Monday, 27 January 2020

Welcome to the Show edited by Doug Murano

17 horror Stories. One legendary music venue. 

We all know the old cliché: Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, add demons, other dimensions, monsters, revenge, human sacrifice, and a dash of the truly inexplicable. This is the story of the (fictional) San Francisco music venue, The Shantyman.

In Welcome to the Show, seventeen of today's hottest writers of horror and dark fiction come together in devilish harmony to trace The Shantyman's history from its disturbing birth through its apocalyptic encore.

Featuring stories by Brian Keene, John Skipp, Mary SanGiovanni, Robert Ford, Max Booth III, Glenn Rolfe, Matt Hayward, Bryan Smith, Matt Serafini, Kelli Owen, Jonathan Janz, Patrick Lacey, Adam Cesare, Alan M Clark, Somer Canon, Rachel Autumn Deering and Jeff Strand.

Compiled by Matt Hayward. Edited by Doug Murano.

Bring your curiosity, but leave your inhibitions at the door. The show is about to begin…

One legendary music venue, 17 dark horror tales. Epic concept! The music venue in question is a  dive bar located in San Francisco with a dark history of murder but yet never fails to pull in a big crowd. The place is haunted with legends and marks a dark rite of passage to go there. No one can resist the temptation to go there despite the warnings.

What makes this anthology stand out from the rest is its impressive line up of really talented well known authors; Jonathan Janz, Brain Keene, Max Booth 111, Somer Canon Adam Cesare and many many more.

Crystal Lake are the masters of putting together superb anthologies, I've quite quite a few in my time such as Lost Highways, Tales From the Lake and The Outsiders so I knew this would be really impressive.

I hate to admit but there were a few tales I didn't like, that I felt were a little lacklustre this is most likely because the the stories that I liked, I loved. These anthology filled the reader in me with absolute joy at reading such well crafted horror tales and has inspired me as an author. These are the stories I long to be able to write if I put on my best thinking hat.

What makes this a joy to read is that there are so many sub-genres to enjoy, in here you'll find tales of vampires, ghosts, demons and some down right creepy shit. Usually when I review anthologies I tend to pick out a few favourites but its really hard to do that with Welcome to the Show. I guess my standout favourite would have to be In the Winter of No Love by John Skipp, a brilliant portrayal of 1960's San Francisco, if I ever get my hands on a time machine this is the first place I'd visit. Except this tale focuses not on the summer of love but the winter of darkness. Loved it from beginning to end!

The 17 tales in here complement each other perfectly and there's a great flow to this collection. When I finished one tale I was really eager to start the next. All I can say is you'll just have to read it for yourself.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Last Meal in Osaka & Other Stories by Gary Buller

Last Meal In Osaka & Other Stories (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 44)

Swashbuckle Cove:
Swashbuckle Cove is a closed-for-repair boat ride in a dying seaside resort. Harry Bootle and his brother climb aboard for one last ride, but little do they know what lies beneath the surface.
Or how hungry it is.

Last Meal in Osaka:
Influential billionaire Curtis Makin, bored of the finer things in life, books a table at the secretive and exclusive restaurant 'Ouroboros.' Will the experience be as good as he hoped?
Or will 'Ouroboros' claim its pound of flesh?

Rise of the Chiggy-Pigs:
“Don’t touch, whatever you do,” dad said. “If you do, you might just turn into one.” They live at the bottom of the garden, in the cold damp, feasting silently on decay, but someone is about to disturb them...
...and learn a very important lesson.

Writing about Last Meal In Osaka & Other Stories Gary Buller said: “We have three completely different protagonists in this collection, from the innocent all the way through to unexpectedly nasty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end very well for any of them...I had to dig deep [when writing the stories] recalling how I felt when similar experiences happened to me. I wouldn’t say this was difficult, but it did bring back memories, not all of them pleasant.”

I've read a lot of Gary Buller's tales over the years and was really excited to see he had a mini collection out with Demain Publishing. The bar has been set really high here! One striking thing about Gary's work is that it is really dark horror that stays with you long after you stop reading! This is a really great little collection which gets darker the more you read on! 

The first tale is Swashbuckle Cove of two brothers holidaying in what was once a luxurious holiday resort but has now fallen into ruin. Sneaking off from their parents they sneak onto a unsupervised ride around Swashbuckle Cove. They think they're alone but they're not! I really liked this tale of childhood innocence coming to an end. The atmosphere is foreboding right from the get go. I loved the build up to the tale there's a great atmosphere and I could really imagine myself being on the lake with them.

Second is Last Meal in Osaka Curtis Makin is determined to go out in style and dines at a luxurious restaurant where his every whim is being catered to. However what he really wants is off menu... This was  really dark and I loved it. I don't want to say too much and give spoilers but its really dark!

I really liked all these tales but I have to say Rise of the Chiggy-Pigs was my favourite. You'll never look at insects in the same way again after reading this one. A young boy's life is forever altered on the fateful day he helps his father in their back garden. Little does he know how everyone around him  is going to be affected.  The ending is amazing!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Crowded House

I'm so thrilled to be starting 2020 with a brand new batch of horror stories. Crowded House and other stories will be released 31st January from Demain publishing.

Containing the stories: UNTIL I GO – Selina longs to be free from her mother’s hatred. They haven’t spoken in years until Selina is asked to visit her dying mother in hospital one final time. This is it. Soon Selina will be free but will their last goodbye go smoothly? CROWDED HOUSE – A young woman finds out she is the sole heir of her Uncle’s estate after he vanishes. She comes to Canterbury for a new life but the house is not what she was hoping for. It has been left in a terrible state and holds many secrets she must confront if she is to take control of it before it takes control of her. A BUBBLE OF FRIENDSHIP WILL KEEP US – On the cusp of adolescence, Ella fears for her best friend Jade who is turning her back on their childhood friendship and the mysterious forest beyond their homes. Jade wants to grow up but the fairies want Ella to put a stop to it.”

Crowded House will be released along with some other great works; The Birthday Girl and Other Stories by Christopher Beck, Dark Corners by David Charlesworth and Moonlight, Gun Shot, Mallet, Flame by Alicia Hilton.

These great tales are only 99p each. I can't decide which one I want to read first so I guess I'll just buy them all!

So far there have been 50 epic tales in the series such as An Invitation to Darkness by Hailey Piper, Cinders of a Blind Man who Could See by Kev Harrison, The Forest is Hungry by Christopher Stanley and The Town that Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer  plus many many more you need to check out.

Writing about the stories contained in his Short Sharp Shocks! entry, author Christopher Beck said: “MISSING CHILD is based upon my life. I was once married and my ex-wife had a little girl with whom I developed a great relationship. After the marriage failed, things between the ex and I were sour which left my relationship with her daughter uncertain. MISSING CHILD was written as an attempt to deal with that uncertainty. Though it was tough at the time, I’m happy to say that now, years later, I have a wonderful relationship with the kiddo. [I would say of my second story] THE BIRTHDAY GIRL, you know sometimes in life terrible things happen and sometimes there aren’t happy endings. Stories like this aren’t easy to tell but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be told. [My final story in this mini-collection is] THE TRASH CAN. In my opinion, the great thing about short stories is that they don’t have to explain everything, they can just be pulpy fun. I used to live with my brother and he had a dog that raided the trash constantly. He bought a trash can which was basically dog proof. Soon after our roommate threw a paper towel into it and the lid slammed down way too hard and I had an instant story!”

Hand to Mouth by Deborah Sheldon, 

When the truth doesn’t satisfy, people make up stories.” An imprisoned man writes letters to his son, trying to explain the bizarre circumstances that led to his incarceration. But can his son believe him? Award-winning author Deborah Sheldon keeps you guessing with this novelette of secrets, lies, conspiracies and paranoia.

Moonlight,Gunshot,Mallet by Flame by Alicia Hilton

Writing about her Short Sharp Shocks! author Alicia Hilton said: “These are stories about dangerous women who confront supernatural forces. When the moon is full passion simmers and demons strike. Who will survive? ” Of MOONLIGHT, GUNSHOT, MALLET, FLAME, Alicia summed up her tale, thus: “Laura is a hitwoman who murdered men to avenge and protect innocent victims, but her violent past catches up to her after she kills her nephew.  Are Laura’s terrifying visions hallucinations, or real? “ And of her second story, A LITTLE DEATH: “An Internet date unites two monsters. Descended from flesh-eating witches, Darla must choose whether to embrace her magical powers and kill, or risk her own destruction for love.”

 Dark Corners by David Charlesworth

Horror can take a lot of shapes and sizes. For some, it appears in the form of Patrick as he steps out from the shadows, Stanley blade in hand. For Patrick, however, the only thing he fears is not shooting up. So he finds himself scouring the darkest corners of the world for his next hit. Exploring those lost and desolate places that no man should disturb.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

An Invitation To Darkness by Hailey Piper

In ‘Invitation To Darkness’ sea captain Jamie Thames meets wealthy heiress Elizabeth Leavenworth and the two women quickly fall in love. Of course, it’s never that simple in a Gothic story. Leavenworth Manor is haunted, but ghosts are the least of the lovers’ troubles.

This is one of the best gothic tales I've ever read! Dark atmosphere and brooding chilling suspense this is a tale that reels you in from the first sentence.

Captain Jamie Thames returns from a long and successful career upon the seven seas but after having made her fortune she wants to settle down. Arriving in Lucre Shores  a small town that is quiet and still by the sea she finds an old abandoned home, Leavenworth Manor, ravaged by the sea and decides she must have it.

The house is in fact owned by Lord Leavenworth a man in considerable decline and his young daughter, Elizabeth, who hides a terrible secret...

There's a lot packed into this really gripping tale. I was sad it ended so quickly and immediately read it again after finishing. Despite its length the atmosphere is really quickly established as a forlorn seaside town lingering on the edge of civilisation. A town where dark forces are at play.
I loved Captain Jamie, she was really kick ass,funny and really clever. I liked her a lot and would love to see more of her via a follow up of this tale or a prequel of her adventures at sea. Elizabeth is really intriguing as a young woman left alone to care for her sick father. Why hasn't she left along with all the servants that long ago abandoned their posts?

Invitation to Darkness is a really quirky tale, form the very start the plot moves really rapidly in ways you won't expect. Its a really thrilling ride whilst also being really creepy and dark. The threat of evil in this tale feels very real and really adds to the tension of this tale. I really loved it form beginning to end.  This is a short tale so its hard to go into too much detail without giving the plot away and spoiling it for those yet to read but I really loved it and can't wait to read more by Hailey Piper!
An Invitation to Darkness is out now via Demain Publishing.

The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone…

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released.

Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face?

The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real. The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

I had a great time reading this tale. I loved the setting which is based on St Mary King's Close in Edinburgh. Hidden underneath the Royal Mile it is a warren of narrow streets where the city's poorest worked, lived and died. 

Hannah has just moved to Edinburgh after a painful divorce and seeing her only child move to Australia. After being made redundant from her successful but finished career as a drama teacher she rents a flat and takes a job as a tour guide for Henderson Close. 

Henderson Close is a tourist attraction famed for its spooky residents and macabre history such as the murder of a local woman, Miss Carmichael, which was never solved.

At first Hannah settles in well, finds new friends and starts to enjoy her life until....

She soon feels like she is being watched looking out from her flat window she sees a strange shadow. Strange incidents begin to happen at work after the builders turn up for renovation work culminating in her friend, Mairead completely disappearing whilst going in to Henderson Close alone.

Hannah thinks its a ghost responsible for all the drama but in reality its something much worse...

This was a really fun read, I do love a spooky ghost tale. The setting was brilliant and Catherine Cavendish had an amazing with with writing the Scottish dialect. I once lived just outside Edinburgh and it is spot on. The pacing of the tale is fast paced and the atmosphere is fully immersive. I now want to go to Edinburgh just to visit St Mary King's Close.

The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish was released by Flame Tree who are a fairly new horror publishers. To date I have read quite a few of these titles and have loved them all. I was sent a few to review but since them I have been buying them as although their titles are really diverse the quality of horror is really high. You know you'll be getting a great tale from them.