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Book Review

Reviews in the Machine: The Traveling Vampire Show, by Richard Laymon

vampire showOne of my favorite books growing up was Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. And it was a book that I didn’t immediately engage with. I had been a fan of several of McCammon’s books already but Boy’s Life was quite a departure from what I was expecting. There was seemingly none of the horrific elements that his books seemed to deliver. I bailed out, shortly after beginning my first attempt but before long, I was able to buckle down and force myself through. It wasn’t long after that before I realized how much I had missed out by not sticking with the book the first time through.

The book isn’t horror. I wasn’t wrong in that initial assessment. Sure, there are some moments where the narrative seems to brush up against the supernatural but in no way was this horror. Still, I loved it. The characters were compelling and I quickly bought into them as a reader. I couldn’t put the book down and the thing that really threw me was how, for most of the book, it wasn’t really clear what the story was driving towards. I’m normally not a huge fan of books that are so plot-driven but in this case, the plot was so great, it was all I wanted.

It was this feeling that I returned to when I came across The Travelling Vampire Show. I have not had the pleasure of reading anything by Richard Laymon before and I suspect that this will not be the last. The setup for the book is pretty straightforward. A group of three friends come across a flier for a travelling act that is coming to town. The poster claims that the town can come out to see one of the last surviving vampires, alive. An intense show is promised, one that won’t be soon forgotten.

The friends, after much debate, decide that they need to figure out how to sneak out that night in order to get in and see this vampire, real or not.

From this point on, the book mostly goes into a detailed sequence of events, what transpires for these three friends. It’s a notion that in the hands of another author probably could have ended up being a complete disaster. And for me, this is where the comparison to Boy’s Life really comes into play. As with Boy’s Life, I frequently found myself looking up from this book and realizing that I really couldn’t say what the book was about, or what kind of arc these characters were on. And while many would bemoan the absence of these things, for me, the story was so compelling, I was finding that I just didn’t care. This was a rich universe that was an absolute pleasure to dip in to. It’s a story about friendship and loyalty and about growing up and how our relationships can change as that process moves forward. The plot has an almost episodic feel to it as our characters move from one emotional challenge to the next and I loved it.

The characters were what really rocketed this book into the stratosphere. Everyone felt like they had an immense history and texture to them and it was a big part of what made me overlook my feelings about the story seeming like one endless stream of point A to point B to point C and so forth. The importance of where the book was going took a comfortable back seat to my desire to simply see what the characters were going to do next.

There were a few points where I thought the book could have been better. There are a number of flashbacks throughout and for some reason, one of the characters always seems to have a different nickname during each one. It’s never really explained why she changes her nickname all the time and the first time it happened there were several minutes of confusion on my part, wondering who this new character was.

My other issue was with the ending. While it was dramatic and satisfying, there were certain aspects that I found a bit overdone. There were several moments that I thought were getting a little masturbatory, with multiple female characters fighting and of course losing their clothes in the process.

These were both minor issues however, and my enjoyment of the book remained strong. The  romance between two of the characters is certainly to be expected by most readers so it isn’t exactly a stunning twist but the way that aspect of the story develops is actually quite sweet and I felt like I was seeing something genuine developing, not just an author arbitrarily pushing two characters together. And I’ll give Laymon credit for resisting the urge at a key moment to launch into an obligatory sex scene and instead throwing in a head-fake that made me actually laugh as I was reading, something that doesn’t happen very often.

This isn’t a horror story. It does however build up to some closing moments that are grim and intense in their violence and in how disturbing they are. Overall, this was a fantastic book and the genius of it is in how it takes moments that should drag the book down and uses them as the essential building blocks to construct a book that I didn’t want to put down.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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Reviews in the Machine: Salvage, by Duncan Ralston

Salvage1Salvage is a story built on a solid and creepy premise. It’s a book that somehow manages to feel claustrophobic within mostly open spaces and isolated it’s characters in ways that I don’t think I have seen done similarly in anything else I have read.

I love stories that deal with the sea and especially underwater. One of my favorite movies growing up was The Abyss, along with the fantastic novelization, written by Orson Scott Card. I loved the sense of terror that is exuded from being underwater, even at shallow depths. It’s the one place where, despite our often feeling like masters of our domain, once we are plunged into the depths we begin to realize how weak and unwanted we can be on an alien landscape. The sound and temperature is distorted. You have no sense of touch or smell. What you see can only be illuminated by what natural light filters down or by your dive lights. Diving underwater is something that begs to have a horror story written about it.

The concept for this book is of a lost town, flooded intentionally as a part of rerouting a river. It’s something I was surprised to see has happened before. Google it if you want to see some interesting material. Essentially the population must abandon the town and ever since, it has been lost at the bottom of a man-made lake, save for the top peak of the local chapel. The book is centered around the disappearance of the local Reverend as well as some of the parishioners.

All this makes for some outstanding atmosphere and tension. It’s spooky enough to explore an abandoned town but add to that the aspect of doing it underwater makes for a beautiful sense of claustrophobia and anxiety.

It’s a fine line to strike but technical detail is something I like, so long as it is being used to augment the story, not replace it. I call this the Dan Brown syndrome from his tendency to bring an entire narrative to a shrieking halt while some concept is explained. Maybe we even get a flashback of Robert Langdon beating some concept into the ground for one of his classes. This phenomenon happens when you have a writer who puts a ton of time at the library or online, researching some aspects of the story and when it comes time to write, you can tell they are somewhat shoehorning to make room for all the knowledge they discovered. Wouldn’t want that time to get wasted, would we?

And I get it. I’ve been in a similar position. And often we find ourselves really interestedSalvage2 in a subject and want to write about it. The problem is that it bogs down the narrative. So I was happy to discover that in this, Ralston deftly incorporates the necessary technical aspects of diving while at the same time making it feel natural and logical. He also has enough respect for us to keep from overexplaining, making his descriptions clear, while expecting us to keep up with him as well. I felt like I actually learned a lot about diving and of the common dangers that I don’t think I was ever really aware of. It created a beautiful balance of danger for the characters, presented by the real world sources as well as possibly other-worldly as well.

And of course added to all of this is the well-layered tension and mystery around the protagonist’s history as well as that of the town. There is a certain amount of intrigue to the story as he works through the locals, trying to obtain more information. It’s a dynamic between characters that isn’t necessarily new but Ralston delivers the classic narrative in fine form.

The novel is paced well and the characters are carefully crafted. But for me the atmosphere was what really made this story take off. Supernatural horror has always been one of my favorites and the addition of the diving aspect really made it work well. If, by chance you aren’t as familiar with the works of Duncan Ralston, Salvage would be a great starting point.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page


Tommy Reads 2018

Thank goodness for Goodreads. Seriously. I don’t know how else i would keep track of my year long books read without it. Plus, there’s the progress goals that helps you keep on track with reading. There were more than a few times that I had gotten so bogged down in my own work that I needed that reminder to take a breath and read other peoples books. And I have found some good suggested reads on there too. This year, my goal was 12 books, one per month. Kinda wimpy when compared to others, I know. I saw one person with like a 500 book reading goal. Freaking crazy! I guess i’m just a slow reader. I am setting 2019 goals a little higher with plans to read more small press indie books. There year is, though, what it is. Can’t complain. I’ve read some really great titles. So, without further babbling on my part, here are my 2018 reads! Continue Reading


Fright Fest 2018: Salem’s Lot (1979)

salemslot

Until recently, Stephen King movie adaptations were dreadful. And not in a good way. His first adaptation was good, the 1976’s depiction of Carrie, which may have had more to do with Brian De Palma’s version and not the journal styled storytelling from King. Some adaptations, mostly spanning through the 90s, where just down right embarrassing. Both made for TV movies IT and The Stand were nauseating to watch. In fact, it was only through a sheer force of will that i was able to finally watch the entire 90s IT movie. Without Tim Curry I wouldn’t have made it. But nowadays, King movies seem to be doing alright. The new IT is actually creepy and fun to watch. Adaptions of his newer work such as 11.22.63 was great. And i’ve heard nothing but good things surrounding the new Castle Rock show. But before all these newfound home runs, solid adaptions were slim pickenings. However, there was one that was and still is arguably the best Stephen King inspired movie, and that would be Tobe Hooper’s take on Salem’s LotContinue Reading


Reviews in the Machine: The Ridge by Jeffery X Martin

Image result for The Ridge: An Elders Keep Novella by Jeffery X. Martin

For those who know me understand, I will never win awards for the worlds fastest reader. I see other bibliophiles and their Goodreads accomplishments and marvel. My own wife can sit down and consume a 800 page mega-novel in the span of a few days. Its insane. I don’t get how its even possible. But hey, to each their own pace, right? So, when a fast read, and I mean a good fast read, comes along, its worth celebrating. Such was the case when I started Jeffery X Martin’s new book, The Ridge on a Saturday morning and finished that night.  Continue Reading


Thomas’s Top Reads: 2017

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a world champ reader. Truth is, i’m probably the world’s slowest reader. I have no shame at being slow, at least i’m reading, right? Any how. As we near the end of 2017, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I’ve read throughout the year, not including some titles such as Salem’s Lot that I re-read every year. Being a fan of both fiction and non-fiction/history, you ought to find a great assortment here to look through. I’ve been trying to be more diverse in the genres I digest. Maybe that can be a goal for 2018, to read more of everything, not just horror. I’ll also include a short review of each book from myself. Well then, lets get this started shall we?  Continue Reading


Book Release Alert: WAR GAME by Renier Palland

War Game by [Palland, Renier]

The tenants never saw it coming. 

The Murray building, constructed in the seventies by the eccentric billionaire Samuel Murray, contains a secret so horrific and abhorrent that those caught in the ‘experiment’ might not see the light of day again. 

Time is ticking. 

Only one person can beat the War Game and walk away with $100 million in cash. 

Who dies? Who lives? Who is the real villain? What is the building’s biggest secret and why do only a select few know about it?

War Game is a maniacal thriller with enough plot twists to make your stomach churn. There’s violence, murder and buckets of blood. 

Can you predict the outcome?

Renier Palland

Renier Palland hails from Cape Town, South Africa. He is a published poet, a book & film reviewer, and a Survivor Superfan. The first book in his debut trilogy, War Game, was soft launched in August of 2017. The paperback is slated for an international release in early 2018. Renier loves cats, reality television, and enjoys writing about the human condition. He is currently completing his PhD in Sociology at Stanford University.


Lovecraft Country: book in review

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The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.  Continue Reading


New Release: 13 Déjà Vu (Thirteen Series Book 2)

Following the huge success with 13: An Anthology of Horror and Dark Fiction that released last October (keeping on the top charts for horror anthologies ever since), Limitless Publishing has decided to bring even more dark fiction and horror. 13: Déjà Vu (Thirteen Series Book 2) has just released and as one of the authors in the anthology, I couldn’t be any more excited. The authors you enjoyed in the first 13 book are back with brand new tales, most of which are either sequels or continuations in some way to the work done in the original 13, to include: by Bradon Nave, Elizabeth Roderick, Carissa Ann Lynch, Sara Schoen, Marissa Farrar, Thomas S. Flowers, S. Valentine, Erin Lee, Jackie Sonnenberg, Samie Sands, Luke Swanson, D.A. Roach, and Taylor Henderson

For my part, you will find the next installment in my continuing Twin Pines Hotel stories, completely exclusive to the 13 Anthology Series. You witnessed Will Fenning’s strange demise in Room 313, now bear witness to the story of mass murderer Andy Derek and his confrontation with Room 249. iScream Books had this to say regarding the story:

A disturbing story of a cross country cold blooded murder spree. The murderer hides out in a unique hotel while the man hunt ensues. I found myself cringing and grossed out with this story but I also found it very unique and clever with its plot.

Pickup your copy today on Amazon for only $0.99!!!

 

 


The Subdue Series Continues…

The fourth chapter, Converging, in my ongoing paranormal series is set to release on May 16, 2017. As the fourth book in a continuing story, let me put your concerns at ease….you do not need to have read any of the other books to “get” what’s going on in this one. Does it help? Sure. As any reader of a series can tell you, reading the previous stories can give you more depth for the characters. But just like how Conceiving was set up, Converging is written in a way that helps you “catch up” without the tedious boredom of flashbacks. What’s in store for you in this chapter? Werewolves, plural…that’s right, Bobby Weeks isn’t the only cursed soul in this romp. More of the fiendish John Turner, our Frankenstein-ish monster. More of Luna too. And there are new characters with their own troubles. Donna Swanson, a small town sheriff caught up in something way beyond her depth of experience or even belief.

Get YOUR copy now!!!

Here’s the synopsis to wet your appetite…

Donna Swanson has been the sheriff of New Castle long enough to know something is terribly wrong in her town…

With its peaceful Appalachian streams and a homely diner where the residents congregate over pie, New Castle seems like the least sinister place on earth. Then a new restaurant opens, and a wave of deadly illness ravages the town. Is it a coincidence, or has evil appeared in their midst, cleverly disguised as restauranteurs? Donna’s duty demands she discover what’s going on before the disease wipes out her town.

Jo Harwood didn’t ask to be a monster, and Bobby Weeks would do anything to take back her curse…

Bobby thinks they can make a fresh start in New Castle, a quiet place where he can teach her how to control the monster inside her. But when Jo’s desire for independence clashes with Bobby’s need for control, she takes off, and Bobby races to find her before she transforms into the beast.

Luna Blanche tries to accept her new identity and to accept the gruesome truth about John Turner.

Luna tries to adapt to her role as Woman in the Woods—priestess of the desperate residents surrounding Mississippi’s Delta—while John struggles with his anger and hatred. Since his resurrection, he’s been driven to abominable acts. He wants Luna to love him, but how could she love a monster?

Dark forces are converging on New Castle, Virginia. Can conflicts be put aside before evil consumes them all?

But that’s not all!

In celebration of the fourth book’s release, ALL previous titles in the Subdue Series have been marked down to $0.99!!! This includes Dwelling, Emerging, and Conceiving. $0.99 each for this week only. Dwelling, four childhood friends separated and scarred by war are pulled back together by an unseen force. Emerging, as the once childhood friends gather at the House of Oak Lee, trust becomes elusive and betrayal from one of their own all the more foreboding. Conceiving, just when Bobby Weeks thought the nightmare was over, events force him to confront the evil in Jotham that tore apart his life. The Subdue Series is a paranormal thriller story filled with human suffering and supernatural monsters. Layered with rich characterization and injected with subtle horror that builds and builds until you can no longer stop reading, though it terrifies you, you have to see what happens next.

$0.99!!!

$0.99!!!

$0.99!!!

With a face only a mother could love, Thomas S. Flowers hides away to create character-driven stories of dark fiction. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was soon published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can hide from Thomas by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.