Thursday, November 4, 2010

Editorial November 2010 e-issue #17

By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

Here we are: the 17th issue of The Black Glove, and we’re heading quickly towards the end of another year. Before we know it, here in the U.S., Thanksgiving will have come and gone, and then Christmas Day is just around the corner. It’ll be yet another year of media-driven screams on television to “BUY! BUY! BUY!”, whether you can afford it or not, something for which I have less and less patience with each passing year of my time here on this planet. I hate the over commercialization of holidays that SHOULD mean something to those of us lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Sometimes I think we here tend to think that that is true for everyone, everywhere. We should be wise enough, eyes wide open enough, to know that just isn’t true. Not even here in our own country, let alone all those places we will never see for ourselves. If nothing else, we should be able to see the facts on the evening news, if we cared to know the truth. Right?
Now I don’t mean to get preachy about what we should prioritize in this country over that all important gift giving fix we’ve all come to worship, but this time of year always brings to mind a couple of things that have meant more to me over the years than the gift giving experience.
Back before there were a million channels (and nothing to watch on any of them), there were three major networks: CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System), NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and, of course, ABC (American Broadcasting Company). Each of them made it an annual tradition to show family oriented holiday specials. As a kid, seeing those shows hit the airwaves was one of the ways I marked time as the years went by during my childhood. It usually started to feel as if the end of the year was coming when CBS showed that Halloween classic, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” (first aired on October 27th, 1966).

And then, of course, that other Charles Schultz holiday classic to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)

would come along a couple of weeks later to bring a great message about what a holiday that’s come to be synonymous for an all-you-can-eat mentality SHOULD really mean to American families who have come to see the holiday as a day of plenty for everyone, despite the very real fact that when it first aired in 1973, this country was in the midst of one of the worst economic depression it had seen in modern history. Unemployment rates and homlessness were at some of their highest in the history of this country. Looking back now, the media likes us to remember the 70s as that silly, comically glitzy Bee-Gees lovin’, Disco crazy, hedonistic time in American history, more to be embarrassed about than remembered for its many lessons in social hubris. But the truth is the 70s was one of the worst decades this country has ever seen.

Back then, I was a kid, and even then, in love, and yet filled with a great fear of, the one thing that meant much to me: horror, be it books or films. And just in case you’re wondering, it’s still something for which I feel that same strange emotional and intellectual dichotomy. I never have outgrown it; and hope I never do. But despite my childish innocence back then about the true nature of real world horrors, even I knew the world was in deep shit. Even if I didn’t quite understand all I saw on the evening news, I could still sense it in how the adults around me reacted to the things we saw together on the news. Sometimes Christmas seemed to be the only safe time during those years. I would get lost in that expectancy of Santa Claus and brightly lighted Christmas trees, and, of course, the Christmas morning ritual of ripping into gifts, seeing what the hirsute gent had dropped down our trailer's heating vent.

It was always a couple of weeks before that glorious day that the television stations would begin to show their usual Christmas specials. Some of them became tradition, such as “Frosty the Snowman” (1969)

and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964).

While others were…erm…less than successful and thankfully went the way of the Dodo. I’m speaking, of course, of that travesty of Christmas specials, 1978’s “Star Wars Holiday Special”

But it was the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965), which was already a tradition by the time I was born, that became an important family ritual in our house every year. My little brother and I always watched it with our parents. Despite the sometimes overly Christian message it attempts to impart to its audience, it is still a damned fine message that Christmas Day SHOULD be about love and peace among men…all men…no matter their skin color, creed or religion.

And, of course, that even sad Xmas trees need nothing but love to make them special.

Not to mention that the show has one of the most beautiful jazz piano soundtracks by the great Vince Guaraldi. I can’t hear it, even now, without thinking of those long gone days of my family sitting together, huddled against one of those seasonal Northeastern Florida ‘cold snaps’, eating popcorn and drinking homemade hot cocoa. You know, just being together.
I don’t watch much TV these days, but I when I do, around the holidays, I don’t see these shows hitting the airwaves with the same sort of fanfare or sense of tradition that they once held for American children. That being said, since I am officially 41 years old now, I’m old and wise enough to know that nothing stays the same, and that nothing is forever, including those great old 70s and 80s holiday specials. I just wish the messages of peace, love and understanding they once sent to the younger generation were still being told across the tube.

Although I’m not much of a fan, there’s a classic pop song by Elvis Costello and its lyrics still seem poignant, and without that irony-for-irony’s-sake, and somehow even more meaningful as I get older: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?

So from all of us here at The Black Glove, to all of you and yours- no matter where your home may be- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah or whatever salutation of cheer and well wishes your culture may use at this time of year…or any time of the year, for that matter. May all you Horrorheads see the darkness, but also enjoy the light. Most of all, don't forget that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

--Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

(NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Just about all of the old Peanuts holiday specials have been released on different DVD/Blu-ray packs now, so do yourself a favor and either discover them for the first time, or re-discover them with your loved ones or for yourself. I'm not a very religious person by nature, but most of them have simple human messages to impart about respect and love for your fellow man. Horrorheads especially should dig that message, for we delve into the darker side of human nature as a matter of course, and by choice.)

Staff Profiles

Nickolas Cook (editor-in-chief)
Publishing Credits: Nickolas has had dozens of short stories and non-fiction reviews and articles published in print and electronic formats. He has been the fiction moderator for for over four years. To date, his two published novels, THE BLACK BEAST OF ALGERNON WOOD (Dailey Swan Publishing), BALEFUL EYE ( Publishing) and ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND from Coscom Entertainment, all of which have received several positive reviews and he’s been said to display a true craftsmanship missing in much of modern horror. His first short story collection, 'ROUND MIDNIGHT AND OTHER TALES OF LOST SOULS was recently released from Damnation Books.. He also has two new releases forthcoming: PAINT IT BLACK (early 2011 from Dailey Swan Press) and another new mashup novel from Coscom Entertainment called TREASURE ISLAND OF THE DEAD, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's original classic of pirates and treasure.

Personal Info: Nickolas lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and three wonderful Chinese Pugs, who are worse than little children…the dogs, not the wife.
Visit me at my official website, THE HORROR JAZZ AND BLUES REVUE
Or email me at

Steven M. Duarte (Co-Editor)
Personal Info: I have always been interested in horror culture from a very young age. I enjoy all aspects of the genre from movies, video games, books to music. I have a soft spot for foreign horror films most notably Italian made ones. I especially enjoy zombie horror films and have made it my mission to try and view any and all movies involving zombies.
Favorite films: Day of the Dead, Suspiria, Zombi, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and Deep Red, just to name a few.
I primarily listen to heavy metal but enjoy all different types of music. I have been a diehard Slipknot fan since the start and continue to be a supporter of the group. I also enjoy listening to horror soundtracks especially by the Italian group Goblin.

MyMiserys (aka Kim Cook)
Personal Info: Kim lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, Nickolas Cook, and a pack of Pugs. She met Nick in 1997 in an old AOL Horror chat room and they married a year later on Halloween 1998. She has had a passion for horror novels since the tender age of 12, when she read The Exorcist (before it was made into a movie). Her favorite author, other than Nick, is Stephen King, and she truly considers herself his “Number One Fan”. She has been reading and collecting King’s books since “Carrie” was first published. When she is not reading, Kim bakes …and bakes and bakes. You can see pictures of her wonderful cakes on her MySpace page and Facebook. Each month Kim asks a featured author “13 Questions” so Black Glove readers can get to know a little about the person behind the books.
Guilty pleasure? MeatLoaf...the man...not the entrée.
URL: MySpace

Carey Copeland has worked in television, radio and film. He's been a special effects artist on several film productions through The Joe Blasco Makeup Academy and helped design dark ride exhibits across the country, including the E.T. ride at Universal Studios Florida. He's been a horror fan since the early age of 8, when he first saw a rerun of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter and the author of four non-fiction books, including THE CINEMA OF TSUI HARK. She is a three-time winner of the Bram Stoker award, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and has published over three dozen works of short fiction. Her first novel, THE CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES, has received rave reviews since its release in early 2010 (by Gray Friar Press), and her newest novella, THE SAMHANACH, is a Halloween treat from Bad Moon Books. She lives online at

Karen L. Newman lives in Kentucky where she's an active member of "Horror Writers Association" and edits "Illumen" and "Cosmic Crime Stories". She edited the online magazine, "Afterburn SF" for over four years before the market closed. Over three hundred of her short stories and poems have been published both online and in print in places such as "Dark Tales of Terror", "Dead Worlds: Undead Stories", and "The Pedestal Magazine". Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), ChemICKals (Naked Snake Press, 2007), and Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009). She blogs for the Apex Book Company. Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), ChemICKals (Naked Snake Press, 2007), and Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009), which can be purchased online at or
She won the 2005 Kentucky Mary Jane Barnes Award and two of her poems received honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She's been nominated for a Rhysling Award, James B. Baker Award, and twice nominated for a Dwarf Star Award.
Please visit her online at:
Contact Info: and leave out NOSPAM when contacting
Fav Movies: SAW, Rocky Horror Picture Show

Brian Sammons has been writing reviews for years for such places as the magazines Cemetery Dance, Dark Wisdom, Shock Totem, and The Unspeakable Oath. His reviews have also appeared on many websites like The Black Seal, Bloody-Disgusting, and Horror World. Wanting to give other critics the chance to ravage his work for a change, Brian has also penned a few short stories that have appeared in such anthologies as Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, and Monstrous. Some of the magazines where you can find his twisted tales are Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Dark Animus. For more about this guy whose neighbors describe as “such nice, quiet man” go here:

Jason Shayer
Publishing Credits:“The Ranch” – Necrotic Tissue #6
“No Man’s Land” – Dead Science Anthology (Coscom Entertainment)
“The Toll” – Hideous Evermore Anthology (Shadowcity Press)
Personal Info: Jason Shayer's 12-year-old mind frame has given more than a few people a reason to raise an eyebrow, most often his wife. When he’s not writing or reading, he’s teaching his three year old daughter and three week old son the finer points of zombie lore.
Contact info:

The Eye of Time (An All Original Serial Novel)

Frank Menser and Nickolas Cook

Part I—
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Chapter 5—

It seemed to Drake, now known to these brave and bloody people as Draco, a man of great power and influence in this strange unknown world, that this was like a dream in which he had unwillingly been thrust. He kept silent for his part during the ride into the castle proper. First, their part had wound up a narrow rocky course, which the horses seemed familiar enough with to do most of the work for themselves, without much guidance from their riders. Lucky enough, Drake/Draco thought, since he had never, as far as he was concerned traversed this steep and unlikely course himself. But he felt even as he allowed the stallion beneath him to take the lead that that was not entirely the truth either. It was as if two men resided within: one who was a stranger to all, and another who knew every step, every rock of this pathway leading up to a strangely familiar stone construct. Drake shook his head, as if bothered by gnats in his very mind, trying to assert some sort of true authority over these alien feelings and thoughts within himself.
His gesture did not go completely unnoticed. Warson leaned forward in his saddle next to him and gently touched his liege’s arm. “Sire, are ye well? Ye seem pale and uncertain. Shall we stop for a short rest?”
Drake forced himself to smile at his familiar and yet unfamiliar cohort and man-in-arms. “So close to the castle? No, I will be fine. I just need to find a place to sit and think for a while.”
“Strange is your speech, sire,” Warson said, his broad face filled with concern and confusion. “You sound not like yourself. It worries me to the bone, sire.”
Drake waved him away. “I’m okay. Really. I—” he tried to think of a way to construct his speech so this man might be put at ease. He stumbled over this next words, attempting to match the other’s odd pattern and word choice. “Mayhaps I received a harsher blow from yon villain than I first thought. My head feels thick and floating. If that makes sense to…ye?”
Warson still seemed concerned, but Drake’s word choice also seemed to have been close enough to what the other man wanted to hear to set his mind at more ease than before. He sat back in his saddle and nodded. “Mayhaps, sire, it is as you say. In yon castle we shall have Owl Thomas make sure of your health. And I’m sure the lady will also see to your health, eh?”
Utterly confused, Drake held that forced smile, knowing neither who this lady might be or this Owl Thomas, and nodded.
Just keep quiet as possible, he warned himself. The less you say the better. No one needs to know you are not whom they think you are. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. So what if you feel like man whose been tossed onto an island without a clue? These warriors don’t seem the type to bear much patience with crazy talk. And telling them you’re a man from another time and place will certainly sound insane to them. Definitely not something they want to hear after they saved your arse from a man who, like them, seemed oddly familiar and strange at the same time. They might decide they made a mistake in saving your hide an cut you own with one of their strange steel swords.
And that thought only brought forth another troubling one: how in the heck had he known how to use his own sword against the man they’d called Lord Balto? It hadn’t been anything as ridiculous as beginner’s luck. No, the length of deadly steel had felt as natural to his callused grip as his own missing pistols had felt in his own missing time and place. How did he explain that?
You don’t try, he told himself. You keep your mouth shut and eyes open. You try to figure out the rules of this new place and survive until…until what?
That thought made him even more fearful.
But he reigned in the growing dread and terror.
Until you can figure out what the hell is going on and how you can get back to your own time and place.
He gave no voice to the logical conclusion of that line of thought, which was if he could ever get back. At the moment, it didn’t seem like a very healthy line of thinking to follow.
The roadway had been climbing for what seemed like miles, and then finally they hit a long straight away of the same rocky terrain, but it had been more properly maintained, and so the horses made better time now. And having reached this part of their journey his traveling companions became ebullient and gregarious amongst themselves. There was good natured laughter now; and joking within the ranks. Drake kept his simple and watchful silence, nodding if engaged in conversation, but carefully adding nothing to the several lines of conversations around him. He listened with care, trying to glean information from even the most casual of remarks. It didn’t take him long to come away with two pieces of what he considered important information: that this, so far, unnamed lady was his betrothed and this Owl Thomas was some sort of court appointed man of magic. Both of these pieces of information felt very important and almost surreal in their weight of importance to his existence, here, in this strange place and time. It felt to him that these two unknown persons were the key to his understanding of this impossible situation in which he found himself. He felt the need to speak to them both at length to fully grasp his impossible situation.
He continued to keep his ears open as the small band of riders made their way to the gate of the castle. As they approached, no one challenged them, as if their presence had been ascertained long before their actual approach. They were allowed entrance inside the castle without a word of recognition from beyond the stalwart tall walls of grey stone. A gate was lowered slowly across the yards and yards of open space that separated the castle proper from the stony road leading up to it. No visible guards could be seen as his fellow travelers led the way across the thick wooden bridge that spanned the deep chasm which ran the length of the castle’s yard. The weight of their passage didn’t seem to concern the thick wood barrier cum bridge. There wasn’t even a creak to ascertain their passage, and Drake could only guess at the type of wood used to construct such a bridge/gate.
Once they were inside the gate proper, the bridge was raised into position once again, by unseen hands. Drake could hear muffled commands being called from somewhere inside the long, high walls that surrounded the castle, and the invisible steps of many booted feet marching in time.
Inside the walls, Drake found a small village of huts. As they rode forth, frightened people peered from the shadows of the huts. Drake could feel their terror of the war which raged without. His heart went out to them; like the people he had seen in a similar war, in his own place and time, the Civil War had been to him populated not by the soldiers who went into battle screaming and crying for blood, for freedom, for whatever it was that might happen to drive them into firing near pointblank at one another for their cause, but that war, and seemingly this one, was made up of the faces of the innocent who suffered for someone else’s cause. Mostly the faces which watched him and his retinue of warriors ride by were women, young and old, and young boys. None of the males looked to be any older than teenage.
Smoke filtered from within the huts, home fires undoubtedly cooking meager meals on this rainy evening.
No one spoke to them.
The sound of the horse’s hooves on muddy ground echoed within the walls.
The sense of tension overwhelmed Drake and he finally had to break the silence of go mad. “The battle? Who leads it now?”
Warson peered at him from the deepening shadows gathering about them as the sun wound down the horizon, smothered in ragged, black storm clouds. “What mean you, sire?”
“If we are here, then who runs the campaign without us?”
Killian grinned through the mud covering his youthful face. “Worry not, sire, on that count. You struck a blow to the enemy with your heroic act this day. Even now, Lord Balto is running from the fields, followed by his cowardly band of bloodthirsty Vendenian brigands he calls an army. Our men, led by General Genar, give chase over the borderlands of Gothia and into the Disputed Territories.”
Drake turned in his saddle. He tried to find the correct pattern and lilt to his words, so he would sound more like these strange (yet strangely familiar) men. “How…how know you…this?”
Killian looked at Drake as if he were having a joke at his expense, but Drake showed no indication of his words holding the weight of humor. Killian looked to Samhien and Warson. Warson shrugged, giving the younger man a wry smirk, as if to say ‘play along with this strange whim until we understand it better’.
Killian forced his mouth into a straight line, no indication of his own confusion now, the humorless response of a soldier giving information to his officer, his liege. “Sire, the Owl, of course. He has sent us word of how the battle goes.”
Drake’s brow furrowed. The question of how this ‘Owl’, whoever he might be, had done so was on his lips, but he could see the way these men who called him liege watched him warily and worriedly, and so he kept silent. Once again, he decided to keep quiet and gather information as it came to him, rather than risk total discovery that he was not this man they called Duke Draco, their leader and liege.
The road that led to the castle proper angled upwards and was awash with running streams of muddy water, but the war horses, stout beasts that they were, made their swift way up the watery path. Soon the weary party stopped in the near darkness at a great doorway of stone cut into the vast structure that towered above. A single firebrand burned above the doorway, in impossible defiance of the rain. Drake saw a fire which burned in the rain, but decided this was just one more thing which he could learn about without giving away his lack of knowledge.
Before Drake could dismount the door was opened by a duo of grim faced guards in black armor from inside the castle, and out ran a sobbing young woman in a white gown that trailed in the mud behind her. Drake could barely get off the horse in time to catch her as she clung onto him. Pressing her face into his blood stained, muddied chest, she held on tightly. Drake looked down at her, wordless and stunned. This was one of the women from his vision he’d seen inside the cave, just before his impossible appearance here in this new land and time. He found his arms going around her, holding her shaking frame even tighter against himself. Rain cascaded down upon the party, which was utterly silent but the sobbing of the woman in his arms. Despite his sense of utter disorientation, this felt right, no matter how impossible it should be. There was something about the curve of her back in the palm of his armored hands, the way her head fit snugly under his chin, the scent of her long scarlet hair, which was becoming sodden in the downpour, that felt as if she had been created only for him. Her pale, milky smooth flesh shook violently in his arms.
A new voice from the open door pulled his attention from the sobbing beauty wrapped in his arms. “Fear not, Lady Bethany, our Duke is alive and well, as I promised.” Drake peered towards the dim doorway to see a tall, gray-haired man. Belying his seeming ancient years, he stood erectly. In one bony hand, he held a gnarled wooden staff. His smile was warm and genuine. His eyes verily glowed with some inner power. When their gaze met, Drake saw those kindly eyes suddenly light up with surprise, and then his gaze settled into a sort of silent understanding. Nodding, the old man hurried from the doorway, gently pulled the sobbing Lady Bethany from Drake’s hold. “Now, now, my dear,” he said, “let us get everyone inside and out of this downpour.” He looked meaningfully into Drake’s confused gaze. “And we’ll have to see what’s what. Correct, my good Duke Draco?”
Drake thought he understood what the old man meant. “That would be very helpful, sir,” he said, trying to keep his voice and emotions under control.
It took only a few moments more before stablemen came to retrieve the mounts and more servants appeared to help the weary warriors inside. Everyone huddled within a vast stony chamber. There was very little light in this part of the entrance, but Drake could see more light further within. Several more firebrands were posted to either side, high on the walls. In their meager light Drake could see many richly decorated tapestries decorating the walls, a series of multi-colored rugs which led deeper into the castle.
Lady Bethany went to Drake once more, clung to him and kissed his cheeks and forehead. “My Lord,” she said breathlessly, “I felt sure you had been slain. I felt in my blood and bone something terrible had become of you.”
“I-I’m fine,” Drake managed to say as she continued to shower his face with soft, warm kisses. Her lips were full and red, and Drake felt as if he might like to be kissed by them forever.
“Aye, my lady,” Warson assured her, “our heroic Duke received nothing more than a few scratches and bruises. He certainly fared much better than our good Samhien.” Samhien chuckled and held up a bloody arm upon which a long gash still bled. The giant dark-skinned man didn’t seem to be bothered by the wound in the least. Lady Bethany saw the wound and gave a soft cry of dismay. “Oh, my Samhien, my dearest brother! Your poor arm!” Eyes filled now with concern for Samhien, she drew away from Drake and turned to a young dark haired woman standing nearby, began giving her instructions. “Yontelle, please hurry. See to the healers for my brother.”
Samhien laughed even louder, holding the arm high, eyeing the damage with humor. “Sister, tis nothing. I have had worse injuries milking the cows as a child.”
She ignored him. “Yontelle, the healers. Hurry!”
The young woman did as she was told and disappeared through a long purple curtain further down the hall.
“Oh, Owl, we need more light,” Lady Bethany cried. “I cannot see the damage.”
The old man shook his head and gave a soft chuckle. “My lady, worry not. Light you wish, light you shall have.” He struck the staff on the ground and the firebrands all suddenly flared to brighter life around them. Drake jumped and winced against the new light. And in that new light, he saw three things: he and his warriors were even more brutal looking than he first imagined; the old man, Owl, was even older than he first thought; and the Lady Bethany’s beauty was even more stunning than he could have imagined.
But he had no time to appreciate her beauty, because Owl took the opportunity of Lady Bethany’s attention on her brother Samhien to grasp hold of Drake’s arm. “My lady,” he said, “I must now speak with our good Duke Draco for a few moments. We must speak of the battle past and the battle to come. Lord Balto will not take this lose well. Prepare, we must.”
Lady Bethany gave Drake one more meaningful, promising glance, and smiled. Then she turned her attentions to her bleeding brother and the others as Owl hustled Drake away from them. Drake saw Warson, Samhien and Killian trade silent glances as he left the room.
Owl stayed quiet as he led Drake down a large stone hallway, now brightly alight with huge scones and brands sitting on the floor and hanging from the wall. He had no time to give more than a cursory appreciative glance to the many beautiful tapestries and richly loomed long runner rugs that seemed to cover most of the hallway. Drake wanted to ask questions—many questions—but when he tried to speak, the old man gave him a warning finger to his lips to stay silent for now.
Drake held his questions in check for the moment, allowing the old man- who moved with an alacrity which belied his seeming ancientness- to lead him deeper into the castle.
They stopped at a broad and weathered gray wooden doorway. Owl touched the wood, mumbled something softly, and then the door gave a low click sound, and swung open soundlessly. Owl looked over his shoulder at Drake’s confused face. “I know you are not Duke Draco,” he said. “Now we shall find out your true self. Come inside.” He motioned for Drake to move past him.
Drake did so slowly, but he found himself stopping after only a few steps inside, however, because he was suddenly overwhelmed by the contents of the room.
The room seemed to stretch far away into shadows, although it was lit by several strange and unseen green and blue glowing lights. At least unseen to him, for he could not find the origin of their glow. But what the lights illuminated was even stranger than their sourceless illumination. Glass beakers crouched upon long wooden tables and cabinets; some were filled with dark fluids, others with liquids that almost seemed to give off their own light. There were also many metallic and glass tubes that ran here and there, ending in tubes and wooden boxes. Strange metallic wheels sat motionless near large contraptions whose nature Drake could never guess. Charts and posters displaying unknown planets and strange star paths hung upon the cold stone walls. Although shadows held more power than light here, Drake felt the place was clean nonetheless; there was nothing dank or moldy about the chamber in the least. It was as if the darkness were part of the room itself, a side effect, or even a needful thing for the things which resided within it.
Owl slid past him, closed the door behind them. The old man muttered more soft words and the low green and blue lights began to brighten slowly until the entire room filled with more illumination. Unlike the sudden flare of firebrands which Owl had caused earlier, this was a softer light, though no less bright.
He moved to the center of the room, leaving a still stunned Drake standing by the doorway, gaping at the strange devices. A large stone raised dais took up most of the center of the chamber; upon it several unknown symbols covered its weathered stones. Owl took the two steps up into the center of the dais and turned back to look at Drake. “So, young man, the true question is: who are you?”
Drake stared at the old man, feeling something hard and angry blossom in his gut. It took control of the fear and uncertainty he’d been feeling since finding himself fighting for his life against a veritable giant of a man intent on killing him. Drake took a couple of steps into the room, his voice edged with a cool fury. “Maybe I have a few questions before I start answering anything for you, sir.”
Owl’s smile remained, but Drake could see his brow furrow. He tapped thin fingers against the smooth wood of his staff, watching Drake with his dark eyes. “Mayhaps you are right. Mayhaps it is only fair to allow you some answers first.” The old man found an ancient tall-backed wooden chair near a set of black thinly lined symbols and he sat, motioned for Drake to come closer. Drake did so, glancing nervously around the cluttered chamber. Again, he had that disorienting sense that the unfamiliar machinery should mean something to him, but shaking off the sensation, he forced his attention back on Owl’s smiling, waiting visage. “Speak, my young friend,” said Owl. “What would you know?”
“Well, first off,” Drake said, “where in blue blazes am I? What is this place? Who are those men who were with me? Who was the woman? Who are you? What—”
Owl gave a hearty laugh, holding his hand up to forestall Drake’s confused barrage of rapid fire questions. “Hold, young man. Please. I shall answer all, in good time.”
“This seems as good a time as any to me,” Drake replied.
Owl nodded. “Yes, of course,” he said. “But mayhaps you’d care for refreshments before we begin? Fighting for one’s life can be thirsty work, yes? And surely you must be hungry. When last did you eat?” The ancient magician signaled towards another chair near his own. Drake hesitated for a moment, more eager to know where he was and what had happened to him, than his stomach pangs, but he was thirsty, and truthfully he couldn’t remember the last meal he’d eaten. Giving a silent shrug, he moved to sit next to Owl.
“I have wine, if that pleases,” said the old man. “My food is simple, for I do not eat as heartily as you warriors, being a simple conjuror and spell binder.” He stood suddenly, and again, Drake was surprised at how quickly he could move for someone who appeared to be so advanced in years. If Drake had to guess his age from just his face, he would have put told him as eighty or more years. But his strong voice and his quick movements belied that guess. Owl moved to a small cabinet off to one side, rummaged through it for drink and food, and soon returned with both. He laid them out before Drake, pouring a rich, thick red wine in two glasses, placed them next to a small silver platter of cheeses and breads. “This should take the edge off of both thirst and hunger, while I explain what has happened, young man.”
Drake smelled the wine. His mouth salivated and with the first swallow he tasted its strong, fruity favor. The liquor burned through his body like a warm wave of peace. Owl motioned toward the food. Drake took several roughly broken cubes of soft white cheese and a hunk of black bread. His first few bites were small and polite, but he soon found his hunger was stronger than his manners, and he ate the simple food with gusto. He hadn’t realized just how ravenous he’d become until he began to eat. While he ate, Owl began his tale.
“I know not exactly about your time and place, but I do know you probably feel as if you’ve seen this place before, for all its utter strangeness. Am I correct?”
Drake nodded, swallowing more wine. Somehow it did not surprise him that the old man knew about the odd sensation of knowing and not knowing about this place.
“You are in a world known to we who live here as Bard. Currently you reside within Castle Dracon, the hereditary seat of power for the Draco family. And whether you, intended it or not, have somehow slipped from your own world to Bard, taking the place, apparently, of our good lord Duke Draco. And at a most inopportune time, too, I might add. This is a most important battle the Duke was waging. It may be lost now because of your sudden switching of place and time.”
Drake felt the food in his stomach sitting like cold rocks as Owl told him more. Soon, he had forgotten the food and wine, and he sat mutely, wide eyed, as the old man told him more. He was what they called a doppelganger, a person who had a twin self. He had switched places, or taken this Duke Draco’s place, for now. Owl told him that is was a rare occurrence in these years. He also explained the men who had ridden with him earlier were his closest advisors, his closest friends, like brothers. They were his strongest, most able warriors, each a great leader of men in his own right. Owl told him about the young woman with scarlet hair and milky pale skin. Her name was Lady Bethany. “Duke Draco’s betrothed,” the old man added. “And she is one of the last of the Blood.”
“What’s the Blood?” asked Drake, trying to let all of this impossible information find purchase in his confused, tumultuous mind.
“The Blood are a race of men and women who once held great power in Bard.” Owl’s eyes held him rigid. “Once, they were plentiful, and they ruled all other races with equality and a firm hand. But that was in ancient times, long, long ago. Almost out of memory now. In those times, they were much stronger. But with the passing eons, breeding outside their race has made them less so. Still, Lady Bethany has much power in her own right.” The old man leaned forward. “Do you remember how she cried that she felt something had happened to you?”
Drake nodded, remembering the feel of her soft warm body pressed against his, and how right it had felt, despite that he’d never actually seen her before, except in his vision.
“That was her power calling within her. The Blood. She knew you had taken her lover’s place, even if she knew not exactly what’s happened to him. She felt the change.”
Drake sat silent for a moment. Shifted through time and place? No, this was impossible.
When Owl looked to him and waited for an even trade of information, Drake felt obliged to at least give him his name and the story of how he’d come to find himself here in Bard. And as he recited his story, he told the old man about the red jewel in the cave. He told the old wizard about it. Owl’s eyes clouded with confusion and then a sort of fearfulness which made Drake feel that chill creep up his spine again.
“Tis The Eye of Time,” Owl muttered almost to himself. “But how? It should have remained buried for another several eons. Something must have disturbed its rest.” Then he focused his dark powerful eyes on Drake again. “And why would it choose you to come here, snatch away the one man in Bard who might have fought to keep it safe?”
“One other thing about this vision I had, sir,” Drake said. “I saw Lady Bethany. That’s why I was confused when she appeared tonight.”
Owl smiled. “Yes, well, as I said: she is of The Blood. Her power could be tied to The Eye of Time in some manner I have yet to see or understand.”
“But there was another woman, too,” Drake added, knowing before he said it that the information he was about to convey would add yet another layer of dread to this strange new world he’d found himself. He could still feel her malevolent hatred for him from his vision. He described the dark haired woman, with evil eyes, filled with bloodlust.
And as he feared Owl’s face drained of color. “You are sure of this woman?’
Drake nodded.
The old man heaved a heavy sigh. Suddenly, he looked as old as Drake first guessed. Very ancient and very weary.
“Sir Drake,” he said, eyes filled with quiet fear, “mayhaps we should get some sleep this night. For on the morrow we must not only fight a battle, but discover what evil she intends and how she and The Eye of Time are linked. And, most importantly, how our destinies have become intertwined. I fear a great evil is at work now, young man. An evil that means to devour us all.”

--End installment of The Eye of Time--
(For links to all previous chapters in order of appearance, please see above this newest installment.)

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review: Akin to Poetry: Observations on Some Strange Tales of Robert Aickman by Philip Challinor

Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

Small publishers such as Gothic Press generally don’t release reference books. However, Akin to Poetry: Observations on Some Strange Tales of Robert Aickman by Philip Challinor is such a book and is an interesting academic study of some of Aickman’s short stories.
This book reminds me of the Cliff Notes and Monarch Notes so popular several generations ago, before the internet. All have soft covers and contain summaries of important works. A student could read Challinor’s book and have an excellent grasp of each story without reading it. If one has already read Aickman’s work, this book enhances the reader’s comprehension. However, this book is not for the casual reader who would find the dissection of each story tedious. The flavor of Aickman’s work is lost.
The references are noted at the end of the book, not in numerical order as in most academic books. The reader must make an effort to match the references with the citations for each story, another reason the book is not for the casual reader. In a lot of instances Aickman’s stories are retold, unfortunately in a boring manner; such is the result of most academic work. The price of $22.50 for Challinor’s work here is rather high, in my opinion, for a soft-cover book. However, a true fan of Aickman would be willing to pay.
Akin to Poetry: Observations on Some Strange Tales of Robert Aickman is really a book for a true fan. If you’re interesting in learning more about Aickman, read his stories for yourself.

--Karen L. Newman

Bloody Pages Book Reviews

A MATRIX OF ANGELS by Christopher Conlon
(Creative Guy Publishing, April 2011 release)
Review by Lisa Morton

Anyone who has read more than, say, ten horror novels over the last thirty years has encountered this book: A middle-aged writer returns to the small town where he (and yes, it’s nearly always a “he”) grew up, but he must now fight an ancient evil that has taken root in his one-time home. Stephen King’s 1975 classic SALEM’S LOT popularized the theme and is still recognized as one of his finest works; but in the years since then the theme has appeared in literally dozens (possibly hundreds) of lesser works…including a few by King himself.
Then, sometime within the last few years, this theme – calcified by overuse and rendered virtually dead – began to subtly alter. No longer were the protagonists stalwart heroes with a bit of emotional baggage who found redemption by fighting the vampire/demon/spirit/giant space spider/generally amorphous entity. Now they were troubled adults so traumatized by some event from their childhood that they’d hidden or repressed the memory; in Peter Straub’s last novel A DARK MATTER, the protagonist has never asked his wife for details of the traumatic childhood event he didn’t witness. The small town is no longer a bastion of mid-20th-century American values threatened by the murderous antagonist; now the old homestead is revealed to contain hidden anxieties and terrors. Nostalgia turns bitter, friends frequently wind up dead, and there is no salvation for the protagonist. If the lyrical memories of Ray Bradbury’s work seemed to have originally informed the first cycle of these stories, the most recent entries (which may have begun with Glen Hirshberg’s THE SNOWMAN’S CHILDREN and more recently also include Norman Prentiss’s fine novella INVISIBLE FENCES) are likelier to feel more like they owe a debt to the psychology and neuroticism of Alfred Hitchcock.
The baby boomers, it would seem, have decided that their childhoods were anything but idyllic.
Christopher Conlon’s A MATRIX OF ANGELS may be to this current round of troubled writer-returning-home stories what SALEM’S LOT was to the original crop: The pinnacle, the apex, the finest example (if not the first, as LOT was). MATRIX is a superb novel from beginning to wrenching ending, and it’s hard to imagine that any other book in this very peculiar sub-genre will surpass the achievement of MATRIX.
The book opens by introducing us to middle-aged Frances Pastan, a moderately successful author/illustrator of children’s books, but an utter failure as a wife and mother – her teenaged daughter Jess won’t talk to her, and Jess’s father Donald is wary about encouraging communication between mother and daughter. After attending a book festival in Santa Barbara, Frances – who also has an alcohol problem – makes her way north to the small California town of Quiet. Once she arrives there, Frances recalls her year in Quiet: Abandoned by her parents, 12-year-old Frances is a shy, bright girl who arrives to live with her dull aunt and uncle. She is immediately befriended by Lucy Sparrow, the energetic tomboy who lives across the street; Lucy is bold and fearless where Frances is timid and introverted, and the two soon become best friends.
Frances’s reminiscences aren’t all happy thoughts of TIGER BEAT magazine and Donny Osmond, though. One of the masterful things about A MATRIX OF ANGELS is how it builds a spiraling tower of secrets and deceptions. Why Frances has been sent away from her home in Fresno whirls around what middle-aged Frances has done to drive away her daughter and collides with the final fate of Lucy Sparrow and meshes with the unspoken past that ensured Lucy’s doom. Because we know from the beginning that Lucy IS doomed; by the end of the first chapter we’ve been told that Lucy was murdered. MATRIX, then, is no traditional mystery, but is intent instead on exploring the mystery of how Lucy’s death forever altered Frances Pastan. What happened between them? Where did Frances go afterward? Where is Lucy’s killer? These are the bigger questions explored in MATRIX, and the answers provided are why the book is a subtle, but very effective, horror novel.
One of the other remarkable things about MATRIX is its exploration of teenaged girls. Remember that mention above of the overriding use of “he” in most of these horror novels? Frances and Pastan are compelling characters and yet wholly believable; I’d be amazed, in fact, if any female reader of MATRIX won’t be reminded of her own clumsy adolescence, or a friend once cherished who has since vanished. Author Conlon has even explored the (rare for literature) notion of female bullies, showing how peer acceptance and class differences factor into the viciousness of teenaged girls. Lucy’s vivacity also leads her to commit petty acts of crime (joy riding in a neighbor’s stolen car) and not-so-petty acts of violence. Because Conlon has also perfectly drawn the milieu of the mid-California suburb, the novel feels utterly authentic; it almost made me wonder, in fact, if some of my own memories of growing up female in a west coast suburb weren’t tinged with hazy deception.
Like any great novel, MATRIX saves its biggest punch for last…but without giving away any of MATRIX’s astonishing ending (except to say that it occurs in a desert shack not far from Vegas, and is incredibly tense), suffice to say that it offers a final answer that is devastating in providing no comfort or relief. This isn’t the old school, in which the hero fights his way through an apocalypse; MATRIX offers up instead the far more frightening notion that there is no escape from our worst experiences and “closure” is a condition that can never exist.
A MATRIX OF ANGELS also includes the original short story that served as the basis of the novel, and a brief but fascinating note from Conlon about how that story became a full book.
I, for one, am incredibly thankful that it did. I was an unabashed fan of Conlon’s first novel, MIDNIGHT ON MOURN STREET, but MATRIX is even better. It’s horrific, tragic, beautiful, wry, nightmarish, melancholic, and a nearly perfect work of genre fiction.

--Lisa Morton

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by Bill Lindblad

THE BEAST MUST DIE by Nicholas Blake

We've seen the set-up before: a mystery writer who decides to kill someone, and tries to make it a "perfect" murder. We've seen it on Columbo. We've seen it on Murder, She Wrote. And we even saw it in real life when Agatha Christie's husband was very nearly executed for her murder.
I'd like to say this book started it all... but it didn't. The concept had been around before this book was written in 1938. It also wasn't the first book to feature a sympathetic murderer. It is, however, the earliest book I've found which combined both elements, and it stands today as a book that has weathered time unusually well.
The concept is simple: a widower's young son has been slain by a hit-and-run driver. The police investigation has turned up nothing. As a successful crime novelist, the father decides to launch his own investigation. It might take him days, months or longer, but he will find the man who killed his child and he will murder that man.
The first part of the book is constructed as the author's diary. It allows the reader to get inside the mind of this fundamentally decent man as he works toward his goal, and provides a way to develop both the character and, by reflection, the people with whom he becomes intimate on his path to revenge.
The second part of the book is a traditional murder mystery, with the author's series detective shifting to the starring role. Despite the obvious buildup as to who the killer must be, from the first part of the book, the author manages to produce an interesting, somewhat twisted narrative that manages a few surprises both in plot and character. The dialogue is sharp but somewhat dated, and some of the observations about humanity have not borne out (my favorite occurs in the book's second paragraph, where the author rejects the notion of a sociopath) but overall the book is engrossing and satisfying.

Five stars out of Five

THE BREAKDOWN / TRAPS by Friedrich Durrenmatt

I'm counting this book from its original publication date, 1956. That was when The Breakdown (Die Panne) was published in Germany. It was translated into English in the early 1960s and published under its new title "Traps" by the Ballantines.
A man named Alfredo Traps suffers the poor luck of a vehicular breakdown in a small town. Finding no available room at the only true inn, he manages to secure lodging with an amiable elderly local who sometimes hosts the inn's overflow guests.
The homeowner is a former judge, and he invites his boarder to join him and his friends for dinner. The food and conversation are both excellent, and afterward the elderly locals decide to play a familiar parlor game: they stage a mock trial. They were all litigants of one sort or another, and they find it keeps their minds sharp.
Traps acquiesces... and events quickly spiral out of control. The author keeps the reader guessing, laying equal hints that their pastime is merely a game and that there are more dire aspects to it. The discovery that one of the guests was formerly the official executioner, for example, adds to the reader's uncertainty.
The book is a psychological thriller, and it is skillfully rendered, but I was displeased by it. It relies upon the main character to drive the plot and many of his choices, while plausible, seemed unlikely. That could merely be my own viewpoints sneaking through, however. Traps is an everyman if a desire for importance and relevance trumps the manner in which fame is achieved. I'd like to think that isn't the case for most people, but reality television has been proving me wrong for the past decade.
The size of the book also cannot be overlooked. It is ridiculously short; 120 page novels were not uncommon in the 1950s and 1960s, but each page only has 21 lines of text. This is not a novel, it is a novella.
This book could easily be rewritten as a play; in fact, I'd be surprised if it has not already been turned into one in the author's native Germany.

Four stars out of Five

THE COUCH by Robert Bloch

This book was produced by Bloch in 1962. It's a novelization of Bloch's original screenplay, which was inspired by an original story by Blake Edwards and Owen Crump.
I don't know how much there was to the "original story". I'm open to the possibility that it was thoughtfully plotted and published somewhere, but I have never found any evidence to that effect. Instead what I've found is a book which is pared down to the bone without sacrificing characterization or developmental scenes. Bloch manages to give us a look at 1960s Los Angeles, and by so doing plays an interesting manipulative game with the reader.
Bloch played in many fields. He was a screenwriter, a humorist, a Mythos writer, and wore other hats besides. He is best known for his authorship of Psycho, which was famously the inspiration for the Hitchcock film.
He didn't write the screenplay for the film, however. And far, far more people have watched the film than have read the book.
At his best, he was a shining star of a thriller writer, able to take a hackneyed mystery plot and make it sing with action and believability. He does this for The Couch, which deserves recognition (like The Scarf) as among his best work in the short novel form. It is a great example of a master craftsman making something memorable out of inferior material.

Four stars out of Five

--Bill Lindblad


The Movie:

THE NINTH CONFIGURATION (aka Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane)- 1980

There's a Steven Wright joke: "You know that feeling when you're leaning back in a chair, and then you lean back too far and start to fall and just at the last second you catch yourself? I feel like that all the time."
That's how I felt watching The Ninth Configuration. The movie isn't truly disjointed; everything follows a certain, specific path both in timeline and in plot development. But the choices of scene and camera placement were made in such a way as to force themselves on the viewer. This is not a movie for smooth visual transitions. This did not feel like an intentional choice of the director, but rather something incidental to the process... as if the director wanted to make sure the scenes were acted correctly and filmed correctly, and only afterward realized that successive scenes might not flow well.

That's a minor quibble, at least to me. The movie might have actually been served best by the style; it kept me, as a viewer, from identifying too strongly with any of the central characters. By keeping the moviegoer as an observer (though not necessarily an impartial one) it allows a better presentation of the story as a parable.
And it is a parable. If it were less clever, it would be easily classified as a message movie; instead, the screenwriter and the director (in this case, both the same person... William Peter Blatty, the author of the book) took pains to present multiple sides of deep questions and only fully resolve a small percentage of them. By keeping the answers vague the questions are accentuated; at the end of the film, people are likely to talk about their interpretations. I think this can be the mark of a successful movie, if that is its intent; in this case, I believe it is the mark of a successful movie.
The casting is top-notch, particularly Stacy Keach. His character is a haunted pacifistic psychiatrist who holds some secrets deep within. Keach is ideal both in that aspect of the role, and for his actions during the brawl scene.

There is very little physical or even emotional violence in this movie. That's not the intent. There is, if anything, intellectual violence. It manifests both in humor and in fear, and that fear is made worse by the efforts of the screenwriter to approach the key topics rationally on both sides of the issue.
Ultimately, I think it succeeds admirably, and it is one I can easily recommend to other viewers. Although I would have to warn them about how many times they'll see the same waterspout used as a bridging image in the movie.
Five stars out of five

--Bill Lindblad

The Book:

This month Bill and I have switched roles. He’s doing the movie and I am doing the novels. When we decided on doing this story, I couldn’t help but insist I get the written versions, because I truly do love this tale.

There’s a brief scene in The Exorcist where little Regan comes downstairs during a party, looks at an astronaut and says, “You’re going to die up there.” In context of the novel or movie, it seems like a throw-away scene meant to show her growing possession. But in the context of William Peter Blatty’s work, it leads off a whole different story.

The Exorcist makes up one third of Blatty’s “Crisis of Faith” trilogy, bookending it with Legion (made as the movie Exorcist III). In the center are two books, the first version published in 1966 under the title Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane and later in 1978 as The Ninth Configuration. Even the movie has had numerous re-edits, as Blatty himself tries to fine-tune his story. He’s often said it was his most personal novel, and I can see that.

All versions of the story have the same central story: the astronaut from the party, Billy Cutshaw, freaks out just before his rocket is to take off for the moon. The countdown is halted, and he is shipped off to an experimental mental hospital for active military who may or may not be faking their illnesses. In comes a psychologist, Hudson Kane, with his own mysterious past and ghosts that haunt him in ways he may not fully understand. During the therapy between Cutshaw and Kane, the question of faith comes up, Cutshaw absolutely denying the existence of God, while Kane has an all-consuming faith. Kane sets out to prove God is real, thinking if he can do that, then he will cure Cutshaw’s insanity.

The two books take very different points of view to this story. “Killer” Kane has a more omnipotent view, where many of the other patients are featured, and we see not just their maladies, but also some of the insanity in the world surrounding them (makes me think of a quote by R.D. Laing that “Insanity is a sane reaction to an insane world”). While the Cutshaw/Kane story is there, so is the story of many others. While we see more of the other characters, we don’t get so far into the minds of the two main ones. It also features a lot more humor (albeit dark humor), something which Blatty is a master of (before The Exorcist he worked mainly as a comedy writer).

The Ninth Configuration takes a different approach. This time Kane and Cutshaw are front and center. We find out more about their backgrounds, their upbringings, the life experiences that brought them both to that institution. A great deal of the humor is still there, but the theological questions come much further into the forefront, thus edging out many of the funny bits. While not as entertaining as the original version, this one is definitely more affecting.

Yes, all versions of this story are quite heavy in their questions of God and faith. I know many people who will be turned off by that and not give it an initial chance. Let me tell you that I, a complete and total nonbeliever, found this tale so completely compelling that it didn’t matter if I believed. I believed the characters believed, and that was enough to carry me through it.

Do I have a version I prefer more than another? Not really. While it’s the same general story, one is like looking at it from an aerial view, while the second is like seeing it from the inside of a room. Two totally different perspectives on the same thing. I will say, if you haven’t seen the movie before, read The Ninth Configuration first, and then move on to Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane (and, yes, I do recommend reading both versions. Just not back to back. I did that. By the time I’d finished the second I was emotionally devastated and been through an entire box of Kleenex). Whether you watch the film or read the book, getting to know the two main characters in that more detailed way makes the story grab at you that much more. For those of you who have already seen the movie, go ahead and start with Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane. It’ll give you a chance to get to know the other guys in the institution, and a different take on how Kane got there in the first place.

Blatty himself has said that Cutshaw is the character Regan was talking to. Yet “Killer” Kane was published a full five years before The Exorcist. I have no idea if he had planned the timeline of the trilogy out or not, or if Cutshaw inspired him to write that scene in The Exorcist. The timeline really doesn’t matter. In the context of the other two stories, this one fits in perfectly. As its own story, Kane is more than effective. It’s haunting, and I think my life is a little better for having read them.

--Jen Orosel

Fresh Blood: New Releases In the World of Horror

compiled by Nickolas Cook and Steven M. Duarte

In book news:

Quirk books (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and others) contacted our staff writer Brian M. Sammons to let all our Horrorheads know that they're offering a whopping 15% discount on their online store merchandise, found here:

Please be sure to use this code for the discount: QLAUNCHPROMO to score 15% off.

"15% of the net sale price for products will be deducted when the coupon code QLAUNCHPROMO is applied at checkout. The net sale price is the price of the product (excluding shipping and taxes). For Zazzle Custom Stamps, the net sale price is the difference between the price of the Zazzle Custom Stamps (excluding shipping and taxes) and the face value of the postage.

Offer is valid through December 31, 2010 at 11:59pm PT. This offer does not apply to past purchases and may not be combined with any other Zazzle promotional or volume discount offers. If a volume discount applies to your order, you will receive either the discount set forth in this offer or the standard volume discount, whichever is greater. Offer valid on only."


(courtesy of Quirk Classics Books and Brian M. Sammons)


--Last night I heard the deathwatch
ticking in the wall--

--Oliver Goldsmith

Shadowfall Publications will be releasing Lisa Mannetti's newest collection called DEATHWATCH which is comprised of two new novellas, both set in the 19th century.

In the first work, Dissolution, Stuart Granville is a would-be medical student from the South who's been sent down for drinking and believes he's heading north to Hyde Park, New York to tutor twin girls. Instead, he discovers that his charges, Abby and Eleanor, not only have never been to school of any kind, but that they are Siamese twins their father, a doctor with grandiose dreams, means to separate surgically, taking advantage of Stuart's expertise and his vulnerability--as well as the supernatural forces at work in the house itself.

In The Sheila Na Gig, Tom Smith is on a ship in steerage and bound for New York from his native Ireland after facing down the the constraints imposed by his family, overcoming the loss of his first love, circumventing his grandmother's wiles and occult knowledge, and trying to save his younger, mentally challenged sister, Delia, from both witchcraft and sexual abuse.

The collection, to be released the second week of December 2010, will be available in all E Book formats (and even if you don't have an E reader you can purchase it and read it on your computer.) Moreover, Shadowfall guarantees that no matter where you purchase any of their titles or whichever reader you use down the line, they will ensure you have copies of the book(s) formatted for that reader--and at no additional charge.


The Battle Between Good And Evil Will Be Fought
On A New Front!

Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter
Tackles Bad Economy With Lower Price

For A Limited Time, The First Volume
In The Multi-Format Dime Novel Series Is Available
For 99 Cents!

LOS ANGELES, CA – Thunder Peak Publishing, a division of international content developer G3 Studios, today announced the price reduction of the digital version of “Demon's Night”, the first volume in the Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter series of dime novels. Since its launch earlier this year, the series has steadily built a catalog of stories, exploring a wide variety of action-packed encounters for the super sleuth Jason Dark to solve.

“With the repricing of the first Jason Dark adventure, we are hoping to open the series up to new readers,” series creator and writer Guido Henkel said. “With the economy in shambles, every penny counts and we wanted to introduce Jason Dark to eBook readers who might so far have been undecided.”

Set amid the sinister, fog-shrouded streets of Victorian England, eight volumes of the Jason Dark supernatural mysteries have been released to date. Mirek Lipinski of Fanta Terror acclaimed the series as "sheer, joyous brilliance," and Fangoria's Chris Alexander declared it "a briskly paced pulp fiction throwback full of gothic dread and shivery intrigue."

“Demon’s Night” is available at the new reduced 99 cent price point for a limited time until the end of the year as an eBook at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Apple’s iBookstore, and Smashwords.

Your encounter with the extraordinary awaits! For more information about Jason Dark and his adventures, check out


In movies, we have two highly anticipated film releases, one from a respected director with some staggeringly beautiful and frightening films to his name, and the other from a very popular book series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Release date: Nov 19, 2010
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes

I personally stopped following the Harry Potter films after the 3rd one but this entry definitely looks to be the darkest of the films. It really does make sense this would be one of the darkest entries into the series considering the actors are in their 20’s by now.

Black Swan
Release date: Dec 3, 2010
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied
The next film from Darren Aronofsky centers on a ballet student who starts to encounter psychological terrors as she battles a rival for the main part in their ballet. The feel and overall tone reminds me of an old school Italian Thriller which leaves me all giddy inside. Hopefully Aronofsky can deliver.

--Steven M. Duarte

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

CENTURION (2010)– DVD review
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko

So what is a movie about some Romans running around in ancient Brittan doing on this site? Well how about this; it was made by Neil Marshall who gave us the very good DOG SOLDIERS, the excellent THE DESCENT, and the sadly mediocre and best forgotten DOOMSDAY? Not enough? Ok, well then it’s got some great gore gags because swords and spears do such nasty things to flesh and blood. Still not cutting the mustard? Well how about it’s just a great, fun, action packed flick? Surely that’s enough for you, or at least it should be. If not, then I weep for you. But if you do dig some sword in the face action, then keep reading.

CENTURION is about the legendary Roman 9th Legion that all but vanished one day from the history books along with its nearly 4000 men. While what exactly happened to the legion isn’t known for sure, the most commonly believe theory is that the Romans marched against the Pitcs (the people who lived in Scotland before it was Scotland) and never returned. Neil Marshal takes this tantalizing tale and runs with it, putting us in the shoes of a small group of Romans who survived the slaughter of the 9th Legion. This band of brothers then has to make the arduous trek back to the lands controlled by Rome while being hounded by a group of mounted Picts out for blood lead by the wrathful, mute, and beautiful Etain. Yes this kind of outnumbered, behind enemy lines, and running for your life story has been told a hundred times, with one of my favorites being 1979’s THE WARRIORS, but there is a reason it’s used so much; it works. This most recent retelling of that classic tale is no exception.

This film has a lot going for it. First off, set in the wooded wilds of the Scottish highlands, it looks gorgeous. There’s plenty of natural beauty here with all the sweeping shots of majestic vistas. Speaking of natural beauty, Olga Kurylenko is always nice to watch, even when she’s chopping off heads and screaming without a tongue. However, in addition to her good looks, she does a great job portraying her damaged, sad, bloodthirsty, brutal, and psychotic barbarian goddess from hell. Not to be outdone, Dominic West does a fine job playing a rowdy Roman general beloved by his men and for good reason. A handful of other costars round out a great ensemble cast and while not all the actors bulls-eye the quality mark, even those that miss don’t miss by much. This film has a great location, a time-tested story, good direction and acting, did I miss anything? Oh yeah, the blood. This movie has more splattery kills than almost any 80s slasher flick you can think of. So horrorheads, there’s that if nothing else for you.

The DVD by Magnolia has a bunch of extras on it if you need further enticement to pick this up. There’s a very informative and entertaining audio commentary track as well as deleted scenes with additional commentary. A collection of outtakes, interviews, photo galleries, and behind the scenes footage are also rounded up for the disc. A short doc from HDNet and a longer one called “Blood, Fire & Fury” which is your standard making of and behind the scenes thing, rounds things out.

CENTURION was a fun, action-packed flick set in a time and place most films fear to tread. I really enjoyed it and if you miss action films with balls, and without superheroes, then this slice of classic chaos will fulfill your cravings. It did mine.

--Brian M. Sammons

Night of The Demons (2009)- DVD
Review written by Steven M Duarte

The original Night of The Demons will forever be remembered for two scenes in the film. The first one being the seductive dance by the demon Angela and second the lipstick boob scene with horror vet Linea Quigley. The remake actually does a decent job of updating these scenes and actually takes a spin on the original scenes.

As with all remakes I expected this one to really suck. To my surprise it did not suck and was actually quite entertaining. Now before everyone cries foul that it’s not as good as the original….. I say yes of course I know that and I am not implying that. I merely want to convey my overall thoughts on the film as a decent horror film to watch with friends and enjoy. The film did a good job of keeping the punk theme that the first one conveyed. Punk music if featured throughout the movie. Took me back a little to the music featured in Return of the Living Dead. With that being said the premise for the film is basically the same. Goth girl named Angela throws Halloween bash at old creepy place, shit happens and demons are out for blood.

Angela is played by the smoking hot Shannon Elizabeth which made it fairly easy to watch. That is of course until she turns into demon Angela which was a different take on the demon look from the original film. The effects work is respectable and features a boob and face rip scene which will probably leave you with a look of disgust on your face. The famous Angela dance scene is nicely done with Angela dancing to Black No. 1 from Type O Negative. I found it to be a nice reimaging of a scene that will always be remembered from the first film.

The acting in the film is pretty much your standard direct to video fare. Edward Furlong stars in the film and I’m pretty sure he ate Linda Hamilton; because holy crap did he put on some weight. Linea Quigley makes a cameo as a homeowner giving candy to trick or treaters.

Final Word
Again this is a decent film to waste some time with. Not better than the original but definitely something to watch with some friends for some awesome music, some decent gore scenes and some eye candy courtesy of Shannon Elizabeth.

--Steven M. Duarte

DOGHOUSE (2009)– DVD review
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Director: Jake West
Stars: Danny Dyer, Noel Clarke, Emil Marwa

Zombies are everywhere, or at least they seem to be in the world of horror books and movies. Everyone seems to want to put their own stamp on the much loved cavorting corpses, but rarely does such re-imaginings work. Rarer still does the zombie comedy (or zomedy) work. Sure there have been notable exceptions like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND, but more often than not you get ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION or RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2. Thankfully this British import is both unique and laugh out loud funny. It’s also not very PC, and I loved it all the more for that. So get a bunch of your best buddies, or blokes, together, crack open some brews, eat lots of seared, dead animals, and fart whenever the hell you want, because this movie both celebrates and pokes fun at the usual male tropes and shows you a battle of the sexes like never before.

A group of rowdy guys go off to a small town in the English countryside to cheer up their buddy who’s going through a divorce. The collection of gents run the gambit from cliché to well written, to down right refreshingly original. Case in point, one of the friends is openly gay, and yet he’s not a mincing, lisping, stereotype nor is he the butt of all the jokes. He’s just a guy, who happens to be gay, but he’s as rude, crude, and typically “guy-ish” as all the others. That is just one example of the fine writing and depth of characters that was a nice surprise in what at first glace looked to be a silly zomedy. Oh, but don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of silly to be found here and thank God for that.

The reason the fellows are heading to the proverbial middle-of-nowhere is supposedly the woman outnumber the men there four to one. Unfortunately for them, that turns out to be true and just days earlier a biological weapon was tested there. The aim of that weapon? To turn half the population of an enemy force against the other half. The half that gets changed into drooling, blood-lusting psychos are the women and the focus of their primal rage is anything with a Y chromosome. Soon the boys are being chased all over by a huge pack of axe, sword, and scissor wielding she-zombies looking to dismember their ah, members, amongst other things. Only teamwork, togetherness, a sonic doohickey, a bit of bromance, and some cross dressing will save the day.

As for particulars, the acting and direction are both very well done. The special effects run from splatstick silly to goretastic. Most importantly, the comedy actually works. You will laugh a lot with this film, something that a lot of “comedies” just don’t seem to be able to pull off anymore. Oh, and is it weird that I think some of the monster-faced zombie chicks are still kind of hot?

The DVD by IFC Films sadly only has a few special features to help entice would be purchasers. There’s a 40-something minuet behind the scenes/making of featurette which is easily the best of the extras on the disc. There are a collection of bloopers, some deleted scenes, a few trailers and TV spots but that’s it. The most notable omission is the lack of any commentary track. I love those little things and whenever one is missing, especially these days; it’s painfully noticeable, like a missing limb. That said, the main reason to get any DVD is for the movie on it, and not one is this flick great but it both looks and sounds good, so lack of all the usual extras aside, this DVD is still very much worth a get.

--Brian M. Sammons

Giallo (2009) DVD
Review written by Steven M Duarte

Originally filmed in 2009 I thought this film would never see the light of day. I try to watch pretty much anything from Argento and was all giddy inside when I found out his new film would feature Academy Award winner Adrien Brody in a new Giallo style film.
News of problems from the production of the film to issues with actors walking off the set led many to believe that it may never see the light of day. Adrien Brody is even claiming to have not been paid his agreed upon salary for the film and is seeking an injunction against the world wide release of the film.

The big question is, did all this drama affect the final film product?

It sure did because this film can be chalked up as one of Argento’s weakest films to date. I’m not really sure where to start since the film is a mess. There’s not too much character development which leaves you not giving a shit about the characters. Women who we don’t know much about end up getting killed and Adrien Brody a detective in Italy investigates their murders. The killer is called Yellow because he has a liver disease that has turned his skin yellow. That’s pretty much the just of the film. It’s like the writers of the film made a checklist of what they wanted in the film then got half way writing it and said fuck it and gave up. It’s worth taking note that Argento did not actually write the story for the film.

For an Argento flick the gore is very tame. The camera often pans away as Giallo does something gruesome to his victims. Old Argento would show an exposed heart still pumping blood as it was stabbed. Argento now ops for the pg 13 route of allowed gore, pretty disappointing indeed. The killer himself is uninspiring and boring. He wears a wig that was probably purchased at a flea market somewhere in the slums of Italy. He says ridiculous one liners and masturbates to pictures of dead women…yeah it’s that bad.

Giallo is basically a castrated Argento film. There’s no darkness or awesome cinematography, no killer who’s so absurd that it actually works for the film. There’s no over the top gore or awesome music by Claudio Simmonetti. He basically took the safe route and made a shit film. If in the mood for some newer Argento film viewing you’re better off watching Mother of Tears that seeing this pile.

--Steven M. Duarte

LAKE PLACID 3 (2010)– DVD review
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Director: G. E. Furst
Stars: Colin Ferguson, Yancy Bunter, Kirsty Mitchell, Michael Ironside

Let me get this out of the way right at the start; this is a SyFy original movie, as in the SyFy Channel. For some of you, that right there is enough to have you stop reading and write this direct to basic cable movie off. Knowing history of movies made for and by SyFy, I wouldn’t blame you. But does this one defy expectations and actually turn out to be good? Well, at least watchable, as the first movie wasn’t really good. I mean, the first LAKE PLACID was enjoyable in a campy, creature feature kind of way. It was ably made, had decent special effects, and was well acted, especially with a great performance by Betty White as the old crazy croc lady. So can this sequel once removed deliver the same kind of goofy fun?

In a word; no, a big fat no on all counts.

This movie is set at the same titular lake and begins with the nephew of the crazy croc lady moving into her lakefront home after her death with his wife and son. Once there the son finds great auntie’s baby crocs and starts feeding them. I guess stupid crazy is in the genes with this family. This goes on for two years with the father and mother never catching on, even when mommy sneaks up behind the kid right as he’s feeding the crocodiles and yet she doesn’t see them. What, are they are stealth crocs? Oh no, sorry, just lazy screenwriting, my bad. Anyway, one day the kid runs out of meat, or the crocs just get too big, and they start munching on the locals. And well, that’s about it for story, but then you could have guessed that. What you could not have foreseen was how many ways this movie epically fails.

The acting is atrocious. Community Theater level at best. Every time the actors opened their mouths I just wanted to smack them upside the head and tell them to stop it. The one exception to this is Michael Ironside who pretty much plays Michael Ironside as he always does. So I don’t know if that can be considered “acting” or not, but it’s still enjoyable after all these years. Now to be fair, the horrible performances can’t all be blamed on the actors as the lines they are given to recite are stilted, wooden, and unbelievable. With that in mind, I can only guess that the director must have been awed by the amazing script because he was determined to match it in quality. Well he succeeded. Atmosphere, suspense, dread, thrills, shock, surprise, believable emotion of any sort, yeah this movie has none of those things. Only the very basics of “point camera and hit record” is evident. The very same skill any twelve-year-old borrowing his parents’ video camera has mastered. Last but oh so not least, there are the movie’s special effects, which are easily the best thing this film has to offer. Not because they were so good and believable, but because they were so laughably bad. While the splatter is passable (how hard is it to toss around blood and latex thirty plus years after Tom Savini) the CGI crocs are fall-down-laughing-till-it-hurts silly looking. The only enjoyment to be had by watching this dreary little movie is to howl with laughter every time one of crocs wanders into the screen looking like it just escaped from an old 8 bit Nintendo videogame.

Knowing how good this movie was, Sony has given it the DVD release it so richly deserves. That is one devoid of any special features whatsoever. There’s not even a commentary track, but with a movie this good, what would it say? If it did exist I would bet it would be 90 minuets of the filmmakers saying “we’re sorry, we’re sorry, we’re so damn sorry” over and over again. At least it should be.

In closing, the only enjoyment to be had while watching this movie is if you and your fiends get drunk and mercilessly rip it apart, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 style. As such it is a rental at best and a big old skip it otherwise.

--Brian M. Sammons