Sunday, October 30, 2011
SACRIFICE by Wrath James White (2011 Sinister Grin Press / 174 pp / tp)
Detective John Malloy is called to a most unusual crime scene: it appears some poor soul has been eaten alive by his dog...and every other animal who happened to be close enough to take a bite out of him at the time. While investigating the case, Malloy and his partner are called to a crime in progress: this time a group of young school children are savagely attacking their teacher...along with all types of animals and insects. Soon after this, a former heavyweight fighter is attacked in a similar manner.
Along with these bizarre murders, Malloy and his partner Mohammed Rafik are also attempting to locate several missing young girls. When they pay a visit to the parents of one missing girl, they find no pictures of the child anywhere in the home...but they do discover a picture of the parents with a woman who they eventually learn turns out to be a voodoo priestess named Delilah.
SACRIFICE is a brutal, action-packed horror yarn with two flawed but likeable detectives and a cast that's equally as interesting. Its take on voodoo is quite different from anything I've read before, giving Delilah a different vibe from other voodoo-novel antagonists (such as the Haitian Voudon in THE EVIL and THE EVIL RETURNS by Hugh B. Cave). And despite it's short 174 pages, this one also manages to double as a sequel (of sorts) to Wrath's 2009 novel, THE RESURRECTIONIST. With lean, tight prose, a satisfying conclusion and a few choice surprises, Wrath has unleashed yet another solid genre read.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
KARAOKE DEATH SQUAD by Eric Mays (2011 Copeland Valley Press / 308 pp / tp)
Odie Wharton is a hot shot on the underground karaoke bar scene in Baltimore. Along with his off-the-wall friends, karaoke is not only something they do to kill time...it's everything from a serious sport, to a way to make extra cash...it's their way of life. Their world is thrown into chaos when three beautiful Russian women show up one night and seemingly put the place into a trance with their rendition of Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots are Made for Walkin'.' Odie and his crew quickly discover there's more to these women than good voices and hot bodies when they begin to show signs of superhuman strength and other-worldly powers.
When one of Odie's crew goes missing after leaving with two of the girls, and when a few of his male buddies become pregnant after a wild shag session, an all-out war is on between our karaoke heroes and these sexy-but-evil dames...
With Russian mobsters, a quiet man who works origami in unusual ways, and a sexy cougar who--along with her hot teenage daughter--work their karaoke like a true art, KARAOKE DEATH SQUAD is loaded with irresistible characters and often hysterical situations. Mays' witty and inventive prose keeps the pages flipping, and his use of popular songs (and how they're sung by certain people) had me in stitches.
This action-packed novel full of slackers, sluts, and succubbi is easily one of the most entertaining novels this year. It might even inspire you to pick up a microphone...
(There's a GREAT bonus after the novel...Mays' special top ten lists to keep in mind the next time you hit your local pub!).
Monday, October 24, 2011
...THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER, that is, my latest novella to be released by Damnation Books. I'll be posting more info as it becomes available, but suffice it to say, this 20K novella is "The End of the World as You've NEVER known it!"
Thursday, October 20, 2011
THE NEIGHBORHOOD by Kelli Owen (2011 Thunderstorm Books / 106 pp / mini-tp)
In this brief novella, Owen introduces us to the small town of Neillsville, where everyone knows each other's business and there seems to be little-to-no crime. But when Mary finds a young girl's finger in his son's pocket while doing laundry, THE NEIGHBORHOOD becomes a dark mystery with countless suspects, including a demanding school bus driver and a pedophile who has recently moved to the area. The first half of the novella sort-of reminded me of classic Bentley Little and there's plenty of suspense.
A second victim's body is discovered underneath an old foot bridge (and if you hate heights as much as I do you'll be cringing during the prior chapter), making even the most innocent among the townsfolk seem guilty.
Owen's novella is an enjoyable read, although it seems like part of a much bigger story; we get to meet several tight-knit small town people who I wanted to get to know better, and there's much potential for more Neillsville short stories or even a novel. I'll be keeping an eye out for more...
Saturday, October 15, 2011
ROUGH CUT by Brian Pinkerton (2011 Bad Moon Books / 366 pp / tp)
Harry Tuttle directed a few popular horror films in the 80s. Since then he has been churning out bad, low budget features, many which go direct to DVD or cable TV, barely keeping a cult following. When his ex-wife marries a hot-shot Hollywood director and begins to get famous, he becomes inspired to get back on track. The problem is, Harry finally comes to the realization that he just doesn't have it anymore. He has become a hack.
One day he screens a new film given to him by a young wanna-be director. The film, 'Deadly Desires,' blows Harry away; it's the most realistic, scary horror film he's seen in ages. He strikes a deal with the new director (Marcus Stegman) to release the film, only with himself credited as director. Marcus--badly in need of cash--eventually agrees. Sure enough, Deadly Desires becomes a huge hit, and Harry's career seems back on track, bigger and better than before.
When a popular film critic interviews Harry, he also watches a screener DVD of Deadly Desires, and becomes convinced one of the kill scenes is too real to have been faked. And when no one can get in touch with the actress who dies on film, all hell breaks loose: Harry realizes he has bought a genuine snuff film, and Marcus is currently at work on another one, this time targeting Harry's new girlfriend who also happens to be an actress.
ROUGH CUT features a well-crafted plot, tight writing, and a fantastic level of suspense. Although aimed at a horror audience, this novel will also be enjoyed by fans of thrillers and crime fiction. It's apparent Pinkerton has done his homework here: his portrayal of the ins and outs of the film business kept me as interested in the proceedings as the ever-growing tension. You won't be bored for a second.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake (2011 Tor Teen / 316 pp / hc)
In author Blake's world, there are two kinds of ghosts: the passive type and the murderous. Cas Lowood is a teenager living with his mom who has inherited a rare gift from his late father: the ability to "re-kill" murderous ghosts with a special knife handed down to him. Called to rid a small west coast town of a mysterious ghost known as Anna, things take a rough turn when Cas finds himself unable to kill her...especially after they begin to develop feelings for one another.
It turns out a strange spirit creature has been causing Anna to kill...one of her victims a popular jock named Mike whose friends are now furious, although they reluctantly help Cas deal with the Anna situation. Along with a cute, popular girl from school, his friend Thomas and his occult-hippie uncle, Mike's 2 jock friends, and even his white witch mother, whose herbal spells help protect the group.
I don't read much Young Adult fiction, and was surprised by the amount of violence and profanity here...it's definitely not for younger teens. While I enjoyed ghost hunter Cas, it was Anna's character and back story that held my interest. She's an innocent girl--eternally stuck in her teenage years that ended horribly in 1958--transformed into a monster by an evil "Obeahman" which the group battles at the exciting conclusion.
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is a fun, quick read, good to whip through this coming Halloween season. Nothing groundbreaking...but good.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
THE MOST SINISTER NAMES IN THE UNDERWORLD...
WILLIAM HUMMERS: Wanted by the police for bank robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, murder, and getting naked in front of his in-laws.
FRANKIE WOLFE: Wanted by federal authorities for dancing with the mailman.
A.D. ARMSTRONG: Wanted all over the country for arson, robbery, assault with intent to kill, and marrying a horse.
VIRGIL STARKWELL: Although he didn't make criminal of the year, he did make the FBI's top ten most wanted list. Has been accused of robbery, intent to kill, possession of a false firearm, and theft of a mini-car.
(From Woody Allen's directorial debut, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN  )
I finally got around to seeing MURDER PARTY, having missed its 2007 limited theatrical run in NYC. After just watching the brilliant TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL, I was weary that this would'nt be half as funny.
While not hysterical, MURDER PARTY has its share of laughs and features a simple but clever premise: a nerdy male meter maid finds an invite for a "Murder Party" while walking home on Halloween. He whips up a knight costume with a cardboard-box and duct tape and heads to the bash. Nearly seconds after he arrives, he's tied to a chair by a group of psycho artists, who plan to kill him and paint/film it in an attempt to get grant money from hot shot artist Alexander. Despite the fact everyone's been doing tons of cocaine and weed, Alexander makes everyone shoot up with truth serum, and all hell quickly breaks loose when everyone's true feelings come out...and when they discover Alexander is a fraud.
Star Christopher S. Hawley does a fine job as the nerdy lead in the lame costume, and every artist is quite entertaining, especially Bill, who finds out everyone hates his art and goes totally ballistic in his Baseball Furies costume, hacking everyone in his path up with an ax. The coked-up Lexi (played by singer Stacey Rock) looks great in her Liquid Sky-meets-The Fifth Element get-up, and Macon (with a werewolf mask that gets melted to his face) is quite funny as he chases the escaping Chris around with an electric chainsaw (!), continually re-plugging it in as he goes (bringing to mind the famous cello-marching band sequence from TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN (1969) ).
The final ax vs. chainsaw duel between Chris and Bill in a still-life art gallery is as gory as it is funny, and the post reaction from a few artsy-fartsy types when they discover the room full of corpses is a riot.
Two things would've made this a bit better: one is the seemingly endless truth-serum sequence, that could have easily been cut in half, and they could have done SO much more when Alexander's dog finds and consumes an entire bag of crank-cocaine. The shot of the pooch chomping the drugs reminded me of the infamous horse-coke-snort from BACHELOR PARTY...but the end results weren't nearly as funny.
Otherwise, MURDER PARTY is a lot of fun, features some great commentary against New York's snobby art community, and the DVD has some fun extras, including old shot-on-video "films" the director and cast members made when they were teenagers. Makes a fine Halloween-party viewing.
Actor William Lacey in his first role as psycho artist Bill (gotta LOVE that costume!)
Lexi (Stacey Rock) plays dominoes while snorting more blow than Scarface.
Chris (Christopher S. Hawley) as the chainsaw-wielding cardboard knight
Lexi, Sky (Skei Saulnier), and Paul (Paul Goldblatt) contemplate how they're going to kill Chris at the onset of MURDER PARTY.
Friday, October 7, 2011
HELLHOLE by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (2011 TOR / 532 pp / hc)
After a five-year struggle against the corrupt governent of the Constellation, General Tiber Maximilian Adolphus fails to win a crucial battle for the key planet of Sonjeera. But instead of execution, Diadem Michella Duchenet decides to exile him to a bleak planet located in the Deep Zone, a (mostly) unexplored space region comprised of fifty-four planets. Adolphus accepts her decision, despite the Diadem labeling the planet "Hallholme" after the man responsible for defeating him.
Flash forward ten years.
General Adolphus has managed to survive Hallholmes' brutal and unpredictable weather patterns and scarce resources. Other criminals, outcasts, and defectors to the Constellation are welcome at Hallholme, and most of them pledge their allegiance to Adolphus.
While the planet is known as "Hellhole" throughout the Dead Zone and the Crown Jewel Worlds, the strong manage to survive--and Adolphus begins to plan a way to fight back against the Diadem and General Hallholme, a man who used a barbaric tactic to win the Battle of Sonjeera. He also manages to get most of the planets in the Deep Zone to back his cause.
This first of Herbert & Anderson's planned three-part epic moves forward quickly: two men hired by Adolphus to explore Hallholme discover an ancient alien race. The Xayans--natives to Hallholme until an asteroid strike ruined their planet 500 years ago--have survived in mercury-like pools, waiting centuries for someone to find them. When Vincent's friend Fernando falls into a pool, he's "possessed" by one of the aliens. Fernando (and Zairic, his Xayan host) now share Fernando's body, and with Adolphus' permission, persuade other humans to help resurrect the Xayan race. With super-human powers (including telemancy), the Xayans become allies with the Adolphus in his quest...and the stage is set to battle the Constellation's massive army in the next installment.
HELLHOLE is chock-full of interesting characters, is packed with political and intergalactic intrigue, features bizarre religious cults, and has a couple of unusual romances behind the action. There's also four surviving native Xayans who get discovered; with their humanoid/catepillar-like bodies and artistic, philosophic ways, there's a lot of promise with them for the next two novels.
While some readers found this tedious and typical, I was sucked right in, and trekked through its 500+ pages in no time (I'm assuming HELLHOLE's negative reviews came from anal-retentive fans of "epic" scifi...something I only partake in on occassion).
Here's hoping the authors take this fine introduction and make the series explode...