Splatterpunk Fighting Back – Edited by Jack Bantry & Kit Power

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Through the years, horror has had it’s ups and downs in the eye of public perception. At it’s best, it was the red-headed, step-child. At it’s worst, it was easier to tell someone that you were a child molester than it was to admit that you read horror. I remember discovering my first horror author, yes that famous one from Maine, and wanting to read that instead of some highbrow crap in my high school English class. When I mentioned King’s name to my teacher, you should’ve seen the look of disgust on his face. “That is nothing but trash. It has no redeeming qualities whatsoever,” was his reply. Instead, I was forced to read Less Than Zero and I thought he was confused which one exactly had no redeeming qualities. It didn’t get any better during the 90swhen horror went underground and tried to disguise itself by relabeling itself as thrillers. Ugh. You’re horror. Plain and simple. Wear it with pride! Horror will always be the underdog and I’m okay with that. I know what I like and what has value to not only me, but to tens of thousands of others. Still, the stigma of horror and it’s authors and readers as being the lowest form of society will always persist. That’s why I love seeing things come to light like Splatterpunk Fighting Back, a group of extreme horror authors writing tales that drip with blood with all proceeds going for a good cause – cancer research. Also, I was thrilled to see that many of the authors involved were ones that I read on fairly consistent basis tucked neatly within others that I had heard of, but hadn’t had the pleasure to experience. So, here we go –

They Swim By Night – Adam Millard

A beautiful siren with razor sharp teeth wants more than love.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Melvin – Matt Shaw

A creeping, crawling dildo that is on a mission to push aside those tonsils. For me, this story was too rediculous to take seriously and not campy enough to take as silly fun. Caught somewhere in between and it caused it to not really work for me.

2 out of 5 stars

 

Extinction Therapy – Bracken MacLeod

A rich playboy thirsts for something more than money and power. This one took two readings to fill in some of the blanks, but a solid read.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

The Passion of the Robertsons – Duncan Ralston

Religious whack jobs attempt to commit a whack job on a non-believer. Living in a rural community, I see people every day that I think fit the descriptions of the Robertsons to a tee.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

Hellscape – Rich Hawkins

A Michonne like character walking through a Lovecraftian dystopia with a machete looking for her son. A gloomy tale.

3 out of 5 stars

 

Molly – Glenn Rolfe

A dimented woman and her murderous doll making a stop at a hotel in Maine while on their world tour. A fun romp that’s one of Rolfe’s best.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Only Angels Know – George Daniel Lea

The intense ramblings of an insane cult leader that tries to find art, god and purpose, first through self-mutilation and then through his lemmings following his lead as the world watches in horror. The first-person narrative works well to show how demented this guy really was. You never get a clear picture of what exactly happened, but I think that was the intention and I’m good with it.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

Limb Memory – Tim Curran

This was a fun story. Will has lost his arm in an auto accident with his now ex-girlfriend, who came out unscathed. She dumps him. He’s probably going to lose his job and the only person to give him the time of day is his physical therapist…and she has a fiancé! To top it all off, his dead, chopped off arm is knocking on the window of his hospital bedroom. Is he losing his mind or what? With shades of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and Evil Dead, this campy tale hits all the right notes.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Feast of Consequences – W.D. Gagliani & Dave Benton

When I think of splatterpunk, I think of a story like Feast of Consequences. Brutal, slasher, cannibal rednecks, terrorized female protagonist, lots of blood and severed limbs, all the ingredients are here. Feast isn’t anything new. It has Texas Chainsaw Massacre written all over it, but I’m perfectly okay with that. The storytelling was tight, the atmosphere bleak and desperate, and memorable characters. Where’s my popcorn?

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Going Rate – John Boden

This one gives you shivers down your spine as Boden breaks the typical forbidden territory of committing pain and suffering to small children. Just eerie as the Taxman comes to collect the neighborhood’s debts.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

With all anthologies, I’ve come to expect a few stories that don’t work for me as I look for the gems in the group. If I can get one or two, I’m happy. Luckily for me, Splatterpunk was gem-laden with goodness. The heavy weights came through and I discovered a couple of new authors to me that brought the goods. A very solid read that I can easily recommend. It’s looking like Splatterpunk will easily take the award for best anthology of the year. And it was all for a good cause. Win/Win.

 

Overall – 4 out of 5 stars

 

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Halloween Carnival Volume Three

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The third installment in the Halloween Carnival series. McBride’s is the anchor in this installment, but newcomers, Armstrong and Grant, give nice little additions as well. Let’s get right into them:

 

The Way Lost – Kelley Armstrong

Every year, in the town of Franklin, a child disappears. No one talks about it and everyone goes about their business. Dale Tucker knows what happens. Or does he?
A fun tale of small town legend meets reality.

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

La Calavera – Kate Maruyama

A roommate is a little too obsessive over her friend getting a boyfriend and moving on with her life. An okay story that you knew how it was going to end long before it did.

3 out of 5 stars

 

The Devil’s Due – Michael McBride

The small town of Pine Springs, CO has enjoyed over a century of prosperity. On Halloween, it’s time to pay for that prosperity. But this Halloween, Thom isn’t willing to pay the price. Great story telling that only McBride can do.

5 out of 5 stars

 

A Thousand Rooms of Darkness – Taylor Grant

Anne suffers from a debilitating phobia of Halloween. Her family members were killed in freak accidents, all on the October 31st. She decides to move to Colorado for a fresh start, but the holiday is fast approaching. Bad stuff starts happening and Anne is slowly consumed with dread. The story seemed slow until the ending which brought a whole new light to the tale. Loved it’s uniqueness.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

The Last Night of October – Greg Chapman

An elderly invalid anxiously awaits the nightmare from his past to visit his door on Halloween. Oh where to start with this one? Let me start by saying that I think this was a decent story. It had many elements that I would’ve enjoyed a whole lot more if the delivery was better. Let me explain. First, Chapman didn’t do his homework with his dates. If you’re going to do a flashback to a bygone era, get the information right. When he goes back to set up how Gerald’s loathing of Halloween came to be, he uses the year 1952. He then goes on to describe Gerald’s new friend wearing a Minnesota Twins hat. The old Washington Senators didn’t relocate to Minnesota and become the Twins until 1961. He then describes how the neighbor boys talked back and forth between their bedrooms with walkie talkies. Those types of wireless walkie talkies weren’t available until the 1960s. The ones from the early 1950s had wires that connected to them and didn’t use antennas. If it were only those two items, I’d still think the story was sloppy, but I could still overlook it. What I can’t overlook is the dialogue between the characters. In the beginning, Gerald and Kelli were at each other’s throats. Gerald was the crotchety old man that just wanted her out of the house. Then, once they’re trapped, he immediately calms down and begins talking completely calm to her which leads into him spilling his guts to let the reader in on the backstory. Again, sloppy delivery. There was such an abrupt shift in his disposition that my suspension of disbelief crashed and it could never get back on track. This was only one example of the many times this happened and it made what had the makings of a really fun story. To me, a story like this that has so much potential but doesn’t deliver is much more frustrating than a story that completely stinks with very little redeeming qualities.

2 out of 5 stars

 

Overall, a decent collection marred by a couple of clunkers. Still worth picking up, if only for McBride’s tale.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

 

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THE HALL OF PROFESSIONAL AUTHORS: THE NO FUN LEAGUE

Glenn sums this up perfectly. Thanks for keeping things into persepective!

Glenn Rolfe

THE HALL OF PROFESSIONAL AUTHORS: THE NO FUN LEAGUE

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I recently read an article by a professional fiction writer in my genre. This article pointed out a list of things this particular author didn’t want to see any more of in 2017.  While there were a couple of things I agreed with, the majority of the piece told me one thing: this person doesn’t get it.

Most of us writers do this because we like it. We love it. This is what brings us joy. Writing, and all that goes along with it, makes us happy. Yes, there are mean people out there. Yes, there are idiot with nothing better to do than shit on something someone else has done. Yes, there are bullshit artists who want people to admire them at all cost. I don’t hate on these people. I feel bad for them. They’re obviously unhappy with themselves…

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The Lost – Jack Ketchum

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Right off the bat, The Lost starts with a bang (pardon the pun). Ray was a nutcase when he was a teenager and blew two girls away that were camping. His two friends, Tim and Jennifer, were sheep when they watched him do it and just stood there with their mouths open. They didn’t turn him in. They didn’t try to stop him. Nothing. Why did he do it? Just to see how it felt. Four years later, Ray is still just as big of a nutcase. The only difference is that he hasn’t killed anyone in those four years since. Tim and Jennifer are still the loyal sheep that follow Ray’s every move without question. The police were unable to pin the murders on Ray, but the officers on duty, Charlie and Ed, knew damn well that Ray did it. However, they didn’t have the proof the bust him. So, for 4 years, he walked a free man. But four years is a long time and Ray has never had anyone push his buttons to see what he would really do if his temper reached critical mass…until now.

The Lost is a fantastic tale told in Ketchum’s patented straight-forward way. He captures small town America. The characters are amazingly realistic and feel like you know someone exactly like them. When I say Ray is a nutcase, I mean it. On the surface, to the people that don’t really know him, he only seems like a harmless hood. But his evil is constantly simmering under a lid that is barely on and just waiting to go flying off. Those are the scariest kind of monsters. Realistic and unassuming until one day…BLAM! Ketchum does an amazing job ratcheting up the dread until the final act. If you haven’t read Ketchum yet, this one isn’t a bad one to start off with. Pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.

 

4 1/2 Bullets through the Eye out of 5
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Group Read with James Newman

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On November 21, 2016, James Newman’s novella Odd Man Out will be coming out. As many of you know, James is the renowned horror author of such masterpieces as Animosity, Midnight Rain, Ugly As Sin, and The Wicked.

Join us on the Goodreads group, Gore and More, in December as we read Odd Man Out with none other than the man himself. James has graciously accepted our offer to be the guest author for the month providing insight into how Odd Man Out came to be, answering all of our questions as we delve into his latest, and giving us behind the scenes information on the writing world, in general. Not only is James a walking vault of knowledge, but he’s one hell of a nice guy!

If you’d like to join in the reading with us, here is the link to get you started –

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/18334677-christmas-has-come-early-this-year?comment=159001927#comment_159001927

 

Salvage – Duncan Ralston

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When Owen Saddler’s younger sister, Lori, drowns in mysterious fashion while scuba diving in a lake in remote Ontario, unusual things begin to happen to Owen. A strange man at his job site utters something to Owen that he couldn’t have possibly known. Or did he? Owen is attacked in his bathtub and almost drowns by a man that seems oddly familiar. Or didn’t he? Confused and unable to determine how much is real and how much might be hallucination, Owen is drawn to Chapel Lake, where his sister drowned and 30 years ago the lake was created by the construction of a hydroelectric dam that floods the valley and the town of Peace Falls. What was his sister looking for while diving into the flooded underwater town? He must find answers to his haunted questions, even if those answers are that he’s losing his mind.

Salvage is an interesting read by Duncan Ralston that uses a unique location for his ghost story. It mixes corrupted religion with mental illness to weave a hazy read that keeps the reader turning the pages. Owen is an odd duck in that always seems to be one step behind the reader at guessing what’s going on. It can be frustrating, at times, because he doesn’t ask the questions to people that you want him to ask. He seems to be ok with only knowing part of the story from a conversation and having to put himself in harms way to fill in the holes, instead of simply asking more questions. The atmosphere is unique and eerie and Ralston does a nice job painting a realistic setting that you can see vividly in your mind. The ending loosely ties things together that I couldn’t quite buy into and the fact that Owen could have all of these supernatural things happen to him and he simply shrugs it off as business as usual was hard for me to buy into. But, all in all, it was a fun read that kept me turning the pages to see what happens next.

4 underwater churches out of 5

** This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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