Wednesday, October 26, 2011
by Guy N. Smith
Originally published in paperback in 1976, this instant bestseller and seminal classic is back from the depths and in print for the first time in hardback. “Night of the Crabs” spawned an entire series about giant crustaceans with a taste for human flesh and crowned Guy N. Smith king of pulp.
Professor Cliff Davenport, one of the UK's leading botanists, is expecting a visit from his nephew, Ian Wright, and Ian's fiancée, Julie Coles, who are vacationing on the Welsh coast. However, the couple never arrives. Instead, Davenport gets a visit from the police informing him they found his nephew's car abandoned with the couple's clothes inside. It looks as if they were swept out to sea while swimming.
Davenport heads to the Welsh coast to help search for the couple, but what he finds is something far different. On the beach are strange tracks in the sand, tracks that look like claw marks, crab claws, from impossibly huge crabs. It's not long before the professor is hunkered down in the sand dunes watching in horror as giant crabs the size of cows crawl from the sea with almost human-like expressions of evil on their faces.
The professor rings up an old friend in the Ministry of Defense and the troops are sent in. They hit the crabs with bullets, mortars and tank fire, but the crabs get back up and keep coming, tossing transport trucks and the tank into the sea like toys. The carnage is stopped only when the leader of of the crabs, the most monstrous beast of them all, King Crab, clicks his claws and sends them back into the sea.
Now it's up to Professor Davenport to find the monsters' underwater lair and devise a way of exterminating them before they push farther inland, crushing villages and killing hundreds of people along the way.
“Night of the Crabs” is a quick, fun read that never tries to be anything other that what it is: pulp fiction at its best. Smith keeps the plot arrow straight, the cast of characters minimal and the action non-stop. There are gallons of blood, buckets of bowels and loads of dismembered limbs. Oh, yes, and giant, cattle-sized crabs. This new version of the book includes an intro by the author, foreword by J.F. Gonzalez, prologue and epilogue, a new chapter and additions to several others. The hardback version is limited to 100 signed copies with a paperback run ongoing.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Durant Haire
Durant Haire has been writing for 13 years, working as a reporter, copy editor and copywriter. His stories have been published in magazines and books such as Dark Wisdom, Dark Lurkers, Darkness Rising and Decadence 2 to name a few. He lives in North Carolina and holds a B.A. in English.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
The story is simple: three whites and a group of natives are traveling down the river, deep into the jungle, searching for something called "The Slave Tree". What they find defies all logic and rationale, a figment of some dark fantasy, but dreams of financial success plumbing the slave market with an inexhaustible supply of slaves dies in the ravages of disease, lust for power and violence.
There are no winners in this story, but that is faithful to the world and mood Ryan establishes early in the narrative: this is not world in which anyone can win, because there are no rules to play by.
Even if not an homage to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the comparison is inevitable, and not just because of the setting. Ryan invokes that same sense of "slipperiness" and madness without the density of Conrad's prose, and like in Darkness, the jungle is presented as an alien entity, uncaring of human aims or goals.
The Slave Tree itself remains largely unexplained, but this doesn't detract from the tale, simply adds to the story's thrust: most of the natural world is unexplained, much of it dark, and often, humanity just wants to exploit it for mercenary means.
The ending is fast and furious, but again: this feels loyal to the tone of the story, that violence is fast and brutal, and the natural world around it indifferent of the outcome.
Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at www.kevinlucia.com.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
by Dylan J. Morgan
Published by Pill Hill Press
For six centuries, armies of vampires (led by the coldly calculating Markus) and packs of werewolves (led by the brutally savage Isaac) have been locked in a bitter war, their struggles hidden in the shadows away from human eyes or waged from within the cover of mortal conflicts. Their conflict spans the years and the continents, each immortal faction seeking to gain dominance over the other with the ultimate fate of mankind at stake. But now a new enemy is rising to wrest control of the supernatural world from the old regimes: hybrids. These bizarre offspring of both lycanthrope and vampire, long outlawed amongst their sires, seek to control their own destinies and bring their persecution to an end.
Blood War is arranged in three “books”. The first, “The Freaks Come Out at 9 and Its 20 to 10,” describes the struggles between the vampires and werewolves leading up to the present day. The second part, “Monsters and Mortals,” introduces the only two mortal characters in the novel and the manner in which their lives are embroiled in the struggle. The final book, “Last Stand,” brings the various conflicts to their inevitable conclusion. Morgan’s writing is strong and descriptive, especially so during the novel’s many action sequences. The author also does a fine job of balancing about a dozen or so different characters and points of view while aptly describing the centuries-long, globetrotting conflict at the heart of the novel. He has a lot of pins in the air and never misses a catch. The “blood war” described is exciting and harrowing, with each vivid scene obviously crafted to drive the plot to its next destination.
Unfortunately Blood War misses some opportunities for depth by not creating an emotional attachment with its audience. Morgan creates very complex and interesting characters among the immortals, but for every spark of sympathy invoked for the players, we are reminded of their innate monstrosity. Frankly, the reader doesn’t know who to root for. Further, the ultimate stakes of this contest—the fate of humanity—is woefully underplayed, resulting in a distinct lack of emotional investment in the conflict.
But sometimes all you need is the adrenaline rush of a good fight. You don’t have to care who wins to enjoy vampires and werewolves and hybrids beating the crap out of each other. In the end, with its exotic locales, tight action scenes, and large cast of bad-ass immortals, Blood War is a well-written, highly entertaining action movie of a novel.
Buy it here.
Visit Dylan Morgan's site.
Reviewed by Shedrick Pittman-Hassett
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a full-time librarian and part-time writer trying to do that the other way around. He has written reviews for Library Journal and has also had two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Shedrick currently resides in Denton, Texas ("The Home of Happiness") with his lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, he can be found in a pub enjoying a fine brew.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
by Margaret Coel
Published by Berkley
Margaret Coel explores the corruption of love and politics in her taut thriller, The Perfect Suspect published by Berkley's Prime Crime imprint.
Catherine McLeod is the central character, an investigative news reporter who finds herself thrust into the events of a recent homicide, the murder of a venerated politician on the fast-track to the White House. Catherine McLeod must choose between advancing the truth as she uncovers new evidence that can change the course of the investigation, or allowing a scapegoat to take the fall for the true killer by doing nothing at all.
Margaret Coel quickly advances the action; from the first pages we are thrust into the mind of a conflicted killer caught between love and betrayal as she shoots David Mathews, the sophisticated politician expected to take the governor's seat in the state of Colorado. Coel creates a portrait of corruption both internal and external – love spoiled and tainted, the flawless politician whose spotless image is thin cover for his adulterous affairs, and the killer herself, Detective Ryan Beckman, put in charge of the homicide investigation when her job is to protect and to serve. Catherine McLeod is one of the few characters who holds firm against this moral decay. She insists upon pursuing evidence on the strength of an anonymous phone call that implicates Detective Ryan Beckman as the killer.
The action unfolds as the murder expands into a spiral of circumstances – Beckman uses all the resources of her occupation she can muster to silence potential witnesses, while McLeod proves equally tenacious, unable to stand by and watch as Sydney Mathews, David's wife, takes the heat of the investigation and is charged with murder. The key to bringing Beckman to justice revolves around the anonymous caller, and it becomes a race between them as each struggles to reach the witness first – McLeod becoming Beckman's target in the process.
Margaret Coel provides the action in swift succession, allowing the reader insights into characters and their motivations in a slow unfolding, seeing the crime and its after effects from multiple angles. Fast-paced, any crime lover will no doubt enjoy this latest installment in Coel's recurring character of Catherine McLeod.
Martin Rose lives in New Jersey, where he writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, holds a degree in graphic design, and enjoys blurring the line between art and life. More details are available at www.MartinRoseHorror.com.
Monday, October 10, 2011
by, Michael West
Publisher, Seventh Star Press, August 2011
Cinema Of Shadows is a full-throttle, unique journey that takes the concept of the conventional “haunting” to new territory. Well written, with a suspense that is palpable, West delivers a novel that strikes emotional chords and challenges our imaginations.
The Woodfield Movie Palace has stained the community of Harmony, Indiana. From fires, murders, to suicides; its sorted history is about to come to an end with a wrecking ball. But, from within, an evil that precedes antiquity begs to differ. It plans and waits.
Kim is a struggling college student who is doing her best to pass her classes and move on from a past of nightmares that still awake her. Most fans will remember her--and what set her on her path--from West’s short story The Bridge that appeared in his collection, A Skull Full Of Kisses. There is only one way out of this perpetual torture, and the answers she seeks: a Parapsychology class headed by a Professor with a past just as dark, and haunted as Kim’s.
Professor Burke’s intent is to have his students collect as much data as possible from the Woodfield Movie Palace before demolition starts. As they do, what waits for them subtly extends its reach into the sleepy town with fingers that desiccate everything and everyone they touch. Even the doctors and the police become embroiled in the escalating chaos—and the humble people that comprise the town carry their suspicions on whispers.
Kim and her class-mates friendships, relationships, and their inherent trust are put to the test, as a reality bereft of logic consume them. As the stakes rise with every pulse-pounding chapter, these bonds are stretched to their limits. Can they stand together and do what must be done, lest their home and life itself vanish like the people the Woodfield has consumed?
Cinema Of Shadows is a compelling novel that catches the reader off-guard. West begins with familiar territory and makes it his own, in all of its horrific glory as emotional chords are plucked...one by one. The real beauty of this novel is West’s unique approach to ambiguity. Each chapter raises the bar, as well as our emotions it elicits. As usual, West gives us a novel that snares us into a world eerily similar to ours, tickles our imaginations, and proves once again that his voice is rare and quite formidable.
To find out more about Michael West, please visit his website.
Reviewed by Ben Eads
Ben Eads is a dark fiction author of short stories and longer fiction. His work tends to represent modern horror coupled with what he likes to call: “Imagination-tickling elements”. Ben is also a huge fan of dark fiction and dark movies. At the age of ten he wrote his first story. Taking writing seriously in early 2008, Ben Eads has published numerous short dark fiction stories in various magazines, anthologies, and E-Zines.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
By T.M. Wright
Published by Uninvited Books
WHY WOULD A DEMON WANT A CHILD?
When his six-year-old son vanishes, Miles Gale is suspected of having committed an unthinkable crime. He alone knows that the truth is even more unthinkable: his son has been taken by a creature out of time, a creature out of nightmare. The boy’s mother has returned to claim him…and Miles will have to go through hell to get him back. (back cover blurb of Little Boy Lost)
This 1992 re-issue of Little Boy Lost focuses on the ultimate parental nightmare—that of a child lost. So clearly does Wright’s surreal prose explain the unreal, “I must be dreaming because this can’t really be happening” world in which those who have lost a child live, that even childless readers are able to fully empathize with Miles’ desperation, anguish, and helplessness when little Aaron disappears. And to make it all the more realistic, the child disappears at a local mall, where these sorts of things happen with a fair degree of regularity outside of the pages of a novel.
We get most of the details of the story from CJ, Aaron’s older half-brother, who has an eidetic memory. During police interrogations (because, of course, the police think that CJ’s father, Miles, is responsible) CJ recounts every single detail of the day, down to the hairstyle of a woman at the far end of the parking lot. Being a child, CJ doesn’t yet know how to filter through everything his mind has recorded, and so he just plays back every second, whether relevant or not. A small detail, perhaps, but a crucial one, and it perfectly fit the character, as do all T.M. Wright’s subtle touches. He is truly the Da Vinci of literary horror, where God is in the details.
With his typical, always fascinating hallucinatory edginess Wright takes us on a frantic search for Aaron—in this world and…other places. There is nothing predictable about the searching, nor the way the book ends, for that matter.
T.M. Wright is truly an author for analytical adults who appreciate the more literary side of the horror genre. Younger people may find him frustrating, because little is spelled out and endings are not necessarily all neatly tied up and obvious. So if you’re looking for a cheap thrill, gratuitous gore, or hardcore horror, Wright is probably not for you.
But if you want something haunting, something that you will think about during the day, something that will quietly creep into your dreams at night…well, now you know just where to look.
Another home run, Mr. Wright…all the way from 1992!
Five out of five stars.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Carson Buckingham
Carson Buckingham’s first dark fantasy novel, HOME, will be released this Halloween and will be available on Amazon.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
by Melissa Marr
Published by William Morrow-Pinnacle Press
What is it that makes a novel “gothic”? We all know that it sure as hell isn’t pouty teenage girls fainting in the embrace of sparkly vampires, but negative proof is never much help. Is it old, crumbling manses or castles sinking into the unbearable stench of a cursed moor? Ghosts that haunt the periphery of the damned? Some alchemy made from cobwebs and wrought iron posts? Or, is it old secrets, buried deep but still boiling to the surface? The inescapable past sneaking up on the unknowing present?
If, like me, those last two are what really make the genre for you, then you’re in for a dilly of a tale with Melissa Marr’s Graveminder.
Rebekkah Barrow left Claysville a decade ago and did her best to never look back, despite the deep connection to her step-grandmother Maylene and long running ignored relationship with the town’s Undertaker in training. As with all best laid plans of meece and menses, this all goes to hell when Maylene is murdered. Someone or something tore her apart and finding out who only begins the mystery that forces Rebekkah back into the town she never truly called home and the arms of the man she never admitted into her heart, ByronMontgomery. It seems that the town elders had made a pack in the long ago that binds everyone within its borders and more than just ghosts are worming their way out of the ground.
Graveminder takes an interesting approach to the traditional gothic ghost story in that it is the town itself that is haunted, instead of a specific person or house. Not so much haunted by ghosts (though the dead do walk within these town limits) as by the remnants of decisions made long ago. That aspect is what makes it a uniquely American, distinctly post-millennial Gothic novel while maintaining the sense of history and age associated with the genre, this sense that even as we strive for personal freedom we are bound by the sins of our fathers. No matter how much we may strive and struggle against this hold of the past, we inevitably find ourselves unable to escape and must find some way to live with it. Melissa Marr beautifully captures this age old strain of freedom versus fate in both Rebekkah’s constant fight against it and Byron’s passive acceptance.
Of course, you could ignore that and lose yourself in the loamy, dusty ambiance (you’re soaking in it) while the hungry dead chew at your flesh.
On the down side, the ending seemed a tad rushed to me. The setup was far too rich and the emotions seemed too complicated to play out as quickly as they did. Also, the romance portion fell flat for me. I didn’t feel the connection between the two in any way beyond the superficial and still have a tough time buying it. These aren’t story killers by any means, but it could’ve played out a little stronger with more patience.
Regardless, Graveminder goes well beyond the standard penny dreadful and kept me up well into the dreary hours with Ms. Marr’s combination of originality, heart and whip quick pacing.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at antoncancre.blogspot.com. No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.