The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
When I first saw the 1968 horror film "The Devil Rides Out" several years back at one of NYC's numerous revival theatres, I thought it was one of the best Hammer films that I'd ever seen, and made a mental note to check out Dennis Wheatley's 1934 source novel one day. That resolve was further strengthened when I read a very laudatory article by Stephen Volk on the book in Kim Newman and Stephen Jones' excellent overview volume Horror: Another 100 Best Books. Now that I have finally read what is generally deemed Wheatley's most successful and popular novel, I can see the Hammer film for what it is: a watered-down adaptation that can't hold a Black Mass candle to its superb original. The great R... Read More
Horrible MondayMondays are horrible, aren’t they? Perhaps you’ll feel a little better about your own circumstances if you start your week with a horror story.
The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant
Mira Grant created a fascinating world in her NEWSFLESH, is a masterful piece of hard science fiction, combining medical detail with political intrigue with intricate worldbuilding. Her characters were so real that the end of the first book in the trilogy, Feed, reduced me to tears.
Since completing the trilogy, Grant continues to write about the world she created. With the novella The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell, she may finally have returned to the well once too often. It’s a solid story, detailing the day-to-day issues presented to schools when blood becomes a deadly substance. Grant skillfully builds suspense for those less familiar with her world as she tells of the consequences of one 6-year-old child’s tiny lie about skinning his hand at recess. But ultimately, she has so comp... Read More
The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson by E.F. Benson
I had read E.F. Benson's The Horror Horn to start with (a collection of 13 of his best ghost stories), after seeing that it was considered one of the Top 100 Horror Books of all time in Newman & Jones' excellent overview volume. Each of those 13 stories was so good that I just had to have more, and so picked up this collection — The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson — of every single one of Benson's spooky tales, 54 in all. This collection certainly did not disappoint; I loved every single one of these ghost stories, and was riveted ... Read More
The August issue of Nightmare Magazine is exceptionally good, and given the generally outstanding nature of this publication, that’s saying something. All four of the stories this month are excellent by any standard.
The magazine opens with “Dear Owner of This 1972 Ford Crew Cab Pickup” by Desirina Boskovich. It’s a letter from a woman with terrible insomnia to a man who wakes her every morning at about 3:00 a.m. by revving — and revving, and revving — the engine of the titular vehicle before heading home from a night at a local tavern, where he tends bar. The woman has written to the man at least three times before, asking for his consideration, explaining that she is exhausted from tending to her hospitalized mother as well as teaching as an adjunc... Read More
The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher
The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction gathers together 10 short stories and novellas from the pen of Anthony Boucher, all of which originally appeared in various pulp magazines (such as Unknown Worlds, Adventure Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, Weird Tales and Thrilling Wonder Stories) from 1941-'45. Boucher, whose real name was William Anthony Parker White, was a man of many talents, and during his career, which lasted from the early '40s to the late '50s, he worked as a magazine editor, a book reviewer (for The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune) and an author of science fiction, horror and mystery.
I initially learned of this Compleat Werewolf collection of 196... Read More
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
Imagine that, like the hapless characters in movies like The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn, you and a group of friends were captured by cannibals. You were kept alive while choice cuts of you were “harvested”, and you alone survived. Imagine that you were the victim of a sadistic abductor who flayed the flesh of your arms and legs and carved images onto your bones. Imagine that you alone survived the rising of the Elder Gods in your home town. What would you do? Who would you talk to? Would you even be sane? That’s the premise of We Are All Completely Fine, a novella by Daryl Gregory, published by Tachyon Press.
Dr. Jan Sayer has drawn together a talk-therapy group made up of sole survivors of supernatural attacks. On the surface it seems as if the doctor has just hit on... Read More
Shakespeare in Hell by Amy Sterling Casil
Shakespeare in Hell is an intriguing title. Think of all it can conjure up - allusions to Milton and Dante, who both had more luck finding stories in the darker realms of the afterlife, and with the villains of their pieces, than with an antiseptic realm of winged creatures playing harps, come to mind; one can imagine Shakespeare choosing Hell as a better stage for his plays and poetry. Or perhaps Shakespeare sinned with his Dark Lady, landing him in eternal flame. Or — well, the possibilities seem endless.
But Amy Sterling Casil has not taken full advantage of the myriad plotlines available to her. We are given no moral structure for this Hell, and no hint of a Deity meting out punishments and rewards. We never do learn precisely why Shakespeare is in Hell, though it does appear to have something to do with the Dark Lady, who is here given the... Read More
The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough
Note: This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy. The review of the first of the books in the trilogy, A Matter of Blood, is here; the review of the second, The Shadow of the Soul, is here.
The first two books of Sarah Pinborough’s ... Read More
The Girl by Bryan Hall
The Girl is the second novella in a series called THE SOUTHERN HAUNTINGS SAGA by Bryan Hall, a young, relatively new writer. If it is any indication, this fellow has a great career ahead of him.
The protagonist of The Girl is Creighton Northgate — Crate — who is a sort of psychic, and a sort of private detective, and a sort of ghostbuster, though he rejects all three descriptors. What it amounts to is that he can see ghosts, and he can persuade them to move along to wherever it is ghosts go when they’ve finished their business in this world. He makes his living moving from one haunted person to another, relieving them of their ghosts when he can and debunking claims of ghosts where there are none.
As The Girl opens, Crate has just spent four months in the northeastern part of the United States, working as hard as he ever has. Now, though, he’s on hi... Read More
Deceiver by Kelli Owen
DarkFuse, an independent publisher of horror, suspense and thrillers, has a thriving novella series. For $85 per month, you can subscribe to the limited hardcover editions of the novellas, which are published at the rate of two each month. (The subscription also includes a hardcover novel every month.) Only 100 copies are printed, though the works are also available in electronic form. It’s a delight to see a publisher take an interest in publishing this shorter form, which is often exactly the right length for genre works (and for mainstream fiction, for that matter; consider William Faulkner and Henry James), but which is neglected by most publishers.
One of the June 2014 novella offerings is Kelli Owen’s Deceiver, a suspenseful work of dark fiction that opens at a post-funeral gathering. Matt’s wife Tania has been murdered while on a business trip, strangled with a necktie. The police have ... Read More
The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first book in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood (reviewed here).
As The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough opens, Cass Jones has been through six months of interviews, arrests, statements and the backlash from his discovery of rampant corruption among his fellow police officers (as set forth in the first book of the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood), and it isn’t even close to over. It’s hard for him to care about anyone thinks about him, though, because all he has to do is remember the sight of his dead partner’s body at the bottom of the stairs of the Paddington Green station... Read More
Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty
Royce Prouty received a 2013 Stoker Award nomination for superior achievement in a first novel for Stoker’s Manuscript. Because of the nomination and the fact that Prouty’s protagonist, Joseph Barkeley, is a rare book and manuscript expert, I couldn’t resist.
Joseph Barkeley has always had a knack for spotting rare editions in crowded used bookstores, and is able to tell if a manuscript is genuine without the need for any chemical testing. It’s an ability that makes him the subject of Arthur Ardelean’s search for the right man to verify the authenticity of the original draft of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and to negotiate its purchase if its authenticity is established. (There is some real history behind this scenario, as the original manuscript for the novel was apparently lost, turning up only in 1980 in a Pennsylvania barn.) Ardelean is working on... Read More
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
All of Harper Curtis’s girls shine. They have a special something; a little more curiosity, a deeper sense of wonder. They grow up to be women who will change things, maybe by being the first black woman to design airplanes, or a tough-minded architect with great ideas for high-density dwellings, maybe by being artists, writers or performers. They will change the world — or they would have, except that Harper kills them. Harper is a serial killer with a virtually perfect escape hatch that means he will never be caught. He has a house that is a time portal, allowing him to murder someone in 1982, for example, and return to his original timeline of the 1930s.
The Shining Girls is a perfect horror story. It’s also, technically at least, a thriller and the time-travel element qualifies it as science fiction. Lauren Beukes weaves the disparate elements together into an intricate plot ... Read More
Children of No One by Nicole Cushing
Nicole Cushing has earned her first award nomination for Children of No One, a novella published by the exciting new (as of 2012) publisher, DarkFuse. It is one of the seven novellas nominated in a strong field for the Shirley Jackson Award, an award I consider most apt to give me good reading recommendations.
The theme of Children of No One I find especially fascinating: art can be abused to horrific effect. It has always been true that what one person thinks of is artful and outrageously original is another person’s garbage; “My kid could do that!” is a phrase that has been directed toward any number of modern pieces, such as, say, the splatter paintings of Jackson Pollock. But there have also been discussions about whether certain art is cruel and unworthy of a mentally healthy audience. Some of Francis Bacon’s paintings, for instanc... Read More
The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice
New Orleans may be the best setting for a horror novel ever invented. Cypress trees and the dark water of interminable swamps are a spooky background for Christopher Rice’s story about rape, snakes and mind control in The Heavens Rise, one of the nominees for this year’s Bram Stoker Award for best novel.
Niquette Delongpre — Nikki — is a gorgeous teenage girl, the toast of her high school. She and Anthem Landry have been an item for three years before Marshall Ferriot figures out a way to break them up and move in himself. Marshall may be only seventeen years old, but he is already an experienced predator who goes after what he wants with a singular ruthlessness and a casual cruelty that he does not even seem to know is wrong. When he finally gets Nikki alone with him at the property outside New Orleans on which her family is constructing a new home and swimming pool, he grabs her and h... Read More