Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bleeding Shadows by Joe R. Lansdale

This guy by the name of Dan Schwent lent me this book, and I must say I'm mighty grateful. This is an excellent collection of short stories.

I've gotten to the point where I can't say much more about Lansdale's short fiction than 'I just love it.' I don't think I've read a bad story by the man. All of his stuff fits somewhere between 'good' and 'great.'

This is a big, fat collection of shorts that'll give you your money's worth.

Which stories did I like best?

A Visit with Friends
Mr. Bear
Hide and Horns
The Folding Man
Dread Island

Thank you, Mr. Dantastic!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Professor Challenger: The Island of Terror by William Meikle

This novella serves as an homage and as a sequel to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. In addition to literature's most famous detective, Doyle created an irascible beast of a manly adventurer known as Professor Challenger.

Here's how he's described in The Lost World:

"His appearance made me gasp. I was prepared for something strange, but not for so overpowering a personality as this. It was his size, which took one's breath away – his size and his imposing presence. His head was enormous, the largest I have ever seen upon a human being. I am sure that his top hat, had I ventured to don it, would have slipped over me entirely and rested on my shoulders. He had the face and beard, which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid, the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue, spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-grey under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger."

While Meikle did an excellent job of telling this story with the same flavor and style of Doyle's writing, I don't feel that he did enough with Challenger's character. Sure, the Professor is featured prominently in the narrative but not prominently enough for a man who, from what I understand, is like a force of nature. I wanted more rude, bombastic behavior, more displays of brute strength, more bravado, more cunning intellect.

Perhaps Meikle will write another piece featuring Challenger. If he does, I'll read it. This was action-packed and fun to read. Some of the scenes inside the lighthouse in the end are especially fine.

Recommended to fans of Doyle and/or Challenger.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Revival by Stephen King

King's writing is smooth. It always has been. And now it's leaner, too. This and Doctor Sleep feel streamlined compared to his earlier stuff (not his early stuff).

This book seemed like it could have been outlined, plotted even, before King sat down to write, even though King says he doesn't do that sort of thing. I liked this book's structure. Every scene, set piece had its mirror or counterpart later on in the narrative.

King's publishers like to tout his books as being SCARY AS HELL TALES OF HORROR, whereas I think most folks who have been reading him for decades think of his books as Stephen King books, not horror novels. With that being said, I wasn't disappointed in the least to find that most of this book doesn't read like a horror novel at all. In fact, some of the horror elements sprinkled in here and there throughout the narrative felt a bit tacked-on and out of place.

I liked the relaxed pace of the book, the characters, the settings, the themes. I pretty much liked it all.

But I especially liked the ending. Maybe the marketing team at his publisher got it right this time. That ending really does make this thing a true horror novel.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mr. Tucker & Me is FREE for a limited time

As my holiday gift to you, Mr. Tucker & Me will be FREE to download from Amazon through 12/22/14.

WARNING: This short is not horror, and it's not a holiday story. It fits somewhere in the science-fiction & fantasy spectrum.

I hope you like it.

Got to Amazon and grab it!

And speaking of free, you can also grab "It Came From Hell and Smashed the Angels," if you're so inclined.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When We Join Jesus in Hell by Lee Thompson

The title of this thing is one of the best titles ever conceived of for a work of horror fiction. Frankly, that was 99% of why I bought this book. I didn't read the ad copy for it or any reviews. I just liked the title and knew the author had a good reputation.

All right.

Now, this isn't a long piece, so I can't say much about it without spoiling it for folks. I'll just say four things:

1) It quickly rose to a level of 'holy fuck!' that I wasn't quite ready for (which, of course, in hindsight is a great thing)

2) It went on a detour of sorts that I couldn't have been more pleased with

3) The writer's voice is unique and immediately compelling

4) I've already purchased two more books by Mr. Lee Thompson because I was so impressed with this novella (and the bonus short story included with this edition)

Highly recommended!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Walls of Madness by Craig Saunders

This novella is about the right length to explore a schizophrenic man's fixations, obsessions, hallucinations, and his inability to cope with the real world we all share or the nightmare world that exists only (presumably) inside his head. We're also presented with some glimpses of the early childhood origins of the symbols and themes that inhabit this man's hellish world.

And the book doesn't go much beyond what I've relayed above. Does it need to? No, I don't think so. To me, it seems that the point of the book was to construct an artist's representation of a schizophrenic man's internal life.

Can I know if this was successful? No.

Was I adequately convinced? Yes.

If you're not put off by what I've written above, I'd say give it a go. The prose is lean, almost minimalist, which is nice considering that this particular type of book could easily get weighed down with dense stream of consciousness passages and endless descriptions of hallucinations.

Saunders, thankfully, does not outstay his welcome.