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The Monster Librarian Presents:




        In 1987, the Horror Writers Association inaugurated the Bram Stoker Awards to recognize superior achievement in horror writing. The awards were originally presented in six categories: Novel, First Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, Fiction Collection, and Nonfiction. Over the years, HWA's members have voted in additional categories, and in 2012 the Bram Stoker Awards also recognize Young Adult Novel, Graphic Novel, Anthology, Screenplay, and Poetry Collection.

        Any member of HWA may recommend works throughout the year. At the conclusion of each year, the number of recommendations are tallied, and the top works in each category move onto a preliminary ballot. Prior to 2011, all works on the preliminary ballot were determined by membership recommendations; however, 2011 saw the addition of juries for each category. The juries are comprised of volunteer Active members (Active members are professional writers), and they make every attempt to review every work released in their category throughout the year. Now the preliminary ballot consists of the five top member-recommended works in each category, and five jury choices. The HWA's Active members  then vote on the preliminary ballot, choosing three works from the member recommendations and three from the jury choices, and those works comprise the official final ballot.

        The Active members then vote again to select a winner in each category. The winning works are revealed in a gala awards presentation, and are presented with the actual Bram Stoker Award trophy, which is surely one of the most unique in the world - originally designed by Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk, the trophy is a haunted house with a door that swings open to reveal the winner's name. The awards presentation takes place in a different city each year, and every other year is presented in conjunction with the World Horror Convention. Recent sites for the awards presentation have included Long Island in New York, Brighton in the U.K., Burbank in California, and Toronto in Canada. In 2012, the awards ceremony will be held in Salt Lake City in Utah. For the first time in 2011, the awards presentation was streamed live to an audience of over 600, and 2012 will again see the ceremony offered in a live streaming presentation (and later archived on YouTube).

        For more information on the Horror Writers Association (including how to join - HWA offers membership levels for all those with an interest in the art of horror) and the Bram Stoker Awards, please visit .

The Bram Stoker Awards for the 2012 calendar year will be presented at the 26th annual Bram Stoker Awards Banquet held during the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend 2013 Incorporating World Horror Convention in New Orleans on June 15.

Stoker Award information by Lisa Morton


We will be reviewing many of the Stoker Final Nominees, keep checking back for additional reviews.


Reviews of the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Final Nominees for 2012






Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge NightWhere by John Everson The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
The Haunted by Bentley Little Inheritance by Joe McKinney  



Charlotte Markham and the House of Darklings by Michael Boccacino Wide Open by Deborah Coates The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief  by Charles Day
A Requiem for Dead Flies  by Peter Dudar Bad Glass by Richard Gropp Life Rage by L.L. Soares



The Diviners by Libba Bray I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry
I Kissed A Ghoul by Michael McCarty The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand


The Sixth Gun Volume 3: Bound by Cullen Bunn Rachel Rising Vol. 1: The Shadow of Death by Terry Moore The Tale of Brin and Bent and Minno Marylebone by by Ravi Thornton
Behind These Eyes  by Peter J. Wacks and Guy Anthony De Marco Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times  by Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton  


Thirty Miles South of Dry County  by Kealan Patrick Burke I'm Not Sam by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee Lost Girl of the Lake by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty
The Blue Heron by Gene O'Neill The Fleshless Man by Norman Prentiss  


"Surrounded by the Mutant Rain Forest" by Bruce Boston "Bury My Heart at Marvin Gardens" by Joe McKinney "Righteous" by Weston Ochse
"Available Light" John Palisano "Magdala Amygdala" by Lucy Snyder  


The Woman in Black by Jane Goldman The Walking Dead "Killer Within" by Sang Kyu Kim American Horror Story, episode #12: “Dark Cousin” by Tim Minear
The Hunger Games by Gaary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray The Cabin in the Woods by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard  


Woman Who Married a Cloud: Collected Stories by Jonathan Carroll New Moon on the Water by Mort Castle Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth
The Janus Tree by Glen Hirshberg Black Dahlia and White Rose: Stories  by Joyce Carol Oates  


Shadow Show by Mort Castle and Sam Weller Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations by Eric J. Guignard Hell Comes to Hollywood by Eric Miller
Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology by Mark C. Scioneaux and Robert S. Wilson Slice of Flesh by Stan Swanson  


Writing Darkness  by Michael Collings The Annotated Sandman, Volume 1 by Les Klinger Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton
The Undead and Theology by Kim Paffenroth and John W. Morehead Dark Directions: Romero, Craven, Carpenter, and the Modern Horror Film by Kendall R. Phillips  


Dark Duet by Linda Addison and Stephen M. Wilson Notes from the Shadow City by Bruce Boston and Gary WIlliam Crawdord A Verse to Horrors by Michael Collings
Vampires, Zombies & Wanton Souls by Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca Lovers & Killers by Mary A Turzilla  





The Haunted by Bentley Little*New Review

Penguin Books, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-101-58018-9

Available: paperback, hardcover, audiobook


Julian and Claire and their two teenagers move into a house in a very strange neighborhood and begin to notice some spooky goings-on: dreams about an evil man in the basement, the laundry basket moving about, heightened sexual desire, the record player coming on by itself, and unusual things hidden in the garage. Young James begins to burrow in the ground and eat dirt; young Megan gets salacious texts and starts cutting herself.  Eventually, Claire researches the Arizona town’s past and finds that their house may be sitting on cursed ground. Some especially haunting chapters go back through the centuries to reveal the sordid history that forever taints their house.  Quite interesting is the idea that historically people have used the supernatural as a crutch to justify human atrocities. The story is creepy and compelling and will surely appeal to Little’s fans, though his often clichéd, monotonous prose style and the overly sentimental ending detract from the overall effect.


Reviewed by: Julie Adams


Inheritance by Joe McKinney
Evil Jester Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615690896

Available: Paperback and Kindle


Nominated for this year's Best Novel category at the Bram Stoker Awards, Inheritance brings to the table something that, while not exactly new, is unique in its presentation and delivery.  The results show why it was nominated, and propel McKinney much further than his previous efforts, including last year's winner of the famed haunted house trophy, Flesh Eaters.


McKinney is a cop in real life and dives into his reality to write his most personal story yet, with the supernatural weighing in heavily in the absorbing plot.  McKinney knows his field and how to write about it without sounding preachy or dumping information onto the pages. Instead, he creates a very real, visceral world which feels as gritty as the characters and settings between the covers. It might be described as a police procedural, but it is much more, and that would sell it short. Way short.


Paul Henninger joins the San Antonio PD (where the author currently is employed) and is looking forward to this new stage in his career.  However, Paul's past is dark - pitch dark - and it follows him wherever he goes. When he was younger, his father, Martin Henninger, practiced black magic and delivered to Paul a dark inheritance that he cannot escape. Martin’s intent was to send Paul on a life path filled with pain and death, which soon comes to fruition.


His adversary is Keith Anderson, who is investigating the case as the department's lead detective and might be too good for his own existence. The closer he digs toward the truth, the closer he approaches his own mortality. The two main characters, complex as they are, drive Inheritance even more than the pulse-pounding plot, something a procedural rarely does.The sense of dread and tight suspense bring to mind classic Koontz and John Connelly, a mix that could not yield a negative result.


Open yourself up and fall into McKinney's Inheritance and learn why it will have a strong chance at earning him a second Stoker.  The author found his own darkness here and embraced it, with tremendous results. Recommended for anyone who loves the supernatural combined with a story grounded in reality. 


Reviewed by: Dave Simms



Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

Redrum Horror, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984751952

Available: New paperback

Herman and Janet are spiraling out of control Since losing their toddler daughter to a hit-and-run accident a year ago, Janet has become a raging alcoholic and Herman has become apathetic to everything around him.  One day while out looking for his dog, Herman meets a man with a strange bottle of something that saved the dog’s life, after it was attacked by wolves.  When he returns home to find that Janet has attempted suicide, Herman goes looking for the man so he can save her life. 

Janet recovers,  but finds that Herman has disappeared, and the dog has brought a strange-looking bottle home.  Janet discovers that the bottle contains some very unusual properties, not the least of which include curing Janet of her alcoholism and her suicidal tendencies—but those cures come at a high price.  The bottle itself is connected to the fabled River Styx, but something new is happening and a new ferryman is needed.

An excellent and entertaining read, Bottled Abyss mixes modern horror and ancient Greek mythology, with a nod to The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz.  The characters are well-developed; I could easily empathize with Janet and fully understand the motives behind her actions.  They are all flawed people.  The story itself is excellent, moving through a range of emotions and taking a bizarre but thrilling turn.  Etheridge had a hit with his first novel, Black and Orange (published by Crossroads Press and Bad Moon Books) and in my opinion, Bottled Abyss has gone a step further.  It’s a fantastic story and one you should definitely seek out. Recommended

Contains: Violence and gore

Reviewed by : Colleen Wanglund




Charlotte Markham and the House of Darklings by Michael Boccacino*New Review

William Morrow (Imprint of HarperCollins) (2012)

ISBN: 978-0062122612

Available: New and used hardcover and paperback; e-book



Set in what appears to be Victorian England, this book puts one in mind of Henry James' Turn of the Screw or Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, each with its own intrepid governess, decaying estate, fog-shrouded woodlands, and otherworldly bumps in the night.


In this case, the governess is the recently widowed Charlotte Markham; the estate is Everton; and the master of the house is the also recently widowed Henry Darrow, who hires Charlotte to tend to the education of his two boys, Paul and James. The themes of the story are the strength of family ties and the lengths people will go to save those they love.


When the boys' nanny is found murdered, Charlotte steps up to become their sole caretaker. Since their mother's death, their father has been a remote, grief-stricken fixture, spending his days sequestered in his study and his nights roaming the vast household. Charlotte is also a nocturnal wanderer, and the two frequently meet to talk about their respective losses. One of the story threads involves Charlotte's growing attraction to her employer (and vice versa).


One day, Charlotte responds to one of Paul's frequent dreams about his mother by taking the boys on an outing in the forest. Following Paul's map of his dream, they find themselves in The Ending, a mysterious place that hosts a number of strange creatures. As they enter, they approach the ominous House of Darkling, where they are—shockingly—met by Lily, the boys' supposedly dead mother, and she's not a ghost.


Darkling is a hugely magnificent mansion full of wondrous, and sometimes horrible, creatures and oddities—like something out of a dark fairy tale. The author elaborately describes each of Darkling’s innumerable freaky knickknacks, but eventually the continuous stream of minutely detailed descriptions becomes somewhat tedious. 


As Charlotte and the boys make several visits to Darkling, Charlotte realizes that Lily has made a horrible bargain with Mr. Whatley, the master of Darkling, in order to be with her sons once more. Whatley is playing a deadly game with all of them, and Charlotte is determined to be the winner.


Most of the creatures in The Ending look like humans, but it is soon obvious that they are wearing human skin over some seriously weird shapes. (Tentacled monsters that look suspiciously like Lovecraft's Cthulhu are a continuing theme.)


Charlotte is a strong and worldly character—definitely not the usual shy, virginal, Brontë-esque governess. She is practical and realistic, even though her disturbing dreams plunge her into a nighttime world of hallucinatory fantasy. The one element that is missing is a sense of fear or awe when she is confronted by the strange and frightening aspects of Whatley’s world. She shows a jarring duality of character as she exhibits dispassionate behavior when confronted with Darkling’s monsters, but pines like a young, naive girl for Henry Darrow's affections.


By the last five chapters, the book becomes a page-turner, with compelling action and escalating suspense driving the plot to the final climactic scene and the ambiguous ending. The descriptive language is lush and lavish, so if you enjoy atmospheric writing, you'll like that aspect of the book. Recommended for all libraries.


Contains: some graphic violence

Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews



Wide Open by Deborah Coates*New Review

Tor, 2013

ISBN: 978-0765328991

Available: New and used hardcover and paperback; e-book


Set in northwest South Dakota, this is the first book in a series that follows the adventures of U.S. Army Sergeant Hallie Michaels, who has been able to see ghosts ever since she was injured in a roadside battle in Afghanistan and was pronounced dead for seven minutes. The series has no vampires or shape shifters, but it does have plenty of ghosts and dark magic. I can imagine that Hallie would get along quite well with Harper Connelly, heroine of Charlaine Harris' mystery series. Both are stubbornly independent women who follow ghostly clues to solve crimes.


As the story opens, Hallie has just traveled home from Afghanistan to attend the funeral of her sister, Dell, who died when she inexplicably drove her car head-on into a tree. As soon as Hallie walks into the Rapid City airport, she sees Dell's ghost (and other ghosts turn up as the plot advances). The ghosts make her feel freezing cold every time they touch her, and she has a tough time getting used to her new ghostly powers.


Everyone assumes that Dell committed suicide, but Hallie refuses to believe that her sister would take her own life. Besides, she figures that Dell's ghost wouldn't be sticking around if Dell caused her own death. When the authorities won't discuss the case with her, she investigates it on her own, uncovering some dark magic in the process. Unfortunately, Hallie’s leave from the army lasts only 10 days, so the pressure is on.


None of the characters are fully developed, but that really doesn't matter because this is a plot-driven story. Hallie just needs to be smart, courageous, and driven, and as we follow her through her investigation, we see that she has all of those traits. Deputy Sheriff Boyd Davies (Hallie’s budding love interest) is harder to analyze because we see him only occasionally and don't get his full story until late in the book. The story is told in the third person from Hallie's point of view, and the narrator is reliable through most of the book until the final sequence of events, when Hallie's big plan is not revealed until she actually carries it through. Hallie and Boyd's relationship is roughly sketched and doesn't go further than a kiss, but as they begin to bond over this case, they also begin to care for one another.


In many ways, this is a typical horror novel, with its sociopathic villains, continuous build-up of suspense, murderous events, and intrepid heroine who wins the day in the nick of time. But the magical elements take this into the paranormal fiction realm and put a twist into the usual horror plot.  I am looking forward to the sequel, which will take Hallie and Boyd on a new set of adventures. Recommended for all libraries.


Contains: some graphic violence


Reviewed by: Patricia O. Mathews




Requiem for Dead Flies by Peter N. Dudar

Nightscape Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1938644009

Available: Paperback and Kindle


I initially had reservations about A Requiem for Dead Flies, the debut from Pete Dudar. Novels about characters returning home to face the demons of their youth have been done to death, especially ones about those on age-old farms with a ghost in residence.


I was completely incorrect.  This novel displays a maturity in character, setting, and storytelling which belies Dudar's experience. The story is one of the most unsettling tales this reviewer has read in recent memory.  I can’t remember the last time a book actually provided true fright.


Brothers Les and Gordon MacAuley return to Battle View Farm in New York to begin a bourbon brewing business. Les, a teacher, and Gordon, a free-spirited college student, are tight, mostly due to a horrific summer they spent at the farm as children with their grandmother. The brothers were sent to the farm to stay with their grandmother after a death in the family, to give their parents time to grieve while allowing the boys to develop. Instead, their grandmother led them into horror, slowly losing her grip on reality while finding something much darker inside.


Dudar uses alternating present day/childhood viewpoints seamlessly, developing character while building true suspense. The story surprises, and, like the best horror, holds most of its power in family and relationships and what people can do to one another while believing their efforts are for the best.  The supernatural does exist in this story, but it is not overbearing, which adds to the slowly building dread.


Very much recommended for anyone who craves old-fashioned horror, when the horror accomplished what it set out to do. Dudar has firmly entrenched himself in the new breed in the genre and it will be a treat to see what comes next.



Reviewed by: Dave Simms


Life Rage by LL Soares

Nightscape Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1938644030

Available: New and E-Book


        If Life Rage is a sign of things to come, we might have an heir to the great Richard Laymon. If you craved the violence, sex, and mayhem of the late master, Soares takes the baton and beats you over the head with it (that's a good thing).


        Sam Wayne is a psychologist who specializes in anger management. There's definitely something off about Sam, something going on underneath the surface.  He has an odd connection to a killer who may or may not be a patient of his.


        A madman is wreaking havoc across town, tearing through victims, tearing them apart.  He is exactly the type of patient Sam could help, yet somehow, the psychologist is the one more affected. The manner in which he deals with his patients, and how he himself is altered, is entrancing.


        The sexual element to Life Rage flies high and hot here, with Colleen and Viv, two characters who fall prey to the rage, in very different ways. Sex rules their lives, and one of them is feeding off of the action in what may be a supernatural manner, or something simply evil.


        Add up all of the ingredients and you have a Stoker-worthy first novel that will titillate many readers. Pulse-pounding in many ways, Life Rage is well worth the read. Highly recommended.


Review by David Simms


The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief by Charles Day

Noble Romance Publishing LLC, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1605923994

Available: New

Although the publisher appears by name to be a romance book publishing company, this book is far from it.  Part mystery and part horror, The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief keeps the reader guessing and on the edge of her seat throughout the entire book.  Is there really a pumpkin thief in town stealing pumpkins, could it really just be the neighborhood bullies, or is something else going on?  As Nick tries to play detective and investigate, he has to deal with Mrs. Needlewhitter, the elderly lady that every one fears,  as well as the bullies from school that torment him.  It seems like Nick has to put up with a lot just to find a few answers about the so-called Pumpkin Thief.

Day does a fine job keeping up the suspense and pacing the book to keep the reader wanting to keep turning pages.  There were some editing issues that could've been helped with another pair of eyes reading through the book, but not enough to distract me from the story at hand.  I would highly recommend reading this during the Halloween season, but it makes for a fun read year round.  This book may be aimed at tweens, but it makes a fun read for all ages.

Contains:  Adult Language

Reviewed by:  Rhonda Wilson






The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater*New Review

Scholastic Press; First Edition edition, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0545424929

Available: Hardcover, paperback, audio, e-book


Blue is the only non-psychic in a household of psychic women, and all of them have predicted with certainty that when she kisses her true love, he will die. On St. Mark's Eve, when the veil between the world of the living and the dead has lifted, she sees her first ghost, who identifies himself as Gansey before fading away. Her aunt, Neeve tells her that beca


Gansey turns out to be a student at Aglionby, an expensive private boarding school for boys with a raven as its mascot, obsessed with finding Glendower, a Welsh king he believes was transported near where the school is located. He has drawn his friends into his search: Ronan, another wealthy and very troubled boy; Noah, an insubstantial boy; and Adam, a town boy who works to pay for his schooling. When Blue and Adam become involved, she begins to spend her free time with the boys searching for Glendower and magical places of power that might lead to him. Gansey and Blue recognize each other from their encounter on St. Mark's Eve, but she does not enlighten him as to what that means. Their search leads them to what they suspect is a possible "spirit road" that could lead them to Glendower if they can wake it with the right ritual.  


Gansey and his friends are not the only ones seeking Glendower, though. Blue's ambitious Aunt Neeve and Barrington Whelk, an unsavory teacher at Aglionby who sought the power of the spirit road when he was a student there, are also planning to attempt the ritual before Gansey and his friends can wake the spirit road.   


The Raven Boys has been nominated for a Stoker Award for Best Young Adult Novel, but I'm not sure why that is. While it does have supernatural activity, it's not actually scary. In fact, it's not even suspenseful, because we know that Gansey is Blue's true love from the very first pages, so the angst she feels over getting involved with Adam seems forced. The relationships between the women in Blue's home and between the "raven boys" were the highlight of the book.  


I didn't find Blue to be an especially sympathetic, likable, or well-developed character.  I can't tell if this is on purpose or not, because Stiefvater did a great job of developing Gansey, as well as the supporting and minor characters, often with just a few sentences. As this is the first in a trilogy, I am hoping she'll do a little more with Blue in the next book, give Gansey some challenges his money can't overcome, and reveal a little more about the ongoing conflict between Ronan and his brother. The Raven Boys is a nicely readable and entertaining urban fantasy, but teen horror readers looking for a good scare will be disappointed.   


Contains: Violence, the supernatural 


Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski





Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times by Rocky Wood , Lisa Morton  and illustrated by Greg Chapman*New Review

McFarland, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0786466559

Available: New

Witch Hunts is an extremely well-done graphic novel laying out the history of witchcraft as a crime, though not one always punishable by death.  It runs through the rise of witchcraft in medieval Europe and its use by the Inquisition.  It also explains the blatant use of witchcraft as a crime for purposes of greed, scapegoating, and the furtherance of careers.

Wood and Morton did a lot of research for Witch Hunts, and it shows.  The novel is succinct yet informative, and the accompanying artwork brings the history to life.  The misogyny of those involved in the promotion and use of witchcraft as a crime is glaringly evident and shameful, as well as frightening.  If you want a quick history lesson on a crime with many innocent victims, Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times is definitely an entertaining and enlightening way to go. Highly recommended.

Contains: depictions of violence

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund






Lost Girl of the Lake by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarthy

Bad Moon Books, 2013

ISBN 978-0985194049/ASIN B008MM8TME

Available new paperback and kindle e-book

Fifteen year old Mark is on the annual family vacation, at a country club near Gaitlinville,  abandoned town founded by a distant relative.  It is 1961, and Mark is the son of one of the richest men in Texas.  He meets a mysterious girl swimming in the lake, and hopes to see her again.  Mark is also seeing an old woman in his dreams.

Mark meets Ben, a black employee of the country club, who fills Mark in on some of his family’s history and the history of Gaitlinville, which involves a bizarre mix of religion, witchcraft and snake-charming. The young girl returns, but she is not what she appears to be, and the ghosts of Mark’s family’s past have come to haunt him.

Lost Girl of the Lake is a well-written story and a seamless collaboration between McKinney and McCarthy.  The details of the country club party of 1961 really bring it all to life, without bogging anything down.  Mark and Ben are very likeable characters, with Ben easily being the more sympathetic of the two, as Lost Girl also touches on the racism of the time.  It’s a fantastic coming-of-age story, where Mark must face more than the usual horrors of an awkward stage of his life. Recommended.

Contains: violence, gore and sexual situations

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund

The Blue Heron by Gene O'Neill
Dark Regions Press, 2012

Available: Hardcover limited/Paperback


Gene O'Neill's novella Jade was my number six read of 2010, I wanted another 100 pages. It was a charming post-apocalyptic story (yes, you read that right). O'Neill is a talented storyteller through and through, and that story, set in the ruins that had once been San Diego, was emotionally gripping from the first page to the last. I also read and loved his Bram Stoker award winning collection of stories taking place in San Francisco Taste of Tenderloin. So I jumped at a chance to review another novella from him, the Stoker nominated The Blue Heron.


The Blue Heron is the story of the surviving members of a Marine recon unit involved in the killing of an innocent pregnant woman during a traumatic attack on a small arms depot in Vietnam in 1962.  The members of the team begin to die, and each one is found with a small blue origami meant to look like a Blue Heron. This has meaning to the still-living members of the team, as they saw a Blue Heron out of place in Southeast Asia on the day of the murder.


This is a quick, perfectly paced horror novella that jet sets with characters as they try to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill them. I certainly can see that O'Neill had enough for a much longer story, but The Blue Heron is perfectly paced, with no fluff, making it a great read.


I enjoyed Jade more, but I have become a fan of Gene O'Neill, whose strongest asset is consistently strong story-telling ability, accompanied by pitch perfect pacing and prose.

He is not flashy, but solid. I think this strong entry in the Dark Regions novella series should be in any collection that takes horror fiction seriously.


Reviewed by: David Agranoff


I'm Not Sam by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee*New Review

Cemetery Dance Publications; 1st Hardcover Edition edition, 2012

Sinister Grin Press, Trade Paperback, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1587673535

Available: Hardcover, paperback, and e-book

        Jack Ketchum has quite a reputation in the horror field. He has earned praise from Stephen King, who called the him the "scariest man in America". Many of his novels have been turned into films, including The Girl Next Door, The Woman, Red, and The Lost. Ketchum has accumulated a quartet of Bram Stoker Awards (two for short stories and another two for collections). I'm Not Sam, Ketchum’s second collaboration with Lucky McGee. will be Ketchum's shot for a fifth Stoker in the long fiction category. 

        Ketchum's not always easy to read. He can crawl into the reader's soul and take hold of everything that is held dear, all that is feared.  His prose embraces the reader, whispers sweet nothings, and then when the first sign of comfort is sensed, he sucker punches him or her to gut, kicks the kneecaps, and twists the heart until the tears flow.

        Lucky McKee has directed May and The Woods, as well as Ketchum's The Woman and Red, bringing his own brand of visceral storytelling to life, making him a perfect creative soulmate for Ketchum.

        I’m Not Sam follows the success of The Woman, their first collaborative endeavor, but the writing for this novella does not resemble either author’s typical style. If the reader is seeking blood and gore to accompany the strong emotional impact within these pages, he or she might be disappointed--for a brief moment.

        The story is deceptively simple. Patrick and Sam have a strong marriage. Patrick is a cartoonist, while Sam’s career veers toward the darker side: she is a forensic pathologist. One day, she returns home to wash away the experience of her most recent case with her husband.  All seems well--until morning breaks. Sam awakens but no longer answers to that name, She emerges as a little girl, five or six years old, cognitively. Her personality and her memory of Patrick are gone. Doctors find nothing wrong with her and Patrick, devastated and confused, is determined to bring herself back to reality without the help of a therapist. The ending cuts deeper than any steel, and the short story which follows the ending, "Who’s Lily?" festers within the mind like no other weapon can.

        I'm Not Sam shows a different side to these writers, but if one has experienced the novel Red or seen May, the reader will not be surprised. Well, maybe just a bit.  Recommended for fans of all genres.

Review by David Simms 








Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations edited by Eric J. Guignard

Dark Moon Books, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0-9834335-9-0

Available: New


Collected in Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations are 25 short stories from the horror and speculative fiction genres, unearthing our forgotten worlds and societies.  The stories all begin with some known reality:  a familiar legend, an interesting era, textbook chapter, or archeological site. Then, leaping into the void from there, each writer suggests a gruesome alternate history.  The stories range from mildly disturbing to downright terrifying, although none are particularly visceral.  Most are written in a conservative, suggestive style, relying on the reader’s own imagination to take the plunge from speculation to horror. This element keeps the collection rooted in the possible, making it scarier, perhaps, than the current saturation of seductive monster-based and slasher fiction.  The prevailing understatement of gore makes the book a good choice for treating high school history students to a read-aloud on stormy afternoons.


Among my personal favorites was “Quivara”, by Jackson Kuhl. It begins with an old Sioux legend, a tragedy involving brothers mocking their gods.  Kuhl’s prospecting hero brings the curse upon himself through greedy pillaging. The story is dark and comical, and Kuhl’s style is brisk. This would be a great piece to read in conjunction with Native American studies; short, pointed, and entirely in character with the original mythology.


“British Guiana, 1853” by Folly Blaine, is a cool piece done in chin-up, British imperialist style. Classic horror tension builds steadily from start to finish as the reader watches helplessly while the explorers, desperately frightened and warned away at every step, still insist on carrying onward to their doom.  They open a vault made deliberately impassable; descend into terrifying darkness and stench; ignore a menacing, unearthly, drumbeat, and are climactically pursued into madness by the unnameable horror they unwittingly release. The writing is metaphorical and skillfully done.


“In Eden” by Cherstin Holtzman, is a satiric and original take on re-animation and the problems of keeping order in a wild west town in literal decay. Although the sheriff is only half a man, he makes a tough decision that affects the crumbling existence of what’s left of the population. Holtzman’s style is polished and understated, and he takes a surprisingly fresh angle on a well-trodden subject.  Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Contains: mild to moderate violence, mild myth-based sex, implied cannibalism.


Reviewed by: Sheila Shedd





Available Light by John Palisano

The Lovecraft eZine Issue 12, March 2012

Online Magazine,


Offering a lot of science fiction tropes in a short story, John Palisano’s “Available Light” is a quick, engaging read. His work incorporates some of the poetic and structural elements of Bradbury and Lovecraft, while working in some nicely graphic gore towards the end. The story begins with thirteen-year-old Walter describing his hideous condition, a potentially fatal allergy to sunlight. “My extremities would bloat and my brain would swell dangerously. If my body absorbed enough of the happy yellow rays I would die.”  Walter is ostracized by his peers and most of his family, but enjoys a superficial camaraderie with comics shop owner, Nils, who suggests books for him.


As the story progresses, we meet Cassia, Walter’s mysterious little brother who is in the well-advanced stages of physical deterioration, presumably from the same photo-sensitivity. Cassia is horrible-looking and beyond recognizability as a human, but manages to communicate his brotherly bond to Walter. The older boy becomes obsessed with caring for him, and ponders the truth of their existence, which he guesses has less to do with the sun and more to do with their mysterious origins or alter-dimensionality.


It is the combination of his character’s recognizable teenage isolation combined with traditional science fiction elements (and that surprising horror twist) that make the story unique. Any greater emphasis on one genre or the other might have left it predictable, but Palisano’s skill at interweaving these traditions never gives the reader a chance to peg exactly where to shelve it.

Palisano’s cadence and horror content consistently build to a riveting climax which is progressively more visceral and broken by poetic formatting that allows the reader to consider one possible theme, that the monsters among us are our neighbors, and they may be repulsive even to themselves. The outlandish conclusion is consistent within this tradition, and successfully wraps up the story while leaving room for speculation, and no small amount of sympathy for the characters.



Although “Available Light” is an excellent story, it is seriously lacking in detail editing, with enough typos and grammatical errors to be distracting. It’s evident from the quality of the writing and the plot why this story is a Stoker nominee, but for others to really enjoy it, the finished work needs polish. Recommended for teens and adults.


Contains: mild fleshy gore


Reviewed by: Sheila Shedd



Surrounded by the Mutant Rain Forest by Bruce Boston

Daily Science Fiction, 2012

ASIN:  Not Available


A soldier who has lived all his life as a commoner is fighting to preserve a failing civilized metropolis from the mutant rain forest surrounding it. He grew up with a girl and fell in love with her.  She was from a privileged family and so he was forced away.  Their love has been denied, until now...


Boston does a good job of presenting the reader with a mutated world that uses the wildness of love against the cold technology of civilization.  This is not the sort of story that gets my juices flowing but I can see it would for others.  It is well written and the themes of technology/civilization vs. wild nature and love denied vs. love fulfilled come through very well.  The plot flows well throughout, maintaining a thread of consciousness that keeps moving forward.   I really liked the climactic joining section near the end with visions of nature juxtaposed with the union of the lovers.  The conclusion to the tale is nicely done as it ends on an open ended note of who will conquer whom, civilization or the wildness of love?  I have not read any of Bruce Boston's work before. Recommended for adult readers.


Contains: Sexual situations


Reviewed by: Aaron Fletcher





Vampires, Zombies, and Wanton Souls by Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca

Elektrik Milk Bath Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0982855447


        Poetry is a challenge even to the most literary of readers. Its brevity makes each word a vital part of the whole. There is no room for waste. Dark or Gothic poetry is a tradition spanning centuries. First made famous by the infamous Lord Byron, Shelley, and others, it’s become its own subgenre of horror in our modern age. Vampires, Zombies, and Wanton Souls is one of the latest offerings in dark poetry.

        Heavily illustrated, the collection is not a random selection of material. Each piece focuses on the characters outlined in the title. Zombies, vampires, and creeps abound here. You will not however, find Byron, Shelley, or Coleridge here.  With titles like “Zombie Guy,” “Creepy Vamp,” “Vampire Jack,” and other quips, this is poetry for the light of heart. It’s humorous, silly, and quite tongue-in-cheek. There’s none of the brooding, Gothic themes made famous in the 1800s. This is modern poetry for modern horror readers.

        For Byron fans, this will be a disappointment. Instead of exploration, the poems merely describe. Instead of haunting depths, there are merely words on a page. For the modern horror fan, this might be enough. For poetry aficionados, it is not. As there are no graphic scenes of violence or explicit elements, this work would be at home in a YA library section as well as an adult general collection.

Contains: not applicable

Reviewed by: Drake Morgan


Dark Duets by Linda Addison and Stephen M. Wilson, Illustrated by Jill Bauman*New Review

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1481902649

Available: Paperback and e-book


        In the introduction to Dark Duets, we are reminded that a duet is not only two in accompaniment, but also a conflict “engaged in an attempt to resolve itself through harmony.” The poems in this collection reflect this definition far better than the common perception. The works here are menacing, mesmerizing, challenging, and difficult. In other words, exactly what poetry was meant to be.


        Addison and Wilson work well in conflict. Each line is a challenge to the next. A dare. A temptation. Even the structure of many of the poems reflects a fractured world full of more questions than answers. Using the modernist approach to poetry in both lyrical structure and form, Addison and Wilson have created a work of dark wonder. Heavily illustrated, the images draw forth elements from the poems without giving away their secrets; complements to the work, but not solutions to the dark shadows.


        Dark Duets is that rare breed of modern poetry that taps into the Gothic spirit of Byron, Shelley, and their ilk, yet sits firmly in the driver’s seat of modernism: a rare and accomplished achievement. This collection would sit nicely in any adult poetry section, including a modernist section. Highly recommended


Contains: Not Applicable


Reviewed by Drake Morgan



Notes from the Shadow City by Gary William Crawford and Bruce Boston *New Review

Dark Regions Press; First edition, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1937128401



Modern poetry is a very challenging animal. In the post-modernist wake, form, style, and function have been tossed to the wind in favor of a less structured approach. At times this can feel a bit like anarchy. 


Modern genre poetry is even more difficult as it fuses the elements of genre onto this chaotic new world. When Notes from the Shadow City came across my desk, I paused. A poetry collection from two different poets telling a story? 


But as I read, the light of understanding went on. Crawford and Boston took on a daunting task. They had a story to tell. Shadow City is a place, both real and unreal. It’s a mysterious world of sinister monks, secret police, evil experiments, and dark souls. This could have been a novel, but the poetic form allows for a subtle exploration that captivates the reader in a way a novel cannot. Poetry is about a single line or a single word used to convey a thousand thoughts. There is no narrative explanation or dialogue to define a character’s motivations. Crawford and Boston build a world on a tightrope of words and we believe. “Creatures of a hive mind” tell us more than a chapter of narrative about this dark place. It’s a place where “where songs are sung/ with the tuneless solidity/ of ancient cantos” and we hear those songs just beyond our own reality. 


As a fan of the Gothic poets, modern poetry and I have not often found a comfortable place. Genre poetry has been even less satisfying as far too much of it falls into the descriptive rather than the imaginative. Notes from the Shadow City defies convention and sweeps the reader into its monstrous, haunting, lyrical bowels. A perfect addition to any adult, modern poetry library section. Highly recommended. 


Contains: occasional references to violence 


Reviewed by Drake Morgan 





Dark Directions: Romero, Craven, Carpenter and the Modern Horror Film by Kendall R. Phillips*New Review

Southern Illinois University Press, 2012

ISBN 978-0809330959/ASIN B008JV3Z1S

Available new paperback/Kindle E-book

In Dark Directions Kendall R. Phillips analyzes select films of George Romero, Wes Craven and John Carpenter, and gives cogent arguments as to the common themes in each director’s films and how they explore issues of repression, transgression, violence and anger related to the second Golden Age of the American horror film (1968-1982). Phillips demonstrates how certain films of these directors emerged in an era of filmmaking where movies were becoming more brutal and cynical toward the society, culture and politics they mirrored.

The book is divided into three sections, each one devoted to how each director set out to bring their vision to the movie-goer. Phillips’ analysis of Romero’s films deals with his focus on the body—more specifically what she calls the “unconstrained body”.  She argues that Romero’s zombie films demonstrate an external threat to cultural and societal norms of repressing primal urges, and the zombie represents the failing of that repression coming back to haunt us.  The anxieties have changed movie to movie—the Cold War in Night of the Living Dead (1968), and consumerism in Dawn of the Dead (1978), for example—but the images of the repressed resurfacing remains throughout.  Phillips also points to this focus of the struggle of the body from an internal perspective in films such as The Crazies (1973) and Monkey Shines (1988), and then carries the body focus of the mythic foundations of life and death, chaos and order in films such as Martin (1976) and Knightriders (1981).

 The section on Wes Craven shows his exploration of the gothic, but in a modern way, relevant to today.  The gothic deals with the fine line between the world of day, which is ordered and rational and the world of night, which is full of illusion and madness and how that line is blurred allowing the two to overlap. Craven also brings the gothic to modern technologies and how those technologies that are supposed to help connect us to the world can be a portal to evil entities.  Phillips uses Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), New Nightmare (1994), and the Scream (1996-2011) franchise to demonstrate his use of the gothic and how there are intersecting lines between humanity, technology and the supernatural.  Phillips also writes on films such as The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), The People Under the Stairs (1991), and even his early works The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

The final section of Dark Directions focuses on the films of John Carpenter and how his work is influenced more by the Westerns of Howard Hawks and John Ford as opposed to earlier horror films.  This leads Carpenter’s focus to be on the frontier, but in reverse.  In classic Westerns, the frontier is a line between civilization and the wilderness that must be conquered so society can continue to push forward.  The reverse is what Phillips calls the “desolate frontier”, where the space between civility and the wild represents civilization retreating, allowing the darkness and evil to get back what it lost.  Films that demonstrate this desolate frontier include Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Escape from New York (1981), and Village of the Damned (1995).  Carpenter also uses the theme of the siege of the tragic past coming back to haunt the present in such films as Halloween (1978), Prince of Darkness (1987), and Ghosts of Mars (2001). One final aspect to Carpenter’s films that relates to the Western and the frontier is the drifter-hero, who can be seen in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Escape from New York (1981), Escape from L.A. (1996), Vampires (1998), and They Live (1988)Like the classic Western hero, they represent disillusionment; they are also almost always male and engage in self-sacrifice to save what is in danger.

Phillips draws it all together to point out that all three men are still influencing horror films today, and how that can be seen in the slew of remakes of these directors’ films.  She cleverly points out how the remakes are generally vapid, containing none of the deeper meanings and themes, and focus strictly on the violence and action.

I absolutely loved this book.  I am a huge horror film fan and a writer on film, myself and Kendall Phillips’ insights have changed the way I view horror films as well as reinforcing my own search for a deeper meaning to these genre films—as well as upholding my general hatred of remakes.  Phillips has laid out her arguments in a well-written and coherent manner that will have horror film fans nodding in agreement.  If you are a horror film fan I strongly suggest picking up a copy of Dark Directions. Highly recommended,

Contains: descriptions of violence in horror films

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund




Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton*New Review

Reaktion Books, 2012

ISBN: 978 1 78023 047 4

Available: Hardcover and Ebook

            Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween is precisely what it claims to be—a history of the centuries-old holiday that has become Halloween. Morton’s work is not a scholarly study, but instead strives for a more popular style of writing, including illustrations.

            Morton begins her work with the Celtic holiday of Samhain. She provides a thorough background of the Celtic mythology and links to Beltaine as well. She then moves to the continent, focusing on an eclectic combination of holiday influences from Denmark to Guy Fawkes Day in England. There are chapters on The Day of the Dead from Mexico and other global traditions. The book closes with an extensive chapter on modern Halloween, including movies and theme parks. 

           As this is not a scholarly study, the question then arises as to why we need another popular history of Halloween. As I finished, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had just finished several Wikipedia articles. There was little fresh information here for fans of the holiday. The work was well-detailed, but those details could come from any decent blog site or encyclopedia article. Simply put, there was little reason to write this book and even less reason to read it.

            For horror fans, Halloween is the holiday of the year. Scares, frights, ghouls, and monsters come out of the shadows to invade our streets, our homes, and our imaginations. This holiday is rich with history and symbolism, and Morton tries to bring that history to life. Unfortunately, it’s merely a retelling of the basics instead of an enlightening journey into the past. This is a work of non-fiction and would fit into a general collection with a focus on holidays or Halloween.

Contains: N/A

Reviewed by: Drake Morgan




The Undead and Theology edited by Kim Paffenroth and John W. Morehead*New Review

Pickwick Publications, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1610978750

Available: Paperback and e-book


The Undead and Theology is a collection of essays analyzing the connection between undead creatures and how they represent aspects of theology in various modes of popular culture. The definition of “undead” has been broadened to include not only zombies and vampires, but other undead monsters, as well. Essays include “Fire, Brimstone and PVC: Clive Barker’s Cenobites as Agents of Hell” by Andrea Subissati, about the Hellraiser canon; “When All is Lost, Gather ‘Round: Solidarity as Hope Resisting Despair in The Walking Dead” by Ashley John Moyse, pointing out nihilism and a reason to exist in a world gone to hell; and “Eat of My Body and Drink of My Blood: Johannine Metaphor, Gothic Subculture, and the Undead” by Beth M. Stovell, on the subculture of the Goths. 


Editor Kim Paffenroth’s own essay “Apocalyptic Images and Prophetic Function in Zombie Films” demonstrates how modern zombie films resemble biblical prophets. For example, he points to Romero’s critique of society in Night of the Living Dead as similar to the prophet Jeremiah’s warnings. Paffenroth also denotes the similarities between the films and Revelations warnings that life or death is not humanity’s only source of value. 


“When You’re Undead, the Whole World is Jewish” by Arnold T. Blumberg, describes the Golem, a creature of Jewish folklore in the Eastern European tradition, that is neither alive nor dead.  The Golem is fashioned from earth or clay, much like Adam was by God, and only a Rabbi, saying the proper incantations can awaken the Golem to do its job to protect the Jewish people. Blumberg points out that the Golem does appear in the Bible in psalm 39 while Adam is discussing his unformed limbs. Since the Golem’s purpose is noble, Blumberg explains its reflection of a theme of hubris; life can only be imbued by God. 


“Zombie Walks, Zombie Jesus, and the Eschatology of Postmodern Flesh” by John W. Morehead is a fascinating analysis of the rise in popularity of zombie walks and the zombie Jesus’ rise as a parody of Christian belief. Morehead discusses how the apocalyptic imagery, both religious and secular, reflects society’s suppression of the knowledge of its own mortality. He argues that death is sanitized in public and at funerals so the “horror” of the zombies is our coping mechanism. 


Jessica DeCou’s “The Living Christ and the Walking Dead: Karl Barth and the Theological Zombie” is an interesting look at The Walking Dead as told through the viewpoint of a survivor. “The Vampire that Haunts Highgate: Theological Evil, Hammer Horror, and the Highgate Vampire Panic in Britain, 1963-1974” by Scott Poole looks at the true events sparked by the British Evangelical movement and its overtones in Hammer’s Dracula, which caused rampant church/graveyard desecrations at the time. 


“Vampires and Female Spiritual Transformation” by Vicky Gilpin focuses on characters in a series of books by Laurell K. Hamilton titled Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. It was well-written, but having never read the books, it didn’t hold my interest as much as the other essays. Also a bit less interesting for me was Jarrod Longbons’ “Vampires Are People Too: Personalism in the Buffyverse”, as I was never a fan of the series. 


Overall The Undead and Theology is an extremely intriguing read for those of us horror fans who can’t seem to get enough of the undead creatures we love the most, focusing on the “why” for society’s fascination on all things undead. Highly recommended. 


Contains: descriptions of violence (both real and fictitious) and horror 


Reviewed by Colleen Wanglund 





The Annotated Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman, edited by Leslie S. Klinger

Vertigo, 2012

ISBN:  97814012333327

Available: Hard Cover


The Annotated Sandman Vol. 1 is the first in a collection of 3 volumes devoted to The Sandman. The Sandman is a comic book series created by Neil Gaiman, now available as graphic novels.  10 volumes in length, The Sandman is an award winning tale of Dream, the entity who supervises our dreams.


In Gaiman’s story, we learn that as life was brought forth in the universe, seven beings were created who represent the seven things life forms talk about: Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Depair, Delirium and Destruction. Each of these beings represents the forces that make up our daily lives. After all, we each think about our destiny, what will we do in the future? Everyone is obsessed with death, hoping not to die before their time, and everyone definitely has dreams.


When we meet Dream, he has been captured by the historic Satanist Roderick Burgess; the self-styled ‘Daemon King’. A plunderer of the British Museum, Roderick sought to trap Death, but instead got Dream. Dream eventually escapes 87 years later, and must rebuild the dream world. It’s been in a bit of a shambles, which would certainly be one way to explain the chaos of the Twentieth Century.

Before we go any further, how do you think I knew those facts? I can promise you, unlike legendary writer Neil Gaiman, I didn’t read every book in the library. (Would have loved to, though). I read the footnotes provided by The Annotated Sandman. In his foreword, Neil Gaiman explains that he finally relented and commissioned a scholar to prepare the annotated version of his master work – The Sandman is hands down the best comic book you will ever read – because he was starting to forget these details himself. Chock full of nuggets of trivia, fiction, and other historical details, without footnotes, many of us wouldn’t get the full desired effect of reading The Sandman.


Along comes Leslie Klinger. He’s a gifted annotator, and a friend of Neil Gaiman. He has prepared an amazing and daunting work, preparing annotations and thorough but concise explanations of everything hidden in the pages of The Sandman.  Libraries would benefit greatly from acquiring these books, because this is the ‘Rosetta stone’ for all very cool facts and details buried like Easter eggs in The Sandman. This work is HIGHLY recommended for all fans of Gaiman, Graphic Novels, and very deep and cool dark fantasy stories.


Contains: Violence, profanity, adult situations.

Review by Benjamin Franz






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