PHOENIX ISLAND by John Dixon (to be released 1-21-14 by Gallery Books / 320 pp / hc & eBook)
Sixteen year-old boxing champ (and orphan) Carl Freeman is the type of guy who likes to stick up for the weaker kids against bullies: he has a sense of justice handed down from his father but as noble as it is, he often goes overboard and gets into trouble. After too many instances (taking out an entire football team single-handedly now pushing the limit), a judge takes Carl away from his current foster home and sentences him to Phoenix Island, a military-style boot camp designed to straighten-out teens like Carl. But within the first few minutes on the island, Carl and his fellow recruits discover the isolated place (located off the coast of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean) holds many secrets, and it doesn't take long for them to realize they're all in a fight for their very lives.
While this set up may bring BATTLE ROYALE or THE HUNGER GAMES to mind, PHOENIX ISLAND is more like a combination of the 1983 Sean Penn juvenile prison film BAD BOYS, LORD OF THE FLIES, ROCKY, and any mad scientist film. Dixon blends action, scifi, and horror into a tale that had me flipping pages to the point I finished in two rapid sittings. Dixon (a former Golden Gloves boxer) gives vivid descriptions of the boxing mindset, hence making the hand-to-hand fight scenes edge-of-your seat exciting (especially Carl's fight with a taser-wielding drill sargeant). The violence level is quite high (considering this is a YA novel) and Dixon's cast of good and bad guys & gals are to die for.
The second book in this series can't get here fast enough (and I hope the forthcoming CBS TV series, 'Intelligence,' based on this novel, is even a quarter as good as its source material). There are plenty of surprises at every turn, and like any good story featuring a boxer as the main protagonist, this one is completely full of heart and just may have you cheering out loud. Don't miss it.
STORM DEMON by Gregory Lamberson (2013 Medallion Press / 406 pp / tp and eBook) Private Eye Jake Helman returns in his fifth epic adventure and the series shows NO signs of losing steam. This time we pick up fresh off the violent revolution that went down on Pavot Island in TORTURED SPIRITS, with a now hand-less Jake and detective Maria bringing Edgar back to New York (in human form, now cured of a shape-shifting curse). But of course things quickly go downhill (despite Jake and Maria taking their relationship to the next level): it seems someone has their eye on Laurel, Jake's clairvoyant neighbor, and that someone turns out to be an ancient demon who is able to control the weather ... and she's bringing a massive hurricane to the Big Apple in an attempt to get Laurel and finally rid the world of Jake Helman. STORM DEMON features plenty of action (a staple of the series), plenty of occult happenings, an apocalyptic rat attack, some wild monsters, and all manner of obstacles for our favorite anti-hero to grapple with; but there's also a side story involving a rising in the drug underworld and Maria's attempt to protect an innocent child from it. Like the others in the series, it's pretty much a perfect blend of occult horror and gritty street-crime goodness. And the ending this time is total edge-of-your-seat fun ... The Jake Helman series has been very consistent; each installment is hard to put down (no easy feat considering the high standard set with the first book, PERSONAL DEMONS), and STORM DEMON does not disappoint. Those new to the series are urged to read what came before, yet first timers might not be too lost despite many references to what came beforehand. I'm chomping at the bit waiting for the sixth and final novel ...
THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK by Tom Piccirilli (to be released 7/13 by Bantam Books / 336 pp / hc & eBook) In this sequel to THE LAST KIND WORDS, Terry Rand is back trying to find out why his ex-girl's man, Chub, became involved with a botched bank heist that left a few ex-cops dead. As he dives into the Long Island underworld, Terry dukes it out with thugs both old and new, deals with mob bosses and learns of a barbaric hitman whose weapon of choice is a long hyperdermic needle. On top of his headaches is his sister Dale, who has become part of a hit Internet show that involves illegal activity. Terry tries to set her up with some real acting gigs in Hollywood but his thieving lifestyle and criminal aquaintances keep getting in the way. We're also given a deeper look at the Rand family, and Piccirilli offers some surprises, especially by way of Terry's mother. There's plenty of slick dialogue, fight scenes, and all the grim happenings the author's fans have come to expect, wrapped around prose that's to die for. "I wasn't here to make money. I didn't like making money. If I couldn't steal it I didn't want it." These thoughts from Terry Rand epitomize the cool tone of Piccirilli's latest modern noir thriller that will surely have readers thirsting for the third installment.
THE OBLIVION ROOM by Christopher Conlon (to be released June, 2013 by EVIL JESTER PRESS / 287 pp / tp) Conlon's short story collection features six "Stories of Violation," and anyone familiar with his work knows what to be in for; those who aren't need to take note. The opening tale 'The Oblivion Room' features a woman who finds herself captive in a pitch-black, brick cylinder. She attempts to survive by creating a mental memoir and eventually discovers a way to escape...sort-of. Claustrophobes be warned. In 'On Tuesday All The Rain Fell From The Sky,' a man murders his family then goes to work as if nothing happened. We're then taken on an emotionally-charged journey as he attempts to come to terms what he has--or hasn't--done. The ending will have you baffled until it sinks in. 'Skating the Shattered Glass Sea' deals with a man who visits his sister in a Behvaorial Health Center and the unusual bond they both share; 'The Long Light Of Sunday Afternoon' centers around an old man and how he handles personal ghosts (it also acts well as a latent end of the world story), and in 'Grace' a woman returns to the home where her step father abused and kept her locked in a closet as a child. She comes to terms with it all when she rediscovers a drawing she had done on the closet wall. The main event here is 'Welcome Jean Krupa, World's Greatest Girl Drummer!' It tells the tale of Jeannie Crupiti, who is a self-taught demon on the drum kit. Set in the 1940s during WW2, she joins a band fronted by former jazz great Stanley Skye after sitting in with them one night, and the group begins a long but steady rise to the top. Told from the point of view of young guitarist Lester (undraftable due to being 4-F), we quickly fall in love with all the characters here, cheering them on and, like the band, become protective of young Jeannie, especially when her strange cousin arrives back from the war to roadie for the band. But secrets abound, and Conlon brings this impossible-to-put-down tale to a tragic but satiysfying conclusion. As a former drummer, I can say this is one of, if not THE best story I've ever read about drummers and band life on the road. THE OBLIVION ROOM is a real treat. Conlon's tales go from flat-out terrifying to subtle, quiet horrors, but each one dark and thought provoking in their own ways. The writing is razor sharp and a real pleasure to read. Highly recommended and easily one of the best releases of 2013.
My next novella, THE LAST PORNO THEATER, is scheduled for a late June/early July release from Grindhouse Press. One early review says: "Nick Cato has done it again -- he brings the strange like no one else can. THE LAST PORNO THEATER is a wild ride of smut n' sleaze and WTF weirdness told from the POV of a native New Yawker who obviously loves his city as much as he misses the days when '42nd Street' was more than just another number. Fun stuff with a capital F!"
- James Newman
(author of MIDNIGHT RAIN, ANIMOSITY, and UGLY AS SIN)
SATANIC CELLULOID: A GUIDE TO 1970s OCCULT CINEMA, a year-by-year examination by me and Sheri Sebastian Gabriel, is coming along quite nicely, and we expect this to be the ultimate authority on the subgenre. We're currently tackling films released in 1975 and 76, and hope to have the first draft finished sometime mid-summer. Besides film reviews, there will also be a couple of essays and (hopefully) interviews with actors and directors who contributed to the 70s occult film outbreak.
I began work on a short story titled THE SMALL INTESTINES OF LOWER MANHATTAN, which is taking on a larger size than I had intended. The tale deals with two middle-aged buddies (one an artist, the other a slacker) who befriend a nun who moonlights as a camera operator at a local cable access channel. It's a quirky modern beatnik tale that continues to grow stranger by the minute. I might change the title to CHANNEL 79, after the aforementioned cable station.
My press, NOVELLO PUBLISHERS, is set to released Peter N. Dudar's hysterically creepy novella BLOOD CULT OF THE BOOBY FARMERS. Check the Novello page as it should be available any day now. The novella features an introduction by author L.L. Soares and a great foreword by the author. ALSO, this fall will see the release of the full-length novel HARD by L.L. Soares...picture BOOGIE NIGHTS meets PULP FICTION (this will be released under a new imprint). It will be Novello Publishers' first original full-length novel release.
My 2009 debut novel, DON OF THE DEAD, will be going out of print in June. Publisher Coscom Entertainment will be giving me the rights back on July 1st, and I've decided to release the second edition through Novello Publishers. Wheels are already in motion for an all-new edition, featuring new page layouts and a much needed updated cover. Hoping to have this out sometime this summer.
FEAST OF OBLIVION by Josh Myers (2012 Copeland Valley Press / 199 pp / tp) Peter Weller (yes, THAT Peter Weller) is on his way to a book signing in a bunker in a desert-stretch of New Jersey. His book is about halibut (yes, the fish) conspiracies and only 10 hand-written copies exist. After Peter answers Q&A from a select audience of halibut conspiracy fans, he signs the 10 copies for the chosen few, among them a strange English woman who requests to meet with him in private. FEAST OF OBLIVION then becomes a dark-humored take on (not only) the end of the world, but the end of ... everything. Cock-full of an oddball cast (including Jean-Michel Pititesbaise), some really wild dreams, and enough craziness to satsify any fan of bizarro fiction. Let's just hope Myers' "real" characters don't decide to sue him before someone makes a cult film version and he misses the premiere.
My fiction has appeared in several anthologies, genre magazines and websites. My debut novel, DON OF THE DEAD, was released by Coscom Entertainment in July of 2009. My latest titles include a novella, THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER (Damnation Books) and short story collection, ANTIBACTERIAL POPE AND OTHER INCONGRUOUS STORIES (Squid Salad Press).
My wife and I also run Novello Publishers, a small press dedicated to humorous horror fiction, along with its bizarro imprint, Squid Salad Press. Novello Publishers also publishes the critically-acclaimed fanzine, THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW, which ran for 18 print issues since 2003 and has gone to a monthly webzine during the summer of 2008. Check it out at the link below.