Monday, April 26, 2021

Recent Reads From HELL Part IV

 Here's a quick rundown on a few books I recently read.

Spawn of Hell by William Schoell

What can I say about this one? Not much, unfortunately. Kind of an interesting premise...kind of. Plagued by uninteresting characters, more typos than you typically see in mass market paperbacks, and just kind of typical in every way. I read this one a few weeks ago and I can't really remember much about it. It just wasn't all that remarkable. Creatures living under an abandoned building in a small town, devouring those unfortunate enough to get in their way. They get a taste for human flesh and become more bold. This was Schoell's debut. It's not a bad book, but it's not very good at all. I will try another of his novels some day. I know I'd hate to be judged by my first two books. They're not very good either.

The Silent Enemy by Ernest T. Jahn

This book had a fascinating premise, and being set in Hawaii was a plus, considering I've only read a few books set in the Aloha State. Unfortunately that where's anything good ends. It was readable, but in a pulp sort of way. The back cover copy promises mutated seaweed, and though there are hints of that, I felt it was a missed opportunity. Most of the story is bad character development and terrible dialogue. It felt like the book was written by whoever wrote old episodes of Scooby Doo Where Are You? That's not a knock on Scooby Doo (I'm a fan), but I expect more out of a novel. A lot more. A quick read, there are a few things to like, but I felt like this story could have been so much more.

Fright Night by John Skipp and Craig Spector

This is officially the first movie novelization I've ever read, and it didn't disappoint! I've seen the film several times, but not in a while. The book brought it all back in vivid detail. It was well written, as you would expect from Skipp and Spector, but clearly it wasn't their own original work. It has their fingerprints all over it, but I felt it was far more stripped down than their other books. I'm very interested in reading novelizations of movies I'm even more familiar with just to see the differences. This one was a hell of a lot of fun.

Toplin by Michael McDowell

Despite my adoration of McDowell's work, this one just didn't do it for me. I DNF'd it (to those in the back, that means Did Not Finish). The writing was solid, and very unlike McDowell's southern gothic style prose that I'm used to. I wanted to like the story, but I just didn't find it very engaging. It was almost dream-like, which made it very confusing. What turned out to be the final straw was when the narrator continued to detail the six or seven suits he has in his closet. I'm sure his obsession with those suits was indicative of some kind of
mental illness he was dealing with, but I just couldn't take it any more. This book was originally published around '85 in a special limited edition, but wasn't published in a mass market edition until the 90's when the Dell Abyss line picked it up. Dell Abyss published some amazing books, and also some that were a bit too experimental for me. Toplin fits in the latter category.

That's all for now. I'm currently working through the wonderful stories in Ronald Kelly's collection The Essential Sick Stuff, Prophecy by David Seltzer, and...I really want to read One For the Road by Wesley Southard,
but I can't remember where I put the book!!!

Monday, March 29, 2021

I'm Attending CreepyCon 2021 in Knoxville!

 I just paid for my table at CreepyCon 2021 in Knoxville, Tennessee August 20 - 22. This will be my first event in a couple of years, the last one being the Oddities Expo in San Diego. I did that show with a handful of local authors, and all of us did very well, especially for a one-day event. I'll be vending CreepyCon by myself (well, with the help of my wife and son), though I have it on good authority that there will be at least a few other authors there as well.

If you're going to the event, look for me in the artist's room. I will have copies of most of my books, including Chew on This!, Death Obsessed, Shallow Graves, Stronger Than Hate, Double Barrel Vol. 3 and more! I might even have a couple copies of the Thunderstorm Books edition of Mojave Mud Caves.

For more information on the event, check out their website HERE.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Recent Reads From Hell Pt. III

 Here are some books I've read recently, some vintage paperbacks and others newer. If the book looks like something you might want to read, click the tile to buy a copy (some of the older books might be out of print).

The End of the World by Dan Henk

With The End of the World Dan Henk wrote a fairly epic sci-fi/military thriller that doesn't tread the usual territory of an end of the world as we know it type of story. Where as most if these stories focus on survival, this one weaves a tapestry detailing why the world is crumbling, and it's not zombies or a contagion as in so many other books of this nature.

Henk is a hell of a writer. The prose is rich and beautiful, though his attention to detail often goes a bit overboard for my taste. The characters are fully developed and believable as they deal with the reality that life as they know it has changed forever, which is refreshing. The focus is primarily on a young punk kid and what we're introduced to as a man who seems to have been absorbed into some strange suit and is losing his humanity. Two interesting characters who are on the run for very different reasons than mere survival.

Ultimately this was a fantastic read, particularly for fans of military sci-fi or apocalyptic yarns. Some of the better writing I've read in a while, though at times I felt the descriptions could have been dialed back a bit. The interior illustrations were an awesome bonus! 


 The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale

Here's a book that I've heard a lot about. It's regarded a seminal work in early bizarro, you know, before there was even a term for oddball fiction that bends the rules and tests the boundaries. Knowing that made me exited and a little bit hesitant to read this one since I've never been a big bizarro fan. Also, it's one of those Lansdale stories that everyone seems to love, right along with the short story "The Night They Missed the Horror Show" and the novel The Bottoms. I didn't care for that particular short story, and though I liked The Bottoms, it's far from Lansdale's best (of what I've read, that placeholder is Mucho Mojo).

I liked the first half of The Drive-In quite a bit. The set up was great, Lansdale's writing was just as off the wall, fun, and bonkers as I'd have expected for this type of story. Yeah, it's a weird story, but that's really all there is to it. By the end of the first half I was already done. I'd hoped the second half did something more, but it was pretty much more of what I'd already read. Ultimately it was a bit of a letdown. 

I've read a bunch of Lansdale's novels and this is the first one I didn't really like. No big deal. He's a brilliant writer, this one just wasn't for me. I'm not into the whole bizarro genre, so that might have had something to do with it, though I have read a few Lansdale shorts that walk bizzaro pavemtent that were fantastic ("Love Doll: A Fable" being one of them, where a guy's sex doll comes to life and becomes more than he bargained for).

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Here's another one that came highly recommended. It's up for a Bram Stoker Award this year. I really liked the set-up, but the story went down a completely different avenue than I expected, and though I respect that from the standpoint of a writer (I mean, anytime a story veers away from the expected, that's a good thing, right?), I ultimately felt let down by this novella.

This is the first book I've read by Stephen Graham Jones. He's one of those names I see everywhere. I even saw one of his books prominently displayed at a Barnes and Noble a few years ago. The guy can write, no doubt. He has a voice that's very distinct, however I found it difficult to follow. being it was a first person narrative, I'm wondering if all of his books have the same style. That was the hardest part about reading it, just stringing the sentences together and figuring out what they meant. That sounds harsh, but I had to really get into the zone whenever I picked up the story. Once I got myself in the Night of the Mannequins mindset, I was okay.

I didn't hate this story, but I didn't love it either. Despite a writing style that I didn't really mesh with, I just would have liked to see the narrative go in a completely different direction. I won't say anything more since this one is still fairly new. It's definitely worth checking out. 

Nightmare by S. K. Epperson

This is one of those old books published by Leisure with a well used motif of embossed eyes and a spider's web gracing the cover. I love the cover art. Does it fit the story? Yeah, sure it does. Is this a horror story, as Leisure marketed it? No, not really. It's a mystery with horrific elements.

A small group of people are flown to a remote location where a clinic (more of an asylum-type facility) treats women suffering from multiple personality disorders. That's just plain out implausable, really, but I don't know. It was written in the late eighties. Maybe such a place could have existed. I'm thinking much further in the past, but maybe I'm clouded by modern times. Anyway, the setting is very typical for a mystery. Put a munch of people together in a remote location, someone dies. Whodunnit? Is it the different personalities of some of the patients? Is it the crazy 600 pound woman who sits up in her room watching everything through a series of invasive servalance cameras and and listening to gossip with speakers? And so on, and so on.

Not a bad story at all. I enjoyed it, but I saw it going in so many more interesting directions. I would have liked to have read the horror version of this story that Leisure promised me when they categorized this book as such.

Well, there you go. Not a great bunch this time, but that's how it is with fiction. I'll post another bunch in a month or so (I'm a terribly slow reader!). I hope I read something that wows me. Right now I'm reading Spawn From Hell by William Schoell and The Silent Enemy by, well, I'm not sure. That one is in my car (my lunch-time read), and I'm not familiar with the author. It's an old Zebra from 1980 about killer kelp...or you'd think that by reading the back cover copy? Misleading? Maybe. You'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Splatterpunk Awards

 The Splatterpunk Awards have been nominated and guess what? For the first time I have a book up for an award.

Chew On This!, the anthology I edited for Blood Bound Books, has been nominated for a Splatterpunk Award. To say I'm over the moon about this is an understatement. I've been published since 2008 (2007?), and I've never been up for an award. I'm genuinely thrilled for this.

Chew On This! is a project neither myself nor Blood Bound Books has taken lightly. We worked hard on this project and churned out something that I hope more readers get their hands on so we can create even more momentum. Even if the book doesn't take the award at KillerCon later this year, it's a honor to have been acknowledged.

You can get a list of all the nominations HERE.

Grab a copy of Chew On This! HERE!

Monday, January 11, 2021

How Royalties Saved My Ass

I moved from San Diego, California to Tennessee just over a year ago. It was a great move because I pretty well despise California and my family could finally buy a house and not just tread water getting nowhere fast. Moving sucks, and moving across the country is even more challenging. So much goes into the move from renting a storage container for all your stuff, selling off what you cannot bring with, settling in to the new place, getting a job, changing the address on credit cards and whatnot.

Changing credit unions.

I changed my phone number and credit union soon after settling in. I could have held onto both, but I don't have too many friends holding onto that old number, so I figured my chances of getting a job would improve with a local number. I could have continued to use my credit union, but it was a local San Diego credit union without any local business fronts here in Tennessee. Once I had the new account I had to start transferring my money. It took a few months since I could only transfer so much at a time (it's not like I was loaded or anything, but I made decent money in California, at least it would be considered decent in many other states--in California I made a enough to merely survive).

I thought I had my bases covered, had changed payment options on things like PayPal and whatnot. I drained nearly all the money from my San Diego account, but never got around to closing it. With this stimulus payment going out I realized that since I owed California a ridiculous amount of taxes from 2019 (thanks, Cali, go rot in Hell!), I hadn't ever changed the bank account I have on file with the IRS (I haven't gotten a refund in years, so they've had the old account on file going way back). I suppose the last stimulus payment had gone into my San Diego account and had to be transferred over to my Tennessee account. I couldn't remember if it had. Let's face it, that was early 2020, which feels like ten years ago at this point.

Well, I couldn't log onto my old account, so I had to call. No stimulus payment in the account, however I'm told I have a negative balance. The operator says there have been a string of PayPal transactions. Oh shit! I asked him to find out if it is fraud. After a moment he says nope, it's coming from your PayPal account. Double oh shit!

I look into it, and sure enough, PayPal has a stupid method of doing things. I'd changed my credit union on file, but not my debit card. As it turns out money deposited into my PayPal is funneled into my bank on file, and money I spend using PayPal is withdrawn from my debit card. Sigh. So all this time I had my old debit card on file pulling PayPal monies from Ebay purchases, my son's video game purchases and who knows what else. All coming out of a bank account with very little money in it. How bad was this negative balance going to be, and why didn't the old credit union put a stop to the negative transactions. Seems like a red flag to me.

When I got home I was scared to even check my old bank account. I kept thinking that maybe the stimulus money had gone through only to pay back a portion of the massive negative balance I was going to discover.

My negative balance? $81 and some change. What!?

I go back through the last several months on my San Diego account. There's a lot of red with some green here and there. Green? What the hell? I look a little further. All of the deposits highlighted in green are from Amazon. I sit back and think. Why would Amazon be giving me money? Duh, idiot! I forgot to change the bank on file with my Amazon publishing account. Those are my royalties. I'll be damned, but those royalties over the past six months have been paying for all of my PayPal purchases, right up until the end of the year. Only the last two PayPal transactions weren't covered. My old credit union covered overdrafts at a fee of $32 per overdraft.

Had it not been for those royalty payments, I wonder just how far in the red with overdraft fees I would have been. I don't even want to think about it.

That, folks, is how royalties saved my ass.

Oh, yeah, and still no stimulus payment. Go figure.

If you want to help pay off that negative balance, you could always buy one of my books. Check out my Amazon page HERE. And if you'd rather not read one of my books, go check out that new Wesley Southard book Cruel Summer. It just came out from Death's Head Press.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Recent Reads From Hell Pt. II

I've been toying with the idea of starting a YouTube channel where I talk about books I've read and maybe feature some of the books in my ever-growing collection. But like so many things, it's just a thought that dances through my brain. I actually tried recording a video and it looked terrible. One of the great hindrances for me concerning promoting my books is the fact that I know dick about technology. I can't create promo images, promo art, bookmarks, videos that look decent. So, for now, I'll have to come back to this neglected blog.

Here are a few books I've read over the past several months and a few words on each one. Not reviews, just thoughts.

The Manitou by Graham Masterton

Masterton's debut, and what a debut it is. Reading an author's first book is always a bit of a crap shoot. Even great authors sometimes have mediocre first novels. I won't name any here, but I know my first novel (first few novels!) was pretty shitty. Some authors come out of the gate with a masterpiece, like Melanie Tem's Prodigal or Kathe Koja's The Cipher. I wouldn't call The Manitou a masterpiece, but it sure is a hell of a good time. I imagine it was one of the earliest Native American curse type horror stories (there were a lot of them in the horror boom of the 80s). I know I've seen the movie adaptation, but it was many years ago and I don't really remember it. I have a feeling I liked it, but who knows. I used to watch all the horror I could get my hands on, and clearly it wasn't that memorable. The book, however, has stuck in my mind. I've read a few Masterton books this year, and he's rapidly becoming a favorite.

The Magpie Coffin by Wile E. Young

The first of the breakout series of Splatter Western books from the great Death's Head Press. Full disclosure: I'm a Death's Head author, but that has no reflection on my thoughts about this or any other DHP books I feature on my blog. This was, hands down, a fun, gripping read. Kind of like a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, only much darker. If Blondie, The Man with No Name, from the Fistful of Dollars trilogy were a real bad motherfucker (I mean, he is, but I'm talking sadistic here) you'd have the protagonist of this book. He's a fucking maniac, but that's okay. A worthy beginning of what has proven to be a great series of books. Keep 'em coming!

Spawn by Shaun Hutson

This book was kind of nuts, especially for its time. Imagine the guy who works at the hospital tossing refuse such as aborted babies into the incinerator. He's got some serious trauma from his past that causes him to save these aborted fetuses. If that's not crazy enough, imagine what happens when he buries them around the shack he lives in and then lightning strikes the ground! Look, what happens in this book is absolutely batshit crazy. Seriously. You have to take this stuff with a grain of salt. I took a break halfway through and read another book before returning to finish this one. That was mostly because Hutson was telling two stories that eventually merged in the end. The crazy fetus story was engrossing (emphasis on GROSS!), but the escaped mental patient serial killer story was kind of meh. The way they came together worked, and sort of made it all worth it, but it felt like half the book was all aces and the other half was a sleeper. I believe this was Hutson's second or third book after Slugs, and it shows that he improved his craft. Slugs is fun, but this one is even better, both the writing and the plot.

The Uninvited by John Farris

Of the books I've read recently, this one was by far the best. Farris is a brilliant author, a master at the craft, and a exquisite story teller. Interestingly, of all the books of his I've read the only one I didn't like was The Fury, and that's the one he's probably most known for. Oh well. The Uninvited follows a teenage girl who accidentally hits a guy with her and then becomes invested in his recovery after he comes down with amnesia. He has nowhere to go and her father, who's a famous artist, allows him to stay it their house. As she spends time with the guy trying to get him to remember his past, they develop a relationship, but he's...kinda weird. This is one of those books you find yourself deeply invested in and then shit just goes haywire. The greatest part is that I didn't see it coming, the IT being some of the big reveals. This is one of those books I've had on my shelf for years, but never bothered giving a read. Who am I kidding. My shelves are loaded with vintage paperbacks that, unfortunately, I won't get to. This one in particular has been hanging around for well over a decade. I'm glad I gave it a spin.

I hope to blog more about books I've read, but who knows. In the meantime, my latest anthology Chew on This! has been published by Blood Bound Books and is available in print and digital formats. See the blog post below for details.

Chew on This! OUT NOW!



Chew on This! has everything you need to satiate your appetite for the strange and macabre. 

Tonight’s menu is a fifteen-course meal of subtle and atmospheric tales all the way down to the grisly, blood-drenched extremes.

Creepy restaurants, treacherous take-out, forbidden feasts, and more!

We’ve got horror so good you can taste it!

Dig in!

Featuring: Kristopher Triana – K. Trap Jones – Nikki Noir - Mark C. Scioneaux – Vivian Kasley – Chad Stroup – John McNee – Victorya Chase – Armand Rosamilia – Sarah Johnson and Robert Bose – S.C. Mendes -– Shenoa Carroll-Bradd – Sylvia Anne Telfer – Tonia Brown – Ronald Kelly – Chad Lutzke


Purchase HERE in the US, and HERE in the UK. Available worldwide through Amazon.