Friday, 13 September 2019

Appalachian Undead edited by Eugene Johnson and Jason Sizemore




Almost Heaven...

Or is it? The culture of the Appalachians is steeped with folktales, legends, and deep-rooted religion. There is much to love in the beauty of the rolling hills and friendly rural families, but something malicious hides just beneath the surface. Something dreadful. Something hungry... Can the people of the region stand up against the hordes of the Dead?

Appalachian Undead takes a look at the dark side of Appalachia, where the undead walk, driven by old magic and their hunger for us. Can Appalachia stand against and army that never tires and is always hungry? With new intriguing tales of the undead, by some of the best names in horror, including Jonathan Maberry, Gary A. Braunbeck, Tim Lebbon, Elizabeth Massie, Lucy Snyder, Bev Vincent, Tim Waggoner, John Skipp and many more.


Table of Contents:

When Granny Comes Marchin' Home Again - Elizabeth Massie
Calling Death - Jonathan Maberry
Hide and Seek - Tim Waggoner
Twilight of the Zombie Game Preserve... - S. Clayton Rhodes
Being in Shadow - Maurice Broaddus
Sitting up with the Dead- Bev Vincent
The Girl and the Guardian - Simon McCaffery
Repent, Jessie Shimmer! -Lucy Snyder
Almost Heaven -Michael Paul Gonzalez
On Stagger - G. Cameron Fuller
We Take Care of Our Own - John Everson
Sleeper - Tim Lebbon
Reckless - Eliot Parker
Company's Coming - Ronald Kelly
Black Friday - Karin Fuller
Spoiled - Paul Moore
Miranda Jo's Girl - Steve Rasnic Tem
Times Is Tough in Musky Holler - John Skipp & Dori Miller
Long Days to Come - K. Allen Wood
Hell's Hollow - Michael West
Brother Hollis Gives His Final Sermon from a Rickety Make-Shift Pulpit in the Remains of a Smokehouse that now Serves as His Church - Gary A. Braunbeck



I'd recently read Appalachian themed anthology, Appalachian Horror edited by Bo Chappell and loved it, so this one with its really impressive line up caught my eye. 

I have to admit, I didn't like every story in this anthology, to be really honest, Zombies aren't really my thing but this anthology has a really impressive line-up of horror authors I love. Just recently I read The House by the Cemetery by John Everson . He's one of the authors in here, I was eager to read more of his work.

























In this anthology there are 21 stories, and although I didn't like every one of them, the ones I did like I really liked. Overall the quality of writing is really high and very entertaining. There's a really wide range of zombie tales that elevate the genre past over done cliches.

My favourite tale from Appalachian Undead has to be When Granny Comes Marching Home Again by  Elisabeth Massie. Her writing really brought the place to life with vivid characters and dialogue unique to the region. I really loved bad ass but terrifying Granny! These were one of the stories you don't want to end. Legend has it that when this was released in 2012 the response to this story was so overwhelming that Elisabeth Massie has continued the tale in her novel also available from Apex, Desper Hollow.




Other tales I really like was the Super fun and thrilling tale, Repent Jessie Shimmer by Lucy Snyder. This tale had it all witches, familiars, voodoo and Zombies! Great fun from beginning to end.

The most terrifying and poignant story of the collection is Calling Death by Jonathan Maberry. The tale of a young man coming back to his homeland to visit an ancient relative and finding the past is as buried as it should be. This had such a deep brooding atmosphere that kept building as the tale progressed.

Offering a really different take on the classic zombie tale was Company's Coming by Ronald Kelly. This moving tale will have you seeing zombies in a very different light.

I also really enjoyed Time is Tough in Musky Holler by John Skipp and Dori Miller. This was a great horror tale of how survivors of a zombie apocalypse adapt to a new way of life. Grisly and lots of fun.

Overall this is a great anthology, something in there for everyone and if Zombie tales are your cup of tea, you'll love this!


Saturday, 7 September 2019

Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See by Kevin Harrison


Kev Harrison first appeared of my radar when I read his brilliant story, The Waiting Game, featured in Aphotic Realm's latest issue - Fangs. A man visits his girlfriend's place of work with disastrous results!

So when I saw that another of his stories, Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See, was being released by Demain Publishing I jumped right in.



Cinders of A Blind Man Who Could See is an excellent serving of folk horror, a sub-genre I've been obsessed with ever since I saw The Wicker Man late one night on the telly.

Like with The Wicker Man, this tale has a great atmospheric build up. The story is really unsettling, no one is who they seem and there are many secrets in one little town who don't approve of outsiders. It's set in a small community in Northern England where Owen lives almost as a recluse after a terrible accident from which he's never truly recovered.

He's woken late one night, to witness a miracle, his son's sight has returned after 21 years. Everyone in the community is delighted but Owen has no faith. He senses danger underfoot.

David his son, says his eyesight was returned to him when he encountered strange markings on a majestic Yew tree dating back 1500 years residing deep in Leonard Woods. He is overjoyed to have his vision restored but yet it is not enough to convince him that the ancient woods should be saved from a development project bulldozing the woods.

I really liked the character of Owen, a man of few words outwardly he appears cold and tough, but he knows what is right and wrong, good and evil, and will go to any lengths to protect the ones he loves.

Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See is a great British horror story. Sometimes its best to leave the old pagan ways alone lest you find yourself at war with ancient powers you can't begin to comprehend.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

House of Skin by Jonathan Janz





Myles Carver is dead. But his estate, Watermere, lives on, waiting for a new Carver to move in. Myles's wife, Annabel, is dead too, but she is also waiting, lying in her grave in the woods. For nearly half a century she was responsible for a nightmarish reign of terror, and she's not prepared to stop now. She is hungry to live again...and her unsuspecting nephew, Paul, will be the key. Julia Merrow has a secret almost as dark as Watermere's. But when she and Paul fall in love they think their problems might be over. How can they know what Fate--and Annabel--have in store for them? Who could imagine that what was once a moldering corpse in a forest grave is growing stronger every day, eager to take her rightful place amongst the horrors of Watermere? FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.


I imagine most of you horror fans have already heard of this guy, for me he appears to have popped out of nowhere becoming an overnight sensation. He's quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. I've read a few of his books now from Flame Tree Publishing, who are reprinting all his previous novels, and with each read I like him more and more.

House of Skin shares a lot of similarities with his previous book I've recently read ,The Siren and the Specter. The books both feature a remote haunted house, a main character who is trying to escape his past and a young beautiful girl full of secrets. Jonathan has come across a great formula and it works each time without the plots feeling similar.

In House if Skin there are two story lines. We have Paul who is a bit of a loser, he's reached his mid thirties and has done nothing with his life, other than amass a beer gut and angry unsatisfied girlfriend.  His life is about to change in a big way when he inherits a huge sprawling mansion, Watermere from his Uncle Myles. A relative he's never met as his family hate him and refuse to ever talk about him.

Amazed at his luck, he quits his dead end job, his flat and his nagging girlfriend and leaves for Watermere in the dead of night thinking that when he wakes up after a long car journey he'll land into a much happier life.  He's wrong of course, this is a horror tale, literally the whole town hates him and he doesn't know why.

We also follow the stories of Myles Carver during the 1950's, Paul's recently deceased Uncle. Myles is desperately in love with the beautiful and mysterious Annabel who unfortunately happens to be his brother's wife. Myles and his brother David both live in Watermere and its status in the small town is legendary.  The brothers lead a wild life of privilege, excess and throw debauched parties laced with liquor and sex.

One of the things I really like about Janz's writing is his ability in creating these very believable characters and then change them seamlessly throughout the course of the book. The ending is brilliant and really satisfying, can't say much about it without giving spoilers but every loose end is very neatly tied up. I'd love to see a sequel to this.




Monday, 19 August 2019

Lego Lasts Forever on The NoSleep Podcast




It's with great pleasure to announce that my latest tale will be appearing on the legendary horror podcast that is The No Sleep Podcast!

You can listen to my tale, which appears first here

Happy listening!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

The Forest Is Hungry by Christopher Stanley



A sick daughter, a father’s race against time to find the one thing that might save her and a mysterious tree growing through the kitchen floor… 

Author Christopher Stanley on writing ‘The Forest Is Hungry’: “Quite often my stories come from several different places. In this one, the walk at the beginning, where the parents are separated from their child, is a walk I’ve done a number of times with my own family. My sister moved into a big new house and she told me about some of the conversations she had had with the site foreman. And we have a family friend who cuts our trees for us. All of these things happened around the same time and – bang! – there’s the story!” 


This is the third offering I've read in Demain Publishing's Short Sharp Shocks and now I'm hooked. This time I've read, The Forest is Hungry by Christopher Stanley. It's a really vicious folk horror tale of a family torn apart through separation trying to survive

The story starts with every parents worst nightmare, a child goes missing in the woods. for centuries we've been told the dark folk tales that warn about the perils of babes in the woods and this modern version is no different.

After taking his only child, Becca, to the woods, outside his home, Richard realises something is amiss. Afterwards she speaks only in strange riddles and then the trees start moving in. It's not just him and his family that is being targeted it's everyone in his street.

The Forest is hungry.

I loved this tale, it starts off with a bang and just keeps gathering pace. It's hard to say much without giving spoilers  only that its a really creepy story that won't fail to disapoint even the most hardened horror fan. 

I like to think that this story exists in the same forest as Kev Harrison's Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See, also released by Demain Publishing.  Both stories are set around an ancient woodland that has stood for centuries and will stand for centuries after the last human has walked the earth. Maybe its the powerful forces within that keep this forest untouched.

Tales From the Shadow Booth Vol 3 edited by Dan Coxon







"Jared can feel the tower blocks looming overhead, three concrete sentinels watching as he runs. He knows he has less than a minute before his pursuers are on him, but as he rounds the corner into the alley he stops, dead. There's a strange canvas structure propped against the wall, a hand-made sign scrawled on a scrap of cardboard.Enter the Shadow Booth, it says, and you will never be the same again."


This is the third offering from The Shadow Booth. I loved the two previous volumes and was really excited to get my hands on this.

In the Shadow Booth you'll find a collection of 11 strange and twisted tales. These aren't horror or dystopian but somewhere between the two. These are those wonderfully "out there" hard to classify stories that stay with you long after you have finished reading them.

On the whole I really enjoyed most of the stories here, I have to admit there were a few that didn't quite do it for me, but that's to be expected with an anthology. I believe there's a something for everyone in here.

In my opinion the stand out tale for me was The Cherry Cactus of Corsica by Verity Holloway. This tale was a remarkable feat of imagination and execution. I just loved it. It follows the tale of Kurt who feels drawn to one of his students who shows great talent and promise but is deeply troubled. He only wants to help but is unable to resist being drawn in to a dire situation he cannot escape from.

Also up there in my favourites was Cousin Grace by Jill Hand. I've read quite a few of her stories over the years and they are always superb. I loved the opening paragraph which was both charming and sinister!

"Cousin Grace liked marzipan, standard poodles, and the actor Jean Reno. Three years ago her house ate her."

This was a really original tale and Jill Hand delivers an emotional punch. I really cared about these two girls who only had each other in life and when Cousin Grace disappears into the Dream Room only the narrator seems to care.

Meat By Judy Birkbeck was another really great tale of Fenella who moves to a new town with her daughter Saskia in search of a new life. I loved the vivid descriptions used throughout and the brooding creepy atmosphere which really felt like the calm before a storm. It definitely felt like there was something strange about this town!

Hermit Island's Hermit by Armel Dagorn was a really short but creepy tale about a young man's expedition to a remote island revered by local folklore. Will he be able to return once he sets off in his canoe?

I Have a Secret by Raquel Castro was a brutal tale of family loss told through the voice of a child, Milo . Haunting it depicts the tale of a very sick mother coming home from hospital, things will never be the same again. Milo suspects something is underfoot but no one will listen.





The Town that Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer

Sylvia Bernstein doesn't want to end up on a dead-end path like a former journalism colleague. She begins searching the tabloid's archives for a story that can get her career back on track. A strange bridge, with an abnormally high rate of suicides, seems like the perfect place to start. She journeys to the little town, eager to investigate, but encounters a tale far more sinister than she ever expected...





Calvin Demmer's latest release is part of a new venture, Demain Publishing that have kicked off to a great start by releasing a series of short sinister fiction which cost less than a pound/dollar. I've previously read Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See by Kev Harrison and absolutely loved it.

I've read a lot of Calvin Demmer's work over the years and  had high hopes for this. I wasn't disappointed. This is a tale long enough for you to feel really involved in, it felt more like a mini novel rather than just a short story. I easily devoured this is one go so it's perfect for reading on the train whilst commuting to work.

The tale follows a young reporter, Sylvia, eager to make something of herself and not follow in the footsteps of her predecessor who wasted his life before his untimely departure. She's a hunter looking for that big story that's going to earn her name in print and she'll do anything for her fame.

Sylvia ends up in a small town just like any other except for its exceptionally high suicide rate which seems to garner no questions or outcry from the locals. They accept it just as they accept the bridge just outside town which people can't help hurling themselves off.

Even when danger presents itself she keeps on. Nothing, not even the supernatural is going to stop her from finding answers.

This is a tale of intrigue that moves quickly with a plot that quickly progresses, it is part horror part thriller conducted on a wild goose chase.

OUT NOW!