Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book Review: The Castle of Los Angeles by Lisa Morton

The Castle of Los Angeles By Lisa Morton
Introduction by Gary A. Braunbeck
179 pages
Gray Friar Press

Those in the horror field know Lisa Morton. She won a Bram Stoker(The horror field's Oscar) for a short story she published in one of the world's leading horror magazines Cemetery Dance. At the same time she was racking up story after story in anthologies along side the greatest names in the genre. The thing is even as she was sharing the table of contents with greats such as Clive Barker,Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury and others of their stature Morton held her own. Often her stories have stood up as the strongest in the anthologies she had appeared in.

Morton has been around the block screen writing several B- Movies, one act plays, chapbooks and two non-fiction books (The Halloween encyclopedia and a book on the films of master Hong Kong filmmaker Tusi Hark). This book however is her first novel, and after reading I think Morton is due for another well deserved Stoker award nomination. (She was just nominated again for her novella Lucid Dreaming)

Don't let the low page count fool you Morton has packed in an unbelievable amount of story for it's length. She doesn't waste pages and paces the story so well the pages fly by. I read the book in 48 hours that included two work days.

The story follows Beth, the new owner and director of a black box theater on the bottom floor in one of LA's oldest buildings. Known as the Castle, it as ancient a history as LA gets. While several people live in the building, a struggling filmmaker, and a famous artist who owns the penthouse. I could go into more detail but I read nothing on the back of the book, sold by my history with Morton's novella and shorter works. I had better experience for going in blind.

Morton plays a series of traditional Gothic horror power cords within the haunted house sub-genre. It is the characters and their reasons for living at the Castle that make this novel unique. Some may call those haunted house cliché or tropes I prefer power cord (as Science fiction author Rudy Rucker has called them).

You gonna give AC/DC a hard time for playing a power cord? Lisa Morton takes a familiar riff, tuned slightly to her pitch and the result is a near perfect traditional horror novel. That is the challenge for us modern artists, there are thousands of songs, novels and films before us. It is truly something special when an artist can spin an original take on tired theme. Bravo Lisa Morton, I'd like to start the standing ovation right now. The Castle of Los Angeles is wonderful short horror novel, it has very little weakness and packs it's short pages with story telling strength.

On a side note...

Two in a row, Lisa Morton and Cody Goodfellow are both LA writers. My last review was Goodfellow's Perfect Union. That book was also a Haunted House novel of a sort, it was anything but Traditional. I read their takes on the haunted house genre back to back. They are so different, both works that deserve your attention.

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