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Gemma Files

Gemma Files(1968- )
Born in London, England, Gemma Files is the child of two actors (Elva Mai Hoover and Gary Files), and has lived most of her life in Toronto, Canada. Previously best known as a film critic, teacher and screenwriter, she first broke onto the horror scene when her short story “The Emperor’s Old Bones” won the International Horror Guild’s 1999 award for Best Short Fiction. Her current bibliography includes two collections of short work (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, both Prime Books) and two chapbooks of poetry (Bent Under Night, from Sinnersphere Productions, and Dust Radio, from Kelp Queen Press). Files is married to fellow author Stephen J. Barringer, with whom she co-wrote the story “each thing i show you is a piece of my death” for Clockwork Phoenix 2 (Norilana Books). They have one son.

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Hexslinger

Hexslinger — (2010-2012) Publisher: Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West’s most dangerous outlaw gangs-the troop led by Reverend Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned hexslinger and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow’s task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook’s power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself. Because magicians, despite their awesome powers, have never been more than a footnote in history: cursed by their own gift to flower in pain and misery, then feed vampirically on each other — never able to join forces, feared and hated by all. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a mind to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world-a plan sealed by unholy marriage-oath with the Mayan-Aztec goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men, who has chosen Rook to raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and apotheosis. Caught between a passle of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook’s witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow’s only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess’s fate comes clear-the doom written for him, and the entire world, in A BOOK OF TONGUES.

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A Book of Tongues: A strong talent is at work here

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A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

A western horror story full of gay gunslingers and the Pinkerton men they seduce – sometimes you can understand why people ask writers where they get their ideas, because Gemma Files sure has a humdinger of one with this first novel. Throw in some Mayan mythology and a lot of magic, and you’ve got a plot that comes at you so fast and furiously that you have to put the book down just to catch your breath.

A Book of Tongues is Volume One of the HEXSLINGER Series, to be continued in A Rope of Thorns (which has been published and is on my shelf, though I haven’t gotten to it yet). Two characters dominate the first volume:  Chess Pargeter, an incredible shot who thinks as little of killing another man as you or I think of killing a mosquito; and his lover, Reverend Ash... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 131-133

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Issue 131 is the fifth anniversary issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and it has five extraordinary tales.  The first is “Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls” by Richard Parks.  Parks’ tales, usually set in an unnamed Asian country that bears a close resemblance to Japan, often deal with characters who need to find themselves.  This tale is no different.  Hiroshi, a boy, tends to stare down a dry well in much of his free time, for to him the well is full of music.  No one else can hear it, though.  Hiroshi’s uncle tries to dissuade him from listening to the well, instead encouraging him to engage in usual childhood pursuits, but Hiroshi finds the games of children tedious, unchanging and, well, childish.  Hiroshi finally decides to go into the well to find out what is there.  His experiences can be summed up in a thought he has again and again:  “This is a very strange cave.”  There is much for him ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, Women Destroy Horror Issue

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I wouldn’t normally review a magazine from last month, but the October issue of Nightmare Magazine is something special, and it’s still available. In this issue, Women Destroy Horror! Issue 25 is devoted to horror written by women, the result of a Kickstarter originally intended to help women destroy science fiction (in the June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine) that met its stretch goals. (Full disclosure: I contributed to the Kickstarter.)

The guest fiction editor of this issue is Ellen Datlow, who is the foremost horror editor working today, of any gender. She picked a lot of great stories for this special issue. Her editorial reminds us that women not only once dominated horror, but actually invented it. Ghost stories and gothic tales were written by women for decades before Read More

Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane: Like a box of chocolates

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Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane edited by Jonathan Oliver

Magic is, almost by definition, esoteric and arcane; something known only to a few, kept secret from the masses, practiced only by initiates. Still, the grandiose title of this themed anthology of original stories may oversell it slightly, since many of the tales here are quite conventional. Jonathan Oliver gathered a shining collection of talent, though, and with fifteen stories spanning fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy and horror, most readers will find something to enjoy.

The book has a lovely cover by Nicolas Delort. It’s a simulated woodcut. A Victorian-era woman holds an infant with horns, while a hooded demonic figure stands guard, and the cover is replete with lilies, skulls and ravens. Editor Jonathan Oliver opens the book with an introduction that talks a ... Read More

The Monstrous: You can’t go wrong with Datlow

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The Monstrous edited by Ellen Datlow

Whenever I see Ellen Datlow’s name as editor on the cover of an anthology, I know I’m in good hands. Datlow has a made a thirty-plus year career of choosing good stories and developing collections that take different aims at the theme. The theme of The Monstrous is monsters, and Datlow makes sure to explore all facets of that word with this mostly-reprint anthology from Tachyon Press.

There are twenty stories in the book. One is original to the anthology. The reprints include one classic horror story and a few that read as dated to me. Datlow’s standards of excellent writing and good characterization stand throughout the book.

I’m going to discuss two pieces out of sequence, because they left me puzzling. Read More

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

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Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow

This anthology comes after a similarly titled anthology, also edited by Ellen Datlow, called Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror which came out in March 2010. Datlow also edits an annual anthology of horror fiction (collaborating with other editors on those). It seems then that Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (which came out in October 2016) is informed by a great deal of knowledge in the field of speculative horror literature. I am not generally a horror reader, but I still thoroughly enjoyed many tales in this anthology for their engaging storytelling and terrifying themes. What follows is a brief review of each of the 25 tales, in the order which they appear.

“Shall... Read More