It begins with an illegal street race in a virtually empty, forgotten corner of Virginia. With a thundering rumble of engines breaking the silence of the cool night, Beauregard “Bug” Montage pushes his Duster to victory. The winnings from this one race will be enough for Bug to keep his garage open for another month, but the arrival of a couple of fake police officers shatters any hope he had of keeping himself afloat. With bills piling up, his loan on the garage past due, unplanned expenses arising, and the business he and his cousin, Kelvin, used to count on diverted to a competitor’s garage, Bug finds himself in a desperate situation. He and his wife had both hoped he could put his former life behind him, where his skills as a mechanic and his skills behind the wheel had been instrumental in making him a wheelman as capable as his father before him. But when legitimate avenues fail him, Bug feels compelled to look for alternatives. The unexpected arrival of a former associate could be fortuitous, or it could lead to disaster, and greater trouble than Bug anticipates, but with the clock ticking, what choice does he have? S. A. Cosby provides a gripping narrative of high stakes and high speed, propelling the reader through a southern noir tale that never lets off the gas until it reaches the end of the road. Populated with characters who feel as real as anyone, Blacktop Wasteland is–at its heart–a study on identity and the conflict between who we are vs. who we want to be. It’s a story about the struggle of escaping one’s past and inherited behaviors, while the whole world seems dead set on forcing everything into that mold. Sure, this is a heist story, but there’s more to it than that. Blacktop Wasteland will not disappoint readers who are searching for a thrilling crime novel, or gearheads searching for a book that lovingly captures details of both the world under the hood and behind the wheel, but it should also appeal to those seeking an engrossing character study. Adam Lazarre-White’s narration couldn’t be more perfect if the book had been written with his voice in mind. He deftly tackles the emotion and depth of the characters while lending a smooth baritone delivery of the magnificent prose laid out by Cosby. I knew what to expect after listening to the equally fantastic audiobook for Razorblade Tears, and yet I was still stunned by just how amazing these two men managed to create something hauntingly beautiful when working together.
Setting the stage and whetting the appetite for his upcoming novel, Addicted To the Dead, Shane McKenzie’s Like A Brother provides readers with a tantalizing glimpse of a world where the dead don’t stay dead and organized crime is going strong–perhaps stronger than ever before. We join Donnie, a member of Sal’s crew, just after another crime family interrupted a funeral and spirited away Calico and the object of the funeral, Beauty. Sal is planning to attack, and take back the people who were taken from him. But his enemies aren’t done yet. Barely surviving the bloodbath that ensues, Donnie struggles to reach his family and the families of the others who’d just been murdered, but he might be too late. Will Donnie have the strength to take revenge and perform the rescue that Sal’s crew had intended before they were all but wiped out? Will he ever see his friend–his almost brother–Calico again? McKenzie introduces us to a world of casual, excessive violence and a thriving black market built on the nourishment provided by an unsavory meat supply with unique characteristics. After reading this story, you’ll surely be addicted as well.
You can pick this up for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
If you can imagine the natural outcome of the much-maligned ninth installment of the Friday the 13th series, Jason Goes To Hell, you’ve got some idea of what you’re in for with Reincarnage by Ryan Harding and Jason Taverner. With the titular Agent Orange, Vietnam Veteran turned slasher extraordinaire, we have a masked, seemingly immortal serial killer who routinely returns to slaughter people who make the mistake of venturing into his territory. The government knows he exists, and they know they’ve found no way to stop him in his murderous rampages more than temporarily. The only solution is to evacuate the region and build a fortified perimeter around the region Agent Orange inhabits. Patroled by military personnel tasked with killing him, again and again, to keep him contained within the walls, the perimeter isn’t perfect but it’s all that separates Agent Orange from the outside world. Taking a page from Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, Harding and Taverner imagine a culture of “stalkers” developing; brave or insane souls who venture into the kill zone for memorabilia, or for the sake of saying that they survived crossing into Agent Orange’s territory. At the point when Reincarnage takes place, Agent Orange has become as much a part of pop culture as Charles Manson or Jason Voorhees. Books, video games, and collectibles of all sorts proliferate the world the authors introduce us to. When eleven people wake up in an otherwise abandoned hotel, it doesn’t take long for them to realize they’re on the wrong side of the walls, with no idea how they got there or why they’ve been deposited in the last place any of them would want to be. Conspiracy theories abound, but answers are harder to come by. Maybe, if this band of survivors could find the time to catch their breath and think things through, they could discover why they’re in the ghost town of Morgan and who would want to leave them there; but the number of survivors is steadily diminishing, and staying still for too long only invites disaster. Will anyone stay alive long enough to discern the truth? Will anyone escape? You’ll have to read it to find out. This edition of the book includes additional material focused on another group of survivors venturing through the kill zone simultaneously, with no better fortune favoring them.
You can obtain this edition of the book by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
When Allison Decker is shot and killed in a senseless act of violence, her husband’s life is irrevocably changed. But the true extent of his life’s transformations doesn’t begin until he discovers something seemingly innocuous in a box of his wife’s belongings from work. A receipt from a motel in a small town he’d never heard of, from a trip he didn’t know Allison had taken, is all it takes to send Aaron down a path he’d never have imagined possible. Worried that his wife might have been cheating on him, Aaron begins unraveling the threads of a double-life Allison was leading, and infidelity might have been a relief. Instead, Aaron finds himself stumbling along in the footsteps of the woman he’d married but hardly knew. The truth of Allison’s activities will uncover lies and horrors Aaron could never be prepared to face as he stubbornly and desperately struggles to understand the woman he loved and lost. In the end, we’re forced–along with Aaron–to acknowledge that we might indeed be guilty of haunting ourselves. Malfi crafts a well-orchestrated mystery that leaves the reader guessing right up until the conclusion. As we join Aaron Decker on his journey of discovery, we’re left reeling with each new revelation alongside the protagonist, forced to question how well we ever know someone and how dark the depths of one’s character might be. Joe Hempel’s narration of the audiobook is superb, and he captures the confusion, fear, and frustration Aaron feels as he persists in his fool’s quest to solve a mystery Allison may have already solved before she was tragically unable to fulfill her life’s mission.
A little competition can be a good thing. Whether it’s your hobby or occupation, rivalry can be a healthy motivator to push yourself to excel. It’s perhaps a bit less healthy when talking about two serial murderers leapfrogging over one another to produce a more gruesome and intricate tableau, but who are we to judge? The night can be dangerous, but it’s so much worse if you happen to be a secondary character concocted by the combined imaginations of Whiston and Ericmore. Whether we’re talking about power tools, sex toys, or construction equipment, these two will find a way to utilize it in the most gruesome manner possible. Am I talking about the characters or the authors? Is there a line that separates them? Much as their respective characters seek to outdo one another within the narrative, the authors of this deliciously violent story compete the perpetrate increasingly cruel and vicious acts on the page. It must be said that these two work well together in that respect, as any reader will be delighted to discover. But is it possible that one of these killers is more than they seem? Is there a grand design of malevolent intent taking shape before our eyes? You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out.
You can obtain this title for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device. The link is below:
The Professor delivers more than we could have hoped for with his epic poem, Vanitas. With this Robert Browning-inspired poem, he manages to create a vanitas of sorts. Both in the narrative conveyed within the poem and from the reading of the poem itself, the reader is subjected to a consideration of the contrast between life and death. Subtle nuances in the still life painting of his wife send a Duke down meandering and shadow-cloaked pathways within his bitter and jealous imagination. As the Duke becomes increasingly certain the Duchess has been seduced by the painter, he determines that there might be a bit of artistic sensibility in himself as well. Was the Duchess scampering through the maze, seduced by whispering promises of what the artist would give her if only he could? Did seeds of this infidelity take root in the soil of her heart where they germinated, decaying the love for her Duke? Perceiving this rot inside her, the Duke had only one course of action. Of course, it’s always possible the Duke is simply a madman driven to extremes by a jealous nature and bitter envy of the painter’s skill. The truth is something we might never know. Could this latest release from The Professor serve as a prequel of sorts to the Browning poem, My Last Duchess? Are we reading the sordid details of what transpired before Browning’s poem begins? The Professor may be revealing to us the telltale unfaithfulness captured in the Duchess’s slight blush, sending the Duke reeling toward horrific conclusions with fatal consequences. I, for one, choose to accept this as a canonical antecedent.
Vanitas can be obtained by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your preferred mobile device. The link is below:
Scud Lake is not the sort of town you want to find yourself stumbling upon in your ventures, and Welcome To Scud Lake provides readers with ample evidence supporting that. When a cross-country bicyclist goes missing, the GPS from her bike leads her significant other, Eric, to the front door of the Lurcher brothers’ home. Interrupting their dinner turns out to be a grievous error on his part, though I suspect it wouldn’t have turned out any better for him if he’d arrived at any other time of day. The Lurchers seem like the type who would take exception to the intrusion no matter when it happened. Imagine The Texas Chainsaw Massacre if Leatherface had a twin brother, and you’ll have an idea of Huel and Jed’s dispositions. They’re just a whole lot more chatty than the aforementioned chainsaw-wielding maniac. Go a step further and imagine that Leatherface was the runt of the family because Huel and Jed have a younger brother, Trapp, who makes them both look like children. This is the environment where Eric finds himself, and there’s little chance he’ll find his way out of the trouble he’s gotten himself into. At least he’ll see his fiance again. Clarke’s story is a fantastic introduction to the world of Scud Lake, a place of horror and depravity, where none of the residents are likely to be what one might consider decent folks. Though we only catch a brief glimpse of what life is like in this backwoods horrorshow of a town, it’s a tantalizing glimpse that makes the reader want to experience a return visit. It’s certainly better to visit on the page than it would be in person.
A second Scud Lake story can be found in Best of Indie Horror: Extreme Edition from KJK publishing.
This title can be procured by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
After the unexpected loss of her mother, Jamie gets a fresh start in a different home and a new job. Things are going well for her. She’s studied and worked hard, moving up and working in an elderly care facility where she’s hoping to build a career for herself in nursing, daydreaming of leaving town someday. Until then, things seem good. She’s made new friends with a couple of her coworkers, and Jamie built a rapport with some of the people she provides care for at the facility. One patient, in particular, means a lot to her, and it’s a sad reality of her occupation when Elizabeth passes away. It’s a gift her patient leaves behind for Jamie that could be the cause of the misfortune about to befall her and her two girlfriends, but that same gift might be her salvation as well. Jagge’s writing draws the reader in as she first spins the tale of Jamie’s childhood and her life before the loss of the final member of her family before introducing us to the new life she’s found in the nursing field. A protagonist who seems like a genuinely sweet and kind young woman, it’s almost heartbreaking to know that this story will take a dark turn at any moment. In that, Jagge does not disappoint. Jamie’s almost tranquil life takes a sudden turn as one night as she’s leaving work, she’s swept up in a nightmare of drugs, greed, brutality, and murder. Only by coming to terms with a different sort of nightmare will Jamie make it through the night, and she has the tools available to her in the strangest form one might imagine.
You can find this title for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
Michael is the final Smalls brother to make our acquaintance in Ash Ericmore’s Smalls Family series, and he’s the core around which this whole sequence of events has orbited. It’s Candyboy’s thriving drug enterprise that rubbed the Eastern Europeans the wrong way. Coming together after what happened to Bod in the previous installment, the Smalls brothers could have ventured out en masse to take their bloody and brutal revenge on the Eastern Europeans; but Candyboy feels responsible for what’s already happened, and it’s up to him to set things right in a truly Smalls fashion. Michael Smalls will torture, degrade, and dice up anyone and everyone who stands in his way as he searches for the man calling the shots. Ericmore, perhaps recognizing how profoundly Backy has wormed his little baby way into our black hearts, delivers more baby action with this volume. And, while there is no baby armor this time around, the little ones find a way to fly into the midst of the action just the same. As we reach our agrarian climax, Ericmore pulls out all the stops with Candyboy destroying everyone and everything in his path, using whatever he has at his disposal, including farm implements. This story is a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to what will hopefully be one of many Smalls Family series. Not that there should have been any doubt.
You can find this title as well as the other Smalls Family stories at http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
There is no question why S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears made it to many national publications’ best of 2021 lists. This novel rests near the top of my list of best titles published in 2021 as well, especially when I focus on non-horror titles. 2021 was a good year for crime and suspense literature. Stephen King released Billy Summers, Kristopher Triana released And the Devil Cried, and S. A. Cosby released the absolute masterpiece Razorblade Tears. Neither Ike nor Buddy Lee were great fathers when their sons were alive. Between recurring stints in prison and their prejudices about the fact that the boys were gay, in large part informed by antiquated perspectives on what it meant to be a man, the two men had driven substantial wedges between themselves and the sons they loved with reservations. It was only after the two young men were murdered that either father allowed themselves to embrace the sons they’d shown far too little affection when they were alive. Isiah and Derek, the interracial married sons, are like ghosts at the periphery of the tale Cosby weaves for us. They haunt the two men we come to admire, despite all of their faults, at the core of this novel. Had Ike and Buddy Lee been able to overcome their ingrained bigotry while the boys had been alive, the two would have met years before the funeral, but that was not who the two men were. It turns out that the meeting of these two vastly different–yet strangely similar–men would be a fateful occasion that would lead to more bloodshed than either of the men could anticipate. As the police investigation into Isiah and Derek’s deaths stalls out, Buddy Lee approaches Ike with a proposition that the two of them might have better luck taking matters into their own hands. Unraveling the mystery behind the brutal murder of the boys will force the two ex-cons to confront their pasts, their preconceived notions, and their concepts of love as the trail leads them through Hell and back before bringing them closer to home than they could’ve imagined. The regret and retribution at the core of this book are at turns heartbreaking and viscerally satisfying. Most important, Cosby doesn’t shoehorn in any ersatz redemption for Ike and Buddy Lee because both men are so damaged and broken that redemption, in the sense that many writers would define it, simply wouldn’t make sense. That is not to say there’s no redemption here; there is redemption in these pages, but it’s the hollow sort that arises from the transformations coming far too late for it to make any difference. Witty dialogue, well-crafted characters, and realistic portrayals of race relations, homophobia, and the difficulty associated with escaping a criminal past fill this novel with so much depth and honesty that it would be impossible to convey in a review. All I can say is that anyone delving into this book will come out the other end with an understanding that they didn’t have when going in. Adam Lazarre-White’s narration for the audiobook is phenomenal. The additional character he brings to both Ike and Buddy Lee with his delivery of their dialogue is something that weighs heavily in favor of the audiobook edition of this novel because there’s such life and depth added to the characters with that extra texture.