Friday, September 4, 2020

OF WITCHES...... by Steve Stred

 

OF WITCHES........ by Steve Stred

Published Sept. 4th 2020

Published by Black Void Publishing

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(from the book description)

“Of Witches…” the newest collection by dark fiction author, Steve Stred, brings together eight stories all revolving around one of history’s great curiosities – the witch.
Steve Stred will once again take you into the deepest, darkest places.
Accompanied by fifteen stunning photographs/illustrations, as well as an amazing foreword from Miranda Crites, this collection is sure to quench your crone thirst.

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I am always excited when a new book arrives from author Steve Stred. I have know Steve for a few years now and have been lucky enough to read all of his work, even was able to Beta read a few. It is always a thrill to watch a author grow and to see their work change from book to book. Steve has done just that. Every book just keeps getting better and better. Whether it be a period tale of cannibalism, a families trial in the woods, a boy and his wagon or even a very extreme tale of cults and devils, Steve pushes the boundaries and always gives the readers something new.

That leads us to his newest offering, OF WITCHES..... This is an 8 story collection of stories all based around, you guessed it, witches. Six of the stories are brand new for this collection and 2 have been previously published.

Lets take a look at the stories one by one....(as always spoiler free)

IN WAVES

One man waits day after day on the beach with his son waiting for his true love to return.  This is a tale of love, loss and the power of the sea.

 A CAVE, IN THE WOODS

The tale told by a drunken man in a bar. Could it's horrifying secrets be true, and will the listeners of the tale be able to survive it's grisly end.

This story leans a little more towards the authors' more graphic and gore style.

GRANDMA'S LETTERS

 Tommy's Grandmother has died and all she has left him is a brown box full of letters. Alone in his room he discovers a secret hidden within the letters and a strange message. Could Grandma have plans for Tommy? Even from the grave!

THREE WORDS

A camping trip for a young couple turns into a nightmare as they encounter a mysterious hag in the woods. It all comes down to the whispering of three words.

THE WITCH

This story was originally published in LEFT HAND PATH: 13 MORE TALES OF BLACK MAGICK back in 2018. This tale was one of the first stories I had ever read from Steve and I am excited to see it reprinted here again for new readers. This is the longest of the stories in the book and it does not disappoint. 

The story centers on 3 witches that live in the forest outside of  small rustic town. They keep to themselves and the town folk leave them alone. That is until on of the itches falls in love with a bard from the town that triggers consequences that will that will change the lives of all involved. 

The author has crafted a perfect period piece story reminiscent of the classic fairy tales. There is so much character building done within this tale. these may be old haggard witches, but we also see another side of them, that which we do not expect. 

This tale has all the horror and death you would expect, but in the end this is a story of family and the strong bonds of trust and love created just on the other side of the darkness.

THE TREE (THE WITCH PART 2)

This short tale is a direct continuation of the above story. We learn more about the fate of the Bard, the Witches and more following the events that transpired at the conclusion of THE WITCH. A fitting and beautifully melancholy end this story.

WON'T YOU OPEN THE DOOR

This story takes place in the same "world" as THE WITCH and was originally published in THE HORROR COLLECTION: SILVER EDITION.

To me this story almost plays out like a murder mystery. Young Ezekiel and his friend Oliver set off on a journey to return to the property where his brother was murdered by a witch. The trials they endure on the journey are hard, but will not prepare them for what they find at the end of their endeavor.

THE ASSISTANT

Kyle always wanted to be included in the family business. Even when that business was dealing with the dead. What should have a been a routine job turns into a night of horror as Kyle is faced with a task for a woman who should be dead, and is more than she appears.

 

As an added bonus there are 15 beautiful photographs/illustrations thru-out the book done by Miranda Crites that really help set the creepy and dark tone of the book.

 

This is a great collection that will thrill old and new readers alike. The author shows us that there is so much more to the lore of Witches than poison apples and gingerbread houses.


OF WITCHES..... can be purchased in ebook and print on AMAZON.

You can read more about the author and illustrator on their web pages!

STEVE STRED

MIRANDA CRITES


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


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(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.