Tag: Eric J. Guignard

Book Reviews (March, 2014)

 

For this month’s reviews, I thought I would focus on the publications of one press rather than those of an era or author. This month’s subject is ERASERHEAD PRESS, the most prolific and energetic voice of contemporary bizarro fiction.

Bizarro fiction is a relatively new genre which is not entirely easy to define. It encompasses elements of satire, absurdism, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre fiction staples, in order to create subversive works that are as strange and entertaining as possible.

Bizarro works are truly a mixed bag. Sometimes I’ll read a work and think it was revolting filth and sometimes I’ll read a work and find it to be a beautiful literary and socially relevant gem. Sometimes I’ll think both things simultaneously! What I love most about this genre is that, if nothing else, I will be entertained. The wonder of bizarro is that it doesn’t stoop to worn-out tropes or regurgitated storylines. These authors are hard boiled, willing to experiment, and write ideas that are stimulating, strange and, most importantly, unique.

Eraserhead Press, the premiere publisher of these book, is headquartered in bizarro central, Portland, OR, and championed by CEO, Rose O’Keefe. It also includes a dozen or more smaller imprints set up by associates, such as Deadite Press, Fungasm Press, and Lazy Fascist Press, amongst others.

Erasurehead Press is here: http://www.eraserheadpress.com

My personal favorite author to come out of the bizarro movement is Carlton Mellick III, who writes with the precise craft of any literary voice today, but puts out the strangest titles which are in turns geared toward horror, dark fantasy, alternative history, and science fiction. For EX: Satan Burger, The Haunted Vagina, War Slut and, my top bizarro pick, Zombies and Shit. Carlton is a writing machine, dedicated (mind-blowingly!) to a new book every three months. Generally, overly-prolific authors end up publishing a lot of dreck, but Carlton’s works are crisp, funny, and quite simply a consistently entertaining read.

Carlton Mellick III is here: http://www.carltonmellick.com

Which brings me to my first review:

***

18185144REVIEWED: Quicksand House
WRITTEN BY: Carlton Mellick III
PUBLISHED: June, 2013

Of the six or seven books I’ve read by this author, ‘Quicksand House’ is one of my favorites. It starts off as a mystery, in which two children are essentially locked in their baby room and raised by a nanny through puberty. Machines make their food and the children teleport to school, but they’ve never met their parents which is their dearest wish. The baby room is in the midst of an immense mansion, and scary things crawl in the walls, and myths and fears abound for them, wondering what lies outside the locked door. One day their mechanical life breaks down, and survival forces them to finally leave the baby room, searching through the rest of the house for their parents.

As always, Mellick’s writing is brilliantly imaginative, fast-paced, strange, and satisfying. This book is rather a bit more of an emotional coming-of-age experience rather than action-packed fiction ploy (not to say there’s not plenty of action and thrills included!). But the ending is beautiful and sweet, and swear-to-God, I choked up and a tear ran down my cheek after I closed the final page.

This is really a great book and, with themes such as self-acceptance, fear of abandonment, love, and family values, I think it deserves to find a wider audience than the traditional bizarro crowd. Though the children of Quicksand House encounter wild exploits, the story itself is engaging and relatable and exciting.

Five out of Five stars

http://www.amazon.com/Quicksand-House-Carlton-Mellick-III/dp/1621051005/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394573022&sr=1-1&keywords=Quicksand+House

***

81buGLlINwLREVIEWED: The Last Goddam Hollywood Movie
WRITTEN BY: John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow
PUBLISHED: August, 2013

‘The Last Goddam Hollywood Movie’ follows a group of Hollywood filmmakers who survive a nuclear apocalypse and then band together to create the first ever post-apocalyptic movie which (just as in real life) promises to accurately portray the events leading to the nation’s disaster, but instead creates a highly fictionalized concept which is at whim of finagling, backbiting, competing resources, and lots and lots of drugs. Peter Kornberg is a writer who gets hustled by his nemesis, Julian Harvey, to direct the film, and the novella-sized book follows the conflict between the two of them during the entire radiation and mutant-filled journey of production. Fast-paced and quick-witted, this would seem more fictionalized if it weren’t for the fact that the authors, John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow, have been involved in Hollywood flicks themselves, and the satirical commentary becomes even more scathing on who peoples the industry and how movies are really made.

Four out of Five stars

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Goddam-Hollywood-Movie/dp/1621050904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394568308&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Last+Goddam+Hollywood+Movie

***

18401152REVIEWED: Son of a Bitch
WRITTEN BY: Wrath James White and Andre Duza
PUBLISHED: July, 2012

Intense, foul-mouthed, hard-punching, and wild, this story really is about the son of a bitch. The descriptively-named character is born half demon/ half canine, splitting his dog mother open at birth. Fused with Cuban black magic and the spirit of a local hitman, Warlock, the dog/ monster, goes on a murderous rampage, followed by the hood, Demitrius, who breeds dogs and is witness to the dog joining with Warlock’s soul.

Consider the dog/monster has similarities to a werewolf, albeit one that evolves and is seeking revenge. This is a quick read, at times funny and at times seething with violence. I never felt connected with any of the characters, but the plot kept me hooked all the way through. Lots of action and gore, and the ending was perfect. Good to read when you need to blow off some steam or suspect your family pooch might be hiding something malicious.

Four out of Five stars

http://www.amazon.com/Son-Bitch-Wrath-James-White/dp/1621051145/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394576042&sr=1-1&keywords=Son+of+a+Bitch

***

6897017REVIEWED: Super Fetus
WRITTEN BY: Adam Pepper
PUBLISHED: August, 2009

To say this book is offensive is to say that serial killers may have some personality flaws. Up front, I do not recommend this book to any person with even moderately conservative values or self-expressed ‘taste’ in literature. But for those of you who enjoy a gross-out tale or a redneck battle, ‘Super Fetus’ is for you!

This story is about a (you guessed it) fetus growing inside the uterus of a trashy, burned out woman who’s already a mother of three and cannot fathom raising a fourth brat. She decides to abort it, but the fetus has prematurely developed and is self-aware of his placement. Simply put, he ain’t coming out! Super Fetus fights all manner of abortion proceedings and even causes his mother to throw up any unhealthy foods. “Only salads and healthy foods for me!” He does pushups and punches back at anyone reaching in to pull him out.

It’s a crude and foul-mouthed tale, at times hilarious, at times terribly shocking and sad, but ultimately a fun and quick read, clocking in at only about 87 pages. Though the story could have been a lot more, it’s successful on its face value. I would have loved to read a bit more back story about the mysterious ‘father’ with no face, as to who he was and the potential of Super Fetus. But the ending is perfect for a follow up, so perhaps someday there may be Super Toddler!

Four out of Five stars

http://www.amazon.com/Super-Fetus-Adam-Pepper/dp/193392988X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394568121&sr=8-1&keywords=Super+Fetus

***

RisingREVIEWED: The Rising (author’s preferred edition/ uncut)
WRITTEN BY: Brian Keene
PUBLISHED: September, 2013 (first published March, 2003)

Simply put, this is a zombie book. More than that though, it’s an adventure thriller and a classic in the resurgence of undead in popular culture. To underscore this point, as I read ‘The Rising’ I thought, “Gee, yet another linear zombie story. Main character searches for his son, meets motley survivors, and crosses lots with paramilitary groups, all the while blowing away killer zombies.” But as I thought this it also dawned on me that Brian Keene was one of the first authors to write this type of action zombie story, and the reason it seems so formulaic and familiar is because there have been a horde (pun!) of writers who have copied this idea and wrote their own zombie apocalypse tales, inspired by the likes of Keene. Besides books, Keene’s influence is also found in video games, comics, movies, and other media.

The edition of this review is the ‘extended cut,’ i.e. the author’s preferred edition, published ten years after the original, in which Keene returns about 35,000 words cut from the debut. The story is a page-turner and follows the paths of several different characters as their lives intersect in the quest for survival. Some of the main characters seemed rather flat (Jim and Frankie), while I found myself relating and rooting for more of the lesser/ secondary characters (Baker and Skip).

The one unique element in this book which is not usually seen is that these zombies (Potential PLOT SPOILER) are actually host bodies for demons, and so retain consciousness and can perform normal human activity such as driving cars, opening doors, and <gasp> fire rocket launchers. In addition to human zombies, the survivors must contend with animal zombies, which adds a whole new layer of fear, fighting off zombie rats, birds, and lions.

The Rising promises on zombie battle and delivers on that promise wholeheartedly. Overall, it’s an exciting read, filled with violence, gore, and many, many surprises.

Four out of Five stars

http://www.amazon.com/The-Rising-Authors-Preferred-Edition/dp/1621050920/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1394568213&sr=8-1

***

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART V

 

This is part V in the categorical explanation for THE SUB-GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-I
PART II is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-II
PART III is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-III
PART IV is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-IV

Part V is below!

*****

Psychic Abilities

The use of Psychic Abilities (also known as extrasensory perception or sixth sense) are familiar storylines in horror fiction. Such abilities include: Telepathy (mind reading), Precognition or Postcognition (seeing events in the future or the past), Mind Control (forcing someone to act against their will), Telekinesis (ability to move objects by willpower), or any other power credited to the brain which is generally not considered possible in humans. Elements of witchery or paranormal may also share in this category.

These powers are not always portrayed with the intent to cause fright, but frequently are used by the protagonist to overcome a seemingly undefeatable opponent. Naturally the element of “evil” in psychic abilities is also abundant, and often multiple characters may have powers which they use to battle each other. Often, children are seen as the wielders of strange faculties. Psychic abilities may be explained by genetics, learned behavior, sorcery, or technological/medical experimentation (including comic-favorite ‘side-effects of radiation’).

Book Examples:

Firestarter by Stephen King
False Memory by Dean Koontz
Darkest Powers (series of books) by Kelley Armstrong

Psychological Horror

Psychological Horror is best characterized by the fears that come from within our psyche, rather than from external sources such as monsters or serial killers. It’s a form of narrative that builds tension through the character’s perception of events, causing them (and the reader) terror or mental/ emotional instability. Often this subgenre is considered successful by what isn’t revealed rather than by what is told, and is generally considered to be more complex than those forms of horror which rely on violence or gore. Affects of the human psyche include such undesirable elements as: mental conflict, doubt, guilt, phobia, insanity, suspicion, distrust, etc.

Book Examples:

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Unloved by John Saul

Religious Horror (including: Demons and Possession)

One of the oldest themes of horror draws upon the fears, consequences, and manifestations of evil found in religion. Although organized religion may be a focal point in the story, any belief system can be utilized such as Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Tribal Worship, or rites, mythology, or doctrine of any of the other countless world denominations. Most commonly, these tales will portray a variation of Satan as the ultimate evil/ villainous antagonist which corrupts or outright attacks an unsuspecting innocent. Other unsettling considerations include demon possession and exorcism, spirit worship, witchcraft, or any communion with evil spirits, including agreements, willing habitation, or general relationship. Even stories revolving around fictional religion (i.e. invented strictly for purposes of the plot) may also fall into this category. The worship of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos is an example of this.

Book Examples:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Rosemary’s Baby
by Ira Levin
The Omen by David Seltzer

Revenge

Some of the most compelling stories are those dealing with well-deserved retribution. The vengeance may be as righteous as bloodletting of a supernatural deity (demons, monsters, aliens) or as mundane as rallying against a corrupt financial institution. Revenge can haunt some people and it can heal others, but either way it is cause for vigorous emotion. After all, ‘Getting even’ is one of man’s most basic desires. Most people do not regularly act on it, especially in grand scale, but the satisfaction of relating to someone who does is often a thrilling, if not guilty, pleasure. Whether blood-spattered torture, psychological trauma, financial ruin, or simple dismissal, tales of revenge is a notion that every reader can empathize with in some form.

Book Examples:

Carrie by Stephen King
Red by Jack Ketchum
Death Wish by Brian Garfield

*****

MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART VI

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Media Tie-In, Monster Horror, and Paranormal

Part V describes: Psychic Abilities, Psychological Horror, Religious Horror (including: Demons and Possession), and Revenge

*****

Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/Hsubgenres.html

http://www.goldenagestories.com/news/2013/01/04/the-dark-the-dark-the-history-of-horror-fiction/2602

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-horror-genres.htm

*****

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

BIO:

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

Book Reviews (January, 2014)

 

Book Reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through www.amazon.com.

***
12441448

REVIEWED: Deadfall Hotel
WRITTEN BY: Steve Rasnic Tem
PUBLISHED: April, 2012

Deadfall Hotel is a rather sweet, at times sad, at times scary, novel which is more fantasy than horror. It includes the familiar monster tropes, but they are all fused with human pains, made believable in whatever condition ails the character, sending them to convalesce and, most likely, eventually perish in the namesake hotel. I wouldn’t call this book a “page-turner” as it is slow and sentimental, but that is what I enjoy about this author; he captures the subtleties of emotion – fear, sadness, hope – as masterfully as any “literary” writer, while at the same time building a compelling supernatural environment. A few of the sections seemed to go on for too long, such as the King of the Cats, while other sections, I wanted to learn more of, such as the actual history of the house, the pool that only occasionally appears, and the several of the other background “inhabitants” that make brief cameo appearances, but never again materialize. Deadfall Hotel is best read in a leisurely pace, ideally in a windowed nook with gloomy rain falling outside, and a nice mug of chamomile tea.

Four and a quarter out of Five stars

***

16144329

REVIEWED: Deadman’s Road
WRITTEN BY: Joe R. Lansdale
PUBLISHED: October, 2010

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Each self-contained tale revolves around the exploits of a central character, the gun slinging Reverend Jebidiah Mercer. There’s not a lot of literary depth to this book, but the stories are all fast-paced, action-filled, and pulp-esque fun. Rev. Mercer is quested to roam the old west, destroying evil in the name of God, whom he mostly despises, as penance for his sins. Each story pits him against a new enemy, mortal and supernatural alike. Mercer, cursing the whole way, does battle with whomever he is set against, including zombies, werewolves, ghosts, and kobolds. Joe R. Lansdale is really a master at creating excitement in his writing as well as crafting funny, meaningful dialogue. Know what you’re getting into before starting this: Deadman’s Road is violent and crass, but perfect when you need a pick-me-up after power-reading Camus or Dostoyevsky.

Five out of Five stars

***

17742131REVIEWED: Village of the Mermaids
WRITTEN BY: Carlton Mellick III
PUBLISHED: April, 2013

Village of the Mermaids is about an Island town surrounded by carnivorous mermaids, which the local citizens are not allowed to kill, under threat of execution, per the Endangered Species Act.

Biting government satire, survivalist thrills, mystery, and horrible, horrible man-eating mermaids, this novel is not for the weak-of-heart, but IS for those who appreciate reading something strange and beautiful that they would not find anywhere else.

It’s a funny, fast-paced story. Like all of Mellick’s work, I enjoyed this, though I wouldn’t consider it one of his best novels. That being said, it’s quite fine on any level. The talent of Carlton is that he can take the most ridiculous-sounding premises and, in a unique and smart maneuvering, craft very entertaining tales that are both outlandish and highly literary.

As an aside, the opening prologue is a chapter which was removed from the book as it didn’t “fit,” but is the strongest element of the book overall, emotionally tragic. Reading it in advance gave me character insight into the doctor’s character.

Four out of Five stars

***

Midnight cheers,

Eric

_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART IV

 

This is part IV in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-I
PART II is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-II
PART III is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-III

Part IV is below!

*****

Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos)

Named after its progenitor, author H. P. Lovecraft, Lovecraftian Horror deals with “cosmic horror of the unknown.” This theme is guided by the belief that human minds cannot possibly comprehend the perilous mysteries of the universe which are, at its core, alien and malevolent. Common elements include protagonists who use science and logic to attempt to unravel these mysteries, but then, most often, lose their sanity, as the mysteries of the cosmos are too much for the human mind to comprehend. Also categorized under “Weird Fiction,” Lovecraftian Horror is generally pessimistic, dependent on atmosphere, and typically abstains from gore (choosing to emphasize psychological fear, being the absence of normality).

Book Examples:

The Call of Cthulhu (or Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos) by H. P. Lovecraft
The Burrowers Beneath (Book 1 of the Cthulhu Cycle Deities) by Brian Lumley
New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird (an anthology) edited by Paula Guran

Media Tie-In

A book based on a movie, game, television show, etc., authorized by the production company to be written as part of cross promotional efforts. Generally, this type of book will expand the storyline of the original work, using its existing characters, concepts, and settings. The important distinction here is that the story itself will be unique from the movie (or other media vehicle), whereas a novelization is the simply the written form of the original story, i.e. a written format of what occurs in the movie.

Book Examples:

30 Days of Night: Light of Day by Jeff Mariotte
The Willow Files, Vol. 1 (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) by Yvonne Navarro
Dreams of the Dark (Dark Shadows) by Stephen M. Rainey, Elizabeth Massie, and Lara Parker

Monster Horror (AKA: Supernatural Horror; AKA: Monster Literature)

The very word itself, “Monster,” suggests something that is evil or hideous, and monsters in horror is perhaps the most familiar theme when one thinks of the genre. This may include any fictional or supernatural creature such as zombies, werewolves, mummies, vampires, etc. Typically the Monster (also generally the antagonist) is defined as something that is abhorrent to society and that it also incites fear and is threatening.

Book Examples:

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
It by Stephen King

Paranormal

Paranormal Horror may be closely categorized to monster horror, but that these monsters are generally intangible, or if they are more like traditional “monsters” they are at least capable of intelligent thought, and not rambling killing-machines. Paranormal primarily includes ghosts, unidentified presences, demons, perhaps aliens, or simply anything that is contrary to the realm of current scientific explanation. Even the authenticity of séances or Ouija boards, faith healing, telepathy, or any psychic phenomena may be considered paranormal, as their results can’t be scientifically proven. A psychological movement, “Parapsychology” is the scientific study of the Paranormal, to push those boundaries of what may be “possible.” Another popular subgenre which is often categorized similarly is Paranormal Romance, recognized as a romance story in which one or more of the protagonists possesses some paranormal ability.

Book Examples (Paranormal Horror):

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Shining by Stephen King
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Book Examples (Paranormal Romance):

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris
Fantasy Lover (Dark-Hunter companion novel) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

*****

MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART V

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Monster Horror, and Paranormal

*****

Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/Hsubgenres.html

http://www.goldenagestories.com/news/2013/01/04/the-dark-the-dark-the-history-of-horror-fiction/2602

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-horror-genres.htm

*****

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

BIO:

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART III

 

This is part III in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-I

PART II is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-II

*****

Gothic Horror (AKA: Gothic Fiction)

Gothic horror originated as a movement that combined elements of terror with romance, attributed first to English author, Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto (AKA: A Gothic Story). Gothic horror has since then expanded, though it still relies heavily on atmosphere and setting (such as a ruined castle, rugged mountain, or mist-shrouded cemetery) to create an overall sense of gloominess or dread. Often, the plot is melodramatic and sensational and may include a naïve heroine living by the moors of a Victorianesque society and/ or a lonely male traveler, haunted by a dark secret which is revealed at the story’s climax.

Book Examples:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Drood by Dan Simmons

 

Historical Horror (including: Alternative History)

Historical Horror (and any other type of Historical Fiction) is set in the past. Though not a clearly factual account, this sub-genre relies heavily on historic facts, setting, and/ or people to provide an alternative context or hypothetical explanation to an actual event that occurred, or simply to provide the backdrop for a realistic and interesting point in time. Horror set in history has a broad range, whether including an ancillary character that happens to have existed or by completely rewriting events, such as pitting alien invaders against Confederate raiders during the Civil War. The significance in this style of writing is that particular attention is placed in the details which maintain accuracy to the time period and the appropriate mannerisms and descriptions of characters involved.

Book Examples:

The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton

 

Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy)

Though at first consideration horror and humor may seem like diametric opposites, these two elements actually work complimentarily with each other; each shares the goal to elicit a strong reaction by mixing screaming with laughing. The act of combining humor and horror has a deep-running psychological basis as fears, or that which is not understood, is often exaggerated into parody. The short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (published in 1820) is considered the first “great comedy-horror story.”

Book Examples:

John Dies at the End by David Wong
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
Fat White Vampire Blues by Andrew Fox

 

Killer Animals

A self-descriptive title, this category includes stories of animals engaging in murderous rampage. Whether it’s a single animal or an invasion by large group, these beasts are consumed with a voracious inclination to slaughter every human being in their path. Typically the killer animal may be classified in one of two devices: The creature is already a feared or despised species that causes revulsion in the reader even while in a tranquil state (i.e. spiders or snakes); Or the creature is one which the reader empathizes with (i.e. dog or cat), but who is turned vicious by illness, revenge, latent evil, or any other cause normally attributable to humans.

Book Examples:

The Rats by James Herbert
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Cujo by Stephen King

*****

MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART IV

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Lovecraftian Horror(Cthulhu Mythos), Monster Horror, and Paranormal

*****

Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/Hsubgenres.html

http://www.goldenagestories.com/news/2013/01/04/the-dark-the-dark-the-history-of-horror-fiction/2602

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-horror-genres.htm

*****

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

BIO:

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART II

 

This is part II in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here:

The Sub-Genres of Horror Part I

*****

Dark Fantasy (AKA: Fantasy Horror, AKA: Gothic Fantasy)

Dark Fantasy in its broadest definition may be seen as simply another term for “supernatural horror,” being that it has a speculative element and the story is gloomy or grim in tone. However, the Dark Fantasy category is generally referenced when defining fiction in a “fantastic” context, and going beyond just the idea of one supernatural presence in order to explore a greater evil within its universe. Often, alternate and horrific worlds are developed that the characters must exist within. Other associations may involve elements of Sword & Sorcery fiction or High Fantasy fiction, written to a particulalry dark bent. Another example could be that the story is told from a mythological monster’s point of view.

Book Examples:

The Dark Tower (series of books) by Stephen King
The Saint-Germain novels by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Kane (stories and novels) by Karl Edward Wagner

Environmental Horror (AKA: Eco-Horror, including “Natural Disasters”)

This category applies to any story in which an element of nature takes on a speculative aspect with potentially deadly consequences to humans. Often it’s a reactionary tale in which mankind abuses the environment, and by consequence of their own actions cause the environment to exact revenge. Examples of rampant ecology include: catastrophic natural calamity (volcano, earthquake, tornado); climactic upheaval (sudden return of the ice age or cooling of Earth’s core); man-eating plants (‘nuff said); mutated animals (overt monsters such as two-headed monster shark or oversized insects OR psychological/ intellect, ala Planet of the Apes); disastrous weather (flooding, blizzards, extreme heat); atmospheric toxicity (air no longer breathable), etc. Though often ‘campy,’ these stories do promote the greater good of environmental awareness and often serve as platforms for real warnings about misusing Earth’s resources.

Book Examples:

Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss
Garbage Man
by Joseph D’Lacey
The Ruins by Scott Smith

Erotic Horror (AKA: Dark Erotica)

Erotic Horror is horror fiction which combines elements of strong sexual or sensual imagery, including (though not necessitating) intercourse. Often the erotic element goes against conventional norms, involves supernatural aspects, and may not be ‘pleasurable’ to at least one of the participants. It’s a fine line and matter of taste moving beyond a story’s traditional “romantic” element to elicit erotica and tends to be more common in the horror genre than others, simply by the graphic style of writing that the community promotes. When pushing boundaries, it’s just as easy to describe an intense act of coitus as it is a gory bloodbath; both are somewhat taboo. Much horror has subtle elements that naturally lends itself into this category. Consider Dracula’s sensual sway over female victims, or the demon Succubus that drains unsuspecting men, or even the horror movie cliché that any young couple who engage in sex will be killed the following scene. (Trivia Time: William Shakespeare called the orgasm the “little death.”)

Book Examples:

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
Scared Stiff
by Ramsey Campbell
Love in Vein: Twenty Original Tales of Vampiric Erotica edited by Poppy Z. Brite

Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

More often recognized in sanitized adaptations with happy endings, children are reared on legion of fairy tales. However, most of these stories were originally developed as being much darker in nature with gruesome twists and horrific endings than as known today. Rather than heroic adventures, fairy tales are parables for children meant to reinforce values and life lessons from an early age. At their heart, these stories may even be viewed as psychological tools . Child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, wrote the following in 1975 about this topic: “In order to master the psychological problems of growing up… a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious.” Psycho-babble aside, old-school fairy tales are frightening things; oft-employed grim elements include supernatural monsters or witches, ghosts, deformation, severe punishment or imprisonment, and death. There continue to be new works released that incorporate elements of fairy tales, create their own tale, or promulgate the legends of fairy tales or fables, so this sub-genre by no means includes only “passed-down” stories.

Book Examples:

Grimms’ Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Little Red Riding Hood
by Charles Perrault (first published)
Once by James Herbert

*****

MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART III

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Lovecraftian Horror(Cthulhu Mythos), Monster Horror, and Paranormal

*****

Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/Hsubgenres.html

http://www.goldenagestories.com/news/2013/01/04/the-dark-the-dark-the-history-of-horror-fiction/2602

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-horror-genres.htm

*****

Midnight cheers,

Eric

_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

Book Reviews (September) for older Horror Novels

 

September Book Reviews are of older Horror Novels (15 years or more). Each of the following books may be purchased through www.amazon.com.

***

Swan SongREVIEWED: Swan Song
WRITTEN BY: Robert R. McCammon
PUBLISHED: June, 1987

Another successful novel by author, Robert R. McCammon. Swan Song is a post-apocalyptic horror story following the survivors of a nuclear Armageddon. The characters are diverse and engaging, though many border on the stereotypical “too-good” vs. “too-evil.” However, I appreciated the variety of characters’ “Points of Views” by chapter, similar to Stephen King’s own post-apocalyptic novel, “The Stand.” The desolation and misery created by McCammon is emotional; you can feel the pain and weariness of the survivors as they trek across the ruined country. But that’s also offset by the perpetual hope and innocence of the girl, Swan, as well as the life lessons learned and perseverance by Sister and Josh and the others. The ending is very satisfying, even somewhat beautiful. Swan Song is a classic and recommended reading for anyone who enjoys dark fiction.

Five out of Five stars

***

MadmenREVIEWED: Among Madmen
WRITTEN BY: Jim Starlin and illustrated by Daina Graziunas
PUBLISHED: April, 1990

Easy read, fast-paced, violent, and gripping = highly recommended for fans of pulp action stories. Consider this similar to a zombie plague, only instead of fighting off the undead, the protagonists must battle “Berserkers” which are people who have contracted an incurable mental condition that drives them to sadistically murder anyone they can (consider a similarity in this to the movie, “28 Days Later”). Another level to this story, which makes the plot successful, is that anyone may contract the illness at anytime. So survivors are constantly suspicious of their friends, wondering if they’re about to turn berserker. The main character, Tom Laker, is an ex-vet and sheriff of a town of survivors. He’s a well-rounded hero with flaws and tragic circumstances. Most of the other characters are rather flat, however, and represent bland stereotypes. The author forces a great deal of emotion into the book, some of which is advantageous and some which is not. He cares for a wounded dog, which then runs away, leaving the audience to wonder at its purpose, or if it was an analogous device for Tom himself. Overall, if you’re not expecting too much, this is a great “read-something-fun” book. Also illustrated by the author’s wife, Daina, although I question the placement of the images, as they always came before a plot point, thus giving away what was going to happen.
Four-and-a-half out of Five stars

***

KaliREVIEWED: Song of Kali
WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons
PUBLISHED: January, 1998

Song of Kali is a well written novel of dark fiction, though hardly “the most frightening book ever written” as heralded across reviews and its book cover. There are actually very few scenes that seemed particularly scary at all. The plot is fair and emotionally-driven, compelling and sad, with good pacing, conflict, etc. And, man!, can this author write! The technical ability of Dan Simmons is extraordinary. However, the book just felt barely “above-average,” rather than fantastic, after closing the final page. The ending is anticlimactic, i.e. dreadful (in terms of boredom)… this story had so much potential to have been greater. The backdrop and circumstances Simmons established could have led to many, many more frightening scenes than he used. All-in-all, a fine read, especially as this is the first novel he ever wrote. Note to reader: His books get much better.

Four out of Five stars

 

Midnight cheers,

Eric

_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART I

 

In the great and storied realm of Literature, what constitutes that particular niche known as “Horror”? We seem to recognize it when we see it, but it’s not entirely easy to categorize into one lump genre.

First, by “Horror,” I mean that spirit relating to FICTION, primarily in literature and movies, which is intended, or has the capacity, to frighten or cause a sense of dread or alarm.

(See further on this in my blog discussion, “The Horror Genre” here:
http://mensconfidence.com/2013/01/29/the-horror-genre/#more-2442)

Consider Horror like a city, one if which all manner of ominous denizens dwell. It’s a great place to sightsee, but most people may not want to live there. Within this City, there are further divisions—neighborhoods—if you will. Some of the horror neighborhoods are gory and some are psychological and some are geared even toward children. These neighborhoods are the “sub-genres.”

Now, if you take a step back, you realize that the city of Horror is also part of a larger County, and there are neighboring cities which—although not intended to be horror—share those same neighborhoods which dip into Horror’s boundaries. Consider the neighboring cities as other genres, and the neighborhoods which are sub-genres may cross many of their limits.

You see, the Horror Genre is formally a subset of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre, which in turn falls under the larger umbrella of “Speculative Fiction.” Speculative Fiction is contrasted against literary fiction by “Including a supernatural element.” Whereas literary fiction involves fictional characters and/or events in an everyday world in which we could theoretically share the same experiences as those characters. Speculative Fiction, in my example, is the County, and thus Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, etc. are all the cities.

Confused? You’re not alone. Try categorizing your favorite author into one sub-genre. Typically it’s impossible, as writers enjoy challenging themselves and exploring new “neighborhoods.” Even Stephen King, the literal “King of Horror” has written in numerous genres and sub-genres.

So all that is well and good, but with the names of neighborhoods often bandied about, and no road map of how they relate to each other, it is often a perplexing place to visit. I thought I would investigate a bit and attempt to map out the sub-genres of Horror.

By no means is my list inclusive, but here are some of the more common categories you may encounter (in alphabetic order):

Apocalyptic/ Post-Apocalyptic Horror

Apocalyptic fiction deals with the catastrophic end of civilization, and Post-Apocalyptic fiction deals with its aftermath. Generally both elements may be infused into the same story, as for it to truly be considered “apocalyptic,” the catastrophe must occur, and not simply be a grave threat which is overcome. The catastrophic end may be for any reason relating to scientifically-possible or to supernatural imaginings, such as nuclear war, plague, alien invasion, monsters, celestial judgment, etc.

Book Examples:

The Stand by Stephen King
Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Bizarro Fiction

A relatively new subgenre, Bizarro fiction is a contemporary classification, which is not entirely easy to define. It encompasses elements of satire, absurdism, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre fiction staples, in order to create subversive works that are as strange and entertaining as possible. Not all Bizarro has horror references, but similar themes may be often found, including those of fear, confusion, monsters, supernatural elements, etc. Bizarro sometimes may be compared to “Weird Fiction,” though Weird Fiction seems to have subtler oddities, and not the brutally outlandish which is found in Bizarro.

Book Examples:

The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III
Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk
The Bizarro Starter Kit (Volumes Orange and Blue) edited by Eraserhead Press

Body Horror (AKA: Biological Horror)

Body horror, biological horror, organic horror, or venereal horror are associated names of a genre in which the human body itself is used as the primary device by which the audience is confronted with the horrific. The horror in these stories is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body and can include transformation or mutilation to the body as a way to reflect an innate fear of death or loss of control. Besides mutilation, other ideas may deal with disease, decay, parasitism, or mutation. Another type of body horror includes unnatural movements, or the anatomically incorrect placement of limbs to create ‘monsters’ out of human body parts.

Book Examples:

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
Who Goes These? by John W. Campbell
A Splendid Chaos by John Shirley

*****

MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART II

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Lovecraftian Horror(Cthulhu Mythos), Monster Horror, and Paranormal

*****

Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/Hsubgenres.html

http://www.goldenagestories.com/news/2013/01/04/the-dark-the-dark-the-history-of-horror-fiction/2602

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-horror-genres.htm

*****

Thanks ALSO to this blog’s sponsor: www.grammarly.com

Midnight cheers,

Eric

_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

Book Reviews (June)

 

Book Reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through www.amazon.com.

REVIEWED: Redshirts
WRITTEN BY: John Scalzi
PUBLISHED: January, 2012

On its face, Redshirts, by John Scalzi, is a successful story. Mirroring the Star Trek show, Redshirts creates an alternative explanation as to why crewmembers aboard the “Intrepid” regularly seem to die off for no reason. Geeky science fiction which is part comedic satire, part adventure, and part existential philosophy. The majority of the book (comprising about the first 85%) is a quick read, fun and fast-paced. Then Scalzi adds in three codas or “P.S.”s, afterwards, each which builds another level to the story. It’s really a unique structure which I’ve not seen commonly done, but he pulls it off and the book is increasingly better with the advancement of each of the codas. Great ending that tied everything together.

Five out of Five stars

***

REVIEWED: Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million
WRITTEN BY: Mark Bowden
PUBLISHED: October, 2002

This is a journalistic account of the true story of Joey Coyle, an out-of-work and drug-addicted 28 year old man, who finds $1.2 million which had fallen from an armored truck. It’s a riveting drama which at turns takes twists into humor and suspense but ends, unfortunately, as a tragedy. Coyle is portrayed as an amiable man who essentially blows through much of the money in two weeks, simply by giving it away to homeless, using it on drugs, “forgetting” where he put it, and sharing it with shady businessmen and friends who find out about his fortune and begin to confront him for a piece of the loot. Add to all this, Joey increasingly uses methamphetamine (speed) which causes him paranoid delusions and crippling anxiety. Finders Keepers is sharp and well-written; a fascinating tale of an ordinary man faced with a moral dilemma, and the ensuing reactions of family, friends, neighbors, and police who become a part of his misadventures.

Five out of Five stars

***

REVIEWED: Sunset and Sawdust
WRITTEN BY: Joe R. Lansdale
PUBLISHED: January, 2005

This is classic Lansdale: Well-written, gripping, and at times poignantly funny. Sunset Jones kills her abusive husband in self-defense in the middle of a cyclone. It’s really quite symbolic as not only her home and husband are gone, but her entire life is torn apart. From the very beginning, it’s a story of her reconstructing everything around her, including her own world views. Through the assistance of her wealthy mother-in-law, Sunset becomes Sheriff of the town, a small logging camp in the 1930’s depression. One of her first orders of business is to solve a brutal double murder that her late-husband (the former Sheriff) buried. The book effortlessly cuts across genres of mystery and thriller, horror, western and humor. Lansdale, as common for him, deals with race and gender issues and takes a progressive stance against commonly held clichés. Great read overall. The only complaint was that Lansdale built up such a pair of clever and creepy villains, but then rarely used them. He needs to write a prologue story stat, just about McBride and his half-brother, Two!

Four out of Five stars

***

REVIEWED: Boy’s Life
EDITED BY: Robert R. McCammon
PUBLISHED: May, 1992

I don’t know how this book has escaped me for so long, as it was written back in 1991. This is the kind of story I wish I would have read as a teenager. Although, of course, it may not have meant as much to me then as it does now, as a father, watching my son begin his own adventures, and remembering that sense of magic and excitement that I’ve somehow lost over the years. People frequently throw the phrase around that they’ve read something that’s “one of the best things ever,” but I can truly affirm that “Boy’s Life” by Robert McCammon is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The publisher’s description doesn’t do the book justice. It says that a young boy and his father witness a murdered man being driven into a lake, and their lives are shaken by the realization the idyllic town they live in must contain an evil person. The boy goes on to investigate the mystery and has magical adventures with his friends.

I read that and thought it sounded pretty “ho-hum,” perhaps like a glorified Hardy Boys tale. Though the murder mystery is a part of the book, it’s really just one small thread woven through an immense tapestry of gorgeous narrative. The book description doesn’t exhort the prospective reader with the amazing beauty contained within and the author’s ability for spit-shined storytelling… of course it can’t, as every book description makes such claims. The difference with this novel, is that it delivers.

“Boy’s Life” takes place in 1964 and follows the coming-of-age years of Cory Mackenson, a 12-year old in the small town of Zephyr, Alabama, who lives life as all of us once did. He plays with his friends, struggles in school, and does what his parents tell him to do. He’s at odds with the neighborhood bullies, loves his dog, and is filled to brimming with hopes and dreams and fears. He knows the world by what is taught him in a town peopled with all types of personalities; from small-minded bigots to superstitious elders to neighbors who harbor dark and strange secrets. But he’s also at the age where he’s beginning to make his own decisions about the things around him.

Through it all, Cory, like all boys, can see the magic of the world that adults cannot. There are ghosts in town, some of whom mourn their untimely passing, while others just want to play with the living. Wishes can come true if wished hard enough. Dinosaurs still live, a boy’s bicycle isn’t just an inanimate thing, and monsters appear from the shadows if you’re not careful. Death and life pass by hand-in-hand, and Cory navigates it all amongst gun-toting moonshiners, natural disasters, and an ancient woman who helps interpret the dreams he and his father have late at night.

This book is simply a priceless gem of sparkling prose. Each of Cory’s multiple adventures brought me back to the years when I experienced these things first-hand. The author has an incredible command, not only of the language of writing, but also of the heart strings of emotion. Suffice it to say, tears fell from my eyes more than once.

For example, here’s an excerpt: “I glance at her and my eyes are blessed. She wears sunlight in her blond hair like a spill of golden flowers… we smile at each other. Her hand finds mine. They were meant to be clasped together, just like this.”

Anyway, to sum it up, I absolutely loved this book. It won the World Fantasy Award when it came out, so other people loved it, too. Of course, there’s no book written that’s going to please everyone, so before picking up a copy, ask yourself this: Did you like “Stand By Me” by Stephen King? If the answer is yes, consider “Boy’s Life” as a wilder adventure, longer in page count (over 800) and filled with a bit more imagination and a lot more depth.

SIX out of Five stars (yes, that is the equivalent of 120% – it deserves it)

Midnight cheers,

Eric

_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

 

 

HORROR BOOK Reviews (April)

 

Book Reviews of (fairly) recent publications. Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through www.amazon.com.

*** Read more