The story begins with tightropes and titties, as Perry and his best friend, Devin, enjoy a vacation in a small Mexican town alongside college students from all over America–and the rest of the world. Their enjoyment doesn’t last long, as Diablo Snuff has plans for the revelers, at least the ones they find attractive enough to press-gang into the same sort of service Kong and Nick “Lucky” Luciano were providing in Passion & Pain. If you haven’t read Passion & Pain, hopefully, you’ve read A Foreign Evil, The Grind House, and Slaughter Box. You should still have some idea what I’m talking about if you’ve at least read those three. Personally, I recommend going back and reading both Passion & Pain and Grad Night as well, because they all come together in the pages of The Maddening. It’s wrong to say this story begins with tightropes and titties. It all begins in the pages of A Foreign Evil when Michael drunkenly follows a beautiful woman to a push-button hotel for a night of carnal pleasures that swiftly devolves into a nightmare of unearthly evil and sinister conspiracies. You’ve come all this way, though, so you know all about that. The journey here left its mark on you, I imagine. The Maddening is Carver Pike’s conclusion to the Diablo Snuff series, and this man knows how to end things with a bang. The best way I can think of to describe the events taking place in this novel is to suggest that it’s John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness meets The Purge while managing to be both more horrific and graphic than either of those movies. If that doesn’t sell you on diving into this book, I honestly don’t know why you’d be reading my reviews in the first place. You might not be my target audience, in which case you’re almost definitely not the target audience for Pike’s Diablo Snuff books. The movies were bad enough, allowing incarnations of evil creatures on the screen to infiltrate our world, stalking and murdering the viewers unfortunate enough to witness even small portions of each film. The release of the novels written by the authors who disappeared from The Grand Georgina signals the next stage of the Diablo Snuff master plan as the madness spreads throughout society, irrespective of nation or culture. This plague of lawlessness and insanity is amplified with the release of The Maddening, the book Tobias desperately hoped he could keep from distribution. None of these things are fast or dramatic enough in dismantling society and sewing chaos, and that’s where the app comes into play. Across the world, psychopaths and damaged people compete with one another to commit the most creative and devastating horrors, racking up more money with each rape and murder. Against this horrific backdrop, the members of Psalm 71 must make their way to the heart of the evil that is Diablo Snuff, saving as many innocent lives as they can along the way. Knowing this is the final volume in the Diablo Snuff series, it should come as no surprise that the tale culminates in a battle between the forces of good and evil that crosses the border separating our world from unearthly planes of existence. This is a spiritual clash that would make Frank Peretti envious. If you’re unfamiliar with Frank Peretti’s Christian horror novels, you might be missing out because some of them are surprisingly good; but they’re nowhere near as good as what Pike has laid out for us in the pages of The Maddening. This book is punctuated with set pieces of such depravity and cruel imagination that the reader can’t help but wonder at the apparent limitless creativity brought to the table by Carver Pike where horror is concerned. At its core, this is a story of hope, though. The Maddening–as with the Diablo Snuff series as a whole–is about facing a terrifying evil and refusing to flinch. It’s about standing ground and fighting, even when the easiest solution would be to turn away or to give in. Knowing that you may not survive, that those you love and who stand by your side may fall as well, but persisting in doing what you know must be done; that is the core of it all. In that respect, as in all others, Carver Pike has succeeded in crafting a masterpiece with this book.
I had the immense pleasure of reading Baker’s Dozen in advance to write a blurb for the anthology. It seemed only natural that I would also be writing a review of the collection now that the release date is looming on the near horizon. Rarely has a themed anthology come together so perfectly in capturing a motif and carrying it through all of the component pieces included. There is no question that Baker’s Dozen is overall one of the best anthologies I’ll have the pleasure of reading. Paraphrasing what I said in my blurb, this is a delicious concoction, albeit neither safe nor healthy. If you’re looking for those qualities, you’re in the wrong place. It would have been a challenge, bringing this assortment of spectacularly imaginative authors together and compiling an anthology that wasn’t worth reading; there’s no doubt that Candace Nola deserves a great deal of credit for editing this volume, though. Anthologies are only as good as the editor who brings them together, and there’s no question that this collection was in excellent hands from the beginning. Christine Morgan kicks it all off with the period piece, Pretzels of God, spinning a tale of jealousy and bitterness, of sacred vows broken most violently and unpredictably. Apple Pie & Diamond Eyes by Chris Miller tells the story of an aptly-named Karen being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, Karen has a passel of teenage girls in tow, as a trio of criminals gets their just desserts in a truly literal sense. Ruthann Jagge’s The Piebird introduces us to Flora Corolla, so desperate to bring pride to her family’s bakery that she’ll accept guidance from the most unlikely and untrustworthy source. Next Best Baker by Jeff Strand is perversely hilarious. A man after my own heart, I feel like he watches cooking and baking competitions the same way I do, imagining the worst conceivable surprise ingredients being tossed into the mix and laughing as he envisions it all playing out. I assure you that this is no baking competition for the faint of heart. Aron Beauregard hits us with A Muffin In The Oven, and he hits us hard. The announcement of a friend’s pregnancy–an event that should be full of warmth and cheer–turns sour and horrific as the facts surrounding the paternity come to light. Carver Pike’s Blueberry Hill is a tale of bullying, teenage cruelty, revenge, and witchcraft. This one is, without a doubt, the hardest story to read, in my opinion. Hillary Hightower doesn’t deserve any of the terrible things that happen to her, but when seeking retribution, one should probably be careful what they wish for. This story has the “dig two graves” adage on full display. They Are Always Watching is equal parts sad and terrifying, and Patrick C. Harrison, III leans into both qualities heavily. A daughter struggling with her mother’s declining mental capacity is forced to face the truth of what seems like little more than her debilitated mother’s fevered mind. My Lil’ Cupcake by Lee Franklin floats us through a dysfunctional marriage and one woman’s desire to find freedom from the domineering, cruel, and awful men in her life. The method by which Lindsey seeks her emancipation is something visceral to behold. Kenzie Jennings provides us with the worst Florida has to offer in Just A Local Thing. A family on vacation finds themselves at the mercy of the perverse whims of a seemingly prescient baker. Of Dough And Cinnamon brings us heartbreak and satisfying vengeance as Daniel Volpe tells the story of a widower who experiences one more loss than he can handle. Rowland Bercy Jr. introduces us to the most unlikely cryptid in Homegrown Comeuppance. A fierce rivalry between two bakers reaches a horrific conclusion that just might spell the end for not only those involved but also the innocent residents of a Brazilian town. Candace Nola showcases not only her editorial skills with Baker’s Dozen but her skill as a writer as well. County Contest provides us with a glimpse of a small business still struggling to recapture the success once known when Horace’s wife was still around. As a new librarian arrives in town, it seems like her sole purpose in life is to tear down everyone around her with sarcasm and bitterness. But maybe that bitterness is just what the recipe calls for when it’s time to unveil a new flavor. Death, And A Donut by Michael Ennenbach is a most peculiar yet beautiful love story, built on a substrate of random, wanton bloodshed and disorder. A cacophony of disaster paves the way through this narrative, leading us to a surprisingly touching conclusion. You can’t go wrong with a single piece in this collection, and I recommend dedicating some time to taking in the fantastic illustrations that accompany the text. This whole volume was painstakingly assembled with obvious love and care like the best recipes always are.
Readers of Carver Pike’s Diablo Snuff books will have first met Kong in Passion & Pain, after his first encounter with the sinister organization. His torture at their hands drove him to seek any information he could find, only to discover they were like ghosts. Our next meeting with Kong is near the end of The Grindhouse, where he appears as a member of Psalm 71. A lot had clearly taken place between those points in time, and Slaughter Box provides us with a glimpse of that missing period of Kong’s life. Still traumatized and emotionally damaged from his first experience with Diablo Snuff, Kong returns to his hometown where he finds a flier for the grand reopening of a local movie theater. Violating the trust of his childhood best friend, Kong invites that friend’s younger sister, Sammy, on a date. With the flier fresh in his mind, their venue is obvious. Unfortunately, as the reader suspects, this is a trap. William Castle, had he been a homicidal monster or a psychopath, would have fallen in love with the painstakingly engineered and hideously cruel alterations to the theater. Bringing the film to life in the most awful ways, Diablo Snuff intends to punish Kong for his persistent search. I won’t spoil anything, but we know Kong makes it through the events of this book, but will anyone else survive the malicious and inhumane machinations of Diablo Snuff? You’ll have to read it for yourself if you want to find out. Carver Pike does an excellent job of balancing high stakes, tense horror with more human elements of the story. We learn a great deal about Kong, his life before we first discovered him in that hellish warehouse, and the miserable life he’d been leading subsequent to his escape from the organization’s clutches. We get to know Sammy, and the deep affection between she and Kong is so well-crafted on the page as to feel as palpable and sincere as a relationship between two real people. As one might expect, Pike manages to fill the pages with a fair amount of sex and smut, in addition to the violence. If you’ve read The Grindhouse–as you certainly should have–you’ll be well aware of what Diablo Snuff is capable of when they’ve got a movie projector available. This is the penultimate Diablo Snuff book, leading the way into the (sure to be) intense conclusion, The Maddening. It’s been a long ride, getting here…but one cannot claim it hasn’t been enjoyable.
If you haven’t already heard about May Cause Unexplained Ocular Bleeding, this post is for you. If you’ve heard about my new book, but you don’t know whether it’s something you’re interested in, this post is also for you. Essentially, this post is for anyone and everyone. Tomorrow morning, August 18th, my second collection of short fiction becomes available in digital formats at http://www.godless.com for the low price of $2.99, which is $1 cheaper than it’ll be in digital format when it goes live on Amazon on Friday, August 20th. It will also be available in paperback on August 20th for the low price of only $8.99. Check out this cover, designed by the fantastic Drew Stepek.
That design alone should be enough to whet your appetite. If you’re one of those style over substance sorts, that cover layout should be all it takes to convince you that you need this in your collection. Of course, you’re in for more than a fancy-looking cover when you pick up a copy of this book. Not only does this collection include the sleeper hit, Horseplay, from Godless, but it contains nine additional short stories that are sure to make my readers uncomfortable as often as it entertains them. Not only that, but I have made certain to include a brief note that details the inspiration behind each of these tales of terror and tribulation. Some of these notes are more worthwhile than others, but I wanted you–my readers–to know me a little better when you came out of the experience than you might have on your way in. Here’s the description from the back cover of the paperback edition:
I didn’t know how to react when Carver Pike provided me with what I must admit is likely to be the best blurb I could ever hope to receive. Any comparison to a writer of Gaiman’s caliber is going to be flattering–and also impossible to live up to. I’m going to hope that I don’t let my readers down when I turn out to be nowhere near the author Neil Gaiman happens to be. Adrian Ludens not only provided a fantastic blurb, but his keen eyes also caught little bits and pieces of editing that had slipped through the cracks along the way. After staring at the same stories for so long, one becomes inured to faults and flaws that might ruin the tone of a story. It’s a sort of editing blindness that creeps in and destroys otherwise fantastic manuscripts. Had it not been for Mr. Ludens taking the time to read the stories with a critical eye, I might have missed a handful of mismatched tenses and incorrect words.
You can, of course, purchase this title from http://www.godless.com or through the Godless app tomorrow. The link is below:
You can also hold out until Friday the 20th, to pick up a copy at the following link on http://www.amazon.com
The Grind House continues the descent into madness that is Pike’s Diablo Snuff series of books. If you’ve read A Foreign Evil and Passion & Pain, you’ll have some idea what to expect while still finding yourself surprised around every twist and turn captured by the author’s impressive imagination. While the previous two installments focused heavily on monstrous cruelty and torture inflicted by agents of the malevolent organization known as Diablo Snuff, this book leans heavily on things that can’t be perceived as anything other than the supernatural. The visions of demonic entities–post-climax–in A Foreign Evil could easily be dismissed as little more than the feverish hallucinations of a man who went through hell. It’s far more challenging to similarly write off shared visions of inhuman horrors and other aspects of the tale unfolding within The Grind House. Of course, we all knew these things were real–in the context of the story–but it hits home much harder in this book than the previous immersions into the world of Diablo Snuff. Fans of the previous two stories in the Diablo Snuff series will be happy to encounter some familiar characters at different points in this novel. I know I certainly was. In this book, as in the previous two, Pike’s history as a writer of dark romance and erotica comes to the forefront in a big way, weaving together heavily eroticized encounters with sheer, unrelenting lunacy. It takes a certain undefined skill to seamlessly blend graphic, sensual intimacy with a bewildering, undercurrent of horror, but it’s a skill Pike has in spades. It’s The Shining on MDMA. If Shirley Jackson had channeled Marquis de Sade when writing The Haunting, we might be coming close to what you’ll find within these pages. This isn’t necessarily to suggest The Grind House is a haunted house tale, but in a sense, it most certainly is. If a place can absorb the evil of those within its walls–or beneath its foundations, The Grand Georgina most certainly has. Tobias (T.K. Tantrum) is in for far more than he or his assistant anticipated when he was signed up to attend the writers retreat at The Grand Georgina. He hoped to write the masterpiece that had eluded him so far in his modestly successful career, but he finds himself drawn into real-life peril that rivals anything he could have written. As the abominations of both past and present are revealed, the insidious trap Tobias finds himself within may be something from which even madness provides no escape. As prurience gives way to panic, it may already be too late for any to escape the clutches of Diablo Snuff.
This book, a collection of two connected stories, makes for a fascinating literary experiment. I should first get it out of the way that Chris Genovese and Carver Pike are pen names for the same fantastic author, though I am vastly more familiar with his work as Carver Pike–being a fan of horror and not so much a fan of smutty, erotic, romance tales. The man behind those noms de plume is a terrific and skilled storyteller, so it’s no surprise that he’d be just as capable regardless of the umbrella beneath which he happens to be writing. The Strings On Me by Chris Genovese introduces us to the character of Nick “Lucky” Luciano, a frat boy and a womanizer with a heart of gold. He’s not such a womanizer, all things considered…but it’s sort of the role he plays in his life within the fraternity. A chance encounter brings Natalia to his attention and he is instantly captivated by this beautiful, mysterious, foreign woman. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem quite so enamored of him, but Lucky isn’t one to give up too easily. At the end of this first erotic romance tale, things seem to be going well. Cutting His Strings is where Carver Pike takes up the baton and races the story of Lucky and Natalia through the finish line…and boy does he bring it to a finish. The romance takes on a darker quality as the story continues, with the erotica still heavily present. Natalia’s attitude and behavior seem to change like a switch has been flipped and Lucky is left dazed and dizzied by the seemingly unprovoked transformation. We discover that Natalia is roommates with an ex-girlfriend of Lucky’s and that the impetus to end that previous relationship was entirely brought about by Natalia’s secret machinations. She’d been no stranger to Lucky when they met, and he barely had a chance to avoid becoming her prey. More importantly, we discover that Natalia is involved with the sinister secret society, Diablo Snuff. You’ll be familiar with Diablo Snuff if you’ve read my previous review of A Foreign Evil, or if you’ve read the other three Carver Pike books that connect with the Diablo Snuff series. Once Lucky is snared by Diablo Snuff, the odds don’t look great for him. Will he be lucky enough that his ex-girlfriend will be able to put the puzzle pieces together in time to save him? Does she still love him enough to invest that sort of attention and concern toward the peculiar nature of his relationship with her roommate? You’ll have to read the book to find out for yourself.
If you enjoyed the Japanese horror flick, Audition, you’re likely to enjoy this book.