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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction


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Friday, November 26, 2010

Samhane, Festive Fear and Ghost Writer Publications

*Author note: I must apologise to those with bad eye sight. No matter what I do to change the font size, blogger is making it small when I publish. You might have to use your inbuilt zoom function (ie, move closer to the screen).


The school reports have been written (but I could've tried harder and shown more determination) and after I spend this weekend marking chemistry coursework, I'm pretty much done for the year. Two weeks of fun projects and a couple of days on the dvd wagon and I'm finished.

Might be able to consider myself a writer again.

On the writing front, SAMHANE is now on preorder. Thank you to those who have got in early and already ordered their copies.

We received a very nice review from SHROUD MAGAZINE :

Samhane: the Gaelic festival celebrating the end of summer and the harvest, most often associated in modern times with Halloween. Or an unnoticed little burb that has been slowly descending into total batshitville for the past couple centuries.

We are gifted here with the twin tales of Donald, a fledgling writer whose new-used laptop holds a file that drags him off the grid into an underground organization specializing in torture for the amusement of paid subscribers, and Brian, a professional monster hunter who has found that the simple ghoul squishing he has been hired to do is a bit more…complicated. Now, Donald's wife and best friend have been brutally murdered and Brian's son, his only real reason for living, has been carried off by the world's filthiest clown.

Most people are satisfied with sticking to one type of monster, be it vampire, werewolf or centuries old mummified cucumber, but Daniel I. Russell is definitely not most people. Within the first quarter of the book, you see a serial killer, a forest ghoul, what may be a were-blob and a giant centipede, and that is before you get to meet the evils of a corporation, genetic engineering, biomechanics and a bad ass iridescent god of chaos. This variety works against the story as much as for it early on, with a first half that feels too fractured to be part of a coherent whole. But, if you stick it out, Danny boy brings it all together into a neatly sutured beast that satisfies quite nicely.

I'm particularly impressed with his ability and willingness to walk the line of acceptability. Without diving face first into full Hardcore mode, Russell does away with the usual expected sense of safety. No character, no matter how nice or seemingly important is completely safe, but the bleeding isn't egregious. Also, as much as he does love the ultraviolence and gore (my, oh my does it get wet within these pages, dear friends), he also shows a remarkable amount of restraint and willingness to allow implication to work on its own. It's a tricky balancing act that he pulls off with panache.

Speaking of implications, there is something in the ending that goes completely unspoken but carries marvelously chilling possibilities. I can't say it. Musn't say it. To speak such things would ruin…

I'll shut up right now before I do.


The original review can be found here .

If the review has tickled your fancy, feel free to click here for purchasing information.


In other book news, Festive Fear Global Edition is currently in the mail, ready to provide some...well, festive fear ready for Christmas! Again, if you snoozed you losed (appalling word use for a writer, yes?) as these babies are now very hard to come by and have sold out.

The world blog tour has me stuck in Canada. The itinerary seems to have gone out the window, probably due to my current teacher workload. But it shall continue! This weekend shall be spent writing up a blog to help writers choose a publisher. You don't want to pick a dodgy set up, and there's ways to spot an arsehole.

And speaking of arseholes, it's good to see that more and more writers are leaving the doomed Ghost Writer Publications.

For those who don't know my brief stint with NJ and his publishing house, I followed a few good writers and submitted to Ghost Writer Publications in the very early days (hell, I was even still living in the UK). GWP was due to rerelease my thriller-novella Shutterbug in print, and they also wanted a monster themed story at around 12k words. A cover for Shutterbug was drawn up, including a blurb from horror legend Guy N. Smith, which was, of course, made up by Mr. Jackson. I then saw more and more writer's books being pushed ahead of mine. While incredibly frustrating, I had to agree with the logic (and that was very, very wrong). I also saw release dates being missed by months and other writers leaving.

GWP had my short story, which had now reached 14K. I was asked to cut it down to around 2K and still keep everything in, as 14K was 'unpublishable'. This would be like packing the entire plot of a 2 hour movie into a few minutes. I obviously said that no, this couldn't be done. A few more short stories of mine were read and another selected. Again the request came to chop it down to 2K. Reasoning was that readers don't want characterisation, just action. We met halfway and the story, Belvedere's House, appeared in the anthology Creature Feature.

Or did it? I have no idea as I have never seen a copy. Nor a penny in royalties. Thankfully the story was a sneaky reprint that I'd already been paid for as it had appeared in Afterburn SF several years ago.

As for the unpublishable 14K story? Click here and check out issue 43. Yes, it IS the cover story!

So to those writers who have left GWP, join the club of disgruntled, yet relieved writers. If you haven't...

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Blog tour date 5: Blame Canada!


After spending the day in temperatures of the high 90s, and once again regretting that I live on a steep hill during the walk home from work, it will be nice to visit some cooler climates.

Unfortunately, eager to hop on my trans-Pacific flight, I forgot to change. I attracted a wary glance from many lumberjacks, mounties and mooses (Meese? Moosi?) as I disembarked in thongs, a wifebeater and a hat with corks on it.

Having successfully stereotyped and insulted two nations in one small paragraph, I headed deeper into Canada (in my opinion the greatest US state). Things are to be expected here. The long cold. Rugged men. The French. It's a melting pot for the weird and violent.

So, on the verge of unconsciousness, exhausted, trudging though the snow with my penis trying to burrow back inside my body like a purple-headed tick, I stumbled to the door of the Man Eating Bookworm. Hmm. Giant worms? Sounds familiar...

The man Eating Bookworm, called Andrew, thankfully was a gallant chap, who invited me in to his warm abode. He had dvds by the million, all horror and (thank Christ) the right region. So we shoved in a copy of JAWS and had a chat over a can of Molston.

See what happened HERE!

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 9:16 pm :: 0 comments

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Friday Night in Beast House by Richard Laymon

This book has been a bit of a bugbear for me in recent years. I ADORE the Beast House trilogy of The Cellar, The Beast House and the Midnight Tour. Friday Night in Beast House, rather than be the forth book in the series, can be considered as a bonus: a long short story that sits in with the ethos of the series.

My bugbear was that this was so overly priced for a book that was about 140 pages. As I've discussed with fellow avid reader Jim McLeod over at The Ginger Nuts of Horror, a certain dollar/page ratio needs to be considered when purchasing a book. Why spend the same money on a short novella that might last you a few hours when you can buy long, long novel for the same price? This was my issue with this book for a long time. As much as I wanted to buy it, the price could not justify a purchase.

I'm glad I held back, as Leisure have rereleased the book, and with a lower cover price and additional novella, this makes it a much more reasonable purchase. Am I cheap? No. I buy too many books to squander money on expensive editions!

We have Mark, a randy (this is Laymon) yet studious boy who wants to score a date with Alison. Alison readily agrees, but on one condition: he has to get them inside the Beast House at Midnight on Friday night. As readers will know, The Beast House is a chamber of horrors type attraction in Malcasa Point. Three books have added to the horror there of albino beasts that rip men apart and rape every female they come across. Will Mark rise to the occasion?

It has been many years since my last trip into the Beast House. I think I was still a teenager in fact. Dipping into this novella was like visiting a place you'd been to on holiday a long time ago. It was great to revisit the wax work exhibits, go into the cellar and even the Beast tunnels. However, you do not have to be a follower to enjoy this book. It stands on its own quite nicely.

The horror is surprisingly light. This is more a story of lucky breaks, chances taken and a boy trying to pass the time. It is a good, fast read, but most of the novella is concerned with Mark getting into, and staying inside, the Beast House undetected by the staff. The Metal Gear Solid of the Beast House books, if you will. Will there be beasts? It could go either way. They haven't been spotted since the 70s. But maybe...just maybe...

For those that read my reviews on a regular basis, you know how much I have mentioned Laymon's obsession with camping and the mountains. With the bonus novella, The Wilds, we follow a chap who is...camping in the mountains! A first person POV piece, told via diary entries, this is a nice change from Laymon's usual style, but still covers the traditional areas. It again is a super fast read. In fact, I read the entire book, cover to cover, in a single day. And that was on my 30th Birthday. Something to tell the grand kids.

So there we have it. A quick review for a quick book. Not his best book, but a nice addition.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 7:44 am :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blog World Tour date 4: Ohio


After Shaun Jeffrey's warm hearth and cold beer, I've hopped on a rickety plane, crossed the pond and ended up in Ohio.

So what's the deal with Ohio? Here's some facts:

  1. The first ambulance service was established in Cincinnati in 1865.
  2. Cleveland boasts America's first traffic light. It began on Aug. 5, 1914.
  3. Ermal Fraze invented the pop-top can in Kettering.
  4. James J. Ritty, of Dayton, invented the cash register in 1879 to stop his patrons from pilfering house profits.


  5. 5. Ohio is the only state that has four letters and starts and ends with an O.

    6. Ohio is blue and has a big face.


So, the fiendish will of Zandathru has spread to the States. Lots more people there, of course. While I'm here I will be staying with a delightful girl by the name of Rebecca Besser, who, while seems sweet and innocent on the outside, just wanted to talk about flying brains, preferred weapon choice and how I would want to die! I think something's wrong. Maybe the God of Chaos has already started to change people here? Send help HERE . I mean, look at some of the things she demanded!

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Samhane cover revealed


Well folks, here it is. The draft cover for the English/U.S. version of Samhane, available in print very soon.

This isn't the finished version. Our layout demi-god Danny Evarts of Shroud Magazine and It's Okay to be a Zombie infamy, is still tinkering with the fonts and shades and lighting and all the other stuff I have no idea about. We also have a blurb to put on the cover. But generally, should you wish (and please, do) to part with your well-earned cash on a copy, this is what will be gracing your shelves. The cover image is by Patrick McWhorter, an artist I have raved about on here in the past. See the older posts for more of his stunning work.

The book should be available on prerelease over the next couple of days over at Necrotic Tissue , with Amazon not too far behind. The book should be officially out in the next few weeks.

As for the German edition of Samhane, pictured to the left, well, what can I say? Thank you to Torsten Scheib and Michael Preissl for all the work they've put in, and a big thank you to German readers who have already ordered their copy and said such kind things about their interest. I hope the book meets your expectations. And also thank you to Werner Placho for recommending me in the first place, and also singing like Marilyn Monroe.

The GERMAN edition can be ordered right now at Voodoo Press or from Amazon Germany .

So what else has been happening? Not a lot to be honest. What with my students having finished their exams (and my science kids did great on the whole. Well done, guys) and this weekend being my 30th Birthday, I've been taking it easy, as per the photo below which was taken in my new hammock. Great thing is that I can actually write while in it! I'm afraid the level of comfort achieved may influence my future works. Goodbye extreme horror, hello light hearted yarns about idiot girls trying to find love in the big city.

As with any birthday, my to be read pile has grown once again with books by Richard Laymon, Bentley Little, John Ajvide Lindquist (a nice Hardback at that!), Peter Straub and S.D. Hintz. Already finished one of the Laymons. Another review to write, I guess!

A lot of my writing time has been taken up by the blog tour, and I would again like to thank Jim McLeod at Ginger Nuts of Horror , Sarah Masters at her blog page and Shaun Jeffrey's IN The Shadows thus far for putting up with me on their blogs. The next stop, which is moved to the States, should be up in the next few days. It's been a lot of fun, and I'm glad it's going to continue through the month.

I'm off for more relaxation, Old Speckled Hen and cake. See you for the Ohio blog stop!







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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

World Blog Tour date 3: North England


Seems that members of the Cult of Zandathru are on my trail, so odd that fate has another kind of Kult in store for me.

With the hire car making an odd ticking sound from underneath (and an even weirder crunching and slobbering from something in the glove box that smelled of ammonia. Who knows what they put in there. It seemed to be feeding on the A to Z of the Midlands, and I was quite content to leave it to its own devices), I decided to take the train up through Birmingham and onto Wigan and Ormskirk. Surely my old haunts would be safe?

In Wigan, the Tudor pub was full of pale, pierced and tattooed weirdies, who glared at me over their snakebite and blacks. Ordinarily, there's nothing abnormal about this, but this WASN'T a Friday night! Concerned, I fled to the bus station and grabbed a 395 to Ormskirk. Things weren't that much better, as this being the town that Samhane is based on, all kinds of freaks were walking the streets. Geoff, the pensioner on roller-blades (I'm not making this up! Research it.) sped away from a ravenous pack of zombies (okay, the zombies I made up, a little), and the Passage to India, rather than serving up fine Indian cuisine, was providing a passage to a fiery hell. It may have been the Vindaloo that caused it: too many finger chillies. It took a team of us, armed with lager, naan breads and toilet paper, to close the flaming gateway.

But for how long?

Needing to rest and stay one step ahead of the followers of Zandathru, I hopped on a train again and arrived at the mecca of trainspotters, Crewe.

Here I was taken in by a decorated fellow who lived beside a cemetery. He knew exactly how I felt, having been on the same journey for longer. He'd just got back from California, where his own creations had literally come to life before his very eyes! The man was Shaun Jeffrey, writer of such esteemed books as The Kult and Deadfall, both from Leucrota Press. As night descended, we shared a drop of the good stuff and discussed this crazy writer journey. Here's what transpired In the Shadows.

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The Conqueror Worms by Brian Keene


The Keeneathon continues with his 2006 book, The Conqueror Worms. Now, when people mention Brian, they usually ask if you’ve read The Rising. The Rising is considered to be his ‘hit’, but after fellow readers have enquired about The Rising, the next one, I’ve found, is The Conqueror Worms.

I thought that The Rising was okay. My preferred Keene book so far has been The Ghoul, which was reviewed earlier this month. Could Worms take the crown?

Teddy, and 80 year old man living alone in West Pennsylvania, is writing. Cold, wet and injured, he intends to record his story before his injuries take his life. What a story he has to tell. The rains started all over the world over a month ago. Tsunamis destroyed the coastlines, and most of the mainland has flooded, leaving bands of survivors stranded on mountain peaks or the tops of high rises. The rains aren’t just the only thing that has come: sea monsters have emerged from the depths, and from the earth come the giant worms.

The Conqueror Worms is a very intimate story, and we stick close to Teddy for the first and final acts. We have an elderly man, alone and afraid, trying to survive. It doesn’t get any simpler. And to have an old man as the hero, it adds to the characterisation in spades. He’s suffering from nicotine withdrawal and the usual aches and pains of old age. Plus, he has to deal with the probable loss of his children and grandchildren as well as watching the rains destroy his house and the keepsakes of his marriage. To be honest, the giant creatures and action were a bonus. Teddy’s plight had meat enough to keep this reader turning the pages.

Keene’s cast of supporting characters are well above average here. Carl, Teddy’s best friend, is likeable enough, and Earl next door is a crazy, shotgun toting, conspirator theorist. Good stuff.

Things change in the second act as we leave Teddy and co on the moment fending off the worms. Now we see how a band of survivors in a coastal city have fared. There are two rival groups: a bunch of peaceful people living in the top few floors of a hotel, and the group they’ve dubbed the Satanists. The Satanists are into chants and human sacrifice.

Welcome to the Lovecraft lite! This part of the story in particular is very, very Lovecraft (thing Dagon) and Keene succeeds in putting his own stamp on things. You can see that this is Lovecraft inspired, not Lovecraft ripped off. While this bit may be seen like padding, a digressing romp to get the story up to novel length, I loved it. It actually worked to get away from the worms before it got repetitive, deal with the sea monsters, and then get back to some finale wormage. For me it worked.

The only thing that annoyed me here is Keene’s insistence on putting gang members into every situation. The yo, yo, yo, dawg dialogue gets very annoying very quickly. Maybe this was why I enjoyed The Ghoul so much, it was set before hip hop.

The Conqueror Worms ends nice and satisfying, yet still has the legs for a sequel (no pun intended). A few strands of the story were not fully explained and their potential not leapt upon, very similar to Sarah Pinborough’s Breeding Ground which I reviewed this week. Two post-apocalyptic novels back to back? Yes, it’s all been doom and gloom! Funnily enough, since I started The Conqueror Worms two days ago, it’s done nothing but rain…

In answer to my earlier question, yes, I think that The Conqueror Worms is by far my favourite Brian Keene book thus far. I think I read the first 100 pages in one uninterrupted sitting. I hate to say this, as I’m against this kind of thing, but if this book was twice as long and more ‘literary’, it really could have made some waves in the mainstream. As it stands now, we have a fast paced cracker that’s as tight as…well…an asshole in a bucket of worms.

Tickled your fancy? The link to buy is on the left.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough

Drum roll please...

AS followers of my reviews will know (and without being sexist), I'm constantly on the look out for a female writer who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys, a writer who is not afraid of violence or gore or plain out shocking terror!

I've read another book from Pinborough, The Reckoning, and while it was an enjoyable ride with some great moments (and I'll never look at an ant the same way again) I felt there was still another horror gear that Sarah could slip into...probably with an easier transition than her horror-writing sisters.

Breeding Ground...I'd heard rumours about, I'd heard that this book is harrowing, so was keen to get hold of a copy. Is Pinborough the queen of balls to the wall horror?

Based on my reading, and for the moment, I'd have to say yes. But tenuously.

Breeding Ground follows a young professional couple, Matt, a mortgage advisor, and Chloe, a barrister (what no writer? Pinborough is awarded a point already!). The apocalypse comes slow, and through the women of the world. With their wifes, partners, mothers and sisters growing fat and displaying very odd symptoms of pregnancy, the men are too concerned with what's going on in their own homes rather than seeing the bigger picture. The governments are deathly silent, as they don't have a clue what's going on. Most men hide in the bliss of ignorance, or the bottle. Matt has bigger concerns, not only for the health of Cloe, but for their unborn baby.

Soon (within the first 50 pages) the severely altered females of the world give birth to spidery creatures. The earth now has a new dominant species. Matt flees, desperate to find survivors, but how will they survive this harsh new world?

The one thing I adore about this book is what I call the fake mirror shot. Every watched a horror film and the scream queen on screen (try saying that one five times fast!) is getting ready for a shower, for example. She opens the medicine cabinet mirror, closes it and then...! No, hang on. The killer ISN'T standing behind her in the reflection? Sneaky buggers! Sarah does this in spades as at times, you're 100% sure which way things are going to go, and then they simply don't. For example, the merry band of survivors (including a few women, but we'll come to that later) come across a military installation containing a few males survivors. 28 Days Later, I hear you cry? Soldiers wanting to rape the women? Yeah, that's what I thought. But no, Sarah stays away from the normal conventions.

In fact she has a very well thought yarn here. Some aspects you really don't see coming, including the quite bizarre but possibly solution to their problems. One of my problems with the novel though are that some questions remained unanswered. For example, while the cause of the spider epidemic is touched on, it's never explained. Nor is the sudden and extreme change of the English climate (although this review theorised how one was responsible for the other). And again, some women survive, and some merely take a lot longer to be infected. One reason for this was very apparent but what about the others.

Hopefully, this will all be rectified in the follow up book, Feeding Ground, which I'll have to get my grubby mits on, because the biggest problem with the book is the ending. It doesn't really have an ending. Like some of the characters discuss in the novel, this might only be the first phase. Who knows where it's going to go? Breeding Ground as it stands just kind of stops after the last big revelation...but boy...is it a corker of a revelation!

And yes, we have a female writer who can really dish out the gore! The first act of the book, Chloe's transformation, the birth of the spiders and Matt's first outing into the post apocalyptic world really are harrowing. An early scene, wherein Matt discovers his first widow (the term later adopted to the spiders) is truly tense and disturbing. Sarah also produces one of the most hated villains I've read in a long time. You don't need to have your bad guy be the master mind behind it all, etc. Sarah has created a character that was so easy to hate and have fun doing it!

In summary, while there is the odd problem (again, hopefully filled in by Feeding Ground, and speaking of filling in, why did the nice guy protagonist have sex with 75% of the fenale characters?) Breeding Ground is definitely worth a buy. Creature horror at its best - horrific, chilling and visceral.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Samhane blog tour date 2 - Southern England


Okay, so this is weird.

After narrowly escaping the clutches of Jim and his Ginger Nuts of horror on the first blog date (see archives), I drove the hell out of Scotland, intending to stop in my home town of Wigan in the north west of England. However, and you know how it goes, I got distracted and made a few wrong turns. Being a man and thus REFUSING to ask for directions, I accidentally ended up in...the deep south, which for England is the posh bit.

Which is kinda convenient, as that was due to be the location of the massive Samhane World Blog Tour second date!

But then things got reeeeally weird. I roll into the blog, being fashionably late and still aching from the long drive, and what am I told? I'm too late. They've already got somebody else.

Bollocks!

I thought I'd sit and wait for an hour or two, you know, in case they could fit me in at the end? Hell, most of the time in Scotland was spent tied to a chair, so waiting was no problem. I watched as an immaculately dressed man clutching a laptop went inside. Hmmm. I was SURE I recognised his face.

I snuck closer and listened at the door. It sounded like an infomercial was being recorded. Had I been bumped for a salesman?

It transpired that something a lot dodgier was taking place, and someone was going through a lot of trouble to spread some horrific propaganda about yours truly. Take a look...over at Sarah Master's blog page.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 4:03 pm :: 0 comments

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Right to Life by Jack Ketchum


It can be very easy to typecast writers, especially horror writers. Peter Benchley wrote Jaws and The Deep and was from then on marine-horror guy. Can it be that to read two books with a similar theme by the same author means to place them in a box? If so, I hope readers thinking of sampling the works of Jack Ketchum will swap and choose. Should you read Offspring and Off Season, both great reads, one might think that Ketchum is cannibal-guy. In this case, should the two books in question be The Girl Next Door and Right to Life, well...

I wouldn't want to see what Jack has in his basement.

Right to Life is a novella of about 140 pages from Edge Books. Sara is in a loving relationship with Greg, which is all well and good if you don't consider his wife and son. Matters are even more complicated as Sara is 3 months pregnant with his child. It's the logical choice to have an abortion is it not? What kind of life would this child have? Sara is determined to go through the procedure, even if she has to walk past the Pro-life protesters with their signs and chants outside the clinic.

Only Sara doesn't get to make her choice as she is grabbed, drugged and bundled into a car. She awakes in her underwear, locked in a long, wooden box. She's in the home of Stephen and Kath Teach, and teaching is exactly what's on their mind. Sara will learn that some people can't have children, and those that can should show more respect to the life growing inside them. She'll also learn to obey at all times, no matter what. Stephen is very keen on that...

We're entering the basement of Ketchum's mind once more in a very, very similar vein to The Girl Next Door. The biggest difference of course is the setting. We're in the last few years rather than the 50's. This doesn't really bode well for poor Sara, as nowadays you can buy plenty of bondage gear online, cashiers in sex shops barely bat an eyelid, and with all the shows on DIY, even an amateur can build the most rudimentary of torture devices (and even more bad news...Stephen is a carpenter!). So the continuous (and I do mean continuous!) pain and humiliation gets a facelift.

But far from this being a one trick pony, Ketchum does infuse a little deep thinking in there, especially regarding the title of the book. The topic of abortion is clearly addressed, with Ketchum showing both sides of the argument fairly equally. Okay, his Pro-life couple may be absolutely crazy, but that's just the sauce on the meat.

I actually thought this was an uplifting book, rather than the doom and gloom of Girl Next Door (which in it's own right is a tremendously dark and touching novel). You're really hoping that Sara will pull through, despite her weaknesses. The gore is severely reduced compared to some other of Jack's novels, which shows that he can restrain himself when necessary. Sure, there is violence and suffering, but it's not wall to wall blood.

My only gripe, as with Next Door, is that the antagonists deserve more justice come the conclusion.

The two bonus short stories in this edition are the standard Ketchum high quality. Brave Girl is a very quick read, that is kinda the opposite story to the main feature. Again, Ketchum shows his serious side and highlights issues in a more subtle manner. I think that some of his critics (in the bio it states that The Village Voice reviewed Off Season with simply YECHH) should read his very thoughtful and poignant shorter works. Returns is a story I've read before and confirms my thoughts that Jack is definitely a cat person.

I read this novella in a single morning. I had to. I usually read at the school and while my son does his karate class, but I felt that the cover (naked, pregnant lady, gagged and blindfolded with a tight leather belt across her nipples) might not be suitable, especially for the head of science.

Like Girl Next Door? You'll adore this. If not, I would recommend it first and then get this...if you're kinky like that.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Blog tour 1st stop - Scotland!


On a day like today (when the temperature nearly reach 95 and it's the middle of Spring, mind you), it's nice to travel to cooler climates. So I'm travelling from Perth, Australia to Perth, Scotland...traveling south, past Dundee and Dunfermline...to...

Well, I can't disclose the physical location. There is a strong following of Zandathru God of Chaos here. The inhabitants are known to obliterate creatures, dismember the corpses, grind up the internal organs and stick it in the stomach. After the membranous bag is boiled, the followers then eat it and wash it down with a cold quaff of Tennants Super. Yes, we're in the Highlands now.

Having been knocked out in a dark alleyway, trying to listen to a couple of women converse with their luscious accents, I was clubbed and awoke, dazed and confused, in a pleasant front room. An angry man with a long beard held a poker in the fire, which he then waved threateningly before my face. He had questions...many questions...

Find out what happened at the Gingernuts of Horror!

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Ghoul by Brian Keene

It's time for me to start on my Brian Keene backlog. Following The Rising, Castaways and Urban Gothic, it's now time for...

The Ghoul!

Timmy lives with his parents next to an old church with an ancient graveyard. His friend Barrie is the son of the cemetery caretaker, and his other friend Doug lives with his alcoholic mother. It's the summer of 1984, and while the boys have plans to sit around listening to Slade and the newer bands like Metallica, playing Atari and generally goofing around, fate has different ideas. Barrie's heavily alcoholic and violent father has broken a stone tablet in the graveyard that kept a creature sleeping beneath the ground. Now that creature is out, feasting on the dead and searching for a female...

I don't know what it was about the opener, but I got the impression that I wouldn't enjoy this book. It bordered on tacky, but in hindsight, perhaps was written this way on purpose, as it read like a scene from one of the many slasher flicks predominant at the time. The dialogue is grown worthy, and the plot of two young lovers getting it on under the moon in a graveyard? Seeing a figure that isn't there a split second later? I was hoping that the rest of the novel wasn't like this.

And it wasn't! The main characters are very sympathetic and surprisingly likable. In one scene, Timmy's world is destroyed by his father, and I don't mean with violence or anything sexual...but by god it hits you. You're there and know that something similar happened to you with your parents at that age.

The gore is there, but lighter compared to other Keene books. The Ghoul himself is actually quite likable as antagonist. He even speaks like Thor at times, which is always a plus for me.He has simple needs and just wants to get on with his existence, even if that means eating corpses and raping women in tunnels (no pun intended).

My favourite chapter of the book follows the ghoul as he eats the corpses in the graveyard, telling the lives of each one, be them good or bad, and how they all ended up with the same fate: dead and food for the ghoul.

There's a great spirit of adventure and preadolescent awakening in the trio of boys, and I think this is why the book works so well. With, say three teenagers on camp dealing with this, or three 20 somethings at college discovering a ghoul...this book might have been a flop. It's not the creature, nor the setting that make this novel, it's those boys. Most of us had that one perfect summer when we were around 12, and this book brings back all those memories. Not that I had to fight a ghoul back in Wigan in 1992, you understand.

This was a startling little gem of a book, with better character development than other Keene books (even the supporting characters have their interesting quirks) and a story that pulls you in. It was a perfect read for Halloween and certainly worth a look. Keene fans should certainly have this towards the top end of their favourites.

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Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 6:35 pm :: 0 comments

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