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The Monster Librarian Presents:

Reviews of Fiction with Human Monsters and Psychological Horror

Books involving human beings as the source of terror can be some of the most terrifying around. Whether you believe it reveals that darkness of the reader's soul or the causes the reader to question the people around them. Many of these books are going to be too intense for young readers and should be recommended with caution when recommended in readers advisory.

Return to Horror Fiction List.


Hot In December by Joe R. Lansdale*New Review

Dark Regions Press, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1626410145

Available: Paperback and Kindle edition



        I was very excited to read this novella by master writer Joe R. Lansdale. If you are not familiar with his work, you should be. Not only is he a great wordsmith and storyteller, he has written in a variety of genres: Southern Gothic mysteries, Westerns, crime thrillers, and horror.  Lansdale always has little throwaway lines that make you laugh, like Elmore Leonard did. Lansdale, however, has his own gritty and hilarious East Texas feel to all his books.


        This is a good time to get on board, as new films based on his work are coming your way, including The Bottoms, written and directed by the duo behind the criminally underrated horror film Frailty, and Cold in July, starring Dexter’s Michael C. Hall.


        Hot in December is a companion piece to Cold in JulyCold in July is a great short novel, and Hot in December is an equally quick and fun read. Lansdale establishes characters with skill, and builds the suspense almost from page one. I think he could have written a much longer book and I would have been along for the complete ride. Nonetheless, 105 pages is a perfect quick read, and Lansdale fills every page with tons of story value. I loved it and think you will too. Highly recommended.


Reviewed by David Agranoff



Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

Jo Fletcher Books, 2013

ISBN: 978-1623650865

Available: Hardcover and e-book


        Evil is creeping into the gaslit streets of Victorian Age London, in this decidedly different historical horror novel. Bodies are turning up in the downtrodden sections of the city. Yes, Jack the Ripper is afoot, but there’s more to the story. There's a second killer on the move here, the Torso Killer, who is leaving behind pieces of his victims wrapped neatly like parcels to be delivered to a butcher shop. One thing is consistent-- the heads are missing from all of the women.


        Sarah Pinborough has been a rising star over the course of the past decade, from the imaginative horror of her debut, The Hidden, through the adult retelling of fairy tales in a quartet of novels, to her brilliant Dog-Faced Gods trilogy. Toss in a few YA books, and writing for television, and you have a Renaissance writer in a genre that needed more fresh blood.


        Pinborough sidesteps the traps that befall most Victorian or Ripper tales with the deftness of her storytelling. The maturity which she has shown in her recent novels flourishes here, as her London becomes one of the major characters, with its atmosphere of stifling fog and claustrophobic quarters, paving the way for the inhabitants to elevate Mayhem into a tale of suspense, mystery, and horror.


        Dr. Thomas Bond, a noted police surgeon, heads the cast of characters who delve into the darkness to solve the mystery of the gruesome killings. He realizes that it is more than the notorious Jack who is carving up the females in the city's underbelly. Bond, however, is addicted to opium and reality battles with his hallucinations when he meets up with a priest who seeks out the darkest sins in the world to exorcise. The two team up when Bond isn't helping the police, yet the walls truly close in when the truth might be a little too close to his own world.


Pinborough plays the story well, as the supernatural may or may not be a factor, but the true evil is perception of man and society in a city pushed to the edge by fear.

Highly recommended for fans of horror, mystery, historical fiction, and thrillers, this is an intelligent novel that deserves strong attention when talk of awards begins this year.

Reviewed by: Dave Simms


The Venus Complex by Barbie Wilde
Comet Press, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1936964444
Available: Perfect paperback, Kindle edition 


        Are you looking for something a little different? Tired of the typical serial killer novel? You might want to check out The Venus Complex by Barbie Wilde.
Barbie Wilde is known for her role in the Hellraiser movies as a Cenobite, one of Hell's minions who doles out pain and pleasure with Pinhead, so it’s no surprise that she delivers something a bit out of the ordinary in story form.  Her short story "Sister Cilice," which appeared in the Hellbound Hearts anthology, themed around the mythology by Clive Barker which spawned the Hellraiser franchise, opened plenty of eyes. Subsequent stories proved this was no fluke.

        An accomplished dancer, cabaret performer, and actress, Wilde has traveled the world to fill her mind with experiences which seep into her stories.  Now, Wilde has written her first novel, cutting deep into the reader’s psyche in a manner which will linger long after the final page is turned. This evidence of her talent is something that could keep a therapist in business for quite a while! 
After an introduction by Paul Kane, readers will discover that instead of typical narrative structure, Wilde has chosen to venture into straight journal format, painting such an intimate portrait of the main character that it feels almost too close for comfort--a real accomplishment. Wilde introduces us to Professor Michael Friday as he contemplates the floaters in his eye, distractions he has decided to coexist with, and, possibly, the first step in his journey into darkness.  His therapist has suggested he begin a journal, the vehicle for this novel. Michael has agreed to the therapy and embraced it, noting that by peering within he notices that he is much more than he imagined.

        Almost immediately, Michael relates the night he killed his wife in a car crash that almost took his life as well: the first step to freedom. Michael is incredibly self-aware of the darkness within him, and chooses to investigate that side of his personality, but not without thought or planning. His killings occur organically, from reflecting on life's worst ordeals that the everyday person must endure, then realizing that he doesn't have to sit back and accept this as gospel. 
What ensues could be compared to the tales of other cerebral murderers.  Hannibal Lecter, Dexter Morgan, and Patrick Bateman all would feel at home in the confines of The Venus Complex, as Michael Friday mirrors them in his own manner, while remaining a unique character himself. 

        Entry by entry, Wilde guides the reader into Friday’s world as he evolves not just into a stone cold killer, but one who is highly charged, sexually.  The scenes of eroticism begin as fantasies, but quickly sink into depraved vignettes that ignite the character and charge him further in his mission. What could easily be considered gratuitous is saved by Wilde's keen eye for detail of what excites the human libido and darker mote hidden in our vision.
As Michael travels from victim to victim, seeking his transformation and his freedom from both society's constraints and his own, the reader will find him or herself eagerly following, in a voyeuristic journey into a world of darkness that might just make one smirk in delight as he or she can almost feel him whisper his journals in an ear.

        A definitely different book but one which will undoubtedly find a big audience for those who are ready to cut open the ordinary and dig deeper.
Recommended for adult readers of serial killer narratives, explicit violence, and erotic horror.

Reviewed by: Dave Simms



A Cold Season by Allison Littlewood

Jo Fletcher Books, 2013.

Available: Hardcover paperback, and Kindle edition

ISBN-13: 978-1780871363


        Sometimes a horror tale with a retro feel can be a good thing.  Sometimes breaking new ground isn't necessary for a story to be a solid scare and good yarn.  Allison Littlewood's debut, A Cold Season, is just that: a taut novel set in a bucolic little town set off from the main population where the locals just aren't what they seem to be (Wicker Man or Rosemary's Baby anyone?).   But that isn't a complaint - the author crafts a fine piece of work here that many writers would be proud to own.  She takes hold of many familiar aspects of horror classics and makes them her own with a distinctive voice. The setting itself becomes the best character. The winter of the town, the town itself and all of its history and beings, buildings and people, imprison the reader in a wonder of a ride that is wholly enjoyable.


        Cass sets off on the first step of her new life with her son, Ben, after the death of her soldier husband in Afghanistan.  She drives him to the quiet town of Darnshaw, a place where she spent time as a child herself, to set up her home and business in the "mill," an odd apartment building with few residents, if any, and a history of its own.  Upon entering the town, during the first of many increasingly smothering snowstorms, she finds a woman on the side of the road and drives her home, thus ushering her and her son into their new life by taking the first of many chances. The "stranger" turns out to be a key player, as the mother of one of Ben's new friend, and like many of the friendly townspeople, she seems to be holding something darker within. Cass’ own father had a past in Darnshaw, and held Cass to standards she could never reach. So she attempts to embrace their new life, which includes Ben's new school, with its handsome but quirky headmaster, soccer-mom-ish friends, and the old-but-knowing neighbor with an ornery dog.  Again, sound familiar?  After Littlewood sets the table with her fine narrative, though, the reader will likely feel him or herself trapped in an ever- tightening embrace of atmosphere which feels too accomplished for a first novel.  It's highly unsettling in the best way.


        Of course, readers will draw comparisons to other novels, but Littlewood takes bits and pieces of those and makes them entirely her own.   As Ben begins his descent into behaviors far removed from his personality, Cass gives her all to keep a hold on her son.  Is it his coping with his father's death, the influence of the town, or just the disintegration of the family dynamic?  The author weaves these themes into the tension of a small town with an agenda that will not be denied.


Recommended for any fans of good, classic horror.  Allison Littlewood will likely be around the genre for quite awhile, and horror readers will be thankful for her arrival.


Review by David Simms



The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn

Thomas and Mercer, 2012

ISBN:  9781612184456

Available:  Kindle edition



        Andrew Morrison, age 23, is leaving home. He has cared for his alcoholic mother since he was a boy, and he just wants to get away.  He has contacted an old neighborhood friend, Mickey Fitch, who is now living on Magnolia Lane, and it promises to be a new start for Andrew.  He and Mickey will reconnect, and it will be just like old times.


        When he moves in, though, he finds Mickey lives in a real dump of a house, and Andrew wishes he could live in the house next door, which belongs to Red and Harlow Ward, and looks like something out of "Leave It To Beaver".  Harlow takes a liking to Andrew, and soon she's making him cookies and inviting him over.  But the Wards have a secret, Harlow has her own needs, and she thinks that Andrew can fulfill them.  Andrew may learn the hard way that what you see is not always what you get.


        This book draws you in right away.  I felt for Andrew, who simply wants a chance at a better life, and a mom who loves him.  Once things get going, there is no way for Andrew to stop, because stopping would be more dangerous and life threatening than continuing a friendship with Harlow Ward.  It also shows that everyone has secrets-- some people just have worse secrets than others.  Recommended for adult readers.


Contains: bloody violence, dismemberment, mention of drugs and alcoholism, incest, adultery.


Reviewed by Diana Lord


I'm Not Sam by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

Cemetery Dance Publications; 1st Hardcover Edition edition, 2012

Sinister Grin Press, Trade Paperback, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1587673535

Available: Hardcover, paperback, and e-book

        Jack Ketchum has quite a reputation in the horror field. He has earned praise from Stephen King, who called the him the "scariest man in America". Many of his novels have been turned into films, including The Girl Next Door, The Woman, Red, and The Lost. Ketchum has accumulated a quartet of Bram Stoker Awards (two for short stories and another two for collections). I'm Not Sam, Ketchum’s second collaboration with Lucky McGee. will be Ketchum's shot for a fifth Stoker in the long fiction category. 

        Ketchum's not always easy to read. He can crawl into the reader's soul and take hold of everything that is held dear, all that is feared.  His prose embraces the reader, whispers sweet nothings, and then when the first sign of comfort is sensed, he sucker punches him or her to gut, kicks the kneecaps, and twists the heart until the tears flow.

        Lucky McGee has directed May and The Woods, as well as Ketchum's The Woman and Red, bringing his own brand of visceral storytelling to life, making him a perfect creative soulmate for Ketchum.

        I’m Not Sam follows the success of The Woman, their first collaborative endeavor, but the writing for this novella does not resemble either author’s typical style. If the reader is seeking blood and gore to accompany the strong emotional impact within these pages, he or she might be disappointed--for a brief moment.

        The story is deceptively simple. Patrick and Sam have a strong marriage. Patrick is a cartoonist, while Sam’s career veers toward the darker side: she is a forensic pathologist. One day, she returns home to wash away the experience of her most recent case with her husband.  All seems well--until morning breaks. Sam awakens but no longer answers to that name, She emerges as a little girl, five or six years old, cognitively. Her personality and her memory of Patrick are gone. Doctors find nothing wrong with her and Patrick, devastated and confused, is determined to bring herself back to reality without the help of a therapist. The ending cuts deeper than any steel, and the short story which follows the ending, "Who’s Lily?" festers within the mind like no other weapon can.

        I'm Not Sam shows a different side to these writers, but if one has experienced the novel Red or seen May, the reader will not be surprised. Well, maybe just a bit.  Recommended for fans of all genres.

Review by David Simms 

Scraps of Paper by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Author's Edition, 2013


Available:  Amazon Kindle



     Abigail Sutton is going through a tough time in her life.  Her husband was unexpectedly killed, and she has lost her job as a graphic artist at a local newspaper.  Deciding it is time to make a change in her life, she moves to a small town named Spookie, and settles in to an old home, a fixer-upper. The previous owner, Edna Summers, had been an elderly recluse, who passed away with no known heirs.  Edna's younger sister and her two children, had lived there at one time, but had left or disappeared thirty years before, without a trace.  As Abigail redecorates her new home, she wonders about their fate. Then she finds a scrap of paper written by one of the kids that reveals a tale of fear and abuse of their mother by an unnamed man.  Unable to let it go, she asks some of the local folks around town what they remember about the family so many years before.  She meets Frank, a retired Chicago police detective and they begin to dig into the mystery. As more scraps of paper are discovered, more questions than answers surface.  The local newspaper runs a serialized story on it, and the whole town gets involved.  Most people are eager to help.  Someone is not.  Threatening notes, vandalism, break-ins, and theft escalate to a life-threatening car chase before all is revealed.


     This suspenseful tale of a small town disappearance was a lot of fun to read.  The author does a great job of weaving small town life into the ongoing thread of the mystery.  The characters are well developed, and each has a distinct voice.  I really enjoyed how the suspense built up during the course of the story.  The plot kept you wondering to the end without getting too convoluted.  The only criticism I have was more a stylistic issue, as some of the word choices were unfamiliar to me. However, story still worked well.  I have not read any of Kathryn Meyer Griffith's work in the past.

Recommended for adult audiences.


Reviewed by:  Aaron Fletcher


The Wooden Box by Steven Lloyd

Biting Dog Publications, 2013


Available:  eBook (Kindle)


     This is the tale of the final days of Nora and Mack Grainy and their mule Minnie.  It starts with Mack working on a smooth pine box in the barn.  He finishes up for the day and recalls life with his wife, Nora.  Cancer is eating her alive now, but in the past they had the time of their lives.  His memories drift in and out until Nora calls to him with the question, “Done with my box?”  Mack's response, “Why you in such a hurry to die, Nora?  I want you around for a bit.”  That seems to say it all.  As time moves on, more memories surface between the two, such as a row over weeding the flower beds, and the best of times when they would dance the night away.  In the meantime, Mack continues to works on the box, with Minnie for company.  Finally, he puts the finishing touch on the box.  Just for Nora, he inscribes it with words from the Bible.  Happy that Nora likes the completed work, Mack prepares for what they must do...


     A bittersweet story, wonderfully told, it called into my mind the question, “What would I do?”  The ending caught me a little by surprise as I didn't really get the sense of Mack's last actions until he did them.  The themes of love and loss carried throughout the story and set the tone well.  The final paragraph was a really nice touch.  The only issue I had was in the first page or so, when I think there could have been better transitions between the present and the memories of the past.  As written, they were a bit disorienting for me.  All in all, though, The Wooden Box is a wonderful tale.  I have not read any of Mr. Lloyd's previous works. Recommended for adult readers.


Contains:  Occasional swearing


Reviewed by: Aaron Fletcher




Blood Cult of the Booby Farmers by Peter N. Dudar

Novello Publishers, 2013

ISBN: 9781626203921

Available: New paperback


The Tuckers live in a small community, where they run a broken-down farm, and are facing foreclosure from the local bank. But the Tuckers’ farm holds a secret and it has everything to do with conjoined brothers Mathias and Bubba.  For years their older brother Tobias and father Lee have kidnapped pregnant women to keep Mathias and Bubba fed, burying the bodies out on the farm.


Nelson Gray, vice-president of the bank, has plans for the Tucker farm.  He plans on buying it cheap for himself and his pregnant wife Betty-June.  Nelson makes a fateful trip out to the farm and is discovered snooping around by Mathias, who takes Nelson to see the rest of the family.  Tobias is then sent out to kidnap Betty-June and bring her home for Mathias and Bubba.


Things spiral out of control one hot, steamy night when circumstances—and a new fertilizer—conspire to end the Tuckers’ way of life.


Peter Dudar’s novella reads like an exploitation film showing on Times’ Square in its heyday.  Don’t let the title fool you.  This is an obscenely dark story that I couldn’t stop reading.  The Tuckers are a scary, inbred family, reminiscent of Leatherface and his twisted kin. Every time I pictured Bubba stuck on Mathias’ chest, I saw Belial in all his hideous glory.  The characters are well-written—Lee is the epitome of a mean and contemptible person and Mathias has the mind of an overgrown ten-year-old with the carnal desires of an animal.  Tobias has obediently obeyed his father over the years, but feels jealous of the attention that his brother gets.  You almost feel sorry for this idiot because he is a product of his environment—almost.  Nelson just about gets what coming to him; he thinks rather highly of himself and his position as bank vice-president.  His wife Betty-June is probably my favorite character.  She is under no illusions of who she is or of her place in the pecking order and she fights like hell to save herself and her unborn baby.   Betty-June and Tobias are similar in that their surroundings and upbringing define who they are.  However, where Tobias seems trapped, Betty-June is able to change her circumstances.  The twist at the end is one I never saw coming and absolutely loved.  I don’t think Blood Cult of the Booby Farmers could have ended any other way and still held its impact.  This is one book that you seriously need to add to your horror collection. Highly recommended.


Contains: graphic sexual situations and violence, blood and gore

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Strangers by Dean Koontz

Penguin Group, 2002


The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee

Samhain Publishing, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1609286705

Available: New and Used Paperback, Kindle ebook


        The Lamplighters starts with a down-and-out loser looking for her next place to stay, when what appears to be an ideal way to restart her life drops into her lap.  The opportunity is to work for a corporation, tending house as a lamplighter for a member of the wealthy social elite.  The conditions of her employment are that she has to agree to drop out of society for a year and live on a remote island paradise, with no contact with the outside world.  Once there she discovers that her new employer may have left out a few important details.    Paradise is not without its rules, and there is an iron-fisted security chief to enforce them. who is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain the rules and the secrets they are designed to keep.

        Mr. Lee has a great setting and starts out this tale very well.  The author's bio mentions that he is a filmmaker, and this story reads like a horror movie, with lots of setup and establishing of a setting and mood only to flip it on its ear with something very violent and bloody.  The tension builds slowly as you discover how wonderful and gradually dull being a servant in an island paradise to an absent billionaire could be.  Add the other two island servants, the small police force and a mysterious island stalker to the mix and it is only a matter of time before conflict arises.  This works pretty well until about two-thirds of the way through the story when the conflict should hit a revealing high note.  Instead, the story bogs down.  In addition, while writing itself was good, I felt that the author sometimes went too far out of his way to avoid repeating a descriptive word or phrase, instead using some word that most would need a dictionary to understand.  Also, there is a new character suddenly introduced who turns out to be a tool for misdirection.  While there is a decided twist and originality to the plot, it just didn't have the clear reveal that I like in a story.  In the end I was left wondering what was the point to the story and I was just glad it was over. 

Contains: graphic gore, violence

Reviewed by: Aaron Fletcher      


Contains: Graphic sex, Gore, Adult Language


Reviewed by: Aaron Fletcher





Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

William Morrow; First Edition edition, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0060004873

Available: New, Used, and E-Book


Dennis Lehane has yet to write a bad book, and Live by Night may rank as one of the author's best novels yet. Set in the smoky haze of 1926 Boston, it is reminiscent of Boardwalk Empire, crossed with The Shawshank Redemption.


Joe Coughlin, the son of a police chief, begins life as a petty crook, attempting to carve out his niche in the underbelly of the burgeoning world of organized crime. Joe loses what he believes to be the love of his life, wallows in prison, and faces enemies and betrayals from unexpected directions. After his release, he goes to work for the enemy of his enemy in Latin-ruled Tampa. Prohibition rules the town, as it does much of the country, yet even that offers a mortal foe for Joe as he builds his empire on the backs of blood, whiskey, and revenge.


Live by Night sings in a dark voice as it lures the reader into three worlds, each with its own horrors. Joe's nightmare is always pending, on the periphery, when it is not facing him with death, either his own or those few he holds close to him. As he rises to prominence as the owner of nightclubs and reluctant king of Tampa, darkness grows around him. Lehane paints a blackness, an abyss which he drags the reader into without effort, as the tale of tragedy repeatedly threatens to deliver Joe with another piece of happiness that Lehane's world can rip from him.


While not nearly as bleak or horrific as Shutter Island, this novel hits more on a personal level; Joe is the everyman's hero and criminal. Highly recommended. One of the best books of the year 2012 in suspense fiction.


Review by David Simms




Life Rage by LL Soares

Nightscape Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1938644030

Available: New and E-Book


        If Life Rage is a sign of things to come, we might have an heir to the great Richard Laymon. If you craved the violence, sex, and mayhem of the late master, Soares takes the baton and beats you over the head with it (that's a good thing).


        Sam Wayne is a psychologist who specializes in anger management. There's definitely something off about Sam, something going on underneath the surface.  He has an odd connection to a killer who may or may not be a patient of his.


        A madman is wreaking havoc across town, tearing through victims, tearing them apart.  He is exactly the type of patient Sam could help, yet somehow, the psychologist is the one more affected. The manner in which he deals with his patients, and how he himself is altered, is entrancing.


        The sexual element to Life Rage flies high and hot here, with Colleen and Viv, two characters who fall prey to the rage, in very different ways. Sex rules their lives, and one of them is feeding off of the action in what may be a supernatural manner, or something simply evil.


        Add up all of the ingredients and you have a Stoker-worthy first novel that will titillate many readers. Pulse-pounding in many ways, Life Rage is well worth the read. Highly recommended.


Review by David Simms


Tyler's Third Act by Mick Garris

Cemetery Dance, 2012

ISBN: 9781587673016

Available: Limited Edition


        Tyler, a pissy, out-of-work screen writer, has quite a chip on his shoulder. Upset about the modern attention span and fading power of movies (and ignoring the potential of recent movie qualities contributing to him being out of work while also crowing his fame for working on cheesy, two-bit TV series) he's determined to find fame again, no matter what. So he sets up a killer webshow as the final act in his personal story.

Short and bristly, this story feeds directly into the readers who love a good bloody tale with lots of snarly, mad-at-the-world bitterness. Recommended for horror-loving collectors, but public collections will find the limited edition form pricey for their shelves.


Contains: gore, language, sexual situations

Reviewed by: Michele Lee



Blood Related by William Cook
Black Bed Sheet Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-0985882945

Available: new paperback

        Caleb and Charlie Cunningham are twin brothers who each inherited a serial killer’s pathology.  Their father was a suspected serial killer and their mother was insane, a drunk, and possibly an accomplice.  After Charlie goes to prison and their father commits suicide, the full truth of the Cunninghams’ legacy begins to present itself and Caleb turns his bloody fantasies into reality.

        Blood Related is told primarily from Caleb’s point of view, in the form of journal entries given to the forensic psychiatrist who handled Charlie’s case.  There are also news stories and police reports to support Caleb’s claims about his family.  The story is graphic and the brothers are violent and relentless, although at times I found myself wanting to like Caleb.  The characters are well-developed and tremendously disturbed.  William Cook has written a frightening story that poses the question “is it nature or nurture that determines the birth of a serial killer?”  The only issue I had with the book was that at times I was confused as to the timeline of events.  Blood Related is not for the squeamish, but for readers of extreme horror, I highly recommend it. 

Contains: graphic violence, gore and sexual situations

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Shady Palms by Allen Dusk

Carnal Morgue Press, 2012

ISBN: 9781478270775

Available: Paperback


At Shady Palms, a cheap motel on the outskirts of San Diego, there are more shady dealings than FBI Agent Jack Daniels can detect at first. There are terrorists plotting to blow up the country; hookers and drug dealers conducting business; cameras broadcasting unsuspecting guests’ sordid acts over the internet; and a demented innkeeper that rivals Sweeney Todd. All that pales in comparison, though, to the nightmare of an insect infestation gone awry. Into this den of iniquity walks the new housekeeper, Mary, on work release from prison. She needs to make this job work to get her son back from his cruel father. Lucky for her, Special Agent Daniels is on the case.


Shady Palms is a brash romp through the seamy urban side of life. Not for the very young, its violence and erotica are graphic. And you may never be able to stay in another motel again in your life. Yet the characters – the Indian motel keeper, the housekeepers, the hookers, and the exterminators- have that quality of getting you intrigued and hooked. While the author succeeds in his hopes to scare and repulse, he is also highly entertaining, and I can’t help but hope for another shot of Jack Daniels in the future.


Contains: graphic sex, violence, gore


Reviewed by: Julie Adams




In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami (translated by Ralph McCarthy)

Penguin Books, 2006 (original pub 1997 in Japan)

ISBN 0-14-303569-X

Available new and used paperback


Kenji is a nightlife guide in Tokyo.  His job involves taking tourists to the sex clubs in the Kabuki-cho district.  Frank, an American, has hired Kenji for three nights.  Kenji finds Frank to be a very strange man, and begins to imagine him as the killer of a teenage girl whose body was found raped and mutilated in the sex district.  Kenji relays his thoughts to his girlfriend Jun, but decides he’s going to continue as Frank’s tour guide, despite his reservations.  On their second night out, Frank kills the patrons of a club but keeps Kenji alive.  When Frank lets Kenji go, instead of going  to the police to report the murder, Kenji goes with Frank to a squat and listens to Frank tell the story of his life and how he ended up the killer that he is.  Frank wants Kenji to do one more thing for him—take him to hear the gongs struck on New Year’s Eve.

Much like his novel Audition, Murakami has created flawed and broken characters trying to cope with their existence.  Frank is a savage killer who feels no remorse for what he has done.  Kenji, it seems, has fallen under a kind of spell that keeps him with Frank, even when he fears Frank will kill him as well.  Jun stands as the voice of reason that ultimately helps keep Kenji grounded and saves his life.  Murakami is a master at delving into the worst of humanity, regardless of where they come from.  I love In the Miso Soup as much as I love Audition (both the novel and movie).  Highly recommended.

Contains: violence, gore, adult language and sexual situations

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund


Animosity by James Newman

Necessary Evil Press, 2011

Available: limited hardcover and ebook editions



Andy Holland is a successful horror writer, both for adults and young adults, recently divorced. He has a young daughter, Samantha, who is the most important person in Andy’s life.  Andy still lives in the same house in a neighborhood that he thinks couldn’t be more perfect; it was safe and his neighbors were friendly. Then one day, while out walking his dog, Andy discovers the dead body of a little girl.


Andy is horrified by what he sees, but manages to wrangle the dog and get back home to call the police.  What Andy doesn’t realize is that his seemingly good life is about to slowly unravel.  It begins with the police questioning him as though he may be a suspect.  It seems something from Andy’s past is now coming back to haunt him.  As time passes, the neighbors are no longer friendly and the news reports focus more on a stupid mistake made when he was young instead of the girl and her rape and murder.  They stop speaking to him and begin to take out their suspicions on his property.  Initially Andy tries to rationalize their behavior, until they kill his dog.  It seems the once friendly neighbors now believe that Andy is a pedophile/murderer….all because he is a writer of horror fiction.  I mean, anyone who can dream up such horrible things must be an evil person, right?


What strikes me about Animosity is that these are normal and generally good people, but the mob mentality sets in with a vengeance, making for a potentially real scenario and a very scary final confrontation.  The writing is wonderful and flows without a hitch, and Newman’s character development is perfect.  As shocking as the events in the story are, I could see something like this happening, especially in a small, tight-knit community.  With a revealing introduction by author Ray Garton and fantastic illustrations by Alex McVey, Animosity is definitely one to get your hands on.  And beware of the neighbors. Recommended.


Contains: violence, adult language and adult situations


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund


The Devoted by Eric Shapiro

Ravenous Shadows, 2012

ISBN: 9781607774853

Available: New paperback



            Matthew is a member of a suicide cult.  Edgar Pike is their leader.  At one time the cult had many members, but now most of the members have left, and Pike has gone into hiding with remaining eight members.  The press refers to them as the “Missing Nine”, and the police and family members are looking for them.  Pike has taken away their cell phones, but in a moment of doubt, Matthew finds his and takes it back.  It turns out that a former member has been calling, and when he reaches Matthew, he tells him the truth….that Pike isn’t some kind of messiah.  Matthew wants to marry Jolie, another cult member, and discovers a truth about Jolie and Pike that devastates him and makes his next actions clear. 


The Devoted is a scary look into how a scam artist can hold sway over people and drive them to do things they might not normally do.  Shapiro’s vision of the “Missing Nine” and their impending suicide is beautifully detailed and quite frightening.  The story itself is told from Matthew’s viewpoint, and includes diary entries from Pike which lead to a disturbing but inevitable conclusion.  The pace is steady, and sucks you into the story with an ending that is both expected but unpredictable at the same time.  The Devoted is an excellent read, if you like the dark side of human behavior. Highly recommended.


Contains: adult situations, language, and violence


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Die, You Bastard! Die! by Jan Kozlowski

Ravenous Shadows, 2012

ASIN:  B0074QKE72

Available:  Kindle and Nook


Claire left her past life as far behind as possible, and didn't want to return home when she received the call that her father had been hospitalized.  He had abused her growing up, which was the main reason she had left in the first place, but she decided to be the bigger person and went home to check on him.  Claire didn’t expect to find that she was expected to use her training as a paramedic to act as a home nurse to him until his condition improved. Nor did she expect her best friend’s suggestion that this would be the perfect opportunity for the two of them to get their revenge on the man that had abused them for the biggest part of their life.  


Intense from start to finish, this book keeps you biting your nails the entire time.  Kozlowski keeps the momentum going throughout this book, giving the reader no chance to come up for air.  Ravenous Shadows promised novellas that could "pack as much punch, personality, and plot as books three times their size" and that they did with Die, You Bastard, Die!  If I didn't have other obligations in life I would've read this in one setting easily, as it was THAT good!  This is a revenge story.  This is an extremely gory revenge story.  I don't say that lightly.  If you are hesitant to read books that have to do with revenge or contain gore, I'd pass this one by.  However, if you don't mind either of those things, make sure this one goes to the top of your must-read pile.  Trust me, it won't take up much of your reading time and you won't regret it.  I know I can't wait to read more from Ravenous Shadows and especially from Jan Kozlowski.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Contains:  Adult language, Adult Situations, Sex, Rape, Violence, Gore


Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson




The Buffalo Hunter by Peter Straub

Cemetery Dance, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1587672361

Available: Pre-order


        This latest novella from Straub is an odd choice for a stand-alone offering, but as with nearly anything from this author, the writing is strong.  The Buffalo Hunter is a bizarre little tale originally published in 2002, in the collection Houses Without Doors.  Other stories from this book have since been published as limited editions, so it's little wonder that this one was snatched up my Cemetery Dance.


        Bob Bunting is an odd character in his mid-thirties in a dead-end job with no real prospects for much in life.

Except for those in his head.


        The title refers to his obsession with the film of the same name, in which he often imagines himself, fighting the Indians and gunning down buffalo.


            But his imagination takes strange directions. He turns downs dates because he has an amazing girlfriend he mentally created when his parents ask him to visit. Something is amiss in the Bunting family that is alluded to but never touched upon in full.


            Then Bunting becomes a collector of baby bottles, drinking his coffee and liquor from them. He falls further into unreality as he builds something strange with them.  As the line between reality and imagination dissipates, Straub's story takes on the life readers are used to.  Nothing has changed, text-wise, between the original collection and this special edition but it is a fine addition for collectors.


Reviewed by: David Simms



Amazonas by Alan Peter Ryan
Cemetery Dance Publications, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-58767-233-0
Available: Deluxe collector’s edition


        It’s 1906 and Henrietta has been drug along by her husband, Edwin on an endless search up the Amazon River for “The Slave Tree.” Crown, Edwin’s partner, is guiding them deep into the jungle far beyond civilization and every day that passes sees Edwin’s sanity diminished and Henrietta begins to fear for her own safety should she be left alone with Crown.

        The oppressive heat and environment is so well described, you can almost feel it while you read. The story moves leisurely just like the Amazon River. This is a novella that could have easily been turned into a novel. The ending comes quickly given the pace of the story and leaving it feeling rushed and overly simplified. Amazonas has a wonderful premise and a great story, but just not enough development to make it a suspenseful read.
Contains: strong violence
Reviewed by: Kelly Fann



Revelation: A Matthew Shardlake Mystery by C. J. Sansom

Penguin, 2010 and Recorded Books, 2009

ISBN: 978-0143116240 or ASIN: B001UFGDFK

Available: New Paperback, Kindle, Audio


         This book was not written within the horror genre, per se. Rather, it is a murder/mystery novel that takes place in 1543, during the reign of King Henry the Eighth of England, just before his marriage to Catherine Parr. The protagonist is Matthew Shardlake, a hunchbacked lawyer who mostly practices at the Court of Requests. The reason for this review is that the fourth installment of the Shardlake series, Revelation, is in actuality a frightening and gory novel, well-written and smart in its execution, and deserves a read (or a listen) by lovers of the horror genre.

        Sergeant Shardlake, after experiencing some backlash from the royal court in the previous installment (I get the impression that this happens a lot), is trying to live a quieter life. This attempt at solitude is shattered by the murder of his friend of twenty years, a fellow lawyer named Roger Elliard. Shardlake suspects an attempt at a cover-up, and makes a vow to Roger’s widow that he will see justice done. This begins a series of events that reveal that Roger’s murder was not the first, and that there is a specific pattern to the murders that coincide with the Book of Revelation. A subplot regarding a young man interred in Bedlam for a severe obsession with his salvation just adds to the overall creepiness of the story. The reader can see the erosion of each character’s mental stability as the plot progresses; neither Shardlake nor the authorities can predict where the killer will strike, or his methods    

         Usually, a novel classified as a “horror” book either has supernatural elements or the events portrayed are so terrible and fantastic that they could be caused by a malevolent, paranormal force. The antagonist in Revelation is flesh and blood, but the terrors he constructs and the (frankly) brilliant execution of his unique fulfillment of Saint John’s prophecies is chilling. Add to this the genuineness of the characters and the vivid descriptions of London and the asylum, and you have a plot that draws the reader in and keeps him to the bitter end.

         I recommend Revelation to fans of historical novels, mysteries, and psychological thrillers who also aren’t afraid of the macabre. If you can manage it, do obtain the audio CD, performed by English actor Steven Crossley. If Revelation is a beautiful melody, Crossley reading Revelation is like the melody being played by a symphony orchestra; either way the text is splendid, but the narration of Crossley just makes it that much better. His range of character voices is amazing, and he was nominated for an Audie award for this performance.

Contains: violence, gore, frank descriptions of a 16th century insane asylum

Reviewed by: W.E. Zazo-Phillips



Wild Girls by Lisa Morton

Self-Published, 2012

ASIN:  B00777X22M

Available: New


The “wild girls” mentioned in this novella’s title are Jessie and Dens.  Jessie has had a rough life growing up and Dens has decided to take her in and try to help her out.  Little did Dens know that when she offered Jessie a place to stay for the night that her life was going to change so much.  That’s just what happens, though, as Jessie seeks out the ultimate revenge on her father, and men in general.


As a seasoned fan of Morton’s work, the contents of this book were not at all what I was expecting from her.  Yes, it included her typical tougher-than-nails female lead character, but it also included mutilation, rape, and lots of killings.  This is not her typical style, which made it a bit humorous in the sense of being able to tell that it was a bit of a jab at some of the other authors in the field that tend to write solely about these kinds of things.  However, Morton’s spin on this was that she reversed the roles, and instead of the typical dynamic of males attacking females, she wrote about the females attacking the males.  That being said, she held her own in this sub-genre of the horror industry and wrote a fun and gruesome novella.  Readers that don’t take kindly to rape and mutilation, please pass on this particular Morton title, but be sure to check out one of her other books as I promise you will enjoy this author.  For those of you that don’t mind a bit of violence and abuse in your books, be sure to give this one a try, as it’s only a $0.99 download for your Kindle. Highly Recommended!


Contains:  Adult Language, Adult Situations, Mutilation, Rape, Violence


Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson



Love Lies Dying by Steve Gerlach

LegumeMan Books, 2011

ISBN 9780987049681

Available: new paperback




John returns home from work to find a young naked woman lying on his sofa.  Zoe is a friend of John’s wife Helen who needed a place to stay.  She proceeds to tell John a whopper of a story.  Zoe and her abusive boyfriend Ricky had a major fight and she thinks Ricky may be dead.  It seems Zoe shot Ricky. She tells John that Helen, an administrator at a local hospital, stayed at work to make some phone calls and see if she could find out anything about Ricky. 


Zoe attempts to seduce John, but he deflects her advances and convinces her to get some sleep.  The next day John and Zoe discover that Helen is missing, and they fear Ricky has shown up to get Zoe back and punish her for leaving.  Ricky contacts Zoe, and she and John head to the country to try and save Helen and stop Ricky from hurting Zoe.  Thus begins the strangest weekend John has ever spent.  Zoe is not who she claimed to be.  She is someone from John’s past and now he has to figure out who she is and why Zoe is doing what she’s doing.


Love Lies Dying is one hell of a roller coaster ride, and introduces us to a most memorable character in Zoe.  She carries some deep mental scars that have turned her into an exceptionally twisted woman.  John seems to be too good to be true, but as the story unfolds we discover that John is also not who he seems.  However, there were times I wanted to smack John for being an idiot and Zoe for being so cloying.  The characters of Ricky and Helen loom large in the novel although they are never seen. I really like how Steve Gerlach was able to give such a presence to these characters.  The final chapters prove to be wholly unpredictable, and had me gasping more than once.  Love Lies Dying is a fantastic read. Recommended


Contains: violence, adult language and graphic sex

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund


Beyond the Door by Jeffrey Thomas

Delirium Books, 2011


Available: Limited edition hardcover and Kindle ebook


In this novella, Jeffrey Thomas takes the idea of strangers killing time waiting for their trains and runs wild with it.  Two strangers in the men’s room of a train terminal in Boston, one using a stall while the other is standing on the outside, with the door between them, begin telling each other some very dark and surreal stories about where they come from.  The stories get progressively darker and more macabre as the two men try to outdo each other. 


The storytelling continues for hours, culminating in the story of a man named Edwin Cronos, who inherited a house that he rebuilt in order to create a bridge across time and dimensions.  There is an eerie story to match about a man named Edward Cronos whose clinic burned down in a weird blue fire, taking a train with it that was never found.


Thomas combines horror and the bizarre in this story about travel between towns on a train line in Massachusetts.  Beyond the Door is well-written with a great flow that makes it a quick but compelling read.  The two men turn out to be interesting characters all on their own, just adding more depth to this story.  I loved it and I think most fans of horror will feel the same way. Highly recommended.


Contains: gore, violence and adult language


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Apocalyptic Organ Grinder by William Todd Rose

Smashwords, 2011


Available: Multiformat ebook edition

The Gabriel Virus was released by religious fanatics, and brought civilization to its knees.  Two distinct cultures have risen out of the ashes, and they despise and fear each other.  There are the Settlers, or the clear skins (those that are uninfected) and the People or the Spewers (who carry the virus and are made sick but who do not die from it). 

Each culture has their own historical perspective on how the remnants of humanity came to be this way.  Each mythology is different and each culture demonizes the other.  The novella focuses on two main characters—Tanner, a Sweeper for the settlements of the uninfected and Lila, a hunter for the infected clans.  Both Tanner and Lila view each other as an enemy that must be destroyed.  Unfortunately their hatred for each other will lead to an inevitable and deadly conclusion.

Apocalyptic Organ Grinder is a psychological study of human nature and the inherent nature of distrust and fear of what is different or unknown.  Instead of attempting to live separately and in relative peace, these two cultures inevitably wish to destroy each other.  Whose version of history is accurate?  It ultimately doesn’t matter because that history has been ingrained in the generations since the Gabriel Virus took its toll.  It is a bloody and heartbreaking story that I loved reading.  It is a quick and entertaining read, and can be had for free courtesy of William Todd Rose.  He is a wonderful writer and you should be reading him. Recommended.

Contains: violence and gore

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund




Grundish and Askew by Lance Carbuncle

Vicious Galoot Books, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0982280003

Available: Paperback and  multi-format digital edition


         Grundish and Askew have been best friends forever.  The two of them are working dead end jobs and living in a trailer park full of losers. Grundish protected Askew, and even served prison time for his friend.  He knew Askew would never survive in prison.  While teens, Askew made Grundish promise that if it ever looked like they were going to prison, Grundish would put a bullet through Askew’s head.  Askew had a nasty temper and unfortunately for the two friends, Askew lost control and beat a man to death in the trailer park.  Taking Askew’s Aunt Turleen, the men go on the run and find a temporary safe place with a friend of Turleen’s.  Grundish is worried because Askew has been different since the murder.  Now they have been discovered and Grundish is afraid he may have to keep his promise.


There are many things I liked about this story.  The character development is so thorough that Carbuncle elicited a real reaction to his characters from me.  I really liked Grundish and felt sorry for him and thought he was a decent guy.   Askew I disliked immensely.  I felt he was Grundish’s cross to bear in life and that as long as they were together, Grundish would never catch a break.  There is a conversation that takes place between the two men that brought to mind George and Lennie from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.  Grundish and Askew display the same tragic relationship. 


I liked the wise-ass but perceptive Turleen and her dreams.  Vividly described, they are prophecies of the situation they all find themselves in and its inevitable outcome.  I also liked Lance Carbuncle’s self-effacing humor in a scene where two TV news anchors, while reporting on the police hunt for the fugitives, give a sort of review of Grundish and Askew that almost pans the book.  Grundish and Askew is well-written and the pacing is excellent.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and even though the paranormal aspect is subtle, I do recommend it.


Contains: violence, adult language and sexual content


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund


Jasmine and Garlic by Monica J. O’Rourke

Biting Dog Press, 2011


Available: multi-format digital edition


A young homeless woman goes to see a doctor about her pregnancy.  It is after hours and there is no one in the clinic besides the woman and the doctor.  Unfortunately for this young woman, the doctor has one very sick fetish.  I can’t say anything else without giving the story away but I will say that I loved it.


Jasmine and Garlic is a quick read that packs quite the visceral punch.  Monica O’Rourke has penned a wonderfully twisted and horrifying story that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the final sentence.  Get this book! Highly recommended


Contains: Graphic violence and sexual content


Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



DeathFlash by Gene O’Neil Illustrations by Steven Gilberts

Eclipse, 2011

ISBN: Unknown

Available: Advanced Hardcover Copy


        Deathflash is the second book in O’Neil’s Green Hornet and Cato series. A different sort of book, it switches between placing you the reader in the mind of the main character, and narrating the adventures of Johnny Cato and Katy Green – jokingly referred to as The Green Hornet and Cato. The main character has been raised in a strict Christian background, to do the ultimate service and help people die and go to heaven or hell. When he does the deed, he sees a Deathflash, sparkling lights that come out of the body. The sparkling lights is highly addictive and the young man leaves the church in search of many more death flashes.


        Readers looking for either a straight police procedural or an occult horror suspense story will find themselves confused between the blending of these genres. On top of this, the police part of the story – Green Hornet and Cato – does not really go the way a police investigation should. The story is far more interested in showing the many friendly conversations Katy Green and Johnny Cato have. Truly this book is a strange brew of two distinctly different genres. Since we are given the first person perspective of the killer – who goes unnamed through the whole of the book – we already know the crimes that Green and Cato are trying to solve. For these reasons, plus the very skewed and weird take on Christianity, I cannot recommend this book.


Contains: Violence, Drug Imagery, Profanity.


Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz



The Wide Game by Michael West

Graveside Tales, 2011

ISBN:  0983314101

Available:  New and Used


The Wide Game starts off with Paul Rice and his wife arriving at his mother’s house back in his old hometown.  This visit isn’t just for family fun, however: it’s also the day of his high school reunion.  Feeling nostalgic, his mother pulls out his old high school yearbooks, which trigger horrible memories from his senior year where his class played a game out in the cornfields of Indiana known as “The Wide Game”.  This wasn’t any kind of game, though, as many of his fellow students ended up dead.


Written mostly as an extended flashback, The Wide Game takes the reader through the terrible night that Paul Rice, his girlfriend Deidra, and numerous other friends played The Wide Game their senior year.  Running around in a cornfield during the middle of the night is spooky enough, but when you add in all of the “surprises” that await the students throughout the night, well… it can get to be terrifying!  West has created a creepy tale with enough twists and turns to keep any reader sucked into the story, and still questioning what happened when arriving at the end.  As an added bonus, there are ‘80s trivia factoids sprinkled throughout to readers (at least those of that era) to get in that nostalgic mood along with the cast.  I would recommend The Wide Game to all fans of horror as it is the kind of story you’d want to pull out on a dark, rainy night… especially if reading by flashlight out in the middle of a cornfield.

Contains:  Language, Violence, Mild Gore, Sex

Review by Rhonda Wilson





Duncan's Diary: Birth Of A Serial Killer by Christopher C. Payne

Journalstone, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-982811931

Available: New and used

            Duncan is a father and soon-to-be ex-husband in his early forties, and something is missing from his life. As it turns out, that missing thing is murder. Told in his own words, we witness one man’s descent into madness, and the efforts of the police who are trying to stop him.


            I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to review this book. I don't wish to be mean, but I am having difficulty coming up with anything nice to say. Aside from the many typos and misspellings, the plot is muddled and full of holes. Many times I had to go back and see if I had missed something. I hadn't, it just wasn't there. There are far too many coincidences and things that just don't make sense. Duncan, the "serial killer" doesn't really kill that many people. At least, seven doesn't seem like that many to me; not for this type of story.


            Perhaps I'm being too harsh. I'm bothered by things like a chapter title "Two Days of Fun" that takes place over just a few hours. Or an entire chapter devoted to Duncan meeting a woman who never appears again. How about a man who doesn't recognize the voice of his best friend? Or the cops investigating a crime before it's committed? I think what Duncan needed was a good editor.


             There are so many more problems I could talk about, but I think I've made my point. This book is Not Recommended.


Contains, Sex, violence, strong language, and gore.


Reviewed by: Erik Smith



Breaking Eggs by Kurt Newton and L.L. Soares
Sideshow Press, 2010

Available Limited Edition Trade Paperback

    Martin and Big Phil are in the mountains of Vermont disposing of some people at the cabin of their boss, mafia boss Arturo Vanducci. On their way back to the city they pass a group of children walking along the road. Those children will end up creating a huge problem for Martin, Big Phil, and Mr. Vanducci.

    A couple raising eight Romanian orphans on a nearby farm has recently died, leaving the children alone. The children have decided to leave the farm and find somewhere else to live, and after watching Martin and Big Phil pass them by, they come to the cabin and decide to stay the night.

    Meanwhile, Vanducci, unaware that he has guests, has made the unfortunate decision to take his girlfriend to the cabin for the weekend. After the kids dispose of their unwanted visitors, they decide to stay in the cabin permanently. Arturo Vanducci won’t be their only visitor, though.. Martin and Big Phil have been given another disposal job to do, and go back to the cabin to do their dirty work.

    With Arturo missing, his son Anthony, a real hothead, takes control, grabs his goons, and goes to the cabin to look for his father. By the time he gets there, the cabin is empty. Durng their search, Anthony and his goons discover Martin with the children and make their way to the farm. They certainly don’t expect the reception they get. Breaking Eggs is a seamless collaboration between Kurt Newton and L.L. Soares. Bloody and visceral this is a story about survival—for the children, Martin, and the mob. It’s a bit of a bizarre mafia tale but fantastic, nonetheless. The children are surprising experts in the use of close-killing weapons and adding Martin to the mix makes this odd little family a force to be reckoned with. The unpredictable and oddly happy ending fit well with this very dark story. I would love to read more from Newton and Soares. Recommended.

Contains: violence, sexual situations and adult language Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund



Foodchain by Jeff Jacobson

Five Star Publisng, 2010

ISBN-13 978-59414-820-0

New and used


When Frank Winter gets on the wrong side of the mob, he ends up in a rundown zoo where he has been sent to "sleep with the fishes". Or more accurately, to be fed to some alligators. Frank escapes and makes his way to the town of Milford, a veritable ghost town.. Frank tells the residents about the zoo, and soon, plans are being made to hunt wild animals through the streets of the town. In no time, the carnage begins.


Foodchain is not traditional horror. There are no monsters or serial killers or demons. Just the darkness of the human heart. Jeff Jacobson digs deep, and exposes that darkness, shining a bright light on what horrors man is capable of. Frank Winter isn't a much of a good guy, but he isn't really a bad guy either. The same can't be said about the rest of the characters. Jacobson has created a town of completely despicable people, folks who don't blink at sudden bursts of violence and death. The writing puts you in the middle of the dusty streets of Milford, right along with the sleazy cast. As the violence escalates, and the blood runs through the streets, Jacobson manages to crank it up another notch.


          I would heartily recommend this book for libraries and horror fans looking to try something a little less traditional.

Contains: Graphic violence, vulgar language, sex, and cruelty to animals.

Reviewed by: Erik Smith

A Congregation of Jackals by S. Craig Zahler
Dorchester Publishing, 2011
ISBN: 978-0843964158
Available: Pre-order

    This novel, A Congregation of Jackals, is an intricate, cautionary Wild West tale of what can happen if evil is left unchecked, and people allow themselves to grow complacent towards wickedness.   

    Rancher Oswell Danford and his brother receive a telegram from a former member of their old gang, inviting them to his wedding in Montana. Within the telegram, however, is the hidden message that a reckoning is coming to all of them. The deeds that led to this reckoning are explained by Oswell himself in a letter that he writes to his wife as he is traveling to the town of Trailspur. In a narrative never told to her before he describes how, as bank robbers, their moral borders were progressively blurring, even to commit cold-blooded murder during their robberies, until they were offered a job by a man named Quinlan. (“I had never been involved with wickedness, with evil, until I meet [sic] the man that wrote that note,” Oswell writes.)

    After the job, faced with the absolute extreme of what they could become, the men are “scared straight” and go on to lead fairly normal lives for several years. Oswell and his men, in their own ways, had tried to repent for their past transgressions by leading specifically-structured lives (i.e. marriage, becoming religious, not bearing children), but fate interrupts their self-granted pardons.  Their choice to go to Montana and try to protect themselves and the people of Trailspur alone, like all of their dealings with Quinlan and the episodes surrounding him, has catastrophic results. What makes this story more troubling is that the sheriff of the town and other law enforcement officers, all seasoned enforcers, see the signs that something is wrong, but either choose to ignore it altogether or underestimate the malevolence that waits to destroy them all.

    This story does not contain a supernatural element, nor does it need one: the characters, even down to Zahler’s paladin, the white-charger riding Deputy Goodstead, contribute in their own ways to the chilling, savage events that are worse than any mere ghost or goblin could contrive—to battle the Ruthless, the Just eventually become ruthless themselves. All of the characters are complex: the four men of the Tall Boxer Gang did horrendous things, and do not totally acknowledge the damage they caused, but the reader is sympathetic nonetheless. Even Alphonse, the sadistic Frenchman that creates “art” out of living subjects, has a moment of incredible but genuine concern for Quinlan, which somehow does not seem totally out of place (at least to me) despite his sociopathic tendencies.

    There are several themes in this complex work that cannot be addressed in a short review. Primarily, A Congregation of Jackals explores the nature of evil and how far-reaching and destructive its taint can be, especially to the innocent. In the end, according to Zahler, the Devil will have his due…and then some. When that occurs, everyone is damaged and satisfaction is achieved by no one, even the damned. This novel is recommended and would be interesting fodder for an adult-aged book club or any fan of horror who likes more meat in their novels than the superficial, hack-and-slash fare.

Contains: graphic violence, gore, sex

Reviewed by: W. E. Zazo-Phillips




The Killing Kind by Bryan Smith

Leisure Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0843963564

Available: New

        Rob Scott has a penchant for the bad girl, goth-type ... and he has just seen the woman of his dreams.  A dark angel fallen from the heavens saunters towards him as he pumps gas on another mundane day in an equally mundane life.  It’s too good to be true…until she pulls the gun, presses it against his belly and turns his life and his future upside down.

       Six very spoiled rich kids, on a road trip to a beach vacation with not a care in the world are about to learn  that they have a predestined date with Rob and his new found 'friend', Roxie. The result is a bloody collision course that leaves no one unscathed.

        Bryan Smith writes bad girls like nobody's business.  In a genre where women all too often are the victims of the murderous psychopaths, Bryan introduces you to a new generation of the female in ultimate control.  This is one of Bryan's best yet, and it is guaranteed to have you frantically turning pages until late in the night to see what insanity lies around the next corner. Highly recommended.
Contains: Rape, explicit gore, explicit language
Review by:  Rhonda Walton


We have a second look at The Killing Kind by a second Rhonda, here is Rhonda Wilson's take on Bryan Smith's book.

Rob Scott thought he was having a typical day, pumping gas at the local Kwik Mart, until Roxie, the goth chick he was ogling from across the street decides to hijack both him and his car for a psychotic road trip to Myrtle Beach in order to hunt down a group of rich college kids that happened to have made fun of the wrong girl that day.  Of course, Rob would be lucky if Roxie were the least of his worries.  Unfortunately, she’s not the ONLY psychopath out there nowadays and she’s even in for a few surprises along the way as they head towards the beach.

Known for his fast-paced and gory storylines, Bryan Smith doesn’t disappoint his fans with this madcap road trip adventure.  Filled with psycho hillbillies with a few mental instabilities, insane chicks, snobby co-eds, and even a good ol’ boy, Smith sets the scene for ANYTHING to happen!  Anything you think WON’T happen, does, and anything you think WILL happen, for the most part, doesn’t.  The Killing Kind is one surprise after another and leaves the reader both cringing and peeking through their fingers, not wanting to miss what is going to happen next.  Highly recommended to any horror fans that can handle the nastiness which comes with a gory novel.        

Contains:  Adult language, Adult Situations, Sex, Violence, Gore

Review by Rhonda Wilson



The Disappearance by Bentley Little

Signet, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0451231031

Available: New

A group of UCLA students make the long drive to Nevada to attend the Burning Man celebration.  They let loose and enjoy the party atmosphere around them.  One morning, Gary, one of the students, awakes feeling drugged, and finds that his girlfriend, Joan, is missing.  His friends, Reyn, Stacy and Brian, awaken, all sharing the same drugged feeling.


They search the festival grounds and cannot locate Joan. They all need to get back to campus for class, so they head to the local police station and attempt to file a missing person’s report. Informed that a report cannot be filed until Joan is missing 48 hours, the students reluctantly drive back to campus.


Once they arrive, they decide to file a report with the police there. The police arrive and inform the group that Joan isn’t a student at the university.  They log onto Facebook and discover that not only has her student record been deleted, but so have her social media accounts. Gary begins to dig a little more into his girlfriend’s life and unveils a dark past.  Soon he and his friends are all in danger, running from those who are desperate to remove all traces of Joan’s life in the “outside.”


The Disappearance is a bit of a departure from the horror fiction for which Little is known.  That said, it still has the essence of a horror novel.  It’s full of chilling suspense, intensified by extremely well-developed characters.  Looking at other reviews, “fans” of Little’s criticized him for this shift in his writing, but I applaud him for his versatility!  If you are looking to take the leap into horror fiction, Bentley Little’s The Disappearance just might be the stepping stone you need!  Highly recommended!

Contains: adult language, adult situations

Review by Jennifer Lawrence



Yaccub's Curse by Wrath James White

Necro Publication, 2009

ISBN: 9781889186849

Available: New

Wrath James White is known for a hardcore horror style that includes blatant gore and violence and is sure to make readers cringe. But in Yaccub's Curse the cringing is more likely to happen in the space between gang violence and cold-hearted murders. This biography-style book follows Malik, a poor black man who grows up neck-deep in gang warfare and ends up working for the worst of them all—a drug lord named Scratch who might truly be the devil. Malik is very intelligent, deeply philosophical, and yet never hesitates to make the choices that mimic the black stereotype. This is one of the most horrifying elements of the whole book, as readers can only watch Malik make one brutal choice after another, barely thinking past his surface actions.
And if that wasn't bad enough (or uncomfortable enough for readers to experience with Malik, because make no mistake you will be wrenched along with him) Scratch, the white drug lord Malik works for, believes he truly is the devil, a creature created out of racial hate and vengeance millions of years ago solely to tear apart the races. Overwhelmed by guilt and pressure, Malik wonders if it might be true, until Scratch gives him the command to kill a crack baby who he claims is the next coming of Jesus.
Yaccub's Curse is a very rough read, well written and near poetic. It also is very hard on itself and takes the reader to places of horror far beyond serial killers and monster attacks. Here the monster is a person's very genetics, a frightening suggestion that also makes Yaccub's Curse a highly recommended, must read for horror fans and an essential part of modern horror collections.
Contains: Rape, violence, gore, foul and racial language

Review by Michele Lee


Joyride by Jack Ketchum

Leisure, 2010

ISBN-13: 9781428508774

Available: New

    I really enjoyed Ketchum's novel Red, and his novel The Girl Next Door is one of the most brutal and intense horror novels I have ever read. I was excited to crack open this book, but in the end I was disappointed.

Joyride is the story of Carole and her lover Lee. No matter how Carole's powerful ex-husband harasses her, or in some cases violently attacked and raped her, he gets away with it every time. Lee and Carole make the decision to pull off the perfect murder. Unfortunately, a bartender, Wayne, happened to be in the woods watching them. After they show up in his bar, he decides to blackmail them, not for money, but to rekindle the excitement of the murder on a trip of serial killings.    

    Ketchum has a excellent reputation in horror, and each one of his last few books have hyperbolic King declarations. This time King says you shouldn't open this book unless you’re ready to finish that night. So maybe after you finish this review you'll take his word over mine. Without the well-earned reputation that Ketchum has, this novel would never have seen print.

    The major problem with the book is the structure. The novel begins with Carole’s ex-husband breaking in and raping her. At least, I think it does. Everything happens so quickly at the beginning I wasn’t sure who was who yet. Then, when Carole and Lee murder her ex, I didn’t know enough about the story to really understand why I cared. Why murder? Why not go to the police?

    After the murder and before the blackmail plot begins, the novel’s point of view shifts to the cop who had been following Carole’s ex-husband and the case, and is now investigating his murder. It is from his point of view that we learn the horrible back story of Carole’s marriage. This is the most horrific part of the novel. The problem is that we are not shown this part of the tale, we are told.

    To me the abuse Carole suffered in her marriage, and the breaking point she reaches, is the most compelling part of the novel. By the time we learn those details there is no pay-off, no revenge to be had. Her ex-husband is already dead. I didn't find the storyline of Wayne blackmailing them and taking them on a serial killing road trip to be compelling or believable. Characters are quickly introduced in obvious attempts to make us care in time for them to become victims.

Joyride reminded me of the Brad Pitt movie Kalifornia, which did a better job of putting a couple in this situation. I did not enjoy this novel, and if your library doesn't have any Ketchum in its collection, you’re better off starting with Red, Off Season or The Girl Next Door.

Review by David Agranoff

Note: The book includes a bonus novella Weed Species


The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

Grand Central Publishing, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781599951966
Available: New

        Dark settings, psychological exploration, and thought-provoking novels are what Ted Dekker does best, and The Bride Collector fits right in with his other works. The pace starts slowly, as Dekker digs deep into character and plot development, beginning with special agent Brad Rains. Rains is charged with the task of tracking down a serial killer who targets the most beautiful of women, draining them of their blood, and placing a veil over their head. The narrative switches focus between Rains and the serial killer, and the reader soon discovers the killer suffers from schizophrenia.
        As the story unfolds, the pace begins to quicken. It becomes apparent that Rains’ colleague, Nikki Holden, a forensic psychologist, is the serial killer’s next target, and Rains is running out of time to save her.  In a desperate attempt to seek help in catching the serial killer, Rains employs the assistance of four mentally ill, institutionalized patients.

        Dekker focuses on several thought-provoking themes in The Bride Collector: what constitutes beauty, true love, and God’s love, as well as a very well-written exploration of mental illness. Even though there is a great deal of inner dialogue, and discussion of hard-hitting social issues, Dekker still includes tons of action and suspense, and keeps the reader fully engaged.  The only personal complaint I have with this novel is that I had it figured out way too quickly for a mystery, and the ending was a bit too neat and tidy.
        Trying to fit Dekker into one specific genre can be quite difficult. His novels cover a wide array of genres, ranging from fantasy to horror to Christian fiction. While I am a huge fan of Ted Dekker, and this is yet another great novel to add to his growing list of bestsellers, it is not a horror novel. The Bride Collector belongs in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre as it fits the perfect psychological thriller model. As a horror reader, I would be remiss to categorize this book as horror. As with all of Dekker’s books, The Bride Collector is a must have for public libraries, and this particular novel would fit well in the adult fiction and/or religious fiction collection.
Contains:  mild violence and descriptions of death/dying

Review by Kelly Fan




Pay Phone by Brandon Ford

Arctic Wolf Publishing, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780984123322
Available: New

             Oh, the days of pay phones. When you pass one that rings, do you answer it or just walk on by? Does curiosity take hold so you feel compelled to stop the ringing by picking up the receiver and saying "Hello"? Or do you trust your instincts and better judgment? Jake hopes you're curious. Jake wants to have a little chat with you. Jake wants your adventurous side to take hold. Jake wants you to visit so that he can kill you and have his way with your still-warm body.

             My first thought when I received this novel was, "Are there even pay phones around anymore"? Author Brandon Ford deals with this by setting Pay Phone in 1998. In the cold, blistery setting of New York in winter, Ford develops the ideal loneliness, as Jake draws in his newly found prey, Chelsea. Spotting her from his apartment window, Jake wills her to answer his call to the pay phone, and, unfortunately for Chelsea, she does. The story then winds around how Jake seeks out Chelsea to satisfy his killer thirst.

             Pay Phone is an extremely quick read that moves at a fast pace, but jams in most of the action into the last 50 pages. If you're looking for character and plot development and want an explanation for many of the characters' quirks, this isn't the story for you, as this novel lacks all three of these components. But if you want high action and suspense and have a taste for the twisted serial killer, pick up Pay Phone and indulge. Recommended for adult horror and thriller readers, and public library collections.
Contains: Sexual content, incest, gore, violence


Reviewed by Kelly Fann



Under the Dome by Stephen King

Scribner, 2009


Available: New and Used

         Under the Dome delves deep into human nature to terrifying ends.  A strange phenomenon occurs in the small town of Chester’s Mill.  One minute everything is as normal as it’s ever been; the next, the entire town is caught beneath an invisible “dome”.  Trucks and airplanes cannot pass through it. People cannot break it.  Air and elements have trouble permeating it.  But while being caught beneath a barrier is enough to spook the senses, it’s the humans that are the real terror.  As they attempt to uncover the truth about the dome and devise an escape route, small-town politics lead to a clash between the residents.  The breakdown of society is fast and furious, and showcases the scariest things of all.  Man is the most terrifying creature on the planet.

        Fortunately for Chester’s Mill, soldier (and local chef) Dale Barbara is on hand to aid a small band of locals interested in preserving society's values and morals while they uncover the truth of the dome.  Unfortunately, Big Jim Rennie, a local auto dealer and Selectman, holds the town in his grip, and is not beyond stooping to levels of the most devious criminal mind.  A challenging game of instincts and wits plays out against the post-apocalyptic background.

        There’s much more to this yarn than a complex situation involving the breakdown of a small town caught beneath a mysterious dome.  In fact, most would argue that there’s too much.  At 1,074 pages, this novel is reminiscent of some of King’s older novels, such as It and The Stand. It reads like King's work of the 70’s and 80’s, and it reads extremely fast.  The action is brutal and in your face, the situations and scenarios grab you and won’t let go, and the resolution is satisfying.  In fact, if there’s anything to bemoan about this epic it’s the death count.  There’s a lot of death here and it’s visceral and hits on many emotional levels.  Otherwise, the book is a solid piece of horror and is a nice departure from the typical rehashed ghosties and goblins.

Contains: Adult language, adult situations, explicit violence.

Reviewed by Eric Mays



Friday Night in the Beast House by Richard Laymon

Leisure, 2010

ISBN: 9780843961423

Available: New

    This is the fourth and final installment in Richard Laymon's Beast House series.  Published after his death, no one knows if this was the beginning of what was to be a new novel, or simply a short story to keep the mystery of the Beast House alive.  Taking place years after Midnight Tours, the Beast House is open for tourists.  The Kutch House is still locked up with Ms. Kutch living under lock and key and the tourists still flock to the site of the legendary murders.
    Mark is meanwhile obsessed with a girl from his class - finally getting the nerve up to ask Alison out on a date.  She agrees, provided he gets her into the Beast House after hours.  The novella follows Mark in his plotting and planning to get the two of them into the Beast House, then following through on his plan.  The true action in this book doesn't start until the last 20 pages of the book and follows the beast house mantra pretty closely.  I recommend that new readers not read this book in the series first- rather, they should begin at the beginning with The Cellar . The entire story is in large font and is only about 100 pages long, (probably 60 if in normal font) but in this release we have the bonus Novella of "The Wilds" which is another fairly standard Laymon Novella involving a college age man headed out to the wilderness to get his newly ended relationship off of his mind, but he encounters more then he expected.  If you are not familiar with Laymon as an author - he is NOT appropriate for the sensitive, young or easily offended.  You are guaranteed violence, nudity, sex, rape and gore in everything he puts out.
Contains: Rated R- Sex, Violence, Rape
Review by KDP



Scissors by Ray Garton
Leisure, 2010
ISBN:  978-0-843-96186-7
Available:  New and Used

    Ray Garton's latest Leisure release, Scissors, delves deep into the mind of Stuart Mullond.  At the start of the novel, Stuart vividly recalls a surgery performed on him when he was a young boy.  Stuart's memory of the surgery is a bit different than the way his mom, who was in the room with him during surgery, remembers it.  His memories are a bit more frightening and have left him traumatized ever since the procedure was done.  Now he is starting to see the doctor in question, Dr. Furgeson, in various places when he is out and even around his own home.  What's even more disturbing is that the doctor is always carrying around the pair of scissors from Stuart's memories. Stuart can hear the *snick, snick, snick* of the scissors and also hears Furgeson telling him that his son needs to go through the same procedure.  Stuart will do anything to save his son, even if everyone around him thinks he's crazy!
    Garton had me enthralled with the story of Stuart Mullond from beginning to end.  I was glued to the pages, needing to find out what was going on in Stuart's mind.  At times he would idly spend hours and hours in his garage doodling pictures that most would consider comic-like, but at times, the pictures seemed to come to life.  Were the pictures truly coming to life or was it all a figment of Stuart's imagination?  Garton completely screws with your head as you read along to find out the answer to this question and also leaves you wondering throughout if Stuart is as crazy as his family thinks.  Parts of this story had me so weirded out that I actually had chills running through me.  No horror book has EVER done that to me!  It creeped me out and messed with my head.  That is the key to a great horror novel!  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Contains:  Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence, Mild Gore

Review by Rhonda Wilson


The One-Percenters by John Podgursky

Damnation Books, 2009 

ISBN 9781615720125

Available: New

    After Edward loses his wife to a serial killer, he begins to see the world in a new light.  Natural selection no longer applies to the human race because of technological and medical advances, and now the population is too big and out of balance with the planet.  So Mother Nature puts Edward to work to ensure that balance is maintained.  He is a One-Percenter—an agent of planet Earth.  Edward, however, is feeling the strain of his new position.  Can he finish the job before he cracks under the pressure?

    Edward has been travelling for a year, carrying out the work of Nature, attempting to get the population back in check by eliminating those not fit to breed-the damaged, the diseased, those with nothing to offer the survival of the species.  Mother Nature has chosen him because he has the right DNA.  With the loss of a wife and then a girlfriend, he is beginning to feel lonely and alone in the world.  He needs to find someone with whom he can share his secret. When he meets Samantha James, he believes he can tell his story to her, and ease some of his burden.  

    Edward is a likable guy, with some fantastic one-liners; he has a wicked sense of humor.  He explains his job as weeding out “the sick, the weak-gened, the ill-minded”, although he is a bit clumsy in his work.  Even I was wondering ‘why him?’  He meets another One-Percenter named Darien, who he believes is a friend.  She fills him in on some of the aspects of the job, but lashes out at him in public before disappearing on him.  She shows up again, but just confuses him even more.  

    John Podgursky tells a really good story here.  He keeps you guessing throughout—is this for real?  Is Edward nuts?  What’s going on?  He sprinkles his story with amazing insights on life that will have you nodding your head in agreement with some, and laughing at others.  I also think readers will be surprised with the end of Edward’s story.  The One-Percenters is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Recommended.

Contains: violence, mild gore, and language

Review by Colleen Wanglund 



Depraved by Bryan Smith
Leisure, 2009
ISBN:  978-0-8439-6292-5
Available:  New
    Bryan Smith's latest novel, Depraved, takes place in the backwoods town known as Hopkins Bend.  Anyone passing through tends to not make it back out and most don't even survive.  The town is full of inbred cannibalistic rednecks who tend to rape, torture, and/or eat their victims... not necessarily in that order.  Those "lucky" enough to survive and not get killed are put to work in a special strip club that is also within the town of Hopkins Bend.  And what is it with the Kincher family?  They appear to not be quite human.  It looks like they are half-man/half-monster.  Have they been undergone some kind of mutation?  Will any of the outsiders to Hopkins Bend be able to escape or find a way to stop the townsfolk or will these vicious acts continue to go on forever?
    Depraved is graphic, foul, smutty, trashy, and probably everything your mama told you never to read as a kid, but that's what makes it so great!  Backwoods towns have always been depicted as creepy and if you add in rednecks, well... that just makes them even scarier!  Just Kidding!  Well, unless they're cannibalistic as Smith portrays them!  That's the key.  Smith adds in the twist of cannibalism and mutations to make these inbred rednecks be extremely scary, not to mention that they are so depraved.  There is also one particular chapter in the book where Smith touches on the "bizarro".  I won't spoil anything for you, but it's probably one of the most intense sex scenes I've ever read in a horror book.  It's horrifically foul, but I loved every minute of it despite the voices in my head screaming "Oh my god!  That did not just happen!!!".  As far as I'm concerned, Smith has out done himself with Depraved and I hope that he continues along this line of writing in the future.  This is a must for fans of extreme horror.  Highly Recommended!

Contains:  Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence, Torture, Gore, Rape, Graphic Sex, Cannibalism
Review by Rhonda Wilson

The Lucid Dreaming by Lisa Morton
Bad Moon Books, 2009
Available:  New
    Lisa Morton's first novella, The Lucid Dreaming, tells the tale of a girl named Spike, a violent paranoid schizophrenic whose condition is currently controlled by a drug called Prolixin.  Spike resides in a mental hospital in Oxnard, California, but one day a nurse comes to Spike’s room holding a scalpel, covered in blood, and tells her that she is free.  Spike doesn’t wait around to see what the nurse is going to do with the scalpel, and takes off out the door seeing all kinds of horrors around the hospital as she flees.  She finds a car and hits the road (despite having never driven in her life).  Along the way she meets up with a special boy named Teddy who seems to be affected by whatever is going on.  After spending time with him she realizes it's like he's almost in a dreamlike state.  She wonders why she isn't affected, but soon realizes it must be the Prolixin she is taking.  Spike and Teddy travel through many a state together, but get stopped in Texas by a group of rednecks.  Now Spike has to figure out a plan of escape for her and Teddy to get them back on their way and out of redneck hell!
    The Lucid Dreaming is one of the best novellas I have ever read.  I picked it up one evening and couldn't stop until I was finished.  Spike's character has a sassy attitude and comes out with lots of snarky comments that I absolutely loved.  The fact that half of the time Spike is leading around Teddy in his sleep makes for interesting moments as well. There were many memorable scenes in the book, but I think my favorite had to be the bathtub scene.  That was just a classic moment in the book. I won't say what happened as to avoid spoilers, but it's worth reading the novella just for that scene alone in my opinion.  Morton gives the reader a bit of everything within less than 100 pages... action, suspense, thrills, romance, and of course, horror!  She's definitely an author to keep an eye out for in the future.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Contains:  Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Review by Rhonda Wilson



Urban Gothic by Brian Keene 

Leisure Books, 2009
ISBN-10: 0843960906

Available: New

    A pack of middle-class teens on their way home from a rap concert decides to detour through the ‘hood in Philly to find some weed. After getting lost and having their car break down in the absolute worst part of town, a pack of black thug-looking teens approach them. Freaking out under the assumption that they are about to be robbed, they turn tail and flee down the road into the abandoned house at the end of the street, their fear causing them to miss the black kids screaming for them not to go in there. Once through the door they suddenly discover that there are worse things than being mugged, far worse things.
    Urban Gothic has some interesting themes of racism, neighborhood pride, the government abandoning its people in the nastiest parts of town, and doing the right thing versus doing what has always been done in the past. These themes all fall to the wayside as blood, gore, fecal matter, cannibalism, foul smells and an oversized pus-dripping member take over. Keene spends more effort in grossing out in this book then he has in the past, and as such the plot gets a bit screwy and shoots sideways for a bit. I could have done without the overt reference to Ob, a character from Keene’s alternate reality... I want to believe that all of this does happen in Keene's world, but I don't have to be reminded of it. Letting me know that these kids were at the Ghost Walk already clued me in.
    I didn't think this book was bad by any means... perhaps it's just that I'm not a fan of stinky cannibals. I didn't like "The Hills Have Eyes" which is pretty much what this book reminds me of. I do believe that if you enjoyed that movie then you will probably enjoy this book. For me, it was at the lower end of Keene's books, although the quality is still above most other horror authors. 

Review by KDP



Hacks by Brian Knight

Delirium Books, 2006


Available: Used

    When Jim Eldridge accepts an invitation to the Hacks Club, a retreat for authors and editors in the horror genre, he believes he will be enjoying a week in the woods bonding with his peers. But when his fellow Hacks start dying, he finds that his relaxing time at The Devil's Tail Lodge has become a fight to stay alive. Who is killing the Hacks, and who will survive?

    With Hacks, Brian Knight has re-created the glory days of '80's slasher movies, with a twist. Instead of sex-crazed teenagers, the victims are horror genre writers. Dedicated fans of small press horror may recognize some of the characters. Knight uses his peers, and himself, as fodder for the killer creeping through the woods. The setup is entertaining, introducing us to a wonderful cast. Once the killing starts, things move at a breakneck pace. This isn't a book that will make you re-evaluate the world and your place in it. What it will do, is entertain the hell out of you.

Contains: Strong language, bloody violence.

Review by Erik Smith.


The 13th by John Everson
Leisure, 2009
ISBN: 978-0843962673
Available: Pre-order

    Twenty-five years ago, Castle House Lodge was the site of a grisly massacre and closed its doors forever. Now, Castle House Asylum, a mental hospital exclusively for women, has opened its doors in the same place. The police chief of nearby Castle Point has sent rookie officer Christy Sorensen to check out the asylum.
    David Shale is spending the summer in Castle Point, with his aunt, and training for the olympics. When a local girl he met at a bar disappears, he looks to the asylum for answers.
    What is happening inside Castle Rock Asylum and how does it connect to the massacre of twenty-five years ago? Christy and David are on a collision course with a horrifying secret which they may not survive.
    The 13th is John Everson's third novel and, I think, his best, so far. He has written some of his most gruesome prose in this book. His writing is crisp and clean. He fleshes out a wide variety of characters from the population of Castle Rock. If you like a frightening and bloody (very bloody!) supernatural mystery, pick up The 13th.
Contains: Explicit gore, sex and language.
Review by Erik Smith.


Here is a second look review by Rhonda Wilson


    David Shale has come to Castle Point to stay with his aunt and train for the Olympics. While out riding, Shale gets knocked off his bike by a distracted police officer, Christy Sorenson, in her car. She rushes him to the nearest building, Castle House Lodge, which a century ago was an exclusive resort hotel. Upon entrance they are told it has been renovated into a mental hospital for pregnant women. Later that night, Shale goes to a bar to ease his pain from the accident, and meets a girl who later ends up missing. Actually, LOTS of girls end up missing! Both Sorenson and Shale are wondering if it's a coincidence that Castle House Lodge has just happened to get renovated at the same time as the disappearances started taking place.

    Once again, Everson has written a wonderfully erotic demonic twisted tale. He begins his story by giving the readers a chance to get to know the main characters and get emotionally attached, and then throws them into the nightmare in the latter half of the book. Everson's brutal depictions of the killings throughout the book will turn some readers off, but for the true horror and gore lovers out there, they will crave every last drop of blood. In true Everson fashion, The 13th also has sexual scenes and demonic possession. This book crosses over many sub-genres of horror in order to fulfill the needs of all horror readers. Highly Recommended!

Contains: Violence, Gore, Rape, Adult Language, Adult Situations

Review by Rhonda Wilson




Shadow of the Dark Angel by Gene O'Neill

Bad Moon Books, 2009

ISBN: n/a

Available: Limited Edition/New

       While Shadow of the Dark Angel has similarities to Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lector books it has differences as well. In this book, Katy Green and John Cato are a team of detectives hunting a sexual serial killer. However, unlike Harris' books, Shadow of the Dark Angel is neither a mystery book nor a police procedural. Instead, O’Neill has filled his book with minute details that lead to explicitly fleshed out characters, at the expense of the storytelling. At best, it's an extensive profile of the detectives and the killer but what it possesses in detail it completely lacks in tension and plot momentum.

     O'Neill's style of presenting characters and events without genuinely storytelling works in a short form, but keeps readers at an arm's length in this novel. In the end the minutiae of the characters' daily lives and psychological health take precedent over the story, leaving out the police work and much of the actual solving of the crime. It’s also frustrating that the author dedicates a lot of time to describing a book Katy Green is writing that is a blatant reference to another of O’Neill’s books, and the reader may feel cheated that the author is using the book to advertise his other works, while sometimes ignoring the plot of this one.

      Although Shadow of a Dark Angel is not without its merits, it is a disappointing read. Available only as a pricey limited edition, Shadow of the Dark Angel is best left to O'Neill fans and collectors.

Contains: Explicit language, violent situations, sexual situations

Review by Michele Lee



Personal Demons by Gregory Lamberson

Medallion, 2009

ISBN: 9781605420721

Available: Pre-order (October, 2009)

    Raw, edgy, dark, and twisted, Gregory Lamberson has delivered a memorable thriller with Personal Demons. Lamberson draws you in with a skillfully woven narrative that is both sharp and sophisticated. Fans of the serial killer genre will be pleasantly surprised. Personal Demons elevates the genre by meticulously examining the inner workings of both Cipher, the soul stealing and tattooed force of nature, and the deeply flawed anti-hero, Jake Helman. Lamberson mixes genres effortlessly, combining elements of horror, science fiction, and the supernatural thriller into an intricate tale of the battle between good and evil… a battle waged both within and without. This is the kind of novel that keeps you relentlessly glued to the page and leaves you thinking about it long after it is finished. Personal Demons cannot be recommended highly enough.

Contains: violence, sexual situations, adult language, drug use, and gore

Review by Bob Freeman


We have a take two review of Laberson's Personal Demons by Rhonda Wilson.


    Gregory Lamberson's new series, The Jake Helman Files, starts off with a detailed scene showing readers how the book's serial killer, The Cipher, operates. Readers are then introduced to the series' main character, Jake Helman, who works for the New York Special Homicide Task Force. After killing two men shortly into the book, Helman is required to take a drug test. Instead of following orders, Helman decides to take more drastic measures and quits. Less than 48 hours later, Helman receives a phone call from Tower International, a genetic engineering company, about an interview. He goes in that same day and is hired on the spot as their director of security for a salary that he never believed possible in his wildest dreams! After looking around the office a bit, though, he starts to notice some things seem to be a little odd. In particular, he is trying to figure out why strange homeless people are always hanging out right outside Tower International's doors, and why they look so much like The Cipher's victims.

    At the beginning of Personal Demons, it appears that the book is going to be an average serial killer book (albeit with a really cool murder method!) where the bad guy goes around slicing each victim for whatever reason, but Lamberson changes that feel abruptly and takes the book to a whole other level! Once Jake Helman leaves the Force and takes on the new job at Tower International, he becomes a magnet for danger. All kinds of hell starts breaking loose, and Lamberson puts Helman through the wringer! It's a wild journey, and one that shouldn't be missed. I had a very hard time putting the book down once I started it. Highly recommended for all fans of the horror genre!

Contains: Violence, Mild gore, Adult Language, Adult Situations

Review by Rhonda Wilson





As Fate Would Have It by Michael Louis Calvillo
Bad Moon Books, 2009
Available:  New

    Who would’ve guessed that the well-known chef at the fanciest restaurant in town would also happen to be a cannibal?  Heather certainly didn’t when she accepted an invitation to go out on a date with him and agreed to accompany him home for a drink.  When they reach his house, the power doesn't seem to be working and the furniture and floor are covered in plastic.  Hmmm... Something doesn't seem quite right to poor Heather.  Unfortunately, that turns out to be one of her last thoughts before our chef, Montgomery, slices ‘n’ dices her and prepares a murderously romantic dinner for his wife, Liz.

     Heather’s death remains unknown for some time because, unfortunately, she had a fight with her best friend, Ashley, just before her death, and consequently, Ashley doesn't realize Heather is missing until she doesn't show up to work.  Ashley and her boyfriend, Henry, are fighting with a major heroin addiction and aren’t really in their right minds, so thinking clearly about what might have become of Heather is not really the top thing on their agenda.  Ultimately though, Ashley grasps that something has gone horribly wrong, and takes it upon herself to seek out Heather.

     You wouldn’t typically think of the word “lyrical” when you think of “cannibalism”, but Michael Louis Calvillo has written a truly lyrical story with As Fate Would Have It.  As I read this book I kept thinking of it as a love story because, in a way, it truly is.  Yes, it was also horribly gruesome, violent, and disturbing in other ways, but it is, at the same time, a strangely romantic tale.  I love what Calvillo did with this book and how he wove two disparate stories into one within the novel.  To anyone that can handle a bit of gore to season their reading, they should definitely give this one a try as it’s worth the bit of queasiness said spice will likely put in your gut!  Highly Recommended!

Contains:  Adult Situations, Adult Language, Violence, Cannibalism

Review by Rhonda Wilson


Last Days by Brian Evenson
Underland Press, 2009

ISBN: 0980226007

Available: New

    Last Days is a short brutal novel that brings noir to horror. Two novellas were combined to make up this novel. The first, “The Brotherhood of Mutilation”, was published in a very limited edition by Earthling Publications. The new edition comes with an introduction by Peter Straub (author of Ghost Story and Koko and co-author of The Talisman) which in itself is a really good sign. This time, the one hundred page novella has a sequel that is about the same length and continues the story.

    The story is that of a former undercover cop,  Kline, who in his last mission had his hand cut off by a “man with a cleaver.” He lives on, lonely and depressed. All that changes when he gets a phone call asking him to go undercover again. The job - investigate the murder of the leader of a cult of Christians who take the Book of Matthew so literally that they cut off their hands to get closer to God.

    Once inside the cult, Kline learns that they have taken to multiple amputations, and have set a hierarchy based on who has the most body parts sacrificed. The world Evenson has created for “The Brotherhood of Mutilation” is both disgusting and darkly comedic. By the second half, Kline encounters their rival breakaway group, and it gets even more amusing. That is not to say tht the book is slapstick, it's a brutal horror bizarro detective story.

    Evenson's dialogue in this book is perfect choppy noir with lots of short snappy comical exchanges. The suspense is handled with a minimalist flair and the moments of gruesome reveal are plentiful. This is a strange and wonderful piece of horror literature that should not be missed.

    It's also interesting to note that Evenson was once heavily involved in religion as a Mormon. He even taught literature at the Mormon university Brigham Young University. He was fired after he refused to give up writing in the aftermath of his first short story collection. This experience, I'm sure, had an effect on this novel.

Read Last Days, you'll thank me.

Contains: Iintense language, violence.

Review by David Agranoff



The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey
Leucrota Press, 2009
ISBN:  978-0-9800339-8-4
Available:  New

    The Kult starts off from the eyes of a serial killer, fittingly given the name, The Oracle.  He believes that all people are predictable, and that that's what makes them so easy to kill.  After The Oracle kills a person, he sends in a picture to the police of the body with pictures of various other serial killers surrounding the body. 

    Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow is heading the case of The Oracle and is at a loss to what the significance of the surrounding pictures within these pictures could mean.  While deep into the case, Snow gets an email in one of his private email accounts at home, The Kult email, set up between him and his old school buddies. They had formed the Kult so they could help each other out. In this email, one of Snow’s friends asks for assistance. Unfortunately, it is more than the typical "beat so-and-so up for me" request. This friend’s wife has been raped, and he wants revenge on the rapist.  He wants someone killed!  The friend thinks that the timing is good to set it up to look like The Oracle is the killer.  Hesitant to go along,  Snow finally gives in to his friend's wishes. Once he agrees, all kinds of crazy things start happening and Snow doesn’t know what to do as it appears now that someone is trying to frame him for ALL of the murders!
    Shaun Jeffrey had me on the edge of my seat from the get-go with this book.  I was trying to guess throughout the book who The Oracle was, but Jeffrey’s plot twists and turns, and threw me off enough that I never did figure out exactly what was going on until the very end.  The book was extremely suspenseful, and with short chapters, I had a hard time putting it down, as I figured just one more couldn't hurt!  This was my first glimpse into Jeffrey’s writing, but I will definitely be delving deeper, as I was mesmerized by this book.  I think anyone that enjoys a good mystery, thriller, or horror novel would enjoy this book.  Highly recommended!

Contains: Violence

Review by Rhonda Wilson


Succulent Prey by Wrath James White(2)

Leisure Books, 2008

ISBN: 0843961643

Available: New and Used

    Succulent Prey is the story of Joseph Miles, who was victimized by a child murderer at a young age.  He was the only survivor, but feels that he was given a disease by his tormentor that has caused him to have cannibalistic urges that are over time getting increasingly worse. Miles goes on a journey throughout this book in search of a cure for this disease in order to absolve himself of being a killer.  Along the way he falls in love with a girl, and the tension increases as he searches for the cure in hopes that he will be able to cure himself before he is incapable of resisting the urge to kill her.
    This is a powerful and intense book!  White has done an amazing job with depicting scenes graphically to where the reader can visualize exactly what is going on.  To some, this might be too much, as it is heavy on the gore scale, but for the heavy-hitter horror fans, this is a must read!  The character of Joseph Miles is one of the strongest characters I've encountered in my reading in a long time.  I found myself cheering for him throughout the book in hopes that he would find the cure for the disease.  Granted, there were also times where I found myself hating Miles and wanting to chuck the book across the room.  When an author can make me feel for the character that strongly, that's when I know I'm reading a great book and I know I will read more by the author.  Highly Recommended.
Contains: Cannibalism, Gore, Sex, Violence, Profanity
Review by Rhonda Wilson


Pressure by Jeff Strand

Leisure, 2009

ISBN: 9780843962536

Available: New

    Pressure grabs you right from the beginning and squeezes your insides with a churning feeling of sickness. You know where the story will lead, but you can't stop it, and you can't look away. The story follows the narrator, Alex, through his life, from middle school through adulthood.  The focus of the novel is Alex's relationship with Darren, an obviously seriously disturbed little boy. We know right away what Darren is, and what he will become, and Darren quickly fills the shoes of the role we mentally put him in. Darren is a serial killer and sociopath of the worst type. Obsessed with Alex, he appears and reappears through Alex's life, always bringing destruction and pain.  Alex struggles to break free from Darren and the killer's iron grip on his future.  Terrifying, heartbreaking, gore-soaked and completely gripping, I highly recommend this book to horror fanatics everywhere.

Contains: Violence, Gore, Sex and Violence to Children

Review by K.D. P



Cover by Jack Ketchum

Leisure, 2009

ISBN: 9780843961874

Available: New

    Cover is more of a horrifying thriller than a true horror novel. It’s the story of a Vietnam vet who has determined that he is too dangerous to live successfully in society, and has moved far into the wilderness, living in seclusion from civilization, with only his wife and dog. His wife helps him to keep the last grip on his sanity, and when she leaves him alone in the wilderness to go visit with her family, suddenly the choppers are swooping low, and the Viet Cong crowd back into his mind. 
    Meanwhile, a group of well-to-do, upper-crust individuals, including an author, a playwright, a model, an agent and a photographer, is on a camping trip. Their intermingled dramas are very realistic and border on annoying (much like real people). Unfortunately, the location of the camping spot they select means they may find themselves mistaken for a couple of Uncle Ho's minions by a man who has long ago left his sanity behind him. A game of cat and mouse ensues as our Special Forces vet repels the invaders and they fight for their lives.
    The chapters from the vet's eyes are disturbing and all too real - frightening. Ketchum did a fantastic job of building him and making us care about him even though we are utterly terrified of him. This is a wonderfully written book that will shock the casual reader, and be loved by the avid horror/thriller fan.
Contains: Violence, sex, rape and profanity. 

Review by K.D. P



The Hunger of Empty Vessels by Scott Edelman

Bad Moon Books, 2009
Available: New
    Scott Edelman's novella, The Hunger of Empty Vessels, tells the tale of a man named Portabello, who is dealing with divorce and not being able to see his son, Joey, on a regular basis.  As the days go on Portabello starts to see someone watching Joey. When bad things seem to happen to him, he believes this "person" is the cause.  Portabello decides it is his duty as the father to protect his son, but will protecting his son do more harm than good?
    This is the first thing I have ever read by Edelman and I am quite impressed by his writing style.  His choice of subject is far scarier than most "monster" type horror books as it hits closer to home with some people and makes them really think. Kudos to Edelman for writing about it in such a lyrical way.  Recommended.
Review by: Rhonda Wilson



Splattered Beauty by Brandon Ford

Arctic Wolf Publishing,2008

ISBN: 9780981747279

Available: New

    Scream queen Alyssa Peyton had it all. Her popularity meant she was in high demand, and she had her choice of projects. Then it all changed. Her husband left her for a younger actress, and she became an alcoholic mess who was extremely difficult to work with. Alyssa’s popularity faded, and the projects she was offered were few and far between. Her psyche has been slowly crumbling with each year that passes. Alyssa meets a fan named Taryn at a horror convention. Taryn is a lesbian whose mother will not accept her for who she is. Taryn’s life feels like a living hell while living with her mother, so Taryn is ready for anything but going home. Alyssa takes her in as a friend and eventually a roommate. Taryn is in love with Alyssa and will do anything she asks. When murder is brought forth, Taryn becomes unwillingly involved. Can Taryn stop Alyssa's taste for killing before it's too late? Or will she become a victim herself? This book was a fun read that I enjoyed from start to finish, I liked that their very first meeting was at a horror convention. Horror fans will appreciate the setting,  since they are familiar with what it's like standing in line to meet your favorite stars. As a fan, it was something that I could totally relate to. Sometimes we place these people on a pedestal when in reality they are everyday normal people just like us.    
Recommended for high school and public libraries

Review by The Angry Princess



Succulent Prey by Wrath James White

Leisure Books, 2008

ISBN: 0843961643

Available: New and Used

    This is the first book by Mr. White that I have read, and he has a very interesting style. He follows Joseph Miles from his childhood, when he was abducted, tortured, and released, to his college years where he begins having terrible urges to gnaw on lovely co-eds. This book is VERY gory, and filled with sexual deviance and perversions, cannibalism, rape, and sodomy, among other things. Just about every page is smattered with it. I don’t consider myself a hardened reader- Ketchum and Masterton have made me squeamish before-  but there is so much gore that I ended up numb to it, and the shock value was gone.

    I also didn't particularly care for any of the characters. The serial killer is the main character, but we never really get to know him. Perhaps if this had been more first person, or if the author had shared more of Joseph’s thoughts, beyond his cannibalism, he might be a more sympathetic character. As he’s written here, though, there are no dreams, hopes for a future, relationships, or anything for the reader to root for. The heroine was almost likeable, but any hope she had of being memorable ended with the second to the last scene. In fact, the last two scenes were both completely unnecessary, and spoiled the book. I would have rather not known where certain people ended up then to have their ending seem so oddly out of line with where it felt like it should have been. Even so, it is an enjoyable read, although I hope that in his next book he tries harder to scare me rather than just gross me out. Reader’s advisory note: Richard Laymon’s fans in particular may now have a new author to thrill over. I will probably read more by Mr. White, though I hope in his next book he tries harder to scare me rather than just gross me out

Contains: Cannibalism, Gore, Sex, Violence, Profanity

Review by K.D. P


Campaign Trilogy: Part Three- Redemption Lost by Zoe E. Whitten
Aphotic Thought Press, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-9820427-0-0
Available: New

    Redemption Lost is the third installment in Whitten’s Campaign Trilogy. A continuation from the previous book, it starts where the last story left off. Wendy, Jobe, and Jamie are back, but this time we find out a whole lot more of what exactly is being done to the government’s experimental victims. Wendy doesn't just have to fight the Army- now she has to fight demons, mages and halflings. Jobe's loyalty is tested when sister Amber tries to turn him against Wendy. Will there finally be the end to the madness that wreaked its way through Devine? There is bloodshed and death, and truces made in Redemption Lost. There is also an ending that might warrant another continuation. We'll just have to wait and see. The book was interesting and completely fills any void you might of had in any of the storyline, and all loose ties are all figured out leaving you satisfied at the outcome. Zoe Whitten created a unique bunch of characters to compliment her weird fictitious world. Recommended for public and school libraries.
Contains: Violence, blood ,murder, gore

Review by The Angry Princess



Meat by Joseph D'Lacey
Bloody Books, 2008
ISBN: 9781905636150 1    1
    Meat. It’s a short title for a book, but no word or group of words would have been more appropriate. The novel is about a small isolated town in the middle of a ruined wasteland where meat is raised and slaughtered with a holy reverence then consumed by the community like communion…or that is how it is supposed to be. The problem is that the meat baron has actually gained more power than the holy order and he is a greedy man on the verge of insanity, destroying the ‘cattle’ in order to keep demand high. The fine line between ‘cattle’ and citizen creates a degree of tension that not too many books can match as the ‘cattle’ or Chosen, as the community calls them, are actually humans that have been mutilated and debased so that they are almost as docile as a herd of beef. Most of the Chosen were born and bred to be what they are, but the meat baron can quickly turn a citizen into Chosen for civil infractions as simple as not consuming meat as their religion dictates or for not doing their job to his satisfaction. The story escalates in tension as a new prophet arises in the barren wasteland claiming that there is another way to live, one without consuming meat or the sacrifice of the Chosen. Joseph D’Lacey has woven a tale that strikes the reader like a cleaver slamming into a raw roast with the level of violence and sheer terror that his story creates. Not only is Meat a fantastic novel of horror, but it’s also a story with heart as Richard Shanti, the main character, fights to save his daughters lives and souls. The parallels between the treatment of the Chosen and today’s slaughter houses is bound to make the reader look at his/her next steak with a certain amount of sympathy. Meat is a novel that I would certainly recommend for anyone who likes horror with lots of impact.
Contains: Sex, pedophilia, gore, violence

Review by Bret Jordan



Kill Whitey, by Brian Keene

Cemetery Dance Publications, 2008

Trade Hardcover Edition, $25.00

ISBN: 978-1-58767-178-4

Review by Horror Drive-In


    Brian Keene and I have at least one thing in common. Other than our mutual interest in horror, that is. We're both working class. Oh, Brian makes his living writing these days, but his roots are in the Blue Collar world. His roots and, I think, his heritage. It's in his blood. Like it's in mine.

The characters in Kill Whitey work at a loading dock. These guys think and act like real working Joes. It's a mindset that can't be faked. Those of us in that world would see through it in a heartbeat. Kill Whitey most resembles Terminal in this way. Both novels feature characters that, in their quiet desperation, find it not-too-difficult to turn to violence and crime. They've lived on the outskirts of these antisocial activities all their lives.

    Brian's prose is workmanlike in Kill Whitey. No fancy tricks, but a craftsman at work, doing what he has busted his ass learning how to do. Kill Whitey thrills and entertains, yet it also gives the reader real issues to think about and to feel in his or her gut. As in most of Keene's novels, there is a melancholic tone in Kill Whitey that most of us can readily identify with. There is tension in America and a lot of working people aren't all that far from a breaking point. Desperation is our daily bread.

    Larry Gibson is a regular guy. He has his buddies, who work at the same place he does. He likes beer, music and movies. It's an average life, one that could be considered envious by many. But he's lonely. No steady girl, a rather dead-end job and his youth has slipped by him.One night he and his friends hit a strip club to pass some idle hours, There Larry is is transfixed by one of the dancers, whose name is Sondra. Obsessed, Larry continues to go there alone, even though he has heard that Sondra is a prostitute. The club is opporated by Russians and rumor says that they are connected to Organized Crime. One night Sondra tries to escape and Larry helps her. And Whitey, the owner of the club and pimp to Sondra, is angry. Murderously so. The chase is on, but Whitey seems to be virtually unstoppable.

     Like Terminal, Kill Whitey begins as a straight suspense novel and turns into an outright horror story before it's over. Brian knows how to gradually turn the screws, building tension as the body count rises and the blood and gore dispenses.

     I've followed Brian Keene's career with enthusiasm since The Rising. That novel is, unless I'm mistaken, his most popular book, but I think he has grown and has improved at his trade. Kill Whitey is an important book in his career, just as Cold in July was an important book in Joe R. Lansdale's career. Both novels feature an essentially decent man thrust into a bloody vortex of violence. Men who try to maintain their humanity in the face of the worst things our species is capable of.

     Kill Whitey is a forthcoming trade hardcover from Cemetery Dance Publications. I want to thank CD for making this excellent novel available in such an edition. In a time of talk of a recession, inflated gas prices and other alarming trends, a lot of readers want to read a book and cannot afford the luxury of signed tipsheets and other costly bells and whistles. I hope that everyone that reads this buys a copy of Kill Whitey to prove that these editions can be as lucrative for the publisher as the high end editions.

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Note: The review is part of the "Spring into Terror" project, check out other reviews of horror titles available for reading for this Spring at our Spring into Terror project page.




Michael in Hell by Dennis Latham

YS Gazelle Books, 2007

ISBN: 0979674416

Available: New

            Dennis Latham presents us with Vietnam veteran Michael Tucker, a sympathetic antihero living in a cruel world. Unable to escape the hell he experienced in the war, Michael placates his internal monster by tracking down child molesters who have escaped prosecution under the law, torturing and killing them.   Latham paints a vivid picture of Tucker’s many varieties of hell: his war flashbacks, his sessions with his victims, and the riots in his neighborhood. Michael in Hell is fast-paced, with nonstop action, a gripping story that can be read in one sitting. However, it contains many graphic descriptions of torture, gore, and violence and definitely won’t be every reader’s cup of tea. Recommended.

Contains: Intense and graphic gore, violence, and torture.





Trail Of Madness by Zoe Whitten
Lulu, 2007
ISBN: 9781847999726

Availability: New

    Trail Of Madness is the second installment of Zoe Whitten's three part book series about Wendy, a psychic teen, and her schizophrenic partner in crime, Jobe. Wendy and Jobe have skipped out of Devine, Texas, hoping to find answers to Wendy's father’s death. Wendy and Jobe also want Raymond, the government’s new experimental victim. They need to capture Raymond without killing him to see if he can help them find some much needed answers. As a virus slowly destroys his former self, Raymond becomes a violent madman. Trail of Madness isn’t as successful as the first book in creating a suspenseful atmosphere and sympathy for the victims. However, Whitten has taken what could have been a standard zombie story and given it an original treatment. Trail of Madness is a solid follow up to the first book, and readers won’t want to wait for the final installment in the series to find out who, or what, will prevail in the end.
Contains: violence, gore, sex, murder, cannibalism

Review by the Angry Princess 



Disposal by Jeff Strand with illustrations by Keith Minnion

Biting Dog Press, 2007

ISBN: 0-9729485-5-4

Available: New

            Featuring enough forewords alone to fill a novella, Disposal is the darkly funny tale of Frank, a petty thief and morally reprehensible man who plans to rob a 24-hour dry cleaner, and ends up making a deal with the clerk to kill her husband in exchange for carnal favors. Despite her husband's already beaten and stabbed body Frank just can't make the man stop breathing, and so the story becomes a gory tale of “101 Ways to Kill a Human.” Despite the gore it is really funny, from puns and irony to macabre slap-stick. It is likely too extreme for some library collections, but Strand will be a pillar of the horror genre, if he isn't already, so it does have value for future Strand collections.

Contains: mutilation, violence, gore, language, sex

Review by Michele Lee




Brazen Bull by Elizabeth Massie with Illustrations by Keith Minnion

White Noise Press, 2007


Available: New

    After Dorrie Benson’s father loses his job, he begins to focus all of his frustrations on the new residents of the neighborhood, who appear to be members of a cult. As his behavior becomes more and more erratic at home, his ugly obsession with the neighbors grows more and more intense and disturbing.  Brazen Bull is an effective little story with a nice creep factor that gives the reader considerable food for thought. Massie creates an interesting comparison between the dynamics of Dorrie’s relationship with her father and cult behaviors, and Dorrie’s indecision creates a tension that will leave even jaded readers guessing.  For those who may have not read Massie before the story is a compelling reason to search out more of her work.   The chapbook itself is beautifully illustrated and put together making it an excellent addition to personal and library collections. Recommended

Contains: descriptions of cult behaviors and rituals, arson.




Like Death by Tim Waggoner

Leisure Books, 2005

ISBN: 0843954981

Available: New and Used 

    As a child, Scott hid under a table as his family was brutally murdered, leaving him psychologically scarred for life. Like Death picks up years later, as an adult Scott tries to pick up the pieces of his failed marriage and reestablish a relationship with his estranged wife and only son. His wife has moved to a different town for a fresh start and to decide whether to continue her relationship with Scott, who was a physically abusive husband and father. Scott still loves his family and can't let go, so he follows her and gets an apartment in the town on the premise of writing a book about lost and abducted children. As he researches one little girl named Miranda, who has been missing for an entire year, he is confronted by a teenager who also has the name of Miranda. She becomes an enticing mystery that leads Scott into the darkest corners of his mind, a surreal world full of nightmare, horror, and death. Like Death horrifies on multiple levels. First, there is the unquestionable terror Scott goes through as a boy as he watches his mother and father bleed to death before him. Next, there is Scott’s fear of loss as he keeps trying to push his way back into his family, stalking his wife and son through phone calls and forced meetings, although his wife is becoming more and more certain that she doesn't want him back.  The brutal death of the child Miranda and the appearance of the teenage Miranda add mystery to the story. There is also a level of psychological terror as Scott questions his own sanity in a world that gets stranger every day. Even with the surreal environment, the book works. The characters are believable and realistic, with human weaknesses and flaws. Waggoner’s writing expresses horror and outrage in an effective and seldom achieved fashion. Like Death is highly recommended for adult horror collections in public and private libraries.

Contains: Gore, Violence, Rape, Sex, Pedophilia.

Review by Bret Jordan


Fireworks  by James A. Moore

Leisure Books, August 2003

ISBN:  0843952474

Available: New and Used

    James A. Moore is a consummate craftsman. With utilitarian prose, Moore is most adept at exploring the characters that populate his stories, with vivid and rich dialogue and a knack for delivering a clear sense of motivation. Even minor characters are depicted in such a way that they become fully realized and alive on the page. There’s an art to it, and Moore is more than up to the task. Fireworks is a non-traditional horror story, where the real horrors are not in the sensational appearance of an alien spacecraft, but in the government’s reaction to it. Moore deftly presents the reader with ONYX, a secretive special operations unit that essentially closes the small town of Collier off from the rest of the world and places them under the oppressive yoke of martial law. The author amps up the intrigue and shows us the angst and terror felt by the good people of Collier as their world is turned upside down and inside out. Moore explores common themes, as readers of King’s Tommyknockers or Dreamcatchers can attest. The author, in the novel’s acknowledgements, tips his hat toward the aforementioned Tommyknockers as an influence, along with Koontz’ The Strangers. I would add Whitley Strieber to that list as well. It is this reviewer’s opinion, however, that, though Fireworks may have been inspired by these other authors and their works, Moore explores the themes therein in a more complete and satisfying manner. Fireworks is a fine novel, believable even at its most fantastic. Readers’ advisory note: A good choice for fans of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Whitley Strieber, with crossover appeal for readers of political thrillers and conspiracy buffs. Highly recommended for public library collections. 

Contains: Adult language, Adult situations, Violence

Review by Bob Freeman



The Grandmaster by Peter A Balaskas

Bards and Sages, August 2007

ISBN: 0615147437

Available: New

    The Grandmaster is an intriguing novella that combines the supernatural with the very real horrors of the Holocaust. The book is the story of Dr. Johann Wagner, a paranormal investigator who as a child saw his family killed while captive in a Nazi concentration camp.  Even at a young age, Wagner had already begun to develop his inherited paranormal powers, but he kept them hidden to prevent becoming a Nazi experiment.   Balaskas does a remarkable job of creating an undercurrent of hope within a world of hopelessness, as Wagner slowly develops a plan to help his fellow captives escape.  The author does a good job of portraying the suspense and horror of the situation without relying on gore or gratuitous violence to make his point. This is a nuanced and well-written story, with a bittersweet and satisfying end.   Recommended for both adults and young adults.

Contains:    N/A

Review by Stella


Rags and Old Iron by Lorelie Shannon

Juno Publishing, 2006

ISBN: 0809556243

Available: New

    Lorelie Shannon excels at imagery and mood.   Her language does an amazing job of painting you right into the world she creates.  It is almost impossible not to get drawn into this world, to the characters and their story. That said, it is an extraordinarily disturbing read, unnerving and sincerely frightening.  I’m going to be honest:  I couldn’t finish.  It scared me too much.  The back cover, I am afraid, will draw in people thinking that it may be something along the lines of paranormal romance. It’s very much not.  While there is a love story, and while there is the paranormal, this is a horror book, plan and simple.  It’s the story of obsession, of dangerous and unhealthy love, and of the things that people will do to get what they want.  The story, does, however, have a sincere flaw for readers who might be trying to figure out when it takes place.While much of the story appears to be taking place in modern times, many of the references seemed out of date.   For someone who was a teenager in the 1980s, this was occasionally enough to jar me out of the narrative flow. Recommended for adult readers of horror, ones with a sincere appreciation of the genre and a love of good writing.   Prepare to be, if not scared, deeply disturbed. Contains: Graphic sexual imagery, including rape

Review by Havoc


Midlisters by Kealan Patrick Burke

Biting Dog Press, 2007

ISBN: 0972948546

Available: New

    Jason Tennant has murder on his mind. He has killed people in many ingenious ways. In fact, he does it for a living.  Jason Tennant is a horror writer, considered in the business to be a midlister: successful enough to make a living at his craft but not at the pinnacle of fame and success like fellow writer Kent Gray. Jason’s professional jealousy of Kent’s success is thrown into sharp relief when Kent and Jason both end up attending the Aurora Convention. With Jason’s arrival, bloodshed ensues, and Jason finds out that things are not what they seem. Burke paints the life of a horror writer vividly, bringing you into Jason’s world with all of its twists and turns. His attention to detail and atmosphere, and his development of Jason Tennant as a character, makes this a fantastic read. Midlisters is the first book by Kealan Patrick Burke that I have read, and I am impressed. I look forward to reading more from this author. Readers advisory note:  Horror authors and fans will especially appreciate this title. Steve Vernon’s Last Stand of the Great Texas Packrat will complement it nicely. Readers who enjoyed  like the “fan convention” setting may appreciate Sharyn McCrumb’s more humorous take in her short novel Bimbos of the Death Sun. Recommended for public libraries and horror fans.   Contains:



The Lesser Of Two Evils: Campaign Trilogy, Part One by Zoe E. Whitten, 2007
ISBN: 9781847531087 
Available: New
    Detective David Briggs has moved to Devine, Texas to escape the stress of city life and the madness of crime.  All is well until two strangers drift into town, and a grisly string of child murders soon follows. Local petty thief Wendy Stouffel is just a child herself, but somehow she seems to know where and when these awful deaths will be taking place. Davis teams up with Wendy and her brother to search for the killer, hoping to solve the case before another child dies. The story is fast paced and the plot has some original twists that left me shaking my head and wondering why I didn't expect what happened!. Readers who enjoy this book will be pleased to know they can look forward to another installment soon. Recommended for public library collections.  Contains: Violence, murder, gore.

Review by The Angry Princess



Scavenger by David Morrell

Vanguard Press

ISBN: 1593154410

Available: New and Used

    Scavenger is a sequel to  Morrell’s previous thriller, Creepers. Frank Balenger is angst-ridden over the death of his wife and caught up in a romance with Amanda Evert, a woman who resembles his lost love, When Amanda is kidnapped and used as a pawn by the “evil super genius” Adrian Murdock, the action picks up and Morrell takes the reader on a nonstop, action-packed ride. However, the action seems to overwhelm character development: although Balenger has the potential to be a compelling hero, Morrell’s minimal characterization leads readers to wonder why they should care about the imperiled characters. Although the plot has a “video game” feel, and the book can be unwieldy, Scavenger is a roller coaster, against-the-clock thriller. David Morrell’s fans will want to pick this one up. Reader’s advisory note: Readers of Dan Brown will feel right at home with this one.  Recommended for public libraries’ horror or general fiction collections by the Monster Librarian.  Contains: Adult language, Adult situations, Minor violence

Review by Bob Freeman



Punishment And Sacrifice by John Reid, May 2007
ISBN: 1430314400
Available: New
   Dr. Jack Barker is a clean cut doctor with a sick secret in his closet. He is a serial killer who was abused as a boy by his monstrous father. Police detective Mike Swanson is investigating the serial murders, Mike’s past is a mystery, but the case brings up flashes from the past, allowing the reader to piece together his childhood bond with Barker. Although the story becomes predictable, and spelling errors may distract readers, those who enjoy this subgenre will still enjoy it. 
Contains: Sex,Violence,Abuse,Murder,Gore,Incest,Rape,Pedophilla,Torture

Review by The Angry Princess




The Island by Richard Laymon
Leisure Books. March 2002
ISBN: 0843949783
Available: New
    In The Island, the narrator, Rupert, goes on a boating trip with his girlfriend Connie and her family, and while they are picnicking on an island, the boat blows up, leaving them stranded there. Rupert’s detailed journal entries record the events that follow- one by one, the survivors are being picked off. Laymon draws the reader into the sick game that is played out slowly as the book progresses. He grabs on and doesn’t let go. The Island is suspenseful, fast-paced, and will keep readers guessing. Recommended for public library collections.
Contains: Sex, Violence, Murder, Incest, Pedophilia, Rape, Torture, Some gore
Review by the Angry Princess


Noir: Three Novels of Suspense by Richard Matheson

G&G Books, 1997

ISBN: 096491932X

Available: New (reprint) and Used

     Noir is a collection of three gripping suspense novels by the great RIchard Matheson. The first novel, entitled Someone is Bleeding, is a twisted love triangle involving a man, his nemesis, and a woman who may be mad killer. On the other hand, she may have been set up for murder so the bad guy can win her love. The second novel, entitled Fury on Sunday, centers on a madman who has escaped from an insane asylum, and who deals with an incomprehensible world using violence and deception. The story is tense and exciting, a roller coaster ride towards destruction. The final story, Ride the Nightmare, is one that most readers will easily relate to.  The main character is an everyday fellow, a  pillar of the community with a wife, daughter, and his own business. This comes to a halt as his sordid past catches up with him and demands his attention, putting not only his life, but the lives of his wife and daughter on the line. The suspenseful situations and intriguing storylines of all three novels  are sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Although these three novels were published as a collection in 1997, they were written much earlier, and have a 1950's flavor.  Noir: Three Novels of Suspense was a true pleasure to read and will make a fine addition to any public or personal library.

Contains: Violence Review by Bret Jordan


Remainder by Tom McCarthy

Vintage Books, 2005
ISBN: 978-0-307-27835-7
Available: New and Used
    An unnamed man, severely injured in a mysterious accident, receives an enormous settlement from the organization responsible. Unable to remember the accident or much of his previous life, and feeling out of place in the world, he uses the money to compulsively recreate his occasional flashes of memory, down to the smallest details, even hiring people to re-enact situations over and over. The path this leads him down is bizarre and disturbing, and readers will have the creeps long before they finish traveling the twists and turns of this chilling and hypnotic tale.  Recommended for public library collections. Contains: violence, murder, traumatic incidents. Review by Francesca the Librarian





Hater by David Moody

Infected Books, 2006

ISBN: 0955005167

Available: New and Used

    Hater is the story of an average guy who hates his job and struggles to make ends meet. He has a dull marriage and a dull life where each day almost blends into the next. Everything changes when people mysteriously start becoming insane killers for no reason. It starts with one or two here, a couple more there, until almost half the population is suffering from the malady, and the ones who aren’t suffering don’t know when a friend or loved one might suddenly switch over and become a vicious killer. Hater is full of action and plot twists that are sure to catch the reader by surprise. The book has a very British feel to it and the main character is someone that the reader can relate to because he isn’t the hero type. He is just like everyone else, getting through the ups and downs of life in the best way he can. The fact that the main character is such an average person is almost the most horrifying part of the book, because the reader can easily slip into his place. I really felt for that family as they struggled, not only with the crazies outside of their homes, but also as they battled mistrust between each other as they wondered when one of them would change into a hater.  I would certainly recommend this book for any library.  Contains: Gore, Violence   Review by Bret Jordan


Wild Things: Four Tales by Douglas Clegg

Cemetery Dance,  October, 2006
ISBN: 1587671565

Available: New

    Douglas Clegg provides us with a quartet of well-written short tales of horror in Wild Things.  The book is comprised of "The Wolf"  which tells the tale of a young guide  and  a wolf hunter who are on the hunt for the creature who has killed in the nearby village. "The American"  is about a young man who arrives at a cafe in angst about his current love and the acts he has been asked to do for his lover and a kindly couple who try to console him.  "A Madness of Starlings," a dad rescues a baby starling and after the bird is set free, he starts to have a break down.   The fourth tale is the  "The Dark Game," where a group of soldiers are taken prisoner and tortured during a war until one soldier uses a mental game that his mother taught him to turn the tide against his captors.  Wild Things is a great showcase for Douglas Clegg's writing talent. Clegg crafts riveting stories with plot, dialog, and character development instead of relying on just breakneck action, or unusual amounts or sex or gore.  The most aggressive and graphic of the four stories is "The Dark Game,"  where there is a excellent balance between the psychological horror of being tortured in a prisioner of war camp and the action and gore that goes along with the story.  I would definitely recommend  Wild Things: Four Tales as part of library collection.


Weed Species by Jack Ketchum

Cemetery Dance, November, 2006


Available: New

    Don't let the cover fool you. Weed Species isn't about killer plants. Rather, it is about a young couple who kidnap young girls, rape them, and occasionally murder them, and the impact they have on those around them. Ketchum's two main characters, Owen and Sherry, are textbook sociopaths,  prone to  impulsive behavior and indifference to the rights and feelings of their victims. Jack Ketchum has a talent for telling stories involving human predators and their inhumanity to other people. He instills a different type of fear- that, under the surface, a normal looking person may be seeing you as prey.   Ketchum has written an intense and horribly disturbing novella, filled with scenes of rape and violence toward young women. Readers who enjoy or appreciate Richard Laymon's books probably will appreciate Weed Species .  Librarians will want to be cautions in recommending Weed Species to patrons as part of a readers advisory due to its graphic content. 



The Literary Six by Vince A. Liaguno

Outskirts Press, July, 2006
ISBN: 1598006959

Available: New

    In The Literary Six, Vince Liaguno crafts a well written homage to the various slasher horror films.   The Literary Six, revolves around a group of six college friends who specialize in the literary arts,  After graduation the group gets together every year to keep up and reminisce.  Liaguno propels us thirty years latter where the group is meeting for their annual reunion at a secluded inn that is located on a small island.    Once the reunion starts someone starts to kill off members of The Literary Six in gruesome manner.   The story is heavily character driven with a great deal of attention given to the members and the relationships of the members of the titular group. Liaguno does a great job of keeping the reader's attention with this gripping story.  While anyone who has watched any of the multitude of slasher movies will be able to identify the plot devices and vehicles in the story, Liaguno's storytelling is  superior . This book is a great example of why readers advisory and awareness of the genre are such important tool. The title, cover art, and back matter suggest a story similar to an Agatha Christie novel, so other readers might pick it up thinking it is an entirely different type of book, while patrons with an interest in the slasher genre could very well miss it.  If you see a friend or patron trying to check out a slasher movie, take that movie out of their hand and give them a copy of The Literary Six. They will thank you for it.  Recommended for library collections and available through Baker and Taylor.    Contains: violence and some gore.





Eyes Everywhere by Matthew Warner

Raw Dog Screaming Press, August, 2006
ISBN: 1933293187

Available: New

        Have you ever had a day when you felt like everyone was out to get you? Charlie Fields is having one of those days. His family is living in a cramped apartment and he's in danger of losing his job. Under enormous pressure, Charlie starts to make connections between events at work and home that convince him that he is the victim of a conspiracy by a multinational organization out to destroy him. Eyes Everywhere is riveting, Warner writes a strong story that walks you through the slow and gradual breakdown of a man losing his grip on reality. The plot flows well; the author could easily have bogged the story down with clinical exposition, but Warner is able to rely on the strength his storytelling to capture the reader. Instead of explanations, the reader actually experiences the increasing disconnect of the main character with reality, making for a really compelling read. This book will have appeal to horror fans, but might also be enjoyed by those who do not normally read horror fiction.  Recommended for a library core collection of horror fiction. Contains: violence.  


The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
Leisure Books, May, 2005
ISBN: 0843955430

Available: New and Used
    In The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum follows the breakdown of the everyday family that turns into a group of tormentors. The story follows David whose next door neighbors the Chandlers who consist of his best friend, his brothers, and their mother. All is well until Meg and her crippled sister Susan are introduced to the Chandler household after their parents have died. Slowly we see the Chandlers degenerate into a family of sadistic torturers. A very intense story that shows the horror that people can do to each other.  Ketchum story is well written and is particularly disturbing.   Recommended for a core of a library horror collection. Contains violence, torture, rape.


Endless Night by Richard Laymon
Leisure Books, July, 2004
ISBN: 0843951842

Available: New and Used
    Here Richard Laymon tells the story of Simon, a member of a gang that commits murders for sport, who is charged with hunting down Jody, a witness that he has become obsessed with who has escaped the gang's latest slaughter. The book is typical Laymon, quick paced and violent, if you enjoy Laymon this is another fine addition, for those not familiar with Laymon’s other work might find the book hard to stomach. For collection development purposes Richard Laymon’s books tend to be graphically violent and contain scenes of rape.   While Laymon is a solid writer. Contains: violence and rape.


Deep in the Darkness by Michael Laimo
Leisure Books, February, 2004
ISBN: 0843953144

Available: New and Used
    Laimo spins the tale of Dr. Michael Cayle who moves from the city with his wife and daughter to the small isolated New England town of Ashborough. Dr. Cayle quickly finds out that it is easier to move in to Ashborough than to move out as the town and surrounding communities are surrounded by a race of primitive people called Isolates that keep the local population under control. The rest of story is Dr. Cayle trying to escape the control of the Isolates and to get his family to safety. Laimo has written an excellent book with a fast moving plot. It makes a wonderful read and I would heartily recommend. Contains: violence and a scene of rape.

The Cellar by Richard Laymon

Paperjacks; Reprint edition, December 1987
ISBN: 0770107559

Available: Used
    The Cellar is the final book in the The Beast House trilogy by Laymon. The Beast House books are about a house in a small town in California where inhabits humanoid beasts that molests women and kills men.  In this installment we follow Donna and her daughter Sandy as they are on the run from Donna's ex-husband Roy.  Donna ends up in the town of the Beast House with Roy tracking her down.  Soon they find themselves trapped in the Beast House with the titled beast. I put this book in this category because Roy is as much of the focus and a monster as the creatures of the Beast House.  There is graphic rape and torture passages and violence.


Into the Fire by Richard Laymon

Leisure Books, September, 2005
ISBN: 0843956151

Available: New and Used

    Laymon writes a two pronged tale that ties up nicely at the end. The first side of the story follows Pamela, who is abducted by a stalker only to be rescued by a bus driver that brings her to a little town called Pit, population 6.  The second thread to this story is Norman a teenager who ends up picking up two unusual passengers in Duke and Boots, two psychopaths that slowly draw Norman into their world of madness and murder. After Norman's car breaks down in the desert the trio are picked up by the same bus driver who rescued Pamela and are brought to Pit where Pits secrets are revealed.  Contains violence, murder, and sexual situations.  


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