A Soundless Dawn by Dustin LaValley is certainly quite a departure from the books we usually associate with Sinister Grin Press. ‘A Soundless Dawn’ is a collection of thoughtful flash fiction pieces, micro fiction pieces and short stories that seem somewhat autobiographical in nature, though at other times can appear completely unconnected to anything else within the book.
BY TONY JONES
“A challenging and original literary debut reimagining the filming of a 1979 horror film, partially inspired by the notorious ‘Cannibal Holocaust’”
I stumbled across Kea Wilson’s rather marvellous debut novel “We Eat Our Own” while on a recent trip to the States and although it is not strictly a horror novel it has much to offer genre fans, as well as those who prefer literary fiction. Whichever you prefer, prepare to be swept away by layers of sweaty, paranoid horror and dark nights in the jungle. I devoured the 300 pages over three evenings, gripping me from the start, and as I spent my days in America doing tourist stuff, my mind frequently wandered back to this beguilingly strange and unsettling novel. Thus far it has picked up great reviews from literary presses, but I think it deserves to be covered by horror websites also. Paul Tremblay is the only author I have seen recommend it so far, and he is a man who frequently recommends great titles.
By George Ilett Anderson
Into the Void
The Return of the Old Ones is the second collaboration between editor Brian M. Sammons and Dark Regions Press and the spiritual successor to World War Cthulhu. Whereas that anthology dealt with the eternal struggle against the Old Ones, this time around the battle has been lost, the stars are right and humanity has been relegated to the bottom of the food chain.
What I’d have to say straight off the bat is how much I enjoy reading Brian M. Sammons’ edited anthologies, especially the ones with a Lovecraftian hue. He has this innate ability to seek out a nice balance of stories and contrasting styles that make for very entertaining and fun anthologies. Well, perhaps “entertaining” and “fun” aren’t strictly the right words to use in this context. This is after all a bleak and nihilistic hued anthology about the Old Ones wiping the slate clean and reclaiming their dominion over humanity. Hardly the epitome of lightness and joy but methinks you’ll most definitely find some things in amongst the nineteen different apocalyptic perspectives to enjoy. I know I most certainly did! The approach that Sammons has taken with the anthology is to divide the book into three sections that mirrors his introductory quote from The Dunwich Horror; “The Old Ones were, The Old Ones are, and The Old Ones shall be.” So in effect the apocalypse from a pre, during and post event perspective. And it works an absolute treat.
'A Long December' by Richard Chizmar is a huge book! A novella and 30+ short stories means that you get some serious bang for your buck! As I do with anthologies and short story collections, when I've finished the book I look back through the story titles and see just how much I can remember. It is testament to the quality of the storytelling here that many of the tales included can be considered good to excellent. In fact, I don't believe there were any that didn't elicit some sort of emotion or enjoyment.
Kaaron Warren's The Grief Hole has just won the Best Horror Novel category in the 2016 Aurealis Awards, it's a worthy winner and a one I fully endorse. Her novel is exceptional, and featured in my top 5 novels of last year, you can read my review of this exceptional book here. When the book was first announced there weer a number of options available for purchasing the book in a hardback format. One of the options was to have to included a copy of The Grief Hole Illustrated: An Artist's Sketchbook by Keely Van order. IFWG publications now have this book available as a seperate purchase. And much like its source material this is a fascinating and gorgeously put together book.
If you have ever wonder what goes through an artist's mind when they come up with the cover and interior artwork concepts for a book, then this is an essential read.
The illustrated guide tracks the passage from Keely's initial concepts right through to the final drafts of the images, aided by deeply inciteful notes that reveal the lengths a great artist will go to find the perfect style and tone for the book, and it's not just the art that she ponders over, the development of the fonts for the cover shows that the artist really connected with this book.
My personal favourite section of the book was the one that dealt with the development of the Sol Invictus, the books big bad guy. When reading a story we all have a mental image in our heads about what the characters look like, however if like me you have a hard time picturing people's faces, you are often left with a character with a blank face.
And while Keely's illustration of him doesn't actually give anything away, her drawing of him captures the spirit, desire and motivations of this most menacing monster.
The production quality of this book is exceptional, sharp detailed prints of the original artwork reveals a lot of hidden dept to Kelly's drawings as a look inside the mind of an artist this is a fascinating read, but as a companion to deep and moving novel this is almost a required reading.
Lovecraft's reach and influence can still be felt almost 100 years since his death. With new novels and anthologies hitting the shelf almost every week, the cosmic horror fan has never had so much material to choose from to satisfy their needs for adventure from the other realms. However, as is the case with most genres, the Lovecraftian genre is filled with so many substandard works. Poor pastiches that fail to understand what source material was trying to convey, or even worse, where the author tries and fails to sound like the source material and ends being Cthulhu played by Dick Van Dyke.
Luckily for us, there are a few writers that are capable of writing an authentic, yet original story based on the Lovecraft Mythos, Gary Fry is one such author and his novella The Rage of Cthulhu the latest in Horrific Tales fine line of premium novellas brings a new update to Call of Cthulhu.
I've been following Kristi DeMeester's progress as a writer since she first appeared on the old Shock Totem forums. We've had the pleasure of watching quite a few of our former "Totemites" do well for themselves- Damien Angelica Walters, Michael Wehunt, some cat named Adam Cesare. And we're quite proud of them . Kristi released and sold out of her chapbook, Split Tongues, published by Dim Shores last year. She has a collection in the works currently and this, her debut novel, drops in a few weeks. And let me tell you something. You needs all of these. Every. Single. one.
Beneath is the story of Cora, a reporter assigned a story about a snake-handling church in the rural south. She has a lot of baggage and issues from her own childhood and the church is more of a looming monster than a place of refuge. She reluctantly accepts the gig. She arrives to find a town in the midst of a dark transformation. Children are missing and adults are dying or disappearing. Things are slithering in the dark. A reclusive woman and her wayward daughter seem to be at the heart of it, not far from them is the minister of the church. A man who wears a mask of faith and guidance but who is in reality a darkly lost soul. All of these people and events are building and the soil they chose is quicksand and squirming. There is something terrible coming from underground and it's not very happy.
I absolutely loved this. It hit the sweet spot of almost 80's pulp horror with supremely weird fiction. It reminded me of Sarah Langan's The Keeper in some ways, not in story or style but in the repulsive and horrifying images that are thrust upon you as your turn these pages. The prose is poetic at times and hammer-blunt at others. The characters are layered and flawed, just like the rest of us.
This novel is going to propel DeMeester onto that list of authors you'll want to follow. I guarantee it.
Beneath is soon available from Word Horde.
When reporter Cora Mayburn is assigned to cover a story about a snake-handling cult in rural Appalachia, she is dismayed, for the world of cruel fundamentalist stricture, repression, glossolalia, and abuse is something she has long since put behind her in favor of a more tolerant urban existence. But she accepts the assignment, dredging up long-buried memories as she seeks the truth.
Philip Fracassi painted his name on the wall last year with a fistful of wonderfully horrific novellas, Mother, Altar and Fragile Dreams. He lets no moss grow under his feet, or fingers I guess we should say as he now graces us with his debut collection, Behold The Void.
There are 9 stories contained here. Some are more in the weird/cosmic horror end of the pool while others have an almost pulpy tone to them. All are wonderful. And I mean, really, if you can get Laird Barron to write your introduction, you must certainly have the goods, no?
On to the stories, We open with "Soft Construction Of A Sunset" a wildly bizarre Dali-esque tale of a lover scorned and the brutal and surreal revenge he exacts with his newly gained yet bizarre powers. This is followed by "Altar," where a simple afternoon trip to the community swimming pool turns into something monstrous and vicious. "The Horse Thief" is a razor-gash of a tale concerning a thief and his fight with the Yakuza over control of a horse god's soul.
"The Baby Farmer" is a hauntingly creepy tale about a priest who is researching the local history of a serial killer and opens up a very dark and damning chapter to the story. This one if superb. "Mother" gives us a heart-breaking tale of a marriage dying, slowly bloating and decaying into something horrible. Something that skitters and spins silk. The collection ends with "Mandala" a harrowing story of boys playing on the beach when the harmless game they play becomes anything but and the circumstances escalate into a custody battle that goes beyond death and the grave.
I skipped touching on a few of these, not because they are bad in any way, but I have to leave some surprises, right? Fracassi works in film and his style shows it. It's a lean prose but not simple. He gives you so much to pay attention to, rich and realistic characters, expansive settings and set-ups and plots that are as twisty as John Merrick's skeleton (I'm a terrible man...) He's definitely one to place your bets on.
Behold The Void is available from Journalstone.
BEHOLD THE VOID is nine stories of terror that huddle in the dark space between cosmic horror and the modern weird, between old-school hard-edged horror of the 1980’s and the stylistic prose of today’s literary giants.
Revenge takes a monstrous form when a scorned lover acquires bizarre, telekinetic powers; a community swimming pool on a bright summer day becomes the setting for a ghastly nightmare of sacrifice and loss; a thief does bloody battle with a Yakuza for the soul of a horse god; a priest must solve the mystery of a century-old serial killer or risk the apocalypse; a newly-married couple discover that relationships-gone-bad can be poisonous, and deadly; a child is forced to make an ultimate choice between letting his parents die or living with the monsters they may become; and when a boy is trapped on a beach at low tide, he must face death in many forms – that of the rising water coming to consume him and the ghost of his dead mother who wants him back, reaching for him with dark, longing arms…
Slightly Supernatural Sleuthing
From looking at the cover of “A Study in Grey”, one would suspect that this is a tale about Sherlock Holmes. However, much like Holmes’ penchant for disguise, appearances can be very deceptive and as such he is but a background character in this solidly entertaining novella from John Linwood Grant.
Set during the twilight of the aforementioned detective, the story follows Captain Blake Redvers of the mysterious Section 17 of the War Department as he is tasked with protecting the realm from a potential nefarious plot to destabilise the empire. An influential and high ranking Member of Parliament has claimed he’s receiving advice from his deceased son via a series séances that he’s been attending. With storm clouds gathering on the horizon and the threat of war brewing, the government is understandably perturbed at this turn of events and seeks to find out if there are insidious forces at work behind the scenes.
I have to say that overall I rather liked the style of the novella. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination overtly supernatural or horrific in tone, at least to these eyes. Much like Sherlock’s presence, the supernatural is a subtle background element that intermittently weaves in and out of the story, adding an extra layer of mystery and ambiguity to the proceedings. Grant excels at painting a vivid picture of Edwardian life, rich in the culture and society of the age and peopled with characters familiar to readers of Arthur Conan Doyle and William Hope Hodgson. If sleuths, séances, psychics and subterfuge tickle your fancy then you could do a lot worse than lose yourself in this gripping and tense slow burn of a novella for a couple of hours. Good stuff!
The Edwardian Era has begun its rot into modernity, exchanging all the virtues of Dr. John H. Watson for the vices of Captain Redvers Blake. But a case from Watson's era resurges in the present, ensnaring a high official in what may be a ring of German spies. Not any mere ring of bombs and petrol, but a ring of spiritualism and séances.
The former case was one of Holmes' failures. Despite an illustrious employer, despite Holmes' warnings, and despite a vengeful fire, a young woman married a monster and slipped beyond the Great Detective's ken. Now, she returns to his notice, hostess to the seance ring.
As England prepares for war, Sherlock Holmes and Captain Redvers Blake must solve these two entwined cases at once.
All this, to say nothing of 427 Cheyne Walk's new residents and their role...
Victor Teversham is one of the world's richest men. He is not a bad man, necessarily, but a man who has done some bad things, or more accurately a man who has allowed bad things to be done to further his ventures and investments. While on the phone one night, his wife commits suicide in the bathroom. It is this event that starts the troubling tale squirming.
The late Josephine Teversham made a reservation for her husband at Ballador Country House Hotel in Scotland. So, Victor is compelled to honor the request with no knowledge of why . Research informs him and Harry (his right-hand man) that the Ballador is like no other hotel. Guests are guaranteed terrifying dreams and horrific nightmares., as well as gorgeous rooms and gourmet food. They are proud of their "Haunted Hotel" shtick and play it to a T...except when they aren't playing at all. You see, something evil lives at the Ballador. It's been living there a very long time and it has a plan to get out and see the world. A violent plan that is writ in sweat and blood and draped in dreams and grief and despair. A plan that needs Victor Teversham.
Prince of Nightmares by John McNee is a firecracker of a novel. Fast paced and wonderfully grim. I would describe the imagery and tone as Hell House meets Thirteen Ghosts as recounted by Clive Barker but with a sliver of Wall Street. It's the fine characterization that cements it. Victor's almost humble denial of the fact that he has allowed very dark deeds to transpire in his name, his despair over the loss of his wife. The frets of his advanced age and mortality. There is so much going on here. And the climax that it builds to is ferocious and not easily forgotten.
Prince Of Nightmares is available from Blood Bound Books.
Welcome to the Ballador Country House Hotel. Nestled in the highlands of Scotland, it is unlike any other lodging. Guests can expect wonderful scenery, gourmet food, and horrifying nightmares—guaranteed. Daring travelers pay thousands to stay within the Ballador’s infamous rooms because of the vivid and frightening dreams the accommodations inspire.
Before Josephine Teversham committed suicide, she made a reservation at the hotel for her husband, Australian magnate Victor Teversham. Once he arrives at the hotel, Victor finds himself the target of malevolent forces, revealing the nightmares—and their purpose—to be more strange, personal, and deadly than anyone could have guessed.