Interview with Author John Everson

Flame Tree Press released Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author John Everson’s 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, on October 18th.

The teaser for the book hints at a perfect autumn read:

Flame Tree PressThe teaser for the book hints at a perfect read for autumn: “Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead … she doesn’t intend to stay that way.”

Everson’s novels are dark and visceral, often blending horror with the occult and taboo sex. The Illinois author won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel in 2005 for Covenant. His sixth novel, Nightwhere, was a Bram Stoker Award finalist in 2013. Check out Everson’s website by clicking here.

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Everson discusses his new novel, his past works, and what scares him.

THE INTERVIEW

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HORROR ADDICTS: Your 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, arrived October 18th from your new publisher Flame Tree Press. Does this release personally feel any different than your previous releases in terms of anticipation and excitement? Or do all of them feel the same?

EVERSON: They’re all a little different, but this one is special because it’s the debut release on my fourth major publisher. My first couple novels debuted in hardcover on Delirium Books, a small independent press, and then made their big “mass market” paperback debut a couple years later on Leisure Books, which put them in bookstores across the country. Both of those debuts were big because – first book ever, and then first book ever in bookstores.  Then after the dissolution of Leisure, my sixth novel NightWhere debuted on Samhain Publishing, which was my second “paperback” home. After four books with them, I am now with Flame Tree Press, which is issuing The House By The Cemetery in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. That is the first time I’ve ever had a publisher do all versions of a novel, so… it’s a big release for me!

HA: You set The House by the Cemetery in Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, one of the most haunted sites in Illinois and near where you grew up. What part of the cemetery’s history or legend intrigued you the most?

EVERSON: I  am always fascinated by ghost stories, so I love the stories of the Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove, a ghostly woman sometimes seen walking with a child, and sometimes on her own. I wrote a short story about her for the Cemetery Riots anthology a couple years ago. And she’s really the inspiration (along with a famous gravestone) for one of my earliest stories, “Remember Me, My Husband.” But the ghost story that inspired the novel is that of a mysteriously appearing house, which people see in the back of the cemetery. I decided that for the novel, the house would be a real, physical place. But the combination of the ghost stories about that, the Madonna, and the devil worship legends about dark things that occurred in the cemetery 40-50 years ago, really fueled the book though they were inspirational, not directly “retold.”

HA: With horror movies breaking records at the box office and tons of quality horror fiction being released the last couple of years, the media is reporting that the horror genre is more popular than ever. Does it seem that way to you or is it just hype? Have any movies or horror fiction blew you away in the last couple of years?

EVERSON: Horror as a film and TV genre does seem more popular than ever. The popularity of series like Stranger Things and The Walking Dead, in particular, has galvanized a huge fan base. I haven’t seen that turn into a huge fan base for horror novels, because at this point, published horror fiction is still divided between Stephen King, Anne Rice and a few others published by the major labels, and … everyone else being published by independent publishers. When you walk into a bookstore, you’re not blown away by the preponderance of horror books, at least not in any of the stores I walk into. I hope that changes because certainly, this is the age of horror video. And without “writing” there are no films and TV shows!

As far as what’s blown me away … I don’t have a frame of reference because I don’t watch most modern horror films and I avoid TV series – because while they may be great, I just don’t have the time! I can either watch TV or write … and I choose writing. I have seen Stranger Things, which is awesome. But that’s about it for me on the screen over the past couple years. My movie watching (which happens every Friday or Saturday night around midnight in my basement!) is centered around older horror, giallo, and exploitation films, particularly from Europe, from the ‘60s-’80s. At the start of the year, I did see and love the films The Shape of Water from Guillermo del Toro and Endless Poetry from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Ironically, both of those films also look backwards in time, to other ages. My favorite things that I’ve seen lately are Hitch Hike, a 1977 film by Pasquale Festa Campanile, Death Occurred Last Night, a 1970 film by Duccio Tessari, and Pets, a 1973 film by Raphael Nussbaum.

HA: You’ve written a horror trilogy titled The Curburide Chronicles about a reporter named Joe Kieran battling demons. What about Joe caused you to return to his story two more times?

EVERSON: I never intended to. After the first novel was initially finished in 2000, I wrote a few short stories, and a year or two passed as I tried to find a publisher for Covenant, the first book. One day in 2002, I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I thought … what a great way to jumpstart a book – write 50,000 words in four weeks? That’s insane! But I took the dare. I had an idea about what happened to Joe after Covenant, and in some ways, it felt like a better, more adventurous story than the first novel. So…I decided to use NaNoWriMo as my prod to knock out a big chunk of a novel. I still hadn’t sold the first book – and didn’t know if I ever would! – so I tried to write Sacrifice as a standalone novel, though it directly follows the first book.

So … when I finished Covenant I hadn’t had any thought of a sequel. When I finished Sacrifice, though, I thought almost immediately of how I might want to return to the world again, because I’d left a couple characters in limbo. However, the publisher wasn’t interested in a third book (third books in a series don’t usually do great unless you’ve got a mega-bestseller thing going on). So I had to sit on the idea of the third and final book in the series for almost a decade. A couple years ago when both Leisure and Samhain had collapsed and I found myself without a publisher, I decided, “what the hell …” and I dove in and finally wrote Redemption, the final chapter in the trilogy.

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HA: I cite The 13th as one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read and one that’s influential on my own writing. Do you have a favorite amongst your children (why or why not)?

EVERSON: I don’t have a favorite, but I have a few that I tout a little higher than others. Ironically, those are the ones that seem to have either sold less or been reviewed harder than the others! I am really a fan of Sacrifice, though it hasn’t sold half as many copies as Covenant. I love The 13th because it’s just over-the-top crazy horror fun (I think!) I really was proud of Siren, which had a dual narrative structure that was adventurous for me and dealt with some personal themes that also were important to me. While I’ve seen some people call it their favorite, that novel has faired the poorest in overall reviews (a lot of people are not happy with the ending), though personally I think it’s one of my strongest pieces. NightWhere is a big one for me because it dealt with dark, taboo themes that I was afraid to write about (and sign my name to) for years. But when I finally did it, I was really proud of the way it turned out (and it turned into an award finalist and has been reviewed pretty well).

NightWhere

HA: Was there one of your works that kind of fell through the cracks that you wished more people would’ve discovered?

EVERSON: Redemption. It had everything going against it – it’s the third and final part in my Covenant trilogy, but it was released a decade after the second novel, and it was released on my own independent Dark Arts Books label – the only book I’ve done that with on a first run, because the original publisher of Covenant and Sacrifice was gone.  So … most of the thousands of readers of those first two novels have no idea the finale exists, and there’s no way to let them know unless they’re actively looking for it. But I think it’s one of my best books, and really ties up the threads of the first two books. It’s also my longest novel.

HA: Taboo sex plays a large part in the plots of almost all your novels, but it’s also popular in a lot of other horror novels. Why do you think sex and horror are so intertwined in horror fiction?

EVERSON: Horror is in a lot of ways, a “Christian” genre (there are people bristling all over reading that!) in the sense that, because a lot of horror is based on the crime and punishment philosophy of “people who do bad things – like have sex before marriage – are punished by DEATH!” There are a lot of “sin and retribution/punishment” themes in horror. Being punished for killing someone … and being punished for cheating and/or premarital sex are big themes that horror tales frequently tackle. Horror has always explored the “what happens when you cross the moral line” factor.

And I think that sex comes into horror a lot too because – when are you at your most vulnerable? When you completely open yourself to another human being. We’re afraid of the potential danger of that intimacy, and thus … horror stories!

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John Everson signing his latest novel, The House by the Cemetery.

HA: I know you’re a music lover. Does music influence or inspire your writing at all (how)?

EVERSON: Music is a huge part of my life and I don’t ever write without it. I can’t say that music influences my writing direction in a way (I don’t hear a song and write a story about it) but I do put on types of music if I’m writing particular scenes. Most of the time I have on ambient “dreampop” kind of bands like Cocteau Twins and Delirium and The Cure which set a particular “mood” for writing. But if I’m doing very aggressive scenes, I might put on mixes of harder techno stuff, from Covenant to Rob Zombie to Marilyn Manson.

HA: What music are you listening to now?

EVERSON: I’m listening to a MixCloud mix by one of my favorite DJs, DJ Mikey. I have bought so many CDs because of his mixes! I listen to this particular one all the time at night because it’s nice and lowkey. Here’s the link: https://www.mixcloud.com/strangewaysradio/space-between-us-dreampop-dj-mikey/

HA: Are you binge-watching anything on Netflix?

EVERSON: The only thing I’ve ever watched on Netflix was Stranger Things … which is actually the only reason I subscribed (the rest of my family now won’t let me cancel it). I’m not a fan of most streaming services because their libraries aren’t deep enough for me. I have a lot of niche, cult film tastes and really, the only way to get most of those movies is to buy them from the cult film companies that remaster and produce them for Blu-ray and DVD. Plus, one of my favorite things about watching an old movie is to watch the bonus DVD extras – all the interviews about the making of the film. You don’t get that stuff on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

HA: Have you read any fiction recently worth recommending?

EVERSON: The last novel I finished was David Benton’s Fauna, which is excellent!

HA: When you’re not working, writing, or spending time with your family, what do enjoy doing with your downtime?

EVERSON: Watching cult 1970s/80s horror, giallo and exploitation films – often from Europe – is one of my favorite things to do. Give me a beer and a new discovery from film companies like Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, Raro Video, Mondo Macabre, Shameless or Synapse, and I’m a really happy guy.  If I’m not going to collapse in a comfy chair to watch obscure movies in the dark, I also love to cook and garden and occasionally even do some woodwork – I’ve built an oak bar for my basement and a couple of DVD cabinets.

HA: Give me some breaking news about your next project or tell me something your fans don’t know about you?

EVERSON: I’m currently just a few weeks from wrapping my 11th novel, The Devil’s Equinox. It’s an occult-based Rosemary’s Baby kind of story that maybe shares a few themes with NightWhere, The Devil’s Equinox, and The 13th.

HA: What scares you?

EVERSON: People! I’m a big fan of the core message of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In the end, it’s really not the monster that’s dangerous.

 

 

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Triple Axe by Scott Cole

Triple Axe by Scott Cole is an outrageous grindhouse exploitation novella packed with plucky porn stars, frozen sex toys, and a B-movie vibe straight from the gritty screens of 1970s drive-in theaters.

Triple Axe coverReleased by Grindhouse Press on July 2, Triple Axe is about Jesse Jinx, a porn star who dreams of starting up her own film company, one that treats the actors more fairly and respectfully.

The problem is a killer is on the loose, using an ice-cold sex toy to dispatch porn stars at an alarming rate. The villain’s motive is as equally outrageous as the plot.

Likable leads Jesse and her friends Selina and Foxy Roxoff are survivors, not victims, and decide to protect themselves with, you guessed it, axes.

Triple Axe never takes its plot too seriously and works as a horror-action-comedy. Imagine Uma Thurman’s Bride character from Kill Bill if she were a porn star fighting off serial killers instead of international assassins. Now, multiply Uma by three.

I could tell the author had loads (sorry) of fun creating names for the porn actors.

At 89 pages in length, Triple Axe is a quick read with an over-the-top climax (sorry again) and a feel-good female empowerment theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Cannibal Creek by Jon Athan

The title of Cannibal Creek, an extreme horror novel by Jon Athan, is the epitome of truth in advertising.

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There’s a creek with a community of inbred hillbilly cannibals living nearby in the remote West Virginia woods.

Enter the Bakers and Riveras, two families who arrive in an RV for a family camping trip not far from the creek.

I immediately tallied the numbers: four adults plus three children plus one teenage girl named Jasmine.

That’s potentially eight meals for the price of one book.

Wait a minute. There’s Jasmine’s boyfriend, Joshua, who’s secretly following the family in anticipation of a romantic rendezvous with his girlfriend when the parents are sleeping.

So, a potential ninth meal.

The first third of the book lacks any real action as it introduces the characters, which are typical middle-class Americans. They’re nothing special, but I like reading about ordinary folks facing extraordinary circumstances.

Then, with one shocking scene of unexpected tragedy, Cannibal Creek starts delivering the goods expected in a cannibal story as the surviving characters respond emotionally and instinctively to the unthinkable adversity.

Released August 31, 2017, Cannibal Creek is heavily inspired by classic horror movies, The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so much so the book could’ve been titled The Woods Have Eyes.

But like a solid cover version of a favorite song, Cannibal Creek is respectful of the original material and a worthy addition to the cannibal horror subgenre.

 

 

 

 

Odds and DEAD Ends: Analysis of Casting the Runes and Ring.

M. R. James’ classic ghost story, Casting the Runes, is perhaps one of the most beloved of all time. It follows Mr. Dunning, uncovering a plot by Dr. Karswell to kill him via a series of ancient runic symbols. Similarly, for the modern age, Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring, (thanks largely to Hideo Nakata’s film adaptation), changed the face of Japanese horror films, much in the way that Scream did for the slasher genre. Examined in this article is the concept of infecting a victim with a deadline, by which, if the deadline isn’t passed on, the victim will die. This concept is, in both texts, a product of history and the past, which can infiltrate the modern day to scare the reader.

CASTING THE RUNES

James’ story is rooted in folklore of witches and magic. James himself was a noted historian of folklore and mythology, writing many papers on medieval manuscripts and other texts. It’s not surprising, therefore, that this interest seeps through in Casting the Runes, his uncovering of ancient texts mirroring the discovery of the slip of paper with the runes.

The main conflict I perceive in the text is the tension between the modernity presented by Dunning and Harrington, and the history and past presented by Karswell, fighting for power. Karswell, a man who has “…invented a new religion for himself, and practiced no one could tell what appalling rites” (p.238), has cast a hex on Dunning for shunning his new book. The past, in its runes and legends, is here the antagonistic force presented through Karswell, his book described simply as ‘an evil book’ (p.242), the mythic past’s main point of origin. Karswell’s magic lantern show presents the darker side of children’s myths and fairy tales, such as Red Riding Hood, which bleed through into the modern world:

“At last he produced a series which represented a little boy passing through his own park – Lufford, I mean – in the evening. Every child in the room could recognize the place from the pictures. And this poor boy was followed, and at last pursued and overtaken, and either torn into horrible pieces or somehow made away with, by a horrible hopping creature in white, which you saw first dodging about among the trees, and gradually it appeared more and more plainly.” (p.239)

Not only do we see the past colliding with the modern present through this passage, but after this, showing slimy creatures on the slides, “…somehow or other he made it seem as if they were climbing out of the picture and getting in amongst the audience” (p.240). Dunning and Harrington, on the other hand, are modernity’s flag-bearers. Dunning investigates the noise in the night, “…for he knew he had shut the door that evening after putting his papers away in his desk” (p.252), proving a logical, empirical mind, later reinforced here: “It was a difficult concession for a scientific man, but it could eased by the phrase “hypnotic suggestion” (p.255). Dunning even suggests that Karswell was “…mixing up classical myths, and stories out of the Golden Legend with reports of savage customs of to-day…” (p.258), showing a scholarly knowledge of the subject matter.

Therefore, the strange atmosphere about Dunning, the mysterious death of Harrington’s brother, the strange wind, “I supposed the door blew open, though I didn’t notice it: at any rate a gust – a warm gust it was – came quite suddenly between us, took the paper and blew it into the fire” (p.258), only increases our fear and trepidation, especially with the three month deadline hanging over our heads before Dunning’s eventual demise, for they can only be supernatural, against Dunning’s core beliefs. We try to decipher it rationally, following our protagonist’s example, but are unable to. Modern science cannot fight back against the curse of the runes. When Dunning and Harrington resort to deception and return the slip to Karswell, we slip into the past, so to speak, presented with the evil past that the characters have tried to deny for so long. We want to see evil banished back to where it belongs, away from Dunning’s modern day, back into the history books.

This brings us to the final moral dilemma. We are asked at the tale’s conclusion, “Had they been justified in sending a man to his death, as they believed they had? Ought they not to warn him, at least?” (p.266). They have become like Karswell, dispensing an ancient, malevolent death upon those they deem a threat. Though they justify this by claiming Karswell deserved it, and that Dunning would be dead otherwise, it is an unnerving note to end with, asking if they should have asked the darkness of history to prove itself, or descended to the old ways as they do, dispensing justice in, what is for them, a “new rite”, much like Karswell created for himself.

RING

Suzuki’s novel, Ring, adopts a similar structure in terms of its narrative. A malevolent force (the spirit of Sadako Yamamura) has given a victim (Asakawa) a time limit (seven days) to find what mysterious instructions he needs to follow in order to save his life (copying the cursed tape and passing it on). The runes have been replaced by the video tape, and it is here that we see one of the key, fundamental differences to James’ story. Sadako is built upon the myths and folklore of Japan, but her embodiment of ‘the past’ is intertwined with modern technology. The distinct opposition inherent in James’ tale is no longer as easy to see in Suzuki’s novel.

The female ghost with long hair avenging their death is a well-established trait in Japanese folklore. These stories are called kaidan; the vengeful ghost termed an onryō. Theatre Group Soaring, in the novel, would no doubt have practiced traditional Japanese kabuki theatre, itself one of the main vehicles through which kaidan tales were passed throughout the centuries. Even in the film adaptation, the strange, contorted movements of Sadako (as played by Rie Inō) is directly inspired by stereotypical movements of onryō from kabuki theatre, and Rie Inō herself was apparently trained in kabuki. The story of the spirit in the well has also been around for centuries, the story of Okiku and the plates, being a potent example.

Sadako is therefore very much rooted in Japan’s past, in more ways than just being dead. Asakawa, on the other hand, is very much the modern man, constantly carrying around a word processor, saving files to floppy disks, phoning Yoshino from the island to help his investigation. Ryuji is a professor of philosophy, a discipline which “…as a field of inquiry had drawn ever closer to science,” (p.88). These two men are built of the modern world. They even live in Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world. When arriving at Pacific Land, Asakawa notes that “Faced with this proof that the modern power of science functioned here, too, he felt somewhat reassured, strengthened.” (p.61).

Suzuki uses technology, the statement of the future and urbanity, to steer his antagonistic force, striking at civilisation’s heart. Sadako’s wrath and anger takes over the videotape, itself situated in a cabin complete with “A hundred-watt bulb lit a spacious living room. Papered walls, carpet, four-person sofa, television, dinette set: everything was new, everything was functionally arranged.” (p.63). Asakawa, despite his hesitations and fear of what the tape might show him, ‘No matter what sort of horrific images he might be shown, he felt confident he wouldn’t regret watching” (p.73). Why would his regret watching? It wouldn’t be as if anything could happen to him, constrained as it were by the (very much Western) technology before him.

Just like Karswell’s magic lantern show, however, the images on the tape have their own weight and reality, “Startled, he pulled back his hands. He had felt something. Something warm and wet – like amniotic fluid, or blood – and the weight of flesh.” (p.77). When Asakawa answers the phone, it is described that:

“There was no reply. Something was swirling around in a dark, cramped place. There was a deep rumble, as if the earth were resounding, and the damp smell of soil. There was a chill at his ear, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood up. The pressure on his chest increased, and bugs from the bowls of the earth were crawling on his ankles and his spine, clinging to him. Unspeakable thoughts and long-ripened hatred almost reached to him through the receiver. Asakawa slammed down the receiver.” (p.81).

That silence from the other end of a telephone gives this impression, this startlingly sensory imagery, showcases Sadako’s reach and wrath, without her saying a word.

In the finale, Asakawa, realising why he survived and Ryuji did not, agrees to wager the entirety of humanity by spreading the virus to his parents-in-law. Whereas James simply had the characters return the curse to Karswell, he the price for Dunning’s survival, here, Suzuki has entire the world be the price for saving Asakawa’s family. Whereas Casting the Runes ends with a definite confirmation of Karswell’s demise, Ring ends with the ominous passage, “Black clouds moved eerily across the skies. They slithered like serpents, hinting at the unleashing of some apocalyptic evil.” (p.284). Asakawa has become accomplice to Sadako’s malice, the past in control of modern technology and, through that, the modern man. “In order to protect my family, I am about to let loose on the world a plague which could destroy all mankind.” (p.283).

CONCLUSION

Both James’ short story and Suzuki’s novel present characters eagerly, desperately trying to beat the deadlines they are faced with, wished upon them by people that want them dead. Through their representations of an evil, malevolent past, embodied by Karswell and Sadako, both authors present us with a moral choice of who we save, and who we kill in exchange. What is different about their endings is the level of intimacy and scope we are presented with. Casting the Runes is a story of personal vengeance, where the battle is between Karswell on one side and Dunning and Harrington on the other, with the evil-doer getting their just desserts, like a boxing match. Ring’s evil is much more impersonal, and the apocalyptic ending shows the sheer magnitude of what must happen for someone to live. You don’t end the curse; you just pass the buck and hope someone else will do it for you. The ending’s bleak tone implies that there is no hope, that nobody will sacrifice themselves to stop the bleeding, and that the virus will move from one soul to another, runes forever being cast.

Written by Kieran Judge

Bibliography

James, M. R., 1994. Casting the Runes. In: Collected Ghost Stories. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, pp. 235 – 267.

Ringu. 1998. [Film] Directed by Hideo Nakata. Japan: Ringu/Rasen Production Company.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

Suzuki, K., 2004. Ring. London: HarperCollinsPublishers.

 

 

David’s Haunted Library: Hollow House

David's Haunted Library

30968911Willow Street was a place where nothing interesting ever happened. People went about their everyday lives and didn’t pay attention to the abandoned house at the end of the street. That was until the stench of a dead body came from the old Kemper home. Suddenly the lives of everyone living on Willow Street are forever changed.

News reporter Ben Traynor starts to investigate the death in the Kemper House and finds out there is much more here than meets the eye. The strong smell starts off a series of life altering events on Willow Street. Not only is the house cursed but so is the town and no one is safe from its influence.

Hollow House by Greg Chapman is a haunted house story on steroids. This is the first story I’ve read where the house haunts the whole neighborhood and it was this concept that made the story original. I’ve read a lot from Greg Chapman and was really looking forward to this book and it didn’t disappoint. What makes the story interesting is that it gets into the heads of everyone living near the house and they all react differently to the evil infecting the Kemper house and how they are on the surface is different then how they really feel.

One of my favorite characters in this book is a girl named Amy who is getting over a suicide attempt and trying to get her life back together. Though as she is contemplating why she prefers virtual friends over real friends she starts getting plagued by a spirit who wants to make her suffer. I felt Amy was a character that most teenage girls can relate to and was really rooting for her to find the happiness that she couldn’t find online. Another good character was news reporter Ben Traynor who comes across as a callous self-serving jerk early in the book. Later on, when faced with death we see a different side to him and despite his flaws, you learn to like him.  The characters in this story seemed so real and that was what kept me reading Hollow House.

Though I generally liked the book I did find the story to be confusing in places and I didn’t understand the ending. The characters in the book were so strong though that I never lost interest. I really enjoyed how complex all the characters were, they act differently in public than they do in their homes and when confronted with the supernatural they show what they are really like. This book is like a case study on what secrets can lie hidden in a small picturesque town. Greg Chapman knows how to create great characters and scare his readers. I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

 

 

Cheap Reads

18591386Byron has just moved to the small town of Parkton from the big city and its like entering a new world. Parkton is a place filled with dark secrets and strange people. At the heart of it all is an old house on Jacob Street. For the most part people don’t like to talk about the house, when Byron asks about it in the library he gets yelled at and people seem to avoid the area all together. The only ones that have an interest in the house are two boys at Byron’s school named Lain and Hammish. They seem to have an unhealthy interest in monsters and they want to take Byron to find the monsters that live at 809 Jacob Street.

Byron is not sure he believes in monsters but something weird is going on in Parkton. One of its residents is Joey Blue, an alcoholic blues singer who is homeless and sees ghosts. Joey gets a shock one night when an old friend comes to him for help and he finds that the only way he can help him is by entering the house at 809 Jacob Street. Something sinister lives in that house and it is calling to Joey and Byron and when they enter the house they may never return.

809 Jacob Street by Marty Young is an atmospheric haunted house story that is like a painting put to words. Everything in this story is described in vivid detail from the ghosts in Parkton, the house on Jacob Street and the character’s emotions about what was going on. There is not a lot of action in this story but it makes up for it by giving you vivid descriptions on a town haunted by ghosts and monsters.

The characters in 809 Jacob Street were a mixed bag for me. I liked how Byron and his friends are doing what normal kids do by being curious about the haunted house that no one wants to talk about.  Then its made obvious how their interest is not as normal as it appears. The other kids in school seem to avoid Hammish and Lain and Byron realizes that no one in this town acts like they did in his old hometown. Lain and Hammish are not normal kids and everyone seems to know it. I liked how Byron is given a choice on whether to go along with the monster hunters or be accepted by the other kids. I also liked the dynamic of the group and how Lain’s agenda is revealed.

The other main character in the book is Joey. I didn’t like Joey’s character and didn’t quite understand his role in the book. I found myself not liking him and it bothered me that he talked about how he loved his wife and daughter but he also talks about how he abandoned them and never went back. I didn’t see Joey as a sympathetic character and didn’t care about what happened to him. His role until the very end confused me but I did like the payoff and his involvement in the end of  the book. 809 Jacob Street is a great haunted house story, It’s very visual and I can see it making a good spooky movie.

22351700The next book I want to mention is Sailors Take Warning by Malcolm Torres   When alarms go off aboard the USS Nimitz, first responder Kate Conrad runs to the scene of accidents and injuries. But after 93 days at sea, Kate is suspicious about strange activities in the ship’s morgue, so she conducts her own gossipy investigation. Captain Fox, obsessed with the success of the ship’s experimental cloaking system, delegates authority over the crew to his executive officer, Captain Brandt. And Brandt, of course, is a psychopath who coerces the ship’s medical officer to cover up the problems in the morgue. As the ship approaches the equator, where the crew will hold an ancient hazing ritual, Kate Conrad confronts her superiors with proof of the horrifying activities taking place in the morgue. But they provide no help, so Kate takes drastic action on her own.

13097934The last book I want to mention is by Christine Sutton called All the Little Children is a novella that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Ben and Cara Barlow move into a beautiful Connecticut Victorian home to start the next phase of their lives together. They are thrilled with the home’s beauty, location and price, so they move in right away. When strange things start to happen to Cara, Ben tries his hardest to be supportive. They call in a team of paranormal investigators, and the home’s grisly history, and occupants, past and present, engage in a battle to the death. Will Ben and Cara reclaim their dream house, or will the evil within those walls take everything, including their souls? A short novella at approximately 20,000 words.

Being There: A Commentary on Extreme Horror

alice I am all over the horror writing scene as a writer, an editor, opinion-giver, and more. I watch trends and try to predict them, but at no time has there ever been so many variables. Some may feel we are zombie/vamp swamped, but while those are still favorite topics, there are so many more sub-genres than ever before. It reminds me of the 60s-70s influx of new horror.

There is some badly written material, I agree, but there is just as much badly written horror from those who are with huge presses as those who self-publish. I don’t see the difference except for the ones who are getting paid enormous sums for shlock. I also don’t want to talk about the B-horror/ commercial writing (that many of us have done to support the other writing we wish to do).  It has a place if we trust inSharknado 2  and the other films and books; by far, it is entertaining and I still indulge. I want to talk about the rest.

I had to get the rest off my plate to get here, to the trends I am seeing in horror that are interesting. One is the splatter-punk/ splatter-gore/ extreme horror genre. I like it. I describe it in a book’s forward as not shooting tequila, but snorting it. Occasionally, it’s fun to read those types.  I prefer them, actually. Why? Again, some are bad, some are B-list, and so on, but I like those that are spot-on, well written, and brutal. They get a bad reputation because they often contain explicit sex (and sex is so bad, right?), and because they have gore, and because of the unconventional, profane themes.

That is the real kicker. The other elements, we can set aside, and maybe complain about, but the themes are Image85
what bother us. Extreme horror magnifies the themes. I love the subtlety of The Lottery or inFrankenstein; I get the social and personal over tones, but sometimes… There are times I want to snort the tequila.

Some of the extreme horror stories I have read recently are raunchy, profane, and rough. They are also very honest, and they hit some disturbing themes harder than the more subtle pieces can.  One, recently, blew me away. Pubienne Tueur de Cheveux by Scott Pratt has given me nightmares. It reads as a piece that contains sex, language, and a mature theme. It seems just a simple, extreme piece, and all would be fine if that were the end. Instead, it bothered me deeply as a social piece of writing. Within, hidden very well, are these ideas that are disturbing.

Pratt discusses a woman’s place, treatment of sexual abuse victims, legal politics, sexual preferences, and the difference in power/strength/bitchery that some face. The story may be wrapped in a nice package of sexual overtones, gore, and offensive (but honest and real) action, but the real horror is within the very theme.

I am fascinated with these types of stories.
How clever is it that the writers hide deep commentary within the fancy gift-wrapping? The stories are so honest and they cut so deeply, that they simply must be hidden within a special means of dispersal. What else but the horror genre can cover the deeper meanings? To me, that is a new trend of horror that I am in love with. I am enjoying reading the stories, but have mixed feelings.

rejected                Several other presses have rejected these that I have been pouring over. Why? Oh, the theme mainly, if the publisher was savvy. If the one who read it was not as deep-thinking, then the stories were tossed back for the content (sex, gore, language). I get amused; I get scared. That is, I get amused and scared when I read the stories and when I consider the fact that I am going to release them.

I am a writer of commercial horror (read B-shlock), thrillers, zombies, and some more classic type, literary horror. I have one or two extreme books as well. Of 35+ books, I have found the shlock and the extreme sell the best. That was kind of what got me here, to being the editor who might release stories that no other press will touch. Why do those of mine sell the best? What is the trend?

Honesty.

In my commercial works and in the extreme, I am free to be as honest and brutal as I please. I can hit home the ideas we don’t want to always think about: abuse, intolerance, bad parenting, and my favorite: bad family traditions. I get to say what I feel, but wrap it up in a pretty package of gore and violence, and hide my social commentary. I hide the honesty within the sex. I put the real fear behind the shadows of some foul language. In this way, I can deliver my story, nicely tucked into  something that seems like fun, but is in no way light. Does this make sense? I hide the real fear and horror behind a story of pretend horror that is overdone and extreme. And guess what? It sells and people love those pieces the most.

Some don’t get it. A few rant and rave and call me on the fake horror. That makes me laugh. They don’t get it. Ablood and water campground killer few do get it, and they love what I have said. They are also scared by both the real and the fake. That’s when I have hit it out of the ole ball park, when I get them and then they get the message behind the horror.

I get it. I really get it. So when I read one of these schlocky, profane, or bizarre stories, I know what the author is truly saying. I get the real message of sheer terror that is hidden in gossamer layers and tied with silken bows. Those stories really scare me. They really are, at times, like snorting tequila. They hurt.

I like the trend, but not everyone does or will. It’s way too much for some. Unfortunately, some very smart readers will refuse to read this type of story when the pieces are secretly written for the most intelligent of readers. It’s a subgenre that kicks those that it is aimed at, but isn’t that the idea? Kick and hit? Gut-punch and eviscerate?

Horror will always be fun and have the B-list, commercial fun stuff; it will always deliver the books that are excellent, classic and literary, but there is room for a new sub-genre. There is a place for theintelligently profane. It may take a while to be recognized for brilliancy, but it’s strong in a (fitting, very apt) hidden subculture of writers and readers. It’s the Jimi Hendrix, the Kurt Cobain, Elvis, Jim Morrison and the Janis Joplin of the literary world. They were once considered “dangerous to the youth” and only admired by a few. Today, they are viewed as revolutionary. Motown was once thought to be a bad influence. None of those musical giants harmed music; they changed it for the better.

I feel the intellectual profane horror will do the same. It will take a while, but in time, names we may not know now ( Goforth, Misura, Fisher, Johnson, Dabrowski, Ropes, Woods, Kirk, Pratt, and more) will be whispered about. They will be called revolutionary or so emulated that they may be forgotten, but I am thrilled to say I was there. No, I didn’t get to see Hendrix play live at Woodstock, but I am getting to see a few as they begin the revolution, and to me, brother, that is big time.

Horror is a’changin’.

And the best part, is, I get it. And I am there this time.

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Catt Dahman’s Bio:

catt1I am with Severed Press and JEA Press and an Indie published author; I have 35+ books all over the place. I write thrillers, horror, and sci-fi. In addition, I am CEO of J Ellington Ashton press that is over a year old and has grown seven times over in the first year. I have has been writing for more than 30 years, have taught in public schools(some good experiences), private schools (not as good pay or experiences), and college (Literature and that was enjoyable!). My degrees are from A & M. I studied psychology, criminal psych, sociology, art, literature…yeah…liberal arts, right?

I am a native of Texas; I has lived all over the US, but am currently back in the Fort Worth, Texas area where I live with her husband, son, 7 cats (I do not horde them. One had babies!!!!!), one dog and a ferret.
I have been a public speaker, director for a charity, dabbled as a PI, been a waitress, interior designer, and lasted one day as a sales person at a retail clothing shop. And I am a mommy, which is the best job. I now write full time, working on horror, thrillers, sci-fi and more. (Dinosaurs to serial killers to zombies, to sharks to vampires to weird westerns, to time travel, to all things spooky. I like any story I can turn dark and chilling, but often, I hear that I am a “gory, scary” writer, which is fine by me.

http://www.cattd.com

http://www.jellingtonashton.com