing character. It's not intolerable and the occurrences are spare and sparse enough to keep it from being a story killer, but it annoyed me a little.

Ending verdict: This Bear is a lean, muscular little beasty that moved at a brisk pace, took a fair piece out of my pale-faced booty and gave me a new nickname for Scott besides "he who loves unicorns".

Buy it here.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hard to believe this blog was actually created two years ago, Thanksgiving morning. It's come a little ways, I think. Thanks to everyone who has pitched in the last year or so to help make the Shroud Review Blog what it is, and we at Shroud Reviews and Shroud in general wish everyone a restful....and gluttony...Thanksgiving, and hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy it by sitting next to a nice warm fire and enjoying what is sure to be a new Thanksgiving movie classic...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Samhane, (Stygian Press), by Daniel I. Russell

Samhane: the Gaelic festival celebrating the end of summer and the harvest, most often associated in modern times with Halloween. Or an unnoticed little burb that has been slowly descending into total batshitville for the past couple centuries.
We are gifted here with the twin tales of Donald, a fledgling writer whose new-used laptop holds a file that drags him off the grid into an underground organization specializing in torture for the amusement of paid subscribers, and Brian, a professional monster hunter who has found that the simple ghoul squishing he has been hired to do is a bit more…complicated. Now, Donald's wife and best friend have been brutally murdered and Brian's son, his only real reason for living, has been carried off by the world's filthiest clown.

Most people are satisfied with sticking to one type of monster, be it vampire, werewolf or centuries old mummified cucumber, but Daniel I. Russell is definitely not most people. Within the first quarter of the book, you see a serial killer, a forest ghoul, what may be a were-blob and a giant centipede, and that is before you get to meet the evils of a corporation, genetic engineering, biomechanics and a bad ass iridescent god of chaos. This variety works against the story as much as for it early on, with a first half that feels too fractured to be part of a coherent whole. But, if you stick it out, Danny boy brings it all together into a neatly sutured beast that satisfies quite nicely.

I'm particularly impressed with his ability and willingness to walk the line of acceptability. Without diving face first into full Hardcore mode, Russell does away with the usual expected sense of safety. No character, no matter how nice or seemingly important is completely safe, but the bleeding isn't egregious. Also, as much as he does love the ultraviolence and gore (my, oh my does it get wet within these pages, dear friends), he also shows a remarkable amount of restraint and willingness to allow implication to work on its own. It's a tricky balancing act that he pulls off with panache.

Speaking of implications, there is something in the ending that goes completely unspoken but carries marvelously chilling possibilities. I can't say it. Musn't say it. To speak such things would ruin…

I'll shut up right now before I do.

Visit Pre-order it today.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mandrake, (Medusa Press), by Oliver Sherrt

Mandrake, originally published in 1929, tells the story of an American occult detective, Tom Annelsey, investigating evils perpetrated in the English villages of Haddeston and Grayden. Soon after arriving in Haddeston, he makes the acquaintance of a young woman, Ethel Derrington, and the local priest, Hamilton Sturt. During the course of his investigation, and his association with the Derrington family and Mr. Sturt, Annesley uncovers a terrible occult plot crafted by the sinister, and purportedly immortal, Baron Habdymos.

The story of Annesley’s struggle to thwart Habdymos’ black magic brings to mind horror classics more familiar with the average reader: Dracula (with its dark, ageless occult antagonist) and Frankenstein (with the Baron’s mad experiments at the forefront of the novel; in fact, Mandrake begins with Habdymos creating a monster to do his bidding).

The simplest description of the story and its quality is that it’s something Dean Koontz would have written had he been alive and writing in the 1920’s. Mandrake has an intrepid hero who quickly falls in love with the female lead (who is dealing with problems of her own), a small cast of secondary characters integral to the resolution of the plot, a chilling villain and an exciting and satisfactory climax. If one can get past the slight difference in writing style and some of the minor chronological quirks (Annesley and Ethel fall in love so fast it’s practically ridiculous by today’s standards!), it’s hard to believe Mandrake managed to slip through the cracks for so long.

Mandrake was originally published in 1929 and was reprinted this year by Medusa Press after languishing in obscurity for about eighty years. Oliver Sherry was a pseudonym used by Irish poet George Edmund Lobo. According to the brief introduction by scholar Richard Dalby, Lobo may have published as many as four horror novels under the Sherry pen name.

Medusa Press has done an inarguably good deed to the horror community by bringing an heretofore unknown piece of literary history to a group of readers who may be jaded by some of the ‘dark fiction’ coming out of the modern literary machine. The book itself, limited to 350 copies, will look great on any reader’s shelf with its hardcover wrapped in a matte dustcover decorated with a stark rendering of Habdymos threatening his victims.

Visit and buy it today.

Lincoln Crisler is a United States Army combat veteran and non-commissioned officer and the author of two collections of dark stories, Magick & Misery (2009, Black Bed Sheet) and Despairs & Delights (2008, Arctic Wolf). He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife and two of his three children. You can visit his website at

Ex-Heroes, (Permuted Press), by Peter Clines

Let's be honest here. If you are at all like me, the second you realized that this was a book about zombies and superheroes you kinda piddled your pants a little. I want to play the jaded reviewer, full of pith and vinegar and calls for clichés on pikes. I really do. But, I'm only human and I never would have gone into this if I wasn't a giggling, drooling, prancing fan-boy at heart. A giggling, drooling, prancing fan-boy with a soft spot for skin tight Lycra, super human anything and dead things that refuse to stay that way.

You know the drill, so sing along: Dead people just won't stay dead, like good little corpses, anymore. They've so overwhelmed most of human civilization, leaving a relative few holed up in a makeshift fortress to wait out the siege. The good news is that they have some help: strong, smart, vampiric, electrified and super-suited help. The bad news is that they aren't the only ones left alive in LA and they aren't the only ones with super powers. Worse, as the back of the book tells us, these others are not heroes.

Peter Clines doesn't reinvent the wheel here, by any means. The zombies are slow and stupid (with minor, superhero allowances) and obey all of the traditional Romero inspired rules. It's basically a siege and survival story. Also, the heroes are nothing new: Superman, Electric Man, an Iron Man clone, super-healing abilities, even someone who is just a really good shot. Still, I don't give the proverbial "rat patootie". This isn't a novel of novelty, it is a story built upon archetypes, archetypes which play out according to form and expectation with a kind of poetry and symmetry that is a beauty to behold.

By removing the pretty shinnies of a novel theory of zombieism or that brand new super-amazing super-power, Petey is left with nothing but his ability to tell a story and the story he tells is a damn good one. Mostly, it stands because it is anchored in real people, ability to turn into a mini star or no, who are displayed with honesty, dignity and fragility.

This guy understands that all of us try to be something we can never actually be, whether that may be a pure, shining beacon of light and morality, a stone-cold realist or an all conquering powerhouse. The true glory, the true story, is in the struggle to achieve what will always lie just out of our reach. That's why I peed myself a little bit more when I finished reading it.

The equation is simple: Zombies + Superheroes + well-fleshed out, believable characters + an honest to goodness, goddamn uplifting story, instead of yet another "let's just say everyone dies at the end" chompfest = me needing new pants. Mr. Clines, from the bottom of my heart, this fan-boy thanks you.

Buy it today.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

You Are Next and Next Time You See Me (Avon) by Katia Lief

In You Are Next and Next Time You See Me, Katia Lief (aka Katia Spiegelman, aka Kate Pepper) creates a compelling, emotionally driven protagonist and places her into tightly-written, suspenseful situations with plenty of plot twists and revelations to keep the reader guessing.

In You Are Next, Lief introduces Karin Schaeffer, a former police detective whose husband and three-year-old daughter were slaughtered by serial killer Martin Price. Scrawled on the wall in her child’s blood were the words “You Are Next”. She is left emotionally annihilated and when news reaches her that Price has escaped from prison, she plans to sit and wait for him to end her pain. However, even behind prison walls, Price has a long reach and places Karin’s family in danger. She and her former partner Mac work to shed light on the secrets of Price’s past and the key to finding Karin’s kidnapped niece before she becomes the Domino Killer’s next victim.

In Next Time You See Me, Karin and Mac are now married and live in New York with their son, Ben. After an awkward promotion at Mac’s security firm, the new family is devastated by the double murder of Mac’s parents and the implications that Mac’s brother may have been involved. Then Mac disappears and is assumed dead—until Karin thinks she spies him in Miami and works to uncover the truth behind her stalwart husband’s disappearance.

Both of these books have lean, twist-heavy plots that offer a fair amount of suspense. The strength of both is Lief’s ability to get into the emotional space of her main character. Karin’s emotional fragility in the first book makes her an extremely interesting protagonist. In Next Time… she seems to have become more grounded, but more reactionary, and thus less compelling.

Also, both novels rely too much on coincidence to build some scenes—this is especially true in the first book where a central chase scene nearly toppled my suspension of disbelief. Further, the second novel has just one too many twists in the end than is necessary. Nevertheless, both novels offer fine suspense and some interesting characterizations for fans of the genre.

Visit Buy You Are Next and Next Time You See Me today.

Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a full-time librarian and part-time writer trying to do that the other way around. He has written reviews for Library Journal and has also had two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Shedrick currently resides in Denton, Texas ("The Home of Happiness") with his lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, he can be found in a pub enjoying a fine brew.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Sickness: Stories From A Very Dark Place, (Skullvines Press), by L. L. Soars & Laura Cooney

You know the drill, so say it with me... for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer and that diametric opposite of health with the oozing pus and blood-flecked phlegm. The part of the ritual designed to remind happy newlyweds that it isn't all puppies, flowers and making sweet, sweet love on an abandoned beach at sunset. That's what this anthology is about: love that is broken, splattered, gibbering and moaning lost and shattered dreams into the cold light of the moon. In other words, we're not in a happy place here.

For instance, look at Laura Cooney's insight into the self-destructive love of Rasputin, destined to end in bloodshed and rot, in “A Crown of Mushrooms” or "Number 808", an exploration of intertwined hearts and hate, bought and sold in cold, sterile rooms. The inimitable L.L. counters with "Second Chances", a man's desperate need to escape the bitter blue clay of his hometown, face down in a puddle of cheap whiskey, one foot nudging towards redemption and aimed firmly one away and a journey to "The No! Place", where a woman's mental and physical demons collide.

But it's their eponymously titled collaboration that really kicked the crap out of me. It's the slow dissolution of a once adoring relationship, through the steady erosion of minor annoyances and petty grievances. It's an honest and cruel, (mostly cruel due to its honesty), look at the thoughts we hold in that cripple ourselves and our relationships. The tiny bits we are fed build upon each other, stepping backwards in time to the elephantine root of it all as the players slouch on to the inevitable end.

Tom Piccirilli once described Noir as someone driving toward a cliff and accidentally slamming on the gas instead of the breaks, but what should we call a story about the people who aimed for it in the first place? Whatever that may be, I've found a beauty here.

Granted, some stories don't seem to fit the theme ("Head Games", brain-eating monkeys and all, is a great example), but I may very well be shoe-horning one in where it wasn't intended. All told, "In Sickness" gives the angry, depressed nihilist romantics of the world an angle on love that Harlequin won't be bringing to your grocery store shelves any time soon. Too bad, as it could give a new image to go with the old clichéd bodice ripper…

Visit Buy it today.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Stories From The Plague Years, (Cemetery Dance), by Michael Marano

Stories From The Plague Years is the first fiction collection from award-winning fantasy author, Michael Marano. His evocative, unique voice gives us nine, terrifying yet tender tales; bridging the gap between a time when our world collided with evil and sickness, to the present--filled with the lasting scars we all wear... and can still touch... if we dare.

Every story is worthy of note--building upon and/or complementing the theme his elegant prose has constructed. However, these were the best:

"Displacement" - Dean Garrison has spent two years at a university, aspiring to be a graduate of Political Science, but when his Professor Dr. Molino questions his ability, his world is shaken. He seeks solace in his love - Karen - and their mutual friend Evan. The further Dean searches for help, the more complicated his life becomes. Is there a cure for Dean's problems? Easily one of the best stories in the collection, Displacement amalgamates subtle elements from literature of yester-year--while remaining unique, taking it to the next level.

"Changeling" is a very short tale, but packs quite a punch. "The Boy" lives in a world bereft of humanity. "The Mother" and "The Father" do their best for him--using their own, unique methods. Changeling explores monsters in principle, and therein lays the power of this tale; as well as the ambiguity--tantalizing, even as the story is finished. Or is it?

"The Siege" - Charleston is a town with a past so palpable; you can still feel the remnants of the past. Or is this illusion? Marano gives us people, not wooden characters, through whose eyes we see reality as they travel from work to home. The beauty of this short tale is perception, and the price that it comes with.

"Burden" - Again, Marano seamlessly pulls the reader into the protagonist and swiftly envelopes you in a world where you have many friends and many lovers. As you walk to work one day, you see a former lover. He doesn't look well. At a bar, sharing drinks, you inquire about him. No one has seen him since he left town. But this is the least of your worries, once you find yourself being followed home... something wants you, but do you want it?

"Winter Requiem" is one of the best tales of the collection. Marano--his voice in full force - bridges the past with the present. A Prince hastily leaves his castle with the town mob's foot-steps not far behind. David is a struggling musician. Age and his body's ailments make even the simplest symphony hard to compose. A stranger offers David some help. Will his eagerness to do what his heart desires, out-weigh the cost demanded?

"Shibboleth" - yet another diamond in this collection finds two men in a world eerily familiar to our own. The only problem? Something terrible has happened, and past is prologue to the price those who are trying to survive must pay. Shibboleth captures humanity at its best and its worst. With his trademark voice, rarely has humanity been captured so well within literature.

Stories From The Plague Years is written with a voice wholly unique and powerful, a prose that pulls the reader into the people he creates from the first sentence. These stories don't have twists that shock and surprise--they have a depth rarely found in fiction. Marano complements this ability with a terrifying realization; leaving the reader actually feeling guilty for being alive... we are all survivors of The Plague Years, we are not meant to be--and to sell this as Marano has, leaves many of his peers in the dust... regardless of the year.

Visit Buy it today.

Review by Ben Eads

AGAINST ALL THINGS ENDING: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, (Putnam/Penguin), by Stephen R. Donaldson

The ninth book in Donaldson’s ten-book sword and sorcery fantasy epic opens with the resurrection of Thomas Covenant, our hero. But was this a good idea? Normally, one would think so, but considering what has gone before in the previous eight volumes, perhaps not, since it has also awakened the Worm of the World’s End. Kind of a drag before your first cup of coffee after returning from the dead.

In Against All Things Ending, the focal point of the story is no longer Thomas Covenant, but rather his lover and savior, Linden Avery, who is searching for her missing son, the mysterious Jeremiah, whose secrets may carry with them the salvation of all. As a matter of fact, Covenant is surprisingly weak and passive in this book.

The foundation of the complex plot that defines Donaldson’s style is constructed with the sturdy building blocks of choices and their consequences. In our present day and age of helpless victim-hood, it is most refreshing to read of consequences that protagonists actually have the moral fiber and strength of character to accept and deal with.

There was a long gap between this book and the previous one in this series, and Donaldson bridges that with a detailed summary of each of the earlier tomes at the front of Against All Things Ending. Reading it over will undoubtedly bring those who have read his previous works up to speed nicely; however, if you haven’t read the series up to this point, and are attempting to begin with this book, it will be tough going. Some authors, when writing a series, craft them so that each book is able to stand on its own. This is not one of them. Readers must begin at the beginning.

That being said, Donaldson is always worth the time investment and after reading the first volume, you will be eager to collect the entire set. You’ll want to catch up before the story concludes in The Last Dark, Book Four of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and the tenth book in the series.

So what are you waiting for?

Visit Buy it now.

Carson Buckingham is a writer living in the great American Southwest and she reviews horror/paranormal suspense novels.

They Had Goat Heads, (ATLATL Press), D. Harlan Wilson

D. Harlan Wilson's They Had Goat Heads - a series of collected short fiction - presents jarring imagery and stream-of-consciousness scenes of nightmarish quality. In some cases, his stories serve as thinly disguised social commentary and psychological insight.

"Monster Truck" in particular, describes the nature of our mechanized day to day existence, and serves as a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of such a life.

Other noteworthy tales include the title story, "They Had Goat Heads," a story of awakening, as well as "The Storyteller," which reads like a blow by blow of a day in the life of a hard-working writer, and the mysterious "PO Box 455," which cleverly hints at the threatening nature of what inhabits the inside of Box 455 without ever articulating the danger involved. Surreal imagery abounds with memorable lines like "a herd of walri chasing a double-decker bus," or the dream-like narrative of "Giraffe." In "The Sister," illustrated by Skye Thorstenson, we have the opportunity to see Wilson's words re-imagined; the story is fascinating in its own right, and Thorstenson adds a richer viewpoint, an artful merging of graphics and narrative.

Absurdist/bizarro fiction will not suit everyone's palate, but there is something to be savored in the innovative use of story. The secret of Wilson's exceptional prose is his use of language, stripped down to its emotional center and allowed to do the dirty work of assaulting the reader without the interference of complex plot devices, or explanations for the extraordinary. D. Harlan Wilson delights in turning language to new and exciting uses.

Visit Buy it today.

Martin Rose lives in New Jersey, where he writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, holds a degree in graphic design, and enjoys blurring the line between art and life. More details are available at

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths, One Very Dead Corpse, (Kennsington Books), by David James

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this: a light, almost cozy murder mystery featuring a female protagonist who's a 40 year old real estate agent.

Consider me enchanted. Mr. James has waltzed effortlessly into the mind of his main character, Amanda, with a depth and accuracy that had me wondering about his own gender. Amanda is a well rounded character with a strict Catholic upbringing from which she still suffers guilt and the occasional child-like retaliation, a too good to be true ex husband, and a new listing which boasts the added feature of a corpse in the living room.

While never a major suspect in the murder, the bad press causes Amanda to become an amateur sleuth in order to clear her name. Alex, her best friend - and gay ex-husband - comes riding in on the proverbial white steed to assist her investigation.

Amanda's search is logical, and she's always a few steps behind the police, which is refreshing. Far too many books seem to feature brilliant amateur sleuths who are leaps ahead of bumbling detectives. Her hi-jinks range from subtle to completely outrageous, but at no time feel unbelievable. Amanda's voice is fantastic, a well rounded, flawed human being that this reader would be happy to journey with again.

This story is about as sweet and fluffy as an adventurous murder mystery can get; you won't find a gritty underworld as such, or a great deal of gore. (Though the underhanded workings of real estate are presented brilliantly, and not every character is a good person.)

There are no great human revelations or discourses on the nature of man, no hidden depths; this is a book of pure fun and light reading. Perfect for the morning train commute, relaxing on the beach - though I wouldn't recommend it as a bathroom reader or an insomnia cure, as the characters are engaging and the mystery itself is a real page turner.

Buy it today

Rachael Saltzman is a writer and filmmaker from New York with a love for horror and thrillers. Visit her at

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dark Harvest, (TOR Books), by Norman Partidge

You know what time it is. The nights are longer, the air cooler and crisp, and the leaves turned. Harvest has passed and the fields are lined with dry but still standing and endless rows of corn. The pumpkins are bloated and blazing orange, and everything seems harder, somehow...the ground, the black asphalt roads out by Old Man Prichett's farm, and maybe even you.

It's the end of October. Halloween night. The world feels pulled tight at the edges. Like a thin flap of skin stretched over something that wants to get out. Something bad. Things feel thinner this time of year, and of know. You've done this before.

It's Halloween. A time for stories about monsters that go bump in the night and nightmares that leave cold sweats in their wake. You've been here. Did this last year. So you know what to expect. It's Halloween, after all. Monsters are monsters and good guys are just that, ready to put down the monsters or die trying, which they so often do.

Except you don't know.

You haven't been here before.

Because this is Dark Harvest.

By Norman Partridge. So it's not the same as before. Not at all.

It's completely different. From everything you know.

Dark Harvest is simply the most original Halloween tale you're going to find this year. It's time for the October Boy to rise into unnatural life. Time for every sixteen year old boy in town to brave the Run. Deprived of food and locked in their rooms for days, these boys hunger for fame and fortune and violence all that comes with slaying the October Boy.

Thing is, Peter McCormick wants none of that. Maybe he's got an uncommon imagination, can dream of life past this place. Maybe he's just different. Anyway, he's got a few surprises in store for the October Boy and this town. If he's got to play the game, he's going to play it different. His way. And that's just fine.

Because tonight the October Boy's got a few surprises of his own. Things are going to change, and nothing's going to be the same here. Ever again.

People talk often in horror reviews about an author having "a unique voice". Usually that's a cover for poor craft and style...but this is the real deal. Stylistically speaking, Dark Harvest is one of the most finely crafted novels I've read in years. It manages to blend a first, second, and third person present tense narrative into seamless storytelling perfection. And, along the way it's simply a great story, with some unexpected heroism to boot. This is the new standard Halloween stories should be judged by. Pick it up in time for Halloween. You won't be disappointed.

Visit and Buy it today.

Kevin Lucia is the Review Editor for Shroud Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel for Shroud Publishing, due 2011. Visit him on the web at

Solitary: The Solitary Tales, (David C. Cook), by Travis Thrasher

I became of fan of Travis Thrasher's when I first read and reviewed an advance copy of The Second Thief. Hooked, I found myself anxiously awaiting the next Thrasher release, year after year. Sometimes first in line to buy a copy, and many times lucky enough to have the pleasure and privilege to receive a copy, like with Solitary, to read and review prior to, or just around the actual release date.

In the vein of John Saul, Thrasher plunges readers into the heart of teen angst, amidst haunted backwoods towns. Chris Buckley is sixteen. His parents have separated. While his father opts to remain in Illinois, Chris and his mother is return to her hometown, Solitary, North Carolina. They live in Chris' uncle's home. There's plenty of room since the uncle went missing months ago.

While bullies and unseen allies taunt and tempt Chris in school, it's against everyone's advice that our young, new-to-school teen befriends the troubled and mysterious Jocelyn Evans. It doesn't take Chris long to realize that, aside from falling goo-goo-gaa-gaa for her, it is Jocelyn's secrets that threaten - if left uncovered - to destroy him.

Some unseen evil seems to hold the town hostage, paralyzed with fear, leaving everyone unable to act, react or to even prevent the inevitable. People in Solitary go missing. It's a fact. Chris' hunt for answers brings him nothing but trouble and threats. Not empty threats, either.

With a missing uncle, a crazy aunt, a radical church, and a mother who falls short of coping with the hand she's been dealt, it is Chris and Jocelyn against Solitary. The trouble is the town of
Solitary incorporates more than just the people that live within its boundary limits. The ghosts, and monsters just might be caused by more than wisps of air, and random bumps banging in the night.

It is up to Chris to sort out the things he knows from what can be surmised to what he just hopes can't possibly be true--or possible. It's now a race against time and there is no mistaking that life and death actually hang in the balance. . .

Solitary, the first in a supernatural young adult series, has put me over the top. Quick, compelling chapters. Deeply drawn, well-crafted characters. Tight, gritty, noir-style dialogue - and by the end, all I want is more. So many questions raised. So much yet to be answered. And, unfortunately, too much time between future installments. If you've never read Travis Thrasher, which I'd find hard to believe of true fans of suspense, Solitary is an excellent place to start. Just be ready to put aside anything else that needs getting done, because once you begin reading, I believe you will have a hard time stopping until you've read the last page.

Visit Buy it today.

Thomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability and did everything he could not to read. It wasn't until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, he uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies. When he's not writing, he plays his guitar, is active in his church, coaches his children’s' Little League teams, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his most recent suspense novel.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Rain Wilds Chronicles: Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven (EOS/HarperCollins) by Robin Hobb

With Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven, award-winning fantasist Robin Hobb returns to the richly drawn world of her bestselling Liveship Traders series. Now she takes the reader deep into the dangerous and mysterious Rain Wilds on a quest for the mythical city Kelsingra, the ancient home of dragons and their Elderling keepers. More importantly, she draws us deep into the lives of the outcasts that take this journey for reasons both secret and public, benevolent and vile.

Alise Kilcannon Finbok, bound by contract into a loveless, soul-crushing marriage of convenience, takes an opportunity to leave the niceties of Bingtown life to study newly-hatched dragons far into the acidic jungles of the Rain Wilds. Thymara, shunned by Rain Wilds society due to her bizarre physical aberrations wrought by the strange environment, seizes a chance to prove herself on the expedition to find a new home for the deformed, yet still expensively destructive, creatures. Sintara, a newly hatched dragon queen, is hobbled by physical deformities that belie the proud memories of her majestic birthright.

Change is the driving theme of this series. Alise struggles against the dictates of her marriage and the shackles of her weak sense of self to blossom into an assertive young woman who knows what it is that she wants from life. Thymara comes of age in hard circumstances; her stubbornness is tempered into a firm resolve that will serve her well as a band of similarly disfigured outcasts form their own community. Sintara, as well as the other malformed dragons of her tangle, begins to grow and develop into a true dragon, wrestling against the need to be "kept" by humans and her desire to change them...though knowing that as dragons change their human companions, they too, are changed. The hardships of the journey, shifting alliances, unearthed betrayals, and kept secrets will ensure that everyone who undertakes the journey, human and dragon alike, will find themselves changed irrevocably: there can be no return to what they knew before.

Dragon Keeper, volume one of the presumed trilogy, sets the stage for the conflicts that are mostly resolved in volume two, Dragon Haven. In fact, Dragon Keeper is very much a first act; were it not for the high quality of the writing, it would not stand alone without the resolutions presented in the next volume. Dragon Haven ties up many of the loose ends, and like a good second act, introduces new conflicts that lurk in the shadows of the next volume. Hobb's strength has always been her ability to create compelling characters to inhabit her richly detailed worlds. The Rain Wilds Chronicles is no exception.

Visit Buy Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven today.

Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a full-time librarian and part-time writer trying to do that the other way around. He has written reviews for Library Journal and has also had two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Shedrick currently resides in Denton, Texas ("The Home of Happiness") with his lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, he can be found in a pub enjoying a fine brew.

Apexology: Horror, (Apex Book Company), edited by Jason Sizemore

Apex Magazine, headed by editor Jason Sizemore, showcases twenty-one stories of dark science fiction and horror in Apexology: Horror anthology. Since 2005, Apex magazine has been recognized for bringing to the forefront quality fiction in the genres it supports, and no less here in their digital only edition.

There's an eclectic mix of stories that touch on diverse times and cultures, as well as more familiar and seemingly benign settings. Unexpected characters grace the landscape, but some are familiar, classic creatures such as vampires and werewolves.

Stand-outs in this volume include the first story, "It Tasted Like the Sea," by Paul Jessup, an eerie tale reminiscent of the Bluebeard fairy tale, and "Kusatena Uroyi" by Gill Ainsworth, which keeps the reader guessing what purpose a "white man in black skin" has in an exotic, African setting.

Some delve into uglier territory of what the human spirit can be reduced to in the heartrending story of young love, "Cerbo En Vitra Ujo." Horror even hides in a beehive hairdo in "The Spider in the Hairdo," and the anthology closes with a sinister story of sibling rivalry in "Big Sister/Little Sister." "The Dark Side," and "Disturbing Things" delightfully showcase psychological horror and the nature of subjective viewpoints to great effect.

There's many more great stories within to be discovered, rest assured, you won't find any twinkling monsters here.

Visit Download it today.

Martin Rose lives in New Jersey, where he writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, holds a degree in graphic design, and enjoys blurring the line between art and life. More details are available at

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Gathering of Crows, (Leisure Fiction), by Brian Keene

Brian Keene, whose work spans over twenty novels, thirteen collections, and four comic book series, has heavily influenced dark fiction since his career began. Ever since this two-time Stoker Award winner stepped on the scene, horror hasn’t been the same. And that’s a good thing. His latest novel, A Gathering Of Crows proves that the man still has his magic, and much more.

An ancient evil has descended upon the small West Virginia town of Brinkley Springs. One by one, the inhabitants realize that not only has the power gone out, but even their electronic gadgets—dependent on batteries—are dead as well. Even the natural sounds that accompany the night are gone. As well as the wind that carries their din. Once the screams start, and the gunfire begins, power and iPods are the least of the town’s worries.

Keene seamlessly takes us from person to person, and victim to victim, as those that serve an ancient deity begin to carry out Its orders: murder. Through break-neck, suspenseful pacing, we find people we truly care about. Trapped, they must rely on each other for safety as they scramble about the chaos seeking refuge.

Someone else has come to town, however. Someone Keene’s fans will remember from previous novels: ex-Amish magus, Mr. Levi Stoltzfus. Levi is a man of many skills, trades and magical disciplines. He's a faithful servant to The Lord, our God. As the body count climbs, Levi must mount a defense whilst uncover the nature of these beings, and more importantly, who they serve.

Battle lines are drawn, and people like Donny—a vet from the Iraq War—and Axel Perry, an old man who’s life is Brinkley Springs—refuse to stand idly by and watch their town be murdered. But when faced with that which is shadow, and its touch, death; will they stand by Levi and the few who support him? If they do, can Levi find the courage and magic within himself to face enemies that shadow his power?

A Gathering Of Crows is a well written, highly-imaginative, unique treat that, at some times becomes downright terrifying. Keene’s trademark voice and ability to give the reader realistic characters is at an all-time high. What truly makes this novel shine is how easily Keene combines these elements into a chill that tickles the imagination and reminds us: magic is real. And it exists in this book.

Visit Buy it today.

Reviewed by Ben Eads.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dark Matters, (Bad Moon Books), by Bruce Boston

Bruce Boston's work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including Asimov's SF, Amazing Stories, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, The Pedestal Magazine, Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and the Nebula Awards Showcase, and received a number of awards, most notably the Pushcart Prize, the Asimov's Readers' Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, and the Grandmaster Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. He holds the distinctions of having appeared in more issues of Asimov's SF than any other author, and of coining the word "cybertext." His newest collection of dark poetry, Dark Matters, covers the full speculative range, from science fiction horror to dark fantasy, taking the reader on a nightmarish jaunt into the shadows.

For fans of traditional horror, Dark Matters contains such poems as "A Stray Grimoire," in which "your moving hand may pause/and descend upon the spine/of a book penned to decimate/the tenets of your mind," or "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vulture," Boston's riff on Wallace Stevens, in which the speaker is "of a single mind,/Like a colony of vultures circling/A lone man in the desert" and the vulture itself "dreams/Of being shiny as a raven,/Iridescent as a peacock,/Spotless as a swan/Upon a pellucid pond." Boston's pages are plagued with assassins, torturers and zombies, ghosts and the voices of the damned, enough to keep the appetite of any horror enthusiast sated.

Boston's work also appeals to fans of science fiction. In his poem "The Oblong Observatory," "All the swayed myths/of the century's ascension/are misbegotten" and we "gather beneath/the grave gray ruins/of this oblong observatory/that reeks of the gods/of our unfailing obsessions." In "Robovamp," the "clichéd image/of a teenage boy's/rough libido at play" searches out men and "drains their life force/to power her own,/to fuel her fine form/and feed her stark mind." Boston is able to pepper his book with enough science fiction to keep fans of that genre equally satisfied, but makes the poems themselves dark enough to not stand out against the others in this collection.

Boston also delves into dark fantasy between these covers. In "The Faithless," "A great gray beast/of incertitude/comes stumbling/through the centuries/churning up corpses/and mud." In his poem "The Sizing of Curses," small curses are as "hard to track/as rats within the walls," but still "bite/and maim the child in its crib,/then fade like bloody smoke," whereas master curses slay "enemies abed/and scorch their lands with light." Fans of dark fantasy will find much in which to sink their teeth in the pages of Dark Matters.

Fans of Boston's previous work will also find comfort in this collection, as a few of his "people" poems punctuate these pages. In "Harvest People," "Sweet corn, tomatoes,/pepperoncinis and peaches/would live up to/their savory reputations" and "wine flowing/from our vineyards/would be a sense delight/in any vintage." Pleasant as these visions seem, Boston also conjures a world populated by Assassin People, in which "the slightest/indiscretion could/lead to a contract/on your life." and we "wake up/
each morning,/if we woke up at all,/with blood on our hands."

For those who have not read a collection of Bruce Boston's, now is the time to begin, and Dark Matters is an excellent place to start. For fans of Boston's previous work, Dark Matters continues his legacy of solid writing and will not disappoint. It is a spooky and chilling collection ready to shiver its way down the spine of readers, leaving only its tracks to haunt their dreams.

Visit Buy it today.

Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. His first full-length collection, "breaths", is available from VanZeno Press. Intrinsic Night, a collaborative project he wrote with J. E. Stanley, was recently published by Sam’s Dot Publishing. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, rye whiskey and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs. He stomps around Cleveland in a purple bathrobe where he hosts the monthly Deep Cleveland Poetry hour and enjoys the beer at Brew Kettle.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

WANTED: UNDEAD OR ALIVE Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies Of Evil , (Citadel Press), by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman

Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry along with International Thriller Writer member Janice Gable Bashman have joined forces to create WANTED: UNDEAD OR ALIVE, a book which focuses on the endless struggle between good and evil. Concentrating on both the mythical evil of vampires and werewolves and those who hunt them to the real evil of serial killers and their nemeses, FBI profilers, this book is a fascinating mixture of everything from superheroes to pulp horror to current day ghostbusters.

With chapter titles ranging from "It Didn't Start with Van Helsing" (covering vampire legends prior to Bram Stoker's famous creation) and "Who You Gonna Call?" (the ghost-hunting trade) to "The Roots of Good and Evil" (a brief overview of the nature of good and evil and why we are so fascinated by it) and "Spandex to the Rescue"(comic book heroes and villains), Maberry and Bashman have managed to cover nearly ever "monster" of legend as well as the heroes (or superheroes) who try and defeat them.

And every chapter has commentary from such luminaries as director John Carpenter, actor Doug Jones, author Peter Straub and the legendary Stan Lee. The chapter covering "Real Evil" was particularly chilling with its Serial Killer Hall of Fame. There are also chapters covering "Skin Art" (former "Rue Morgue" editor-in-chief Jovanka Vuckovic's tattoos are prominently covered here), role-playing games, horror games that became films such as "Resident Evil" series, the "Bloodrayne" series and "Silent Hill". There are even appendices covering the Top 100 Villains of All Time (care to guess who is Number One), Spirit Superstitions and the Top 40 Genre Movies of All Time (with categories of Top Ten Vampire, Werewolf, Demon and Ghost Films).

This is a great reference for all horror-lovers. Maberry and Bashman have done a commendable job trying, in 366 pages, to explain the eternal battle of good versus evil and in a way modern day readers can understand. The book also includes 40 illustrations and an 8-page color insert with art from, among others, David Leri, the covers of Marvel Horror Comics, Patrick Don Maitz and Peter Mihaichuk.

Definitely check this book out.

Visit Buy it today.

Growing up in the Gothic South, Elaine has been obsessed with horror in almost all of its formats since she was a young child. She has contributed movie reviews, interviews and book reviews to such websites as Bloody-Disgusting, Severed Cinema, Icons of Fright, Horror, Really Scary, Fatally-Yours, HorrorReanimated and “Rue Morgue” magazine. Today she is the main literary critic for Dread Central and loves all of the amazing books she receives to review.