Okay, so part of my job here at iHorror is to bring you sweet reviews for forthcoming, new, or new-ish horror novels. I’ve been reading like a madman, so I thought I’d share four of my latest reviews with you in one post! I read the two Samhain Publishing novellas last month, but wanted to wait until you could purchase them before posting these reviews…so, without further procrastination:
It’s all fun and games until…
Marty Weaver, an emotionally scarred poet, has been bullied his entire life. When he drives out to the lake to tell an old friend that he’s fallen in love with a girl named Jennifer, Marty encounters three sadistic killers who have some twisted games in store for him. But Marty has dark secrets of his own buried deep inside him. And tonight, when all the pain from the past is triggered, when those secrets are revealed, blood will flow and hell will rise.
“…a wise man once told her, Poetry has an invisible power that transcends the soul.”
Far and away the best new piece of fiction I’ve read this year. With Darkness Rising, Brian Moreland reminded me why he’s one of my two favorite (not King, Laymon, Ketchum…etc.) authors out there (the other being Ronald Malfi). I’m a huge fan of his novel, Shadows in the Mist, but I think this novella rivals it.
Darkness Rising goes so many places, it’s hard to get across just how awesome this novella is. It is dark and gritty in places and beautiful and poetic in others. It is completely vicious in spots, but counters that with moments of uplifting magic.
I connected instantly with the main character, Marty Weaver, the same way I did with Laymon’s Ed Logan in Night in the Lonesome October (my favorite Richard Laymon book). That alone speaks volumes for me. And much like that Laymon novel, Moreland’s ability to balance the light and dark sides in a romantic waltz over a floor made from dead flesh and macabre visions is nothing short of inspiring.
Add in a soundtrack featuring the Stones, The Doors, and possibly some Alice Cooper…and you’ve got me hook, line, and sinker.
Darkness Rising is a perfect example of how amazingly good novellas can be. This is a Moreland masterpiece.
Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong?
Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.
It took me a couple chapters to get used to Howe’s style, but he did hit his groove. Unfortunately, just as I was thinking “this is going to be so cool,” it sort of fell flat.
The characters were written pretty well (Horace and his gator.Big George, stole the show).
Some of my pet peeves showed up in here, but most readers probably won’t have an issue with them (I’m more of a write it as it happens kind of guy. I don’t like out of place flashbacks, especially in shorter works).
When the story was flowing, I found myself happily transported back to that Bruce Willis film, Last Man Standing. Unlike that movie, where once Willis’s character is in too deep you can’t help but feel the tension, Howe starts to build that same strong vibe, but then simply seems to let go.
His writing skills are definitely present, I just found myself not caring about the end.
For a novella, Gator Bait is a decent read. Not amazing, but not bad.
I’m firmly standing in the middle of the road on this one.
I give Gator Bait 3 stars Grab a copy at Amazon
Nowhere to run!
Gillian Foster is desperate. She received a very strange letter in the mail not long ago. Since then, she’s been seeing shadowy figures everywhere. Coming for her. Frantic to find a safe place, she leaves home with her daughter Meg, only to find there is no way to outrun her pursuers.
Twenty years later, Gillian has been admitted to Hawthorne Psychiatric Facility. Meg receives a similar letter and is hunted by an unseen force. Is Meg also mentally ill, or are these creatures real? And if so, was her mother right all those years ago? Is there no place to hide?
“It was a shadow, void of any features, and it was looking through the living room window, directly toward her.”
This is the first novella from Mr. Lacey with Samhain Publishing. You ever worry about those student loans? That first (or next) bill? I think Mr. Lacey has had some nightmares over them. Lucky for us, he let his dark mind whirl up a devilishly fun tale.
There’s a Teenage Bottlerocket song called, “They Came from the Shadows”, I always wanted to write a short story around that, but I think A Debt to be Paid fills the slot so that I don’t have to.
There’s a lot of fun in this one, not in the tongue-in-cheek, B-movie sort of way, just in reading Lacey’s easy going style. Everything feels real. And that’s not an easy trick when taking “shadowy” entities and bringing them into the real world. Lacey pulls it off perfectly.
He starts us up with just enough frights to glide into our introduction to Meg and Brian. For me, it’s little things like the phantom phone calls at work, and the realistic bar scene near the beginning that instantly bond you to a character and put you in their shoes. And that’s how it’s supposed to be done.
There’s also the sadness of Meg’s broken home. Growing up with a mom that could be, might be nuts, and a father that believes an institution is the right place for her, Meg is set to find out the truth behind it all, whether she wants to or not.
My only issues (and they are small ones) is how easily Brian agrees to follow Meg (but then again, I’ve fallen for girls at first sight and know I probably would have followed them on any adventure) and the sort of abrupt ending. I would have liked a little more on the back end.
A very solid debut novella from a promising new voice in horror. A Debt to Be Paid delivers sharp writing, frights that jump from the pages, and Lacey’s flair for teasing you with what waits in the darkness. This is the start to a fun career. I’m now a fan. Bring on the next one, Mr. Lacey!
I give A Debt to be Paid 4 stars. Definitely worth the read, and I look forward to Mr. Lacey’s debut novel, Dream Woods (Samhain Publishing 2016) coming sometime in the first half of next year. Grab a copy: Amazon Barnes and Noble
Welcome to Mercy House, a state-of-the-art retirement home that appears perfectly crisp, clean, and orderly . . . but nothing could be farther from the truth. In Adam Cesare’s thrilling novel, the residents will find little mercy—only a shocking eruption of unfathomable horror.
Harriet Laurel notices the odor at Mercy House as soon as she sets foot inside, brought there against her will by her son, Don, and his wife, Nikki. In the early stages of dementia, Harriet has grown resentful of Nikki, blaming her daughter-in-law for failing to supply grandchildren. Yet even Harriet must admit that her mind becomes clearer as soon as she crosses the threshold. If it wasn’t for that annoying smell.
Arnold Piper is an eighty-five-year-old ex-Marine, a proud man who has cared for himself his whole life. But no longer. Betrayed by his aging body, Arnold is learning that the trials he survived long ago in war-torn Korea pale beside the daily indignities of growing old. Little does he know that his greatest nightmares are still ahead of him.
Sarah Campbell is an idealistic nurse whose compassion has been stretched to the breaking point at the chronically understaffed facility that is Mercy House. But now Sarah’s list of unpleasant duties is about to take a terrifying turn. For something wicked is brewing in Mercy House. Something dark and rotten . . . and deadly.
Adam Cesare is one of my favorite newer writers. His past works that I’ve enjoyed– The Summer Job (his most serious novel-and my favorite), Video Night (a very fun B-movie ride), and Tribesmen–are proof that this guy has IT.
I knew going in to Mercy House (Cesare’s new eBook from Random/Hydra) that the name of the game this time was gore and mayhem times ten. On that front, he scored. Cesare eases us into the work by introducing us to a few members of the staff of Mercy House and some of its residents. Just when you think that the book might not live up to its gory reputation, we get to the dinner scene. From that point on, the blood and body parts are flying. Madness and some unexplained body altering thing have taken over the geriatric tenants in Mercy House and death, sex, and more death ensue. There’s also a turf war of sorts.
My two favorite bits are Arnold Piper’s Vietnam flashback with Klopic (specifically Klopic’s death!), and the aforementioned “dinner” scene. The former showcases Cesare’s ability as a writer: “The entry wound was right below Klopic’s cheekbone and his whole head had collapsed inward as if a black hole had formed in one of his feelings.” While the “dinner” scene gives you his flair for being gross: “There was something glossy and tubular now visible between the slashes as Marta pulled out the woman’s intestines with the tines of her fork.”
One of Cesare’s strengths as a writer is his skill in quickly crafting interesting characters. I enjoyed the creation of many in Mercy House (especially Nikki and Paulo), but thought he missed out on a few opportunities with Sarah and Teddy. I couldn’t help but feel like Sarah got off easy in respects to what kind of hell she was put through (as far as what Cesare actually shows us) , especially compared to the unrelenting tone with which Gail, Queen Bea and Harriet dole out the violence. As for Teddy, I thought his role in the book was too small. It seemed like Cesare could have done more with the guy.
Cesare’s fans seem to covet the nastier side of his work. They should gobble this one up. Unfortunately, my favorite parts of the book were all in the front half. Mercy House was still a pretty good read. Personally, I’m looking forward to Adam’s next swing at something with more depth. I know he has the chops and can’t wait for him to take the plunge.
I will be posting my Halloween Reads (October Read-a-palloza) In a couple weeks.