Friday, July 29, 2011

BOOK NEWS: Samhain Horror

Horror fiction fans were devastated when Dorchester Publishing announced their switch from mass-market paperbacks to e-books and print-on-demand trade paperbacks, and subsequently let go of long-time horror editor, Don D'Auria.

But luckily for us, D'Auria is now the editor of a new horror imprint from Samhain Publishing, simply titled Samhain Horror.

It will launch this October, releasing books initially in e-book format with paperbacks following three months later. In celebration of their launch, they will be releasing 10 books in October, but will normally be releasing two per month.

Here are their October, November and December releases:


The Seven Days of Cain by Ramsey Campbell

Is anyone really innocent?

On two continents, weeks apart, two people are brutally murdered: a Barcelona street performer and a New York playwright are each gruesomely tortured to death. In Britain, photographer Andy Bentley begins receiving mysterious emails. The messages refer to the killings and contain hints that the murderer has a personal connection to Andy. But what is it? Are the emails coming from the killer himself? And what, if anything, does Andy’s past have to do with the deaths? As the answers begin to take shape Andy will be forced to confront not only the consequences of his actions, but also the uncertainly of reality itself. Before that happens, how much that he loves will be destroyed?

Obsession by Ramsey Campbell (re-print)

The deal seemed too good to be true. Until it came time to pay.

The letters said, “Whatever you most need, I do. The price is something that you do not value and which you may regain.” To four teenagers, it seemed an offer too good to pass up. They filled out the enclosed forms. Indeed, they soon got what they needed most, but in shocking ways they never imagined. Twenty-five years later, they have never been able to forget the horror. But it’s not over yet. In fact, it’s about to get much worse. Now it’s time to pay the price.

The Hungry Moon by Ramsey Campbell (re-print)

A town trapped in the grip of spreading evil.

Isolated on the moors of northern England, the town of Moonwell has remained faithful to their Druid traditions and kept their old rituals alive. Right-wing evangelist Godwin Mann isn’t about to let that continue, and his intolerant brand of fundamentalism has struck a chord with the residents. But Mann goes too far when he descends into the pit where the ancient being who’s been worshipped by the Druids for centuries is said to dwell….

What emerges is no longer Mann, but a demon in Mann’s shape, and only the town’s outcasts can see that something is horribly wrong. Slowly, as the evil spreads, Moonwell becomes cut off from the rest of the world. Telephone lines become disconnected. Roads no longer lead out of town. And the monster’s power only grows…and grows.

Dark Companions by Ramsey Campbell (re-print)

A brilliant collection of stories by one of the masters of horror.

Not all companions are friendly. There are many that you most definitely do not want to see. When Elaine was working late at the office, she thought she was all alone. But something sinister was in the elevator shaft…working its way to her floor. Miles, too, thought he was alone in his new house, the house of a murderer, but he, too, had an unwanted companion. And Knox will never forget what was waiting for him in the dense fog.

Come and meet all of these companions and more in this chilling collection of horror tales by award-winning master of terror Ramsey Campbell. That clawing sound you hear, the haunting singing, the moving shadow—they all mean that something is waiting to make your acquaintance.

Contains “The Companion,” the story Stephen King called “one of the three finest horror stories I have ever read.”

Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell (re-print)

A lost horror film holds the key to terrifying secrets.

The legends have persisted for decades of a lost horror film starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi that was never released. Rumor has it that, for reasons long forgotten, powerful forces suppressed the film and burned all known prints. Nobody now living has seen the finished film. But that might no longer be true…

Film researcher Sandy Allan is invited to a screening of a newly-discovered sole-surviving print, but then the film disappears and the real horror begins. Sandy’s search for the film leads her to Redfield, a rural community known its rich soil, fertilized by blood from an ancient massacre. But Redfield guards its secrets closely, with good reason. During every step of her search, Sandy is watched, shadowed by strange figures. Is it paranoia, or is someone—or something—determined to keep the lost film and the secrets it reveals buried forever?

Wolf's Edge by W.D. Gagliani

Can one werewolf stop a pack of super-wolves?

Nick Lupo is a homicide cop with a difference. He’s a werewolf. He’s worked hard to control his condition, but it isn’t easy to contain the beast inside him. It also means he has some very powerful enemies. Wolfpaw Security Services is a mercenary organization that wants Lupo dead. They want to infiltrate the US military with their own werewolves and they can’t let anyone—especially a fellow-werewolf like Lupo—stand in their way.

Wolfpaw’s genetic experiments have created a “super-wolf” nearly invulnerable to silver, and soon their ranks will be filled with these invincible warriors. Can one wolf—even a fierce beast like Lupo—face the fangs and claws of a pack of these killers and hope to survive?

Angel Board by Kristopher Rufty

Not all angels are sane.

Someone saved David Barker’s life, but he doesn’t know who—or what—she is. Now he’s haunted by the image of that beautiful, nebulous vision with the features of a woman and determined to find out why she appeared when he almost died. David uses an angel board in hopes of contacting her, and unfortunately for him, he succeeds. This angel has loved him all his life, guarded him and protected him. And she’ll hurt anyone who interferes with that love. David’s guardian angel is obsessive, possessive…and homicidal. Her unyielding love for him will leave a trail of grisly “accidents” and murders as she eliminates all those who want to hurt David. Or love him. 

Dead of Winter by Brian Moreland

A predator stalks the frozen woods.

At a fort deep in the Ontario wilderness in 1878, a ghastly predator is attacking colonists and spreading a gruesome plague—his victims turn into ravenous cannibals with an unending hunger for human flesh. Inspector Tom Hatcher has faced a madman before, when he tracked down Montreal’s infamous Cannery Cannibal. But can even he stop the slaughter this time?

In Montreal exorcist Father Xavier visits an asylum where the Cannery Cannibal is imprisoned. But the killer who murdered thirteen women is more than just a madman who craves human meat. He is possessed by a shape-shifting demon. Inspector Hatcher and Father Xavier must unravel a mystery that has spanned centuries and confront a predator that has turned the frozen woods into a killing ground where evil has come to feed.

Forest of Shadows by Hunter Shea

The dead still hate!

John Backman specializes in inexplicable phenomena. The weirder the better. So when he gets a letter from a terrified man describing an old log home with odd whisperings, shadows that come alive, and rooms that disappear, he can’t resist the call. But the violence only escalates as soon as John arrives in the remote Alaskan village of Shida. Something dreadful happened there. Something monstrous. The shadows are closing in…and they’re out for blood. 

Borealis by Ronald Malfi (novella)

On a routine crabbing expedition in the Bering Sea, Charlie Mears and the rest of the men aboard the trawler Borealis discover something unbelievable: a young woman running naked along the ridge of a passing iceberg. Just as the trawler pulls alongside the floe, the woman collapses into the snow, unconscious. The girl is rescued and brought aboard the boat, where she is cared for by the crew…only to infect them with a poison that brings about unimaginable ruination.


Dark Inspiration by Russell James

Doug and Laura thought they bought Galaxy Farm, but the old house is possessing them instead.

Doug and Laura Locke are New Yorkers who need a fresh start, so they move to Galaxy Farm, an old thoroughbred stable in Tennessee. There Doug finds inspiration to write his epic novel and Laura renews her love of teaching. They also rediscover the love that first drew them together.

But the home has many secrets. There’s a graveyard hidden at the property’s edge, and tragic deaths stalked the previous owners. Doug has become entranced by the abandoned taxidermy he discovers in the attic. And Laura falls under the spell of the ghosts of twin girls she meets in the old nursery. Only a local antiques dealer senses the danger. She has gruesome premonitions of horrible events to come. She knows she must convince Laura of the threat before the dark force in the house can execute its plan. But time is short, and something seems to be very wrong with Doug…

The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee

Life on Meditrine Island is luxurious…but brief.

Marla Neuborn has found the best post-grad job in the world – as a 'Lamplighter' working on Meditrine Island, an exclusive idyllic paradise owned and operated by a consortium of billionaires. All Lamplighters have to do is tend to the mansions, cook and clean, and turn on lights to make it appear the owners are home. But the job comes with conditions. Marla will not know the exact location of the island, and she will have no contact with the outside world for the duration of her stay.

Once on the island, Marla quickly learns the billionaire lifestyle is not all it is made out to be. The chief of security rules Meditrine with an iron fist. His private police force patrols the shores night and day, and CCTV cameras watch the Lamplighters relentlessly. Soon Marla will also discover first-hand that the island hides a terrible secret. She’ll meet the resident known as the Skin Mechanic. And she’ll find out why so few Lamplighters ever leave the island alive.

Catching Hell by Greg F. Gifune (novella)

Summer, 1983. 

As fall approaches and the summer stock theaters on Cape Cod close for the season, three promising young actors and a stagehand pile into an old Ford Fairlane and head for a vacation resort in Maine. Hoping for a relaxing getaway before pursuing their dreams in New York City or going on to college, they instead encounter a bizarre storm while on a lonely stretch of state highway and soon find themselves stranded in the strange rural community of Boxer Hills. 

At first glance it seems a harmless little backwoods town, but Boxer Hills has a horrible secret and a deadly history. It is a place of horrific age-old rituals and a legendary evil that will let no one escape without paying a terrible price. 

Before the sun rises on a new day, they will have to fight their way through the night and out of town, or risk falling prey to an endless cycle of depravity and violence at the hands of a demonic creature so profane few will even speak its name. 

They were young, reckless and chasing hell. 

What they hadn't counted on was actually catching it.


The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz

Something is trapped in the castle, and it wants to feed!

The Sorrows, an island off the coast of northern California, and its castle have been uninhabited since a series of gruesome, unexplained murders in 1925. But its owner needs money, so he allows film composers Ben and Eddie and a couple of their female friends to stay a month in Castle Blackwood. Eddie is certain an eerie and reportedly haunted castle is just the setting Ben needs to find musical inspiration for a horror film.

But what they find is more horrific than any movie. For something is waiting for them in the castle. A being, once worshipped, now imprisoned, has been trapped for nearly a century. And he’s ready to feed.

Donor by Elena Hearty

The life of a vampire’s live-in food supply is never long.

Richard is a modern vampire who likes to eat in. That's why he always keeps a fresh victim trapped in his home. All of his captives eventually die; Lenore hopes to be the first to escape.

Life at Richard's is short but never dull. Not with Richard's vampire friend, Paul, constantly popping in. Paul loves toying with Richard's victims before they die. But is Paul getting too attached to his plaything? His human servant, Charles, certainly thinks so. Charles is next in line to be turned and wants to eliminate the competition.

If Charles's schemes don't kill Lenore, then Richard's hunger surely will. Lenore has a plan to survive, but someone will have to die in her place. She now has something terrible in common with her captor: she must kill in order to live.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Chilling Tales edited by Michael Kelly

 This will be the last review of my special Canada day weekend.

Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd Did I Live edited by Michael Kelly is an anthology of 18 horror and dark fantasy tales by Canadian authors.

I didn't enjoy this anthology as much as the previous two I reviewed. I only enjoyed a handful of stories and didn't find any remotely creepy. The plots of most the stories are dull and unoriginal.

But I found a few entertaining. Here are my favourites:

In "Tom Chestnutt's Midnight Blues" by Robert J. Wiersma, a musician is haunted by the love of his life. An interesting story, or at least until the anti-climactic ending.

"Sympathy For the Devil" by Nancy Kilpatrick tells the tale of an awful man who is the cause of a fatal car accident and how he gets his comeuppance. A well-written story that actually has the reader rooting against the main character.

"The Needle's Eye" by Suzanne Church is about a virus that blinds those infected and has a vaccine that will make you cringe. An emotional story that makes you appreciate doctors, family and sight.

In "Looker" by David Nickle, a man becomes romantically involved with a strange woman. I know that isn't much of a description, but I don't want to reveal too much. This is my favourite story in the book because it's so strange. I've never read anything like it before.

Chilling Tales is an okay anthology. The best stories are worth reading, but because the others are disappointing, I would recommend getting it from a library or used. Submissions for volume two, Chilling Tales: In Words, Alas, Drown I, are currently being accepted.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, July 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Evolve edited by Nancy Kilpatrick

I'm not a huge vampire fan. I've read a few vampire novels, but wasn't crazy about them because I found them predictable. More often than not, it ends with a stake in the heart. But I thought I would give this anthology a chance since it features stories about the "New Undead." I'm glad I did because none of these stories are predictable or end with a stake. These vampire stories are unique and fascinating.

Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead is edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and features 23 stories and one poem written by Canadian authors. The plot of every story involves the "twenty-first century vampire." Many of the vampires are accepted in society, many don't succumb to the usual vampire traditions (dying in the sun, etc.) and while similar to the bloodsuckers in classics like Dracula, they are all unique, new breeds of vampire.

"An Ember Amongst the Fallen" by Colleen Anderson is the most original story of the bunch, and my favourite. In this story, vampires are the dominant species and use humans as "cattle". There is much more to the plot than that, but I don't want to give anything away. It goes in a direction I never expected, and I ended up being a bit shocked by the events in the story. Reading the anthology just for this story would be worth it; definitely one of the best short stories I've read.

In "A Murder of Vampires" by Bev Vincent, vampires are common and live in a bad part of town. When vampires are being murdered, a detective tries to find the killer. I love detective and serial killer stories, so I enjoyed this story a lot. The twist of a human detective finding a killer who is murdering vampires, which most people consider monsters, makes this story interesting.

"The Greatest Trick" by Steve Vernon is about a vampire who wants to be a politician, but when he finds it difficult to convince the public to choose a vampire over the other candidates, he finds ways to even the competition. This story is gory and humorous, making me laugh quite a bit. Here's an example of a joke from the story: 

"Nobody is going to vote for a vampire," Jessome said, after I explained what I wanted of him.

"They voted for Schwarzenegger," I pointed out. "And he married one."

In "Soulfinger" by Rio Youers, a journalist goes to a blues bar to see legendary blues musician, Soulfinger, for an article he's researching, unaware that it's a bar for vampires. This is the creepiest and most atmospheric story in the anthology. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just leave it at that.

In "How Magnificent is the Universal Donor" by Jerome Stueart, a virus called Beijing Blood Disease - a.k.a. Baby Dee - has infected most of the population and the World Health Organization (WHO) is trying to save everyone with blood transfusions. But Jacob knows there is a secret the WHO is trying to hide. And when he is told his perfectly healthy partner has died from Baby Dee, he sneaks into the hospital to find him. There is tons of suspense when Jacob is sneaking around the hospital, trying not to get caught by the doctors of the WHO, and an eerie scene in the morgue.

Overall, Evolve is a must-read for vampire lovers, and anyone who is tired of the same old vampire cliches. Evolve 2: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead will be released August 15, and will be about vampires in 2012 and beyond, once again edited by Nancy Kilpatrick.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, July 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Tesseracts Thirteen edited by Nancy Kilpatrick & David Morrell

Happy Canada Day!

Last year to celebrate my country's birthday, I posted a list of 20 Great Canadian Horror Films. This year I've decided to highlight Canadian horror literature by reviewing three anthologies this weekend which contain stories written by Canadian writers.

Tesseracts Thirteen is an anthology containing 23 short stories and one essay, edited by Canadian authors Nancy Kilpatrick and David Morrell.

The Tesseracts series of award-winning anthologies features speculative fiction short stories by Canadian writers. Because this is the 13th edition of Tesseracts, the stories focus on horror.

Rather than write about every story in the book, I'll just mention a few of my favourite stories.

In "Kids These Days" by Rebecca Bradley, a virus turns all children into zombies, but they can be controlled with medication. The story has a unique spin on zombies and a surprising and satisfying twist ending, making it my favourite story from the anthology.

"Quints" by Edo van Belkom is about a doctor who delivers quintuplets, reminding him of the Dionne quints and how they were exploited, prompting him to do something unthinkable. I found the plot of the story intriguing. The main character's thoughts and actions made me angry, but I think that just shows how well-written the story is.

"Silence" by Stephanie Short is a different version of the Pied Piper legend where the Piper controls children with his flute, but the kids come up with a plan to break free from him. This story is a bit gory and made me cringe at the end.

"The Tear Closet" by Suzanne Church deals with the difficult subject matter of spousal abuse and  child molestation. It's a very well-written and emotional story, making me tear up a few times.

"His One True Love" by Catherine MacLeod is the story that terrified me the most, out of all the stories in the anthology because I have a fear of birds. The main character in this story is also afraid of birds and is terrorized by a blue jay that flies into her house just as she returns from her husband's funeral.

The anthology also includes a short essay on the history of Canadian horror literature, "Out of the Barrens: Two Centuries of Canadian Dark Fantasy & Horror" by Robert Knowlton, which is very thorough and cites many novels by Canadian horror authors, that I will now be checking out thanks to this essay.

Tesseracts Thirteen encompasses a variety of dark plots including zombies, abuse, super heroes and myths, making me experience several different emotions such as anger, sadness, disbelief and disgust. As with pretty much every anthology I've read, I didn't love every story, but I enjoyed most of them and would say this book is worth a read.

Rating: 4/5