Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Tales from the Shadow Booth Vol 4 edited by Dan Coxon

It's as Peter begins to wade into the tarn that he spies the strange canvas structure at the edge of the trees. It looks like an abandoned Punch & Judy booth, he thinks, but dirty and tired, stained black with mould. Ignoring the water licking cold about his ankles, he squints to read the crimson scrawl on the plank propped against it. Enter the Shadow Booth, it says, and you will never be the same again.

The Shadow Booth is an international journal of weird and eerie fiction, publishing emerging and established writers of the strange. Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky hinterland between mainstream horror and literary fiction.

Volume 4 includes new weird and uncanny fiction by: Gary Budden, Jay Caselberg, Tim Cooke, James Everington, Lucie McKnight Hardy, Giselle Leeb, Polis Loizou, James Machin, Andrew McDonnell, Jane Roberts, Ashley Stokes, Anna Vaught, Charles Wilkinson and Marian Womack.

Tales from the Shadow Booth is one of those rare anthologies that has an incredible mix of genres united in that they are all dark and creepy but all equally enjoyable to read. It comes as no surprise to me that a lot of the stories of previous volumes have ended up in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year collection. 

These are stories that are rich in atmosphere and cold dread, some take a while to build whilst others are dark from the opening line. I really enjoyed all these stories the quality of work in here is incredibly high. 

The Devil of Timanfaya by Lucie McKnight Hardy is a tale of domestic discontent. Tessa and her family are on holiday in Lanzarote but its not quite the break she was hoping for. She just can't seem to relax and enjoy herself when there is a strange burnt out house just a few doors away from her holiday home.  Something terrible happened there and it's not finished. One of my faves this tale builds into a brutal finale.

The Tribute by James Machin is a tale that reminds me of Susan Hill's ethereal style of horror.  A  family are holidaying in the south of France, the parents announce they are stopping by to visit an old artist friend. Recounted by the young boy who remembers clearly his imaginary friend being by his side one minute and gone the next.

The Salt Marsh Lambs by Jane Roberts  is a brilliant folk horror tale of city folks trying to claim dominion over rural wild lands steeped in ancient folklore. Beware the Salt Marsh Lambs!

The Box of Knowledge by Tim Cooke is a haunting tale of misspent youth and isolation. A group of teens find an abandoned container to hang out and do drugs in. Tim Cooke creates this incredible atmosphere and when I'd finished reading I was left wondering if IT had really happened or whether I had just imagined it.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The House by the Cemetery by John Everson

As a fully fledged bookoholic I'm really struggling right now, and its all because of Flame Tree Press...

This is the sixth title I've read and each title has blown me away. Each author is unique but they all know how to weave an amazing horror tale. They're really raising the bar of what defines amazing horror.

Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead... she doesn’t intend to stay that way.

This was a really fun read that doesn't take itself too seriously, all story and gory! It's a novel take on the much loved Haunted House trope. 

The story starts with Mike, a carpenter, being drafted in by his long time mate, Perry, to refurbish an abandoned haunted house that's garnered a sinister reputation throughout the years. Their plan is to do it up int he they style of a haunted house and open it up to the public for a killing.

Whatever reservations Mike puts aside, immediately when he starts. There's a strange atmosphere of something being of kilter. The house doesn't feel right to him and gives him the creeps. He thinks only trouble will follow if this house is disturbed,  but ever since his wife left him he needs the money and a big project to take her off his mind. Soon he starts finding bones hidden int he walls and sealed off secret rooms and passageways but is determined to finish his job and land a big fat pay check.

Strange occurrences at the house continue, Mike hates being there all alone . Of course  it is situated in the middle of nowhere, by a cemetery. His fears are assuaged when he is joined by two girls, Katie and Emery. One is beautiful and breathtaking, the other is quite and off putting.  They are all too eager to help Mike transform the old haunted house. He doesn't question where they came from or their motives.

There's a whole bunch of other characters too. The story focuses on other members of the team who are getting the house ready for the public. There's a team of make-up artists and set designers all united in their love of horror. 

I liked the slow build up to this book, you could just sense something big was going to happen. Let me tell you it was BIG. I had to admit the twists in this tale were fairly predictable but its still a great read, a gripping page turner. I stayed up late one night to be able to finish it. There's no way I was going to get any sleep without knowing the ending and it was worth spending the next day being really tired. 

I find it strange I have never heard of this author before but will definitely be looking out for his other books in the future.

Spoiler Ahead!

What I found really satisfying about this tale was that the wicked witch won in the end. In so many films and books the wicked witch is ultimately taken down at the end, but in this tale she's just getting started!

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Something More in Obscurita

So happy to be kicking off Haloweentober with a new short story in this super awesome anthology edited by Edward Caio. My story is titled Something More, in which a couple are pushed to their limit by an unknown entity.

It's called Obscurita! Out now via Amazon 

Non puoi immaginare cosa sia nascosto nelle ombre dell’Oscurit√†…
A brand new collection of horror and dark fiction of every flavour, featuring both new and veteran authors. Whether it’s Body Horror, Ghost Stories, Cosmic Terror, Deep Space, Dark Creatures, Cursed Objects, Inhuman Secrets or The Apocalypse, you can find anything you please within the darkest corners…


THE ROSE ROOM by Chris Reeve, Esq. (Gotobed Diaries)
THE NEWBURY WENDIGO by Summer Walker (Dark Destinations: An Anthology of Terror)
BUZZ by Ezra James Fiddimore
GALATEA by Addison Peacock (The NoSleep Podcast, The Cryptid Keeper)
ONLY IN THE DARK by Hailey Piper (Black Rainbow Vol. 1, The Possession of Natalie Glasgow)
SOMETHING MORE by S.J. Budd (Aphotic Realm, The NoSleep Podcast, Sanitarium Magazine)
CALIBRATE by Kasia Kaczmarek
THE GARDEN by Orzafa Prektyav Nekisama
THE SCARECROWS by Matthew Birch (The Carnage Trilogy)

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Becoming by Glenn Rolfe

Something ancient has wormed its way up from the earth....
A change has come today.

After Michele Cote's best friend disappears, no one believes her story about the thing responsible for his abduction. Forced to figure out the mystery for herself, Michele encounters terror she has never known, and witnesses the impossible.

When other members of the community begin to change or vanish, Sheriff Shane Davis must look beyond reason in order to stop the evil seeping into this small town. With help from an unlikely source, Sheriff Davis will come face-to-face with the truth.
You can't destroy what you don't understand. For the town of Avalon, Maine, the future is about change...for better or worse.

Becoming is horror adventure unlike any other. There's gore, blood, evil monsters supernatural and human but there's also lots of fun. I really enjoying reading this tale, the action starts straight away and its a book that doesn't take itself too seriously, it just wants to entertain.

Trouble starts in the small town of Avalon when a young person goes missing. His best friends knows what what happened but people aren't prepared to believe her tale that a creature took him. Soon more and more start to disappear even weirder are the ones who are changing all under the spell of the lady in the lake.

Its up to a small band of townsfolk to save themselves and their town from total annihilation.
What makes this book enjoyable is that there are a whole host of characters to get behind. My favourites were Michele and her dad, the sheriff and his wife.

My only slight fustration with this tale was that there were a lot of characters. I really struggled to remember who everyone was, but it didn't get in the way of enjoying the book, which is a total bloodbath!

Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea

"Deep in a Wyoming mine, hell awaits. Former cattle driver, Rough Rider and current New York City cop Nat Blackburn is given an offer he can't refuse by President Teddy Roosevelt. Tales of gold in the abandoned mining town of Hecla, in the Deep Rock Hills, abound. The only problem-those who go seeking their fortune never return. Roosevelt's own troops are among the missing, and the President wants to know their fate - and find the gold. Along with his constant companion, Teta, a hired gun with a thirst for adventure, Nat travels to a barren land where even animals dare not tread."

Blurb - President Roosevelt enlists his old comrades from the Rough Riders to investigate an mysterious abandoned mining town of Hecla deep in Wyoming. There's rumours aplenty that the mines are full of gold but everyone who goes there to dig never comes back. The president wants answers, and gold, by sending in two of his most trusted men on a top secret mission.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ghost Mine is simply an amazing book.  I've said this many times but I haven't come across a Flame Tree Publishing book that I didn't like. I think I'm going to have to buy every single book they release.  This is more than a book, it's an  adventure packed read.  The premise is really unique, a cowboy  inspired wild west tale but with ghosts and creepy shit. The plot moves really quickly and soon becomes a story that is really hard to put down. I don't want to sat too much and spoil the fun but it escalates really quickly and shows just how brilliant Hunter Shea's imagination is.

This isn't the first book I've read by Hunter Shea, the first being Creature, which I grew to really like. This book is even better in my opinion. It's really gripping but also really fun due to Nat and his equally charismatic sidekick, Teta. 

I thought the characterisation of Nat and Teta was brilliant and together they formed a great double act. Just them on their own was captivating enough but when they encounter trouble and supernatural creatures its magic. I loved the dry sense of humour throughout the book and actually laughed out loud when I looked up the Spanish translation of Teta's name. 

Things really kick off when they arrive at Hecla, it's not just ghosts in the night they need to deal with. This is a place even the Native Indians fear to go. 

I really liked these guys from the get go and was absolutely rooting for them as they embarked on their crazy adventure. A few other reviewers such as Char's Horror Corner, are calling out for this book to be turned into a book series and I agree wholeheartedly!

I have to admit towards the end it starts to feel like it could be a bit  a little OTT  but it manages to hold on and ends as a great read. I just loved the ending, particularly Chapter 61. This book will make you laugh out loud as much as it will creep you out. This book will appeal to anyone who likes horror, westerns, historical fiction and adventure stories.

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.