Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Fifteen

Halloween’s here and with it the end of our journey together. It’s been fun sharing my gruesome finds with all of you and I hope you’ve found at least one new book or author to enjoy as the nights grow longer and the dark grows deeper. I have one more find to share with you today, plus a few comments to make about two of my own tales, before we close the book on our little adventure together.

Most of us have something we fear. Something that sets off that primal warning system deep in our psyche, that starts shouting as us to run even before we’ve managed to get a grip on the situation. Hospitals do that to me. Just setting foot inside one sends my pulse racing and my head darting from side to side as I subconsciously searching for a way back out. Fear might be too strong a word, but there’s no doubt that I’m experiencing some severe mental discomfort.

Which is why the Edie Spence novels by Cassie Alexander made my list of “horrifying” reads. The main character’s a trauma nurse in the secret wing of a hospital that handles paranormal patients, from vampire servants to moon-crazed werewolves to the zombie next door. Horrifying is right! They’re dark, gruesome, and rather fun in their own way…

NIGHTSHIFTED
Cassie Alexander

Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine—from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…

Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying words—Save Anna—and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this…

Book two in the series, MOONSHIFTED, is due out next month.

Throughout this series several of you have written in asking what I would recommend as Halloween reads from my own modest body of work. If you’re inclined to seek it out, I’d suggest the following:

THE HERETIC
Joseph Nassise

Boston SWAT officer Cade Williams doesn’t believe in the supernatural until a chance meeting with a fallen angel leaves his wife dead and him holding on to life by the thinnest of margins. When he is discharged from the hospital, scarred body and soul, he discovers the encounter has left him with a few otherworldly talents of his own.

Several years later, Knight Commander Cade Williams runs the elite Templar combat unit known as the Echo Team, which puts him in the perfect position to search for the creature he’s come to know as the Adversary. His efforts yield little success, however, until a cabal of necromancers attempts to seize an ancient Templar artifact for their own nefarious purposes and gives him the first real lead he’s had in ages. Now it’s time for Cade to face his demons – human and otherwise.

THE HERETIC is book one in the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series that also includes A SCREAM OF ANGELS and A TEAR IN THE SKY.

If modern day Templars battling the supernatural doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you’d have more fun with an old-fashioned zombie apocalypse – particularly one set in the midst of a steampunked World War I.

BY THE BLOOD OF HEROES
Joseph Nassise

At the tail end of 1917, the Germans introduced a new type of gas to the battlefield, T-Leiche, or “corpse gas,” and changed the face of the war by resurrecting the bodies of the dead, giving the enemy an almost unlimited source of fresh troops.

When the American ace Major Jack Freeman-poster boy for the war against the Kaiser’s undead army of shamblers-is downed over enemy lines and taken captive, veteran Captain Michael “Madman” Burke is the only man brave and foolish enough to accept the mission to recover Freeman. Burke assembles a team of disparate members, from his right-hand man, Sergeant Moore, to big-game-hunter-turned-soldier Clayton Manning, who funds the mission for an opportunity to confront this most dangerous zombie game, to professor Dan Richards, one of Tesla’s top men and the resident authority on all things supernatural. With the help of a highly advanced British dirigible war machine to infiltrate enemy territory, the team faces incredible danger as it struggles to reach the prison camp and strike at the heart of the enemy.

But they are pitted against the most deadly enemy of all: Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. Having risen from the dead with his abilities enhanced but his mind on the brink of madness, Richthofen has plans for victory that give no quarter to soldiers or civilians.

Thanks for joining me and Kobo on this moonlight tour of the dark corners of the literary landscape. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip and wish you all a very happy Halloween!

All the best,
Joe Nassise

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Fourteen

It’s Day Fourteen of our fifteen day journey and I’ve got a real treat for you today. Two new books – and when I say new, I mean new, as both of these volumes have just come out in the last couple of weeks! One is a young adult tale from the acclaimed author of the Generation Dead series, Daniel Waters, that is also perfect for adults. The other is a supernatural western from newcomer Rob DeBorde that will satisfy fans of horror and dark fantasy alike.

BREAK MY HEART 1,000 TIMES
Daniel Waters

Living in the aftermath of the Event means that seeing the dead is now a part of life, but Veronica wishes that the ghosts would just move on. Instead, the ghosts aren’t disappearing—they’re gaining power.

When Veronica and her friend, Kirk, decide to investigate why, they stumble upon a more sinister plot than they ever could have imagined. One of Veronica’s high school teachers is crippled by the fact that his dead daughter has never returned as a ghost, and he’s haunted by the possibility that she’s waiting to reappear within a fresh body. Veronica seems like the perfect host. And even if he’s wrong, what’s the harm in creating one more ghost?

When the Event kills more than two million people in a single moment, life is forever changed for those still among the living. Losing that many people at once is a tragedy, but even that is easier to cope with that the fact that the ghosts of the dead begin to return to the living in the aftermath of the catastrophe. Just a few at first and then more and more, until a person can hardly turn a corner without running into another one. It is into this setting that Waters drops his protagonist, Veronica, and the chills and thrills don’t let up until the very last page. A creepy little thriller that’s perfect for the Halloween season.

 

PORTLANDTOWN
Rob DeBorde

Welcome to Portlandtown, where no secret is safe—not even those buried beneath six feet of Oregon mud.

Joseph Wylde isn’t afraid of the past, but he knows some truths are better left unspoken. When his father-in-law’s grave-digging awakens more than just ghosts, Joseph invites him into their home hoping that a booming metropolis and two curious grandtwins will be enough to keep the former marshal out of trouble. Unfortunately, the old man’s past soon follows, unleashing a terrible storm on a city already knee deep in floodwaters. As the dead mysteriously begin to rise, the Wyldes must find the truth before an unspeakable evil can spread across the West and beyond.

I love supernatural westerns and in the last couple of years there have been some really terrific ones. HALLOWED GROUND by David Niall Wilson comes to mind, as does Cherie Priest’s terrific western-zombie-steampunk series The Clockwork Century, especially DREADNOUGHT.

I’m happy to say that I’d add PORTLANDTOWN to that list. I picked up the day it came out, enticed by the terrific cover art, and finished it up pretty quickly. For a supernatural western, this one had it all – cursed guns, books of black magic, necromancy and the zombies it spawns, Native American spirit totems, you name it. The story moved along at a good clip and there were a few plotlines that were left hanging, hopefully to be deal with in later books. I’ll be looking for more from Rob DeBorde in the future!

 

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Thirteen

Halloween is just around the corner and I can’t think of a better time to dive into Al Sarrantonio’s Orangefield trilogy, which is why you are getting three books today instead of the usual two. While each of the three books can stand well enough on their own, the common setting and familiar characters make them a real treat to read one after another, especially in the midst of the Halloween season.

Sarrantonio has long been praised as a master of the atmospheric tale in a style similar to that of Charlie Grant and these three books certainly capture the flavor of Halloween in the northeastern U.S.

Horrorween
Al Sarrantonio

For untold ages a dark presence has shrouded the small town of Orangefield. In addition to the plentiful pumpkins that gave the town its name. Orangefield is home to the dreaded Lord of Death himself, Samhain. Despite the rumors of his existance,and rare, brief sightings Samhain has long been content to leave the local inhabitants alone. But that is about to change…. When a boy from the town disappears, detective Bill Grant is convinced Samhain is responsible. But even Grant cannot imagine the horrific extent of the Lord of Death’s grand scheme. As what may prove to be the last Halloween approaches, the fate of the world will depend on the survival of a small group of people pawns in a terrifying game of cosmic proportions.

Hallows Eve
Al Sarrantonio

After twelve years, Corrie Phaeder is returning home to Orangefield—the last place in the world he wants to be. Orangefield is a town of nightmares, a town where the impossible and the horrific happen all too often, where ghosts rise screaming from their graves, and where trick-or-treating goblins have no need for scary costumes. Something is waiting patiently for Corrie’s homecoming. This Halloween, a messenger from a realm of shadows, with the body of a scarecrow and the head of a pumpkin, will usher Corrie into what might prove to be his last nightmare, a battle to the death with the ultimate darkness.

Halloweenland
Al Sarrantonio

In Orangefield, Halloween is never normal—and this year will be no exception. For Orangefield is now the home of Halloweenland, a bizarre carnival run by the mysterious Mr. Dickens. No one who sees the carnival doubts that it’s a very strange place, but its real secrets can hardly be imagined. Orangefield is also the home of Detective Bill Grant, who thinks he’s seen it all. He’s on the trail of an odd little girl, a girl who could hold the end of the universe in her hand. The trail will lead Grant to Ireland, the ancient home of the Lord of the Dead, then back to Orangefield, where, on what may be the last Halloween, the ultimate battle between Life and Death will take place.

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Twelve

I’m a sucker for a well-written debut novel.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was walking into a bookstore and searching the shelves for my first published work. I remember what an emotional roller coaster that was and just how badly I wanted that first book to find an audience that loved it as much as I did.

More often than not it is simple word of mouth that takes a book from middle-of-the-road sales to sales that makes the publisher sit up and take notice. In today’s installment of Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads, I wanted to do my part to pass the word on a couple of debut novels that deserve to have people talking about them.

THE INQUISITOR
Mark Allen Smith

Geiger has a gift: he knows a lie the instant he hears it. And in his business—called “information retrieval” by its practitioners—that gift is invaluable, because truth is the hottest thing on the market.

Geiger’s clients count on him to extract the truth from even the most reluctant subjects. Unlike most of his competitors, Geiger rarely sheds blood, but he does use a variety of techniques—some physical, many psychological—to push his subjects to a point where pain takes a backseat to fear. Because only then will they finally stop lying.

One of Geiger’s rules is that he never works with children. So when his partner, former journalist Harry Boddicker, unwittingly brings in a client who demands that Geiger interrogate a twelve-year-old boy, Geiger responds instinctively. He rescues the boy from his captor, removes him to the safety of his New York City loft, and promises to protect him from further harm. But if Geiger and Harry cannot quickly discover why the client is so desperate to learn the boy’s secret, they themselves will become the victims of an utterly ruthless adversary.

Some might look at the description above and think “thriller” rather than horror. I would counter that by pointing out that the main character, Geiger, tortures people, often quite brutally, for a living. Even worse, halfway into the story we find ourselves not only routing for this man, but in some ways actually liking him. That’s horror, my friends, and I suggest you give THE INQUISITOR a read to see what I’m talking about.

Fast-paced, well-plotted, with enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most discerning reader (and of course there’s that thing about the likable torturer!), THE INQUISITOR really delivers.

We move from the streets of New York to those of London for our second selection for today…

THE ROOK
Daniel O’Malley

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

With an opening line like “The body you are wearing used to be mine,” do I really need to say anything more? THE ROOK opens with a bombshell like that and doesn’t let up. The central character, Myfanwy, discovers that she is an middle executive of the Checguy, a kind of paranormal MI6. The agents, Pawns, are run by those higher up the food chain, notably the Rooks (like Myfanwy), Bishops, and Lords. Myfanway takes up her usual place in the Checguy hierarchy while desperately trying to understand her role in it all and, perhaps more importantly, who in the organization is trying to kill her. Along the way she ends up protecting England from an antler cult, a villain manifesting as a roomful of flesh, and the ancient Grafters of Belgium.

With the first Myfanway leading the second along with letters left in her care, we’re treated to both the present and the past like a braided cord, drawing us along with each twist and turn. The sly humor and self-deprecating irony is simply the icing on a well-baked cake.

 

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Eleven

When I was first starting out in my writing career, one of the classic pieces of advice I’d hear was the recommendation to start with short fiction and then gradually make your way up to writing a novel. Sometimes I still hear that advice given to your writers today and I have to admit that it puzzles me now as much as it did back then.

Writing a quality piece of short fiction is no easy task; I’d rather tackle a novel length work any day of the week then try to shoehorn all I have to say on a particular topic into a couple dozen pages or less. Thankfully, there are others out there with far more skill than I in this particular area and I wanted to use today’s entry to introduce you to two of them.

PENTACLE – A SELF COLLECTION
Tom Piccirilli

PENTACLE collects the classic tales of an unnamed Necromancer and his demonic familiar “Self” as they wander the spectral highways of America incurring the wrath of both heaven and hell.

I was first introduced to Piccirilli’s unnamed necromancer and his wise-cracking remorseless familiar Self in the pages of DEEP IN THE DARKNESS PEERING, a limited edition collection of tales published back in 1999 by Terminal Frights Press. Piccirilli’s raw talent shown through like a searchlight in the darkness and I was fascinated with the play between these two characters as they wandered modern-day America dealing with various types of evil.

As Tom himself explains, ” I wanted to create my own kind of mythos, which I could return to over the years. True historical accounts of the Inquisition and the hysteria surrounding the witch trials are fascinating and shocking, with descriptions of some of the most terrible and savage periods in world history. So the challenge was to use realand realisticaccounts from history, along with ceremonies, ritual, legends and superstitions in order to weave them into a cohesive body of work. With each new Self tale I try to play with elements of a different legend, religious practice, or piece of folklore while allowing the reader to learn more about the dual identities of Self and the necromancer.”

This digital collection brings together many of the Self tales that Piccirilli has written over the years and illustrates quite clearly that Tom is a master at the short fiction art form.

PICKING THE BONES
Brian Hodge

A hardened photojournalist’s glimpses the face behind the atrocities of war. A report on the arcane origins and tragic premier of the flipside version of Mel Gibson’s most infamous movie. The seeding of Lovecraftian terrors in the unlikely realms of vintage psychedelia and cinematic sound design. The chapter in the life of Dracula’s Van Helsing that reunited Hodge with editor Jeanne Cavelos, mastermind of the Dell/Abyss series. A trip inside one of the Middle Ages’ seven towers of darkest iniquity, now thriving in modern-day Los Angeles. Dying is easy. Living is hard. And forces beyond your control have a bone to pick with you…

Just as with his previous collection LIES & UGLINESS, Brian Hodge doesn’t shy away from digging down deep into the depths of the human soul and shining a light on what might be lurking there. His fiction is always both thought-provoking and emotionally visceral and PICKING THE BONES is no exception.

The seventeen stories included in the collection present a powerful thematic punch as they explore the the nature of man’s deepest fears and darkest longings. At its current $2.99 price, this is an incredible steal!

 

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Ten

For every monster there is a hunter. Someone who puts their life on the line to protect the innocent and the unwary. Someone who stands in the gap and says this much and no farther. Someone who draws a line in the sand and declares that the killing ends here and now.

Today’s Horrifying Hallowe’en selections highlight two such hunters. In each case they are young, resourceful women who find themselves suddenly on their own in a world that is far more dangerous than they ever suspected or believed and who must rise to the occasion to protect not only themselves but the uninitiated around them.

STRANGE ANGELS
Lili St. Crow

Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.) Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?

Lilith Saintcrow has become one of my favorite urban fantasy writers in recent years. I ripped through her two adult series – books featuring the kickass heroines Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet – and was lamenting the end of both when I discovered she also wrote young adult fiction under the name Lili St. Crow. I dove into them immediately and didn’t come up for air until I had read all five.

STRANGE ANGELS opens with a bang and doesn’t let up until the very end. In a way it is a coming of age novel, as Dru is forced to step into her missing father’s shoes and take on the role of hunter while trying to learn what happened to him. It is a fresh take on a popular YA genre and showcases a heroine who is gutsy and tough but still stuck with all the trials of your typical teenager.

Highly recommended!

 

THE DEMON TRAPPER’S DAUGHTER
Jana Oliver

Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself – and that’s exactly what the demons are counting on…

Seventeen-year-old Riley, the only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper, Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. The good news is, with human society seriously disrupted by economic upheaval and Lucifer increasing the number of demons in all major cities, Atlanta’s local Trappers’ Guild needs all the help they can get – even from a girl. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing crush on fellow apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving distressed citizens from foul-mouthed little devils – Grade One Hellspawn only, of course, per the strict rules of the Guild. Life’s about as normal as can be for the average demon-trapping teen.

But then a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sudden tragedy strikes the Trappers’ Guild, spinning Riley down a more dangerous path than she ever could have imagined. As her whole world crashes down around her, who can Riley trust with her heart – and her life?

It’s 2018 and Riley Blackthorne’s only dream is to become a demon trapper like her father. When he is killed at the hands of a grade five demon, Riley finds herself thrust into what has traditionally been a man’s world, forced to prove herself not just against the demons that hunt her but her father’s former comrades in the demon trapper’s guild.

With the help of her father’s former partner, Riley is more determined than ever to become a full-fledged trapper. Balancing school, watching over her father’s grave so a necromancer doesn’t claim him as a servant, and apprenticing with one of the roughest masters would keep most people’s hands full. But Riley is special, and Heaven has an important job for her should she choose to accept her calling.

Oliver presents a very unique version of Atlanta and populates it with interesting supernatural creatures. Her characters are strong and well-defined – though the teen-agey angst coming off Riley was occasionally a bit overdone for me – and populate a story that goes in very interesting directions. The series fourth and final volume is due out in December.

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Please note: The Demon Trapper’s Daughter is known as The Demon Trappers: Forsaken in the UK and Australia. You’ll find both versions on the full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Nine

Good versus evil. Light versus Darkness. Heaven versus Hell.

The never-ending battle for control of our world has always been a staple in horror fiction. So much so, in fact, that it has almost become a cliché. Then, right about the time you start to feel as if this age-old conflict just isn’t scary anymore, a writer comes along – two, in this case – who reminds you that it isn’t the darkness that is so troublesome, but rather what lurks within it.

LONDON MACABRE
Steve Savile

A man walks confidently through the night time streets. He is Nathaniel Seth, is one of the Brethren, a shadow society of occult dabblers and black magickers who hide away in the darkest parts of the city, in corners where they could not be seen by polite society. Little did Seth know that his own life was only hours from ending, his flesh to be taken as host for a daemonic entity clawed all the way out of hell’s pit in the centre of the hollow earth because Seth himself breached the Catamine Stair.

Now things are afoot. Strange things. The lions of Traflagar have fulfilled their prophecy, climbing down from the plinths around Lord Nelson’s column to defend the city. The daemon is out, stalking tender prey through the gaslit streets, meat markets, fish stalls and slaughter houses of Whitechapel. He has a taste for women, though not ordinary women. These women are different. Special. They may look like whores but they have the blood of angels flowing in their veins. If he can kill enough of them, bathing in their innocent blood, then the daemonic Seth believes he can open the ancient Ald Gate–one of the seven great gates of London–the last gate to Eden, and go home, even if it means tearing London herself apart.

The gates are guarded by The Seven, bloodsucking angelkind put there to guard a very special prisoner. A prisoner who cannot be allowed to escape. Satanial. The Devil by another name. Cast down and trapped in a hell on earth, watched over by Uriel, the mad Archangel. Can the men of Greyfriars stop the daemonic Seth from opening the gates and all hell breaking loose?

Savile is a writer who has been quietly making a name for himself in the horror and fantasy genres for some time now. He has written for major franchises such as Star Wars, Stargate, Primeval, and Slaine, while at the same time producing terrifically dark thrillers such as Silver. In LONDON MACABRE, he turns his attention to the eternal battle as it plays out on the streets of London.

The Greyfriar’s Gentlemen’s Club is a collection of practitioners of the Art; a well-heeled, pipe smoking, brandy-quaffing set of brave adventurers who soon realize they are in far over their heads. Utilizing their skills, as well as their endlessly resourceful retainer Mason, the group find themselves in a desperate battle for survival as they protect the City from the dark and devious designs of their Arch-enemies, the Brethren.

The story itself is a grand epic, a heart-in-throat battle for reality itself that is a solid mix of Victoriana, magic and fantasy, with the divine struggle playing out in the background. One of the great strengths of the story is Savile’s familiarity with the city itself and he makes it come alive in ways that adds depth and realism to his tale that were greatly appreciated by this U.S. based reader.

If you are looking for an introduction to this terrific writer, LONDON MACABRE is certainly a great place to start.

 

SANDMAN SLIM
Richard Kadrey

Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

Kadrey’s anti-hero Stark is one of the coolest characters to come around in years. Betrayed by the group of mages he considered his friends, Stark’s living body is sent to Hell – affectionately known as Downtown in the series – and spends the next eleven years fighting to survive as an arena combatant. He picks up a bit more magic while there as well, making him a damn bit harder to kill.

Stark escapes and returns to Los Angeles, gunning for the leader of the group that sent him Downtown. His adversary has grown rather powerful in his absence, however, and may prove harder to handle than Stark expects.

Kadrey’s prose is lean and mean and filled with ironically self-aware commentary that can be absolutely hilarious. Don’t let that humor fool you, though, because this first installment in a new urban fantasy series is just as gruesome and dark as the other books we’ve discussed to date, perhaps even more so. One thing is certain – you won’t want to miss SANDMAN SLIM.

 

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Eight

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. They Thirst by Robert McCammon. Nightblood by T. Chris Martindale. Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector. Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden. Five classic books with one thing in common – vampires!

I would suspect that if you’re fan of the bloodsucking undead, especially the kind that are far more sinister than sparkly, you’ve probably already read the books I just mentioned. If not, go rectify that problem immediately; a horror library is not complete without those five volumes.

Of course, five is never enough and for today’s installment of Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads, we’re going to add two more books to the list, books in which vampires play a starring role.

ALREADY DEAD
Charlie Huston

Those stories you hear? The ones about things that only come out at night? Things that feed on blood, feed on us? Got news for you: they’re true. Only it’s not like the movies or old man Stoker’s storybook. It’s worse. Especially if you happen to be one of them. Just ask Joe Pitt.

There’s a shambler on the loose. Some fool who got himself infected with a flesh-eating bacteria is lurching around, trying to munch on folks’ brains. Joe hates shamblers, but he’s still the one who has to deal with them. That’s just the kind of life he has. Except afterlife might be better word.

From the Battery to the Bronx, and from river to river, Manhattan is crawling with Vampyres. Joe is one of them, and he’s not happy about it. Yeah, he gets to be stronger and faster than you, and he’s tough as nails and hard to kill. But spending his nights trying to score a pint of blood to feed the Vyrus that’s eating at him isn’t his idea of a good time. And Joe doesn’t make it any easier on himself. Going his own way, refusing to ally with the Clans that run the undead underside of Manhattan–it ain’t easy. It’s worse once he gets mixed up with the Coalition–the city’s most powerful Clan–and finds himself searching for a poor little rich girl who’s gone missing in Alphabet City.

Now the Coalition and the girl’s high-society parents are breathing down his neck, anarchist Vampyres are pushing him around, and a crazy Vampyre cult is stalking him. No time to complain, though. Got to find that girl and kill that shambler before the whip comes down . . . and before the sun comes up.

Take a hard-boiled detective story and pair it with a horror novel featuring vampires and you’ve got the formula for Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt series. Instead of drowning his sorrows in booze, however, our hero drowns them in fresh blood to satisfy the hunger of the Vyrus that has turned him into one of the undead.

Gory, bloody, gruesome – definitely not for the faint of heart – but man does it satisfy! Even better there are four other volumes in the series to sink your teeth into once you finish ALREADY DEAD.

Our second selection for today also features a vampire with a penchant for solving problems, but there is a world of difference between Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt and David Niall Wilson, Donovan DeChance, the hero of VINTAGE SOUL.

VINTAGE SOUL
David Niall Wilson

Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. When, despite the finest in natural and supernatural security, a sexy and well-loved, three hundred year old lady vampire is kidnapped right out from under her lover’s nose, Donovan is called in to investigate.

He soon finds that there is much more to the case than a simple abduction when an unknown intruder invades his home and steals a very rare, very ancient manuscript. There will be no ransom for the kidnap victim, and if Donovan doesn’t prevent an ancient, forbidden ritual from reaching its culmination, far more than a single vampire’s undead existence will be at stake.

Calling on his lover and partner, Amethyst, and an odd assortment of contacts, informants, and connections, Donovan follows the ghostly trail of the kidnapper through a winding maze of intrigue-always a step behind-through magical battles, murders, and confrontations with a rogue band of young vampires intent on beating Donovan at his own game.

I discovered Wilson’s writing through his fabulous novel DEEP BLUE, about a blues musician who takes the weight, and sometimes the sin, of the world on his shoulders. To this day I consider it one of the finer works of modern horror I’ve ever read. (It doesn’t hurt that I love the blues, either.)

One of Wilson’s many talents is his world-building and for the Donovan DeChance series he creates the California city of San Valencez. Not satisfied with that, however, he then takes us deep into its heart, to the city that exists inside the city itself, the one most of San Valencez’s residents don’t know about, where things darker than night watch and wait and hunger. His rich descriptions and well-turned action scenes move the story along briskly as DeChance and his companions race against time to save the kidnap victim.

A former president of the Horror Writers Association and a multiple winner of the Bram Stoker Award, Wilson’s writing always satisfies and this new series is no exception. Grab your copy today and start your journey into a strange new world!

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Seven

When you focus your reading in a particular genre, you tend to notice how quickly one book begins to look like another. Similar plots, similar characters, similar structure – if you’ve read a book about X (insert your favorite horror trope here) you’ve read them all, right?

Don’t blame the writers. When a publisher says, “I want a book like X (insert popular title here) but different. Except don’t make it too different,” the writer doesn’t really have much choice but to give them just that if they want to keep putting food on the table.

The one benefit of this similar-but-different approach is that it makes the truly unique books stand out and that’s exactly what I have for you today; two books which take a very common theme and turn it on its ear in a unique fashion, making them stand out from the rest of the pack.

THE RETURN MAN
V.M. Zito

The outbreak tore the U.S. in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who – or what – is watching you.

When we first meet Henry Marco, he is deep in the Evacuated States, doing his best to track down his client’s dead husband who, as a result of the zombie plague, has gotten up and started walking around again. The idea of a man staying behind to provide emotional resolution to those who survived the outbreak but have loved ones who did not is both unique and interesting, but it is when we discover just why Marco refused to be evacuated himself that the plot really begins to draw you in.

Things become more difficult for Marco when the government gets in on the action, effectively blackmailing him to carry out a mission on their behalf or else see members of his extended family face imprisonment, or possibly worse, back in the safe zone. Marco takes the gig, setting off a classic “behind-the-lines” kind of rescue mission, complete with rival competitors trying to hone in on the action.

THE RETURN MAN is a fast-paced zombie thriller with enough originality and action to satisfy even the most jaded zombie fan.

 

THE PANAMA LAUGH
Thomas Roche

Ex-mercenary, pirate, and gun-runner Dante Bogart knows he’s screwed the pooch after he hands one of his shady employers a biological weapon that made the dead rise from their graves, laugh like hyenas, and feast upon the living. Dante tried to blow the whistle via a tell-all video that went viral – but that was before the black ops boys deep-sixed him at a secret interrogation site on the Panama-Colombia border. When Dante wakes up in the jungle with the five intervening years missing from his memory, he knows he’s got to do something about the laughing sickness that has caused a world-wide slaughter. The resulting journey leads him across the nightmare that was the Panama Canal, around Cape Horn in a hijacked nuclear warship, to San Francisco’s mission district, where a crew of survivalist hackers have holed up in the pseudo-Moorish-castle turned porn-studio known as The Armory. This mixed band of anti-social rejects has taken Dante’s whistle blowing video as an underground gospel, leading the fight against the laughing corpses and the corporate stooges who’ve tried to profit from the slaughter. Can Dante find redemption and save civilization?

A zombie plague that turns its victims into shambling, flesh-hungry creatures that can’t stop laughing? How extraordinarily creepy is that? Roche takes this terrific idea and delivers an action-packed storyline to go with it, making this one of the better zombie books I’ve read in years.

THE PANAMA LAUGH alternates between the present, where Dante Bogart is desperately trying to put an end to the entire epidemic, and the past, revealing the events that lead up to the release of the biological toxin that kicked off the epidemic in the first place. The first person viewpoint puts the non-stop zombie destruction that fills the pages of THE PANAMA LAUGH on center stage and generates an immediacy to the story that makes it hard to put down; once you start, you want to read it all in one sitting.

THE PANAMA LAUGH was a highly impressive debut novel and I can’t wait to see what Roche brings us in the future.

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Horrifying Hallowe’en Reads – Day Six

One of the things that I love about the ebook revolution is the return of the novella. While definitions vary, most would classify a novella as being somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 words, or 45 to 180 pages in length. I think novellas are the perfect length for a solid tale when you don’t have the time to take on an entire novel. Short enough to be read in one sitting if you desire but not so short that it is over too soon.

Today’s selections show us just how entertaining a pair of horror novellas can be…

SHADES
Geoff Cooper and Brian Keene

When 11-year-old Danny skips school to go hunting for crabs near the Haverstraw Marina, he finds a dead body instead-and stumbles across one of the darkest and deadliest secrets in Brackard’s Point. A secret that threatens the lives of Danny, his friends, and the mysterious old Russian known as Gustav…

Geoff Cooper created the town of Brackard’s Point as the setting for much of his fiction and it’s a place like no other. As Thunderstorm Books notes in the description for ANSWERS OF SILENCE, which collects much of the short fiction set there, “This is a town brimming with unrequited love and unfathomable hate. A town where dreams lay shattered in back alleys. A town where trees whisper in the moonlight. A town where serial killers attend cub scout meetings.” The mythology of the story, Russian magic and supernatural evil, comes from co-writer Brian Keene’s body of work, specifically his tales involving the Labyrinth. Together the two deliver a fast-paced coming-of-age story that’s a nice introduction to both of the writers.

Like SUMMER OF NIGHT from our first pair of selections, SHADES brings you back to those days of youth when summer loomed ahead of you and all you wanted to do was discover the magic deep in its heart. In Brackard’s Point, that magic is real…

 

Newcomer Rob Hart brings us our next selection, a creepy little novella full of zombie action that’s just right for the season.

THE LAST SAFE PLACE
Rob Hart

It’s been two years since the outbreak of a plague that turned New Yorkers into flesh-eating corpses. The city’s population has dwindled to three hundred refugees on Governors Island, a park and former military outpost situated in Upper New York Bay, a few hundreds yards from Manhattan and Brooklyn. The survivors struggle with supply shortages and flaring tempers, but the monsters they call ‘rotters’ can’t swim. The island isn’t comfortable, but it’s safe.

That sense of safety is shattered when Sarge, a former cop and the island’s head of security, comes face to decomposing face with a rotter while on an early-morning patrol. There’s no conceivable way for the creature to have gotten on the island. What’s worse is that its stone-like skin makes it much tougher to kill.

Faced with the prospect of an evolving enemy, and desperate to find antibiotics for his dying wife, Sarge has to get into Manhattan, do some recon, forage for supplies, and get out—without drawing the attention of the millions of rotters that now roam the city.

The strength in Hart’s writing is his characterization. His hero is flawed, capable of making the most horrendous decisions, and thus utterly believable as he attempts to survive another day in a world gone mad. The setting – Governor’s Island – is near perfect; close to a major metropolis but completely inaccessible to the rotters roaming the deserted city nearby. Or so our hero thinks…

I’ll be looking for more from Rob Hart in the future.

********************

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,740 other followers

%d bloggers like this: