Thursday, 19 November 2015

Tenebris by Tim Curran

Jim, Rita and Dinah driving down route 50 “The Loneliest Road in America” when out of nowhere they are attacked by a giant bird! Fatalities happen but our hero Jim with the help of Shiner and Pettis proprietors of “” search out our prehistoric Thunderbird...and the scene is set for a final showdown...”Find out exactly what did happen on Route 50 that night. It became not only a passion but an obsession. One way or another, he was planning on getting answers.”

This is a short novella with a story that is mildly interesting but is able to hold the readers attention with the introduction of some interesting characters. Pettis and Skinner seek out unknown animals..... “At our focus is the Nevada/Utah area, particularly the deserts of the Great Basin and Mojave. We collect regional tales and ephemera concerning things like killer bee swarms, giant beavers, cattle mutilators, the Bear Lake Monster, and, of course, Sasquatch.” Tim Curran provides a lovely description of Skinner “He was tall, jittery, and thin with hair so red it looked like it had rusted. He had bad teeth and a crooked smile, a gangly textbook nerd that even wore Coke-bottle glasses as if to accentuate the fact. He looked like he wanted to explode right out of his skin. He had a Bigfoot T-shirt on that read, Bigfoot Doesn’t Believe in You Either.”

There is one enjoyable scene when Pettis and Skinner insist that Jim meet Reese, a young lady who has had a similar experience with a “thunderbird”....her introduction adds a little colour and fun to a somewhat one dimensional story....”Then a young woman that he’d seen loitering over near the counter made a straight beeline to his table and sat down. Her hair was black as Dracula’s cape set with neon red streaks, black eyeliner laid thick as road tar around her dark eyes. She wore a red plaid skirt, blue nylons with fashionable holes, leather nut-busting boots, and a tight Punisher skull T-shirt with no bra beneath, her breasts jutting like warm, ripe grapefruits and her nipples standing out like pushpins. The lights gleamed off the multiple piercings in her nose, lips and eyebrows.”

It disappoints so much to find yet another kindle edition with grammatical errors when a simple proof reading could have corrected these mistakes:

“It still seemed impossible. Was that was his flirting with Nurse Koreshi was about? should read...It still seemed impossible. Was that what his flirting with Nurse Koreshi was about?

“If it hadn’t have been for Rita’s garden, he and vegetables would have been complete strangers” This sentence would be more grammatically correct if written “If it had not been for Rita’s garden, he and vegetables would have been complete strangers”

“He help up a hand as if used to silencing scepticism...should read “He held up a hand as if used to silencing scepticism”

“If they hadn’t been hanging onto one another, anchored by their combined weight, they would have went right over”...should read “If they hadn’t been hanging onto one another, anchored by their combined weight, they would have gone right over.”

I was given a free copy of Tenebris for an honest review and that is what I have written. The story was an easy read and quite enjoyable, I would have awarded 3 stars if more time, thought and care had been directed towards the kindle presentation.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Incurables by Jon Bassoff

Reading The Incurables is akin to being on the set of a wild west frontier town production movie possibly under the direction of one of the greatest directors of all times, John Ford and starring two of his favourite protagonists John Wayne and Victory McLaglen....”She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” comes to mind. Now if we add to this the language and character interplay in a Quentin Tarantino production such as Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta discussing the finer parts of a quarter pounder...”Do you know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in Paris? They call it Royale with cheese”....then perhaps you have some idea just how just how colourful and direct this character driven novel by Jon Bassoff is.

Doctor Walter Freeman offers hope to the ill and insane with his transorbitol lobotomy and he should know as he has performed over 3000 successful operations. When however he is sacked from his job at the hospital and he travels to the town of Burnwood “a debauchery-filled meatpacking town with plenty of history but not much future.” with his faithful companion Edgar (himself a recipient of transorbitol lobotomy) his patience and his faith in his ability will be sorely tested.

In this Oklahoma backwater he meets an assortment of odd, demented and violent cast of characters; Durango the next Messiah driven by his god fearing father Stanton...”Stanton had made prophecies before and none of them had come true. But Durango couldn’t help but believe, just a little bit. Not because he thought him to be a prophet, but because he was his father.” Scent the local working girl “Scent and the fat man drove in his badly rusted, badly dented Ford truck toward the Lullaby Motel over on Front Street. His calloused hands rode up and down her leg and she didn’t try to stop him. The radio played static-filled doo-wop. And out on the streets a heaping of destitution and debauchery.”.....Grady, Vlad and Kaz murdering psychopathic brothers out for revenge, and all this set against a town captivated by the charismatic salesmanship of Dr Freeman.

Jon Bassoff creates characters that “crackle” with electricity they can almost be viewed in 3d as their bawdy and colourful temperaments consume the reader from the opening paragraph. His directness and style in many respects reminds me of the writing of Donald Ray Pollock (The Devil All The Time) I shall look forward to reading future publications by Mr Bassoff as I know his best work is still to be written.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Snowblind 2 The Killing Grounds by Michael Mcbride

I think it important to have read Snowblind before the sequel Snowblind 2 “The Killing Grounds” where the fate of William Coburn is granted respectful closure by Sheriff Wayne Dayton “He thought about William Coburn, the man who’d walked into the Alferd Packer Grill with his friend’s head under his jacket.”

At the start and conclusion of Snowblind 2 we meet Len Badgett who is cheating on his wife with the somewhat despicable and career minded Ashley Gale driving through the dangerous and snowbound Rockies in their SUV. I like the way that Michael McBride has used this illicit affair to bind this exciting and frightening horror story together and I am very pleased to note that Ashley is justly dealt with in the final pages by a very fair hand of fate :)

The “star” or the giver of pain in The Killing Grounds is a creature that is similar or has evolved from Bigfoot a large hairy bipedal humanoid! Sheriff Wayne Dayton has sent out a search party to discover the whereabouts of Michelle Jenkins the long lost girlfriend of John Avery who disappeared some 7 years ago on an outing with friends. It soon becomes clear that Dayton is dealing with a very intelligent foe...”The way they hunted. As a pack. Like it was a sport. Using the corpses as decoys, to lure them closer, to flush them into the open. They were as cunning as man and as fearsome as primates”.... and the hunters are in reality the hunted as fate draws them towards the pine wooden ranch where so many in the past have encountered a grisly and bloody conclusion.....”The building materialized from the storm and he recognized it immediately. He’d seen that abandoned ranch house before. In fact, he had a picture of it folded up in his pocket...”

The claustrophobic writing of Michael Mcbride in some ways reminds me of Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley and her battles with an extraterrestrial lifeform, commonly referred to as the Alien or indeed Predator where a group of mercenary soldiers discover they are being hunted by creature with superhuman strength and the ability to disappear into its surroundings. The creatures in The Killing Grounds retain such characteristics and more both the ability to kill and the skill to blend silently and expertly into their surroundings.

As is only natural in a good horror story there is no happy conclusion and yet why should there be? We have a creature who has enjoyed relative survival, seclusion and contentment for many years only to have it suddenly interrupted by the unwanted incursion of man. A nice intelligent touch by the author perhaps portraying the creatures as protecting rather than destroying….for you the reader to decide! “How they survived. This was their killing grounds, and the reason no one lived long enough to betray the secret of their existence.”

A fantastic sequel to Snowblind and a worthy 5 star recommendation!!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Snowblind by Michael McBride

I love the way Michael McBride has left the door of this brilliant short novel open (even though that door is cold and there is snow coming in!!) for a sequel. I also found his notes informative and very useful for the enjoyment and progression of the story, in particular the subtleties in the naming of the “Alferd Packer Grill”

The use of landscape blended with unexpected and extreme weather conditions is a very powerful tool in the hands of an accomplished author. Who can ever forget Jack Torrance newly appointed caretaker at the isolated and snowbound Overlook Hotel and the sad events that followed. 
4 friends Coburn, Baumann, Shore and Vigil are once again embarking on their yearly elk hunting expedition to the aptly named and snowbound Mt Isolation. They are forced to seek refuge when Vigil suffers severe trauma and injury in a fall and are now along surrounded by the harsh elements of nature and something evil and unknown....the scene is set! “Someone or something was still out there. Watching them. Waiting”...

A horror story (to appreciate the full effects!) is best enjoyed alone and possibly with the aid of an alcoholic beverage as the silence and tension can be unbearable. I sometimes read very early in the morning and approaching winter, here in the UK, the wind may be howling accompanied by a little rain....and then I read the following....

“Coburn crept closer, prepared to grab the branch, toss it away from the house, and sprint back toward the open window. He had already loosened his grip on the rifle when his brain caught up with his eyes. It wasn’t a branch. It was a hand. A human hand at the end of a severed forearm.Tied to a bent, rusted nail in the door by a tendon. Swinging gently back and forth at the behest of the wind. The curled fingers raking the wood.Scratch.....Scratch....Scratch...”

An important element I use to judge a good story is....Do I think about it the following day? Where is the author going? Are the characters real? Can I sympathize with them?....more importantly in a horror story....does it scare the hell out of me?? Let me tell you dear readers of my review that I cycle to and from work each day (ok you say what has that got to do with it....hold on I will tell you!) My 12 mile route home in the evenings is dark and lonely with only me my bike and my little light for company...the mind plays funny things and “Snowblind” became my mental companion this week as I struggled through the darkness....what was that I began to see to my left and right....????

“A lone silhouette separated from the shadows. Large and hunched. Low to the ground. Was it a bear? He couldn’t....couldn’t quite tell. He tried to zero in on it through the scope- Another silhouette materialized from the woods to the right of the first...another to its left...”

Michael McBride has written a novel that blends all the elements of good horror writing to produce a masterpiece of tension and fear and one I will remember for a very long time. Highly recommended!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

"The Killing" American Series on Netflix

Some two years ago I watched the excellent original Danish version and having some time to kill (no pun intended) decided to settle down on netflix and watch the American adaption....could it be as good or even better? In short no but it is still an excellent series and one that you must be prepared to engage with and spend some time with over a long period to really feel the benefits, the enjoyment and possibly play amateur detective as you along with Detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder analyse the evidence and decide who killed lovely Rosie Larsen.

The story differs from the original ie the killer is not the same and thus this makes the final outcome different. I was able to identify the killer quite will hidden but always obvious (to say more would give the plot away) however there was a great twist in the final episode which was astounding and showed that the killer did not work alone.....his accomplice will sadden and amaze you! Sarah Linden will not amaze you however she may as a detective have proved more than capable but as a mother she is a total failure. She appears to work 24 hours per day, live out of motels, eat only ready made fast food, and more importantly leave her poor son Jack all alone to deal with his own teenage it any wonder that her proposed marriage never happens and that Jack finally returns to live with his father in Chicago.

The American series does suffer from the fact that it is unnecessarily long and would have benefited from some good editing; there is one complete chapter devoted to the search for Jack who disappears (not that I blame you Jack with a mother like Sarah Linden) and we spend a wasted 45 minutes in an attempt to locate him.....he finally return to the motel and we the viewer can return to the search for Rosie's killer, and the final outcome is still well worth the wait.There is some wonderful heartfelt acting from Rosie's parents Mitch and Stan Larsen and as the story concludes there is a particular scene that will brings tears of sadness to the most hardened viewers.....So some great acting, memorable moments, and a good attempt at an English version of the Danish series....but if you want the best the original Danish series is unbeatable!

Creepy tale.....

A haunted house horror tale from the 70's now in kindle form. Marian, Ben and their son David respond to an ad to act as housesitters at the home of the Allardyces in upstate New York. What follows is a creepy tale as the house appears to be coming alive bit by bit and all through Marian. There is something very unsettling about this book....what is the true intention of the Allardyces letting this beautiful old house for the small sum of $900? who is the old lady who resides deep within the walls of the house and who must be regularly fed three times each day?...although she is never seen. What strange power has this house over Marian as she appears to sacrifice it over the lives of her husband Ben and son David. "It was alive, all around her it was alive, and how else had it come alive but through her? And wasn't that the uneasiness she was feeling - the growing awareness of her power in the house, the enormity of the mystery enveloping her life...."

Friday, 30 October 2015

White Knuckle by Eric Red

There is nothing that is better than a good trucking story. The open highway, the smell of the diesel fuel and the wonderful beauty of those great big 18 wheel monsters as they roam the highways of America. Roy Tremble is no ordinary trucker, he is a killer, who for some 40 years has been murdering and butchering women across the American states. Known to his fellow truckers by the CB handle “White Knuckle” he feels truly unstoppable until that is he makes the acquaintance of Special Agent Sharon Ormsby.

This is a fun read and gives a real feeling of being at the wheel of a monster truck and the complexities, control and skill that is needed to navigate this powerful machine successfully from town to town.

Where this trucking tale fails is in the stupidity of the storyline. To accept that no sooner has an FBI agent become an undercover trucker’s mate than she immediately makes contact with the trucker killer (who has eluded the authorities for a very long time) is absurd in the extreme. Whilst I realise this is merely a story, I would feel much more comfortable if the writing contained an element of believability, the ending itself almost portraying Agent Ormsby as a superhuman superwoman! 

This kindle edition contains a number of grammatical errors which would have been so easy to avoid and correct by simple proof reading. I would certainly have awarded White Knuckle a 3 star review if more care and attention had been directed towards the preparation and presentation of the ebook edition but because of the carelessness of these silly mistakes a 2 star review is more appropriate.
The errors are as follows:

“The officer was in a foul mood because he wasn’t supposed to working a double shift....” should read “The officer was in a foul mood because he wasn’t supposed to (be) working a double shift...”
“......were driving up to my grandmother’s in Pennsylvania. Don’t where my dad was, but it was just me and my mom....” should read  “....were driving up to my grandmother’s in Pennsylvania. Don’t (know) where my dad was, but it was just me and my mom...”
“Know that. Found your badge. Nice tits for and G-gal.”  should read  “Know that, Found your badge, Nice tits for (a) G-gal.”
“Her legs were rubber and she again she almost tumbled off the truck” should read “ Her legs were rubber and she almost tumbled off the truck”.