Welcome to the Show – edited by Doug Murano

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WELCOME TO THE SHOW is a collection of tales surrounding the fabled San Franciscan concert hall, The Shantyman. In my opinion, rock and horror go together like peas and carrots, so this should be right up my alley. Without further ado, lets jump right in –

What Sort of Rube – Alan M. Clark

Absolutely loved this one. Such a great voice and I found myself completely engrossed in it. A jealous father, island cannibals, and and old world curse? How can you not love it? This is my first time reading anything by Clark, but I’ll be seeking out more of his work.

5 out of 5 stars
Night and Day and In Between – Jonathan Janz

Raft has been tracking Clara for three months. He finds her performing at the Shantyman, but in his way is the evil proprietor, Summers. Summers has a little surprise for Raft…and Raft has one for him. A fun, twisted tale from Janz where the characters shine. I’d love to see a continuation of their story.

4 out of 5 stars
In the Winter of No Love – John Skipp

The Shantyman likes to chew them up and spit them out in the Summer of Love. I can’t decide if this is a real head trip or real head scratcher. Not really my kind of story.

2 out of 5
Wolf With Diamond Eyes – Patrick Lacey

A journalist is granted an interview with the last living member of the infamous Italian progressive rock band, Harpie. Vincenzo has been a recluse for the last twenty years, out of the public eye ever since that fateful night of their last performance at the Shantyman. That performance ended with 30 people dead, including all of the band members besides Vincenzo and he hasn’t spoke a word about what happened that night, until now. What he has to say about that night of horror, of how his lead singer got involved in black magic on a previous tour of Europe, and how he brought back something terrible for that last night at the Shantyman. Lacey does a nice job weaving a tale that uses the black magic angle that many rock bands used to stand out from the crowd of other bands, and leaves you wanting more.

3.5 out of 5 stars
Pilgrimage – Bryan Smith

Be careful of what the guy next to you passes your way to try. Because at the Shantyman, that ain’t just any ‘ol doobie. It’s some heavy shit, man. Smith builds some nice character development before he slams us over the edge in this one. What a trip.

4 out of 5 stars
A Tongue Like Fire – Rachel Autumn Deering

Freedom of speech protects our right to use our words and express ourselves, but what about when our expressions hurt other people. A thought-provoking tale.

4 out of 5 stars
Master of Beyond – Glenn Rolfe

Ouija boards and the Shantyman? Not a good combination the night before a Headbanger’s Ball concert.

4 out of 5 stars
Dark Stage – Matt Hayward

The Shantyman’s soundman, Fred, isn’t aging like a fine wine. In fact, his arthritis is so debilitating, he will have to quit his job. That is, until a stranger shows up for open mic night.

4 out of 5 stars

Open Mic Night – Kelli Owen

A noir dressed demon appears at the Shantyman for open mic night the day after a big musical star dies at the age of 27. Every time. Owen’s fantastic version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia-type story of trading your soul/life for fame.

5 out of 5 stars
Beat on the Past – Matt Serafini

Time stands still for no one. Not the punk rock band, Brainpan. Not for their fans. Not for the love between them.

2.5 out of 5 stars
True Starmen – Max Booth III

If it walks, talks and looks like a cult, it’s probably a cult.

3.5 out of 5 stars
Just to be Seen – Somer Canon

Groupies aren’t a modern thing. They’ve been around since the beginning of the Shantyman. And their ghosts are still here.

4 out of 5 stars
Parody – Jeff Strand

A Weird Al Yankovich wannabe’s debut at the Shantyman doesn’t go like he envisioned it would.

3 out of 5 stars
Ascending – Robert Ford

Do online relationships ever turn out to be as good as you expected. Not in Naz’s case and especially when he stumbles into the Shantyman.

4 out of 5 stars
The Southern Thing – Adam Cesare

Ain’t nothing like the real thing. Damn, I didn’t see that ending coming.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Running Free – Brian Keene

A wise guy with a death wish and the Shantyman as a backdrop. An engaging story with a weird ending and makes you wonder why the Shantyman was even included.

3 out of 5 stars
We Sang in Darkness – Mary SanGiovanni

A decent tale about a Lovecraftian threat to our society as we know it. Music of any kind is banned because it has the ability to open doors between our world and others and letting in an array of alien life that will destroy us.

4 out of 5 stars

Overall: 3.75 out of 5 star
A solid collection with a couple of gems in there. My two favorites are Alan Clark’s and Kelli Owen’s stories. For me, those two stood out about the rest. Adam Cesare’s was right up there too. I thought the Shantyman made for an interesting backdrop to tell haunted tales. I enjoyed seeing each author use it as a template to paint their own creation. I also liked how there were many different time periods used by the authors. That made it more interesting than everything being set in modern day. It seemed to breathe life into the Shantyman by giving it a checkered “history”. The down sides were kind of surprising. Two authors that I was really looking forward to reading actually turned in the weakest offerings – John Skipp and Brian Keene. Skipp’s was just a head trippy mess that was a chore to get through and Keene’s felt like he already had a story completed that had nothing to do with The Shantyman and then went back and cut and pasted it in so that it would fit the criteria. It was clunky and felt odd and out of focus. A couple others had that same disjointed quality, like they pulled a story out of their archives, blew the dust off it, and inserted the venue within in it, here and there, so they could use the story.

All in all, a solid offering with some quality reads. Definitely worth your time.

The House by the Cemetery – John Everson

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The House by the Cemetery is meant for horror fans. You know who we are. We’re the ones that go to the midnight showings of classic Carpenter, Craven or even Argento or Fulci flicks. We have the wal-to-wall collections of horror Blu Rays. Halloween is our national holiday. And we go to haunted houses, no matter how crappy of an attraction they are. That’s us and that’s who Everson wrote The House by the Cemetery for. We get it. We understand the industry and HOUSE has everything that we love about it.

A dilapitated house sits vacant by an abandoned cemetery. Outside of thrill seekers, it’s been dormant for many years. But the rumors are passed down from generation to generation. This place was used for a cult killing by a group of witches back in the 1960s. Stories of ghosts hitchhiking nearby, strange happenings and haunted tales permeate the local legends for years. The house is a royal pain in the ass for the county. Law enforcement has to chase off ghost hunters and thrill seekers every year. So when a local entrepreneur comes calling and offers to turn the property into a haunted house attraction, the county jumps at the chance to alleviate this headache and score some bucks in the process. Mike, a down-and-out handyman, is hired to renovate the place so that they can turn it into the tourist attraction that it was envisioned to be. Wouldn’t you know it, Mike learns that every rumor has a grain of truth somewhere and you can’t keep a good witch down.

While HOUSE has a fantastic setting that is just screaming for a horror story to be written about it, the characters are the glue that hold this story together. Mike is a likable guy that you can easily relate to. Katie is that mysterious, flirtatious girl you’ve seen work her charm on numerous lonely guys, over and over. The cast and crew, putting together and running the attraction, all have personalities that we know like the back of our hands. It all feels comfortable and familiar. This is how Everson is able to pull this story all together. Sure, there are some parts where you kind of roll your eyes, maybe a character should ask a few more questions, but they’re not deal breakers. HOUSE is easily the best thing Everson has written. The guy has talent and you can see it in his past catalog. Hell, you don’t get a Bram Stoker Award for being a hack. But, for me, HOUSE is the story where he put it all together. Atmosphere, character development, dialogue, interesting storyline, an homage to the genre that I know and love, and suspension of disbelief. Some writers age like a fine wine. Here’s to hoping for an extended run of this particular vintage very soon. It’s intoxicating.
4 1/2 Secret Rooms out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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Under The Fang – Edited by Robert R. McCammon

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Under The Fang is one I’ve seen on bookstore shelves many times throughout the 1980s. Its chock full of the decade’s horror stalwarts, yet somehow I never picked it up. On a trip to my favorite used bookstore, I came across it again and made sure not  to overlook it this time. Let’s see what’s between the covers:

 

The Miracle Mile – Robert McCammon

McCammon always serves up his readers platter after platter of stories with three-dimensional characters and layers of atmosphere. The Miracle Mile is no different. Survivors of the apocalypse try to find one last glimmer of joy from a favorite family vacation spot.

4 out of 5 stars
Dancing Nitely – Nancy A. Collins

After the Uprising, life as a vampire is very different. A glimpse in the life of Maldives the vampire as he goes out to the club. An entertaining look at how the undead’s world would be.

5 out of 5 stars
Stoker’s Mistress – Clint Collins

Bram Stoker thought he was writing a fictional tale about vampires. It’s a good thing for them that he didn’t know the truth.

4 out of 5 stars
Does The Blood Line Run On Time – Sidney Williams & Robert Petitt

Dugan joins the resistance after seeing the lead vampire destroy the only thing he loved in this vampire apocalypse. Absolutely loved the writing and the plot. Perfect.

5 out of 5 stars
Red Eve – Al Sarrantonio

Spoiled, loud-mouthed brats learn a new lesson…the hard way. An okay story that you could see the ending coming from a mile away.

3 out of 5 stars
We Are Dead Together – Charles DeLint

A young gypsy learns that it is better to be true to yourself then live your life as a lie. A moralistic scene rather than a complete story. Still a decent rendition.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage – Chet Williamson

Being together for all eternity has different meanings in a world ruled by vampires. Richard finds out this and what true love really means. Great story written with such eloquence by Williamson.

5 out of 5 stars
Advocates – Suzy McKee Charnas and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

What to do with a captured vampire that isn’t limited by sunlight and can feed off of other vampires as well as humans. Advocates touches on sociological questions that could possibly arise during the vampire apocalypse but then never really goes anywhere, no conclusion, nothing. Its too bad. A story with this good of writing shouldn’t end by the reading being indifferent and shrugging their shoulders before they move on to the next story.

3 out of 5 stars
Special – Richard Laymon

Falling in love with the prisoners is never a good idea in a vampire apocalypse, especially when the humans are supposed to only be around to be slaves and procreate. But, for Jim, the heart wants what the heart wants and for some reason Diane is special. A fun tale that I actually like from Laymon. The guy can flat out write when he’s not trying to be a horny 13-year-old.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Herrenrasse – J.N. Williamson

Harry is captured by the vampire that kills his family. Instead of disposing of Harry, the vampire decided to make Harry his human “pet” to keep him company. A confusing tale that tries to show Harry outwit his captor. Eh.

2.5 out of 5 stars
Duty – Ed Gorman

Keller doesn’t like his job, but someone has to do it in the vampire apocalypse. A great story where the delivery is the best part.

5 out of 5 stars
Midnight Sun – Brian Hodge

This one knocked my socks off. Think of John Carpenter’s The Thing with vampires instead of an alien.

5 out of 5 stars
A Bloodsucker – David N. Meyer III

A quick and fun little diddy about the price of fortune and fame in the vampire apocalypse.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Prodigal Son – Thomas F. Monteleone

A vampire scientist discovers a vaccine that will allow him to be exposed to sunlight. Following a successful trial of using himself as the first test subject, Vandemeer finds himself walking along the beach right before sunrise for the first time since he became a vampire. He meets a human and is surprised that his hunger doesn’t overtake him. What has this vaccine done to him? Monteleone’s solid delivery still doesn’t make up for a mediocre ending.

3 out of 5 stars
There Are No Nightclubs in East Palo Alto – Clifford V. Brooks

A group of humans are tired of being scared and suppressed by the vampires in the apocalypse. They learn to play instruments, form a band, and write songs of rebellion to try and feel less weak, less afraid. But in the apocalypse, you never know who you can trust, even yourself. A solid story with interesting characters and nice twist on the ending.

4 out of 5 stars
Juice – Lisa W. Cantrell

A bootlegger in the apocalypse finds that they have just as much to fear as the original ones did during prohibition. My first time reading Cantrell, a fairly well-known author from the eighties. Juice was creative and an engaging read. Cantrell doesn’t have an extensive catalog, but I will be grabbing what she did publish.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Behind Enemy Lines – Dan Perez

Here’s an author I’ve never heard of, but with Behind Enemy Lines, he dishes out an engrossing tale militaristic vampires versus a band of human rebels. I’m a sucker for great characters and Perez delivers.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
UNDER THE FANG is one of the best anthologies you’ll run across. There are only a couple of clunkers in the 17 offerings. There were a few authors in there that I’d heard of but had never read yet. Now I’ve got a few more writers to look for in my used book store outings. And that’s going to be your best bet to find and pick up UNDER THE FANG, since it was released in the 1980s. I recommend that you do. It’s chock full of wonderful bloodsucking tales.
OVERALL = 4.11 out of 5 stars

 

The Siren and The Specter – Jonathan Janz

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There’s atmosphere a plenty in Jonathan Janz’s latest, THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER. Creepiness and dread oozes from each subsequent page after page. David is a cynic. He has to be. It’s his job. Debunking hauntings has paved the way for a decent living. Now David’s college pal invites him to Virginia to write about the place he and his wife just bought, the notorious Alexander House. Chris and Katherine hand over the keys and David plans on staying in the house for a month. Their motive for having David write about the house is clear. Publicity. David is a best-selling author and they want him to write about his experience to drum up publicity as they plan to make the house a tourist attraction. David doesn’t mind. He’s disproved more haunted houses than he can count. In fact, he’s yet to find any credible evidence to support hauntings and his skepticism has sold a ton of books. Why should the Alexander House be any different? Well, guess what? This house isn’t like all the rest and it’s due to Judson Alexander, the man who built the house back in the 1700s. He was one nasty S.O.B.and he’s not ready to vacate the premises anytime soon.

SIREN has a lot going for it. Janz creates interesting characters and David is the one that’s fleshed out the most. So much so, that his character has created some nice discussions when we read this as a group. To some, he’s an egotistical shit head that deserves all the nastiness that comes his way. For others, myself included, I found that his college past seemed to lead to an unfortunate turn of events, but not one that he should be solely blamed for. Characters with this much layered depth stick with you, rattling around in your psyche, long after the story has been put back on the shelf. That’s a good thing. Emotions run deep in SIREN. You have characters you feel for, some you relate to, and others that you absolutely loathe. There’s a lot there. Sometimes too much. And thats the only negative that I have. Specters make up the mother load of story. Ahh…but it’s called The SIREN and the Specter and I felt the siren is a little out of place in the tale. I simply think that it didn’t add anything and really wasn’t necessary. Others may think otherwise. Have yourself a go at it and decide for yourself.

3 1/2 Skeletons in the Closet out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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The Mark – Lee Mountford

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The combination of old school and modern horror merge nicely in this demonic ghost story from Mountford. Imagine, if you will, you’ve had a rough week and you’re still trying to get the remnants of an abusive relationship out of your system. So blowing off a little steam at the local pub with your friends seems like as good of a way to spend a Friday night as any. You take a taxi home, a little worse for wear, but nothing a good night’s sleep and some Advil in the morning won’t take care of. You pass out and in the middle of the night you’re awakened to hear an intruder creeping up your stairs. You attempt to get away, but he gets the best of you. Thinking you’re about to meet your end, he pulls out a syringe, jams it in your neck and depresses the plunger. Out go the proverbial lights. When you awaken, its morning, you’re lying facedown on the kitchen floor, no one is in the house with you and you have these strange symbols carved on your back bleeding through your shirt.

What the hell, right? That’s exactly what I was thinking while I was reading this. Mountford does a great job with character development in THE MARK. Not only do you feel for Kirsty, you’re walking in her shoes every step of the way. You’re trying to figure out just what in the hell is going on. All the while, Mountford keeps dropping these creepy, skincrawling scenes on you and he does it with such a nice touch. There’s a slow build up of dread, as he builds the characters and atmosphere, and slowly unwinds the story. At times, he dangles you over the edge for a few moments before he plunges you over the edge. And this is where his story telling is a cut above many of his peers. He doesn’t just beat you over the head repeatedly without giving you a chance to think or care. No, he dangles the danger just out of your reach and makes you crane your neck to try an peer around that corner and get just a glimpse of what lies ahead. He makes you want it and that’s why I enjoyed this story so much. This is my first time reading Mountford and I’m impressed. I think you will be too.

4 1/2 Codex Gigas out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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Goodreads Horror Aficionados October 2018 Group Read with Guest Authors, Lee Mountford and Glenn Rolfe

 

Our favorite month is almost upon us! Ahhh…October. The month of falling leaves, jack-o-lanterns, trick or treating, and a scary yarn or two to raise the hairs on the back of your neck!

I want to invite you all to join us this month on the Goodreads group, Horror Aficionados, as we read the latest books of two up-and-coming heavy hitters in the world of horror.

In fact, we’re DYING to introduce you to our first featured author, Lee Mountford. Lee has had a busy year and a half since he released his first book, Horror in the Woods. Since then, he’s SLIT OUR THROATS with the macabre tales, The Demonic and Tormented! We’re pleased to announce that Lee has a new frightful tale that he’ll be joining us for, The Mark. It promises to cause many sleepless nights lying awake in bed wondering what those strange sounds are and why they sound like they might be in the same room with you!

We also have Glenn Rolfe, who has broken out of his padded prison cell, shed his straight jacket and will be holding us prisoner….err….joining us in our 2nd Group Read. Glenn is a repeat offender here on HA who swears the voices in his head aren’t dangerous. We’ve found that it’s best to say a couple Hail Mary’s and go along with what he says….err….I mean, read his latest offering, The Window!

Both tales look like they should come with the warning “To be read only with the doors and windows locked.” So, pour yourself a stiff drink to calm your nerves, ignore those strange sounds coming from outside and join us as we grab October by the throat and don’t let go until the body has stopped twitching!

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/…

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/…

Eerily Yours!

Ken
Co-Moderator
Horror Aficionados

Practitioners – Matt Hayward & Patrick Lacey

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I’ve been noticing more and more collaboration novels in the horror genre lately. I’ve always been curious as to how two different authors can concoct a story together and keep everything seemlessly cohesive. Matt Hayward and Patrick Lacey are able to do just that in Practitioners. You really can’t tell who wrote what. The tone, pacing, characters and delivery are evenly matched. So kudos to them for being able to utilize the age-old saying, “Two heads are better than one.”

Practitioners uses elements of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Phantasm, Hellraiser, and various Lovecraft tales and brings it all together through the plight of Henry Stapleton. Henry is a police detective on administrative leave while he attempts to pick up the pieces of the senseless and seemingly random murder of his wife. Henry is trying to make sense of it all, but appears to be losing his mind due to his excessive drinking and inability to seperate hallucinations from reality. In an attempt to get a handle on his life, he visits a spirituality center in a downtown strip mall that promises to teach him how to interpret and control his troubled dreams. This is where the story picks up steam and crosses back and forth from crime drama to horror to fantasy and back again. Oddly enough, this is also when the story becomes more focused. Even though I was enjoying the characters, I felt that the beginning was too muddied to understand what I was reading. I get that the writers were trying to keep everything in shadows, but to me, maybe the delivery could’ve been a little better, a little clearer. All in all, a solid story from two talented authors.
3 1/2 Alternate Realities out of 5
You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

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