“From the pages of The Horror Zine-the critically acclaimed online horror magazine-comes A FEAST OF FRIGHTS FROM THE HORROR ZINE edited by Jeani Rector. Featuring dark fantasy, mystery, pure suspense and classic horror, this book from The Horror Zine is relentless in its approach to basic fears and has twisted, unexpected endings . . .”
Right, if you’ve a hat, take it off. Take it off for Jeani Rector, the editor of this bloomin’ marvellous anthology. Whilst not every story is as fantastic as the last (they can’t all be my favourites), there are some truly great tales in here. With close to forty stories here, I’ll not go in-depth, but choose my favourites from the bulging abundance of the 473 pages.
Scratchings by Matt Leyson brings us a bastard love child of Guy N Smith and Clive Barker in this grisly creature horror that is equally atmospheric and pulpy.
Ghost Pit by Simon Clark. Having read Clark’s official sequel, ‘Night of the Triffids’ I’ve always been keen to read more from the man. I found some here, where he boils the claustrophobia of a mine down to a treacle, inciting a true fear of the dark and the spectres that lurk there.
The Soldier by Shaun Meeks conjures an Ambrose Bierce twist-a-thon about a defeated soldier on his way after suffering a brilliantly described wound. Visceral, unforgiving and taking no prisoners, this is one of the goriest tales by far.
What the Dark Does by Graham Masterton, a stalwart of creepy horror explains to us why children and adults should all be afraid of the dark. It’s not just what’s in the dark we should be scared of, but the dark itself.
Proper Payments by Phillip Roberts. The conspiracy behind closed doors is revealed to a prying landlord when he gets more than he bargained for when he figures blackmail is the best way to fleece a tenant of his fortune.
Incident On and Off Mountain Road by Joe R. Lansdale. Aside from watching Bubba Ho-Tep, I’ll confess that I’ve never read anything from Lansdale before. After reading this I’m very keen to delve into his back catalogue as it offers one of the best twists of the entire anthology. It involve your typical masked madman stalking a plucky young heroine through the deep, dark woods. As I said, there’s a twist, so I’ll say no more . . .
Germ Warfare by Eric J. Guignard. Despite its short length, this is a very punchy piece, giving us a first person account of the troubling OCD paranoia brought with a fear of dirt, bacteria and anything else beyond our sight. You’ll wash your hands numerous times after reading this.
Mouthpiece by Mike Goddard. An enjoyable if weird affair of a man with two mouths. I didn’t get it. But I liked it.
The Night Visitor by Joe McKinney. This entertaining and accurate account of a murder scene is interrupted by a troublesome body that can’t decide on death. An engaging little police procedural that could have easily been worked into a longer story.
The Audit by Susie Moloney. By drowning us in brilliantly worded jargon and a creeping, unnerving pressure, Moloney somehow makes tax and receipts some of the most terrifying things in the world. Strange, but written so well this was one of my favourites.
Scream Queen by Ed Gorman. Heavy on noir and our unending want and need to escape the small town we all find ourselves trapped in at some point in our lives. Gorman’s piece isn’t so much horror, but about the folk that love horror and the effect and devastating obsession it can have on their lives.
Me and My Shadow by Sandra Crook. With a strong message of anti-bullying, Crook hammers home the fact the everybody should be wary of who they pick on, as you never know who’s following them.
The Story of My First Kiss by Jeff Strand. Short tale here, Strand manages to be as sick as the rest in under two-thousand words in this subversive little tale that twists what we let children get away with.
As well as the introduction from horror master Ramsey Campbell kicking off proceedings; we have a series of articles which makes this fresher and more original than most traditional horror. John Gilmore takes us back to the dark of old Hollywood with his take on the Black Dahlia, Joe R. Lansdale tells us how he found his Southern voice whilst his daughter tell us about growing up with a horror writer for a father. Graham Masterton writes a heart-wrenching tribute to his wife that every spouse should read and Earl Hamner gives and interesting account of how he came to write some of the first episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone’.
Taking Feast of Frights further above and beyond the norm, we have a collection of thoughtfully gruesome poetry, notably the comical works of Dennis Bagwell and Ian Hunter.
With some amazing artwork by visionary artists spread throughout, Feast of Frights is one of the best short story collections I’ve read in a while. Somehow, Jeani Rector has nailed down the knack of choosing and compiling modern classics of the horror genre. If you enjoy your short stories, I urge you to pick up this buffet of bad little treats
The Venus Complex, by Barbie Wilde
, follows the main character’s descent into madness by way of his diary. After a car accident, Michael is left to rehabilitate physically and mentally. While his body may have healed, his mind takes a turn for the worse. A college professor and art lover, he puts his life on hold and immerses himself in the study of becoming a serial killer. Plagued by his dreams, he acts out on his most depraved thoughts, which in turn spurs on the darkness just a little bit more. He meets Elene, and so begins the struggle between his dual lives.
Barbie Wilde has an excellent grasp of the male POV as she walks us through the creation of a killer. She takes the reader on a journey into the mind of a twisted individual, as he comes to terms with who and what he really is.
This tightly-written page-turner is not for the faint of heart. It contains some (amazingly written) graphic sex and death scenes.
Step into the shoes of a serial killer and pick up your copy of The Venus Complex paperback
or Kindle edition
Reviewed by Mandy DeGeit
Author of This Only Happens In The Movies & She Makes Me Smilehttp://mandydegeit.wordpress.com/
It’s a dark and stormy night, and Armageddon is dropping in for dinner . . .
Welcome to the Textro Truck Stop, a typical middle of nowhere establishment with all your favourite archetypes from the highways and byways of the American Dream. Truckers stop for coffee refills, chirpy waitresses serve hot coffee and greasy food, while the local rednecks grab a bite to eat before the big game in town. Hilliard sets his location well and instantly creates sympathy for his characters about to be dropped into a nightmarish version of hell. A potent storm brews on the horizon then the crowds of the dead arrive, freshly and mysterious awoken from the local cemetery; and harbouring a vast and unrelenting hunger. One by one they start to devour the various ragtag patrons and staff of the Textro Truck Stop.
I’ve been a fan of Mr Hilliard since reading one of his short stories last year and I’ve have been looking forward to a longer work from him for some time. Dead Stop doesn’t disappoint in grabbing the reading by the throat from the get go with a fantastic description of a zombie awakening whilst trapped in the grave. Carrying on throughout are some excellent descriptions of the zombies physiology and even the reasoning behind the biters great strength is told so well it’s believable.
I’m a big fan of The Return of the Living Dead series and even the novel by John Russo (the cover gave me nightmares), and Hilliard catches the desperate essence of a B-movie with an ever diminishing bunch of characters that he’s quite hard on at times, chipping away with bites and scratches, though I feel he loved his characters a bit too much and a few more deaths during the later pages might have added a bit more shock value to proceedings. If you’re not going to explore a character in too much depth, then by all means feed them to the zombies. But with the ending left wide open for a sequel, I understand why Hilliard wanted to save a few souls for desert.
Never the less, I felt for the main character of Rachel Sutherland and rooted for her to survive above anybody, and ballsy waitress Marisa is a fun read as she tries her best to evade being eaten whilst keeping her Latino pout on her face. Even the image of Buddha Boy, a grotesquely over weight trucker was described to the point of being a thing of macabre beauty. The action is sweaty balls-to-the-wall and the smart one-liners bring light relief in-between the hero’s being torn apart.
Dead Stop isn’t the best zombie novel out there, but it’s certainly is a fun little ride to while away a dark and stormy night.
Splinters is Joseph D’Lacey’s collection of short stories, available for a limited run of 500 copies. Why only 500 I’ll never know. I can’t say they’ll struggle to shift them all. . .
Every story in this chilled me in some way, which is the sign of a very good boo. Each story served up is a different little amuse bouche, ranging from body horror to the imminent apocalypse. Whilst some are dreamlike in quality lulling the reader in with the prose, others are startling and horrific without resorting to graphic descriptions of blood and gut. This is something I admire of D’Lacey, or maybe I’m just not shocked anymore.
Here’s the run down without spoiling too much of what to expect:
Lenses: We’re all nosey, despite our own guarded secrets we long to pry into others lives to compare and contrast our foibles. With more CCTV eying up our movements and our bosses checking on our inner lives on Facebook the gaze of Big Brother is wider than ever. Lenses looks down the depths of the well at how deep humanity’s paranoid natures really go and the implications thereof. Who is watching who, and who is watching them.
Lights Out: At some point we’ve all wondered what lurks under the bed or perhaps in wardrobe. D’Lacey explores this world as a father fears for his son and himself as whatever lurks in the dark starts to become very real indeed.
Altar Girl: Be careful for what you wish for as a mother daydreams of a better life away from her unappreciative family and domestic drudgery, but finds that her problems will still follow her to paradise and back. Your destiny waits wherever you run. This was my first standout story which truly chilled me. The image of a moody faced, naked Kirk Douglas will haunt me forever. . .
The Quiet Ones: A 2nd person account of a determined assassin traipsing through snowy mountains in search for a peaceful group of people. A thoughtful though cold discourse on society’s fear of those that are different and how we hunger to bestow our own beliefs on others, despite its cost of life.
The Unwrapping of Alistair Perry: A slightly Kafkaesque take on our desire to be somebody else, in which the lonely Alistair Perry one day transforms into something far more appealing but not without its consequences. Again I adored this story even though its structure was similar to Altar Girl with its Drudgery, Transformation, Enlightenment, Horror then finally Acceptance. The final twist works horrifically well, giving the tale a further dimension, leaving the reader hungry for more of Alistair’s world and what becomes of it.
The Mango Tree: More of a character piece on our childhood fear of the strange man down the street. I felt a slight haunt of Hemmingway here as D’Lacey conjures up a tropical isle and portrays man and nature co-existing, and fighting one another and themselves at the same time. A wonderful parable summing up the circle of life, while we all take from the world, at some point we have to give it all back.
Armageddon Fish Pie: Another stand out story for me in which a man prepares himself for the apocalypse as society crumbles around him. This was an intensely thoughtful piece which made me question what I’d want to do if the world went to shit and not one of us could escape it. Most horror fans fantasise about surviving the apocalypse and living in a sparsely populated land free to roam and discover all of our neighbour’s secrets. But what if you couldn’t escape the end and what if you knew it was coming? What would you do with your final hours? Would you end it early or end on a bender? I’d spend it with my kids building Lego towers and drinking rum, I don’t know about you.
Kundalini- Another strange transformation piece in which a man turns into a snake after a tad too much heroin, as you do. Not my favourite of the collection, but still it’s short and well written and does nothing to detract from the other stories.
Rhiannon’s Reach: A slow burning tale of the sea which builds up to a dreamlike ending. Even though we fear something, we continue to punish and test ourselves with its presence. Once we’ve tasted death, we have felt a rarely triumphed high and so, thrill-seekers and adrenalin junkies alike gamble their lives on feeling that surge of emotion once again. Perhaps even wishing that the way that we have avoided slipping from the mortal coil is the way we are destined to leave this world. And so we test it until breaking point. Rhiannon’s reach toys with the reader, leading out protagonist into danger and teasing us with his fate.
Son of Porn: A comical though lurid account of a smut kingpin and his exploration of human biology as we evolve into a new reproductive age. One of the lighter pieces of the collection helps balance out the dark/light ratio quite evenly.
What They Want (What Aliens Really, Really Want): Another lighter piece, this time a quartet of snappy light shorts pondering what aliens would really want with humanity and our planet, in which they invade us in different ways.
The Food of Love: A enduring, romantic take on the zombie apocalypse in which death doesn’t mean the end of devotion for one loving couple. The Food of Love was easily one of my favourite pieces in this collection. The chilling government interference got me on this one, showing that D’Lacey really planned this tale of feeder and feedee’ to its eventual bitter end.
Again, I’ll mention that only 500 copies of Splinters will be published, one of which will feature a special little treat in the form of a tarot card that gives one bloody lucky reader a coffin full of Joseph D’Lacey goodies. If you’ve read this right you’ll go and order yourself a copy right now, if not you’d best get wishing that a second print run is announced. I wouldn’t want to leave you disappointed now would I? And remember Splinters is only a book, they’re worse things you could find under your skin. Like yourself.
What you get with The Meat Wagon is refreshing, though disturbing take on the zombie apocalypse. Whilst normal apocaliterature follows the road of a dysfunctional hero or rag tag bunch of survivors, Blakeston gives us a bad ass motorcycle gang, bleary eyed and hung over then thrust into the man eating madness of a zombie invasion. What’s interesting is that they try to carry on their sins of drink, drugs and women into the new world instead of the traditional survivor routine of making the best of a new world.
Our gang of deviant bikers, free from the constraints of the fallen law, soon come across a fellow survivor Lynn, and her son Tommy, saving them from certain zombie death. You could call Lynn the heroine in all of this as she struggles to fight off the sexual advances of the gang whilst shielding her son from the horrors of crumbling society, but Blakeston needed to flesh her out a little, whilst the story is strong on action, I felt as if the character of Lynn was a little underwritten compared to biker gang. Whilst sympathy is created for her and Tommy, I struggled to enjoy reading about them, whilst I understand her situation was dire, a few one liners might have made her more likable.
As the bikers make a home for themselves and Lynn, she makes it clear that she isn’t there to be their “mama” acting as their group sex maiden. So one particularly deplorable character named Stan decides to harness the vast swathes of female zombies at their disposable into sex slaves, creating The Meat Wagon of the title and a harem of gummy “Mama’s”
Blakeston creates the interesting scenario of what the lawless dregs of society will get up to when our infrastructure and government eventually crumbles to dust and it’s a nice change to not follow a group of do-gooders into the end of world dawn but a bunch of wise-cracking, drinking and fighting, morally corrupt bikers.
Also included is a short story entitled Simon goes Shopping, which whilst unneeded does bring an extra devious twist to the finale.
The reasoning behind the zombies is never explained, and quite frankly not even missed. We know how zombies are made so Blakeston wastes no time on the matter. If you happen to remember the biker gang from the end of Dawn of the Dead, this could be their story. Pulpy, exploitative and with grisly scenes that hit like a socket wrench to the skull; if you enjoy your zombie-lit a little gritty and nasty, you could find a lot of gruesome entertainment between these pages.
Think Dark. Then think of the end of the world, the entire planet decimated by a horrific disease of which no one is immune and the only way to alleviate the symptoms is take a hefty dose of opiates every four days.
Meet heroin addict Jack “Colonel” Jones, one of life’s losers who finds himself as one of few who discover the key to surviving the viral apocalypse. Whilst on the scrounge for his next hit the Colonel stumbles across Jack Cruz, a gun-toting survivalist with supplies up to the eyeballs. Seemingly he’s the answer to any survivor of the apocalypse dreams- and nightmares.
Once safely invited back to Cruz’s bolthole, the weirdness begins to unfold as our junkie protagonist soon begins to suspect that Jack Cruz isn’t all that he pretends to be. As the suspicion thickens, The Colonel comes to the conclusion he’s trapped at the end of the world with a psychopath. This is where it starts to get really interesting.
What follows is 259 pages of an interesting power play between two very damaged characters, whilst they both deal with having lost everyone and everything they ever cared about they still have to deal with each other. The near single setting of a food processing plant in downtown Seattle ramps the tension up to a Hitchcockian level, where The Colonel finds himself fearful of venturing too far from his new home for two reasons; the horrors of what he finds out there and his life dependency on drugs which are all stashed at his new home. The use of drugs as a McGuffin is an interesting concept, in which something that was once considered poison is now a cure. Garrison ingrains this as a powerful point throughout his work; all it takes is for society to turn inside out before we view something as once evil, as something necessary for survival.
Jack Cruz is something of enigma in this book. He’s quiet, though when he speaks, every line means something, he doesn’t just talk, every sentence he utters seems to have some ominous ulterior motive. Garrison builds the mystery up well, stacking up ponderable upon ponderable until your screaming each page over, demanding he reveal his secrets. Once the truth is revealed, you’ll understand why I asked you to think Dark. Jack Cruz is a villain turned up to eleven, even if his actions and habits are sanctioned and seemingly justified by God. He thinks he’s right, and for all intents and purposes, it may well be.
Garrison writes well, even the most terrible moments of the story he writes with such a suave beauty which at first had me so frustrated because writing in first-person through the eyes of a washed up, dead beat junkie, the literary flourish just didn’t add up. But even The Colonel’s talented and admirable prose is thankfully explained, which made me a very happy reader.
Once you pick this book up, I guarantee you’ll to struggle to put it down. It’ll take a house fire to get you to take notice of something else. It has a Catcher in the Ryequality in certain points, where even though nothing is happening; everything is happening.
If you enjoy your apocaliterature, this will be more than you cup of char. If you eat thrillers, by all means jump in, you’ll find the water quite toasty. More downbeat than the The Stand, whilst holding the grim sensibilities ofThe Road, but with a little more substance over Cormac McCarthy’s sparse style. If Irvine Welsh had brought the end of days upon the characters in Trainspotting, it wouldn’t be too dissimilar to this.
A thoroughly fantastic read; nail biting to the end whilst being tragic and funny, everything that life and death should be about. If this isn’t a classic of the future, then there is something very wrong with the world.
Go and get this book. I’ll say that now and I’ll say it at the end. What Pauls and Solomon have created here is a perfect piece of zombie post-modernism which hits every rivet and nail squarely on the head. I found nothing wrong at all with the story, prose or characters and for a debut novel, this is an impressive feat, bowler hats off to the people at Chronicle Books for a sterling effort.
You already know the story of the Titanic, what Deck Zdoes so seamlessly is use that trusted formula of Just Add Zombies and bingo! You have this excellent, though in parts harrowing novel which offers readers a ‘what if’ scenario if there was an outbreak of the undead during the final hours of the famed, doomed ocean liner.
Theodor Weiss is a German scientist who chooses to defect after discovering that his research into new and deadly plague is sought by the German military for nefarious purposes. Fearing that the Germans will send someone to steal the sample, he chooses to flee to the safety of America with the last remaining sample of the virus with the intention of processing a cure for all plagues. Unfortunately for him he buys a ticket for the Titanic’s doomed maiden voyage in order to cross the ocean, not his last mistake.
From the first few pages you come to realise that the authors are two things; zombie enthusiasts and dedicated researchers into their subject. The attention to detail regarding the ship is meticulous without once hinging on boring the reader. The facts are there and so are real life characters, genuine people borrowed from reality grace the pages. But not just names have being used in order to create a sense of being there, Pauls and Solomon have borrowed the events which shaped these people during their final hours. Heroes are heroes and cowards are cowards, so whatever happened to these people during their final moments was recounted by numerous witness’s, what you read here is a version of the truth, albeit with hungry zombies chomping at their necks as the ship plunges deeper into the freezing waters of the Atlantic.
The bridge between what is fiction and what was reality blurs so evenly that at times I found myself wondering how much of this is true. The horrific thing is only the plague of the undead and a few characters are made up, the rest of the plot was already written for the authors. It shouldn’t work, it should be a clumsy mess, it should tar the memory of those that perished on that fateful night, but the characters are as true as they were, doing their memory justice. Captain Smith is portrayed as an honourable man, determined to do the ultimate good no matter what the cost, and it’s refreshing not to have to have a young and buff, chisel-jawed hero with a tragic past coping with zombies. Captain Smith was a real gentlemen, seasoned by war and a life at sea, so the speculation within the story is probably how he would have reacted to an outbreak of plague on board, his methods are brutal, but by god he gets results.
Thrown into the mix is the German agent who deals out pain with a pair of pliers in several gory scenes and a ballsy little tomboy named Lou who adds humour and sympathy to proceedings. Weiss is admirable though reluctant hero who finds himself having to resort to violence in order to rectify the terrible mess he helped cause.
Another thing I adored with Deck Z is the language, bringing across the parlances of the time perfectly, including more often than not actual quotes from real people woven into the story. Also great one liners move the action along nicely giving the book a filmic quality. A story such as this would transfer well to cinema, James Cameron could provide the sets, Kathy Bates could even reprise her role as the Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Stephen Fry as Captain Edward Smith would be perfect for all the witticisms he releases throughout. Once you’ve read Deck Z you too will realise why this gripping adventure would be such a damned great film.
Deck Z is available on Amazon on pre-order, now go and get this book.
Remember those shock horror exploitation movies from the 70’s and 80’s? Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Eaten Alive etc, etc. Some even alluded to being snuff films showing real gore, which gave further mileage to the famed ‘video nasties’.
Adam Cesare’s debut novel deals with one such shoot in which a Euro trash director, Tito Bronze maroons his cast and crew on a desolate isle with the intention of utilising the local natives. When the local are nowhere to be found, the castaways realise that they’ve made their first mistake by coming here. What follows is a supernatural, splatterfest; long enough to be devoured in one grisly chunk, but short enough to leave you hungry for more as Cesare offers his victims up as a buffet to ghosts of the islanders who seem intent on making their own film, with which much more realistic special effects than the director originally intended. It’s an interesting premise which jets along too quickly, taking no prisoners (well one or two); Cesare could have easily dragged it out with a few more victims to up the gore count and I would still being happy. There’s just enough meat on the bone to keep your interest sated throughout, the characterisations are short, but apt; the shortness of it all melds it altogether to a satisfyingly little tidy piece.
One thing I did seem to notice what that even though characters became possessed, they seemed very much in control of their own actions, not becoming mindless zombies or cannibalistic drones, but interestingly they seem to want to chop up and feast on the innards of their cast members, almost as if the persuasion of the ghosts wasn’t even needed. They all know they were making a cannibal movie, but it seems the hidden message is that given isolation from society, life imitating art is a dangerous thing as filmmaker and stars hunger for fame in a very disturbing way. You can imagine a curious, blood-covered cannibal holding our insides up to the light as they wonder ‘so that’s how this works . . .’
The scary thing is, there’s a cannibal in all of us; all it takes is for us to the first bite of the precious flesh . . .
Hollywood can (and does) make much worse films than this. If zombies are in vogue now, why not cannibals? I could easily imagine Daniel Craig as Umberto getting his proverbial acting chops around a meaty role such as this one. And you could so a worse than not making this the next book you devour. A short, satisfying read that’ll fill the eager stomach of any horror fan.
Being a father of two in my late twenties, I’ve not read much YA fiction (apart from The Hunger Games, Go Read It NOW!), as I’m outside the demographic. But when I was offered the chance to read this new offering from Nate D. Burleigh I jumped at the chance. In the past I’ve read a few of his short tales and have being suitably impressed, so I thought why not?
Without giving too much away the story, set in late eighties America involves a young man named Coert who discovers by way of a genetic awaking, has developed extraordinary powers, giving him a God-like power over the rest humanity, who he must harvest in order to gain sustenance in order to continue using his great power. But it seems a power even greater than himself is stalking the students of his high school.
There’s enough twists and turns in this to keep your attention, even if it is aimed generally at a teen audience, I enjoyed it all the same and found myself chuckling in places at a few of the one-liners. The action scenes are excellently described and there’s enough gore without scaring off younger readers.
The monster is apt, tying in nicely with the story and various legends and mythologies, making for a brutal and seemingly indestructible villain who ever hungers for the end of humanity (which good villain doesn’t?).
The setting of late eighties America is beautifully caught as is the parlance of the times, Burleigh takes you there, creating an atmosphere you can’t deny was once real and really mattered to the author.
My only sore point is the ending was a little abrupt, I like things tied off nice and neatish when I finish a novel, and the cliff-hanger ending, whilst keeping the story open ended for an obvious sequel, wasn’t needed in the way it was done.
A well crafted story, deserved of its praise. Though I suspect that a younger crowd might gain more enjoyment from this that I did, still a decent read that held my attention throughout.