Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nowhere Hall

by Cate Gardner
Published by Spectral Press

"Someone stole the world and packed it up in a briefcase."

We all know how to deal with ghosts (salt, prayers, just move out of the friggin house already), vampires are old hat (stake, decap or wait til sunrise for the sparklies) and no matter what new permutation on zombies you may come up with, we have our plans ready (we won’t go into that). Physical threats are blasé, but many of us have to face a new horror: economic uncertainty. Yes, this is nothing new for the blue collar world (Braunbeck’s “Union Dues” pretty well sealed that one up for us), but now those who had always felt safe behind a desk aren’t so secure anymore. White collar Willy Lomans litter the pavement and we all know that we might be next. Enter Kate Gardner’s novella Nowhere Hall to poke and prod at this new chink in our psychological armor.

Meet Ron. We’re not sure where he’s going or even where he’s been, but neither is he. We just know that this poor soul seems snapped in a few places and that he’d been let go because he’s let himself go. His world seems familiar enough, but its logic doesn’t work quite right, things don’t make the sense that they should. And he finds himself at the door of a building, crossed with police tape and heralded by a falling umbrella with a simple note attached: We want to live. Help us.

In a way, Nowhere Hall can be looked at as in inwardly aimed ghost story that twists reality in the same vein as Poppy Z. Brite’s Drawing Blood. It is surreal, but in a way that slips through the spaces between dendrites rather than slamming against the forebrain, shouting “Ooooh booga booga. I’ve got a marshmallow in my eyes!” Cate paints Ron as one who haunts as much as he is haunted, an empty shell roaming halls that have long forgotten him, and the effect is emotionally devastating. In this case, the slipstream flow of illogic is used to great effect in reflecting the inward confusion that Ron is experiencing as his world dissolves instead of simply being used for shock value.

Yes, if you prefer your narratives to be of the more direct variety, then you will not enjoy yourself here. It certainly took me several attempts rereading whole paragraphs multiple times to make sense out of the situation. But, as I said before, that’s the point. It should be confusing and disconcerting, it needs to be. It also isn’t a particularly cheery tale, ending with a question none of us really want answered (I want to say that we do, Cate, but I’m too afraid to find out the truth). However, the resulting experience is well worth it all.

Nowhere Hall ends up as a journey that is bewildering and heartbreaking, a painful search for worth where objective value has been removed that would fit perfectly along side of Tom Piccirilli’s Every Shallow Cut (read the review), if you have a favorite razor you’d like to cuddle up with.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Anton Cancre

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, September 8, 2011

Four Legs in the Morning, (Cemetery Dance), by Norman Prentiss

This new collection of three linked stories once again proves Norman Prentiss as one of the premier writers in the field. Featuring a mysterious (perhaps even diabolical) English Department chair and three people who run afoul of him - a protege who scorns Dr. Sibley's old fashioned views, a guilt-ridden plagiarist and a young administrator who discovers just how powerful Dr. Sibley is when he learns the fate of his predecessor - these interlocking tales have been wonderfully sculpted by Prentiss' deft, sure and subtle hand.

Reviewers have compared Norman Prentiss to the late Charles Grant, but he's so much more than just an imitator. A superb stylist in his own right, Norman is marking out a place of his very own in genre fiction. Four Legs in the Morning is quiet, haunting, and as Prentiss dangles unknowable secrets just beyond our reach (which may be for the best), we wait anxiously for a new morning after the long, quiet night. And even if that morning never comes, we wait for it still, in breathless anticipation.

Very nearly sold out. Pre-order today!

Kevin Lucia is a Contributing 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. Visit him on the web at

Friday, September 2, 2011

Blood and Other Cravings

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Published by Tor

“Each of us needs something - food, liquor, pot, whatever - to help us survive. Dracula needs blood.” Frank Langella (Playboy Magazine, 1979)

Anytime you sample a collection edited by veteran anthologist Ellen Datlow (Snow White, Blood Red; Teeth; Supernatural Noir), you know that you are in for a treat. Blood and Other Cravings is no exception. This top-notch collection takes vampirism as its theme, but each story veers far and away from the now-worn tropes of the genre. The creatures (some human, some decidedly not) featured in these tales feed not only upon blood but hope, emotion, and life itself. They are beings of insatiable hunger and predation, stalking us from the shadows of 1970s New York, from behind the blinds of suburban homes, and from our parents’ bedrooms.

While there is not a bad story in the bunch, some are worthy of special mention. “Keeping Corky” by Melanie Tem is a sublimely disturbing piece involving a mentally-challenged young mother whose indomitable will affects those that would stand between her and her son. Fledgling talesmith Nicole J. LeBoeuf’s piece, “First Breath”, is a beautiful exploration of identity and point-of-view involving the lifecycle of a family of ethereal beings. The anthology closes with Laird Barron’s “The Siphon”, where an evil man encounters creatures of blood and nightmare that lie in the shadows thrown across time and myth.

Blood and Other Cravings reminds us of why we should fear those that stalk the night.

Buy it here.

Visit Ellen Datlow's site here.

Reviewed by Shedrick Pittman-Hassett

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.