Indie Horror Review #6

Human Waste by C.M. Saunders

George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead,  the progenitor of the modern zombie horror sub-genre, opened the door on those canny, clawing, rapacious flesh-eaters. And, for this horror fan at least, he closed it too because whenever I find myself needing a zombie fix—not too often, maybe every few Halloweens—I pop in my old NOTLD DVD, sit back, and enjoy. My appetite sated.

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But since Romero’s cult classic and subsequent franchise, the proliferation of  zombie films, comics, graphic novels, television shows, and city-wide zombie crawls have proven that I am in the minority. Fans can’t get enough. Zombies are hot, zombies are funny (many of the most successful offerings are black comedies in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland), and sometimes, as in the case of C.M. Saunders’ new novella, zombies are not what they seem.

Human Waste begins from inside Dan Pallister’s council flat (a form of UK public housing). As he peers out his ninth-floor window, he sees that they are  everywhere: “Fucking zombies…horrible, shambling, rotting husks of humanity shuffling around, looking for brains to eat.” He’s not sure what exactly has brought on “the end of days”, but the world has been going to hell for a long time now. Now at last it’s here in the form of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. Continue reading “Indie Horror Review #6”

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‘Black Magick’ is Live!

Hey horror (and occult thriller) fans! My new book Black Magick is LIVE! Please follow me on Amazon and Goodreads. For those who received a free copy, I will be shipping those out soon. blackmagickcover

About Black Magick:

Beware the devil woman….

Small town music legend, Rob Sweeney, had everything a man could wish for: money, success, and the love of his life. But when a bitter ex-girlfriend isn’t ready to let go, he makes an unwitting deal with the devil in the form of Lloyd Lair, a musician who lacks Rob’s talent, but will stop at nothing to get what he wants…including murder.

 

Indie Horror Review #5

Blue Meat Blues by Joshua McGrath

In my quest for finding indie (self-published) horror novels to review, I consulted a list on Goodreads and deliberately chose the book with the least reviews and the weirdest cover–I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog. I checked out the author’s profile page and see that his photo resembles a brooding Rive Gauche intellectual. Sold!

I ordered the printed book (I don’t Kindle) and dug into this love letter to misanthropy. A cocktail of sociopathy and vague spiritual ennui. A dumpster full of human meat with high hopes.

The writer gives the done to death dystopian genre a fresh twist by creating a very unique picture of futuristic horror. This mise en scene depicts a world encased in waves of tar—that shit burns and lingers on the skin and seems to have its own life: a churning, creeping hunger. The survivors of this new world: a hierarchy of ferals, smoothies, and slaves, are as altered as the landscape we assume was once earth. They cling to a remembered humanity of sorts, although they are not quite human–perhaps their flesh is only an organic breeding ground for a new life form. Whatever it is, it’s ugly. There’s hair too, growing in the ocean—something organic, some strange glowing fiber optics of the future?
Continue reading “Indie Horror Review #5”

Indie Horror Review # 3

She: A Horror Novel by David Kummer

Thanks to the lovely website Goodreads, I connected with fellow horror writer, David Kummer, for a book swap. Writers, if you haven’t done this yet, I highly recommend it for not only helping to spread the word about your own book (always a goal) but to see what other indies are doing. I’m so glad I did because She is quite enjoyable. I didn’t learn until after I bought the book that the author is still in his teens, which made me worry about the corrupting influence of my own book: Unmasked, which can get rather (ahem) steamy at times; hopefully young David survived it. But onto the review… Continue reading “Indie Horror Review # 3”

I wrote a novel. Now what?

It’s finished! It’s done! It’s on Amazon! Hurrah! Open the champagne! Does all that red wine I drank while I was writing it count?

There is no celebration. I don’t throw a party, and no one surprises me with one. Cue violins…

After much, much work, the damn thing is done. I finally hold the printed copy in my hand. There is a feeling of accomplishment, but also terror. I open it to a random page and notice that one sentence is missing a the. Even though I’ve been over it with a fine-tooth comb about twenty times, I’m sure there are more embarrassing errors. But then I’ve found similar ones in every Donna Tartt novel I’ve read. That thought comforts me, a little.

I send a copy to my mother. I warn her about the explicit content. She says she’s curious to see what’s really going on inside my mind. A few days later she says it’s a good idea I used a pen name. I shyly drop a copy off at my local bookstore. I meet a writer who tells me all about her book. I listen politely and forget all about mine. I run into a neighbor who tells me another neighbor has also written a book. It seems I’m surrounded by writers. You need to push yourself my husband tells me as we walk away. I’m quiet for the rest of the stroll, thinking about this friend of a friend who sent me a copy of his book to read and how I ended up blocking him because he became so aggressively persistent. Nothing is more annoying than the ABC (Always Be Closing) personality. To me, anyway. Perhaps that’s part of my resistance. Continue reading “I wrote a novel. Now what?”

Indie Horror Fiction Review #1

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Sickness in Hell by Tarl Warwick

While spinning down the post-election rabbit hole (yes, I voted for Hillary), I decided to take a trip to the dark side of underground news. A search for the term alt-right led me to a young, youtube philosopher, one Styxhexenhammer666, and despite disagreeing with some of what he spouts (which he seems to do all day long, sometimes never changing out of his bathrobe), I am finding his channel a strange, and addictive, delight. Perhaps der junge occultist has cast a spell over me and his other 70,000 plus subscribers. It could be the glasses, but every time I watch one of his videos, I flash on the exorcist in Ken Russell’s The Devils–I hope the reformed Satanist is not offended. What I find interesting and refreshing about this prolific vlogger is his demonstrable talent for speaking off the cuff and very articulately. He covers a variety of topics from libertarian-leaning political views to horticultural, to trip reports (the philosopher stoned) to the occult, about which he appears legitimately knowledgeable.

He is also a writer; and because I am looking for indie horror novels to review I was curious to see if he writes as well as he speaks. So I helped fill his coffers a bit by purchasing his self-published novel Sickness in Hell: The Death of Mankind by Tarl Warwick (Styx’s real name I assume). The novel is a graphically depicted tale of what happens when the small town of Hillcrest becomes infected by toxic mushrooms via a tainted food processing plant and turns the population into mutating flesh-eating abominations at war with one another–Hell on earth. In one of his YouTube videos, he describes this story as something he began as a class assignment in his AP English class. I am instantly flashing on a few of my former students–black trench coats, high SAT scores, scowling behind their Stephen King novels like they wanted to murder me. Years later, I run into them at the neighborhood bar and everything’s cool. But back to Sickness in Hell. Considering the work’s origin, I was expecting juvenilia, and in a way, it does have a certain adolescent let’s see how far I can gross you out quality that I find distancing, but that is also the essence of the genre. I like a little more meat on my neighbor’s forearm when I’m chewing on it, although that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to like (enjoy is not the right word) about this story.

The protagonist, Germaine Wordsworth, and his sister, Dawn (for whom he has some incestuous yearning, gratefully not depicted) both become infected with the toxic chemicals. Germaine immediately turns into a mutated human who has an insatiable hunger that he satisfies on the spot by eating an equally infected hobo. Dawn responds to the infection by sprouting huge breasts and growing mushrooms out of her ass (spoiler: there is a lot of ass in this book). An explosion at the processing plant spreads the toxic fungi through the small town of Hillcrest, causing the citizens to become infected with the bizarre body mutation infection. Germaine and Dawn and a few other citizens including a funny old lady named Gran, stake out a citadel around a church to fight off other infected zombies. The story picks up when Satan himself appears along with my favorite character, an old witch who creates all kinds of necromantic hi-jinks. There is even a brief Candide-esque cultivate your own garden utopian reprieve before the dramatic Armageddon showdown at the end (a nice piece of writing depicts the harridan processing plant owner attacking the citadel as the Whore of Babylon on an 18-wheel chariot). Sprinkled in between the distended anuses and dangling labia (I’m not joking) is a bit of philosophy and some alchemy lessons.

As in any self-produced work, there is an expectation of rough spots that could benefit from a keen editor’s eye, and Sickness in Hell has its clunky moments, but overall what impressed me the most is the author’s wickedly sick sense a humor and attention to detail. The Satan character is particularly well-rendered in the comical tradition of Marlowe’s Mephistopheles. In the foreword of the book, the author describes emitting maniacal laughter while writing this. Well, I was right there with him. Maybe I have a diseased mind, but some of the passages made me laugh out loud, one-time blowing soy milk out my nostrils and all over the page, which is not a degradation considering the subject matter.

I am not easily offended, but I prefer the less is more variety of horror, so Sickness in Hell, although entertaining, is more comical than scary (at least for this reader). There are certainly fans of this genre, but the built-in flaw of splatterpunk is that by not holding anything back, there is little suspense built, and more problematic, a lack of humanity that makes the reader care and connect to the characters. I’d be interested in reading more mature works from Warwick that show the level of insight and intellect he expresses in his videos.

So if you can find sport in the intent of how far to the dark side a bright imagination can go, you will probably enjoy the sick laughs of Sickness in Hell. I hope Styx/Warwick continues to develop as a writer and an intellectual (maybe get out of the house once and awhile). I will continue to watch, fascinated.

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