Archive for the ‘Book Review (Non SF)’ Category

Canadian Dreadful – David Tocher [Ed.] (2019)

December 27, 2020

I picked up the Canadian Dreadful horror anthology the last time I was at a convention (remember those gatherings we used to have in the pre-pandemic ‘before days’?). I always like to have a few non Stephen King short stories around and having and reading Canadian centric ones seemed perfect for these non-personal interaction times.

If the title and the awesome ‘skullified’ fall maple leaf were in any way unclear, this is strictly Canadian horror by Canadian authors. While all the stories are set somewhere in Canada and the many nooks and crannies in between, or A Mari usque ad Mare (that’s “From sea to sea” for those of you who failed both Canadian history and Latin classes). These locale connections are tenuous at best, not more than a mention in the stories, and not especially significant or essential to any story plot. Still a nice touch to ground them somewhat.

I can truthfully say that I enjoyed them all without even one klunker in the bunch. Most do fall more in the realm of ‘dread’ rather than true ‘horror’ making the title particularly apropos.

Here are my very brief, one liner descriptions/reviews to give but a taste of what to expect.


Aranzazu Banks (Robin Rowland)

A part-Cthulian terror grips a man and his cat in a boat off the coast of Prince Rupert. Beware the beauty of bioluminescence.


Centre Ice (Caitlin Marceau)

What if Shirley Jackson were a Hockey Night in Canada fan? The fate of a small town hockey team’s winning streak depends on who is running the arena concession stand. Probably the most Canadian in content as few others can understand the importance and social influence of minor hockey teams for small towns.


His Cold Coffin (Tyner Gillies)

Just a hint of a ghostly appearance in this tale of friendship between a recently fallen man and his best friends. Not dreadful in the sense of horror but rather in the sense of friendships lost and found.


Memories of Miss Mindy Tulane (Jen Frankel)

In this second nautical oriented tale a woman who sees ghosts is drawn to an antique shopkeeper with the answer to many of her questions. Draws upon both the Titanic and Halifax disasters.


Nowhere Time (Pat Flewwelling)

A lost young woman’s ethereal wandering intersects with memories of loved ones long gone. Both haunting and touching.


Rebecca Raven (David Tocher)

A young man on a trip remembering his lost love reluctantly picks up a hitchhiker gets drawn into the reverie of First Nations legend and dark truths.


Relentless (Repo Kempt)

A ghostly tale of two best Inuit friends and a hunting trip gone tragically wrong. Chilling in temperature and tone, a friendship can only go so far.


Sins of the Father (Colleen Anderson)

Finding out your father was a serial killer is bad enough, but what do you do when you find that your desire to make it up for it to mankind manifests as an irresistible supernatural power? Distinctly different in tones, the great start but goes a bit astray at the end.


Snow Angel (Nancy Kilpatrick)

Simple yet chilling story of a woman’s survival in the remote northern wilderness after being stranded in a snowbound camper when tragedy compounds the situation. Canadian horror veteran Kilpatrick delivers an icy cold reality.


The Delivery Boy (Judith Baron)

Even a simple pizza delivery can turn into a nightmare when the destination is a ghostly derelict house with a witchy customer intent on satisfying her mandrake daughter’s desires. Decidedly a lighter side of horror with nice comedic touch.


The Mansion (Karen Dales)

Things go bump into the night as the restaurant manager of a former Victorian mansion tries to get some last minute work done. Or should I say last minutes?


Two Trees (Vanessa C. Hawkins)

Extreme poverty, murder and Merfolk at the foot of the Bay of Fundy. Chilling but not at the hands of the mystical creatures as you would expect.


Stag and Storm (Sara C. Walker)

More fantasy than horror, a tale of literal broken hearts, a lost soul and the true ruler of a remote forest and its critters.


The Sound of Passing Traffic (Joe Powers)

An ill advised shortcut leaves a driver stranded to face the elements and wildlife which happens to include a Sasquatch-like creature. My only problem with this story is the misconception of how GPS systems work and their non-reliance on cell networks.

Carrie – Stephen King (1974)

October 19, 2020

Stephen King is easily one of the most successful contemporary writers whose success not only lies within the prolific publishing of his works but the remarkable string of movie adaptations that inevitably follow. That long line of best selling accomplishments began with his very first published novel Carrie, and continues to this very day.

While I recall having the paperback way back in the seventies, for some reason it was either given away or misplaced at some point so I actually had to get another copy to reread it, which is itself something I rarely do. Of course I had already seen the original Brian De Palma film which has become its own cinematic classic. While I’m sure some would benefit from the review of the book alone, it is nearly impossible for me to not make at least some comparisons to Carrie the film.

For those unfamiliar with the story it is about a young girl with telekinetic powers growing up in a highly sheltered, almost captive, strict religious environment by her single parent, fanatical mother. While she has displayed some limited powers even as a young child, the onset of puberty, a biological transformation she never even knew about and that shocks her, brings about an increase to her powers and along with it a rebellious attitude.

A shy, introverted outcast at school, Carrie White has forever been the butt of jokes, or almost just as bad, being totally ignored as if not there at all. After experiencing her first menstrual period in the school shower room, an event that had all the other girls traumatized her, she gains the sympathy of Sue Snell, one of the most popular girls, who then convinces her boyfriend Tommy to ask Carrie to the upcoming prom. Unfortunately, the episode in the shower also landed a bunch of girls in trouble because or their shamefully treatment of Carrie. As a result the spoiled agitator Chris, who refuses to obey the punishment meted out to those involved, finds herself barred from attending the prom. She, with the help of her boyfriend Billy, plan and executes a blood drenching revenge for Carrie at what was to be her shining moment at the gala affair.

Instead of making inroads to social normality she has yearned for so long, the ordeal sees Carrie unleash her now full and unrestrained powers on the entire gymnasium full of guests and thereafter goes on a telekinetic rampage that decimates a swatch of the town. But Carrie’s near trancelike escapade ends with a confrontation with the real source of her isolation and social captivity, her mother.

The narrative in the novel alternates between contemporary prose and interspersed media and academic writings on the climactic event and studies of Carrie’s life prior to the final juncture. It consists of interviews with former neighbours, newspaper articles, excerpts of books, one in particular written by Sue. We learn there was a “White Commission” that investigated the affair leading up to the prom and the immediate events that further engulfed the town. These revelations and discussions argue Telekinesis as a scientific fact as they try to document the historical circumstances. The excerpts are used both as a form of presenting the story itself and as foreshadowing to events that we later read as prose from the point of view of the characters as they are enacted. It does take a little getting used to but it is also quite effective as a form of storytelling here.

The format also allows the reader to get many other points of view compared to the film, especially what happened in the immediate aftermath of the school fire from varying perspectives around town and even abroad. As for Carrie herself, the only momentary noticeable difference is her being described as a chubby child compared to the then toothpick thin Sissy Spacek in the film.

The area that we get a much appreciated insight that I always felt was lacking in the film is a deeper background on her mother, the one character who is as interesting as Carrie herself,  and how she became such an obsessive zealot. There are a few scant references to her father, who does figure into all this in a manner, but the mother is deserving of a prequel novel and I hope that King does get around to it someday given his recent penchant for revisiting older works.

I know that there have been other cinematic adaptations that followed including an early sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2, a 2002 TV film, and more recently, a 2013 remake. I have not seen any of those but may indulge at some point. I only mention this in the interest that some of the things in this novel may in fact be present in those.

Those fans of King’s other works will be glad to hear that some of those later books have seeds, albeit mere thread’s, planted here in this book. Teddy Duchamp from King’s novella The Body (later filmed as Stand by Me) is one such character here.

I guess the biggest question is whether fans of the film have enough extra fodder here to warrant a read of material they will already be infinitely familiar with. I would say they should even if only to enjoy King’s facility with creating great characters and pacing. After all, he was, and remains, the King in that respect.

The Dame Was Trouble – Sarah L. Johnson et al. [Ed.] (2018)

September 29, 2020

The last time I attended a science fiction convention (remember those non-social distancing events?) I visited my favorite travelling bookstore to pick up a few books but this time I had a hankering for something different. I’ve been watching a lot of classic Film Noir recently read and was in the mood for more of those gumshoe goodies. As luck would have it among the piles of books stood out a seductive fedora capped doll and the title The Dame Was Trouble. Trouble notably being in bloody red and the description that this was a collection from the best female crime writers of Canada was enough to seal the deal for me to pick this one up.

I was somewhat surprised with some of the entries in this collection as a number of the stories are not, or only tangentially so, crime stories. What these stories do have in common are what I would call ‘strong women’ in various situations and settings. There were a few that were more aligned to my expectations – especially given the cover design – but as a whole I enjoyed all but one or two.

I must say that having read Rocket Ryder & Little Putt-Putt Go Down Swinging and Tall Tales of the Weird West I’ve become accustomed to and enjoy the fringe elements in the selections from Coffin Hop Press and this one is no exception.

I’ll dispense with lengthy descriptions but instead give one or two-liner, brief synopsis of the contents.


Indispensable (Kelley Armstrong)

This was a great start with a story perfectly meeting my expectations featuring a young woman working for a detective but “Indispensably” doing all the sleuthing. A case of investigating a suspected cheating wife with a nice twist and a prologue to give some extra context.


Playing Dead (Elle Wild)

An elderly Japanese woman who is clearly losing her faculties and her robot dog get a visit by some strangers. This was a strange selection for this series and not really a fit in a sense Would have been suited for a science fiction anthology but regardless, not my cup of tea.


A Cure For The Common Girl (Hermine Robinson)

Under the thumb of a no-good, two timing, deadbeat boyfriend and living off the last crumbs of his grandmother’s inheritance, a woman finally comes to her senses and some good fortune after chatting with a nosey neighbor.


A Premium on Murder (Pat Flewwelling)

Another surprising science fiction entry featuring a dystopian Big Brother future set in a world has devolved into a bleak society of racist, segregationist, neighbor snitchers experiencing climate abnormalities. The plot centres on an acromyalgic female retro gumshoe out to stop nothing less than a global war. Heady stuff.


Hook, Line and Sinker (Melodie Campbell)

Great short story about a girl hooking up with a guy one night. I thought I’d figured out where it was going based on the title of the collection but it had a very different, even more shocking end than I expected.


Parting Shot (S. G. Wong)

A ghostly love story set amidst a 1930s Chinese family movie studio. At first I thought it to be another odd selection for this anthology. Indicative of some strict asian societies, there are ‘rules’ to how the ghosts can operate. Once I figured that, the Who was easy. The Why remained a mystery until the end.


Eldorado (Gail Bowen)

A brief three pager about a newly arrived evident Casanova at an old folks home.


Daphne Disappeared (Darusha Wehm)

A Private Investigator isI hired to take care of paying a rich lady’s blackmailer but when the drop off goes horribly wrong she learns that the case is not what it seemed at the outset.  A bit of a rushed ending but otherwise a fine mystery.


Rozotica (R.M Greenaway)

Definitely the weirdest tale in the lot. A hairbrained scheme wherein a waitress is dragged into a con to play the part of futuristic sex robot. But the blend of 50’s gangsters supposedly in 1973 just doesn’t jive as do any of the characters. The robot shtick didn’t work and neither did this story. Who the hell ever said “tickety-boo” in the seventies?


Mona’s Last Day (Natalie Vacha)

A retiring cop on his last day has one last conversation with the prime suspect of the singular unsolved case tarnishing her otherwise stellar record. I can’t say that the ending was as good as the buildup. A let down and cop out for the cop on the way out.


Dinner With Francisco (Susan MacGregor)

A strange fantasy of a young girl who lived through the bombing of Guernica in 1937 and grows up to be a matadora vowing to avenge her village. Her target? Generalissimo Fransisco Franco himself. The one thing that bugged me was a character named “Gabirel’ and not Gabriel. A repeated consistent typo? (A bonus mystery?)


A Dish to Die For (Alice Bienia)

A  down on her luck diner hostess gets an unwanted late night guest right after closing hours. A bit disjointed but not so bad as to derail a fine setup and surprise twists and turns.


Silk (Meghan Victoria)

All told from her POV, a prostitute goes to visit her regular John only this time not for the money.  A very methodical mystery.


The Seeker (M. H. Callway)

Like Die Hard but instead of John McClane trying to save his wife in the confines of a building we have a kick ass middle aged mother on a lonely stretch of highway out on a job but really in search of her lost son. Like the film you’ll have to forgive some of the more implausible points along with some terrible Quebec joual (It’s Tabarnak! Not “Tabernacle”. Had to laugh at that one.) But lots of Yippee Ki Yay action which was a nice change.


Crossing Jordan (Sandra Ruttan)

A cancer stricken suicidal woman prostitute seems to have finally thrown in the towel and essentially taunts death from beginning to end until someone changes her mind. A touching story about gender identity rejection.


Painted Jade (Jayne Barnard)

A genuine whodunnit and yet another science fiction story in the lot. Unfortunately way too many hints had me solve it just about midway.

Death Has Many Doors – Fredric Brown (1951)

April 17, 2020

I stumbled upon Frederic Brown’s work as a teen when I came across a copy of his insanely funny novel Martians, Go Home, a book noted as much for its great cover art featuring a bulbous nosed green Martian by artist Kelly Freas and used for many years now as the logo of Toronto Library Merrill Collection. I was immediately taken with his laid back style of writing and sought more. Discussing the author with friends back in those pre-internet BBS days, I was informed that I should also give some of his mystery books a try as well, as he was much more prolific in that genre.

Death Has Many Doors is but one of his noir mysteries featuring the nephew-uncle team of private investigators pounding the pavement in Chicago. The young, handsome Ed Hunter takes center stage as he chases cases with his uncle Ambrose, or just “Am”, a teamup used in a series of Brown’s novels as he did in the earlier The Dead Ringer.

One of the things I like about Brown is his tendency to add things slightly out of the norm and in this case he dipped slightly into his Science Fiction bag by making the suspected murderer a Martian. Of course this needs some explaining.

In the classic noir opening scene we have a lovely girl, the requisite ‘dame’, enter the PI’s office making a claim that she believes she will be killed and wants Ed to help her. The twist is that she believes she will be killed by a Martian who has already phoned her and divulged his intentions. After failing to convince the woman to seek psychiatric help he gets involved despite himself, and sure as you can say “Take me to your leader” the woman soon dies under mysterious circumstances.

With no plausible explanation for her death Ed does a bit of digging into her past and family but that only deepens the mystery as it also reveals that there was no clear motive for anyone to kill her. Things get even more interesting when the ‘Martian’ rings Ed and hires the Hunters to solve the mystery, and provides some good, clean Earthly cash to do the work. If that weren’t enough to entice him, the woman’s knockout, look-alike sister seals the deal until another death only deepen Ed’s resolve.

I have to admit that the reveal for the focal murder ends up being highly contrived, and only hinted in the last few pages. Worse is that the science behind the explanation is also quite questionable. But these stories are all about the ride to the end and given the age and the pulp factor, it delivers the goods. In true gumshoe fashion, there are plenty of cigarettes and salacious bits that are just as smoky, all without being graphic or explicit.

Brown was notable for setting many of his stories with newspaper publishing background, which I believe he worked in at some point, and carnival settings, such as that in The Deep End. For his science fiction, Brown was a master of the short form and I would highly recommend From These Ashes which collects all of his short stories. Science fiction Genre fans will certainly recognize his story Arena, which was adapted for both the original Star Trek TV series (the one with the lizard like Gorn) and as an Outer Limits episode which was slightly more faithful to the story. Whatever your tastes, mystery or science fiction, do yourself a favor and give Brown a try if you haven’t already.


Tall Tales of the Weird West – Axel Howerton and R. Overwater [Ed.] (2017)

April 2, 2020

While picking up a bunch of books last year’s at Can-Con I was piqued by the magnificent cover art of Tall Tales of the Weird West and more so the subject matter. While I enjoy a good western movie every now and then, I’ve never read any western literature, nor have I felt particularly inclined to up until then. But throw in the word “Weird” in the title and I was immediately open to the possibilities and so decided to take this one for a ride.

Here’s a quick recap of the stories and a summary.

The First Rodeo  (Jackson Lowry)

When a bunch of rowdy ranchers stop for some grub and a drink at a saloon diner the tall tales about the “first rodeo” start flying as each of the boys try to outdo each other and vie for bragging rights.  But the humble host of this diner has his own version of that first rodeo and he has the boys beat by far. Time wise that is.


Bloodhound (C. Courtney Joyner)

A lazy and scared sheriff decides to deputize the young office sweep to capture a killer rather than doing the job himself. Taking the challenge to heart and every ounce of puny energy he can muster leads the deputy on a five day hunt for a prey that is no mere killer. Not even human really.


Rosie’s Chicken and Waffles (El Cuchillo)

Barricaded against an attack by a swarm of chupacabras, Zeke can only think of his beloved Rosie. But can he get back to the safety of the woods before they git I’m? Gotta admit, if nothing else this certainly qualifies as a weird story.


The Gifts of a Folding Girl (Scott S. Phillips)

A pair of half-wits are held up in a cabin by a posse outside and must rely on some magic dust one of ‘em got from a Navajo gal. Of course with that kind of tribal juju it all comes down to the incantation, so you really don’t want to make a bad choice of words.


You Are the Blood (Brady Cole)

Short, rather uninspiring tale about a kid holed up with his “master” vampire as a town of fangsters have Cowboys roll in to clean up.


Dinner in Carcosa (Allan Williams)

A post-Depression insurance adjuster finds a barn to hole up in for the night with his companion horse when he is surprised to find an entire family living in a previously missed house right next door. I found it to be a very engaging story but with a rather abrupt ending.


Cold Eggs and Whiskey (R. Overwater)

Relying on neither any classic theme or monster, yet is both weird and horrific. A wandering dandy who stays around when a train accident leaves him stranded in a small town. Earning room and board from a widow and her son, a relationship develops. But something is amiss. This slow brewing story has a great ending to a novel ailment. Despite a problematic chronology, it’s one of the best stories in the lot.


Death is Daily (Craig Garrett)

A nice story in which ogres both live with and battle mankind. One particular ogre comes to live with a widow and her son – yeah, two stories in a row with a widow and son – as he contemplates whether he has a soul and if he is doomed to damnation. The most lovable ogre since Schrek.


The Horse Always Gets it First (Axel Howerton)

Booze runner and his horse on the run are backed into a canyon corner when they come across an alien spaceship. But this is not an alien story at all. But they do find something in the ship that will transform them. This is as much the horse’s story as it is his “master” who, it turns out isn’t his master at all. So says the horse. This one will pull a bit on heart strings.


You’ll notice many odd things about this anthology edited by Axel Howerton and R. Overwater not the least of which they both have their own contributing stories. But that is explained somewhat in the afterword including a claim that a large number of authors here (supposedly ‘big names’) have opted to use nom-de-plumes instead.  Regardless, the werewolves, vampires, zombies and others offer a heck of a lot more that befit the “Weird” and I think everyone will find most of these enjoyable.

Published by Coffin Hop Press – the same folks who brought us Rocket Ryder & Little Putt-Putt Go Down Swinging – I should point out that the lovely cover art I mentioned (and shown here) was created by Tom Bagley, is that of the 2nd edition.

It – Stephen King (1986)

February 7, 2020

I’ve done It. Or to be more precise, I’ve read It. I have to admit that as much as I am a fan of the recent two movies by director Andy Muschietti which adapted Stephen King’s voluminous novel It, coming in at nearly 1100 pages of fine print reading the novel seemed a daunting task. But having increasingly read more King these last few years I’ve come to appreciate the author’s talent at delivering engaging prose with interesting and well defined characters that make it easy to read no matter how long the text. Despite the two movies clocking in at over five hours in total I could not clear my mind that there could be so much more hidden creepiness to the story yet to be enjoyed in the ‘brick’ of a novel. I was not disappointed.

Assuming many reading this may already be familiar with the main elements of the films (or even the less successful, but also faithful television mini-series which aired in 1990) I’ll only give a very high level plot synopsis here.

Small town Derry, Maine has been experiencing a repeating historical pattern of child disappearances every 27 years or so. When Bill Denbrough’s little brother Georgie becomes a victim in 1957 Bill becomes fixated on finding out what happened to him. He and six friends slowly decipher Derry’s strange past of missing kids and other anomalous events that have occured there over the years. But each of the kids, Richie, Ben, Stan, Eddie, Mike and Beverly have experienced their own personal encounters with this unknown entity they simply refer to as “It” and which is often seen in the personification of Pennywise the clown.

They finally track and battle It by the end of that year and each goes their separate way until 1985 when the abductions resume and the now adult group make their way back to Derry to rid the town of the evil entity. So powerful is the evil force that they have forgotten most of the memories of that first encounter. Led by Bill, the motley group have formed a bond that is the essence of their power to perceive It while others are oblivious and even controlled by It. But can they still muster the strength to combat It a second and final time?

The characters in this novel are indeed much more fleshed out than in the cinematic versions for both the teenaged kids and their later adult lives. Aspects that are merely hinted at in the films, such as Ben’s success as an architect (and a particular precisely timed habit of appearing at a bar in remote Nebraska) provide some riveting reading. There are multiple horrific tales of town history which are not directly tied to our protagonist group, but which add to the mystique of It and the subjugation of the town. As exclaimed at one point, “Derry is It!”

For those that are fans of King’s other works and the man himself, there are plenty of royal nuggets to enjoy. For one, Bill grows up to become a successful horror writer and King manages to address questions writers like himself are deluged with such as “Where do you get your ideas from?”. Bill becoming neglected and invisible to his parents after Georgie’s death is nostalgically reminiscent of The Body In Different Seasons (later filmed as Stand By Me). There are also building blocks that would later turn up in other stories such as “a cavalcade of creatures darting a shrouded landscape” (The Mist). And the section that describes a sentient 1958 Plymouth Fury (Christine) roaming Derry was a nice thrilling surprise.

And then there are those parts excised from the films as they wander into sexual taboo territory. I’m not just talking about sexual exploration such as the teen masturbation portion, or more to the Bill-Beverly-Ben love triangle which is in the film, but a pivotal point near the finale where all the kids engage. Never saw that coming.

The novel is written from a non-chronological perspective, alternating between the events of 1957 and 1985, but that aspect becomes increasingly interlaced towards the end of the novel when the adults are basically retracing the actions they took as teens. The last section of the novel uses chapter transitions in which a sentence at the end of one chapter is completed in the next where the setting and context are entirely different, yet the sentence remains apropos. What I find most fascinating in this is that comic writer Alan Moore used this technique so effectively in his masterpiece Watchmen whose issues were released between 1986 and 1987- almost exactly the time King was writing It. I can’t help but wonder if one of them borrowed the concept from the other. (To be fair, Moore’s use was superior in the quality of the transitions, also daring to go further by blending more than just two separate timelines.)

Going back to Muschietti’s film adaptations, he has stated that he actually filmed a lot more than what was shown in the theatrical release for both films and that he would someday like to put out an edition with all of those extra scenes. I for one hope that he does so, and now having read the novel can only wonder which missing bits from the novel made it into those extra scenes. To be sure there are favorable points in the film that were never in the script such as Bill’s surprising guilt-ridden confession to the others for why Georgie was really out that day he went missing.

I can go on and on about the novel. Just read It!

Bonhomme Sept-Heures – Evan May (2016)

November 15, 2019

My initial intrigue in reading Evan May’s Bonhomme Sept-Heures was my familiarity with the legend based on the horror movies The Bonesetter (2003) and The Bonesetter Returns (2005)  by Brett Kelly. After attending the premiere of the first film I thought that the character and story were original until I did a little more digging. It turns out that the legend of a stovepipe hatted entity who snatches children when they stay outdoors beyond seven o’clock at night is steeped in Quebec lore. Variations on the legend have this character going from town to town as travelling medical practitioner, hence “bone-setter”, which is phonetically close to “Bonhomme Sept-Heures” in French which, as a whole, loosely translates to “The seven o’clock man”.

That being said, what I expected here was a horror story, pure and simple, much like the movie presentations. However this novel ended up being more of a paranormal fantasy playing out largely as police/detective procedural rather than any real horror narrative.

Our story begins (well more on that later) with a convicted murderer, Adam Godwinson, who is not only a priest but an ex-bookseller. The background to his current incarceration is vaguely explained as an encounter with members of some secretive foundation under the influence of an evil entity – coined “The Infection” – which Adam and crew of youths managed to repress but at the cost of his own freedom. Suddenly out of nowhere David Prentiss, an official of some indeterminate (yet powerful) law enforcement agency visits Adam in prison and offers him immediate limited freedom if he joins the agent to help solve a case of a serial child killer currently on a killing spree in a remote Quebec town.

When Prentiss, Adam, and Jack – a chaperon of sorts to keep an eye out on Adam – arrive in Lac de Thé they are met with a reluctant Sûreté du Québec (provincial police force), distraught citizens, an oddly inquisitive school teacher, a local bigot drunkard, and a skeptical clergyman among others. Later joined by one of Adams former students, now a reporter, the team have to disseminate what little evidence they have to determine if they are dealing with a serial killer or if some mystic force is in play. And as time ticks away they dread that yet another young body may show up.

My one problem with the novel is that almost from the very beginning with the explanation of Adam’s incarceration flashback I sensed that what I was reading was in fact a sequel to a previous story. Sure enough when I checked I learned that May wrote King in Darkness which was published a year prior which described those events completely. Unfortunate as a number of the characters and events are fleetingly reference here which often left me confused without the proper context while adding little, if anything, to this story.  Nowhere in this book is the prequel even mentioned. Neither front or back covers, acknowledgements, or even the author bio make any mention of it which is a shame as I would have read that book first.

I do heartily recommend this book but do yourself a favour and get King in Darkness first to get the most out of this one.

Rocket Ryder & Little Putt-Putt Go Down Swinging – Timothy Friend (2018)

October 17, 2019

The only negative thing I can say about this novella is that it has an overly long and somewhat misleading title. However once I read it and the liner notes that included author’s intent, I understood how it came to be yet still wish a more apropos title was used. I say this because it was only a matter of circumstance that I picked up the book in the first place . But I’m certainly glad I did.

This is a 1950’s era murder mystery that includes Film Noir clichés like a murder, a set of compromising photos of a well-to-do individual, rogue cops on the take, some down on their luck characters, and revenge as a central driving force. What distinguishes it from Film Noir is the decidedly spicy language used throughout. No Hays Code filtering here!

The author also clearly has a fondness for classic day-time kiddie shows like Captain Video, Space Ranger and other bygone low budget silver suited heroes. In this case the titular characters Rocket Ryder and Little Putt-Putt, the star and sidekick of a miserly Kansas TV station have just learned that their TV show has been cancelled and that they are out of job. But that’s just the beginning of their problems.

When our protagonist Scotty Crane (AKA Little Putt-Putt) gets a late night call from Rick Tanner (AKA Rocket Ryder) to meet him he is shocked to find that their former show’s director and longtime army buddy has been murdered. The trail leads to the wealthy station owner and his son, but as is always the case while piecing together the clues, the motives, repercussions and conclusion have a number of twists and turns.

Told from the point of view of Little Putt-Putt, his relationship with Rocket Ryder develops nicely as the story progresses. The sleuthing itself is not that remarkable, however the trail is an interesting one. A minor plot device of Scott also having to keep an eye on his bad ticker (that’s a slang reference to his heart you young’uns!) which he nicknames his “Yobo” was more annoying than adding to the tension, but was not bad enough to take me out of the story.

I really enjoyed the nostalgic feeling reading about a world with Brownie cameras, The Dumont TV network (look it up!) and pump jockeys. This was a short, but enjoyable read of neo-Noir that I don’t come across too often, but would certainly like to read more of. I picked up this book from Myth Hawker books and will be shopping for more.

Death by Umbrella – C. Lombardo & J. Kirschner (2016)

August 20, 2019

You’ve heard of Death by a Thousand Cuts? Well how about death by one hundred horror movie weapons?

Almost since the birth of horror movies themselves have script writers and directors strived to provide yet another novel manner in which people can come to a gruesome end. In Death by Umbrella, authors Chris Lombardo and Jeff Kirschner have taken the pains to document one hundred of their favorite weapons of singular destruction in a range of films that run the gamut from the classics to some of the more obscure titles.

Despite a short bibliography, Lombardo and Kirschner are no mere wannabe scribes being the hosts of the Really Awful Movie Podcast, where they weekly dissect and serve up reviews of all manner of weird, shocking or simply outlandish films both old and new. Along the way they tabulated an assortment of tools, machinery, sporting goods, utensils, and gadgets that have been immortalized on celluloid to elicit screams and shudders as cast members bite the dust.

Whether a fairly knowledgeable giallo afficionado or a horror neophyte, readers will delight in either reliving some of our favorite kills such Damien on his tricycle rampage in The Omen, or discover previously unknown fodder like a shape shifting car in Super Hybrid. Did you know about the shish kebab skewering in Happy Birthday to Me? How about Linnea Quigley’s untimely deer antler demise in Silent Night, Deadly Night? They’re all here, and more. Much more as the authors have graciously added a number of honorable mentions in each of the seven chapters used to categorize the book.

Fittingly Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, one of the masters of low budget death dealing himself provides the foreword as the authors provide witty jokes and astute observations and brief synopsis of the films to accompany the blow by blow of the kills. I was especially glad to see some local favorite films that included Homicycle by Ottawa’s very own Brett Kelly (a film that I happen to be an uncredited extra in) and Crawler by Montreal’s Sv Bell. And yes, there are deaths by umbrella. More than one in fact.

I enjoyed the special emphasis on films featuring multiple odd deaths such as the seven deadly sins enacted by Vincent Price in The Abominable Dr. Phibes while not spoiling some of the more delectable kills in movies such as Audition. I’ve always wanted to see The Town that Dreaded Sundown but more so now that I know there is a trombone-knife kill in it. Reading this tome also raised a few questions such as how did the authors know that strip clubs are not open on Christmas as per their cataloging of the electrified stripper pole in Santa’s Slay? (Research?)

I highly recommend this for all horror fans and to follow up the madness by tuning in on the Really Awful Movie Podcast in which I hope the authors are making yet another list for another book.


Night Shift – Stephen King (1978)

March 10, 2019

It’s been nearly four years since I reviewed a Stephen King book (11/22/63) and this time I thought I’d go way back a take a swipe at his earliest short story collections – Night Shift – to see what I’d missed the first time around. Now I’ve often marvelled not only how good a writer he is, – despite some misgivings I had reading him in the 1970’s myself – but what amazes me more is how prolific he is when it comes to developing movie material. Now it’s only natural that a popular writer is solicited for movies as producers know that good or bad  some people will come just for the King name alone, a built-in-profit slice if you will. And I can tell you without doubt that those some producers (big and small) have created both great movies as well as, I’ll be polite and just say not-so-great ones. So no small wonder that this early collection has been rifled for cinematic adaptations over the past forty years. As I read the stories I lost count to be honest so you play the Movie Count game as you read my verse terse run down of the collection.


Jerusalem’s Lot

Set in the locale of King’s novel/movie Salem’s Lot this tale told through letters of correspondence and a diary describes the Lovecraftian horrors residing in the area prior to vampires making it their home.


Graveyard Shift

Workers in a rat infested mill are offered the opportunity to make a few extra bucks by spending their holiday break cleaning out the basement of their workplace. But things like this never go well and this one doesn’t.


Night Surf

A post-apocalyptic tale featuring a small group of survivors who seem to be immune to a natural borne virus having suffered through the prototype mutations virus earlier in their lives. Sometimes it sucks to be immune.


I Am the Doorway

The lone survivor of two astronauts that had gone to Venus brought along  something. I’ll just say that I purposefully chose the paperback cover shown as it is derived directly from this story.


The Mangler

The Mangler is no human bodied killer but a deity that has taken over a folding machine in an industrial laundry processing factory. But which deity? Depends on the ‘ingredients’.


The Boogeyman

Sometimes the Boogeyman is a figment of one’s imagination. Lester Billings was trying to convince himself that it was a real Boogeyman that had killed all three of his kids. Sometimes the Boogeyman is real.


Grey Matter

A father turns into beer drinking blob mass and the local corner store hangers-on investigate the entity dividing like cells. Think beer guzzling Jabba-the-Hutt long before there was a Jabba.



A killer for hire meets his match: miniature plastic toy soldiers. Efficiency and ingenuity meet as the Toy Story army brigade go for the big time killer.



The revolt of the machines is not in the form of robots, but sentient, murderous trucks and right now they got the occupants of a highway gas stop at their mercy. Much cooler and deadlier than Transformers.


Sometimes They Come Back

The recollections of a teacher’s nightmares of his kid brother getting killed come back to haunt him again. But they are very real and this time he fights back.


Strawberry Spring

Subtler but very creepy tale of a university campus serial killer. This is part horror and part mystery, another form that King has mastered.


The Ledge

A eccentric millionaire forces a man to traipse along a ledge completely around the 43rd floor of a building for love, money and life. One of the three short stories adapted in the film Cat’s Eye.


The Lawnmower Man

When a man lets his lawn go for a spell he calls in a lawnmower man to get the job done. But this lawnmower man is directly from Hell. Nothing like the movie which is a good thing.


Quitters, Inc.

You think quitting smoking is tough? When you join Quitters Inc, the withdrawal symptoms become the least of your problems. But they do guarantee you’ll quit because the alternatives are too gruesome to even contemplate.  Another segment in Cat’s Eye.


I Know What You Need

When Elizabeth meets Ed for the first time, he seems to have exactly what she had in mind. But his uncanny knack for knowing just what she needed could not have warned her of the deadly consequences of his gift.


Children of the Corn

The children in a remote rural town have killed all those over 18 and now abide He Who Walks Behind The Rows. And the arguing couple who come across the town of Gatlin are about to meet The Children. The original story that has spawned no less than 10 films (Most reviewed right here).


The Last Rung on the Ladder

A heartbreaking story of lives drifted apart and the loss of ultimate trust that a person will be there to set things right. Not a horror story by any means but this is certainly one of the chilliest stories in the collection.


The Man Who Loved Flowers

Only two pages but it presents the fasting swing from a peaceful, tranquil love filled mood to one that is the opposite of all that. Packs more than just a punch.


One For the Road

Another tale set on dark winter storm night down the road from Salem’s Lot. Two salty locals are forced to rescue a city slicker’s family from the evil we all know too well.


The Woman in the Room

A son deals with his mom slowly dying in hospital room wrestling with the thought of easing her pain quickly and forever. Sordid thoughts that millions have probably contemplated.