Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review : Devil's Island Frank De Sales

Devil's Island by Frank de Sales
238 pages Margin Press

My first reaction I had to this book was to constantly sing the Megadeth song with the same title over and over again as I looked at the cover. That is besides the point. Frank de Sales is a South African first time novelist and I think does a pretty good job with this occult horror novel. I didn't like it much myself but that doesn't mean others wont. It's not god awful, no quite well written just didn't grab me.

One of the strongest chapters of the book is opening chapter that introduces the character Andrew in a confessional where he admits that he murdered a crime boss. He did it in a creative way and the the chapter balances the flashbacks in a creative way. Andrew wants to commit himself to god and does so by leaving for an island mission.

On the same island the rich and wealthy gather an resort so exclusive only the very rich and powerful know of it. The island is metaphysical doorway and to hell and good vs. Evil battle ensues and even zombies are on hand for the fun. The chapters that center on Craig the character who is not rich and powerful were written for comedic value at times. Sometimes a bit of the top for my tastes.

I have to be honest I wasn't too involved with the characters or the setting. The idea didn't do much for me, which is problem when your novel is high concept like this. I got the feeling their was some Catholic stuff involved that I as non-catholic was missing. When I read that the author was South African I admit I was looking for a traditional horror novel set in South Africa. But the setting of this novel was London and an island in the Caribbean.

This is my fault not the author but I was hoping for some like the film “I'm not scared” Which was basically a Stephen King style horror story in the types of characters and tone but set in Italy instead of maine. I would love to see de Sales do something like that. This novel had wit and charm but a boring setting and concept. Next I hope he takes me on horrific journey to South Africa.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review: Bleak History by John Shirley

Bleak History by John Shirley
370 pages
Simon and Shuster

Anyone who has read my blog knows that John Shirley (Co- Screenwriter of the crow) is one of my all time favorite authors. An underrated trailblazer in both science fiction and horror, Shirley's cyperpunk pre-dates William Gibson and his psycho-sexual splat punk horror pre-dates Clive Barker. While Shirley doesn’t have the sales they do he has the respect and blurbs of his peers. I suspect in this culture where TV and movies carry more weight than cult novels, one great adapatation is all it will take for Shirley to get discovered out of the genre ghetto.

The project that is most likely to do just that is Bleak History. Shirley’s most mainstream novel BH is more easily tagged in the popular highly marketable genre of Urban Fantasy. In the first 100 pages I was worried this would be my first negative review of a John Shirley novel. The idea seemed simple and almost designed to be marketed in the urban fantasy thing.

The plot sounds simple on the surface. The thin line between the world of the living and the dead is breaking down. Certain people like Gabriel Bleak the main character have powers over the supernatural. There is agency that is monitoring the magic outbreak and recruiting people. I’ve heard reactions to the plot as it sounds kinda like X-men, no not really but I admit I was yawning a bit in the early pages. It is the extremely weird and original plots of Shirley's novels (check out City come a walking or Three Ring Pychus for out their plots) that set his work apart from standard Science Fiction or horror.

I should have trusted Shirley to rise above and make a very original piece. Once the details of the story start to unfold amazing things happen. I dog eared page 159 as the page where my imagination started cooking with the novel. It's not that exciting stuff didn't happen before that, it's just that's when the story really took flight. The hard part for me as a reviewer is that a reader deserves to discover these details as the book unfolds. As the thin line between the natural and supernatural falls apart the thin line between our rights and tyranny also falls.

In many ways Bleak History is about how we as a society or a country deal with threats. What if the threat was not terrorists, but magic? Would the same country that has two political parties supporting the patriot act and one defending it's use of torture do to protect it's self from a world where the power of the supernatural was really in the hands of the people.

Shirley is the master of the horror novel as political allegory. These are not beat you over the head - in your face allegory, and despite the obvious statements on rendition and torture there is deeper message. His novel Demons may be his more biting socio-political satire, but I am hoping that Bleak history will be a bridge that will bring new readers to his long chain of brilliant novels. Read it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A different Take on the murder at Yale.

Every so often a news story comes down the pike that helps us Animal advocates shine a light on what it feels like to be a non human victim to our out of control Society. Perhaps the best example of this was the DC sniper a few years back. For two weeks or so the area around DC was scary place to be a human being. Snipers seemingly at random were shooting people at random as they walked around shopping malls, grocery store parking lots as they functioned in nature.

To those of us advocating Animal Rights the connection to animals being hunted in nature was very clear. Humans were getting a taste of what deers experience in hunting season. in time every one soon forgot. The snipers were caught and the news cycle moved on.

Recently the case of Micheal Vick has enraged the public to the horrible and violent conditions the football quarterback was putting pit bulls through. Animal advocates have done a good job of pointing out that that Michael Vick's behavior is no different and maybe even humane compared to the actions perpetrated by your consumer dollars when you buy or consume Meat,Dairy and Eggs.

To be be outraged at Vick's behavior but have a burger for dinner the same night is indeed hypocritical.

So now the latest less obvious one. The murder of Yale student Annie Le. My heart goes out to her family and the man that would have been her husband. It's a horrible and brutal crime, It should never have happened.

That being said she was studying to enter a field which we have great disdain for - The vivisectionist. The reasons why I find Vivisectionists to be disgusting examples of humanity has in part to do with their education. People of science who should know better, yet in labs around the world animal endure torture some times under the excuse that their use will find cures to human disease. The Science for that is not the best, A group PCRM (physicians committee for responsible medicine) would be a better source for information on that than me. Vivisection has more to do with a system of profit than real science the more you look into it, but that is another discussion.

The man who murdered her worked in the lab all day which ran animal experimentation. That was his job. I have not seen the mainstream media talk about his role with the animals in the lab and how this may has desensitized him to the treatment of those living beings. We know that many Serial killers like Dahmer and Ed Gein started with animals when they felt the need to graduate to human victims.

Vivisection is cruel, inhumane and what ever advances science make it doesn't justify the cost. The nation has been shocked and outraged by the murder that took place in the lab at Yale. It's bad the media will never mention or side step around the truth...murder and torture happens every day in that lab. The nation has only noticed because for the victim who was murder and stuffed in closet was a human. The victims of vivisection are often are closet biological cousins they are hidden in high security research facilities, but it is no less brutal or tragic than being hidden in a closet.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cody Goodfellow to release a short story collection!

Some of my biggest geekgasms have been things like "Zang Yimou has just started filming a Martial arts fantasy starring Jet Li and Donnie Yen," Or "the director of Memento to reboot batman films," Or "Lucas to return to the directors chair to complete Star Wars Saga!" OK the last one is a bad example. Anyways I can't tell you how excited I am by the idea of a Cody Goodfellow short story collection. Cody is a horror/ Lovecraftian / Dark Science fiction author who is wise beyond his bibliography. Haven't read his novels Radiant Dawn or Ravenous Dusk? They are top notch modern Lovecraftian influenced horror that has won praise across the underground.

Good enough to get his a gig as splatterpunk legend John Skipp's new partner(they released spalt fest called Jake's wake) with more to come. Here is what Cody's site said about his short story collection....


The first collection of short horror fiction from Cody Goodfellow will be released by Swallowdown Press, an alleged division of Eraserhead Enterprises. Originally planned and advertised as a Perilous Press release, SILENT WEAPONS FOR QUIET WARS was snatched away from narcoleptic Perilous editors in a brief but fierce bidding war, which Swallowdown CEO Jeremy Robert Johnson won handily after tendering "a lot of crazy promises."

The collection will include “Burning Names” (Cemetery Dance #51), “A Drop Of Ruby (Third Alternative #41) and “Magna Mater” (Hot Blood XIII: Dark Passions), and Johnson “totally swears” it will be available this October in a trade paperback edition with cover art by Alan Clark.

Check Cody out here:

Updated: Talked to Mister JR Johnson at the bizarro bunker house warming party, and he said that he and Cody have not one, but two collections pulled together and almost ready. Silent weapons will be ready for Bizarro con here in Portland. He also said Cody is near to a deal to to bring his long dormant bat shit crazy sounding sci-fi bizarro haunted house horror novel "A Perfect Union," into print finally. That is still rumor phase. I mention it here in hopes that it comes true soon.

Book Review: Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O'Neill

Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O'Neill
144 pages Apex publishing

I have walked through the Tenderloin in San Francisco a couple times. Now I wish I had paid more attention to this small and interesting neighborhood. I also wish I had paid attention to Gene O'Neill the author of this thin and instense collection of themed horror fiction.

The stories themselves are varied and diverse but the thread that holds tightly together is the setting of the Tenderloin neighborhood. The tenderloin business association probably wont endorse this book I sure as hell will. O'Neill is a a talented writer who drilled almost every single one of these stories straight out of the park.

Apex publishing also has a hit here with it's second excellent collection in one year(Mamma's boy by Fran Friel). The strongest story of this collection is a story the “Magic Words,” which I feel captures the tone of a twilight zone episode better than any new short story I've read in sometime. The opening story is also quite strong as well and touches on a recurring theme the tenderloin's veterans of war. Vietnam, Desert Storm and Afghanistan. The Bram Stoker award nominated story balance is the strongest of the Vet stories and is an important piece of socio-political horror.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Review: Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk

Shatnerquake By Jeff Burk
83 pages
Eraserhead press

Jeff Burk is the editor of the new but excellent bizarro fiction magazine. This gives him an important role at center of a growing literary movement. It should not be a surprise that he has also put out a unique novella of Science Fiction bizarro-ness. That is the Shatnerquake, Shatner fans have been lighting up the internets with buzz about this slim but hilarious book that packs more inside geek jokes and humor into 83 pages that most MST3k episodes. This book has already become the subject of Wil Wheton's tweets and fans have already generated fake sequel covers. 'Tsunimoy' anyone?

Jeff has been kicked out of Star Trek conventions for doing clandestine readings and his multi-media performance is sight to see. Ok enough of the buzz is there a book to enjoy. Yep it's slim but the perfect length about rabid Bruce Campbell fans accidentally bring all William Shatner's characters to life in act to kill their hero's convention spotlight stealing foe The Shat.

Kirk with a lightsaber, Priceline Shatner, TJ hooker, cartoon Kirk. They are all there on a hilarious mission to hunt down and destroy the man who created them. The real William Shatner. This a funny piece of fiction, Shatner himself should get a kick out of it. I really hope he doesn't sue mister Burk before he can write a sequel. Shatner fans or Star Trek fans don't like the shat still can find alot to love here. This is a fun read.

In honor of my favorite Shatner character from incubus I give you it's trailer...

Buy Shatnerquake! It's a Geekgasm waiting to happen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Book Review: Dark Delicacies III

Dark Delicacies III: haunted
Edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb
Running Press 336 pages (hardcover)

In the 80's there were several anthologies that mostly edited by Charles Grant such as Night Visions and Shadows that could be counted on for the best new short horror fiction. Both anthologies had several editions and Night Visions may have made it into the dozens. I hope we are seeing Dark Delicacies take that position in the horror fiction scene. Named after the amazing horror bookstore (well they sell all kinds of horror goodies)in LA owned by the series Co-editor Del Howison. Del's store is a required stop for any of the big names in horror so who better than Del to put together a high class anthology. Del is doing an amazing job of making a brand besides the store and anthologies there is also now a Dark Delicacies comic book as well.

The second book was themed Fear and this one is Haunted. A unoffcial theme is the one life of writer which comes up in several of the stories. The collection includes several huge names from science fiction writer Kevin J Anderson, Richard Christian Matheson, Chuck Palahniuk,Heather Graham, Gary Braunbeck, Simon Clark, David Morrell and Clive Barker while sorta.

This book is amazing so lets get my only real big problem with the book out of the way. The first volume of this series had a great short story by Clive Barker. It was his first return to the form I think he has most excelled at, the short story. When I first saw his name I drooled at the idea of of new Clive Barker short story. Well contain yourself Clive's name is on the book but all you get is a page with a poem on it. I mean it's a fine poem but come on! Time for a cold shower Barker fans.

Some other interesting notes, Michel Boatman best known as the black gay guy on Spin city has short story in here. Yep he is writer of horror fiction as well as an actor. I wasn't into the subject of his story but his writing was good enough that I will seek out his novel. Eric Red who wrote the screenplays for the original Hitcher and Near Dark writes a a stand-out called “in the mix.” Del also manages to use his LA location to attract a new hollywood filmmakers to donate some prose to cause of horror fiction.

The introduction was provided by Wings actor Steven Weber, who I think is a better actor than he is given credit. I'll forgive him for writing the criminally awful episode of Masters of Horror that was Argento's Jenifer. Victor Salva, known for the Jeepers Creepers films and Mick Garris known for 500 different Stephen King films and TV Movies both crafted excellent stories. Salva's creepy WW II tale was one I enjoyed also if for no other reason than the change in setting.

Richard C. Matheson's short but funny tale 'How to Edit' explores a nightmare many authors have, the inability to stop editing and refining. The stand out tale of this book is the closing novella by David Morrell (First Blood,Brotherhood of the Rose) . I am on record all over my blog with my love for the novels of David Morrell. His short stories are generally more horror than his novels and he had written some amazing ones in the past. This a very different piece for Morrell who is not known for the kinda sentimentality that many writers overdue. The not so subtle love for the good old days or the spirit and energy of a time is not Morrell's MO.

Morrell is known for quick paced action plots, page turning thrill rides. Morrell's Architecture of Snow is sweet sentimental tale that is at it's heart is not very horrific. It does play with the theme of being haunted, and again explores the writer's soul. It's the best story in the collection, and it sits at the ass end of the book with good reason. As devoted fan of Morrell I found myself consistently impressed with how far out his comfort zone the man was writing.

Jeff Gelb and Del Howison have done a wonderful thing for the horror anthology in the last few years bringing back very high artistic standards to the genre. We have hundreds of slapped together DIY horror collections getting released each year. That is not a bash on the small press anthologies which I have been a part of, it's simply my belief that we need a cream of the crop in this genre. If you are looking for high class horror – you have three volumes of Dark Delicacies to choose from.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Book Review: North American Primates

North American Primates by Shane Durgee
Red Weaver books 211 pages

In the interest of being truthful with my blog readers I should note that Shane Durgee is an old friend. He also did the amazing painting on the cover of my recently released short story collection. I hope he will do more covers for me in the future. In the region where Shane grew up his amazing talent is well known. As painter, writer, and vocalist for several hardcore and post hardcore bands that were practically a farm team for the hardcore legends Earth Crisis. NAP is the latest novel to be released by hardcore “kids” that also includes Duncan Barlow(Endpoint/ Guilt) and well myself.
Shane's atypical melodic vocals evoked an emotional edge that many bands in the genre ignored for screams and growls. That is not to say that the music of early Durgee fronted bands didn't rip the records of oversight and Framework still raged. I was very excited when this book arrived in my mailbox because I wanted to see Shane's voice extend itself over 200 pages and tell me a story.
North American Primates will appeal most to the crowd of true believers who reject the notion that everything in our world can be explained by science. The coasties, no not the coast guard but the people who stay up late into the night to listen to Coast to Coast AM. It is the story of Clay Sturgeon a central New York misfit who does quite fit in with his community. Clay's life is turned upside down during a camping trip when he encounters what he believes is bigfoot.
We join Clay on journey to discover the secret of the man in the woods and along the way we discover not just about the creature but the people and motivations of those who are seeking to find it. From the skeptical scientists to Clay's new age hippie lover. One of the strengths of the narrative is the unique and brutally honest voice Durgee has given Clay in the first person narrative. Clay is a deeply flawed and lost hero who is seeking a deeper truth not just a primate living in the north woods.
While the work of Daniel Quinn(Ishmael) is an obvious influence, Durgee includes quotes and a reference within the story. This book doesn't slap you in the face with a message. That is not to say that their isn't a message, several infact just woven into the narrative with subtle strokes. Subtle suggestions of animal rights, and less subtle is the idea of open minded-ness towards the unexplained. For me North American primates told me a fun story and reminded me at the same time that I am not anymore special and unique to this planet as any other creature. Is he real or in our imagination? That doesn't matter monsters effect us either way.
This was a passion project for Durgee who clearly researched bigfoot and culture that has grown out of a believe in the creature. I think you'll enjoy the book and I hope Shane is already at work on his follow-up. I'll be first in line.

For more details and to read the first chapter go to the Red Weaver site: