Monday, April 23, 2018

Reviews for the Week of April 23, 2018

NOTE: Please see bottom of main page for submission info. Thank you.





TEN OPEN GRAVES (???? Gryphonwood Press / page counts and formats unknown. Check gryphonwoodpress.com for more info)

I picked this up expecting an anthology of longer stories or maybe novellas, and instead found out it was a whole ten-book bundle … like ordering an assortment pack of cereal online and thinking you’ll get the individual serving boxes but instead they’re Costco-size and you got cereal for months!

This review should probably therefore be split into ten, but instead I’m just going to do it as one big ten-fer. Besides, it works, because these all mostly work together in a strange cohesion, a natural (or unnatural, as the case may be) flow.

CLOSET TREATS by Paul Cooley is a boogeyman tale with a twist, as a man struggling with lifelong mental illness tries to determine if what he sees behind the new neighborhood ice cream man’s seemingly ordinary appearance is in his head or real … and what it means for him and his family if he’s wrong … or if he’s right.

THE CRYPT OF DRACULA by Kane Gilmour seems very much like a retelling of Dracula, but it’s presented as a sequel, a history-repeats in which a craftsman is summoned to work on the restoration of the Count’s castle, much to the unease of the villagers.

ELDREN by William Meikle is one I’ve read (and, I think, reviewed) before, but it’s always nice to revisit his worlds and works, so I went ahead and re-read it and enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

STILL WATER by Justin Macumber goes deep, when coal miners uncover a slumbering ancient evil and its influence begins to spread through the town, just as a prodigal son returns to no good welcome, and ends up teaming with a paranormal researcher who’s shown up on an investigation.

REFUGE: NIGHT OF THE BLOODY SKY by Jeremy Robinson would be my top fave pick, no contest. I loved everything about the writing, the story, the characters … everything. A small town gets suddenly cut off from the rest of the world, shades of Under the Dome and such, but lean and quick, without the bloat. I was agonized at the end, and realizing it was part of a series only partly alleviated my pain.

DARK RITE by David Wood and Alan Baxter takes some of the familiar tropes of small towns with sinister secrets and shakes things up a bit, when a guy going through his dead father’s stuff uncovers links to a cult whose time is come ‘round again.

THE FLAT by Rick Chesler and Jack Douglas was the one I found most difficult to read, not because of any flaws in the writing but because the central relationship was SO painful, SO poison and toxic, so believable and awful and real. That was the true horror of the story for me, while the actual cursed/haunted elements take a backseat.

LAUGHING BO'S SHADOW by Steven Savile I am still trying to wrap my head around; it starts off with a late night car crash in which driver Declan thinks he’s killed a homeless person but there’s no evidence, goes into some ouchie hospital stuff, and suddenly we’re enmeshed in a Beggar King underworld paranormal war.

PIERCING THROUGH by R.J. Fanucci gave me the serious flinchies throughout, because I am an utter wimp and it’s all about piercings and tattoos and people suspended by hooks through their skin and the disputes and rivalries among various body-mod sects … horror enough even before the eerie and otherworldly elements start coming into play.

HUNGER by Jeremy Robinson, I got to it and was all “hey this guy again!” like a surprise bonus. The story landed solidly at second on my favorites; clearly Robinson is a writer to watch and one whose works I need to catch up on. This particular tale, of an effort to solve world hunger, does way more than touch upon GMO fears and technology outpacing us.

So yeah, ten whole books, ten fun reads; I did spot occasional typos and bloopers that should’ve been chased out, and it might’ve been nice to see some more ladies in the lineup. But all in all, a solid set of good stuff.

-Christine Morgan




GODS OF THE DARK WEB by Lucas Mangum (2018 Deadite Press / 102 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

We all know that Deadite Press publishes some of the most hardcore and extreme horror books available on the market today, right? Well, if you didn’t, you probably should. This book is definitely not an exception. With that being said, if you’re not into extreme horror and Splatterpunk, you may want to proceed with caution because the author here has written a book to hold up alongside some of the legends in the genre, and what we have here is every bit as brutal.

While at a book signing, Niles Highsmith gets a phone call from his father, who tells him his brother, Leon has gone missing. Niles packs up and leaves to get to the bottom of it, knowing his brother is an activist and has been in trouble before, but he’s never been gone and missing like this for more than a few days. We soon find out the brother has been lured to a place called Avalon Lake, a mysterious ghost town he’d found while searching the dark web. The dark web is the darkest of filth on the internet. One can search and find links containing some of the worst porn imaginable, think snuff films, think real life murder videos, think weapons, think the anarchist cookbook but with more pervasive filth lingering in an online community of black markets. This is where Mangum shows us just how low down and dirty he can get with his writing and trust me, it’s just as beautiful as it is messed up and sick and demented, not to mention there’s a Lovecraftian creature from hell constructed of wires and computer monitors. Meanwhile, these masked sycophants haunt and patrol the stomping grounds of Avalon Lake. Soon Niles is confronted with some of the same decisions his brother had to make when he logs onto the dark web. Think murder. Think torture. Think cannibalism. Will he ever make it out of this alive? I guess you’ll have to read more and find out for yourself.

Highly recommended.


-Jon R. Meyers




THE NECROPHILIAC by Gabrielle Wittkop (2011 ECW PRESS / 94 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

This controversial 1972 French novella (recently translated into English by Don Bapst) is beautifully written and as disturbing as it gets, but unfortunately winds up being completely pointless.

Told in a diary format, we read the thoughts of antiques dealer Lucien, a middle-aged gent who lives alone and gets off on making love to the dead. From the first entry we’re given graphic (yet artful) descriptions of his affair with a deceased young girl. There are many entries like this with other corpses, ranging from those his age to an infant who died with its mother. This will either sicken readers or, like a car crash, cause one to read on in morbid amusement.

There’s only one slight moment of suspense when Lucien narrowly evades a gang of factory workers, but otherwise THE NECROPHILIAC is a disgusting, gruesome, artsy fartsy “classic of French literature” that has been gaining newfound popularity among the arthouse crowd and I’m assuming fans of extreme horror fiction and films since it’s 2011 translation.

I’ll take nothing away from the late Wittkop’s writing, which even under Bapst’s translation sings, but there’s no story here and the craziness gets played out by the halfway point, making Lucien’s later trip to Naples seem like a failed attempt to keep things fresh.

If you want to read the morbid journal of one crazy bastard, look no further. If you want to not hate yourself in the morning and the extreme thing isn’t yours, skip to saner ground.


-Nick Cato




DARKWALKER 1: HUNTING GROUNDS by John Urbancik  (2018 DarkFluidity / 288 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

This is a new edition, previously published back in 2012, and the kick-butt start of what promises to be a different take on typical urban fantasy. It’s our own world, yes … with vampires and werewolves and ghosts and other assorted creatures of the night … and since he was seventeen, Jack Harlow has been able to perceive them even when nobody else can.

They’re aware of him, too, but until now there’s been a strange sort of non-interference clause in play. He doesn’t bother them, doesn’t try to stop them from claiming their victims. All he does is watch, taking notes and recording the pertinent details later on a database he thinks no one else will ever need. And they, for the most part, have ignored him.

Lately, though, they’ve begun acknowledging him, talking to him more, seeming interested. It’s a change, an uncomfortable one, and one which is about to get much worse. Soon, whatever rare immunity he had has not only been canceled but reversed, as if a big target has been stuck to him and the entire supernatural population wants to zero in for the kill.

It’s hard to stay just a Watcher under such circumstances. Jack suddenly finds himself in the middle of things, caught in an infernal plot endangering his new love interest, and having to team up with a scrappy young vampire hunter.

The story moves briskly along, the various creatures are well-presented and intriguing and not bogged down by info-dumps (the ash-vampire, for instance, I particularly liked). I’m eager to find out what happens next in that world. Fortunately for me, the next one – Inferno – is waiting in the wings!


-Christine Morgan




STACKING DOLL by Carlton Mellick III (2018 Eraserhead Press / 138 pp / trade paperback)

Okay, I always get excited when I see a new Carlton Mellick book up for grabs. Here’s why. The stories are always well-written, bizarre, unique, and creative in their own way, with weird loveable or not so loveable and strange characters and creatures that you can actually imagine, and often the stories take place in highly imaginative settings and landscapes. So much so, that it’s normal to feel like you don’t want the book to end so that you can stay in the world that has been created. He does this time and time again, and he only seems to be getting better with each book released. 

With that being said, STACKING DOLL offers all of the above and more with another horrific love story. Benjamin is in love with a Russian Nesting Doll by the name of Ynaria. A beautiful lifelike wooden nesting doll who is a member of the Matryoshkans, meaning they have other smaller people living inside of them like those old wooden dolls everybody used to see at their grandparents’ house growing up, or, perhaps at antique and ceramic shops. Well, basically they want to get married, but this can’t happen unless he receives the notorious “blessing” from her parents, who are conventional Nesting Doll’s. They are sweaty pissed when they tell them over dinner, until the Father gives in, and says he can have their blessing and get married if they go through The Trial.

No other human on the face of the planet has endured the pain and suffering that is The Trial. The idea behind this is so that he can get to know her inner layers. This is where things start to get interesting. We have another layer who is more flexible and beautiful than her outer layer, a brother layer, a creature layer, another nastier creature layer, and an over emotional inner layer that smells worse than dead fish.

Will Benjamin ever make it through The Trial and happily marry the love of his life? I guess you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself.


-Jon R. Meyers



ONLY SHADOWS MOVE by David Martin (2015 Smashwords / eBook)

After being blown away by Martin’s fantastic story in BLACK STATIC No. 62 (see review last issue), I simply HAD to read more, and discovered he was offering a free copy of this 7 story collection from a few years ago via Smashwords.com. It may still be available here: Only Shadows Move

‘RELIC’ is the unsettling account of a mysterious astronaut corpse found half buried in the woods and the strange affects it has on the nearby town, then in ‘RETURNING’ a man arrives at his home after several years to find another family living there. A trippy piece that brings Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer’ to mind.

‘SPIDERS’ is an eerie comparison of office life to the insect world most should relate to, ‘SUNDAY MORNING’ gives the fever dreams of its protagonist as he or she contemplates a better life, then in ‘THIS IS A WARNING,’ a down and out musician discovers a revelation in the voice of a young singer at a local pub.

‘ERASED’ is a flash piece of dark self contemplation before the final offering, ‘AN ENDING,’ a haunting, sort-of ghost story in which a man attempts to remember his late lover and the times they shared.

Martin’s stories feature much shadow and everyday characters who exist just on the edge of it. Reality and dreams often mesh to create surreal landscapes, that while seemingly ordinary, causes the reader to believe the supernatural is just waiting, impatiently, to be discovered.

Here is one writer I’ll gladly be following into the unknown...

-Nick Cato




BONELAND by Jeffrey Thomas (2004 Bloodletting Press / 172 pp / limited edition hardcover (pictured above), trade paperback, eBook)

I swear, I really did just intend to read a little bit while having my soup, and then get back to work. That was the plan. Honest, it was. How could I have known I’d be so instantly snared and reeled in that nothing would do but to finish the entire book at one sitting?

Wow. Going into it knowing nothing but the title, with no idea what to expect, I found myself more than pleasantly surprised. Blown away would be closer to the truth. It’s clever alt-history, deviously dark social commentary, outside influences, creeping technophobia, shades of noir, bug and body horror, and more … all rolled into one.

Johnny Board is only a kid in 1893 when people start going crazy thinking there are bugs and voices in their heads. He’s not much older when inexplicable rains of beetles and swarms of shrimplike creatures begin – weather fluke? migration? – or when one of his teachers gets afflicted by a giant tick.

Skip ahead several years and Johnny is a crime photographer, though his cameras are far from the kind we know. They’re living pillbug/trilobite things, taking in scenes through single glassy eyes, recording them on excreted cylinders.

Maybe you can understand why I was unable to stop. I had to know what this was, what was going on, what was with these living camera bug things! Why did they only photograph scenes including organic material, and why were they so fond of death, violence, and atrocity?

Because that’s what the Guests want to see, and why the Guests have been so generous sharing their bio-technological advancements. They like to watch humans be awful to each other … and humans, being what we are, prove only too happy to oblige.

Also, btw, my soup got cold, but I hardly cared.

-Christine Morgan



STIRRING THE SHEETS by Chad Lutzke (2018 Bloodshot Books / 113 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Elder funeral home worker Emmett loses his wife in a tragic auto accident. He goes about life as best he could, but his world turns upside down when a body arrives at his place of employment that looks uncannily like his ex in her younger years. But wait ... this is no NEKROMANTIK gross out. Lutzke's study of a lost man trying to deal with a new found fascination is like watching a car accident: you know you should keep moving but you just can't look away.

STIRRING THE SHEETS isn't about a necrophile per se, but more a man who goes to extreme lengths to deal with his grief. There's some tense moments, and hats off to Lutzke for setting up some standard ideas that go in uncommon directions. I like how Emmett's punk neighbor was dealt with, and the ending is solid and satisfying.

A smart, well paced entry into one of horror's darker subgenres.

-Nick Cato



MONSTERS AND ANIMALS by J.F. Gonzalez and Wrath James White (2018 Deadite Press / 214 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

SURVIVOR, by J.F. Gonzalez, is one of those books from which there’s no recovery. A real rip-your-soul-out-through-your-eyeballs kind of book. I’m normally a big re-reader, but, as with Jack Ketchum’s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, one read was all I could take.

Then along comes this prequel collaboration, and I was doomed with dread because I knew I’d end up just having to read SURVIVOR again. Yet, how could I resist? Especially with the Wrath James White factor amping up the sex and depravity?

“Monsters” focuses on Melanie, whose family seems burdened with tension and secrets, most of them revolving around how Mom goes on frequent getaways, often coming back with prime cuts of meat for the freezer … and the locked room in the basement … and what happens when Melanie and her boyfriend decide to see what’s in there. Spoiler: it isn’t pork roast.

“Animals” shows us more of what Mom’s really up to on those trips, wallowing in a world of porn and torture, making snuff films, finding creative ways to dispose of the evidence. When a troubled youth (Mike Lombardo, oh my) gets caught up in the scene and his friends try to help him, the situation for all involved goes from bad to worse. We’re talking wall-to-wall carnal bloodbath here, definitely not for the squeamish or prudish.

A few other bits and pieces round out the book, including Gonzalez’s outline and notes for a project called “Mabel II,” a movie shooting schedule, and a couple of “Mabel’s Recipes” for the ambitious chef.

I believe Wrath James White and editor Brian Keene did a fine job honoring the literary legacy of a talent taken too soon. And yes, my fears proved true … now I have to re-read Survivor, and see if the intervening years of extreme horror have toughened me enough or if I’ll end up curled in the corner whimpering again.

-Christine Morgan


~~~~~~~~~~~

Please scroll to the bottom of the main blog page for updated submission info. Thank you.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Reviews for the Week of April 9, 2018

NOTE: Please see bottom of main page for submission info. SPOILER ALERT: We're packed to the gills...




WOLF AT THE DOOR by Theresa Derwin (2016 Quantum Corsets / 108 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

This slim collection of ten stories does leave a lot to be desired in terms of interior layout and typesetting; a lack of indents makes for difficult reading. If you can get past that, though, and a few other little things here and there, you’ll find some fun stuff.

The title tale, “Wolf at the Door,” features forbidden attraction among the schemings of an unusual organization, and is followed by steampunk with zombies in “Dirigible of the Dead,” while a singularly unpleasant protagonist faces the future in-laws in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

Then it’s back to steampunk-era historical to investigate “Abuse of the Dead,” and the quirky little “Ring and Rage” takes some nice little old ladies on their shopping rounds. Next up, “Pound of Flesh” delivers a change of pace following the diary of someone embarking on a drastic weight-loss plan.

“Muse” is one I’m sure many of us can relate to, examining the lengths we might have to go to in order to satisfy the hungry voice of our art. Then it’s time for squicky laughs in the schlocky pulp of “Giant Vampire Spiders From Outer Space.”

“Meat is Murder” plays with some revenge twists as a disgruntled vegetarian goes off the wagon in a big way. And, wrapping things up is my fave of the bunch … “The Things I See” is nicely creepy while also sadly sweet.

-Christine Morgan




SACRIFICIAL LAMBS AND OTHERS by Sheri White (2018 Macabre Ink / 116 pp / eBook)

After an introduction by Monica O’Rourke, White’s debut collection opens with a batch of flash fiction, many of which are quite gruesome. Some great ideas are touched upon and I think a couple of pieces would make for good, longer works.

The short stories section opens with ‘The Storm People,’ a supernatural chiller proving you should always heed the words of your grandfather, then in ‘Red Handed,’ a man in a struggling marriage learns an extreme way to relieve the pressures of life.

‘Spider Bites’ finds Marty, an arachnophobe, dealing with a white spider his spider-loving wife Kate has brought into their home. It’s bad enough Marty accidentally kills Kate, but when said spider sinks it’s fangs into him, the real trouble begins. In ‘The Phone Call,’ a brother and sister who haven’t spoken in 10 years contact each other ... via ghostly channels. ‘Wasting Away’ is a dark (and surreal) look at anorexia, while ‘Ashes to Ashes’ follows a widow who goes to extreme lengths to be reunited with her late lover.

‘Watch Your Step’ is a fresh take on the apocalyptic thing, Sheila gets more than she bargains for with her two unruly sons in the heartbreaking ‘Sacrificial Lambs,’ and ‘Maternal Instinct’ pits a pregnant woman against an irritated female Bigfoot on an isolated stretch of road.

A workaholic watches his wife, son, and other vacationers *melt* on the beach from the safety of his hut on a tropical island in ‘Paradise Lost,’ but he discovers too late that what’s causing the ghastly phenomenon isn’t what he originally thought. In ‘The Lying Dead,’ a widowed husband discovers, from a dead guy, that his son may be the product of an affair, then ‘Scarecrow Night’ highlights a prosperous community and its adults who will let nothing—not even their disobedient children—get in the way of their unholy blessings.

‘Things Happen Here After Dark’ follows a young couple who sneak into a carnival after hours and become prey to a supernatural clown, then lastly, Christina learns of her fate from an unusual machine in ‘Orgasm,’ and her husband unknowingly has a hand in it.

This is a fine introduction to White’s story telling, and we see her skill develop through each piece. There are some ballsy moves here, as no one is safe and the supernatural pokes its haunted head in at unusual times. A few stories will disturb you (especially ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and ‘Scarecrow Night’) while others take common tropes and give them entertaining spins.

A short but solid collection that will surely turn (and twist) many heads.

-Nick Cato


SEXTING GHOSTS by Joanna C. Valente (2018 Unknown Press  / 114 pp / trade paperback)

Okay, this one’s a little tricky and I’m not quite sure where to begin… So, what do we have here? Another poetry collection? Yes, we have that. But, is it like all the other poetry collections available out there on the market today? No, it definitely isn’t and if it were I wouldn’t read it. On to the next questions… Is it horror? Does a review of it even belong here on The Horror Fiction Review? I’m going to have to say, yes. It is and it does. Valente’s collection is unique and creative and disturbing, it’s haunting, often thought-provoking, it’s brutal, has the power to mess with your head and emotions, it’s sometimes cute and cuddly, but don’t let it catch you off guard. It’s also just as dark and demented and depressing as it is all those other things. It has the right amount of psychological horror flair built up between this sort of new, hip, modern, and edgy prose. Plus, the concept behind the overall collection is absolutely brilliant, in my opinion.

Some of my personal favorites in this collection were 'No one Likes You Until You’re Dead,' 'The End of the World Happened on the Internet,' 'When Blue Becomes Magenta,' 'I Am Home Alone on a Friday Night Because No One Loves Me,' and 'God of Destruction.' 

Definitely recommended.

-Jon R. Meyers




THE PLEASURE HUNT by Jacob Floyd (2017 HellBound Books / 352 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

This is a book about sex and obsession, power and submission, darkness, madness, and did I mention the sex? Strongly written from a first-person present-tense POV, the reader definitely gets a front-row seat for the action, which is some steamy, steamy stuff. But wait, it’s not only erotica … there’s much more going on behind the scenes.

See, there’s this secret online hook-up club, where real names are a no-no and refusing a ‘match’ is forbidden. Rules are strict, penalties severe. The member known as Sexy Cupid, who claims his arrow never misses, has been a very active and satisfied customer. Then he connects with a mystery lady called Dark Dance, and his whole world changes.

Their encounter is unlike anything he’s ever experienced, overshadowing everything else. He can’t stop thinking about her. He’s frantic for a follow-up. But, when he tries to find her again on the site, he can’t. His inquiries start getting him warnings from the admins, yet he can’t stop searching and prying. Eventually, his efforts are – you know, ‘rewarded’ might not be the right word here. He finds Dark Dance, with whom he’s by now utterly obsessed. He wants to be hers utterly, to belong to her, to serve her. He promises to do anything she wants, anything she says.

Thing is though, Cupid’s a stubborn entitled jerk. When Dark Dance tells him to wait for her to come to him, of course he won’t. He continues his stalking, trying to find her, demanding her attention. All to show her how devoted and obedient he is and how much he adores her, by doing the exact opposite of what she says.

It turns out, Cupid is not the first man to become fixated on Dark Dance. It turns out, Dark Dance is far from an ordinary woman. It turns out all sorts of things, with unearthly powers and unholy tortures (for which we also get that front-row seat!) and ancient evils. Much more than Cupid’s life is on the line, and the jerk still won’t learn.

-Christine Morgan



SHARKWATER BEACH by Tim Meyer (2017 Severed Press / 182 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

People keep saying sharks, like zombies, are played out, done to death, have even (so to speak) jumped the shark. To that, I say, phooey. Just because some unimaginative grumpypantses don’t know how to have fun anymore, they have to try and bring everyone down?

It’s no secret by now that I’m a big fan of the aquatic toothy monster genre, especially when tropes get turned on their heads and wild new angles are added to spice things up. I’m pleased to report that, in those regards, SHARKWATER BEACH definitely delivers.

I mean, sure, it’s got your secret lab and scientists doing experiments and things go wrong and the hungry fruits of their labor escapes … sure, it’s got a remote island about to be cut off by a convenient storm so calling for rescue / assistance is impossible … those are practically required! It’s also got black-ops mercenaries dealing with betrayal, a promising marine biologist who gave it all up for a career in law enforcement, a professor who gets too close to some of his students, and mostly …

This is not your ordinary shark! This is not even your ordinary giant shark, smart shark, or airborne cyclone shark school. This shark has something extra. This shark is also preggers and about to unload a litter of monstrous hybrids as capable on land as at sea.

So, aw yeah, bring it on, let the carnage commence! Which it does, with no holds barred, no mercy given. There’s lots of chomping, lots of action and destruction. Characters die unexpectedly, unexpected characters die. Another great summer vacation read, though not if you’re planning to get in the water.

-Christine Morgan



MAGAZINES:


BLACK STATIC no. 62, Mar-Apr 2018

In the opening commentaries, Lynda E. Rucker looks at the author’s life in the public eye (in particular with social media), then Ralph Robert Moore discusses a childhood friend and, as a writer, how it has affected him later in life. I still don’t know if I should laugh or say HUH?! over Moore’s concluding paragraph, but either way both columns are compelling and act as fine appetizers for the coming pages.

This issue’s stellar fiction offerings are three novelettes and two short stories, beginning with E. Catherine Tobler’s ‘Sanguinary Scar,’ which is sort of an aquatic take on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (why can I hear some readers screaming at this comparison?). It’s a well written piece with unexpected, sudden violence, but I feel a bit out of place in a horror fiction publication. Good tale, but perhaps better suited for BS’s sister sci-fi/fantasy magazine, INTERZONE. You’ll most likely enjoy it and tell me to shut up, so...

Jack Westlake’s ‘Bury Me With Broken Light Bulbs, Bury Me in Shattered Glass,’ follows two men battling different addictions, yet our protagonist learns they’re alike in certain ways. Despite the nihilistic title this one ends on a dark yet oddly hopeful note.

In ‘Things Behind the Sun’ by David Martin, a music fan, learns a song he has become obsessed with was recorded by a band from a small town he used to live in. A hipster music journalist discovers Martin has a copy of their rare lone album, and together attempt to find out what the band is up to. But what they discover left me in a genuine state of wonder. One of the finest short horror stories dealing with music I’ve ever read. Honestly! Bravo.

Kay Chronister’s ‘Your Clothes a Sepulcher, Your Body a Grave’ is a beautiful dark love story told in an almost poetic style. A man recounts how he met and fell in love with “the niece of my mother’s first love’s spinster sister” as a child and how he has remained in love with her despite becoming married and a father of three children. Chronister places poisonous spiders and creepy nuns alongside hyacinths and descriptions of sunny afternoons to give this a surreal, unsettling vibe. I re-read a few sections for full affect.

Finally, in Michael Wehunt’s ‘Caring for a Stray Dog (Metaphors),’ Kent leaves his wife and home after the death of their young daughter via a senseless mass shooting by, of all people, a Baptist pastor. He befriends and takes care of a homeless dog and, like the subtitle says, begins to find metaphors at every turn...metaphors that help him heal. Kent is haunted as he not only visits random Baptist churches, but attempts to make sense of their oddly spelled names. A fever dream of loss, grief, and the unusual ways we deal with moving on, this is the second story that concludes on a hopeful note.

Gary Couzens delivers another batch of Blu-ray reviews, hence my list of to-see titles now includies WITCHHAMMER, a 1969 shot in Czechoslovakia film that sounds right up my alley, and the violent actioner KILLS ON WHEELS. There’s also an insightful look at the box set of the latest season of TWIN PEAKS.

I enjoyed the interview with author Anna Tambour, and Peter Tennant’s reviews of her collection and latest novel have grabbed my attention. Tenant also provides in-depth reviews of 6 other books, including Mira Grant’s INTO THE DROWNING DEEP and Wlliam Meikle’s Collection THE GHOST CLUB, which sounds like a clever, spooky time. I used to save Peter’s reviews for last but now find myself getting right to them.

As mentioned, this issue’s fiction is simply the Best of the Best, and still the main reason to be reading BLACK STATIC. Get on that right here: BLACK STATIC subscription

-Nick Cato