Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
Retro Review: Venom by John Tigges
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011BRIDES OF THE IMPALER by Edward Lee
Apologies, but it's been a week since I read this, so don't expect the degree of detail you usually get in one of my reviews!
I like Edward Lee. My first book was Slither which I bought at Heathrow Airport during my migration to Australia. That was a fun little romp, followed by The Golem, which was only spoiled by one annoying character.
Now Ed sent me a copy of Brides of the Impaler after he heard I was a fan (we share the same agent in Germany). I'll be honest, if I was to pick another Ed Lee book to read, this would not have been it. I would have gone for House Infernal or Flesh Gothic (which incidentally have been purchased since!). Brides seemed just a dark sex book judging from the blurb. But is it?
A successful macabre doll manufacturer, Christina, moves into the expensive NY house her hot shot lawyer husband bought her. Across the street sits the abandoned church which previously owned the house, where an old, brooding priest keeps watch. Something is buried under the brownstone house that is calling to Christina, filling her with passion and lust. The images of a vampiric nun haunt her day and night. Meanwhile, NY detective Vernon is on the case of a bunch of crazy, homeless women that are apparently impaling people on sharpened broom handles. The thing that links the two events are the colours police find at the crimes scene, and on the latest batch of macabre dolls...
Ed Lee is, as Cemetery Dance call him, "The hardest of the hardcore horror writers", but this book was on the light side in regards to gore and violence. Sure, the impalements are well done, and the bodies start to really pile up towards conclusion, but this reads like a more mature Ed Lee at work. Hang on...more mature? No, no. Gore and violence doesn't mean immature, but more the subplots are well-crafted and here the author prefers to use a steadily building sense of doom then go all out with an axe. It was a very refreshing affair, with more (vastly more!) sex than violence. The main character Christina rarely has her hands out of her pants...or someone else's, as this burning lust takes hold. Normally we have to discuss gore for gore's sake, but this was more masturbation for masturbation's sake. It is relative to the plot, but this character might have got through more batteries than the Duracell bunny.
*Yes, I understand that the whole selling point of the Duracell Bunny is that he can go on and on and on...but that's the point. He is ALWAYS on. A good battery or not, he would go through a FUCKLOAD of batteries.
** In fact it's a bad example. Parents: Yes, use good quality batteries, but please encourage your kids to turn off their toys when finished with them. We only get one earth...and a limited supply of Duracells. Or Everready, if that tickles your troat.
SEX! Yes, sexy sex and lots of it. This doesn't really spoil the story, but adds to the characterisation and the emotional history of the main character. This constant mental turmoil allows the reader to accept some of the more 'oh no she didn't' moments.
My favourite character was detective Vernon and his fellow cops. Lee captures NY perfectly (not that I've been, but I'm a Flight of the Conchords fan and it all seems to fit)and makes it a character itself more than just a setting. The banter between the cops is great.
Basically, this is one of the Edward Lee books that rarely gets a mention, and I hope he didn't send me this in particular because he has boxes of them unsold at his house. If he has, and even if he hasn't, which is likely, buy one. It's a very different feel to the other books I've read (in fact, it had a Masterton feel about it to this reader) and if you have a partner into the -ahem- naughty kind of novel, this might be a good way to share something. Sex and violence is always a good thing on paper between loving couples. Oh and don't be put off because it's vampires. They pay a small part but when they're on the scene, they're spot on.
Yeah. Readers of Ed should love this. Other general horror readers should get a kick out of it too.
Monday, January 10, 2011COVER by Jack Ketchum
Seeing as how my partner bought the remainder of Jack Ketchum's back catalogue before the Leisure house of cards fell down as a Christmas gift, I now find myself in the same situation as with Brian Keene. Lots of books to read and so little time! I had Cover on the shelf for a month or so before Christmas, so this had to be the first in a run of Ketchum.
Lee is a Vietnam veteran haunted by the violence and horror he's seen. Now back home, he lives out in the woods as protection from other people. His flashbacks are too vivid, and he can be back in the jungles hunting VC in the blink of an eye. When his wife, exhausted from this way of life and wary of their own own safety, takes his son and moves out of the forest, this leaves Lee alone with his dog, Pavlov, and his nightmares.
Kelsey is a successful novelist who takes his friends on a camping trip, a matter complicated by his wife, a literary agent, and his lover, a supermodel. Both women know of the arrangement and have developed a close friendship. There's also a photographer along for the ride to capture the trip for a major magazine, Kelsey's own agent, and his friend, a playwright.
Problem is that they've chosen to camp in Lee's territory, and he's been looking for the enemy a long time. Now he has one.
As with The Girl Next Door, Ketchum tries to inject a certain social conscience into the horror on display here. With Girl, it was the case of Sylvia Likens, a crime that went dually unnoticed or accepted among the local community. Here we have the horrors of Vietnam on display.
The character of Lee, in my opinion, is simply a shell for the violence. His actual personality only comes through in moments with his dog. There's very little there, you see. Normally, this would be a big problem, but Ketchum proves a point here. Lee is a shell because that's all that's left: a man who only has his training, his memories and his nightmares. This makes the onslaught vastly more believable. He shows no remorse, as he has none. The war has made him into a killing machine.
The characterisation mostly comes into play with Kelsey and his entourage, in particular the model Michelle. We have subplots involving the love triangle between Kelsey, Michelle and the wife Caroline. While this gives some depth and attempts to make us care for the fates of the characters as they enter the woods, this leads to a very slow first half. The only action present is Lee's VC flashbacks, which are brilliantly done. As for our humble good guys, I wanted them to get to the woods already!
After the first kill, the action is none stop all the way in typical Ketchum fashion. But again, the violence is more measured and calculated (Rambo as opposed to Rambo 3). You won't find much 'psycho running around with a machete' action here, but there are accurately researched traps and army maneuvers with just the same result. Blood is shed, but in a more realistic way.
Dare I say it, this book did not read like a Ketchum book. While his fluid writing is there, and his wonderful ability to paint a scene, especially in the great outdoors, this just didn't feel like a Ketchum book. I've had a few days to chew on this one since finishing. I wouldn't call it a horror novel. This is more a heavy on the violence action novel, similar to the feeling I got after reading Shaun Hutson's White Ghost.
Certainly worth a look, but there are more traditional horror novels out there if that's what you want. Should you require a change (but still like a bit of splatter) then this might be a great choice.
Sunday, January 02, 2011Don't look back, look forwards (there's an elk behind you anyway)
Happy 2011, folks! I've already made several mistakes regarding the date. I've developed a typing mental block over 2011 and keep typing 2001 (and yes, I had to go back and correct that!), but bear with me.
Rather than list my achievements, highs and lows for 2010 here (and why would I? If you're the interested sort--unlikely--then it's all here in the archives), I'm going to look across the sands of time through 2001, I mean, 2011, and see what's coming...or indeed, what I hope will come.
SELF PUBLISHING? SAY IT AIN'T SO, DAN, SO IT AIN'T SO!
Yes, yes. Some of you may know that I'm dead against self publishing and I've had many (sometimes ridiculously long) arguments online over it. My stance has changed in the last few months, but (adopt Nazi voice) ONLY EVER SO SLIGHTLY!
In 2011, following the success of chapbook FLUFFS , which has been downloaded close to 1000 times, I aim to release a chapbook or short story every month digitally to read online or via Kindle, etc. This is cover art pending. I don't want to release something that looks like a piece of shit, obviously.
January's release is ROOTS:
It forced a way through the compact darkness, feeling and probing. When it touched upon the flesh, it started to feed.
Richard is on the trail of a spate of missing person cases, unknowing they lie buried in the garden across the street.
It grows in the darkness, a special plant, carrying the memories of the dead. We all have our roots. His might kill you.
I would like to thank Dru Morgan for her excellent cover art, a picture called Re Animate, which is a perfect fit for the story!
Is this self publishing, Mr. Russell? Maybe, but not in the traditional sense.
I will not self publish something (apart from the odd flash fiction on the blog) until it has been traditionally published. Ever. It's my bench mark that the story is a good one. But then...what of the story when it has spent its time in the limelight and I get the rights back?
I do really want to release a collection of my short work in 2011. I have about 100k of short story reprints featured in places such as Pseudopod, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Midnight Echo, Sick Things, Malpractice, WICKED, etc. Sure, there's been a few feelers put out in the industry and conversations had, but so far, no contract has been signed.
GRATUITOUS BEGGING ALERT! Should anyone know a reputable publisher interest in collections, send them this way... The full TOC and resume are available!
So while the collection is still waiting and I have all these stories sitting around...why not release them? There's life in the nasty critters yet (or death as is the case) so they can earn their keep on my hard drive.
Longer stories will carry a price, always $1, never higher. I intend to give artists exposure and hopefully a little coin from these sales. Anything I do make personally will be going towards postage costs of print copies of Samhane, again, trying to keep the costs down for readers. Daniel I Russell is a nonprofit organisation and an equal opportunities employer.
So far we have FLUFFS for free and ROOTS for $1 over at my Smashwords page. Unsure what to cook up for February. It's early days yet.
This is also somewhat of a marketing experiment. My challenge is this: Can the stories make more money this way than in a digital anthology? Remember that in a digital anthology, you're getting a split royalty. Personally, I'm finding this incredibly interesting, and yes, might sway self publishing a little bit...but only a little bit.
And only for reprints! ><
COME INTO DARKNESS
Mario Fulcinni, young, successful and handsome, has seen it all. In his adult film career he's tasted more indulgences then a Roman emperor, the women, the parties, the drugs. Hunting for something more, he attends a party on the promise it will 'change his life...forever'.
Chilled to the bone and in the pouring rain, Mario attends Metus House.
A chubby elderly man in an old, crimson blazer emerges. He is Worth, Mario's guide for the evening.
And the tour begins...
Fall into a twisting nightmare of creatures and contraptions.
Come into Darkness.
The book should be available in print and in ebook form in the coming months. Can't wait! Available in English from Skullvines Press, and in German from Voodoo Press.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The Goodreads giveaway continues for one of three copies of Samhane:
Other hopes for 2011. Don't ask, because I won't tell you, but two of my unpublished novels, Mother's Boys and The Forgotten, are currently under consideration by an amazing publisher. I've worked with this house before and am anxiously waiting their decision. I have oodles of respect for the person in charge and if it's a no, then so be it, but at least I think I'll get a reason. Fingers crossed for the next few months. I'm surprisingly nervous...something I haven't felt in a while over a submission!
I also hope that the readers who buy Samhane enjoy it as much as people seem to so far. The German readers are currently lapping it up!
Besides my standard hopes that my family will remain safe and that work will be tolerable, I think I'm pretty much covered, if the 2001, erm, 2011 fairy of good luck is reading.
Happy New Year!