Aug 202014
 
BLACKOUT is the first thing I've read by Tim Curran. It's a well-written horror/science fiction novella that's very reminiscent of not only 1950s SF movies but also the work of Stephen King, in that he takes a group of normal people (in this case middle-class suburbanites) and puts them in an unexpected and very harrowing situation so we can see how they react. Curran spends a little time
Jul 162014
 
The set-up of ELDERWOOD MANOR, the new novella by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes, is a classic one in horror fiction: protagonist returns to his creepy, tragedy-haunted childhood home, where things get even creepier and more dangerous. Fulbright and Hawkes bring this tale to life with some fine writing, a brooding sense of overpowering doom, a nice pace, and the addition of the
Jun 302014
 
A while back John Hocking suggested that I read Clark Ashton Smith's story "The Charnel God", which originally appeared in the March 1934 issue of WEIRD TALES. Now I have, and I'm becoming more of a CAS fan after never reading much of his work until recently. "The Charnel God" is one of Smith's Zothique stories, set on a far future, decadent Earth where magic has replaced science. The plot
Jun 122014
 
Let me start out by saying that I'm not overly fond of the manga format, especially for graphic novels that weren't published in Japan to start with. Doing a story that way strikes me as being almost as pretentious as not using quotation marks in fiction. That said, I can get used to it once I start reading, and as a result, ARKHAM WOODS turns out to be fairly entertaining. This graphic
Jun 042014
 
PARADOX FALLS is Peter Brandvold's first true horror novel, although he's included horror and supernatural elements in some of his Westerns. It's a good one, too, as the plot finds three old friends upholding a tradition as they hike to the top of a mountain in Colorado. Jake is a writer, not as successful as he'd like to be, and when he and Ashley were teenagers they were each other's first
Apr 232014
 
Unlike H.P. Lovecraft, who authored only a few stories that I've read so far, and Henry S. Whitehead, who I hadn't read at all, I'm pretty familiar with the work of Seabury Quinn, the next author in ZOMBIES FROM THEPULPS! I've read probably two dozen of the stories in his long-running series about occult detective Jules de Grandin, maybe more. I'm pretty sure I hadn't read "The Corpse-Master",
Apr 162014
 
The second story in ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS!, the fine new anthology edited by Jeffrey Shanks, is Henry S. Whitehead's "Jumbee", which originally appeared in the September 1926 issue of WEIRD TALES. As Shanks points out in his introduction, it's one of the earliest zombie yarns. Following the lurid "Herbert West: Reanimator" by H.P. Lovecraft, it comes off as a little on the mild side, as the
Mar 212014
 
My general dislike of H.P. Lovecraft's work, while still acknowledging its influence and historical significance in the field of Weird Fiction, has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion in the past. But for some reason, every so often I get the urge to read something by him, maybe in the hope of finding a story that I like. And whaddaya know, I finally did. I'm fudging a little with
Jan 222014
 
THE INCIDENT OF THE HARROWMOOR DOGS is the first thing I've read by Daniel Abraham, who's becoming well-known as an author of science fiction and fantasy under his own name and a couple of pseudonyms. This is a novella featuring a couple of characters who have appeared previously in some of Abraham's short stories. Balfour and Meriwether (we don't find out their first names) are a pair of tough Englishmen in the 1880s who carry out dangerous assignments for a secret intelligence agency headed by a nobleman who reports directly to the Queen.

This time they're asked to track down a fellow agent who has disappeared while investigating the case of an explorer and war hero who is locked up in a sinister sanitorium after suffering a breakdown of some sort. It seems that this unfortunate patient has been having nightmares that somehow reveal information the British government would prefer to keep secret.

Balfour—whose weapon of choice is knives—and Meriwether—who carries a brace of pistols and is good with them—pursue different lines of investigation that ultimately lead them to the same place, a warren of tunnels under the English countryside that contain a horrifying secret.

THE INCIDENT OF THE HARROWMOOR DOGS is a well-written, very entertaining blend of mystery, espionage, adventure, and horror. There's a little Conan Doyle, a little Robert E. Howard, even a little Robert Louis Stevenson. There's a late twist in the plot that seems a little forced to me, but hey, it's Abraham's story, not mine. And overall I had a fine time reading it.

The earlier Balfour and Meriwether adventures are available here. I liked this one enough that I've already bought them and look forward to reading them.
Jan 132014
 
Any book with the phrase "jungle-shrouded island" in its description on Amazon is bound to be pretty good. I think we can take that as a given. Christopher Fulbright's novella RED CHALICE certainly doesn't disappoint in that respect. It's a pulp-inspired horror/adventure yarn that's rip-roaring fun.

Ex-con Layne Drover hires out for dirty jobs, and his current one fits the bill. Even though the setting is contemporary, RED CHALICE's set-up is very much like something out of a Weird Menace pulp. Layne is hired to accompany a beautiful, mysterious woman to that jungle-shrouded island I mentioned above, where the crumbling mansion of the woman's late uncle is located. She's inherited something very valuable from him, and she has to journey to the island to retrieve it.

No sooner do they get there, though, than a hurricane roars in, the boat captain they hired double-crosses them, ruthless gunmen show up, and things get even weirder, bloodier, and more dangerous as Layne and his client are trapped in a labyrinth of caverns under the old mansion.

The action hardly ever slows down, and when it does that's only because Fulbright has another nasty plot twist to spring on the reader. He packs a lot into this relatively short tale, and that's just the way I like 'em. I had a great time reading RED CHALICE, and you should check it out.