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Book Review: SCAVENGER SUMMER by Steven Saville

SCAVENGER SUMMER by Steven Savile (Horrific Tales Publishing, April 16, 2020) Hardcover, 128 pages.  ISBN-10: 1910283258 ISBN-13: 978-1910283257  Kindle edition ASIN # B0838K7FCS It’s the summer of 1986, and a pleasant family vacation that promised beach-combing, swimming and skinny dippy, amusement arcades, and first loves delivers something unexpected and dreadful. I love a good opening… Continue reading Book Review: SCAVENGER SUMMER by Steven Saville

THE FINAL RECONCILIATION by Todd Keisling (Crystal Lake Publishing, release date February 03, 2017. Digital only formats)

Author Todd Keisling has created a horrific composition in THE FINAL RECONCILIATION, combining heavy metal music and horror mythos for a compelling configuration of a novella. It’s a quick-paced and captivating read that craftily builds tension right up to the final bloodbath.

Remove your Mask!

A progressive metal band from Southeastern Kentucky parlays a successful EP release into a two-record contract with a major music label. Outside forces, in the guise of an entrancing ethereal groupie, exert a subliminal influence on the creation of their first (and final) album. Their new music has the ability to effect a trance-like state among both performers and audience, and opens a doorway into an otherworldly realm. These events are foreshadowed early in the novella, and will come as no surprise to readers. Still, the final resolution is even more intense due to the power of the narrative and the suggestions that have been introduced along the way.

Keisling’s primary characters, the four members of the rock band The Yellow Kings, are convincing and realistic. In a question and answer video on You Tube, Keisling reveals that he is not a musician and does not have a background in rock music, aside from being a listener and fan. He acknowledged being influenced by the music of Opeth, Alice In Chains, and Tool in imagining the sound of The Yellow Kings. His characters are fully realized. Knowledgable music fans and readers will easily empathize with them, especially lead guitarist Aiden Cross, who serves as narrator of the story.

The novella is preceded by liner notes from The Yellow King’s unreleased album, The Final Reconciliation. Chapter titles correspond to the Track Listings of the album. The fourth chapter, entitled Track 4: The Usurper’s Ascent, also represents the point at which listeners of the sole live performance of the album begin to fall under the supernatural influence of the music.

Just before The Yellow Kings sign a major contract, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Johnny Leifthauser meets an alluring gypsy vixen and falls under her spell. The other band members are introduced to Camilla Bierce, who soon becomes their groupie and accompanies them to Los Angeles. During a night of drunken exotic debauchery at Camilla’s loft, she seduces all the band members and influences the future direction of their music. Her loft houses an otherworldly collection of art, artifacts and other supernatural curios, none more disturbing than the life-size statue of Hastur, a misshapen Elder God.

The story begins thirty years after the final appearance of The Yellow Kings. A news reporter arrives at a nursing home where lead guitarist Aiden Cross, the sole surviving member, tells for the first time of the events that led up to the studio recordings which culminated in the fatal concert.

Keisling was inspired by The King In Yellow, an 1895 story collection by Robert W. Chambers that also influenced the writing of H. P. Lovecraft. He pulls elements and themes from Chambers’ work, especially The Yellow Sign short story, and weaves them into THE FINAL RECONCILIATION. All the stories in Chambers’ collection include references to The King In Yellow, a play in book form which induces madness in those who read it.

Keisling takes many of Chambers’ concepts, including the mysterious city of Carcosa, the Yellow Sign, strange hooded figures on an eerie shore, and modifies and enhances them for even greater effect. The hooded figures hide behind pale whitened masks, under which coffin worms thrive. The description of Hyades, now a music club, the inhabitants of Carcosa, and the acolytes of Hastur are visualized in good and grisly detail. Camilla, Keisling’s deceitful muse, is named after a character in Chambers’ dangerous play.
Author Keisling also manages to include the scenes of sexuality and bloody, brutal violence through suggestion and summary rather than elaborate graphic descriptions. Yet, they will still remain vivid in the readers’ minds due to his narrative skills.

It’s an impressive story, and is scheduled to be included in a forthcoming anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing.

DISCLOSURE: A digital copy of this novella was provided by the publisher, with the hope of an honest and unbiased review.

Poetry Review: Dark Energies by Ann K. Schwader

Dark Energies By Ann K. Schwader ISBN-13: 978-0980462517 $12.00; 112 pages; August 2015 P’REA PRESS Science fiction and horror are family members who live and breathe the same air, just one breathes with a punctured set of lungs from a knife wound, while the other breathes from a carefully constructed set of organs made out… Continue reading Poetry Review: Dark Energies by Ann K. Schwader

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THE EIGHTH SEAL #1 Written by James Tynion IV. Penciled and Inked by Jeremy Rock. Colored by Nolan Woodard. Lettered by Troy Peteri. IDW Publishing, December 2015, 23 pages, $3.99, ISBN #27714 00953. www.idwpublishing.com

We see his name coming up more these days. Comics writer James Tynion IV is not only prolific; he’s also very diverse. Best known for his work on TALON for DC and THE WOODS, MEMETIC and COGNETIC for BOOM, he’s also co-writing BATMAN AND ROBIN ETERNAL with Scott Snyder and mixing genres with the just-released BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Without benefit of any other information, learning that the title of Tynion’s newest offering is THE EIGHTH SEAL doesn’t indicate what it might be about. One look at the cover and you know automatically that this is a horror story. Jeremy Rock’s cover illustration depicts body horror/transformation of the worst kind.

The story starts off like you would expect a psychological horror tale to begin, in the analyst’s professional office. Amelia Greene suffers from disturbing visions and is having trouble sleeping. These horrifying sights have become waking visions, and the last one resulted in her losing consciousness and falling to the floor. She keeps seeing herself transformed into a monster that attacks children and loved ones. Her psychiatrist diagnoses this as extreme stress. She wants him to prescribe an even stronger dose of the medication she’s been taking to suppress the visions. He seems a little too distant and aloof, and suspicious.

Frequent readers of horror tales and horror comics may feel that they have read similar stories in the past, but this one travels down a different path. Amelia Greene is the First Lady of the United States. Is she truly having difficulty or is she being manipulated?  Politics rears its’ ugly head. In addition, there are some interesting subplots involving conflict between the White House Chief of Staff and the advisor/co-ordinator for the President’s wife.

As Issue #1 progresses, Amelia sees the monster’s image again and it seems another spell/event is about to occur as the issue ends.

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Author Tynion has referred to THE EIGHT SEAL in several interviews as “Rosemary’s Baby meets The West Wing.” It’s not hard to imagine the stress of being the wife of the most powerful man in the United States causing massive anxiety which could possibly lead to visions and nightmares. That’s politics for you! Of course, those of us who enjoy horror are rooting for this to be something much worse.

THE EIGHTH SEAL is not a brand new comic, but is being published in a print edition for the first time. It debuted in April 2013 on the Thrillbent website, Mark Waid’s subscription service for original digital comics, and has posted nine chapters to date. Issue #1 of the IDW series reprints Chapters 1 and 2. Those two chapters can now be viewed for free on the Thrillbent website, and it’s worthwhile to check out THE EIGHTH SEAL in both versions. The click and reveal feature of the digital site lends some additional shock value to the proceedings, but the print version is still effective and should provide some fun frights for horror fans.

The art by Jeremy Rock might seem rather workmanlike, until you view the panels that illustrate the strange visions. This is where the skills of Rock are truly showcased. The images are definitely creepy and disturbing.

POETRY REVIEW: Thorns, Hearts and Thistles

Thorns, Hearts and Thistles By Rose Blackthorn ISBN-13: 978-0692393192 $5.99; 100 pages; February, 2015 Eldritch Press Rose Blackthorn’s poetry collection, Thorns, Hearts and Thistles, envelopes readers in a gothic retelling of painful memories and sorrowful recollections. Taking place in dark, atmospheric settings such as haunted houses or sullied gardens, these places evoke feelings of loss,… Continue reading POETRY REVIEW: Thorns, Hearts and Thistles

Sennacherib and the Martians

        “The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,       And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold…” ‘The Destruction of Sennacherib’ George Gordon, Lord Byron     “Here and there they were scattered, nearly fifty altogether, in that great gulf they had made, overtaken by a… Continue reading Sennacherib and the Martians