Monday, July 13, 2020

GUEST POST: “Why is Horror Fiction Relevant Now?” by Pete Mesling

                                                                                     


My original title for this post was “Why is Horror Fiction Relevant in 2020?” But I quickly realized that the answers are the same for me as they’ve always been. Still, they bear revisiting:


  1. We really ought to start by answering with another question. Why is horror’s relevancy so often called into question? There seems to be an assumption that horror is somehow a lesser genre than all others, when the truth is that it’s just as prone to excellence, mediocrity, and dreck as every other genre.


  1. Horror is broad enough to contain the full range of human emotions, to an extent that other genres routinely struggle with. It can be fantastic or realistic, thrilling or moody, sad or humorous, romantic or mysterious, quiet or extreme. The sky’s the limit, in other words. Try slipping an axe murder into a bodice ripper, on the other hand … It’s not that it can’t be done, but I’d want to be awfully careful.


  1. Perhaps more than any other literary genre, horror has the potential to illuminate what we have in common as a species, regardless of differences. How so? Because it tends to bring diverse groups together to face off against a common enemy, whether it’s a monster, an environmental anomaly, or a human killer. When we come face to face with a true Other, we’re given the chance to see that the otherness among us pales by comparison to our commonality. Robert McCammon’s Stinger is a fantastic example of this precept in motion. On the surface it’s a science fiction story about one alien chasing another alien across space until they both end up in Texas, where the predator puts up a force field around a small town to prevent his quarry from escaping. But really it’s a horror novel, because the inhabitants of the troubled little town of Inferno are also trapped as a result.


  1. How can we expect to confront the deepest, darkest problems of our times if we fail to address them in our art? Don’t get me wrong. Not all fiction needs to confront violence, racism, end times, etc., but much of it should. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, and it seems to me that if we want to move toward the light, we need to be able to recognize, and avoid, its opposite. Know your enemy.The late Jack Ketchum had it right when he said in a workshop I attended that if you’re going to bring violence into a story, you’d better be prepared to go all the way. I also once attended a reading by Steve Rasnic Tem in which he mentioned that his abhorrence toward all types of violence was the impetus behind his novel Ubo.


These points aren’t meant to serve as an outline of rules. That’s another great thing about the horror genre. Just when you think you’ve pinned it down, a visionary comes along and changes things up. Mary Shelley set a certain standard, of course, by making her monster in Frankenstein sympathetic (another science fiction novel that’s really a horror novel, by the way). Some hundred and seventy years later, Clive Barker would take this thinking to new heights. Others have been redrawing the boundaries of the genre in recent years as well: Josh Malerman, Victor LaValle, Paul Tremblay, to name a few.


Do I see these things at play in my own work? I think I do. I hope I’m not overly conscious of them while I’m writing, but I think the above observations show themselves in my collection Jagged Edges & Moving Parts, for instance. My next two or three books will not be in the horror genre, but when I return with a planned collection of all-supernatural tales of terror, you can bet some of the ideas touched on here will be on my mind. May they haunt you pleasantly as well.



Thank you Pete for a great guest post and for sharing it with us here at One-Legged Reviews.


Make sure to check out Pete's new collection Jagged Edges & Moving Parts available now in ebook and print.



To learn more about the author and his other works, make sure to visit his official site.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

ROCK 'N' ROLL HEAD CASE by Lee Widener


ROCK 'N' ROLL HEAD CASE by Lee Widener

Originally published in 2015 by Eraserhead Press

Revised & Updated Edition published May 14th 2020
by NeverEnding Wonder Books

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(from the book description)

When embittered fast food worker Chaino Durante finds Alice Cooper's severed
head attached to his arm, wielding magical powers and dispensing the world's
worst life advice, he sets off on a freakishly bizarre road trip to stop a literal
monster from becoming the President of the United States, learning questionable
lessons along the way.
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((Spoiler Free Review))

I have to admit that I have not read many books in the Bizarro genre. But when I read the book description, and saw the trippy cover, I was instantly hooked. I had to read it. If anything just to see how the author, Lee Widener would make it all fit together. Really he had me hooked at "Alice Cooper's severed head".

I will say right up front, I have never read anything quite like ROCK N ROLL HEAD CASE. This story has a little of everything. I when I say everything, I mean it. Not only do we get Alice Cooper's head, we also get giant eyeballs, monsters, pirates, giants, intense fight scenes, celebrity cameos and a surprisingly familiar political party. Lee does not hold anything back and you really do not know what will appear on the next page. I don't think Lee could have crammed anymore crazy into this 80 page novella.

Even with all it's wild trappings, ROCK N ROLL HEADCASE still has an underlying story that drives the craziness along. Chaino is a man with no positive outlook in his life, boring life, crappy job, and his encounter with Alice Cooper's head changes his life forever. It might not be for the best at first. To me this is a tale of discovery. Chaino is the reluctant anti-hero who sets off on a true herculean task. Find himself and at the same time stop a monster.

That monster brings us to another aspect of this story. This was originally written in 2015 (I have not read the original, so I am not sure which material was revised for this edition), which would have been right around the time a certain orange haired someone was gearing up for his run at the presidency. I have always made it a rule to not talk politics in a review, but we can all see which monster he is talking about.

Chaino is a great character, but the star of this tale has got to be Alice Cooper's head. Why is he just a head?? We don't know! But he is part teacher, part Buddha and still manages to be the rock n roll monster he has always been. The peppering of song lyrics and references are little surprises along the way.

The author has created an epic acid trip roller coaster ride of a story that will mess with your mind, but also make you think.

In the immortal words of Alice Cooper's severed head
"Welcome to My Nightmare"



You can purchase ROCK n' ROLL HEAD CASE in ebook and print on AMAZON.

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Monday, June 8, 2020

THE DECEPTION OF KATHRYN VASK by Mark Steensland


The Deception of Kathryn Vask
by Mark Steensland

Published April 14th 2020

Published by
Broadway Play Publishing Inc.

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(from the book description)

Blaming herself for her son’s death in an accident, a grief-stricken woman wants to hold a séance to get his forgiveness from beyond the grave. But when her husband conspires with the family pastor to hire actors and fake the proceedings, things don’t go as planned…or do they?
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To keep this review SPOILER FREE I will not give any more story detail than what was shared from the book description above.

I have to admit that I was very excited when Mark contacted me and asked if I would like to read his new work THE DECEPTION OF KATHRYN VASK. This would mark the first solo piece of his I had read. His collaboration with James Newman on IN THE SCRAPE was one of my favorite books of 2019 and THE SPECIAL (now a movie) was one of the most cringe inducing.

Right off everyone should know that this is a script. It was written as a stage play. Some might find this off-putting due to the structure style of stage commands, stage dressing descriptions and of course character dialogue. This did not bother me at all. I used to act in plays so the script aspect did not hinder my reading. Also over the years I have read several other horror related scripts. But really no one should let the presentation style stop them from reading this story.

The story is so well written that you will find yourself reading through without even having to look at the character designations. Each characters voice is unique and you will find the flow of the story very quickly. Even the stage directions will read out as if you were reading a normal story. That is a testament to the Author's ability to create characters. He is writing for the stage, so all dialogue has to be direct and written to be heard, unlike a normal book were an author can embellish a scene with background material and inner thoughts. What you are reading is what you would be hearing from your seat in the theater audience.

In my opinion there needs to be more horror in the theater. Yes there have been several on and off over the years, but not enough. The two that stand out are GHOST STORIES by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman, and my personal favorite horror stage play THE WEIR by Conor McPherson. (both have scripts available on Amazon). I can see THE DECEPTION OF KATHRYN VASK easily joining the ranks of these fine productions.

Mark Steensland has given us a masterfully written story of despair and loss with enough twists to keep you on the end of your seat till the final page. This is going to be an outstanding show when it makes it to the live stage.

You can purchase a copy of the book at Barnes and Nobels.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Kickstarter: Reanimator Incorporated - A Lovecraft-inspired Graphic Novel by Andy Perry & Lyndon White



Reanimator Incorporated - A Lovecraft-inspired Graphic Novel
by Andy Perry & Lyndon White

Kickstarter campaign ends June 17th at 1pm EST.


The other day I was flipping around Kickstarter. I do this from time to time to see if I can spot any new comics or books that grab my attention. So on this day, as I go page to page, suddenly the word "Reanimator" catches my eye.

If you are a horror fan like me, the mention of Re-animator brings you memories of the classic movie of the same name from 1985, which in itself was a tale from the H.P. Lovecraft. The story of a young scientist Herbert West and his quest to understand death.

Now to me the movie (ok, maybe the 2nd movie to) are classic and to this day remain one of my favorites to watch over and over again.

So back to Kickstarter. After seeing the name pop up in the thumbnail, I had to click on it and see if it was really a adaptation of the classic Lovecraft character. To my surprise it was, and so much more.


Written by Andy Perry and Art by Lydon White, Reanimator Incorporated is not a retelling of the tale, it is a re-imagining. This tale takes place in modern day. Gone are the dimly lit labs and basements, for Herbert West is a man of technology and his new gleaming machines of science surround him. This is West for the 2020s. The obsession to understand and beat death is the same, but now we have corporate greed and family struggles added in to make the story even more complex.


I had the pleasure of reading the complete Chapter 1 and it was a well written, fast-paced tale that left me wanting more. There are some very visually striking panels and it was fun to see little nods to other Lovercraft themes in the story. This is a well crafted story of life, death, rebirth and the dark things that live between.


The Kickstarter has been fully funded, but you can still get in on it until June 17th
The book is available in softcover and a special hardcover edition.
       




Wednesday, May 27, 2020

HUNGER ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL by M. Ennenbach


HUNGER ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL
by M. Ennenbach

Published May 2nd 2020

Published by Death's Head Press

Cover art by Justin T. Coons


____________________________________________________________________
(from the book description)

The first cattle drive of the season leaves Texas for Abilene, Kansas along the Chisholm Trail, but unforeseen terrors lay hidden in the natural beauty of the land. In the heart of Indian Territory lies the sleepy town of Duncan, a friendly respite from the dusty land. But something lurks in the untamed West-a powerful creature that hunts to satiate its horrifying hunger. The land will run red with blood, and only Karl Beck has a chance against this ancient evil.
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Before the trail dust from THE MAGPIES COFFIN release settles, we are back in the saddle for the 2nd book in the Death's Head Press "Splatter Western" Series.

This new arrival is HUNGER ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL by M. Ennenbach and it is a wild and horrific ride full of dust, blood and action.

It all starts out with a cattle drive and descends into an all out battle to survive on the barren Chisholm Trail. The fate of the small town of Duncan hangs in the balance. An evil is loose in the plains and it has a hunger that will not be sated. 

I want so much to talk about this story because I enjoyed it immensely, but as always I do not want to spoil any of the suspense and surprises for the readers. So lets talk about a few other points that will not give too much info away.

Some might go into this thinking it is a creature story, and in a way it is, but where this tale shines is in the believable characters that the author has created. This is a true character-driven story. You are drawn in right away on the first page, and as the story progresses, more and more characters are introduced.  Some players may not be around long but you quickly become vested in them, which make some of the horrible events that occur hit you like a gut punch.

The strongest character we meet is Karl Beck. He is an adventurer, an investigator and when need be, a killer. Think of a western version of John Constantine with a little bit of Doc Holliday mixed in. He is our somewhat reluctant hero; he knows and sees things others cannot or will not believe. Karl is an outstanding character. I would have sat and read a whole chapter of just Karl talking to himself, that is how relatabley the author has written the character. The other supporting characters are developed just as effectively. You will love some while hating others, but you will still find yourself somewhat connected to each as the story goes along. We are also treated to a few clues and characters that might be connected to future books.

And yes, there is blood, lots of blood. The author does not hold back on the gore and horrific deaths. The creature is perfect. The author's descriptions and actions of the grotesque creature keep you on the edge of your seat. Again, I would just love to just blurt out stuff but I must hold my tongue.

Let's just say that this is an outstanding book that pulls you along relentlessly into a bloody and action filled finale.

THE MAGPIE COFFIN was the first book in this series and it was terrific, but HUNGER ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL has made me into a true "Splatter Western" fan. The series has just been extended to 11 books (YES, 11) with the next being DUST by Chris Miller.

I feel like I need to go out and buy a cowboy hat now.


You can purchase HUNGER ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL in ebook and print on AMAZON.

Make sure to stop by the Author's site to learn more about M. ENNENBACHE.

And please check out the publishers other great books at DEATH'S HEAD PRESS.




Wednesday, May 6, 2020

COMMUNION by Steve Stred



COMMUNION by Steve Stred
(Father of Lies Book 2)

Published May 6th 2020

Published by Black Void Publishing

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(from the book description)

One week after the horrific events at the commune unfolded, Detective McKay is left to pick up the pieces and try to connect the dots. 

But before he can determine who this Father character is or what his motivations were, a mysterious redheaded woman arrives at the station. 

With one quick act of violence, McKay is dragged into a world he’d never imagined possible. 

A world of heinous acts, strange events and a creature from his darkest nightmares. 

At the end of the day, McKay will need to find a way to survive, or become another sacrifice by Father in his quest to ascend to the Black Heaven’s.

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Before we dive into COMMUNION, the new book from author Steve Stred, you must be made aware that this is Book 2 of the Father of Lies Trilogy.It is strongly recommended that you read Book 1 RITUAL before you start on COMMUNION. Be warned that Book 1 is a very intense read and does contain graphic and disturbing scenes that may offend more delicate readers.


So go ahead and read Book 1............I'll wait here for you......................................


Ok, your back and you have finished RITUAL.

What have we learned so far.

Cults...bad

The Father...bad

Demons....bad

Bum play...ouch,,very bad.


This will always be as spoiler free as possible.


COMMUNION continues the story 1 week after the events of RITUAL and centers around Det. McKay and his investigation into the mass deaths  at the cults compound. McKay is quickly dragged into the world of the mysterious Father and what he was trying to accomplish, and what horrible events await in the future. Can he survive and solve the mystery surrounding the cult or will he be just another pawn in a much larger and terrifying game.

The first thing you will notice when diving into COMMUNION is the difference in the writing style from Book 1. Were RITUAL was in your face horror gruesome acts, COMMUNION is more in the vain of a Police procedural. We follow McKay as he uncovers secrets and becomes entangled in the world of The Father and his plans for reaching the Black Heavens. The blood and gore are still here, but presented in a way that fits into his new narrative style. McKay is drawn deeper and deeper into this dark world and we as readers are dragged along, learning more and more back story on The Father, his past and his lofty ambitions.

The breakneck pace of the story is constant and races you along from page one until you hit the final word. Though this installment is not as raw and downright cringe inducing as Book 1, it still packs a wallop and at times will make you squirm in your seat. As always the author is a master at creating characters that we believe and can connect with and care about. McKay is your hard-boiled. ready for retirement cop thrust into something he has never dealt with before, and the inclusion of a strong fem-fatale character strengthens the overall crime-noir/police procedural feel.

This is a one sitting read. You will not want to put it down once you start.

Also extra kudos to the author for handling aspects of a Police investigation and just normal Police procedure correctly. Being a retired officer, it is always nice to see these events handled realistically and not the over-exaggerated way we see on tv and movies.

I highly recommend COMMUNION and it's predecessor RITUAL. It will be exciting to see were the author brings the story next and what awaits us as we follow The Father into the dark places.


COMMUNION can be purchased in ebook and print at AMAZON.

RITUAL is also available in both formats.

Make sure to visit the authors website HERE for news and info on his other great titles.


Monday, March 23, 2020

THE MAGPIE COFFIN by Wile E. Young


THE MAGPIE COFFIN by Wile E. Young

Release date March 23rd, 2020

Published by Death's Head Press

Cover art by Justin T. Coons

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(from the book description)

The year is 1875 and the outlaw Salem Covington has spent the last twenty years collecting stories, possessions and lives. Nicknamed 'The Black Magpie' for his exploits during the war, Salem has carved a bloody trail across the western territories. Informed that his mentor, Comanche shaman  Dead Bear has been murdered, he vows vengeance on the perpetrators. Enlisting the help of an Army scout and preserving the body of his mentor in a specially made coffin, Salem sets out in pursuit. But the choices of Salem's past that earned him the moniker 'Black Magpie' are riding hard behind him and the only weapon that can kill him might not be as far away as he thinks.
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I have to admit that I don't believe I have ever sat and read a Western novel. The closest would have to be Jonah Hex comics. So I was intrigued when Jarod Barbee, Publisher at Death's Head Press, announced a new line of 'Splatter Western' books.

For most reviews I just jump right into the story, but this time I want to take a moment and recognize the amazing piece of art that is the cover to THE MAGPIE COFFIN. Artist Justin T. Coons sets the mood for this story at first glance, you just know you're in for something dark and sinister. This cover reminded me so much of the beautifully painted 'Giallo' covers to come out of Italy back in the day.
The old adage, "you can't judge a book by its cover" is definitely thrown out here. You know what you're getting into with one glance.

OK, I'm done drooling over that cover, onto the story itself. As with all my reviews, this will be Spoiler Free.

I was hooked on this story from page one. If you have read Wile E. Young's work before (if you haven't then shame on you, you should correct that right now), you know he has a breakneck pace. The main character, Salem Covington, is a man haunted and hunted by his past. Through the course of the story you will love the character (in my best western twang), hootin and hollrin' for him, and other times you might hate him. Either way he is a great character.  Wile has taken John Constantine and Jonah Hex (the Lansdale Jonah, not the horrible movie one) and rolled them up to make a character that is likable and at times horrifying in his acts. Salem walks the line between our world and the darkness that lies just beyond our vision.

The main story is that of revenge. Salem sets out on a quest to avenge the death of his mentor, a shaman called Dead Bear and leaves a trail of death and destruction behind him as he endeavors to complete his chosen path. The 'splatter' in 'Splatter Western' is present throughout the story. Salem dispatches his enemies (or are they just prey?) in some monstrous and cringe-inducing ways. Yes, there are some impressive gun fights, it is a western story after all, but it is when Salem truly lets his dark side out to mete out his form of justice, that you will squirm in your seat while reading. There is a scene later on in the book that would probably have Edward Lee say "What the hell Wile, damn".

I never knew I needed a 'Splatter Western' in my life, but now that I have read THE MAGPIE COFFIN, I'll be "chomping at the bit" for the next release.

This has been one of my favorite books so far this year and I recommend it highly for everyone. If you're a horror fan who has never read a western, you are in for a treat, if your a western fan and never read horror, brace yourself, this is not your daddy's Louis L'Amour books, but you're gonna love it!


THE MAGPIE COFFIN can be purchased in Ebook and Print on Amazon.

And make sure to check out DEATH'S HEAD PRESS for other great books.