Review: Cockblock by C.V. Hunt

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Cockblock
By C.V. Hunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heading out for a posh date night, Sonya and her girlfriend Callie find themselves harassed by groups of men as they walk from their apartment to a nearby Italian restaurant. The men quickly escalate from shitty pick-up lines and cat-calling to more sexually aggressive attacks. Sonya and Callie find that escaping into the restaurant has only brought them deeper into a realm of eye-opening depravity. Everywhere, men are transforming into violent sex-crazed zombies, all thanks to a message originating from a radio broadcast being delivered by the President of the United States. If the women of America have any hope of surviving, they have to terminate the message directly at its source. But will they be able to make it to DC and survive the sea of fully-erect men standing in their way?

Cockblockby C.V. Hunt is a work of extreme horror, and an original, wildly interesting, and often-times painful, riff on the zombie apocalypse. Yes, it's violent and angry and sexually-charged and filled with depictions of rape, but never callously or needlessly so. This is a work of extreme horror borne straight from the depths of the Trump administration, and it's necessarily grizzly.

What do you do when the supreme figurehead of your country is a repulsive, pussy-grabbing, racist, morally bankrupt, bigoted egomaniac whose daily existence is a dog-whistle for the absolute worst in American society? What happens when your friends and neighbors, even members of your own family, are suddenly rallied, energized, and transformed into savage, mindless, lunatic zombies by that man's messages of hate? You resist. You fight back. You try to fix your country anyway you can.

Cockblock is a smart and swift slice of Resistance fiction, one that is by its very nature ugly and sickening but with a core filled with enough rabble-rousing girl-power to give readers hope. I have little doubt that men will ultimately destroy this world, and that women will be the ones responsible and smart enough to fix our ineptitude and misdeeds. Sonya and Callie are forced to contend with a world that has changed overnight, in the blink of an eye, and has rolled over to expose its vile, cancerous, dark underbelly. Giving up isn't in their nature, though, and despite all the overwhelming sexual violence levied against them they never surrender - they keep fighting, and I kept rooting for them, living vicariously through them as they kicked every pair of diseased, low-hanging balls that got in their way.

Hunt filters Cockblock through a grindhouse aesthetic (appropriate, as the publisher of Cockblock is Grindhouse Press), drawing upon not only traditional zombie fare but various exploitative film genres as rape and revenge, women in prison, and sexploitation flicks. It's a bit of Caligula, a bit of I Spit On Your Grave, a bit of Roger Corman, and way too fucking much of Trump's America. Hunt's protagonists take their fight straight to the streets and all the way to the top with an angry, energetic fervor that makes Cockblock one of the most surprisingly patriotic splatterpunk reads I've come across, with one of the most satisfying finales I've read in some time. This book is a drop-kick straight to Trump's nutsack, and I fucking loved it. This book gets all the stars, and a few extra stripes of red, white, and blue to go with them.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher.]

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Interview: Hunter Shea, author of Jurassic Florida

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Hunter Shea has been a favorite of mine for a few years now, earning my attention rather quickly with his weird western novel Hell Hole [review]. The fact that Hunter is one of the most reviewed authors on this site speaks both to my love for the man's work and also just how damn prolific he is. I haven't read all of Hunter's books just yet, but it's pretty damn close. Over the last few years, Mr. Shea has become inextricably entwined with creature features, oftentimes of the cryptozoological nature, and his particular brand of horror is all about fun. While the monsters are certainly important, the human element is equally well-crafted and vital to the success of Hunter's works.

This summer and fall, Kensington Books is releasing Hunter's One Size Eats All trilogy. Like last year's Mail Order Massacres, each title will be a stand-alone novella tied to one another by a common theme. First up is Jurassic Florida, which released this past Tuesday (you can read my review here). To mark this new release, Hunter was kind enough to join the High Fever Books blog for a few questions. Welcome to the blog, Hunter! 


Favorite beer and favorite scream queen or Final Girl?

Oh man, favorite beer? It’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. For many, many moons, it was Sapporo, but lately I’m digging 914 by Yonkers Brewing. Love their place on the Hudson River, too. As for my favorite Final Girl, if we’re going old school, it’s Julie Adams from Creature From The Black Lagoon for damn sure. In more modern times, I would have to say Sharni Vinson as Erin in You’re Next. That little waif of a woman was a total bad ass.

It looks like your first published book was 2011’s Forest of Shadows, and over the last seven years you’ve built up a hell of a catalog of titles. How long were you writing prior to becoming a published author and tell us a bit about your writing process. What allows you to pump out so many consistently good and entertaining books so quickly?

I got bitten by the writing bug in the mid-90s. I spent years working on short stories, tried my hand at a couple of novellas, then dove into the deep end and wrote a romantic comedy as my first novel. I just wanted to see if I could sustain that passion and momentum for a whole book. Once I proved to myself I could, I wrote another, this one a pretty dark comedy. All of it was prep work to write my true love, horror. I didn’t want to do it until I felt I was ready. Forest of Shadows took years to write because my kids were babies at the time, and years sitting in one editor’s hands (Don D’Auria) before it got accepted. But it was worth the wait. When I’m working on a book, I try to write at least 1,000 words every day, trying to double the output on weekends. That way, I know I can get a book done and edited in 4-5 months. Novellas I attack like a sprinter. They key is to just sit my ass down and write. There are so many distractions out there, but if you want to be a working writer, you have to learn to ignore them. There’s no shortage of ideas, just time to get them all out of my head.

You don’t just write about the paranormal and cryptozoological, but you actively seek it out. In your Monster Men YouTube series, you’ve discussed all things supernatural and have taken the occasional visit to a haunted cemetery or two. Where did this fascination come from, and have you had any encounters with the supernatural? Tell us about your monster hunting!

Growing up, one of my grandmother’s was a psychic. Not the kind that had people pay her money to read their palms or tell their future. My grandfather said she would hold séances and he’d seen their table levitate a couple of times. By the time she was just grandma to me, she looked a lot like Mrs. Butterworth. She was an amazingly sweet lady who never talked about her gift. Cut to my getting married and my wife and I moved into what we now know is a haunted house. We see a boy walking around from time to time. Not like a pale ghost, but an actual boy. You get this very calming feeling when he’s around. It’s hard to describe. I’ve had several other odd experiences, including one the night my father passed, that make it impossible for me not to believe there’s more to death than just THE END. I haven’t done much monster hunting simply because there aren’t many monster sightings in lower New York. LOL But, I have gone on many, many UFO hunts in Orange County, NY.

Jurassic, Florida just came out earlier this week and revolves around the sleepy little town of Polo Springs coming under attack by enormous prehistoric iguanas. What do you have against iguanas? What made them the perfect monstrosity to base a story around in your latest creature feature?

I hate reptiles. I love animals, just not snakes and lizards. My kids have been asking for a pet iguana since they could talk. I tell them they are free to get as many iguanas as they want when they move out. My editor and I wanted to do this big, Bert I. Gordon inspired novella with giant reptiles. Watching Floridians get eaten by them just seemed like a lot of fun (no offense to Floridians – I get joy out of all people being terrorized by prehistoric beasts). Now I can tick killer giant iguanas off my writing bucket list.

Jurassic, Florida is also notable for being the first in a series of novellas for Kensington Books that are united under the One Size Eats All banner. Last summer you wrote the Mail Order Massacres novella series for them. How did these trilogies develop? What’s the creative processes like in bringing these works to life?

I have a great editor there, Gary Goldstein, who, like me, is just a big kid warped by comic books, B movies and bad television. We had so much success with the Mail Order Massacres series that we wanted to tackle a new one, but shift it from comics to nature gone wild. The original series title was Hunter Shea’s Don’t Fuck With Nature, but naturally we were turned down on that one. Gary and I trolled for stories on the Internet for inspiration. Living in NY, we read a news article about how rats were becoming resistant to rodenticide, so in comes Rattus New Yorkus. Another story about swarms of tiny iguanas got us to Jurassic Florida. The Devil’s Fingers came from I think Gary seeing a horrid picture of what they look like. Once I saw it, I ran with it. Those things look like they’re either from outer space or hell.  

Over the course of your career so far, we’ve had books about Loch Ness, Orang Pendek, a megalodon, the Montauk Monster, chimera fish, and so, so much more. How do you decide what creature to feature from book to book? When you set out to write, does the creature come first, or do you develop a story around the creature first and plug in a threat? Do you have a list of cryptids you’re working your way through?

It’s crazy how I’ve fallen down this cryptid hole. And I love it. I’m a huge fan of cryptozoology, so yes, I do have a list. I always start with the monster and flesh the story out from there. Even though they’re creature features, getting the humans just right is most important to me. People don’t walk away from Loch Ness Revenge wanting more Nessie. They want more Nat and Austin and Henrik. That makes me happy. Plus, I’m just having a ball writing about all the beasties that have fascinated me since I was a kid.

What’s your personal favorite cryptid (and why)? Is there a creature you haven’t written about yet, but that you’re dying to tackle in the future?

Growing up, I was a huge Nessie lover. I wanted to move to Scotland and just live on the Loch. Back then, I loved any aquatic creature. My fascination went from sharks to whales to Nessie. Now, to me, the most fascinating cryptid and backstory belongs to the Mothman, hands down. Everyone should read John Keel’s book, The Mothman Prophecies. We are talking some wild, weird stuff. It wasn’t just about a winged creature terrorizing people. We’re talking ghosts, UFOs, men in black and so much more. I really have to get my butt to the annual festival this year.

You’re perhaps best known for writing really fun, humorous, off-the-wall works of horror that are high on action and adventure. But you’ve also got a few works that are more serious in tone, like We Are Always Watching. In the fall, Flame Tree Press will be releasing its first wave of horror titles, including your novel Creature, which sounds like it’s one of your more serious works with its heroine, Kate, suffering from an autoimmune disease. What can you tell us about Creature and how your own life inspired this book?

I love character driven stories, and Flame Tree gave me a golden opportunity to explore some dark and scary issues. It was very difficult to write because so much of it is drawn from my own life. My wife has a series of autoimmune diseases that have nearly taken her life more times than we can count. I took all that fear we’ve experienced and laid it out on the page. Sure, it’s set in a cottage in the Maine woods, but it’s not a teen slasher romp. I want readers not just to be scared by the antagonist, but to also understand how tenuous their own health and lives are. Nothing is more frightening than that. People who loved We Are Always Watching I think- I hope - will devour this one.

Creature also sees you working again with famed horror editor, Don D’Auria. You worked with him previously when you both were with the now defunct Samhain Publishing. How was it working with Don again? 

I love Don. He was the only editor I sent my very first book to because I only wanted to work with him. And by some magical twist of fate, here we are years later, not just editor and writer, but friends. Don is great because he values the writer’s vision. If he’s chosen to work with you, it’s because he loves your work and trusts your instincts. He’s just there to tighten things up for you. It’s incredible creative freedom. With Don, I can try my hand at just about anything, so long as it hits certain marks and has characters people give a crap about. Without that, you have nothing.

Do you prefer writing the pulpy creature features, or the more serious horror novels like We Are Always Watching? Do you find one style to be more rewarding?

The more serious toned books are much, much harder to write and like all things in life, more fulfilling. It’s just a different experience. I almost feel like when I write the creature features, I’m a kid who can’t believe I get to do this for a living. When I step into a book like Creature, I have to put my big boy pants on and be an adult. Both are extremely satisfying in their own ways.

What comes next for you? Pimp away!

After Jurassic Florida, the next in the series, Rattus New Yorkus will come out in August, followed by the series ender, The Devil’s Fingers in October (just in time for Halloween!!!). Right now, I’m working on a ghost writing project that is a whole new world for me. Once that’s complete, I have a new novella for Severed Press to work on that people who dig The Thing will salivate over. Then it’s on to my next book with Don and Flame Tree. Speaking of that, I have to get the synopsis over to him!

Where can readers find you? Share you links!

It’s all at www.huntershea.com. On Instagram, you can find me @huntershea2017. Feel free to visit me any time! I actually respond to folks when they reach out to me. :) 


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FLORIDA. IT’S WHERE YOU GO TO DIE.
Welcome to Polo Springs, a sleepy little town on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s a great place to live—if you don’t mind the hurricanes. Or the flooding. Or the unusual wildlife . . .
 
IGUANAS. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. 
Maybe it’s the weather. But the whole town is overrun with the little green bastards this year. They’re causing a lot of damage. They’re eating everything in sight. And they’re just the babies . . .
 
HUMANS. THEY’RE WHAT’S FOR DINNER.
The mayor wants to address the iguana problem. But when Hurricane Ramona slams the coast, the town has a bigger problem on their hands. Bigger iguanas. Bigger than a double-wide. Unleashed by the storm, this razor-toothed horde of prehistoric predators rises up from the depths—and descends on the town like retirees at an early bird special. Except humans are on the menu. And it’s all you can eat . . .


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Review: Devil Sharks by Chris Jameson

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Devil Sharks: A Novel
By Chris Jameson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just when you thought it was safe to go for a swim, Chris James returns with another shark themed horror standalone following last year's release of Shark Island. Packed with plenty of summertime thrills, Devil Sharks would be a perfect beach-read if only Jameson didn't make you deathly afraid of being so close to the water.

Here, a group of now-distant college buddies meet up in Hawaii for a reunion. Invited by their former classmate Harry, now an uber-rich businessman, the group and their spouses expect to enjoy a few days of sun and surf aboard a luxury sailing yacht. After visiting the abandoned Coast Guard station where Harry's father once served, the group find themselves adrift off an atoll and at the mercy of drug runners using the old building as a base. Surrounding the atoll are sharks - sharks the pirates have been routinely feeding humans to, and who have since developed a lust for the taste of landlubbers.

Devil Sharks is, first and foremost, a work of survival horror. Things get off to a bit of a slow start as Jameson lays the groundwork on who his characters are and explores their relationships to one another, but once this book kicks into high gear, good lord this sucker is frenetic.

Jameson takes our cast, a wonderfully diverse group fronted by Alex and his wife Sammi, and puts them into one deathly encounter after another. As I said, this is a book about survival, and Jameson puts a ton of obstacles in the cast's way. Much like the pirates, Jameson is a take-no-prisoners type of author, and Devil Sharks takes some shockingly bleak turns. I will say, though, that I was a tiny bit disappointed by the somewhat ancillary nature of the pirates, but I get what the author was going for with them. They're certainly capable and loathsome antagonists, but ones that exist largely as a plot device to kick the story's central hook into focus.

Devil Sharks is not a Die Hard riff of Alex versus hardcore killers - although I thought for a moment that's where Jameson was headed - but a story of your common Everyman characters against the impossible odds of hungry, man-eating sharks. We're here for the sharks, first and foremost, and the pirates are a way of getting us there, even if their presence makes the story feel slightly unbalanced as a whole. While some of the story threads are left unresolved (but hey, c'est la vie!), their purpose in serving the plot is largely secondary; they're an appetizer to the main course. Devil Sharks is, naturally, all about the sharks - that's what we're here for! We want the threatening promise of fins in the water and lots of toothy shark carnage! And hoo boy, Jameson doesn't play any games on that front. In fact, Jameson proves to be just as bloodthirsty and merciless as his oceanic apex predators. Things get brutal quick.

The last half of Devil Sharks is absolutely fraught with tension and horrifying encounters. Once the action gets going, this book is impossible to set aside and I spent much of this book with my stomach churning like the frothy blood-red waters Jameson continually chummed. If you're looking for some wonderfully grisly and violent encounters with killer chondrichthyes, Devil Sharks viciously and unrelentingly delivers. Grab a beer and a blanket and hit up the beach with this one, but maybe take a moment to consider how badly you want to go for a swim and wonder, if only for a second or two, if you might become fish food.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher, St. Martin's, via NetGalley.]

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Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

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My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Cabin at the End of the World has a fantastic premise at its core, and if this story had been a novella or a 90-minute movie, I likely would have enjoyed it a whole lot more. Instead, Tremblay stuffs and stretches a simple yet awesome idea into a full-length novel that's both padded and repetitive to a frustrating degree.

Without spoiling things, The Cabin at the End of the World is a home invasion novel with apocalyptic overtones. Andrew and Eric, and their adopted Chinese daughter, Wen, are trapped inside their cabin, surrounded by four individuals who may or may not be totally insane.

To kick things off, we're first introduced to Wen in a much too long opening chapter that sees her collecting grasshoppers before meeting the strange and large Leonard, the leader of the group of intruders. The second chapter involves a very protracted round of "Let us in" "No, we won't let you in!" round-robin between the intruders and Andrew and Eric. You discover pretty quickly that Tremblay only has a couple ideas with which to prop up The Cabin at the End of the World, and a whole lot of pages are spent with repetitive dialogue as the characters go back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth some more, arguing the same freaking points over and over and over and over and over in laborious fashion. These back and forths exhausting - not for the characters, oh no, not at all, but for the readers. These characters spend nearly three hundred pages arguing endlessly around a "You must do this!" "No, we will never do that!" premise. It's fucking tiring. That it's further padded with excruciating details about every freaking bit of furniture and blanket in the house helps not a whit.

Thankfully, these pointless circular exchanges are punctuated with some truly well drawn moments of violence and sequences of events that call into question the nature of this book's scenario as a whole. Unfortunately, Tremblay refuses to take a stand in regards to how much of his scenario is legitimate versus some of these characters simply being bugfuck crazy. You never know if the demands being placed upon Andrew and Eric have any sort of real meaning or not, and Tremblay argues both sides effectively but ultimately waffles on the credibility of the premise in order to be uber mysterioso. He wants his story to be both incredible and incredulous simultaneously, refusing to pick a side. Ultimately, this book comes off more like a Choose Your Own Adventure as told by a high school debate club, albeit one armed with some wicked home-made weaponry.

In terms of home invasion horrors, The Cabin at the End of the World has an excellent killer premise. In terms of execution, home invasion horror has been done far better in books like Jack Ketchum's Off Season and Brett McBean's The Invasion. Or you could just save a few days entirely, read something else, and pop in a Blu-ray copy of The Strangers.

[Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher, William Morrow, via Edelweiss.]

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Review: Kill Creek by Scott Thomas [audiobook]

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Kill Creek
By Scott Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scott Thomas makes one hell of a horror debut with his Stoker Award-nominated haunted house novel, Kill Creek - so strong a debut that I found it hard to believe he's a first-time author. Turns out, Thomas has a bit of a pedigree in television and was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the R.L. Stine TV series, The Haunting Hour. While Kill Creek is his first novel, Thomas definitely knows his way around a horror story, and his work here carries a nicely cinematic style with more than a few movie-ready scenes and set pieces.

After being duped into agreeing to an interview by an Internet website mogul, four authors find themselves unwittingly gathered together for an overnight stay at the abandoned and decrepit Finch House. For the wealthy Wainwright, this is a chance to speak to his idols, the modern masters of horror, and rake in lots of lucrative web-clicks. For the authors, it's a gimmicky way to promote their work, score some quick cash, and waste a night in a supposedly haunted house before returning to their lives, check in hand. If you know your way around a haunted house story, I don't have to tell you that things don't go quite according to plan...

Thankfully, Thomas throws in a few juicy curveballs here and there, slowly inching his narrative toward a finale of all-consuming madness that chills in all the best and brutal ways. Thomas, however, knows that he has to earn the premise's payoff, and he spends a lot of time building up his central cast. While the focus is on Sam McGarver, the most Everyman horror author of the bunch, characters like TC Moore, Sebastian Cole, and Daniel Slaughter - a horror-ready name if ever there was one - carry enough personality and intrigue to keep this slow-burn narrative hustling along. Moore, in fact, was my favorite character in this story - a brash, take-no-prisoners attitude, whiskey swilling, tough gal are always right up my alley narratively-speaking, and her introduction immediately captivated me.

Although it's become rather cliche to have a horror author as the protagonist of a horror novel, it works surprisingly well here. Usually the protag's occupation is ancillary, but in Kill Creek it's a primary focus and a linchpin for the work itself. Thomas is clearly well-versed in horror and genre tropes, as well as the career of writing and some of its more self-depreciating aspects. At one point, McGarver jokes that he's a writer, which means he spends most of his time procrastinating on the Internet. But it's his introduction as a college lecturer, wherein he delivers a presentation on gothic literature to his students, that makes a solid argument toward the credibility of not only McGarver's skill as an author, but Thomas's as well. The fact that Thomas creates this band of authors is one thing; the fact that he created them with such attention toward their pedigree and bibliographies is another. It's common to see horror authors experiencing a real-life horror event in fiction, but this is probably the first time I've wanted to actually read these fictional author's works. I wish I could buy a TC Moore book for my Kindle right now, or dig into a Sebastian Cole book next, and that alone should speak volumes to how much I appreciated Thomas's character work here.

Narrating Kill Creek is Bernard Setaro Clark, and hot damn, he's a fine reader. While much of his delivery is direct, Clark has a few aural tricks up his sleeve that really impressed me. Clark knows when to act up the material a bit, changing tones and pitch, and sometimes flat-out shouting, when needed. He also pulls this nifty trick of creating spatial distance between characters by turning away from the microphone at certain points. Say a character is shouting from across the room - rather than speaking directly into the mike as he would for our POV character, Clark turns away slightly, giving a sense of depth to sell the impression that there really is a character yelling from across the rom. It's such a simple thing, but so well executed, and not something I've often heard in other audiobooks. Of course, it's also possible I'm easily impressed, but I appreciated these moments a heck of a lot when they occurred. Clark's narrative skills certainly get a workout in the book's climax, as McGarver and company are forced to contend with the threats lurking within the Finch House once and for all.

Kill Creek isn't just a mighty fine haunted house novel, but a wickedly impressive debut for its author, who manages to wring the story for all its worth and deliver some pleasantly shocking twists along the way. This sucker builds like a roller coaster, slowly ratcheting its way to the top, and then violently dropping readers down a twisting thrill-ride that pulls their stomach up their throats. To put it mildly and succinctly, Kill Creek fucking rocks.

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Review: The Beast of Brenton Woods by Jackson R. Thomas

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The Beast of Brenton Woods
By Jackson Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's something in the woods - white furred and enormous, with an insatiable appetite for violence...and revenge. The beast of Brenton Woods has a score to settle, and lots of blood to spill. Standing in its way, though, is an adolescent boy, his mother, and a local deputy, each of whom are ensnared in the search for this monster, and who are intent on uncovering its secrets, and possibly hiding a few of their own.

Jackson R. Thomas has crafted a really fun debut with The Beast of Brenton Woods, one with enough mystery to leave a few lingering questions that lead me to suspect we'll be seeing a sequel soon enough. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a return trip to Brenton Woods and seeing how the threads of this particular story can continue to unravel.

I quite enjoyed Ben, the thirteen-year-old at the heart of this book, and Deputy Kathy Wilcox, a tough gal who has little trouble asserting her dominance when needed. Equally enjoyable was Thomas's attention to carnage. Once The Beast of Brenton Woods gets going, this book becomes down right unputdownable, and blood splashes across the page. If you like your werewolves violent, and with not a whiff of paranormal shapeshifter romance to be found, Thomas should satisfy nicely. This is authentic werewolf horror, chockablock with mutilated corpses, and plenty of silver bullet-driven action.

The Beast of Brenton Woods is a blistering read of werewolf horror, one that chugs along at lightning speed and will leave you howling at the moon for more.

Note: The Beast of Brenton Woods is published by Alien Agenda Publishing, the publishing imprint of horror author Glenn Rolfe, which, as it turns out, makes for pretty companionable bedfellows. There's a certain aspect to Thomas's writing and storytelling that reminded me quite a lot of Rolfe's own work, and Glenn's readers should feel quite at home with this new author's debut. Glenn provided me with an advanced, uncorrected copy of this book, so many thanks to him.

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Guest Blog: Ghosts, Monsters and Myth: Cusp of Night by Mae Clair

Thank you, Michael, for hosting me on your blog today. I’d like to share my upcoming release, Cusp of Night, with your readers. A story that delves into the Spiritualist movement of the 19th Century, Cusp of Night also touches on ghosts and an urban legend in the present. Releasing June 12th, the book is currently available for pre-order from all online booksellers.

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I’m a huge fan of creatures and things that go bump-in-the-night. In 2013 and 2014, I took two trips to research the Mothman, a cryptid that featured into my POINT PLEASANT SERIES. For my HODE’S HILL SERIES, I needed a new creature. Rather than use an existing monster from folklore, I decided to create my own. I’ve always been fascinated by Spring Heeled Jack and borrowed elements such as leaping fences and scrambling over rooftops to create “the Fiend.”

In the history of Hode’s Hill, the Fiend is responsible for several horrific murders in the late 1800s. The creature’s body was never found. Its legend has morphed into the stuff of urban myth. In the present, the town honors the past with an annual Fiend Fest in which contestants dress in costume, hoping to achieve the top prize.

My main character, Maya Sinclair, is on her way home from the Fiend Fest when she witnesses an assault on the patriarch of the town’s leading family. Is the assailant someone dressed in Fiend attire, or the creature returned from the shadows to wreak vengeance?

Cusp of Night is a blending of past and present, dual plotlines which converge in the legend of the Fiend—and restless ghosts the centuries have been unable to disperse.

Ghosts, monsters and myth. Here’s the blurb:

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Blurb

Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend. 

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house--a woman whose ghost may still linger.

Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .

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You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:

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Review: The Bog by Michael Talbot [audiobook]

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The Bog
By Michael Talbot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My original THE BOG audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

The Bog is an old-school work of 1980s quiet horror. Michael Talbot slowly sets the stage, introducing archaeologist David Macauley and his family living abroad in the UK on a research grant. David specializes in studying bogs, particularly the corpses found preserved within. In a small English village, David uncovers not just a spate of bog bodies, but colorful legends – legends that point toward the true nature of an ancient evil responsible for the death of the bodies he is now unearthing. As readers slowly settle in for what first appears to be a creature feature, Talbot serves up a few interesting twists alongside a couple doses of personal tragedy and plenty of foreboding dread.

One of the things I most appreciated about The Bog was Talbot’s plotting. Even the most seemingly insignificant plot points and character beats play into the larger narrative and receive certain payoffs as the story resolves. A character’s veganism, a child’s fascination with the word ‘moxie’, a tavern’s clienteles apprehension over the appearance of a moth all lead to larger elements within the story, and the introduction of these minor points help to, in various ways, bring The Bog full-circle by book’s end. Throughout the story, Talbot introduces a number of concepts that I enjoyed quite a bit, particularly in regards to the nature of the evil infecting the small hamlet Macauley and his family find themselves inhabiting, which dovetails nicely with David’s work as a historian and scholar.

Reissued by Valancourt, The Bog is narrated by Matt Godfrey. I’ve only recently become familiar with Godfrey’s work, but he’s quickly earned with me the reputation of being a solid reader. I can expect a natural delivery complemented by subtle performances and distinct voice-work for each of the characters. In that regard, The Bog meets expectations. Each of the male and female characters presented here is clearly delineated and unmistakably unique. Listening to this book through my car’s audio system during my daily commute, I could not detect any flaws in the audio production, and the sound is crisp, clean, and well-modulated.

Readers looking for some high-end 80s horror should find a lot to enjoy in Talbot’s work. While The Bog is a bit of a slow-burn, it is ultimately quite enjoyable. Patient readers will be greatly rewarded by the way certain puzzle pieces of the plot align and snap into place as the story progresses.

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