RIP Paul Gray

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Editorials

First news broke about the passing of Peter Steele, it was hard to believe but when word got around that it was actually true the rock community was silenced. Then news hit that rock legend Ronnie James Dio had lost his ongoing years long battle with stomach cancer. The rock community was brought to its knees. Now within a matter of weeks we have lost yet another rock icon, Paul Gray. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Black Glove’s new home

Posted: October 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

We’ve moved to our permanent link over at Blogger.com
Please visit us on the 4th of each month for our newest issue for all things horror culture and entertainment related.
http://the-black-glove.blogspot.com/

Thanks,
Nickolas Cook
Editor In Chief, The Black Glove Magazine

Read the rest of this entry »

Editorial: Issue 2

Posted: August 5, 2009 in Editorials

Hello, Black Glove devotees. This month’s editorial is sort of like a time machine ‘cause we’re going to take a little trip back…back…back into the long ago days of 1979. Here’s what we were listening to as a nation 30 years ago, folks. Read the rest of this entry »

Stabbed In Stanzas

Posted: August 5, 2009 in Stabbed In Stanzas

A Stark Interview with Christopher Conlon

KLN: I’ve noticed that you’ve based your poetry collections, Starkweather Dreams, The Weeping Time, Mary Falls: Requiem for Mrs. Surratt, and Gilbert & Garbo in Love: A Romance in Poems on real people. What are your criteria in selecting subjects for your work?

CC: Karen, I’m not so sure that I select them–it often feels more as if they select me! I don’t go out and hunt around for material. What I do is read about things that interest me. If I get interested enough, if I have a strong enough emotional response to what I’m learning, sometimes poems begin to come. For instance, I had no idea I was going to end up writing a book of poems about Charlie Starkweather when I first saw a documentary about him and Caril Ann Fugate on television. But I was fascinated with their story, so I started reading books about them. I began to dream, literally and figuratively, about them. This went on for months. Finally the first poem in the book, “Charlie Dream,” came to me, and I was off and running. It’s been that way with every sequence of poems I’ve written.

KLN: You seem to be very social-minded, what with your service in the Peace Corps in Botswana from 1988 to 1990 and your inclusion in the anthology September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond. Any plans to write a collection based on your beliefs, instead of the historical figures? If not, why not? If so, what cause or belief?

CC: That’s an interesting question. Actually I wrote a lot of poems about my time in Africa, and many of them became my first poetry publications back in the early ’90s. But there were never enough for a book. Anyway, at some point I seemed to lose interest in myself as a subject. That’s most of American poetry, you know–the narrator is invariably a thinly-veiled version of oneself, and we follow that narrator as he thinks about this and that, has this memory or that insight into something. That’s been the dominant mode of poetry since Keats and Shelley in the 19th century. But it wasn’t always. At one point in my life The Iliad meant a great deal to me, Homer’s epic of the Trojan War, and that struck me as closer to something I’d like to do–write about other people’s adventures and joys and tragedies and nightmares. Return to the original storytelling function of poetry. Who cares about the poet, anyway? Why should the poet be so important? I don’t consider myself a particularly interesting person. I think Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate are much more interesting than I am. So why not write about them instead?

KLN: With your MA in American literature and teaching experience, you could have easily written a novel or short story about the historical figures you chose. Why did you choose poetry as your medium?

CC: Again, it wasn’t a conscious choice. It just happened. That sounds evasive, but it’s the truth. It’s funny, but despite all these historical poems of mine, I don’t think I could write a historical novel. The thing about the poetry sequences is that they’re very intimate–we’re generally inside the characters’ heads, sharing their subjective experience of reality. So in a sense I get to cheat. I don’t have to do all the scene-setting the historical novelist does. I don’t have to master an enormous amount of historical minutiae. Obviously I need to know something of the period I’m writing about, but my real interest is in who these people were, or who they might have been. What was it like to be Charlie Starkweather? How did he feel when he got up in the morning? How did he think about other people? That’s my focus. For that, it’s not too important that I know how much a quart of milk cost in that period, or a gallon of gas. The historical novelist would need to know those things.

KLN: You edited the well-received anthology Poe’s Lighthouse. In addition to Poe, who are your other favorite horror poets, past and present? What are your current horror editing projects? Any poetry anthologies?

CC: CC: Karen, my latest editing project is He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson, in which a great group of writers–Stephen King, Joe Hill, Whitley Strieber, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, many others–riff on classic Mathesonian themes in new, original short stories. It’s out now, from Gauntlet Press. And my next one has just been announced—it’s a poetry anthology called A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock, to be published by Dark Scribe Press in 2010. It’s an open-submission anthology which will begin accepting submissions on September 1. Interested poets should check out the highly specific guidelines available at darkscribepress.com. As for horror poets, well, it’s all in the definition, isn’t it? Honestly–this is a kind of pet peeve of mine–I haven’t got a lot of use for much of what gets published as “horror poetry.” It seems to be written by people who haven’t the foggiest notion of what poetry is–people who may have read a bit of Poe or Keats or Edna St. Vincent Millay, but who really have no idea what’s been happening in poetry over the past hundred years. They probably can’t name one major living American poet. They certainly don’t read journals like Poetry or The American Poetry Review. So what they write ends up being neither horrific nor poetic. There are exceptions; one I’ll mention is coming out in the fall from Snuff Books. It’s called Wood Life, by Rich Ristow–a sequence of poems written from the point of view of a serial killer. Ristow has an MFA in Poetry, and it shows–this is a guy who knows what he’s doing. It’s going to knock people’s socks off! But that kind of thing is rare in this field. When I think of real “horror poetry,” I go back to people like Baudelaire and his Flowers of Evil, or Rimbaud. Lovecraft managed a handful of pretty good sonnets, too.

KLN: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Is there anything additional you’d like to share with our readers?

CC: Only that I hope some of your readers will visit my website, at http://christopherconlon.com, and my blog, at http://chrisconlon.livejournal.com/. I have a lot of fun with the blog, writing about all sorts of things–classic movies, books, and, yes, poetry! And I love to get feedback. Stop on by, if you’ve a mind to.

Starkweather Dreams
by Christopher Conlon;
Creative Guy Publishing, 2009;
77 pages; Paperback $9.95

Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate come alive in verse in Starkweather Dreams by Christopher Conlon. This outstanding poetry collection delves into the criminal mind of Starkweather and his fourteen-year-old accomplice with bare-bones horror. An example of the sharp, biting verse to illustrate Starkweather’s sharp, biting soul is best found in “Memory: Charlie”

He woke once to wind, to branches
clacking against the window
like the bones of dead men

Conlon uses both alliteration and consonance for the premonition of the staccato effect of a thrusting knife or a penetrating bullet. The visualization here is stunning as if the reader is there, under the covers, in the middle of a nightmare, the nightmare of Charlie. Conlon later uses this to explore Charlie’s sexuality in an effort to make him more than just a monster.

Caril Ann herself is portrayed as a sympathetic victim, a testament to Conlon’s immense talent. He accomplishes this by interweaving both Charlie’s and Caril’ stories and by exploring their dysfunctional relationship with each other and the outside world.

This book is history at its most interesting, especially if one compares today to the late fifties, the time of Starkweather’s serial killing. Today Caril wouldn’t have served that much jail time and perhaps school guidance counselors could have seen how troubled she was.

Unfortunately, Charles Starkweather fits in, or sadly, isn’t as frightening as some serial killers now, yet Conlon still elicits real fear from the collection.

But what separates Starkweather Dreams from just another retelling is that some poems are from the victims’ points of view, thus adding to the overall terror, the best example being the poem “Countdown”

Or that in thirty-eight minutes
he’ll place the shotgun behind her head
and burst her brain like crushing an egg

This collection is dark historical poetry at its finest.

–Karen L. Newman

Chimeric Machines
By Lucy A. Snyder
Creative Guy Publishing
Trade/$10.95

Back in 2007, I did review of Lucy Snyder’s short story collection, “Sparks and Shadows” (HW Press, 2007), and was blown away by her ability to cut and kiss with the same sentence. It was an astounding collection that rightfully garnered accolades from many genre reviewers and professional organizations. Now Lucy Snyder has released what may be the best collection of poetry I’ve read in years- within or without the genre.

Divided into seven carefully balanced parts, Snyder opens the collection with the perfect selection to warn the reader of CHIMERIC MACHINES’ impending agenda with ‘Modernism’, a poem steeped in brutally beautiful symbolism that does not leave any doubts of what’s to come.

There is not one poem in CHIMERIC MACHINES that doesn’t fit in place like a delicately carved piece of a complex and consuming puzzle. There are poems of ethereal beauty that waft through your senses like sugary winged butterflies, and poems that feel like cold rusty blades being driven violently into your soul. One in particular left me teary eyed. ‘Babel’s Children’ is less an ode and more of a denouncement of how the late great J.N. Williamson was let go into the void by his ‘loved’ ones.

If it’s only half true…well, I’ll let you read and decide their deserved fates.

Snyder gives us passion, love, desire, hate, despair, sometimes in the same stanza. It is a gifted wordsmith that can alternately touch your heart and make you existentially nauseous.

But Snyder has a playful side, too, as displayed in Part 4, ‘Crete, Kentucky’, where gathers together a motley crew of grifters and killers and tells their stories in poetic form– a sort of mini Spoon River Anthology for the horror geeks among us.

If there was ever any doubt about this author’s talent, CHIMERIC MACHINES will put them to bed for good and all. There is no other writer working today quite like Lucy A. Snyder. And watching her develop is going to be a once in a lifetime marvel to behold.

P.S.–Get a copy of CHIMERIC MACHINES before she becomes the next big thing. Del Rey, a large NYC publishing house, has finally recognized her enormous talent, and her impeding release with them, SPELLBENT, promises to push her into the well-deserved spotlight.

Lucy A. Snyder’s LiveJournal

–Nickolas Cook

Blood Meridian (Or the Evening Redness in the West)
By Cormac McCarthy
Vintage
Trade/$15.00
Grim. Devastating. Bloody.

Those are just some of the adjectives one could use to describe Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 ultra violent western. Although BLOOD MERIDIAN wasn’t well received by critics (or readers) when it first hit the shelves, it has since then come to be recognized for its brilliance and impact on the literary world. In the interim since its release, McCarty has won success with ‘All The Pretty Horses’ and the fairly grim read, ‘No Country For Old Men’, but even his most ardent fan may find it difficult to swallow the narrative with feeling nauseous at times. It is a tough read to get through because of its unrelenting nature.

Based upon Samuel Chamberlain’s historical biography about The Glanton Gang, BLOOD MERIDIAN tells the story of The Kid, a teenage runaway who finds himself thrown in with a band of ruthless scalphunters who kill Indians and gather the scalps of men, women and children for bounty. These are amoral savages who soon turn renegade and start to kill anyone and anything in their path, human and animal alike, mutilating both with equal vigor and disregard for life.

The Kid is an uneducated, not-so-innocent who eventually comes to his own higher set of ethics, despite the ever present vacuum of violence in which he exists. Life requires the death of something else, and there is never anything that comes without pain and sacrifice.

The Kid’s foil is The Judge, a man who seems more like a demigod at times- vastly intelligent, physically superior to every man he rides with, who practices a horrific set of morals that even beasts of the jungle would not conscience.

McCarthy draws out the violence, until its gut wrenching ending, in which he leaves the reader wondering what lies behind the door where The Kid and The Judge finally meet as men. What terrible end could leave the hardened men who discover them speechless and pale faced as they flee the scene?

The hellish landscape, which plays almost as a secondary antagonist, is terrifying terrain-killing hail storms, quicksand, boiling heat, savage salt flats and dry riverbeds. It’s a world the likes of which Bosch, Milton, Dante and Blake would have recognized as a familiar setting for the examination of good and evil.

So why should a horror audience embrace BLOOD MERIDIAN?
Because, for all intents and purposes – whether McCarthy meant it to be or not- this book reads like a period horror novel, set in the 1800s. In no way conceivable could anyone rate this as a simple ‘horse opera’: The violence is too all pervasive for the usually elderly conservative western reader- a violence on a mythical, almost biblical at times, scale, that examines how thin the line is between men and predatory beasts. Graphically portrayed, the narrative’s brutality is visceral and unrelenting, taking the reader by the throat at times, forcing him to examine his own morals and ethics.

BLOOD MERIDIAN is a novel that deserves its place among the greatest American novels ever written, side by side with Melville, Faulkner and King.

–Nickolas Cook

THE HARROWING
Alexandra Sokoloff
St. Martins
$6.99 MMPB
So many times it’s tough to read a great horror novel and know it’ll never translate to the screen. Sure, we don’t always get to see our favorites become blockbuster films, and most modern horror movies are homogenous, at best. But there are some novels that just scream to become movies. If any new horror novel deserves to garner a larger audience via the big screen treatment, it’s Alexandra Sokoloff’s 2006 novel, THE HARROWING.

Sokoloff is a well known Hollywood screenwriter, so it hardly comes as a surprise that her page fiction feels so cinematic. Using archetypical characters- the jock, the brain, the misunderstood slut, the rebel, and the poor little Goth girl- that feel as if they’ve stepped from a John Hughes movie, she gives them new life throughout the narrative, while creating a fast paced and creepy story.

Venerable Baird College is deserted for the holidays, except for five dysfunctional students who manage to find each other in the darkened halls. During a stormy winter night together, they decide to have a few laughs with an Ouija board. Unfortunately they come in contact with an ancient entity that’s been waiting for someone to open the doorway to our world. What begins with simple planchette communication, soon becomes feats of telekinesis and telepathy. What starts with seduction of the unknown, soon turns into a deadly obsession for all of them.

The scares are well placed, jolting the reader with cinematic jump scares during the quiet moments. In lesser hands this would be a cheap trick. But talented and wily Sokoloff knows her readers are probably consummate horror pop culturists, so she makes sure to throw in a few unexpected twists and turns that are sure to leave any reader, connoisseur or novice, breathless. Sokoloff knows her horror history, both in film and book, so it’s no surprise to find her paying homage to both THE HAUNTING and LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, two classics of the genre.

When you add all this up, it’s simple to see why she’s definitely my pick for the future of big house horror.

THE HARROWING is a horror read that’s guaranteed to keep you up all night to get to the explosive finale. It leaves me eager to see more from this dark new voice in the genre.
Author’s web site

–Nickolas Cook

Martyrs and Monsters by Robert Dunbar
Dark Hart Press
Trade/$17.99
Robert Dunbar is best known for that neo-classic of the late 80s, THE PINES (Leisure), so when he announced its sequel THE SHORE (Leisure) his fans were justifiably excited. With it, he once again proved he is the master of the quiet horror novel.

Now he returns to the horror fold with a superior collection of short stories in MARTYRS AND MONSTERS, proving he also knows how to craft short stories that are as effective as his longer narratives.

There is an old world sense to his writing that few modern horror writers can match- a carefully cadenced phrasing makes the difference in how the story unfolds. It’s imbued with a trademark Southern Gothic sensibility that most genre authors are unable to capture. His editing is clean, razored down, for maximum pacing and stylistic impact and plays a large part in how well his storytelling works. MARTYRS AND MONSTERS is filled with hauntingly sensual imagery that touches a primordial fear center not unlike King.

And this is not the first time (and one can guess, not the last time) Dunbar has been compared favorably to King, even to Koontz. And this collection clinches it. He deserves not only the critical comparisons, but also the success his two more well known peers have enjoyed. Every story hooks the reader, pulling him along some rather unsavory paths and realities, spiced with a creeping sense of the dark come home to roost.

One of the best qualities about Dunbar’s work (and one that most critics and readers pick up on right away) is that he does not hold with the modern day penchant for torture porn aesthetic and gore described in clinical detail. His violence is implied- forcefully- and tends to disturb on an emotional level that is far more effective than the transient visceral ‘gross out’ scenes we see too much of in what is termed ‘modern’ horror. It haunts more than disgusts, and sticks like cold blood to your soul.

Dunbar’s cast of characters come from the disenfranchised populace- minorities and criminals (sometimes both)- struggling to survive in a cold world that has cast them aside because they do not fit. And that is what horror does best: speak for the lost souls of the world. But through his misfit cast he does not strive to denounce the injustice of the universe. Instead, as he does so well in ‘High Rise’, he attempts to find a heroic sense of acceptance of that injustice and its vagaries, the universe’s unfeeling machine like quality that digest all equally. Just because the hero doesn’t always live, doesn’t make him a loser in this game.

Each story is memorably, but a few that will stick with this reviewer for a long time to come (as do the old masters’ stories) are:
‘Mal de Mer’ is disturbing, as if Edith Wharton’s supernatural fiction met Lovecraft, creating an unnerving erotic pleasure, maybe one of the best of its kind, and certainly one that deserves nomination for a Stoker.

With ‘The Folly’ Dunbar once again provokes Faulkner’s ghost to tell the clever tale of a debauched Southern family (all named for Greek mythical personalities) who discover their own ‘Jersey Devil’ creature living in their swamp. One gets the sense that the author is poking fun at the industry wide perpetuation (a mistaken one, by the way) of his ‘one hit’ success with THE PINES and he does so with tongue in cheek.

‘Explanations’ is one for the horror fanboys gone wrong, with a ‘sharp’ punch line. If you’ve ever been to a fanboy convention, then you’ve no doubt seen hundreds of Jimmys and Wagners plodding from table to table to gush at aging actors whom they cannot differentiate from their characters. And if you’ve ever wondered what these socially challenged folks live like in the ‘real’ world it ain’t pretty…and it smells funky, too!

‘Killing Billie’s Boys’ is a deceptively intense story of urban black magic and betrayal that plays a razor edge of eroticism against our expectations and leaves the reader feeling dirty and excited.

With ‘Gray Soil’ and ‘Red Soil’ he tackles the ever popular zombie sub-genre and makes it his own.

It’s safe to say that Robert Dunbar can write anything to which he sets his mind. We are lucky to have such a wordsmith in our midst. Collections like MARTYRS AND MONSTERS don’t come along often (buy it now, while you still can, before it becomes an outrageously expensive collector’s item). And writers like Robert Dunbar don’t materialize in the writing community everyday- certainly not in the horror community. Let us give thanks for his continued attempts to bring professionalism and craft back to an ailing genre, and hope he is more widely published in the future.

–Nickolas Cook

THE SUMMER I DIED by Ryan C. Thomas
Coscom Entertainment (2nd edition)
Trade/$14.99
Back when I first reviewed Ryan Thomas’ THE SUMMER I DIED, there was an extreme sub-genre, known by enthusiasts as ‘backwoods’ horror, which is an offshoot of the same sub-genre in film: movies like DELIVERANCE, STRAW DOGS, WRONG TURN, and the ultimate in backwoods terror, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. In the horror literature world it comprised of some pretty gruesome titles by the likes of Joe Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Ed Lee, Richard Laymon and Weston Oches. Now it’s a thriving sub-genre, with more movies and more books than I can name here available. So what better time for Coscom Entertainment to release this new, cleaned up edition of Thomas’ debut work?

THE SUMMER I DIED is an unrelenting read. Grisly. Bloody. And, unfortunately, quite plausible.

Author Ryan C. Thomas tells the story of Roger and his childhood friend, Tooth, and what happens to them in the backwoods of a small New Hampshire town, when they run across a dilapidated cabin and find it’s the terror dome of a sadistic (and very imaginative) killer.

But the author doesn’t throw the reader into the horror before some careful consideration for his main characters. Thomas takes the time to paint a pair of likable guys, and give them a sense of humor and life before tossing them to the lions. Roger, the industrious one, and Tooth, the slacker of the duo, are young men that anyone might recognize as the guys next door, unhappy with life in a small town, but hopeful for a change. And that’s what makes this novel so damned hard to get through without feeling sick and dirty. Thomas holds nothing back; he describes all the gore, all the pain, and all of the terror blow-by-blow. THE SUMMER I DIED is written in first person, so there should have been no suspense about Roger’s survival of the ordeal. But several times I had to remind myself that he lives through it, or else no one would be telling the story, right? It’s been a long time since I had to do that for a first person narrative. That’s the power of good descriptive writing, and building a dense atmosphere of palpable horror for the reader.

The obvious caveat is that this style of writing may not be for everyone. Some may see THE SUMMER I DIED as violence for violence’s sake, a literary equivalent to a Friday the 13th film.

But what makes it work so well is the characters’ sense of humanity. Even at his worst, the killer, named Skinnyman in Roger’s narrative memory, gains our sympathy even as he utterly devastates the human body, and does such outrageous things to a woman’s severed head that I can’t even bring myself to print it here. His methods are extreme…maybe too extreme for some readers, so be warned now. Even the dog, Butch, has a sense of humanity, and becomes like another character for the story.

In this second edition, the rough first few pages have been smoothed out for a better pace and phrasing. The flashbacks don’t feel quite as intrusive as in the 1st edition. The spotty dialogue that peppered the original print has also been cleaned up a bit and moves more seamlessly through the narrative.

Since his debut release, Thomas has been busy editing a fantastically original anthology for Permuted Press, called MONSTROUS (http://www.permutedpress.com/) and doing what writers do best: write what he knows and feels, and just plain making it better with every new sitting.

And what I said before, still stands true with this 2nd edition of THE SUMMER I DIED: He still has a good grasp of theme and characterization; his dialogues scintillate off the page. And I still charge that Thomas may very well be the next big name in extreme horror. For those fans of extreme horror, and ‘backwoods’ horror, or both, I recommend THE SUMMER I DIED, 2nd edition from Coscom Entertainement

–Nickolas Cook

Necropolis
By John Urbancik
Bad Moon Books
Limited Perfect Bound Trade/$17.95
Some readers may find John Urbancik’s newest release from Bad Moon Books, NECROPOLIS, to be a diffuse and surreal nightmare, brought to life through poetic phrasing and images. But if close attention is paid, its pages will also reveal an erudite and literate homage to Poe, the master of the macabre. The careful reader will pick out Poe’s titles and phrases scattered throughout the narrative.

When five people find themselves trapped in an ancient ‘city of the dead’ after dark, they encounter strange beings- including Nyx, the Greek primordial goddess of the night- lurking within the vast cemetery’s benighted stones and crawling vines, and must make life and death decisions that seal their fates.

Besides the above mentioned Poe love, the lynchpin to this short tale is Urbancik’s lyrical style of writing; some passages could even be considered musically when read them aloud. No one can dispute his ability to make a sentence stand attention. That, coupled with his cemetery photos, truly helps create a sense of ominous mythology in NECROPOLIS. In fact, it reads as if he intends his cemetery setting to be an existential playground through which his characters must traverse.

That being said, there are issues that may leave some readers…well, feeling a little dead inside about NECROPOLIS.

For one, his characters suffer because of the brevity of space allowed to unfold the story: they feel vague and underdeveloped. One wishes he’d been able to create a bit more empathy for Kevin, Jill, Kelli, Anna and Darren. Unfortunately none exists.

And that fact doesn’t much help the narrative, which in itself already suffers from too much twining. The whole reads in a very disjointed manner, which may have been Urbancik’s intention, and admittedly may be only a matter of personal taste. Unfortunately I found myself having to go back to re-read passages to make sure I was still with one or other of the characters. This abstract quality may risk alienating some readers by its obscurity.

So is NECROPOLIS worth the cover price?
Undoubtedly.

Even if it were only for Urbancik’s excellent photos alone.

But it is also recommended because, despite the diffuse, and sometimes confusing, nature of the narrative, it is a well written story, with some real touches of Gothic beauty. Urbancik is a time tested craftsman that can always give his readers an interesting story, if not always told in the traditional manner.

John Urbancik’s web site:

–Nickolas Cook

The Dead by Mark E. Rogers

Reviewed by Bill Lindblad

Every reader has a book or two with which they form a deep association. Sometimes it’s because the book was with them during a key event in their lives, and sometimes because the story resonates on a deeply personal level. One of those books, for me, is The Dead.

I first discovered this book in a small used bookstore in Hampton Roads, Virginia. I purchased it primarily on the strength of the author’s name: Mark E. Rogers had written some entertaining (and beautifully illustrated) humor books featuring the Samurai Cat character, and two remarkably horrific and brutal “mainstream” fantasy novels (Zorachus and The Nightmare of God) chronicling the fall of a missionary in a city of dark sorcery. The books had shown imagination, a familiarity with traditional structure (the pair formed, at their core, a classic tragedy) and an ability to tailor his language to the story he was telling. I was curious to see what he could do when he turned his attentions to horror without the heroic fantasy edge.

I was in the Navy at the time. I was on chapter four when I set the book down to attend to personal matters. When I returned about ten minutes later, someone had stolen the book.

Just under ten years later, I found another copy in a used bookstore in Richardson, Texas. During that time I had visited dozens of other used bookstores an aggregate of hundreds of times. I had braced the author for a copy at a convention, only to discover that he was out of copies and retained just the manuscript.

This is one of the books I’ve found most difficult to locate. Thankfully, the internet has made it easier to find these days. Thankfully, because the book is worth the hunt.

The Dead reads like a Catholic version of Left Behind by way of Keene’s ‘The Rising’. Early into the book, everyone on Earth shares a dream of judgment. Most are found wanting; those who are not disappear. At first, people investigate the odd disappearances; very quickly, however, something more pressing takes center stage: the dead are rising from their graves, and every one of them is a rampaging body of rage.

The novel focuses on a small group of survivors, watching as the sun starts to dim and all complex devices break down. It alternates between action and discussion, and contrary to most zombie books the book excels during the discussions. Because of the atypical construction of the book, topics are not merely focused on survival and the relative value thereof but of the nature of theological belief and redemption. Most of the action sequences are strong, and there are many scenes of visceral horror although the author tends not to linger on graphic depictions of individual instances of violence.

If this is sounding like a wholehearted endorsement, it shouldn’t. There are flaws within this book. Many flaws. Some are simple logistics (every truly “good” person on Earth disappears, and none of them happened to be in the presence of a wakeful person at that time?) Some occur when the author tries to step away from the local story of the group and reveal what’s going on with the rest of the world, because it drastically shifts the momentum and pacing of the story. One is physical: it seems that only one person among all the survivors is capable of fending off the dead for any length of time, and the book threatens to devolve into a cross between a Men’s Adventure book and a Bruce Campbell film at those times. And one is a deep and significant flaw in characterization: one of the two primary characters is repeatedly influenced far more by an old school cohort whom he hasn’t seen in years than by his wife of a decade to whom he is generally portrayed as devoted.

Despite the flaws, however, the reader is treated to a remarkably well-considered attempt to integrate the Biblical end of the world into a story, and along the way encounters a “fast zombie” story that predates 28 Days Later by more than a decade. And if you’re a lapsed Catholic, it’s probably going to disturb you more than anything since the Exorcist… and probably more than that classic work. For those reasons, and because it’s energizing to read horror novels that aspire to a deeper meaning even when they don’t fully succeed, I can recommend purchasing this book if you find a copy that’s not out of your price range.

Four stars out of five.

The Mephisto Waltz

In some books, nothing happens. In this book, nothing happens… but with style.

If you’ve already seen the movie starring Alan Alda, I pity you. If you haven’t, please read Jen Orosel’s take on the film, available in this issue, for an expert’s view on movie. I’m going to focus on the book.

The book is written from the point of view of the wife of a failed pianist-turned-author. As with many novels from decades past (the novel was published in 1969) the book is short; the page count ends just short of 200. Of those pages, at least a quarter involve the main character waffling between contrary opinions. Paula metronomes between active and passive distrust of others, pitting their seemingly irrational behavior against the possibility of her own paranoia. Through her mind we get an excellent view of self-doubt, and she is a very sympathetic character; she is not prone to abandon her doubts when given convenient excuses to do so but she is relieved to have them proven baseless.

Of course, because of the nature of the story, those doubts aren’t baseless. That much is revealed in even a cursory glance at the cover, and therein lies one of the problematic aspects of the novel: it’s trying to do two things at once, and while the two are not fundamentally incompatible they tend to be so within the context of this book. The author is engaging the readership in a game of mental insecurity, where a character may be encountering an odd event or where the activities may be all in the character’s mind; simultaneously, he provides enough details in other scenes to let the reader know which scenario is true. It’s a psychological horror novel by way of Columbo.

The action in the book can be summarized by four or five scenes. The remainder of the book consists of people talking about issues related to the characters… the success of the retail store, Myles’ piano practice, the possibility of an extramarital affair… and while these might otherwise be dull, Mr. Stewart uses these conversations (and internal monologues) to craft tension. This, in particular, leads to the horrible mangling of the story in film: the movie version works to include every key scene without bothering to create any tension, likeable or sympathetic characters, or to show the devastating impact of some events.

His word choice is excellent. In many instances, the insertion of a single word or phrase alters the reader’s impression of the situation. Twice during the book I paused to appreciate this skill of the author. I believe it was notable primarily because of a significant related failing of the book.

In movies, product placement has become a part of the business. A company will pay a studio to include its brand name in billboards during a driving scene, or to have the actors filmed drinking a specific soft drink. This novel might have inspired such activity. Whether it’s TarGard cigarette holders to minimize tar inhalation, Clorets mints, or Shalimar perfume, if there’s a brand name, Stewart will mention it. Those three examples aren’t chosen at random; they’re all found within the initial four pages of the book. The novel is littered with other examples. The bad side of that is that it throws a reader out of the story, particularly when confronted by products which no longer exist or whose popularity has flagged; the good side is that it encourages the reader to focus on the craftsmanship of the word choice, which is otherwise (as previously noted) a pleasure.

I found the novel entertaining, with a conclusion and denouement which simultaneously disturbed me and provoked thought… two goals which may well have been precisely the intent of the writer. I was left liking the novel, but disliking the implications of the novel.

Four stars out of five.

–Bill Lindblad

THE CORMARANT by Stephen Gregory
A haunting is an interpersonal experience, and the haunted almost always has some past connection with the haunter. Stephen Gregory’s overlooked classic ghost tale, “The Cormorant”, is no exception to the genre rule.

When a deceased uncle wills a young couple his rustic beachside cottage they discover that the unexpected gift bears with it an odd attachment. They must become caretakers to a caustic cormorant (a large English coast bird). But what else have they inherited?

Gregory builds the story’s creeping doom in slow waves of insinuation, so the reader is never sure whether the husband (narrator of the tale) is actually haunted by his solitary uncle’s ghost or if he’s only imagining it as his orderly life is slowly disintegrated by the presence of the hated bird.

The author works best in metaphor, using the various aviary life that surrounds the couple’s new domicile to illustrate the husband’s growing dissatisfaction with his orderly life, his marriage, and even going so far at one point to use a lone outcast swan as a stand-in for the narrator’s frustrations. We feel his shucking off of accepted social morays and order as he comes to identify more and more with the acerbic titular beast, a bird that squirts shit, and uses its beak to stab at anyone foolish enough to get within range. There is a strong antisocial message. As the bird becomes the solitary hunter, diving the sea depths to retrieve its fishy livelihood, it becomes a feared and respected master of the local aviary society—much as the narrator strives to become.

The child, Harry, becomes the focal point for tragedy, as Gregory foreshadows the inevitable in squirming scenes of flame and folly. But these moments of foreboding do not detract from the last scene, a gut wrenching moment of realization that death is always near.

But this is also a story about an aging husband and father seeking his own identity in a world of classifications and nine-to-five until you die rational. And Gregory’s sympathetic heft pulls the reader into the narrator’s sense of lost purpose.

The author’s generous use of the language makes this a sure classic of the genre. His descriptive passages are excellently rendered, and his cormorant characterizations tug the story to the level of classical literature. The prose is tight, almost dreamlike in parts, as the dissolution of order takes place, and we are swept up in the bleak seashore community in these moments of dark beauty.

There are few ghost tales that work on so many levels as Gregory’s “The Cormorant”.

–Nickolas Cook

GHOST STORY
by Peter Straub

‘The Time has Come to Tell the Tale…’

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”
“I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me…the most dreadful thing…”

So begins Peter Straub’s landmark horror novel Ghost Story; with the telling of tales…Ghost Story‘s showstopper is the legend of Eva Galli. Half a century previously, five friends were implicated in the death of a young woman with whom they had all been in love. In grief-stricken panic, they hid Eva’s body, and their shameful secret, away, supposedly forever. In doing so, they avoided ruinous scandal. In time, the killers lessen the malignant power of their nightmares by meeting, with solemn ceremony, as ‘The Chowder Society’, a club of sorts dedicated to the telling of horror stories. Straub has his character Don Wanderley (note that inverted ‘M’; perhaps a discreet homage to Manderley, the home of that magisterial ghost, Du Maurier’s Rebecca?) read about Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in DH Lawrence’s extraordinary Studies in Classic American Literature. So we see the relation between the Society’s shared past and their cowardly attempts to, at once, disavow and disarm it:

‘(They) hug their sin in secret, and gloat over it, and try to understand.’

But Eva Galli was not dead, indeed, she was not even mortal, in human terms; a shapeshifter, a manitou, an archetype of depthless evil, taking her pleasure in the corruption of innocence, she had turned the naive young men into murderers; now she would return, in differing guises, to haunt them unto death.

Surely a story to end them all. Yet this is just a continuation of a timeless tale – in fact, Ghost Story relates the evolution of storytelling. From the oral tradition of the Indians’ encounters with Eva-as-manitou and The Chowder Society’s civilised ‘camp fire’ tales; to the author’s nods to those past masters of American fiction Hawthorne and James; to Don Wanderley’s would-be novel; to Ghost Story‘s fascination with the movies; to this discussion taking place on that most modern form of communication, the internet. Straub’s book is the story of Stories. The beautiful but truly alien fiend known as Eva Galli tells her former admirers:

‘I have lived since the times when your continent was lighted only by small fires in the forest, since Americans dressed in hides and feathers…We chose to live in your dreams and imaginations because only there are you interesting.’

An awe-inspiring thought for certain, but is Straub (as Eva) making a claim for the genuine existence of those creatures we dare not believe in? Or is he perhaps giving a voice to that most beloved of human inventions – the creatures we call Fictional Characters; do they not live in our dreams and imaginations? They are certainly alive and running riot, beyond the various storytellers’ control, in the sleepy town of Milburn: Don Wanderley’s novel-within-a-novel impinges on reality – a fictional reality created by Peter Straub – and characters see themselves in real-life movies playing in Milburn’s cinema. In fact, and in fiction, Ghost Story‘s characters are given life, power, by the stories told about them, just as we turn typed characters on a page into creatures human and otherwise with our imaginations; only there are we interesting…

Some thoughts on the timeless charm of Eva Galli. Yes, she is the vengeful femme fatale men cannot resist…writing about. And yes, she is beautiful (of course she is – she is the creation of men, by way of Hollywood, the Dream Factory). But her beauty is almost irrelevant, for her face is blank, lifeless, and as Straub repeatedly makes clear, her true face only reflects ours; she is the cipher of Gustave Moreau’s Helen at the Scaean Gate:

In the course of the novel, Eva has been a myth, a film star, a fictional character (as ‘Rachel Varney’ in Wanderley’s first book) and a ‘real-life’ person; but she can only be those things because of us, because of the imagination she finds so fascinating. In the chapter titled ‘Edward’s Tapes’ an old recording of her voice taunts a captive audience (Don’s uncle had been taping Eva’s fictionalised life story – another piece of oral storytelling for the benefit of posterity):

“Could you defeat a dream, a poem?” But to do so would be absurd; dreams and poetry have no meaning – no independent value – beyond our interpretation, beyond the meaning our imagination bestows upon them. Eva is essentially powerless, despite her boasts, despite her preening – we, the dreamers, allow Eva and her kind to haunt us. She, and we, revel in what the philosopher Michel Foucault termed ‘the marvellous play of the imagination’.

Ricky Hawthorne, the lone survivor of the infamous five at the novel’s end, (and notably, perhaps the only male character who truly respects women) tellingly compares Eva to Louise Brooks, the nonchalant, destructive Lulu of GW Pabst’s film Pandora’s Box, another allusion to the movies’ seductive blurring of fact and fantasy, myth and reality; and of course, the endless, ever-changing power of Story. Near the novel’s end, master storyteller Peter Straub for once gives it to us straight, and tells the truth about our need to hide our reality in the guise of tale-telling:

‘What was the worst thing? Not the act, but the ideas about the act: the garish film unreeling through your head…’

Ghost Story was reviewed by Steve Jensen

Welcome, Black Glove readers. This month’s Horror News has some exciting developments in fiction, film and poetry:

Available from August 7th, 3 new ebooks by William Meikle.

Ghostwriter Publications have released the following as ebooks, downloadable from their website in PDF format.

The Valley ( £3.10 or $4.99 )

The Concordances of the Red Serpent ( £3.75 or $5.99 )

Darkness Follows ( £2.49 or $3.99 )

Buy any two and get a free chapbook containing two new William Meikle stories, and a free Island Life key ring.
GWP Website

Irish writer, Derek Gunn’s latest thriller,The Estuary, has been released by Permuted Press and promises to hit it big with the horror crowd. According to the author, ‘The Estuary’ is a fast-paced, horror adventure tale, about a desperate plan formulated in the darkest years of an evil empire, which now threatens to engulf the residents of a small community in Southern Ireland. “I’m delighted that The Estuary is now available from Permuted Press, who are making tremendous strides forward in publishing horror/post-apocalyptic genre fiction” says Derek.

Permuted Press are a US-based publisher of apocalyptic horror including bestselling and cult-classic titles from Bram Stoker Award winner Dr. Kim Paffenroth, David Wong, J.L. Bourne, Z.A. Recht and many more.

Derek Gunn is the author of the post-apocalyptic horror saga, Vampire Apocalypse, a series of novels released through US publisher, Black Death Books.

An earlier work of Derek’s has been optioned for film by producer/screenwriter Richard Finney. Finney and screenwriter, Franklin Guerrero Jr., recently penned a script based on the book. Their adaptation led to a recent partnership on the project with producer, Robert Lawrence (Die Hard: With a Vengence, Clueless, The Last Castle). Currently the project is being represented by the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) who is packaging the project for the studios.
THE ESTUARY is available (or can be ordered from) most booksellers.

A founding father of the Splatterpunk movement in horror, author/editor/filmmaker/musician John Skipp, announced the near future publication of his ‘gigantic 700-page opus, spanning the full history of the written zombie word’. Skipp was the co-editor of the landmark undead anthology ‘The Book of the Dead’ with Craig Spector back in the 80s.

The new anthology, ‘ZOMBIES: Encounters With the Hungry Dead’ will surely be as important to horror literature as his duo of classic zombie anthologies twenty years ago. Some of the names listed to appear in this massive anthology of zombie fiction include such horror masters as Leonid Andreyev, W.B. Seabrook, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Steve Duffy, Neil Gaiman, George Saunders, Dennis Etchison, S.G. Browne, Justine Musk, Adam Golaski, Mehitobel Wilson, Les Daniels, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe R. Lansdale, Steven R. Boyett, David J. Schow, Robert R. McCammon, Jack Ketchum, Kathe Koja, Eric Shapiro, Max Brooks, Poppy Z. Brite, John Skipp and Marc Levinthal, Cody Goodfellow, Lisa Morton, Carlton Mellick III, Terry Morgan and Christopher Morgan, Douglas E. Winter, and Adam-Troy Castro.
ZOMBIES: Encounters With the Hungry Dead should be available as early as October 09 from Black Dog and Leventhal!

Karen L. Newman announced her third poetry collection, ‘Toward Absolute Zero’, was released by Sam’s Dot last month. It contains forty-two dark poems and is for sale at The Genre Mall.

Author Shaun Jeffrey announced his newest novel, The Kult, is now available now from Leucrota Press: Paperback $9.95. Ebook $3.95.
And check out the associated competition to win up to $100 in gift vouchers to Amazon, Horror Mall or Shocklines: http://www.shaunjeffrey.com/kultcompetition.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2jVDiJfNbo

From the back cover: ‘People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.’
Acting out of misguided loyalty to his friends, police officer Prosper Snow is goaded into helping them perform a copycat killing, but when the real killer comes after him, it’s not only his life on the line, but his family’s too. Now if he goes to his colleagues for help, he risks being arrested for murder. If he doesn’t, he risks being killed.”

PRAISE FOR THE KULT

“With Kult, Shaun Jeffrey hits one out of the park with this creepy, character-driven thriller that starts with a jolt, stays in the fast lane, and plunges into the darkest territory of the human mind. It’s a bumpy ride through nightmare country.” –Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of PATIENT ZERO and PUNISHER: NAKED KILL

Jeffrey Thomas says he’s been interviewed at the German web site Rock N Roll Reporter and his newest works have finally been released. The Punktown novel, HEALTH AGENT, and the Punktown short story collection VOICES FROM PUNKTOWN are both available now.

Author and editor AP Fuchs announced that Nick Cato’s ‘DON OF THE DEAD’ is now available from Coscom Entertainment
From the back cover: “Two mob families go to war after one family’s main hitman switches sides–and to show his newfound loyalty, he has to whack his former boss, who also happens to be the current Don. The Don is buried alive on a mob-controlled construction site that was once the location of a church that had banned the same Don’s ancestors, causing them to invent their own religion.

The Barrlucio and Piranzza families battle for control of the underworld before their main henchmen find out a Don has been offed without permission. Major problems arise when a group of mysterious Sicilians arrive from Italy and manage to retrieve the Don’s corpse.
Well, his living corpse.

Before long, the Don’s undead state leads to the outbreak of reanimated dead, including a showdown at the Staten Island Mall and NYC’s Central Park. Add to the mix a corrupt military general that is bent on using the outbreak to bring down the mob and the entire city and an even more corrupt Catholic priest who is responsible for the whole mess in the first place.

Ah, nothing like a few bowls of scungilli, classy suits, bullets and zombies.”

Editor/author/poet Christopher Conlon and Dark Scribe Press have announced that Conlon will helm a HITCHCOCK POETRY ANTHOLOGY FOR DARK SCRIBE PRESS

LONG ISLAND, NY, July 27, 2009 — Dark Scribe Press announced today that it is partnering with award-winning poet Christopher Conlon on A SEA OF ALONE: POEMS FOR ALFRED HITCHCOCK, an anthology of poetry focusing on the late master of suspense. Slated for publication during the third quarter of 2010, the collection will be an exploration of Hitchcock’s life and work through poetry. Conlon will serve as editor on the collection.

Hitchcock is arguably the most popular and influential film director of Hollywood’s classic age, and nearly three decades after his death, his image and voice are still instantly recognizable throughout the world. A SEA OF ALONE: POEMS FOR ALFRED HITCHCOCK will celebrate this one-of-a-kind figure in a suitably unique way — through verse. To that end, the anthology will feature original, unpublished poems on the subject of Hitchcock — his life, his films, his impact, his legend.

Conlon is the author of four books of poems, most recently STARKWEATHER DREAMS , and a novel, MIDNIGHT ON MOURN STREET, which was a finalist for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award. His work has appeared widely in magazines and journals including DARK DISCOVERIES, POETS & WRITERS, AMERICA, TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ANNUAL REVIEW, POET LORE, THE KING’S ENGLISH, and THE LONG STORY, as well as in such anthologies as MASQUES V and CALIFORNIA SORCERY.

As an editor his credits include HE IS LEGEND: AN ANTHOLOGY CELEBRATING RICHARD MATHESON, POE’S LIGHTHOUSE, and THE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF JERRY SOHL. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, Conlon hails from Silver Spring, Maryland, where he writes, teaches, and hosts a popular quarterly poetry reading series.

Dark Scribe Press launched in 2007. In addition to its popular virtual publication, DARK SCRIBE MAGAZINE, the press published UNSPEAKABLE HORROR: FROM THE SHADOWS OF THE CLOSET in 2008 to widespread acclaim. The collection of GLBT horror originals went on to win the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Anthology — the first time a GLBT anthology won the award in its sponsoring organization’s 22-year history. In addition to Conlon’s forthcoming Hitchcock collection, the company is readying IN THE CLOSET, UNDER THE BED, a short story collection from award-winning writer Lee Thomas, and BUTCHER KNIVES & BODY COUNTS, a collection of non-fiction essays on the formula, frights and fun of the slasher film.

“As a lifelong Hitchcockian,” Conlon says, “I’m thrilled to be working with Dark Scribe Press on this unique anthology. I first discovered the Master of Suspense when I was a child, through reruns of his TV series and a late-night broadcast of Psycho; his work has been a central passion for me ever since. Poetry came into my life at around the same time – Edgar Allan Poe was an early favorite – and it too has remained a lifelong love of mine. The idea of combining these two passions in a project for a hot new award-winning press like Dark Scribe is more thrilling than I can say.”

DSP President and CEO Vince Liaguno is equally excited by the prospects of what promises to be a singular collection. “We strive to acquire projects that are unique, projects that explore their subject matters in fresh and stimulating ways. When Chris approached us with his inspired concept, we were immediately struck by how perfect the marriage of Hitchcock, who was such a cinematic lyricist himself, and the poetic form was. I think the lyrical interpretation of Hitchcock’s life and works will add an entirely new perspective to the Hitchcock canon.”

For more information on Christopher Conlon: http://www.christopherconlon.com

For more information on Dark Scribe Press: http://www.DarkScribePress.com

For submission guidelines: www.alfredhitchcockpoems.blogspot.com

And in film news, it was announced recently that Don Murphy of Angry Films would produce THE FLOCK, a surprise underground hit written by James Robert Smith.

This from the press release: “In the annals of Hollywood lore, there have been many strange ways that movies came to be made, but when cameras start rolling on it, ‘The Flock’ will be the first picture that came out of a flame war between the producer and the book’s author.

It started when producer Don Murphy was checking in on the message board of his friend Eddie Campbell, illustrator of the Alan Moore graphic novel ‘From Hell’, which Murphy had produced as a film. On the board, he found some critical comments about the picture that really upset him. Thinking he’d give as good as he got, Murphy discovered that the poster, James Robert Smith, had a book out, so he ordered it, expecting to read a self-published book he could shred publicly. To his surprise, Murphy found a book that Publisher’s Weekly called “an entertaining debut” in which “Smith maps out a complex living environment that makes the flock’s continued existence almost believable and depicts human characters who match the killer birds in adaptability.”

The story of a flock of prehistoric birds hiding in the Florida everglades until their habitat is sold off to developers grabbed Murphy, and he convinced John Wells that it should be part of a coproducing arrangement between the two Hollywood impresarios. Along with their respective partners Susan Montford at Angry Films and Claire Rudnick Polstein, President of John Wells Productions, they have optioned the film and are currently working with scribe Travis Milloy on translating it to the screen as a summer tent-pole release, most likely for 2011.

For author Smith, the process seems sometimes less than completely real. A postal carrier by day, Smith has been working away at his writing craft in novels, short stories, and comics for decades. Becoming an “overnight sensation” over an on-line disagreement after all that hard work may not be the proscribed method of success in publishing, but as most writers know, you take your breaks where they come.

We’ll bring you more news about THE FLOCK the movie as we get it.

And, finally, author Maurice Broaddus would like to remind everyone that he’s putting the dark in dark fantasy and the urban in urban fantasy …

Visit the uber-talented Maurice Broaddus at http://www.mauricebroaddus.com/2009/06/its-official and http://www.mauricebroaddus.com/blog.htm

–Nickolas Cook