Midnight Horror Show by Ben Lathrop: Narrated by Tee Quillin

A little backstory might be in order for this review.
This story is built around the old Screen Gems release of Universal horror pictures in syndication to television stations in the late 1950s. With the encouragement that the stations bring in a host to introduce the “Shock” and later “Son of Shock” pictures, Screen Gems helped to platform an industry, first popularized by Vampira, the original horror host on television. There have been many others along the way, including notable icons such as Vincent Price, Joe Bob Briggs, and Elvira. Midnight Horror Show captures a nostalgic snapshot of a time that’s lost in memory, turning it into something truly sinister, and telling a fantastic tale along the way.
With a series of unusual killings in the sleepy Iowa town of Dubois in 1985, Detective David Carlson finds himself thrust into the midst of an all-too-real horror show. Investigating the seemingly unrelated crimes, he encounters James West, a strange young man with a fixation on horror and heavy metal, soon to host his own horror show at a local drive-in with a dark history.
James’s obsession with a former television and drive-in host, Boris Orlof, brings Detective Carlson face-to-face with secrets and terrifying truths previously buried in the past. Confronting his own forgotten memories, a file of missing person cases from twenty years before, and the very real possibility that there’s more than simple movie magic taking place behind the scenes, Detective West finds himself fighting a ticking clock to solve the unbelievable mystery and save the young man he’s grudgingly befriended before Halloween night.
Midnight Horror Show is a captivating story that leaves you guessing what’s going to happen right up until the end. When you think you have a handle on what’s next, Lathrop manages to dodge your assumptions and veer off in a different direction.
The narration provided by Tee Quillin is fantastic and believable as he voices the assorted characters populating the tale with seeming ease.

The Wind In My Heart by Douglas Wynne

Douglas Wynne knows how to craft a captivating tale. The Wind In My Heart–while taking place in the 1990s–hearkens back to the hard-boiled detective stories of authors like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. For being a couple of generations removed from the anti-hero protagonists of those books, Miles Landry wouldn’t be out of place at all. Of course, it helps the aesthetic that this takes place in New York’s Chinatown.
Blending this combination of an old school detective noir with Eastern philosophy–in the Tibetan crisis-conscious New York of the early 1990s–creates an enchanting sort of mandala in literary form. Threads of the story circle back around, creating new patterns and surprising twists as the narrative takes shape and arrives at a final form…before being swept away like sand as you reach the conclusion and set the book aside.
Hired by the monks of a Buddhist community center to investigate what they believe to be a supernaturally perpetrated series of murders, Landry must traverse a dangerous gauntlet between Chinese gangs, the police, and a possible supernatural threat that stands to tear his world apart.
Unlike altogether too many books, there was an unexpected twist to this story…but not one that felt flimsy or poorly crafted. Nothing about Wynne’s book was poorly crafted.

Eight Cylinders by Jason Parent, narrated by Joe Hempel

Jason Parent’s Eight Cylinders captures a sort of grindhouse action/horror vibe that I appreciated a great deal. We’ve got a story about crime, cars, creatures, confusion, and condemnation in the middle of the desert…and if that doesn’t appeal to you at least a little bit, there’s probably something wrong with you.
Comparing it to movies and other visual mediums, as I usually do, it’s a little bit Tremors, a touch of From Dusk Till Dawn, a good bit The Road Warrior, and a dash of the old show The Prisoner (or maybe, for those who never watched that one, Lost). If you were to toss all of that into a blender and add a splash of cosmic horror, you’d end up with something along the lines of Eight Cylinders.
This story had me invested as soon as Seb began using a novelty Magic Eight Ball glass eye to make his decisions for him as he sped away from Vegas after a deal gone exceedingly bad. Criminal and “bad guy” that he might be, Seb is particularly relatable as a protagonist, and you can’t help but cheer him on as he races through the desert multiple times throughout this short tale. The attention to detail concerning cars, trucks, and ATVs through the narrative gives one the impression that Parent is a bit of a gearhead at heart, or certainly one who spent some quality time researching this tale with gearheads…and that comes through clearly with Seb’s absolute love for his Dodge Charger and his appreciation of other vehicles in the narrative.
Joe Hempel’s narration is excellent, and I’ll surely be watching for other titles he’s provided his voice talents to.
My sole complaint about this story is that it felt a little rushed at times like we were racing from one point to another without getting enough time to really experience where we were.

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories edited by Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward

I’m copying over some reviews of titles I’d written up in 2018 and earlier, just in case these titles are new for other people.

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories is a fascinating anthology of short fiction from a variety of diverse authors…providing an assortment that varies in both style and substance to a huge extent.
I don’t know that a lot of these stories are “horror” in the sense that some of you might expect, but they are quite deeply unsettling as a whole. Many of what you’ll find are examples of the horror that we carry within us or manifest internally, like in the unexpected choose-your-own-adventure tale ‘A Haunted House Is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken’ provided by Paul Tremblay or the devastating ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ by Lisa Mannetti.
Clive Barker’s ‘Coming To Grief’ was my personal favorite, and a more subtle tale than a lot of his short fiction. Strangely enough, because I normally love his short fiction, my least favorite story was ‘The Problem of Susan’ by Neil Gaiman, a dark and perverse take on the world of Narnia…it wasn’t necessarily a bad story in any way, but it felt like the weakest inclusion.
I definitely recommend this book, especially if you’re looking to discover new authors you might not have already been familiar with.