Sunday, May 1, 2011

May, 2011 Reviews


(NOTE: The "smell ratings" at the end of some reviews rate the actual SMELL of the book and have nothing to do with the story.  Smell Ratings: 5 = excellent, 1 = odorless, 2-4 = you figure it out.  Book Key: hc = hardcover / tp = trade paperback / mmp - mass market paperback / rarer forms described.  Unless otherwise noted, all reviews are by Nick Cato).

CONFESSIONS OF A ZOMBIE LOVER by Zoe E. Whitten (2011 / 56 pp / ebook)

Microbiologist Eugene O'Donnell is on a mission to help heal victims of a world-wide plague that has caused the dead to rise and become killers.  By combining electro-shock therapy and a diet of brain-enhancing vitamins and herbs, Eugene ("G" to his friends) begins to see progress in Reggie, one of his zombie subjects housed at a military base.  As the zombies under G's care grow in intelligence, Whitten cleverly compares them to children, giving the reader a more personal feel toward the undead, and hence giving this novella a somewhat fresh spin on a rapidly tiring subgenre.

Alongside the medical story is a romance between G and Reggie, arguably making this the first gay zombie romance story (although with all the zombie tales out there today, I could be wrong).  When the two finally hit the sack for a night of drunken sex, things go horribly wrong and G's life changes in a way he never expected.

CONFESSIONS is the second book in a zombie series by Whitten, and while I haven't read the first, this is a decent stand alone story, featuring some interesting ideas on the undead and human/zombie relationships.  I found it a little slow at the beginning, but the second half picks up nicely.

If you're a zombie fan I say give 'er a shot...

PRAY TO STAY DEAD by Mason James Cole (2011 Print is Dead / 327 pp. / tp and ebook)

It's end-of-the-world zombie apocalypse time once again...but before you let out a frustrated yawn , listen up: while it's true you've probably read this a hundred times before, PRAY is one of those novels that despite its familiar story, manages to work.  And it works in a big way.

Set in 1974, PRAY follows five friends on their trip to a Lake Tahoe getaway.  They stop in an isolated town to get food and gas at a small store owned by a senior couple (Misty and her crackpot husband, Crate) and before long they're abducted by an insane backwoods family who waste no time slaughtering the men and taking the women captive.  Much of the story is seen through the eyes of Colleen; she's forced into an Amish-like religious cult whose Manson-like leader, Huffington Neibolt, has been kidnapping and impregnating women for years as part of a Noah-like survival strategy for the coming apocalypse.  When the dead start to rise around the world, it only encourages Huffington all the more that his stable of wives (and stockpile of weapons) were truly the Lord's work.

Meanwhile, a black Vietnam vet named Reggie is trying to travel from California to New Mexico in an attempt to locate and rescue his daughter (cue Brian Keene's THE RISING) when he comes across a cop named Cardo.  Reggie rescues him from a rooftop that's surrounded by zombies, and the two travel on, eventually coming to the aforementioned gas station where they help the elderly couple survive in a classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD finale.

Cole manages to craft believable, likeable characters whose pain we feel on mental, physical, and even spiritual levels.  His antagonists are basically right out of 70s redneck slasher films, and cause more terror among our survivors than the undead (although there's no shortage of zombie carnage here).  While PRAY does have the action and feel of a trashy grindhouse film, Cole's way of spinning his tale puts this one leaps and bounds above the abundance of modern zombie novels; it may be mainly by-the-numbers, but it goes down so smooth you won't know what hit you.

I'm as sick of zombies as anyone else...but when something as entertaining and well-written as PRAY TO STAY DEAD comes along, it re-kindles my love for the undead just a little bit longer.  'Tis a bloody good show.

Smell Rating: 2

A LIFE ON FIRE by Chris Bowsman (2011 Grindhouse Press / 110 pp / tp)

Patent Clerk Gerald McManner is tired of dealing with moronic inventors and is bored with his life in general.  Saddened over the death of his wife Tracy, he begins to drink excessively and eventually finds himself popping in and out of an alternate reality where strange creatures dwell, his late wife speaks to him, and a man whose death he's partially responsible for gives him hints on how to deal with his new surroundings.

Bowsman's short novella is a decent man-loosing-his-marbles tale, although I found myself hoping there'd be more interludes told from Tracy's viewpoint during her bathtub suicide (the final one is quite heartbreaking).  A LIFE ON FIRE is an entertaining (although depressing) piece of dark fiction.

Smell Rating: 1

JACK’S MAGIC BEANS by Brian Keene (2011 Deadite Press / 104 pp / tp)

Brian Keene needs to be sporked for being such a damn tease!

Just, you know, generally speaking … but specifically for delivering up the tantalizing tidbits of tales in this slim little collection, that only whet the appetite for full-on novel-length versions! 

Under a hundred pages, five stories, and four agonized soul-deep howls from me of, “What do you mean, that’s IT? Where’s the rest?!? Augh! &%^^$^@$$%@!!!”

Alas, my titanium spork would probably get confiscated at airport security, and of course I wouldn’t seriously advocate physical violence (in this case). So I will have to settle for a psychic sporking. 


Okay, that’s out of the way, moving on to the actual reviews! 

First off, the title track, “Jack’s Magic Beans.” I love-love-LOVE me some sudden apocalypse, be it from natural disaster or zombie outbreak or what have you. Out of the blue, all hell just breaks loose and whisks me along for the ride and I enjoy every minute of it. In this one, what starts when a stockboy thinks the lettuces are talking to him (“We are the lettuce,” they say. “We know everything.” … how can anybody not love a line like that?) escalates into a gorestorm of madness that engulfs an entire supermarket. A handful of terrified but seemingly-sane survivors take refuge in the store freezer as they try to figure out what could have happened, and how they can get out of it alive. 

“Without You,” the second story in the book, is a life tragedy of love gone sour and marriage gone stale, neatly compacted into five short pages, while also filled with the sort of black humor and grisly morality that would have fit right in with the wonderful old horror comics. 

The next two, “I Am An Exit” and “This Is Not An Exit,” go together. And this is why I only howled four times instead of five; I gnashed my teeth after the first one but then was lulled into a false sense of relaxing security as soon as I realized the second was a kind of sequel. They are quick peeks, snapshots, brief but compelling excerpts from the life of a serial killer. The author’s note following “This Is Not An Exit” promises more of the story in a yet-to-be-written novel, so he just better follow through!

Last but not least is “‘The King’ In: YELLOW,” a tribute to the classic of the same name, albeit with a clever tweaking of punctuation and a moderning-up rock and roll edge. Roger and Kathryn are having a nice dinner out when they witness an act of insanity connected to an earlier cryptic remark from a streetcorner vagrant. Swept along by morbid curiosity and the hunger for adventure, they decide to take in a performance of a play called YELLOW, featuring a cast list of actors named for and doing eerily apt impersonations of famous dead rock stars … or are they?

Keene’s mastery of character and description shine through on every page. These are very real people, experiencing very vivid emotions and events. That’s part of why it’s so hard to let them go, and accept that the story’s done. 

-Christine Morgan

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larson (2003 Random House / 447 pp / hc & tp)

All right, so it’s not exactly fiction … but since I’ve reviewed stuff here that isn’t exactly horror either, I guess fair’s fair. 

Fair’s fair … a joke, a pun, son, as Foghorn Leghorn would say … because the setting for this book is the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, more properly known as the World’s Columbian Exposition. 

Welcome to America at the end of the nineteenth century, at a crossroads in history when Victorian gaslight is giving way to the fabulous inventions and discoveries of men like Edison and Tesla. Welcome to Chicago, which puts in its bid for the fair out of a determined effort to prove that theirs is a city every bit as sophisticated as New York or Paris, that it’s not just a grimy place of soot and slaughterhouses. 

Welcome to the stomping grounds of one of the nation’s first notorious, infamous, headline-grabbing serial killers. Meet Dr. Henry H. Holmes, who took the last name of one of England’s most beloved detectives but modeled his hobbies much more after Jack the Ripper. 

How many young women, drawn to Chicago by the prospects of freedom, excitement, and employment, met their gruesome ends in Dr. Holmes’ sinister sanctum? We’ll never know. Speculations of the time put the number in the vicinity of two hundred. 

Even a fraction of that amount would still put Holmes well ahead of the Ripper’s tally, the difference being that many of Holmes’ victims were never found. The Gilded Age was also a time of burgeoning medical science … dissections, cadavers, grave robbers. Some of the young ladies who fell prey to Holmes’ charms ended up being delivered to a colleague of his who articulated skeletons for sale to medical schools. Others just vanished. 

This monster, a textbook sociopath in every sense, was striking in appearance, charming in manner, and a seemingly respectable member of society. He owned a building in Chicago, operating several businesses out of it, under a variety of names, aliases and double-blinds so that his creditors never knew how to collect on his many debts. He hired fresh-faced girls to work in his shops, romancing and even illegally marrying a few. When the time of the Fair came close, he opened a hotel … where men seeking lodging were turned away, but vacancies always seemed available for ladies. 

Even the inquiring families were deterred by Holmes’ seemingly sincere willingness to be helpful, his stories of elopements and running out on the rent. And the rest of Chicago was far too swamped to worry about some missing persons.

Anyone who has ever planned a major event – a big wedding, say … or worse, a convention! – will know all too well the thousand and one problems that go with it. Location, organizing, programming, people-wrangling, food, sanitation, supplies, entertainment, prices, hassles, egos, bickering, chaos. A single delay can throw the whole thing off schedule. A single disagreement can explode into a full-scale feud. 

Imagine trying to put together not just a wedding or a con weekend, but an entire fair. Not just any fair. A fair that will run for months. A WORLD’S Fair. To show the rest of the globe that America is no longer an upstart newcomer but a serious player. To, as the saying went, have to “out-Eiffel Eiffel,” whose Tower had wowed them at the Paris expo. 

Now imagine trying to do it within two years. From the ground up. With a tight-fisted budget oversight bunch of busy-bodies, politicians, society matrons, architects of competing vision, thousands of workers, union agitators, newspaper reporters. Your career, livelihood, and reputation on the line. 

Gut-clenching, isn’t it? The tension and drama that the author conveys is every bit as gripping in the unfolding tale of the Fair’s construction as the story of the murders. Non-fiction, okay, but it does not read as such. So much of the content comes from letters, articles and accounts of the time that it turns these individuals into very real people, their struggles as sympathetic as anything going on today. 

Reading Erik Larson’s THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, I was put in mind of Robert McCammon’s Matthew Corbett books, set in eighteenth-century New York … this is a hundred years later but the effect of stepping back through time comes across almost as vividly. It also put me in mind of the series CONNECTIONS, by James Burke, in which the smallest and seemingly most coincidental of events can have far-reaching ripples down through the ages.

Perfect for the “serious” reader on your list … or for anyone into history, serial killers, architecture, steampunk, human triumph and despair, and just an all-around damn good read!

-Christine Morgan

ASYLUM LAKE by R.A. Evans (2008 Chapbook Press / 208 pp / tp and ebook)

ASYLUM LAKE opens in 1972 in the town of Bedlam Falls with the trial of twelve-year-old Lionel Collins, who has brutally murdered a family without any provocation.  What could have caused the son of a reverend to bludgeon and dismember the family, including their small twins?  Some people think Lionel is mentally ill; others are convinced he’s just evil.  And what is the significance of the white bracelet around his wrist?

Almost 40 years later, Brady Tanner and his dog Gruff move to Bedlam Falls after the sudden death of his wife, moving into the summer home where he and his family spent their vacations throughout Brady’s childhood.  The home is overshadowed by Lake View Asylum, a psychiatric hospital now abandoned.  The asylum, and the lake it overlooks, hold terrible secrets - secrets that Brady is about to discover.  How is his family connected to the asylum?  And what happened that night he and his friends swam out to the float in the lake, a night he has no memory of?

As Brady settles into his new home, he reunites with an old love, April, and gets to know her daughter Abby.  But Brady’s happiness is diminished by the realization that there is a presence in his home, one that’s trying to tell him something.  Mysterious messages appear in letter tiles on a Scrabble board.  His late father’s room is filled with crime memorabilia relating to the asylum.  Brady’s father, as well as his grandfather, had been part of the local law enforcement years before when Lionel Collins carried out his heinous crime.  What was his father looking for?

ASYLUM LAKE is a fun horror story.  By turns horrifying and amusing, Asylum Lake will keep you turning the pages well into the night.  Although the story leads to a satisfying conclusion, there are enough loose ends for a sequel, which I hope the author is planning.  The characters are very real and most are likeable; even the dog became a favorite character.

If you’re looking for a riveting, well-written story, you don’t need to look any further than ASYLUM LAKE.

-Sheri White

DIAVOLINO by Steve Emmett (2011 Etopia Press / ebook)

Tom Lupton is an architect who is given the chance to build a dream house for a rich client on the small island of Diavolino in Italy.  He and his family, along with his assistant Sima, move to the island to live in a temporary home the client, Roger, has built for them.  But Diavolino is hiding an evil that has been kept secret for centuries, and the locals are worried the new residents will somehow unleash the evil.  They do not welcome Tom and his family with open arms.

But there is no holding back the evil; there is someone who has been waiting for this time since he first discovered Diavolino almost 500 years before.  The time has come to serve his Master and finally be granted the power he craves.

As the evil grows and spreads throughout Italy, Tom’s wife Elspeth and daughter Amy, as well as Sima, are kidnapped by Clavelli, the one who awaits the Master.  Tom and his Italian assistant Paolo race against time to find Tom’s family and stop the evil that threatens to destroy the world.

Demons wreaking havoc on Earth is always a fun read, and DIAVOLINO is no exception.  It brings to mind the great horror novels from the 1980s - good vs. evil, blood and guts, chaos.  There are twists and turns throughout the story, and an ending that practically begs for a sequel.

Emmet packs a lot into a relatively short novel - fires, plane crashes, volcanic eruptions, a bloody lake and demonic monks.  Lots of action, lots of surprises, great writing and vivid descriptions make DIAVOLINO a must-read for any horror aficionado.

-Sheri White

DIRGE by Ken Knight (Authorhouse 2010 / 480 pp / tb and ebook)

Mickey is a loser.  Picked on throughout school and ridiculed by the girl he wants, he seems to be going nowhere fast.  After winning big on a lottery ticket, Mickey attempts to redeem himself to Monique only to be struck down in a terrible accident.  Now, the zombie apocalypse has begun in the Southeastern United States….and it’s being led by that same loser.  No one outside of a four-star general and a handful of people working for a company called DIEWINN knows the true beginnings of this new cataclysmic event.
Washington D.C. has fallen to the zombies who seem to be able to think and react as readily as when alive.  Society has begun to unravel and the government and military are unable to stop the unprecedented contagion.  With an administration more concerned with civil rights, a CEO looking to cash in on experimental nanotechnology and a potential military conspiracy, can anyone stop the horde of resurrected dead before it’s too late?

Ken Knight has taken the zombie sub-genre to an all-new level with DIRGE.  It is a fresh take on the causes, results and outcomes of a zombie apocalypse.  Character development is great leaving the reader able to understand and even sympathize with Mickey and his situation.  DIRGE is populated with some very interesting people including Luciana Belacourt, the CEO of DIEWINN, who is the perfect evil genius.  I genuinely disliked her as an individual.  The pacing of the story is spot on and quick, holding the reader’s interest until the very end without any lag.  The ending took me completely by surprise in its unpredictability….and as anyone who knows me can attest to, I hate predictability.  One complaint I have with DIRGE is with the character Hoochie.  For whatever reason I just couldn’t connect with the character.  Another is that sometimes the grammatical usage got a little repetitive.  Other than that DIRGE is a great and refreshing read that had me hooked from page one.

-Colleen Wanglund

BLIND SWIMMER (2010 Eibonvale Press 2010 / 360 pp / tb)

BLIND SWIMMER is an eleven-story anthology from the writers of Eibonvale Press.  The theme centers on creativity in isolation with some very varied ideas on what that means.  They are stories full of horror, surrealism, loneliness and desperation.

My favorite of the bunch is the first story called “Bellony” by Nina Allan.  It tells the tale of Terri, a writer striking out on her own to discover what happened to Terri’s favorite childhood writer Allis Bennett.  After isolating herself in Allis’ last known residence, Terri discovers that Allis’ life and the circumstances of her disappearance are as strange and mysterious as her books.  Terri must soon ask herself what is real and what is fiction?  What I love about this particular story is that it is open to the reader’s interpretation.

Another excellent story is “The Book of Tides” by David Rix about a man who lives alone along a stretch of beach in Scotland.  The man tells stories that he ‘feels’ from the debris that washes ashore.  His existence becomes confusing for him after finding a young woman.  He begins to question whether or not to return to civilization and discover the state of the world.

“The Talkative Star” by Rhys Hughes is an interesting take on the theme with quick short pieces and poetry all involving the sun.  “The Higgins Technique” by Terry Grimwood is about the lengths some artists will go to for their work.  “Far Beneath Incomplete Constellations” by Alexander Zelenyj looks at a man’s secret affair with a woman that induces dreams which he wishes were reality.

All of the stories in BLIND SWIMMER are well-written and offer fantastic and imaginative ideas on the concept of creativity in isolation.  As well as the stories, there is an essay by David Rix on his vision for Eibonvale Press and a great foreword by Joel Lane that are not to be missed.  BLIND SWIMMER is an excellent and interesting read.

-Colleen Wanglund

The following review originally appeared at THE CROW'S CAW

IN LAYMON’S TERMS edited by Kelly Laymon, Steve Gerlach, & Richard Chizmar (To be Released August 1, 2011 by Cemetery Dance Publications / 615 pp / hc)

Arguably one of the most eagerly-awaited titles in recent horror fiction, this mammoth tribute to the late Richard Laymon is jam-packed with fond remembrances, original fiction inspired by Laymon, some rare Laymon shorts and oddities, and even an 18-page pictorial courtesy of Richard’s wife.

Part One: After opening pieces from Kelly Laymon and Steve Gerlach (both will be cherished by long time Laymon fans), former Leisure Books editor Don D’Auria gives a brief history of his personal love for the author as well as how he began to publish his catalog for the mass market.

The always reliable Norman Partridge delivers the first Laymon-inspired story, followed by a brief piece describing what he liked best about the late author.  Next up is ‘Meeting Joanne’ by Bentley Little and it delivers big time to both Laymon AND Little fans; one of the best stories here IMO.  We then dive into another goodie from Jack Ketchum titled ‘Hotline’ then a decent werewolf tale from Regina Mitchell.

Bookseller Alan Beatts shares some interesting accounts of his few meetings with Laymon, then Brian Keene gives us ‘Castaways,’ a short version of his Laymon-inspired novel of the same name.  Brian Freeman has one of the better segues into his fine short story, while Ryan Harding’s ‘Development’ is a nasty little ditty you’d swear was written by Laymon himself.

John Urbancik’s ‘Fauxville North’ is the second werewolf tale of the anthology, and ‘Daddy Wound’ by Jacqueline Mitchell keeps the thrills coming.  Gary Brander’s remembrance is one of the more personal here, and his tale, ‘Campfire Story,’ has all the elements Laymon fans love.  Simon Clark’s ‘Ham’s Not There’ is a fantastic take on the invisible man thing while Gina Osnovich’s ‘Edge of Town’ really brings on the Laymonesque goodness.  One of the more original tales comes from Michael T. Hyuck, Jr.: ‘Deep Dawn’s Jongluer’ deals with a mute artist (although she can hear) and a nasty experience she has aboard a ship.  Sheri White’s remembrance will appeal to anyone with kids, then Tom Piccirilli’s ‘New York Comes to the Desert’ mixes two genres he has mastered: horror and noir (plus a little dark humor I’m sure Laymon would’ve loved).  Adam Pepper’s ‘The Lonely Room’ is a standard (although well-executed) “continual” type story about a sleazy motel with a possessed room (Pepper’s remembrance piece will be of interest to HWA members).

Part Two: The middle section features lots of Laymon goodies; there’s early poems (that are scans of the original type-written pages) and a story Laymon had published in a 1970 issue of ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE.  Then there are 20 pages of a newsletter Richard edited titled ‘Smokers Blend’ that features tips, advice, and humor pieces geared toward pipe smokers (while I didn’t read all of this part, it was interesting to see what our favorite horror writer did when not scaring people silly).  There’s stories from Debonair magazine, a GREAT witch/movie story titled ‘Cut’ from 1985’s ‘Bestseller #23,’ a wonderful interview conducted in 1995 by Ed Gorman for Mystery Scene, 3 stories that originally appeared in Cemetery Dance magazine (each one better than the last) and a killer Halloween story called ‘Boo’ from 2000’s ‘October Dreams.’  The section ends with 16 pages of photographs, my favorite being Laymon at a book signing with Bentley Little and J.F. Gonzalez (Little only did 3 signings in his career [according to a 2005 issue of THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW], this one because his friend Richard Laymon had asked him).  Despite all the testimonies in the book, you could tell how much Laymon loved his family, friends and colleagues just by looking at these priceless photos.

Part Three: Matt Schwartz gives a funny account of how he became a fan, and compares the goodness of Laymon’s novels to the goodness of Melrose Place (trust me—it works!).  Steve Gerlach’s remembrance is one of the shortest, yet one of the most memorable, and his story ‘Dead of Night’ has no problem putting chills on your spine.  James Futch’s ‘Cover’ is a clever (and brief) take on the zombie thing, while Michael Oliveri’s ‘Behavior Therapy’ works great after his neat intro/remembrance).  Rain Graves claims (in her memoriam) she’s worried how Laymon fans will take her story; with ‘Wild Card,’ she has nothing to worry about.  John Pelan’s ‘Another Saturday Night’ features a sleazeball thief who picks up a goth chick whose ritual sex-thing turns out to be much more than a fetish.

Robert Freese’s remembrance is one of my favorites here: he explains why he wrote a review of Laymons writing book, ‘A Writer’s Tale,’ and how he tried to have it published in Fangoria Magazine.  The manuscript was sent back to him mutilated (!), and needless to say the letter was not published.  Fans will eat this story up, but I wish Freese’s actual review was included here (would have been quite appropriate).  Donn Gash follows this with an equally-as-cool remembrance titled ‘Pushing Buttons’ which flies in the face of critics who never “got” Laymon’s fiction (especially his characters).

‘Dig’ is a fun “buried alive” story by William D. Carl that features a truly grizzlyending; Holly Newstein & Ralph Bieder II deliver ‘Prayers,’ about an office worker whose life takes drastic changes after he sends a donation to a charismatic TV preacher.  Mark Justice’s ‘The Red Kingdom’ is a sex-charged thriller dealing with blood-soaked “amazons” attempting to bring their Dark Lord back to earth (did I mention this one was sex-charged?).

More so than almost any other tale in IN LAYMON’S TERMS, Bryan Smith’s ‘Pizza Face’ truly captures the feel and aura of Laymon’s own short stories; it’s a tense home invasion tale with well-timed humor and intense violence.  Dick would’ve been quite pleased with this one!
Brett McBean’s ‘The Genius of a Sick Mind’ is a well-done cat-and-mouse story, although at this point in the anthology the Laymonesque twist endings become a bit predictable—such as in Sebastien Pharand’s ‘Little Monsters,’ about an old man who guards his property from small creatures (you’ll see where this one’s headed by the middle of the first page).  It’s a well-written tale, if a bit familiar.

I didn’t care for Jonathan Torres’ ‘Bestiality,’ about 2 low-lifes who capture stray “animals” for an experimental lab.  It’s five pages of rape and unpleasantness that I didn’t find any humor in (thankfully, Torres’ remembrance is quite nice).

Ron R. Clinton’s ‘The Diner’ is an ode to Laymon’s ‘The Beast House,’ and features a poor soul wandering into a restaurant that serves more than just coffee.  Troy Taylor’s ‘The Keepsake’ is a vampire story that—while good—could’ve had a better ending.  While ‘Coastal Pickup’ is another one you’ll figure out early on, Brent Zirnheld’s mysterious female character kept it interesting.  Nicole Cushing’s tribute to Laymon’s ‘The Traveling Vampire Show,’ titled ‘Scabby Nipples and Sharp Teeth,’ is another vamp yarn, albeit with a wonderfully demented conclusion.

Weston Ochse’s ‘Crashing Down’ takes a nice turn and gives a fresh look at death and suicide (it’s also one of the creepier stories here).  Michael McCarty & Mark McLaughlin’s ‘From the Bowels of the Earth’ wins for funniest story, about a nerd who reluctantly becomes a demon hunter.  I can’t say enough good things about Robert Morrish’s ‘Still Life with Mother,’ a disturbing Norman Bates-like tale with a flavor all its own, while Roger Range’s ‘Scavengers’ pits blood-thirsty coyotes against an average American family (and like a Laymon story, NO ONE is safe here).  Slick ending, too.

Patricia Lee Macomber pulls off an amazing feat in an anthology full of (mainly) extreme, gory tales: ‘Past Tense’ not only has a happy ending, but holds its own here thanks to the great, suggestive prose that’s as tense as the more graphic entries.

Philip Robinson’s eerie ‘Occupied’ deals with a creature living inside an oak tree and the homeowner who must deal with its insatiable bloodlust, while a kinky couple go for the gusto in Jim Millman’s ‘For the Light,’ a short and face-paced thriller.

If any remembrance in IN LAYMON’S TERMS can bring a tear to your eye, it’s Geoff Cooper’s, but his following hostage story, ‘Strangers: Good Friends and a Bottle of Wine’ will quickly put your heart in your throat.

The final piece of fiction comes from the always demented Edward Lee, whose ‘Chef’ is a hilarious take on the undead (and culinary arts!).  And it all concludes with a beautiful and bittersweet ‘Dream’ from Matt Johnson.

Like any anthology (especially one of this size), there are a few forgettable stories, but even those had their hearts in the right place.  Richard Laymon’s 1987 novel, ‘Night Show,’ inspired me to write more than any other novel I had read up to that point, so it was nice to read so many similar testimonies (and everyone who was fortunate enough to meet Richard only had super-positive things to say about him).

IN LAYMON’S TERMS serves as a fond tribute to a writer who literally had HORROR running through his veins, an author who stood up for the genre and went out of his way to support and promote both seasoned and new writers, and a man who—despite the dark, extreme stories he made a living from—was one of the nicest, family-oriented guys the horror fiction scene had ever known.  Regardless if you’re a fan or not, this book deserves to be on any horror fan’s bookshelf.
As I’m sure every contributor to this anthology would agree: “The Dick would be pleased.”

1 comment:

  1. I think Dick would be very pleased.

    An amazing book, and I'm so happy to finally have it.

    Thorough review. Thanks!