<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - BOOK REVIEWS]]>Mon, 24 Jul 2017 08:40:02 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[PAPERBACKS FROM HELL: A HISTORY OF HORROR FICTION FROM THE '70S AND '80S BY GRADY HENDRIX]]>Mon, 24 Jul 2017 04:53:13 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/paperbacks-from-hell-a-history-of-horror-fiction-from-the-70s-and-80s-by-grady-hendrixBy Ben Arzate

 
When I was a kid I recall going to one of my grandparents' friend's house. When I looked on their bookshelf, I saw a few books with striking covers depicting creepy skeletons. One that still sticks with me these days showed a boy's skull peeking out from behind a beanie and scarf as it rides a tricycle towards the reader. I could never remember what that book was. If nothing else, I can thank Grady Hendrix of Horrorstor and My Best Friend's Exorcism for showing me that the book was Tricycle by Russell Rhodes.
 
That book, among many, many others, came out in the horror publishing boom that started in the late '60s and ended in the early '90s. While some books regarded as contemporary classics came from that boom, such as Rosemary's Baby which Hendrix argues kick started it, many of these books are now out of print and forgotten except by a few aficionados.
 
In the introduction, Hendrix talks about the book which got him addicted to seeking these out these paperbacks. John Christopher's The Little People had an absolutely ridiculous cover showing Nazi elves menacing a couple with whips in front of a castle. While he found the story lacking, though delightfully insane at times, he sought out more of these paperback oddities.
 
Each chapter of the book looks at the various trends that sprouted up during the horror publishing boom and some examples of titles that were following the trend. For example, in the wake of the success of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, dozens of imitators focusing on Satan and the Catholic Church sprang up. The success of The Omen resulted in many evil children novels, V.C. Andrews and Anne Rice sparked a new interest in Gothic horror and vampires, and so forth.
 
A big focus here is on the cover art. After all, marketers relied heavily on them to sell new authors, and cover paintings were the standard before Photoshop. In several “Coroner's Report” asides, Hendrix discusses the histories of particular artists and their histories. One of the more fascinating asides talks about the artist George Ziel, a Polish Catholic who survived a concentration camp and lost his Jewish wife to the Holocaust. After he had moved to the United States, he worked as a cover artist, translating the horrors he'd seen in real life to the ones the paintings that would accompany various paperbacks.
 
While he points out some books as lost masterpieces, such as the works of Ken Greenhall (which are being brought back into print) and The Voice of the Clown by Brenda Brown Canary. He doesn't hesitate to let us know that many of the books had a “so bad it's good” charm to them while others were just bad. For example, it's clear that Hendrix had little use for the entire Splatterpunk movement, a few exceptions like Clive Barker and Joe R. Lansdale aside. This is one of the strongest points in the book. Hendrix could have easily made this a dry reference book, but there's plenty of humour and personality in the writing to make this enjoyable to read on his own.
 
Of course, one of the problems is that there was so much happening during the horror publishing boom that it often felt like Hendrix had to gloss over many parts of it. Despite that, this remains an essential read for horror fans. There are a lot of books I'll be tracking down after reading this. I hope that this book will help to renew interest in many of these books and will them back into print, or at least get them re-released as ebooks
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<![CDATA[NAMING THE BONES BY LAURA MAURO]]>Thu, 29 Jun 2017 07:02:21 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/naming-the-bones-by-laura-mauro
Naming The Bones from Laura Mauro is the latest entry in the Dark Minds Press excellent novella series, following on from such great novellas from the likes of Rich Hawkins, Ben Jones, and  Gary Fry.  These thematically distinct novellas have continually shown that Dark Minds Press knows exactly what makes for a great novella.  When the announced that there latest title was from one of the brightest and most talented of the new generation of Horror Writers Laura Mauro, there was a wave excitement around Ginger Nuts of Horror.  

Since first reading her short story While Charlie Sleeps in Black Static, this reviewer knew that a huge talent had just stepped onto the stage, and in the short intervening years Laura has grown and developed as a writer in ways that would make many another author green with envy.  

Naming The Bones,  is Laura's first published novella, and marks her first move away from the short story format, can Laura pull off a longer format story?  You will have to read on to find out...
Allessa Spiteri, is a broken woman, struggling to come to terms with her life and relationships after surviving a bomb explosion on the London Underground, she is seeking answers, answers to why the bomb was set off, and answers to what the nightmarish shadowy creatures that she witnessed in the aftermath of the explosion.  Initially she believes them to be mere hallucinations, but as she comes to terms with events she slowly changes her mind and believes the creatures to be real.  What are they, what do they want, and can they be destroyed these are the questions that will see Allessa return to tunnels, and on a journey of dark, cold terror.  


When you read story from Laura Maura, it doesn't take long to realise that you reading something rather special.  Laura's ability to weave multiple thematic, and emotional  layers into her work is outstanding.  One the one hand you have have a simple tale of a woman battling against the monsters in the dark, but scratch the surface of the narrative ever so slightly and you will find a depth to the story that belies the initial simplicity of the story.

Naming the Bones, is a dark claustrophobic story, that uses its real London locations to great effect. The Elephant and Castle area of London lives and breaths within the lines of the story, adding a sense of reality to the more fantastical elements of the novella.   As Alessa pounds the streets of her home looking for answers the reader almost feels as though they are peering over her shoulder, watching as events unfold and her life unravels.  

As a simple story Naming The Bones is exceptional, Mauro's story has a fantastic sense of place, with some tightly written set pieces, especially the opening scenes of the explosion, the disastrous first foray into the tunnels and the thrilling final act where everything comes to light and some devastating secrets are revealed.  However, interspersing  these set pieces is a complex and heart wrenching look at the themes of survivor guilt and the sense of hopelessness when faced with something beyond your control.   Laura's intimate look into the mind of Alessa provides the reader with a honest look at how a person deals with these traumas. Rather than making Alessa a victim for the reader to feel sorry for, Mauro has made her all too human, she is an unreliable narrator, the reader is kept guessing as to the truth of the story.  She is also a flawed person, her pigheadedness, and unrelenting desire to find out the truth, at times makes you want to take her aside and shake some sense into her, and two seconds later makes you want to take her aside and give her hug and tell her everything will be OK.  Alessa is one of the most truthfully depicted characters in recent times, complex, with actions that are completely believe, and an emotional journey that is both honest and totally satisfying.  

Laura's depiction of the "Shades" is truly chilling, taking cues from a number of folk legends, these avatars of doom are truly frightening.  Wild, ragged creatures, that feed on suffering and despair they will haunt your dreams after reading this book.  

Naming The Bones is a powerful, thoughtful, and emotionally satisfying novella, dark, deep and dramatic, it will have you looking over your shoulder and peering into the dark spaces of your world for any hint of the shades.  

We are only halfway through the year, but Naming The Bones, looks set to feature very highly in my top 5 reads of the year.  


Purchase a copy from Amazon
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First there was darkness…
Alessa Spiteri survives a bombing incident on the London Underground only to discover that the horror she experienced there is only the beginning of the nightmare.
As she struggles to rebuild her life, she finds herself haunted by grotesque, shadow creatures – monsters Alessa believes are hallucinations, born of her traumatised mind until she meets Casey, also the survivor of an Underground bombing, who tells her she can see the monsters too.
Together, the women plan their fightback against the creatures, a course of action which takes Alessa back into the tunnels beneath the city.
Back into the darkness.

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<![CDATA[WHAT GOOD GIRLS DO BY JONATHAN BUTCHER]]>Wed, 28 Jun 2017 11:07:08 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/what-good-girls-do-by-jonathan-butcher
The horror genre is a many-faceted beast.  You can have, among many other facets,  your feel-good adventure stories where the hero fights the monster and gets the girl, you can have your subtle, multi-layered story whose aim is to make you look at the human condition, or you can have a story that is designed to shock, and make you feel uncomfortable.  

Jonathan Butcher's What Good Girls Do  is firmly rooted in that last category, this is not a story for those feint of heart, or easily offended.  It is a story that pushed me as a reader, one that almost made me put the book aside and pretend that I had never laid eyes on it.  This is not one of those warnings designed to make the book sound nastier than it is, What Good Girls Do is one of the hardest books I have ever read, but is it a book that is worth reading?  Read on to find out what I thought.  
What Good Girls Do, doesn't waste any time in shocking the reader, the girl in question has been kidnapped and is being abused and tortured sexually, in the most extreme ways, and the reader is subjected to this right on the first page.  It's a bold move, one that will cause many readers to put the book aside in disgust, hell I almost did.  Butcher has, like her captor, stripped the girl of all identity, she is reduced to a mere cypher, no name, a very basic description of her looks, it is clear that she is nothing more than a commodity from which he can make money from and abuse in ways which will make you cringe with disgust.  

Her use of the word "Daddy" to describe her captor, is both chilling and heart wrenching, it's not made clear in the early stages of this novella to her actual age, which adds an extra layer of tragedy to story. Not that what happens her would be anything less no matter her age.   You are left feeling like a nasty voyeur, who can't tear their eyes away from the events of the book, transfixed at what is happening and silently screaming for someone to make it all stop.  

The descriptions of the events that unfold are brutal, nihilistic and downright disgusting, but Butcher has an ability to keep the reader in the palm of his hand, despite the events of the book, you will find that you become trapped like a twig in a never ending whirlpool of depravity and despair.  

Butcher is an incredibly talented writer, in the hands of a lesser writer, this novella would have caused me to go on a rant about empty shocks at the expensive of a real story, but Butcher knows how to draw the reader in the, especially during the home invasion scenes of the novella.  Butcher's decimation of suburban middle-class bliss is a masterclass in narrative rhythm.  

What Good Girls Dois not a story for everyone,  it's clever mix of a Serbian Film and Jack Ketchum's The Woman, it will leave you angry, cold and little dead inside, but never the less it is a story worth reading.  
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'Like all the best extreme horror, What Good Girls Do leaves you with the urge to go and bleach your soul after reading...'
Alex Davis, creator of Film Gutter

She lives with no name.
She has never left her room.
All she has ever known is pain and abuse.

Until now.

Today, she will breathe fresh air for the first time, feel sunshine against her skin and even witness human kindness.
But she has a point to make – a bleak, violent point – and when she meets her neighbour, Serenity, she finds the perfect pupil.
Forced to endure a lesson distilled from a nightmarish existence, Serenity must face unflinching evil, witness the unspeakable, and question her most deeply-held views, until at last she has no choice but to fight for her family’s survival.

PURCHASE A COPY FROM AMAZON
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<![CDATA[GORGONAEON BY JORDAN KRALL]]>Mon, 26 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/gorgonaeon-by-jordan-krallReview by John Boden 
 
I am not a huge proponent of labels when it comes to fiction, but I am aware that they are a bit of a necessity in that they are a way for fan and potential readers to rife through the myriad of titles available.  So I would offer that this falls under the category of transgressive fiction, with one foot over the fence in weird territory.

Gorgonaeon   is an almost stream-of-consciousness affair, concerning a woman straining under the ghost of her mother and her upbringing. Chaining more weight to herself with anchors of compulsive and erratic behaviors.  There are obsessive visits to hotels and motels, exploring the objects left behind and the stains and detritus of lives passing through. There are excursions into dark ditches where carcasses hide and stagnant water stares.  We dig in the dirt and expose the wriggling white things that live beneath it, almost as a reflection of ourselves. There is crippling guilt and chasmic loneliness and self-hatred for miles and miles.

I simply can't praise the dark and sparse tone and prose of this book enough. It truly is the work of a master tailor, dull needle and black thread between tweezered fingers, ready to stitch eyelids open and lips closed.  Ready to prick out dark letters and messages on exposed skin.
Gorgonaeon is available from Dunham's Manor Press.
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GORGONAEON, one in a proposed cycle of several books, is a fragmentary and hallucinogenic reading experience.

Frequent shifts in time and perspective imbue this book with an atmosphere of paranoia and dread, but an optimistic and magical aura can be exhumed from Krall's alchemical wordplay as well. The bizarre mages are poetically stitched to an odd narrative about mental and moral disintegration to create a curious doubling effect.

GORGONAEON is a challenging yet rewarding read that will appeal to fans of grotesque surrealism.

"Jordan Krall is one of the best of the next generation of writers looking askance at modern life and able to chart its absurdities and its dangers. His books conjure up uncomfortable visions with a lucid and alienating gaze." - Jeff VanderMeer, award-winning author of THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

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<![CDATA[SEX, GORE AND MILLIPEDES BY KEN MACGREGOR]]>Sun, 25 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/sex-gore-and-millipedes-by-ken-macgregorBy George Daniel Lea 
Here's the thing about extremity in horror or any other kind of fiction: 

It's relative; entirely subjective. One cannot pre-empt how others are going to react or respond to the material your provide; one can only hope that they do react, and in a manner that makes the work worthwhile. 

The notion of advertising material as “EXTREME!” has never particularly sat well with me, as it seems to be an attempt to pre-empt or proscribe reaction before audiences have made their minds up. The relative extremity or not of any given material relies largely upon the reader; what biases, interpretations, intentions and, indeed, agendas, they bring to it. As such, one could make what one considers the most disgusting, offensive, morally reprehensible material imaginable, yet it might gain no traction or elicit no response from certain consumers beyond a shrug or a sigh. 


This is certainly a position I often find myself in, especially since what is considered “extreme” in horror fiction and cinema has become so codified; a sub-genre within itself, with its own templates, traditions and parameters. That phenomena in itself is arguably contradictory, since having established parameters of “extremity” ultimately makes for work that can be predicted to certain degrees of accuracy: a reader will generally know roughly that there will be some form of extreme gore, bodily mutilation and/or sex within the work, and will -consciously or otherwise- take pains to cushion themselves against it, thereby diluting emotional response.

This begs the question: regardless of what it consists of or contains, can a work be legitimately labelled or marketed as “extreme” if it fails to elicit extreme emotional response? What if something ostensibly banal -such as a soap opera or day time TV drama- elicits an extreme response owing to its promotion of banality, the simplification of certain situations it provides, the two-dimensional, sentimental solutions it promotes? Can that then be labelled as an extreme work? 

Herein lies the core problem with work like Sex, Gore and Millipedes; nothing innate to the work itself, which is generally fun, punchy, well paced and economically written, but with reference to certain syntheses and contradictions that exist within wider culture and certain markets. 

Sex, Gore and Millipedes markets itself as a work of conscious sickness, as something that will distress, disgust and/or morally offend. For me, it achieves none of those goals, but does succed in being an extremely fun, sardonic, comic-book extravaganza of absurd images and situations, ranging from the erotic to the obscene and back round again. There's a certain quality to the writing that makes it light and breezy to read; a factor that may, for some, be in contrast to the nature of its subject matter. The experience of reading put me in mind of flicking through certain comic books as a teenager; the horror comics, copies of 2000AD and certain examples of Manga that had only just begun to filter into Western markets: there's a pleasant and abiding sense of the taboo about the collection that makes it intimate and fun; the kind of sex partner who is as inclined to laughter as to sighs. 

Nor is it abashed in its appetites and obsessions, which fact appeals to a reader of my inclinations ENORMOUSLY; all of the characters are sexual, sensual beings, who enjoy what they do, even when it descends into the most uproarious deviance (from a woman who takes her pleasure from graphically fucking the living, chocolate bunny her Father brought her as a birthday present to the couple who discover a tree on their property whose apertures resemble certain female anatomy). There is an enormous degree of pleasure in this collection, as well as examples of incredible pain, disgrace and despair (parasitic millipedes whose excretions prove an aphrodisiac that overpowers all restraint and parameters of sexuality, orientation etc infesting and graphically bursting from the belly of one of their beneficiaries, the woman sucked dry of her youth by the spectral lover whose heart she keeps in a pickling jar om the shelf). 

For the most part, this is not a collection that concerns itself with the ideologically perverse or intense; it isn't attempting to make any weighty point or engage in philosophical deviance; its stories are highly aesthetic, extremely vivid and colourful, as is the nature of the deviance and/or extremity they contain: it certainly wouldn't be out of place to see them rendered in graphic form, maybe as a comic or a web series of some description. There's a degree of colour and vivacity to the images described, as well as a distinct and sensory quality to their situations and environments. 

Extreme? Well, as previously established, that depends very much on the reader. For many, I can certainly see the graphic and unabashed sex, the acknowledgement of appetite, the scenes of mutilation and gore, eliciting fairly strong reaction. For me, they evoked a sense of appreciation as to the colour and clarity of their recording, the fact that the writer is clearly unambiguous concerning what pleases, arouses and engages him, and hopes that others share those interests. I can't profess a sense of disturbance or of being unsettled at any particular point; this simply isn't the kind of material that evokes that kind of reaction in me (such tends to be of a more ideological stripe; an extremity of ideas rather than of images), but what it does elicit is entirely welcome and pleasurable. 

A fun descent into gratuity, fully aware of its audience and what they crave, for all of its omens and warnings; stories that hurtle along at incredible pace, that don't concern or belabour themselves with redundant or cushioning details: that get down and dirty in sex and blood and pleasure and pain at the earliest opportunity. 

Nor is this predominated by male appetites or phalocentric drives; there are as many -if not more- stories whose protagonists are women as men, who are presented as unambiguously, as desire-driven, as hungry and urgent as their male counterparts (sometimes to their deficit, often not), which is refreshing, especially in a sub-genre in which women so often become fodder for or mediums of extremity; subjects of rape and mutilation, rather than entities that engage with and exhibit their own desires (interestingly, it's often the female characters in the collection that embrace the strangeness, absurdity and surrealism of their situations, whereas the male characters -more often than not- fall victim to them). 

Not exactly extreme to my tastes, but an extremely fun, sharp, eminently readable collection, the appeal of which relies arguably even more so on personal taste and proclivity than many other texts of its type: those who have issues with graphic and highly sensual details will find this off-putting, whereas those like me, who actively seek out such qualities, and have a significantly high threshold for offence, are likely to devour it just as readily as some of the characters devour one another (in every interpretation of the concept). 
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​Wait! Seriously, hang on a minute before opening this book. In case the title, and lurid, disturbing image on the front haven't already made it shockingly clear, THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR CHILDREN. Or people with sensitive stomachs. Or taste.

This is a volume of twisted, dark, incredibly graphic horror stories. This is all the stuff the author wouldn't want his mom to even know he wrote. This is the one book he plans to keep hidden from his kids under after his death.

It's not all blood splatter and fornication, however. I mean, sure-- there's a lot of those things (more the latter, maybe). There's human struggle, self-doubt, painful choices, and love. Yeah. Love.
Because, if you, the reader, doesn't feel for the characters, if they don't resonate with you in some way... well, then where's the fun in torturing them?

Ken MacGregor pulls you into the stories, and, once you give a damn, that's when he starts doing horrible things to the people in them.

So, if you think you've got the guts, and you don't mind losing some sleep, go ahead. Read the book. But, please, if you know Ken's mom, don't tell her it exists, okay?

Purchase from Amazon
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<![CDATA[WALLFLOWER BY CHAD LUTZKE]]>Wed, 14 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/wallflower-by-chad-lutzkereview by John Boden 
 
I have had the pleasure of calling Chad a friend for well over a year now. I've read a lot of his stuff in beta stages and I'm usually pretty impressed with what he delivers.  I was lucky enough to have done the same with this, his most recent novella.  I loved his coming-of-age story from last summer, Of Foster Homes And Flies and was excited to see how he'd follow it up.  Well, I can tell you that Wallflower is an about face.
Wallflower is the first-person account of Chris, a young man--a boy in a lot of ways who is just starting to feel his way in the world. Trying on adulthood while desperately clinging to youthful ideals of responsibility and mortality. While out with his friends one day, they break into an abandoned house--urban exploring, I think the kids call it--and while inside they discover a derelict sleeping in one of the rooms. The boys end up assaulting and injuring the man before they flee the scene.  Chris however decides he's going to go back. he wants to see that the man is okay but he has another reason.  He noticed the hobo's drug paraphernalia lying about and wants to try heroin, just to do it. Chris embarks on a needle-fueled journey that goes deeper than he ever intended  as he discovers that there are perils and pitfalls that were never covered in the after-school specials.  
What plays out is an odd take on the master/apprentice arc, shoved through William Burroughs fedora. It's bleak and haunting. Brushburn raw and brimming with dark realism and it is honestly horrific.
Wallflower is available on Amazon.
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After an encounter with a homeless man, a high school graduate becomes obsessed with the idea of doing heroin, challenging himself to try it just once. A bleak tale of addiction, delusion, and flowers.

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<![CDATA[POSTAL BY MATT SHAW AND J.R PARK]]>Mon, 12 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/postal-by-matt-shaw-and-jr-parkReview by George Ilett Anderson

 A Very British Purge

We probably all had that feeling at one point or another where someone has committed some act or said something unconscionable and you’ve just thought “I’d love to see you get your just desserts.” It’s an idea take to its logical extreme in the enjoyably sharp collaborative novella from J.R. Park and Matt Shaw, “Postal.”
 
Set in a contemporary England, the current government has decided to instigate a new piece of legislation, the “Postal Execution Grant” as a means to subdue and control the population. This official letter grants thirteen members of the population the right to commit legalized murder on any other person they deem worthy of receiving their wrath, free from any legal or ethical complications. I think it’s probably fair to say that Park and Shaw serve up quite the menu of deserving characters!
 The story starts out introducing a disparate group of individuals going about their daily business. As the novella unfolds, it becomes clear that the majority of characters fates are inexorably intertwined and it is going to be an eventful and memorable day for all the wrong reasons. I have to say that this is one story where you are positively itching for the main characters to get their just desserts. The main antagonists are a thoroughly unpleasant bunch of narcissistic and arrogant characters intent on using and abusing all around them. Thankfully in amongst their bile, invective and rage is the character of Janet who provides a nicely contrasting story about the role of morality and individual choice in society.
 
However, you probably aren’t reading “Postal” for the character dynamics or the subtle social commentary but more the inventive and wonderfully nasty levels of retribution dished out by the recipients of the aforementioned letter. As one would expect from Park and Shaw, two writers steeped in the more extreme end of horror, the punishments must fit the crime and what you have here are some deliciously inventive and nasty slices of retribution.
 
“Postal” comes across almost like the bastard love child of Grand Guignol and a comedic farce; interspersed amongst the gleefully creative and graphic deaths is a healthy injection of jet black sardonic humour and sharp slices of social commentary. The novella takes some well aimed pot shots at English notions of civility and duty, politics and society’s lurid obsession with violence and social commentators who like to stir the pot. Suffice to say that “Postal” is a sly and sharp slice of visceral wish fulfilment that is well worthy of your time and money.
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From Matt Shaw (Sick B*stards) and J R Park (Upon Waking)...

It was a bold move, an initiative by a truly inspirational leader.

The scheme was a simple one. Each month a letter would be sent to selected people; thirteen in total. Within that month the receiver of the letter was given the lawful right to kill one person. It didn’t matter who it was or how they did it. The receiver granted the right to commit murder with no legal consequences.

Each month people wondered whether this time they’d be randomly selected. Whether they’d be chosen to make their lives that little bit easier by killing the person who was making it unnecessarily harder.

Praise for the authors

“Park is a much-needed shot in the arm for gritty pulp horror.” – DLS Reviews

“Uncompromising and savage, Matt Shaw's writing ensures that the future of the horror genre is in good hands.” - Shaun Hutson, author of 'Slugs'

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<![CDATA[SACCULINA BY​ PHILIP FRACASSI]]>Sun, 11 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/sacculina-by-philip-fracassiReview by Tony Jones 
“There are much, much nastier things at sea than sharks…..”
The kindle was made for this perfectly pitched slice of sea horror, making great novellas that might have been tricky to track down a few year instantly accessible. Fortunately for me I had the luxury of reading “Sacculina” in under ninety minutes whilst flying to a family wedding, but if I had been sailing to that same wedding I doubt I would have enjoyed it so much! In recent years the horror world has been enrichen by the renaissance of the novella and I’ve really enjoyed stuff by the likes of Josh Malerman and Ted E Grau and so now I have Philip Fracassi to add to my ‘must read’ pile. Obviously I’ve been aware of his growing reputation for a while, as he’s been making big waves as a writer of short horror fiction, but this was my first read. It certainly will not be my last.
“Sacculina” was a very tight and compact story set entirely on a small day-trip fishing boat. Jim is the younger brother of Jack, who has just been released from prison after six years inside for housebreaking. After his release he says the first thing he wants to do is go fishing, something neither of the brothers have done before. Chris, who is Jack’s larger than life best friend tags along, Jim suspects that Chris may have been an accomplice in the activities that sent Jack to prison. Their father Henry joins, now a shadow of his former self after his son’s imprisonment and the death of his wife from cancer. Fracassi’s easy knack with words very quickly develop believable backstories before the four men hit the sea, looking to find an escape in fishing, possibly from themselves.
 
Ron is the captain of the boat and the only other character of note in the novella. Initially he didn’t fancy the weather that day, the other four should have listened to him, instead intimidated by Chris the captain takes them out to sea and into something very, very nasty. The family dynamics are an important part of the story as Jack has obviously changed considerably in his six years away and this friction is maintained right to the final conclusion. Along the way there are a couple of terrific flashbacks/nightmares as the story is told from Jim’s point of view, the first of his dying mother and the second involving a fight with his brother when they were boys. Both sequences really ramp up the atmosphere.
 
Obviously the trip doesn’t go to plan. Diesel fumes from the engine ruins the scenic journey and when Captain Ron finally finds a fishing spot he likes Jim catches the first fish of the day. Once they land the fish they realise it looks odd and has weird bulbous lumps on it which Captain Ron says are barnacles. He also says it is impossible for barnacles to lash onto a fish so small. Soon they realise these barnacles are all over the place. To say any more of the plot would ruin it…..
 
If you like your horror full of dread, tension and atmosphere then this is for you as it really covers all the emotions in a pretty brief read. I also loved the way the author refused to pad the story in any way, even though there were plenty of opportunities to do so. There is a knack to writing great novellas, the balance between too many ideas and the one dimensional, and Fracassi balances it just right. “Sacculina” cleverly develops one small horror idea and builds a punchy self-contained story around this concept. It’s a pretty simple horror concept: five men go out to sea and something horrible happens. So let Philip Fracassi take you on a ninety minute voyage, at least the reader can abandon ship or switch your kindle off…… Recommended.
 
Tony Jones  

Read John Boden's excellent interview with Phillip here 
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"SACCULINA is a smart, terrifying, and poignant tale of creeping menace. I devoured it in one frenzied sitting... this Fracassi guy is damn good."
Richard Chizmar, author of A Long December and co-author (with Stephen King) of Gwendy's Button Box 

When Jim's big brother Jack is released from prison, the brothers - along with their broken father and Jack's menacing best friend - decide to charter an ocean fishing boat to celebrate Jack's new freedom.

Once the small crew is far out to sea, however, a mutant species rises from the deep abyssal darkness to terrorize the vessel and its occupants.

As the horror of their situation becomes clear, the small group must find a way to fend off the attack and somehow, someway, return to safety; but as the strange parasitic creatures overrun them, they must use more extreme - and deadly - measures to survive.

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<![CDATA[THE METHOD BY DUNCAN RALSTON]]>Fri, 09 Jun 2017 07:13:46 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/the-method-by-duncan-ralstonReview by Tony Jones 

“Marriage problems?
​I’d recommend divorce before rerolling in ‘The Method’”

A few months back I nominated ‘The Method’ for possible publication for a new venture by Amazon called ‘Kindle Scout’ where by reading previews and a voting system readers can help choose which books will be published on kindle. As Duncan is both well known in the horror community, and has an entertaining online presence, I was not surprised ‘The Method’ was picked up for publication. Because I voted for this book, I received a free copy prior to release. This was a nice touch from Amazon.
Since Ralston appeared on the horror scene a few years ago his popularity has grown pretty quickly and I think that ‘The Method’ will most definitely increase his reach. In my old age, I’ve turned into a bit of a wuss, so I generally avoid the ‘extreme horror’ banner he sometimes writes under, but have enjoyed ‘Harbringer’ and some of his other shorter work. However, I’m pleased to say that ‘The Method’ shows that Ralston is most definitely widening his range and stretching his versatility as a writer. This work has elements of horror, but is also a very decent thriller which doesn’t rely on gore, violence or shock value to tell a story that moves at a fair old lick.
 
I whizzed through this page-turner of a novel which cleverly revealed its secrets very slowly. I expected the ending to be somewhat of a disappointment or anti-climax, but it bobbed and weaved right to the end. Any hard-core Ralston gore hounds out there should not be put-off either as there are still a couple of pretty graphic scenes, one with a bear-trap which will have you wincing, and a pretty elongated torture scene which was unpleasant for the psychological effect, as much as the fact that it pulled few punches.
 
Linda and Frank have been having marital problems, nothing too serious, but after meeting up with old friends Dillon and Trevor are convinced to go on a weekend retreat (which is very pricy) which the other couple assure them will help them with their marriage. Dillon and Trevor try very hard to get Linda and Frank to sign up (DON’T DO IT GUYS!) and of course they do…. There are early warning signs.... such as why are Dillon and Trevor covered in bruises? All they’ll say is that it was “a very intense experience” and they really weren’t lying…..
 
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but the couple arrive at the remote retreat and have their mobile phones confiscated and soon realise they are being monitored through secret cameras in their room before meeting another strange couple. Realising they have signed contracts without reading the small print Duncan Ralston takes us on an entertaining,  journey which has a good few twists, plot jumps, introducing a range of nasty characters, but where nothing is what it seems. Sure it gets a bit far-fetched, but it is never dull.
 
‘The Method’ is not a long novel and it was fun company for a few hours. More often than not you know where most novels are heading, but I think Ralston particularly enjoys throwing curveballs at the reader.  ‘The Method’ deserves to be a success on Kindle Scout and will hopefully find the author some new readers in the thriller end of the market as well as horror.
 
Tony Jones    
The Method by Duncan Ralston horror book fiction review
How hard will you fight for the one you love?

Frank and Linda's marriage is falling apart. When old friends tell them about an "unconventional therapy retreat" called The Method, they jump at the chance to attend.

Dr. Kaspar's Lone Loon Lodge is a secluded resort deep in the Montana wilds. The staff is friendly. The other couple joining them is intense. But when a death occurs events quickly spiral out of control, leaving Linda and Frank unable to trust anyone but each other.

Nothing is what it seems, and only one thing is certain: Love Is Pain.

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<![CDATA[CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON BY C. T. PHIPPS]]>Wed, 07 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/book-reviews/cthulhu-armageddon-by-c-t-phippsReview by Dave Heeley 
I recently watched Predator with my teenage daughter. I hadn’t actually seen it since the ‘90s but I thought it was still a fantastic movie. Imagine how I felt and how taken aback I was when my daughter later asked me if all the men in action films - "back in the day" - were so over the top? Forced to reply in the affirmative, I received the 'eye-roll of death' and I was left feeling embarrassed at enjoying such a display of overt machismo.
 
Cthulhu Armageddon had much the same effect on me.
 
C. T. Phipps has created an interesting contribution to the Cthulhu mythos here.  He is a self-professed gamer who has utilised his comprehensive knowledge of the role-playing game, Call of Cthulhu, to produce a novel that clearly shows its influence throughout. Fans of Mad Max, The Dark Tower and the computer game franchise Fallout will feel right at home with the post-apocalyptic setting of this story.
 
Cthulhu Armageddon is the first in a series of novels that are set a century after the great old ones such as Cthulhu, Hastur and Nyarlathotep have risen from their watery resting places. They have remade the Earth to better suit themselves, after nearly wiping out the whole of humanity in the process. The chief protagonist of the story is John Henry Booth, an elite ranger for the United States remnant and an overall badass with a level of masculinity that would make Schwarzenegger blush. The tale is a classic one of vengeance and retribution with Booth hunting the mad scientist/ arcane sorcerer Ward who plans to remove the problem of humans once and for all. Helping Booth on his travels are a range of supporting characters that includes a woefully underused, centuries-old ghoul who provided both comic relief and an interesting link to the world before it fell.
 
The issue of supporting characters now brings me to my main critique of the novel. The author’s female characters are, without exception, terribly one dimensional. In fact, his portrayal of women came across as quite immature - with every female encountering Booth falling in love and acting quite irrationally. At times their lack of character development meant I had to stop and check which person was in dialogue with Booth. Hopefully, as the series progresses that might change and I sincerely hope it does.
 
While I did have some gripes with the novel, I can say I rather enjoyed it. It’s a welcome addition to the mythos and I'm also looking forward to reading the second novel in the series. After all, there's always room for a little bit of machismo in our lives.
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“Under an alien sky where gods of eldritch matter rule, the only truth is revenge.” CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters). John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and suspicion he’s “tainted.” Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends. It’s the one thing he has left.

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