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The Monster Librarian Presents:
Reviews of Horror Non-Fiction
Below are reviews of non-fiction that have a horror theme or horror elements to them.
Witches: The Absolutely True Story of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer*New Review
National Geographic Books, 2011
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition, Audible
American history is often presented to children in a writing style that can best be described as bloodless. Even the most dramatic, gruesome, and horrifying events of our past are frequently boiled down to a recitation of bare facts, with bland descriptions and illustrations in written-for-school informational texts. With this kind of presentation, it’s no surprise that many kids have no interest at all in history.
That’s not the kind of writing you’ll find in Witches: The Absolutely True Story of Disaster in Salem. The story of the Salem Witch Trials is one that could naturally inspire a child’s interest, even with the dullest writing, but Rosalyn Schanzer brings the story to life. Using quotations and abridgements of original source materials that vividly describe the times in which the trials took place, and the events that led to them, Schanzer uses contemporary language to construct a well-constructed, concise, and fast-paced story, describing the personalities and possible motivations of the major players. Stark and simple artwork makes a powerful impact on the reader. Schanzer’s black, white, and red scratchboard illustrations are complemented by a font for the text that suggests an antique document, drawing the reader back in time to experience horrified fascination.
Witches: The Absolutely True Story of Disaster in Salem is a 2011 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Book, has won an award for its artwork, and has made a number of “best books” lists. More importantly, Schanzer has dished out a sensational story that illustrates the best of historical research for her young readers. Highly recommended.
Review by Kirsten Kowalewski
Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, Volume Two by S.T. Joshi
PS Publishing, 2012
Horror is a popular genre right now; it seems as if people cannot get enough. But many fans forget that there is a long history behind the latest Stephen King or Anne Rice release. Horror did not begin with Carrie or Interview with the Vampire. In his nonfiction release, Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, S.T. Joshi explores the early origins of this thing we call horror fiction.
His work opens with a discussion of what he calls the titans of the genre: Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and M.R. James earn this distinction. Joshi argues that these four writers “transformed supernatural literature in as profound a way” as Poe had done in the prior century. They created the next block in the foundation of what would become the horror literature of the twentieth century, and inspired Lovecraft and his disciples as the decades progressed.
Following his discussion of the “titans”, Joshi addresses major themes and topics in horror in a chronological order through the twentieth century. He traces the evolution of the ghost story, horror poetry, and weird tales; and, of course, Mr. King gets a nod in the last decades of the period.
This is an excellent examination of horror in the twentieth century. Any scholar of the genre will dig into this with relish. The difficulty for a non-scholarly reader is the assumed body of knowledge. As with any scholarly work, Joshi assumes his readers are well-versed in the traditions of the 1800s. This is where horror truly began. One cannot speak of Machen or Blackwood without understanding Poe, Henry James, Mary Shelley, Sheridan Le Fanu, and others who defined the Gothic Era. Since this is a work focusing on the twentieth century, this earlier period is addressed through indirect references and commentary. Having that body of knowledge, it was not a detriment to me, but it is something to consider when approaching this volume. For those who are not familiar with the supernatural, Gothic, and horror literature of the 1800s, I strongly suggest reading Joshi’s first volume in this series.
Horror is often dismissed as genre not worth reading in literary circles. Joshi reminds us that this is not accurate at all. It has a long literary tradition and there are modern authors (far more than just King) who have taken the mantle and pushed the boundaries even further. For those interested in where their favorite authors really came from, this is a must read. Highly recommended as a wonderful addition to any scholarly library.
Reviewed by: Drake Morgan
Dark Directions: Romero, Craven, Carpenter and the Modern Horror Film by Kendall R. Phillips
Southern Illinois University Press, 2012
ISBN 978-0809330959/ASIN B008JV3Z1S
Available new paperback/Kindle E-book
In Dark Directions Kendall R. Phillips analyzes select films of George Romero, Wes Craven and John Carpenter, and gives cogent arguments as to the common themes in each director’s films and how they explore issues of repression, transgression, violence and anger related to the second Golden Age of the American horror film (1968-1982). Phillips demonstrates how certain films of these directors emerged in an era of filmmaking where movies were becoming more brutal and cynical toward the society, culture and politics they mirrored.
The book is divided into three sections, each one devoted to how each director set out to bring their vision to the movie-goer. Phillips’ analysis of Romero’s films deals with his focus on the body—more specifically what she calls the “unconstrained body”. She argues that Romero’s zombie films demonstrate an external threat to cultural and societal norms of repressing primal urges, and the zombie represents the failing of that repression coming back to haunt us. The anxieties have changed movie to movie—the Cold War in Night of the Living Dead (1968), and consumerism in Dawn of the Dead (1978), for example—but the images of the repressed resurfacing remains throughout. Phillips also points to this focus of the struggle of the body from an internal perspective in films such as The Crazies (1973) and Monkey Shines (1988), and then carries the body focus of the mythic foundations of life and death, chaos and order in films such as Martin (1976) and Knightriders (1981).
The section on Wes Craven shows his exploration of the gothic, but in a modern way, relevant to today. The gothic deals with the fine line between the world of day, which is ordered and rational and the world of night, which is full of illusion and madness and how that line is blurred allowing the two to overlap. Craven also brings the gothic to modern technologies and how those technologies that are supposed to help connect us to the world can be a portal to evil entities. Phillips uses Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), New Nightmare (1994), and the Scream (1996-2011) franchise to demonstrate his use of the gothic and how there are intersecting lines between humanity, technology and the supernatural. Phillips also writes on films such as The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), The People Under the Stairs (1991), and even his early works The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977).
The final section of Dark Directions focuses on the films of John Carpenter and how his work is influenced more by the Westerns of Howard Hawks and John Ford as opposed to earlier horror films. This leads Carpenter’s focus to be on the frontier, but in reverse. In classic Westerns, the frontier is a line between civilization and the wilderness that must be conquered so society can continue to push forward. The reverse is what Phillips calls the “desolate frontier”, where the space between civility and the wild represents civilization retreating, allowing the darkness and evil to get back what it lost. Films that demonstrate this desolate frontier include Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Escape from New York (1981), and Village of the Damned (1995). Carpenter also uses the theme of the siege of the tragic past coming back to haunt the present in such films as Halloween (1978), Prince of Darkness (1987), and Ghosts of Mars (2001). One final aspect to Carpenter’s films that relates to the Western and the frontier is the drifter-hero, who can be seen in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Escape from New York (1981), Escape from L.A. (1996), Vampires (1998), and They Live (1988). Like the classic Western hero, they represent disillusionment; they are also almost always male and engage in self-sacrifice to save what is in danger.
Phillips draws it all together to point out that all three men are still influencing horror films today, and how that can be seen in the slew of remakes of these directors’ films. She cleverly points out how the remakes are generally vapid, containing none of the deeper meanings and themes, and focus strictly on the violence and action.
I absolutely loved this book. I am a huge horror film fan and a writer on film, myself and Kendall Phillips’ insights have changed the way I view horror films as well as reinforcing my own search for a deeper meaning to these genre films—as well as upholding my general hatred of remakes. Phillips has laid out her arguments in a well-written and coherent manner that will have horror film fans nodding in agreement. If you are a horror film fan I strongly suggest picking up a copy of Dark Directions. Highly recommended,
Contains: descriptions of violence in horror films
Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund
The Undead and Theology edited by Kim Paffenroth and John W. Morehead*New Review
Pickwick Publications, 2012
Available: Paperback and e-book
The Undead and Theology is a collection of essays analyzing the connection between undead creatures and how they represent aspects of theology in various modes of popular culture. The definition of “undead” has been broadened to include not only zombies and vampires, but other undead monsters, as well. Essays include “Fire, Brimstone and PVC: Clive Barker’s Cenobites as Agents of Hell” by Andrea Subissati, about the Hellraiser canon; “When All is Lost, Gather ‘Round: Solidarity as Hope Resisting Despair in The Walking Dead” by Ashley John Moyse, pointing out nihilism and a reason to exist in a world gone to hell; and “Eat of My Body and Drink of My Blood: Johannine Metaphor, Gothic Subculture, and the Undead” by Beth M. Stovell, on the subculture of the Goths.
Editor Kim Paffenroth’s own essay “Apocalyptic Images and Prophetic Function in Zombie Films” demonstrates how modern zombie films resemble biblical prophets. For example, he points to Romero’s critique of society in Night of the Living Dead as similar to the prophet Jeremiah’s warnings. Paffenroth also denotes the similarities between the films and Revelations warnings that life or death is not humanity’s only source of value.
“When You’re Undead, the Whole World is Jewish” by Arnold T. Blumberg, describes the Golem, a creature of Jewish folklore in the Eastern European tradition, that is neither alive nor dead. The Golem is fashioned from earth or clay, much like Adam was by God, and only a Rabbi, saying the proper incantations can awaken the Golem to do its job to protect the Jewish people. Blumberg points out that the Golem does appear in the Bible in psalm 39 while Adam is discussing his unformed limbs. Since the Golem’s purpose is noble, Blumberg explains its reflection of a theme of hubris; life can only be imbued by God.
“Zombie Walks, Zombie Jesus, and the Eschatology of Postmodern Flesh” by John W. Morehead is a fascinating analysis of the rise in popularity of zombie walks and the zombie Jesus’ rise as a parody of Christian belief. Morehead discusses how the apocalyptic imagery, both religious and secular, reflects society’s suppression of the knowledge of its own mortality. He argues that death is sanitized in public and at funerals so the “horror” of the zombies is our coping mechanism.
Jessica DeCou’s “The Living Christ and the Walking Dead: Karl Barth and the Theological Zombie” is an interesting look at The Walking Dead as told through the viewpoint of a survivor. “The Vampire that Haunts Highgate: Theological Evil, Hammer Horror, and the Highgate Vampire Panic in Britain, 1963-1974” by Scott Poole looks at the true events sparked by the British Evangelical movement and its overtones in Hammer’s Dracula, which caused rampant church/graveyard desecrations at the time.
“Vampires and Female Spiritual Transformation” by Vicky Gilpin focuses on characters in a series of books by Laurell K. Hamilton titled Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. It was well-written, but having never read the books, it didn’t hold my interest as much as the other essays. Also a bit less interesting for me was Jarrod Longbons’ “Vampires Are People Too: Personalism in the Buffyverse”, as I was never a fan of the series.
Overall The Undead and Theology is an extremely intriguing read for those of us horror fans who can’t seem to get enough of the undead creatures we love the most, focusing on the “why” for society’s fascination on all things undead. Highly recommended.
Contains: descriptions of violence (both real and fictitious) and horror
Reviewed by Colleen Wanglund
Dragonslayers: From Beowulf to St. George by Joseph McCullough
Osprey Publishing, 2013
Available: New and E-book
Jason and the Argonauts by Neil Smith*New Review
Osprey Publishing, 2013
The Myths and Legends series from Osprey Publishing is off to an intriguing start. Many of the books available on myths and legends are written for children, and even books written for an adult audience are usually collections of myths. There are few titles I am aware of that are written for the general adult audience with an interest in exploring these stories in detail. The Myths and Legends books do a nice job of compiling and organizing information from a variety of primary and secondary sources, and presenting it in a coherent way. The books are durable and the pictures are attractive and will appeal to younger readers, but the print is small and the books are written at the reading level expected of a high school senior. The books were published in Britain and contain some British spellings that may be unfamiliar. Those who finish and enjoy these books will be a highly motivated group.
Volume 1, Jason and the Argonauts, tells a legend about the sea voyage of a group of heroes , searching for the Golden Fleece, headed by Jason of Iolcus. The myth of Jason and the Argonauts is based on a long epic poem, the Argonautica. Author Neil Smith provides a prose description of each of the four “books” of the Argonautica. For readers interested in the story but not in trying to sort through the various translations, this is a good choice, although Smith’s “straightforward” approach means much of the story is pretty dry reading (by the last book, the writing is a little more engaging). Although Smith starts off by explaining that the Argonautica is one of the few non-archaeological pieces of evidence from the Bronze Age, there are few mentions of history, background mythology, or physical evidence that might give context to a story that in many places seems to be mainly a list of names and places. I especially would have liked to learn a little more about Tim Severin’s modern journey, which is mentioned very briefly, and how it compared with the original. A high point of the book is its design. It has plenty of white space and places illustrations on the pages in interesting ways that complement rather than distract from the text. There are a variety of well-chosen artworks and documents from different interpretations of the story, from a seventeenth century map to photographic stills from the 1963 Ray Harryhausen movie. There are original illustrations throughout, including both lush landscapes and frightening creatures (the harpies are terrifying). The book also includes a bibliography. While it doesn’t necessarily need an index, I would have benefited from the inclusion of a larger map with the events and stops of the voyages marked. While the storytelling isn’t inspiring, it is a beautiful book that would make a great reference. Jason and the Argonauts definitely fills a need.
Volume 2, Dragonslayers: From Beowulf to St. George is a compilation of stories that includes many well-known heroes with elaborate stories, such as Beowulf and Hercules, with primary focus on their role as dragonslayers . Saints and British dragonslayers, especially St. George, receive plenty of attention as well. While the main focus is on dragonslayers in the European tradition, the book also has a chapter including stories from other traditions. Joseph McCullough has written an engaging text which summarizes the stories and describes the search for historical verification. He provides both context for the stories and cultural references. The design is well done, and illustrations that include both artistic representations over time and vivid color illustrations by Peter Dennis. Although McCullough does a nice job of referencing his sources in text, and provides a bibliography for those interested in further reading, the book could have benefited from an index. To be clear, though, this title addresses nonfictional accounts of dragonslayers. While it could potentially be a reference for gamers, it is not the Monster Manual, and those looking for a book about dragons in fiction, or their care and keeping, will need to look elsewhere.
These books both contain stories with some very dark events, and they may appeal to some horror readers, but they don’t provide the emotional gut punch that most expect. I think that’s especially a shame in the first book, as the horrifying story of Medea has lost most of its power due to the writing style. However, the Myths and Legends books are a great tool for writers hoping to take advantage of mythological material, and the dragonslaying book, in particular, is fascinating and would be a great addition to any dragon lover’s collection. High school, public, and undergraduate academic libraries all could benefit from having these as reference resources less dry than Bulfinch’s Mythology but a little more complex than Dorling Kindersley can supply. Highly recommended.
Contains: violence, gore, brief nudity in artwork
Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski
The Dark Tower Companion: A Guide to Stephen King’s Epic Fantasy by Bev Vincent*New Review
New American Library, 2013
Available: Hardcover, paperback, and e-book
The Dark Tower Cycle is Stephen King’s magnum opus – an epic dark fantasy contained in eight novels and a novella. The ‘Cycle’ also leaks over into many of his other books and short stories; so that it can be argued King’s entire canon is Dark Tower-centric. We all know King’s popularity with readers but many have yet to be exposed to this complex tale – so much so that many readers would benefit from a Guide to the series. The protagonist is Roland Deschain – a sort of gunslinger knight from a fallen empire on a quest to save the central hub of the Universe from destruction. Along the way he gathers a group of followers and we learn more about the flawed hero as each novel passes.
Robin Furth, a former research assistant for King, has previously published a work closely aligned with defining each character, place and things like social aspects of Mid-World (the setting for Roland Deschain’s search for the mysterious Dark Tower) – Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance, Revised and Updated.
Bev Vincent, author of The Road to the Dark Tower, takes a different tack – explaining each novel and related story in a clean, easy to follow narrative style. Allied to these are a number of small chapters dealing with such things as Roland’s enemies and a fascinating section about settings from our own world (there is a definite transfer between Roland’s world and ours).
The book will be a boon to new readers, as well as those who are familiar but find some of the complexity and what King admits are loose ends daunting. There’s even an interview with King, in which he reveals some interesting background. Possibly less useful to the average reader but of value to Dark Tower junkies is the Dark Tower artwork section (each book has ‘Artist’s Edition’ featuring exquisite imaginings of many characters and the Dark Tower itself); although the section on the many graphic novels the series has spawned will be particularly useful in libraries carrying that popular form.
Libraries should benefit from carrying this book in two ways. Firstly, it will assist new and even seasoned readers of the Dark Tower Cycle to a better understanding and enjoyment of the tales. Secondly, it should help those who haven’t dabbled in the King of Horror’s fantasy master work to decide whether to jump in and borrow those novels and graphic novels and commit to the series. Vincent has a clear eyed commitment to providing these readers with a portal into Mid-World and its never ending reading pleasures.
Reviewed by Rocky Wood.
Rocky Wood is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of Stephen King: A Literary Companion and other works. He lurks at www.rockywoodauthor.com
Werewolves of Wisconsin and other American Myths, Monsters and Ghosts: A Graphic Novel by Andy Fish
McFarland Publications, 2011
Available: Trade Paperback, E-Book
Werewolves of Wisconsin and other American Myths, Monsters and Ghosts is a stand-alone graphic novel by Andy Fish. It’s drawn in the traditional color schemes of Marvel and DC horror comics, and I found it quite compelling. Baron Saturday is our narrator and guide, taking us on a ghoulish road trip of America. At each major stop, we learn about an unexplained phenomenon, horror story or myth that took place in that spot. Much of it is real, some of it is secondhand and unverified. Every story, however, is delightfully scary.
I found the story of Dogtown – a town overrun by wild dogs to be really good. I also enjoyed the story of the nurse at the mental hospital. Finally the title story – “Werewolves of Wisconsin” – is very effectively creepy, especially the last part with the old lady and her dog. If you like U.S. History, or just like a good creepy story, this graphic novel is for you. It comes highly recommended to fans of Americana, werewolves and the undead.
Contains: violence, gruesome images
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
Stephen King: A Literary Companion by Rocky Wood
McFarland and Company, 2011
Available: Trade Paperback, Kindle ebook.
Stephen King: A Literary Companion is a stand alone, non-fiction book. It serves as a guide to everything Stephen King wrote up to 2011. I found Mr. Wood’s work very compelling. He really does a marvelous job at not only explaining every aspect of Stephen King’s books, but in his cross-references. He effectively matches up books with movies and television adaptations. Take IT as an example. Not only does he clearly discuss Pennywise, the heroes, the time and place, but he links it all to the television miniseries.
This is an excellent book. I would highly recommend it for fans of Stephen King. For anyone who is just curious about the stuff that Stephen King writes, and wants a general introduction—a ‘how do you do’ of sorts-- this book will provide it. I will say after reading it, I definitely wanted to crack open at least a few Stephen King books again. Highly recommended for Stephen King fans, and anyone who is curious about his work.
Contains: Adult Situations. Descriptions of Gruesome Imagery. Profanity.
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
Everyone Loves a Good Trainwreck: Why We Can’t Look Away by Eric G. Wilson
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2012
Available: Hardcover, Kindle
Everyone Loves a Good Trainwreck: Why We Can’t Look Away is a stand-alone piece of non-fiction. In this smart, knowing, and well-researched book, Eric Wilson examines two important topics that people really don’t address often enough: death and suffering. Nothing is taboo here; he discusses everything from great psychologists and their issues, to writers, to dark movies and songs… the list goes on. “Elephant Graveyards” is an especially fascinating chapter. Each chapter in this book is short, and easy to read. It’s quite well written and will captivate in a way that only truth can.
I am placing a blanket recommendation for this book. To not read this book, and avoid thinking about death and suffering and our place in this world, is to deny one of the things that makes us human. While there may be some who would never, ever touch a non-fiction book (I know, I was one of them for a while) I strongly urge you to give this one a try. It will be worth your while.
Contains: Macabre Images, Adult topics
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
The Painter, The Creature, And The Father Of Lies: 25 Years of Non-Fiction Writings by Clive Barker, edited by Phil and Sarah Stokes
Earthling Publications, July 2011
What can be said about Clive Barker? He is the master of all things fantastical, an artist of countless trades, and a pioneer for horror as we know it today. Stephen King knew the groundbreaking path being laid out before us prior to ever having read a single word of Barker’s. If you didn’t realize this little horror fiction trivia fact, then The Painter, The Creature, And The Father of Lies is ready to tell you of this and so much more.
He is witty, he is raw, he is real, and he is beautifully dark. Phil and Sarah Stokes have performed an amazing feat of sifting through Barker’s personal correspondence, letters, notes, and unpublished works to provide us a glimpse intimate glimpse into Barker’s life history. Interlaced within the collected writings are showpieces of Barker’s own stunning illustrations, which give visual life to his profoundly lyrical language.
This collection of works is an absolute must have for any library’s horror collection. Clive Barker fans will be expecting it on the shelves, and likely demanding it, should it not be there. The question libraries will need to answer is whether to shelve it with Barker’s other works, or in the non-fiction section. My suggestion? Start with an amazing display showcasing all of his works with a combination of literature, movies, and art if you can swing it.
Recommended for public library non-fiction collections.
Reviewed by: Kelly Fann
In the Footsteps of Dracula by Stephen P. Unger
World Audience, Inc.; 2 edition, 2010
Available: New and Used
A must-read for any fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Stephen Unger's travelogue is a wonder. Rich with detail and compiled in an easy-to-follow format, the author opens up the world of the fictional Count and the historic Impaler for all to read. Filled with fascinating photographs, each step of Unger’s journey is carefully chronicled. I can scarcely imagine a Stoker fan who would not be enchanted by this book, not to mention feeling quite envious. With the novel Dracula as his guide, Unger traverses Romania and gives the reader an intimate look into Stoker's fiction, but beyond that, he also explores the areas in which Stoker wrote and did his research, providing a full and complete picture of the author, his work, and the historic accounts on which he based his fiction. There are minor inconsistencies and inaccuracies found within, but the studious will overlook these and revel in a journey few of us could ever undertake for ourselves. Ideal for genre fans and a wonderful addition to any library's travel section, In the Footsteps of Dracula is suitable for both private and public collections.
Reviewed by: Bob Freeman
The Anatomy of Evil by Dr. Michael Stone
Available: New, used & digital (multi-format)
Prepare for a journey though the dark side with today's most widely recognized forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Stone. After years (and hundreds of killers studied) Stone created the Graduations of Evil Scale, and this book is his explanation of the process. The Anatomy of Evil is intense, featuring many profiles of killers, and none of the ones you'd expect. There are no Bundy, Gacy or Dahmer profiles here. And the focus doesn't stay on serial or mass killers at all.
Stone doesn't give a text book regurgitation of facts, but also adds theories on how religion, media and social influences what our ideas of evil are, and how these notorious (often unrepentant) killers fit into that. The Anatomy of Evil is THE definitive work on killer psychology and likely will remain so for a while to come. It also tackles the difficulty of defining evil itself, the causes, effects and way society can deal with it. Stone's style, while academic, is not beyond the understanding of the casual reader. The book is an incredible read, infinitely fascinating and should be a mandatory part of every public collection. Its research value, be it to writers or budding psychiatrists and law enforcement, or just people trying to understand the motives of those around them, is immense. While Stone handles the horrible details without allowing the book to become profane or gory it is a difficult read just because of the depths of the depravity it explores. But Stone handles the rough subject matter with delicacy and skill, and most of all composure, that most would struggle with.
Contains: descriptions of true, horrifying criminal acts including torture, rape and murder
Reviewed by: Michele Lee
Writers Workshop of Horror edited by Michael KnostWoodland Press, 2009
Imagine a college writing class where each day a new, experienced writer shuffles in, lectures the class on a new aspect of storytelling and writing, then walks away without another word, leaving the budding writers to digest and utilize the information as they like. Or perhaps two writers walk in, one interviewing the other, leaving students privy to what seems like intimate, insider knowledge. This is Writers Workshop of Horror, a comprehensive collection of essays on the writing process, each with a different style and voice, all merely
suggesting to the reader how things might be done. It is a quiet relaying of information and experience, with no distractions, no argumentative interruptions and no demand to follow exactly in the teacher's footsteps.
Writers Workshop of Horror has a lot to offer to new and even experienced authors, without the drama or distraction of a traditional writing class or workshop. Each author's voice comes through with strength and clarity. Priceless information and experience, not just for horror writers, but for writers in general, sits on these pages. More helpful than most how-to writing books out there (as long as you can tolerate sometimes gruesome examples of storytelling concepts), this book is an essential resource for all libraries wishing to support writers, whether hobbyists or pros. Highly recommended.
Review by Michele Lee
Shadows Over Florida by David Goudsward and Scott Goudsward
Bear Manor Media, 2010
David Goudsward and Scott Goudsward have once again delivered a fantastic resource for fans and researchers of the fantastic and macabre. As in their previously released Shadows Over New England, Shadows Over Florida takes a similar approach, providing a fun-filled tour of the Sunshine State from a horror perspective, particularly for fans of the horror movie genre. The Goudswards have collected a plethora of arcane knowledge, and are especially adept at shining a light on the independent filmmaking that went on in the State. Shadows over Florida is a “must-have” title for libraries and for anyone who is a fan of horror or who is planning a Florida vacation and eager to visit areas not found in the local tourist attraction guides.
For private or public collections.
Review by Bob Freeman
Horror Isn't a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing and Appreciating the Genre by Matthew Warner
Guide Dog Books, 2008
Available: Pre-Order (September,2008)
Horror Isn't A 4-Letter Word is a collection of nonfiction essays by Matthew Warner, primarily culled from his Horrorworld.org column, “Author’s Notes.” Warner is an engaging writer, unapologetic about his love affair with the horror genre, as in “I’ll Have One Large Blood Shake and a Side Order of Stereotypes, Please.” Warner also includes some fun fan-geeky stuff like the serviceable“10 Fun Things I’ve Done As a Horror Geek.” His self-deprecating style adds humor to some writerly, and very human moments, both of which can be found in the hilarious “Audition.” Warner has also written several intelligent articles critically analyzing writing in the horror genre. “Message vs. Medium: The Agenda of Left Behind” is a completely fascinating look at the Christian horror of Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins. Warner also includes several articles on the craft of writing and public relations. His essay on public speaking, “Conquering America’s Greatest Fear,” will be invaluable to writers presenting in all kinds of venues, including schools and libraries. Several other essays also provide information on the craft of writing.
The book’s main flaw is its fragmented feel, as the “fan” columns, anecdotes, critical essays, and articles on writing are randomly ordered instead of grouped in a way that would allow readers to find the kind of article they are looking for. Additionally, readers may find themselves getting bogged down in Warner’s nearly 30 page ramble, “My Summer With A Book Doctor.” Overall, though, Horror Isn't A 4-Letter Word offers up an entertaining nonfiction potpourri with a writer’s personal and critical perspectives on writing and the horror genre. There are few published books that provide this kind of content and approach in the horror genre, so this book is a welcome addition. Horror Isn't a 4-Letter Word has the potential to reach a wide audience, from lovers of horror fiction to first time readers seeking an inside look at the genre, from students of popular culture to curious teachers and librarians. Highly recommended for large public libraries.
Contains: language, references to the supernatural, references to child molestation, references to infanticide, drinking, drugs, guns, references to pornography
Review by Francesca the Librarian
Shadows Over New England by David Goudsward and Scott T. Goudsward
David and Scott Goudsward have delivered a fantastic resource for fans and researchers of the fantastic and macabre. Shadows Over New England is an exciting and thrilling map through the frightening landscape of the real and imagined. It’s all here… the Salem Witch Trials, Lizzie Borden, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and on and on through the dark heart of America’s genesis. You will spend hours of blissful enjoyment flipping through this book as it takes you through all six states that make up New England… their histories… their legends… and the fiction that captured the underlying horror of this seemingly idyllic region. A must-have title for libraries and for anyone who is a fan of horror or who is looking for some unusual stops for their next trip to New England. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Review by Bob Freeman
Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man’s Quest to Live in the World of the Undead by Paul Bibeau
Three Rivers Press, October 2007
Paul Bibeau starts Sundays with Vlad with a description of his honeymoon- a trip to the original home of Vlad the Impaler in Romania. Frankly, I’m surprised his wife didn’t divorce him. It’s clear that Bibeau is a fan- personally invested in exploring the many facets of Dracula in literature, history, politics, and popular culture. Each chapter examines a different take on the Dracula theme. Bibeau’s writing is lively and conversational, and readers will be drawn in by his enthusiasm. Although Bibeau just touches the surface with some of the subcultures he describes, most people will be surprised to know they even exist. The author doesn’t shy away from the darker side of his topic, either. Sundays with Vlad is a fascinating, addictive book. Readers should be prepared to be entertained, educated, and, in some places, deeply disturbed. Highly recommended for general nonfiction collections in public libraries.
Note: Sundays with Vlad is a non-fiction title.
Contains: descriptions of arson, violence and murder, suggestions of impalement, blood drinking, and vampirism.
Review by Francesca the Librarian
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