Candace Nola’s Breach drags us along with Laraya Jamison into a disorienting and terrifying battle for survival in a world alien from our own. The gradual revelation of a world that feels as fantastic and dreamlike as it is sinister and dangerous is a thrilling adventure for readers/listeners, even as beleaguered Laraya struggles to learn the rules of this new world and means to find her way home. A camping trip with her boyfriend and two closest friends descends into a violent and horrific disaster as a creature defying comprehension slaughters the others, forcing Laraya into an exhausting race for her life through a forest that transitions into something unfamiliar. Growing up in these woods, she knows she’s far from home, but Laraya has no idea how she arrived in this strange place or how to return to the world she knows. Laraya’s journey of discovery through this new world is equal parts fantasy and horror. The true journey is of self-discovery as she learns of her connection to this realm and the extraordinary allies in her battle against monstrous beings who seek to destroy her or follow her through the breach and back to our world. Jessica McEvoy’s narration brings Laraya to life, filling the character’s account of events with emotion that conveys the harrowing nature of her experiences.
Candace Nola’s Bishop takes us to the wilderness of Alaska, on and off the beaten path in Tongass National Forest, where Troy Spencer is about to begin a desperate search for his sister and niece. Erin and Casey have been missing for a couple of days, and they’ve been alone in the wilds for nearly a week by the time Troy arrives in Ketchikan to begin the search. Venturing deep into the mountainous wilderness, racing against the clock, he’ll settle for nothing less than the best guide he can find. Unfortunately, the most knowledgable guide for those parts of Alaska is a gruff, solitary indigenous man who goes by the name of Bishop, and Bishop is a man of few words and many secrets. Troy knows he’s running out of time, but he has no idea how much danger his family is in, as an ancient and terrible presence exists in the forest, stalking and terrorizing Erin and Casey. Bishop knows it’s there, but Troy’s proximity limits his ability to do anything about it, and nothing will stop the evil from taking what it wants unless Bishop can free the beast inside of himself. Candace Nola brings the cold Alaskan wilderness to life, immersing us in the damp, chilly environment from which there might be no escape. Bringing her fascination with survivalism and the tools necessary for survival to bear, Nola brings Casey, Troy, and Bishop to life in vivid detail and three-dimensional depth, forcing us to experience the same tense, disquieting struggle as her characters. Jamison Walker does a decent job of providing the characters with voices of their own, distinctly separating them.
Ferocious is a perfect blend of witty dialogue, quirky characters, and nightmarish horror. But what else could we expect from Jeff Strand? When Mia’s parents die in an accident, it’s up to her reclusive, misanthropic uncle Rusty to step up and care for his baby niece. He’s in no way equipped to take on the role of parent, and it’s nothing he ever expected of his life, but he’s determined to do the best job he can. Surprisingly enough, he manages to do a fine job, home-schooling Mia and teaching her his woodworking trade as they live a life of quiet solitude in the forest. He may not have believed it possible at first, but Rusty managed to raise her almost to adulthood, and he’s proud of how she’s grown up. Just as Rusty begins to question whether he’s shortchanged Mia by raising her in such isolation, their world is shattered by wildlife gone mad. Squirrels, birds, deer, wolves, bears, and other creatures have become aggressive and determined to kill Rusty and Mia–but the aggression isn’t the hardest part to comprehend, it’s the fact that they’re all dead. Strand drags us at breakneck speed through a sequence of events that would be horrible under the best of circumstances; but miles into the woods without any hope of salvation nearby, these are far from optimal conditions. Scott Thomas’s narration captures the wry wit of the two protagonists even as they grow increasingly exhausted and violated as the narrative progresses. The quality of the narration never took away from this being a Jeff Strand story, and that’s something to be proud of.
Unbortion begins with a trigger warning sensitive readers will be remiss to ignore. What follows that warning is a description of a late second-trimester surgical abortion procedure, including vacuum aspiration. Skipping past that scene will not spare the reader much, but it will potentially relieve them from the depiction that might be a specific trigger. From there, Rowland Bercy Jr. takes the reader on a most peculiar and revolting adventure as the discarded and dismantled fetus, tethered by loose nerve fibers, drags itself through the city in search of the host who rejected it. Initially mistaken for spaghetti by a homeless man digging through a dumpster, our vengeance-seeking fetus attempts to take up residence in the man’s abdominal cavity, only to discover it’s an inhospitable place before forcing its way through his rectum and continuing its journey. It gets weirder from there. In the end–despite the revolting details and the absurdity of the concept–Unbortion is a tale of rash decisions made out of fear, the unbreakable bond between a mother and her child, and forgiveness. The anti-abortion sentiments underpinning the narrative made me think that Rowland has missed an opportunity by not pushing this book on the most vocal and ardent members of the anti-abortion crowd. For all of its extreme horror elements, I can’t help but suspect that he could manage to find a ready and willing audience for this book in a subsection of that demographic. I could even imagine a world wherein some of those people would push to have copies of Unbortion sitting in the waiting rooms and lobbies of places where abortions are conducted, in an attempt to change the minds of those intending to undergo such procedures. I’m only half-joking about that because he could be sitting on a virtual gold mine there. While I’m not in the anti-abortion camp myself, that doesn’t make this any less enjoyable or the underlying message any less poignant.
Adrian had a spectacular night on a date with Mike, who might be the man of his dreams. His life might be changing, and he’s feeling a sense of optimism when he arrives home to find an unexpected package at his front door. Fearing a basket filled with venomous snakes, Adrian instead discovers that his life is indeed going to change, but in wholly unexpected ways. The gray-skinned, tiny-horned baby with violet and silver eyes is nothing Adrian could have anticipated. Nevertheless, he finds himself immediately in love with the peculiar child and desperate to protect her. As a gay man, he knows precisely how cruel the world can be to those who aren’t like everyone else. Shut away from the outside world, devoted to caring for his unexpected daughter, it still doesn’t take Adrian long to learn that Abigail has a strange effect on people. Deciding it’s time to stop dodging Mike’s calls, Adrian hopes the doctor and potential lover might be able to answer the numerous questions he has regarding this bundle of joy. Daemon Manx manages to surprise readers with a twist that’s so subtle in its build-up that no one is going to see it coming. It’s a challenge to craft such a surprise in so few pages, but Manx pulls it off admirably well. The reader will find themselves wondering how they could have missed something so huge, only to wonder why it’s such a colossal revelation in the first place. For a story that focuses so heavily on preconceived notions, it’s a spectacular feat that Manx forces the reader to evaluate their own preconceived notions by the time they reach the end.
Abigail is a short fiction nominee for the 2022 Splatterpunk Awards taking place at KillerCon Austin 2022 in August.
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.
When his teenage daughter disappears, Offi–former Officer Standish learns he will do anything to find her. In his search he will plummet to lows he’d never dreamed possible, braving trials that test the limits of his imagination and his intestinal fortitude. How far would you go to save the life of your only child?
Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’m bringing you a story that should make you hold your loved ones closer, treasuring family. I don’t want to spoil anything, because I delve into the backstory surrounding what motivated me to write this one in the Author’s Notes at the end of the story…but in the midst of this, you’ll encounter the snippet I’d set aside to share as part of the KillerCon 2021 virtual convention. Sadly, I opted not to dive right into the depravity and that decision did me no favors.
You can find this Godless exclusive short by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
Billy and Jeannie are definitely not Jack and Diane. They’re not the sort of couple Mellencamp would immortalize in song. It’s more likely they’d be immortalized by a band like Cannibal Corpse, preferably before the departure of Chris Barnes. Billy Silver is a junkie and an alcoholic, a guitarist and singer, and an all-around degenerate. Despite all of his flaws, and there are many, he’s also captivating and occasionally funny. Within the first few pages, you’ll come to loathe him. That sensation never quite disappears, even as you begin to feel a small amount of sympathy for him along the way. With his life falling apart even worse than it already had, Billy finds his way into a tattoo parlor where the mysterious Talia pays him to obtain a new piece of ink under the pretense of needing practice before the shop officially opens. It doesn’t take long before Billy’s self-destructive nature takes on an altogether more horrific and direct manifestation. Daniel Volpe captures Billy and the other characters who populate his dingy, filth-riddled corner of existence with such detail that you can almost smell the halitosis and urine as the story carries you along. Volpe brings the streets and back alleys of the city to life in crushing, grimy detail that is further enhanced by the narration provided by John Wayne Comunale. These two men together provide us with something as splendid as it is awful. I’m glad I’ve snagged more audiobooks narrated by Comunale because he is not only an excellent writer but a truly amazing narrator.
Originally written in 2015 as a futile and frustrated attempt to write a piece of short erotica, the story took on a life of its own and became something altogether unpleasant and not suitable as erotica.
I’ve revised, rewritten, and returned some previously censored content to the story and released it on Godless for only $0.50.
Amy’s expectation of a relaxing summer of housekeeping at a theme park hotel is shattered as guests and staff alike are overcome with carnal desires that cross all lines of decency. Can she escape with her sanity intact? Can she even make it out of the hotel?
Check it out for yourself at http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app on your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
A friend of mine brought a Kickstarter campaign to my attention months ago. Upon checking it out, I absolutely had to get on board. It was to be a graphic novel showcasing a variety of Texas-based comic and literary talents in an anthology setting. Since a lot of my favorite indie authors and small presses are based out of Texas there was no way I wasn’t going to support this campaign. My digital edition of Texas Horror arrived just a few days ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We begin this anthology with Kitchen Witches: Origin of the Ramen Witch, brought to us by Halo Toons. A late-night visit to a convenience store becomes something unexpected as a cup of ramen in the microwave behaves in a way that defies any conceivable safety precautions. Aerobicide: Blockbuster night, written by David Doub with art by Terry Parr, takes on a harrowing adventure that arises from a simple attempt to return some videotapes. You’ll find references to horror video rental royalty throughout this brief but entertaining escapade. Demons In the Darkness: Part 1, written by David Doub, with letters by Daniel Chan and art by Dominic Racho, tells the story of a group of outcasts getting together for a night of tabletop role-playing after a rough day in school. As the story unfolds, an in-game ritual to purge some of the negativity from the real lives of the players might turn out to have some real-life consequences. The Texas Horror Writers Showcase brings us flash fiction from some of my favorite writers in the industry today. John Balitsberger shares a tale of the famed Goatman’s Bridge and the sacrifices people will make to unlock secret knowledge. Lucas Mangum tells us the story of a camping trip gone terribly wrong in a story of beautiful flowers and mental illness. Wile E. Young brings us back to the world of Salem Covington (of The Magpie Coffin) from a different perspective. And finally, Max Booth III brings us a strange tale of gardening and family that will leave you wondering “What the fuck,” just as much as the father in his story. Luna Vino, written by Mike Howlett and drawn by Howard Kelley, takes us to a manor where, no matter how unexpected the night might turn out, losing one’s favorite wine might be the worst thing that could happen. Finally, Mask It or Casket, written by David Doub with art by Miguel Angel Hernandez, shares a poignant tale of the current pandemic. In this violent clash of ideological perspectives taken to extremes, it’s difficult to consider even one’s own side correct, though it’s hard not to sympathize with the antagonist’s frustration. All in all, this is a great sampler of the fantastic horror-themed art coming out of Texas. It’s certainly added some names to the list of creators I’ll want to keep an eye on.
Though the campaign for this project has been over for a while, readers might be interested in some additional details. I’ll include the link to the Kickstarter below: