By Derek Gunn
Let me begin this article by saying that this book is great. I wasn’t too sure what to expect as the blurb gives very little away. I contacted the author for a copy to read and he offered me a hardcopy or e-copy. For speed and expediency I went for the e-copy and quickly began to regret my haste. This one would have had no trouble muscling some room on my bookshelf, already crammed with only the best books—I have little room to accommodate a lifetime of reading. The book begins with a scene I thought was going somewhere else and then everything changes.
Conroy is a small town in Mississippi. Set in the fifties at the end of the Korean War, the story is steeped in small-town prejudice, ancient hatreds, and dark secrets. As if to symbolize its own dark underbelly, the town is hidden under fog during the day from the pungent effluence of the local pulp mill and kept in line by the town’s most powerful citizen—the Judge.
Into this dark setting we are introduced to Corinne Ford, and independent, certainly in terms of the 1950s anyway, young nurse who has come to Conroy to marry the man she helped nurse back to health on the battlefield. However, she soon realizes that the man she fell in love with is not the same as the man who left Conroy to go to war; his past is unwilling to let go so easily.
The SHIVAREE of the title refers to a custom where the groom is taken from his new bride on the night of his wedding, deposited some miles away and he must spend the rest of the night getting back to her. Innocuous enough, though hardly a fun time. The re-interpretation of this custom by his old lover, though, is far more harrowing and permanent.
This book builds the tension well. We are treated to flashbacks in the story to explain how the horror began, why it flourishes in Conroy, and why people act as they do. The flashbacks are well integrated into the story. You don’t feel as though the main storyline has been put on hold at any time but sufficient time is taken to drop clues and lay the foundation for the finale.
If your glance at October on the calendar suggests it’s time to pick up an eerie thriller, you’ll want to give serious consideration to Laura Benedict’s new gothic tale CHARLOTTE’S STORY. It’s the second book in a series of standalone gothic novels that began with Bliss House.
The tales focus on a haunted Virginia house, and what better excursion can you ask for in Halloween month?
This tale unfolds in 1957. Charlotte and Preston Bliss have just inherited Bliss House from Press’s mother, Olivia. Bliss is not on the agenda, however. Four deaths follow, deaths that seem to have rational explanations.
It’s soon clear Charlotte will have to pursue a dark truth, and readers come to understand that Bliss House promises its residents what they want but delivers more than they expect.
Laura, author of several more supernatural suspense novels, including Devil’s Oven, a modern Frankenstein tale, recently answered a few questions for the The Big Thrill about her work and the haunted house genre.
What spurred the idea for CHARLOTTE’S STORY, a prequel to your recent Bliss House? Was a book set earlier planned all along, or did an idea just arise that wouldn’t stop haunting you, so to speak?
I see what you did there! Writing a gothic haunted house novel has been on my to-write list for years because I love the genre. Before I even wrote one word of Bliss House, I knew I wanted it to be a series. It’s a house that’s filled with stories, yet in every one the house is the primary, and most critical, character. My challenge was to determine which stories were compelling. I wanted the origins of Bliss House to be revealed slowly, and the only way to do that was to work backwards in time, and it has been a real challenge to try to figure out how much to reveal with each book. As for CHARLOTTE’S STORY, I’ve always wanted to write a gothic with the feel of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca—a sense of a woman’s deep emotional isolation and the overwhelming sense that something from the past is messing with her present.
Readers familiar with Bliss House may recognize Charlotte as the mother of Randolph Bliss, who is a prominent character in Bliss House. She gets small mention, but it was she who eventually sold Bliss House out of the family—and for very good reason. CHARLOTTE’S STORY is the story of how she comes to grips with being part of the Bliss family and living in Bliss House. Her first test is the death of her adored four-year-old daughter, Eva, so it’s a pretty tough journey.
MOTHER OF DEMONS is the sixteenth novel of the writing pair Len Maynard and Mick Sims, who publish as Maynard Sims. It is their tenth supernatural novel and sixth with Don D’Auria at Samhain.
Many of your novels revolve around the mysterious Department 18. Tell us about that.
Department 18 is a secret unit of the British government that investigates paranormal and supernatural events in the UK but also globally. It had its own website before it was mysteriously hacked, perhaps a jealous competitor or, perhaps, dark forces in high places. Now its secrets lurk within the author website at www.maynard-sims.com, where there is a full history and some case files for review. MOTHER OF DEMONS is a Department 18 novel.
The series ranges far and wide. What can you tell readers about the earlier works?
Department 18 series kicked off with Black Cathedral. The book introduced Robert Carter and the team, led by Simon Crozier. Investigating the disappearance of a corporate management team lost on a bonding weekend on a deserted island leads to the chase and eventual battle against a 400-year-old satanic alchemist called deMarco.
Night Souls continues the Department 18 story with a quest to vanquish psychic sexual vampires. What begins as a seemingly routine poltergeist investigation leads to the discovery of the Breathers, a species of vampire-like creatures that feed on human souls. They have evolved over the centuries and now are split into two warring factions. Both are a threat to mankind.
It takes a lot to scare a horror writer. I mean, I dissect fear for a living. The most violent horror movies don’t elicit a flinch. I can face a clown without wetting myself. But one thing really scared the hell out of me. New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The Category 4 storm blew ashore, flooded swaths of the city, cut off power, cut off help. Those who hadn’t evacuated were isolated from the world. In the face of this ultimate stress test of society, how did it do?
It collapsed within hours. Looting was almost instantaneous. There were widespread reports of people just abandoning critical jobs as they prioritized saving themselves or their families. 23,000 people turned the Superdome into something out of Dante’s rings of Hell. I’ve read people criticizing the realism of some post-apocalyptic fiction, saying that society wouldn’t breakdown so quickly or so completely. Were they living under a rock in 2005?
Those events got me thinking about what would happen if the Katrina event were scaled up. What if it were millions of people? I grew up on Long Island, New York, where a few bridges, a tunnel, and a couple of ferries are all that keep the place from being sealed off from the world. It seemed like the perfect location to let my imagination create disaster. And so the idea for the novel Q ISLAND was conceived.
With super human strength, unnaturally fast reflexes, and enhanced senses, augmentation is something that Matt Rowley will have to learn to live with—for the rest of his life. And as cults spring up in worship of the demonic beings freed by the last of the Nephilim, the United States calls on Matt to meet the threat.
As his unnatural powers return with each passing day, Matt becomes the only weapon able to withstand eldritch forces that are older than time and darker than the blackest sea. But when his wife and infant son are taken in during a violent attack on his hometown, Matt becomes entangled in a vast conspiracy that could destroy his family —and his very soul.
BLACK TIDE is the sequel to author Patrick Freivald’s Bram, Jade Sky, a Bram Stoker Award finalist. This month, I had a chance to catch up with Freivald for The Big Thrill.
What drives you to write these stories, Patrick?
It’s fun! I started writing for publication with my twin brother, Phil. I got bit by the writing bug, and he didn’t, so Blood List is our only collaboration thus far. Since then, I’ve completed six novels (and am shopping my latest to agents and publishers now), a novella, and many short stories. My writing ranges from young adult zombie satire, to FBI thrillers, to gory supernatural heart-pounders. I just tell the stories I want to tell, because I have fun telling them.
What makes BLACK TIDE different?
Jade Sky mingled superhuman augmentation with biblical esoteria, a science-and-supernatural mélange, part military sci-fi, part investigative thriller, and part comic-style violent confrontation. BLACK TIDE continues Matt Rowley’s story, dragging him into a darker, more sinister world than he could have imagined.
By David Healey
From the Dust of Zombies, a Post-post Apocalyptic Thriller Rises
Author John Palisano has fond memories of growing up in the ‘70s, especially of going to drive-in movies in a station wagon nicknamed The Bomb, and of getting a good scare out of Night of the Living Dead when his dad let him stay up late to watch it on TV. It may come as no surprise that his newest novel DUST OF THE DEAD features zombies.
Set in Los Angeles, the novel begins at the end of a zombie crisis that seems to have been contained. Humans have triumphed and life has returned to its usual routine. However, a new nightmare spawned by the dust of dead zombies desiccated by the desert sun and wind is just beginning. You might call it a post-post zombie apocalypse thriller.
As a storyteller, Palisano got his start in the movie business. After a childhood spent watching those zombie flicks, along with movies featuring killer space aliens and man-eating sharks, he studied writing at Emerson College in Boston. Then he landed a post-college internship with director Ridley Scott that led to working on several big budget films. He also wrote three screenplays that were optioned, but eventually turned his storytelling skills to fiction.
Recently, he answered a few questions about writing—and zombies, of course—for The Big Thrill.
Your new novel DUST OF THE DEAD features zombies. Why do you think popular culture continues to have a love affair with zombies? Does the fight against zombies bring out the best in humans or make us more inhuman?
Zombies literally come back from the dead again and again, with each generation using them in their own way. In the ‘70s, zombies were stand-ins for consumers and how that led to an empty life, like in Dawn of the Dead. In the ‘80s zombies were made from shallow party animals like in Return of the Living Dead. They came back again in the ‘90s and ‘00s in reflection to terrorists and as an existential fear in films like 28 Days Later. As we are seeing, time and again, it’s the real human reactions to these events that separates the great from the not so great stories. It’s the same with any premise. Any story can be told well, or told poorly. It boils down to characters you care about, and who you can see yourself being, or wanting to be like. Of course, the best current example of that is The Walking Dead.
By Amy Lignor
When it comes to the evil side of technology, there are some literary artists who know the issue inside and out. Author Lisa von Biela is one such writer. From her beginnings in short story work to her novels, this is a woman who knows the IT industry, among other realms, and produces that gritty, dark fiction (horror, criminal, supernatural, and more) that puts the ultimate thrills and chills into fans.
Von Biela was kind enough to spend some time explore her latest novel SKINSHIFT and her background.
Working in the IT field for twenty-five years, then graduating magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School, is quite a varied résumé. Where and when did it come about that writing fiction was something you really wished to add to your life?
I do have a fairly checkered past, don’t I? Add to that my pre-vet undergrad at UCLA, which helps with the medical aspects of my books. I have to say, I think I’ve always wanted to write, but it took some time before I figured out how to go about it. I recall spending a summer when I was a teenager creating stories on a typewriter. No technique or outlining, just typing as it came to me. Around the late eighties, I got a medium-sized spiral notebook and started inventorying possible plots, and trying to write. Then I took another run at it in the late nineties. That time, I consulted Writer’s Digest and some books on the topic, and developed an approach. My plan was to start with short stories to learn the craft and get published. After a while, I felt ready to write my first novel-length work. And when I sold The Genesis Code to DarkFuse that clinched it. I’ve been writing like mad ever since.
The pre-vet helps with the medical aspects. How about the legal background? Is this something you rely on or do you tend to stay focused on technology?
I actually wrote The Genesis Code before I started law school, when I was still in IT. The topic came quite naturally but it took two years to finish because I had to learn how to handle a work of that length. Despite being a lawyer, I tend to gravitate toward writing medical thrillers, usually including a lawyer character. That said, perhaps because I’m a lawyer, I like to explore ethical issues in my novels. My current work-in-progress changes things up a bit, being a medical, technical, and legal thriller, with a young female attorney protagonist. Being a lawyer involves being able to think and write in a disciplined way which carries over to my fiction—and having to write fiction efficiently in the time I have available has made me a fairly fast legal writer in return. Therefore, each side of my life benefits!
By Derek Gunn
Port St. Lucie— situated in St. Lucie County, Florida—sports beautiful weather, parkland, a PGA Tour golf club and…a Devil Tree. You won’t find that part in Wikipedia but back in 1977, bones were found buried under the tree, and ropes still tied to the tree itself. The deaths are attributed to The Killer Deputy, so named because th accused was an officer of the law. While the story itself is not fully substantiated, there is enough detail to allow a legend to have grown around this tree, and the killing, raping and torture of many young women.
But that’s not all. Added to this is the story that, when the surrounding area was designated for Parkland and the tree ordered to be cut down, strange things began to happen. Chainsaws refused to start, so the crew brought new chainsaws, and these also wouldn’t work. They tried logger saws, but the teeth sheared off or broke. They also tried an axe, but it bounced off and killed the person swinging the axe. Since then, there have been haunting sightings and the tree has gone down in American folklore. Legends are born from far less, and yet this isn’t a well-known story—until now.
Okay, enough of the history lesson. Interesting and worrying as the above is, it’s a child’s story compared to what Keith Rommel proposes in his new novel, THE DEVIL TREE. Rommel will be known to a number of you as the author of The Cursed Man novel and film, a strange and well-written investigation into madness, death, and their association with an insane killer. In THE DEVIL TREE, Rommel lays out his own interpretation of the legend and true history. After reading it, I can say I won’t be going on any picnics in Florida, especially near any trees, for quite some time.
The novel is short, more a long novella, however your nerves will be thankful for this as the writing begins at a snappy pace and ramps up from there. The story starts in the past with a horrifying tragedy, and then comes to the present, with a lone fisherman making a horrific discovery under the canopy of the tree. From there, the investigation continues in the present, peppered with returns to the past to flesh out the history.
Brian Pinkerton began his career writing screenplays which streamlined into the cinematic style of his novels that Horror Novel Reviews claims brings back “the feel and style of some of the genre’s masters from decades ago.”
Brian crafts stories that frighten, amuse, and intrigue while often beginning with a “what if?” question. From this first question he then usually leads ordinary people down extraordinary roads to a living Hell.
His newest release, ANATOMY OF EVIL, takes us out of our comfort zone again when an island paradise vacation for a group of friends twists into a nightmare journey through the darkest corners of the human soul, leading to the ultimate showdown between good and evil.
Brian, how did you come up with the idea for ANATOMY OF EVIL?
I have a notebook stuffed with ideas. I’m always adding to it, random concepts that pop up in my head. A small number of them pass the audition process to become novels or short stories. The plot for ANATOMY OF EVIL was scribbled in the notebook under the original title of “Unleashing Hell.” What if a portal to Hell existed someplace on earth?
Tell us about the group of friends in ANATOMY OF EVIL and how their lives are intertwined with their shared experience.
ANATOMY OF EVIL features a group of friends united by their commitment to bring good to the world. They serve together on the board of a community service organization. They are the nicest, gentlest souls you could ever imagine. Then something happens that exposes their darkest, hidden impulses. They begin to change in shocking ways. They become pawns in a much bigger battle between the forces of good and evil.
By Derek Gunn
Lovecraftian Horror, the Elder Gods and anything Eldritch related is notoriously difficult to do well. The problem is that it is very difficult to get the right tone. Many of the attempts I have read fall into the fan fiction arena and, while there is nothing wrong with fan fiction, per se, the quality of Lovecraft’s writing makes most attempts pale in comparison. August Darleth and Robert E. Howard both got it right, and their stories stand proud in the list of wonderful Eldritch literature. And now we have another name. Douglas Wynne has managed quite a feat with RED EQUINOX.
The first thing that will strike you is the sense of place. Whether it is in a quiet church, in abandoned buildings, or on the city streets, the attention to detail of where the characters are is impressive. And it doesn’t get in the way of pace either. He takes time to set a scene, building a sense of impending terror, creepy imperfections that you notice out of the corner of your eye but can’t quite put your finger on—and all without losing the reader in a mire of long, unnecessary descriptions. I was hooked from the start.
I will not give too much away as regards the plot as one of the best things about the better tales of the Elder Gods is what isn’t blatantly stated. A ripple in still water is better than a gush in these tales, and the first part of the story is all about building tension. Of course, that changes later on.
The novel opens with Becca Philips’ journey to her grandmother’s funeral. Becca is an urban explorer and photographer. We are quickly introduced to a grandmother steeped in mystery and with a history of exploring the world’s cryptic past. Secrets abound about her grandmother but, with her death, these are lost.
Back in Boston, Becca visits an abandoned asylum and we are introduced to characters on both sides of the unfolding storyline. Cultists abound. There is a strange homeless man who is more than he seems and a creeping horror that is worming its way into our world.
If Becca can’t solve the mystery of her late grandmother’s gift, then the world will be lost to a sweeping horror beyond the realms of horror.
The new year is shaping up to be a productive and prolific one for novelist Rebecca Cantrell.
On February 5th, The Tesla Legacy debuts. Barely a week later, BLOOD INFERNAL—which she co-wrote with James Rollins, and serves as the finale in The Order of the Sanguines series—debuts.
In BLOOD INFERNAL, a supernatural mystery—or as Cantrell prefers to call it, a “gothic thriller”—set on the eve of the Apocalypse, archaeologist Erin Granger, Army Sgt. Jordan Stone, and Fr. Rhun Korza team up for a final mission. As an escalating scourge of grisly murders sweeps the globe, Erin must decipher the truth behind an immortal prophecy foretold in the Blood Gospel, a tome written by Jesus Christ himself and lost for centuries.
Lucifer walks the Earth, and it will take the light of all three protagonists to banish him again to eternal darkness. Erin discovers that the only hope for victory lies in an impossible act, which will not only destroy her, but everyone and everything she loves. To protect the world, Erin must walk through the gates of Hell and battle Lucifer himself.
“We had an outline in place from the beginning of the series, but things had shifted around somewhat during the writing of the books, and we had to be careful to make sure that we were wrapping things up properly,” Cantrell said. “The characters had changed throughout their ordeals, and we wanted to be true to those changes. We also wanted to land the characters, those who survive anyway, in places where the readers can imagine how their lives might unfold.”
Added Rollins: “While we mostly knew where things were headed with this story—straight to hell, in this case—it was as much an emotional journey for me, as it was for the characters.”
By Derek Gunn
Elderwood Manor is a beautifully presented limited edition hardcover from DarkFuse, luckily also available in Kindle. It is a well-crafted novella that instantly transported me to the titled Manor as darkness began to spread its eerie fingers across the land. The fact that it is a novella allows the authors to plunge us straight into the action as they build the atmosphere from the first page.
There is no wasted backstory, merely the story itself. The characters are instantly believable and the atmosphere dripped from the pages. It put me in mind of the classic stories from Robert E. Howard where the writing was always of the highest quality and the story was thrust forward to grab you by the throat and squeezed tighter until you finally finished the story. It also suggests a nod towards Lovecraft and his unique ability to instil fear in the reader. I mention these comparisons merely to give a sense of what Christopher and Angeline have achieved in this story. In my opinion Howard and Lovecraft managed what few authors do today, they actually scared us. Elderwood Manor also manages to do this.
There is no relenting in pace, no added paragraphs to flesh out the story. This story is pure class from the beginning to end and well worth the small charge on Kindle. It would be even better if you can afford the hardcover as the cover illustration is gorgeous. I kept feeling that this was what James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall should have been.
As it is a novella I will not give too much away. It is better to let the story whisk you away. However, in brief, Bruce Davenport and his four-year-old son Cody are called to his ancestral home, secluded deep within Ozark forests. Life has not been good to Bruce and he uses the last of his funds to visit his dying mother.
There are strange stories surrounding Elderwood Manor, stories of vengeance and blood, horror and dark secrets. As night closes in it is doubtful they will see the dawn.
By Ethan Cross
The third book in the Z7 series, THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY, follows the citizens of a community of reborn zombies called Seven City. After the events of the previous book Seven City finds itself in bad shape, having lost one of their leaders and being exposed to the world. Now they will have to defend themselves as the people that fear and hate them prepare for an all out attack.
Tell us about THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY in one line.
The third book in my Z7 series, THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY is about a secret colony of former-zombies that are forced to fight off an attack when the outside world finally learns that they exist.
What kind of research did you conduct for THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY?
Since this was the third book in the series, I can’t really say that I did a lot of research for this one that I didn’t already do for the previous two. For them I had to learn some basics about microbiology and epidemiology to make the zombie virus a little more plausible (which is not the same as being scientifically accurate. I certainly had to fudge a few facts in order to get the virus to work the way I needed it to for the story). This book deals a little more with the political implications of a zombie virus than the previous books did, but because it is set in the future after the virus has already mostly run its course I was able to make up quite a bit.
A decade ago, if you’d walked into a bookstore looking for a zombie novel, you would have found only two: Brian Keene’s The Rising and Joe McKinney’s Dead City. Long recognized as one of the driving voices that launched the world’s fascination with the living dead, Joe McKinney’s Dead World novels have emerged as seminal works in the Horror genre.
Now, collected for the first time in Dead World Resurrection, are all of Joe McKinney’s zombie short stories. The zombie has grown up since Joe McKinney first penned Dead City, yet he has continued to stand out among the throng of voices telling tales of the undead. Dead World Resurrection shows why.
Brian Keene, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rising says Dead World Resurrection is “a merciless, fast-paced and genuinely scary read that will leave you absolutely breathless” and Weston Ochse, author of Empire of Salt, claims “McKinney writes zombies like he’s been gunning them down all his life.”
McKinney recently answered a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
You’ve been at the forefront of keeping zombies alive for readers since before their rise in popularity. What propelled you to put together this collection now?
Routine clean-up of my Dropbox account, actually. I have a tendency to let files build up for a while before I get the bug to clean stuff up and organize. I was on one of those cleaning sprees about a year ago, getting miscellaneous files put into order, when I realized that I had written and published about a hundred and fifty thousand words worth of zombie short stories. That was enough for a book, a pretty fat book, actually, as far as single author story collections go, and so I started shopping it around. Christopher Payne at JournalStone got excited about the project right away, and the next thing you know, the collection was underway.
But it also made sense timing-wise. I’ve been a professional writer for ten years now, and the stories in this collection cover that entire decade. Ten years seemed like a nice round number, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on the collection.
By Derek Gunn
Ethan Reid has the honour of being the premier release for the new Simon451 imprint from Simon & Schuster that will be launching in 2014. While I am sure this comes with a lot of pressure, it says a lot for the author to be given this slot and it says quite a bit of Simon & Shuster as well launching a new imprint, concentrating on speculative fiction, fantasy, and apocalyptic fiction in the current market.
Luckily they’ve picked a winner with this one. Unsurprisingly, they are already closed for submissions as they wade through all the manuscripts their call generated. Simon451 will publish in multiple electronic and printed formats, with a focus on digital-first publishing and e-book originals. I’m not too clear as to the time frame for the printed format version but the e-book comes out around the time you will be reading this.
One thing that immediately comes to your attention is the formatting. I’ll get to the writing in a minute—be patient. This book was designed as an e-book, rather than the usual design as paperback and “fit” it into an e-book as an afterthought. The result is a much more gratifying e-book experience. A small point but I have read so many badly formatted e-books that it was a joy to read this one.
Of course, the writing helped a bit too. The prose is snappy, the characters immediately likable and the pace burns through the text so quickly that my poor Kindle is still smoking. This is not another zombie novel, though it can be enjoyed as such. There is more at work here. Not content with throwing an unknown global catastrophe at our heroes, the author uses earthquakes, falling meteors, et cetera as merely a first course. After the initial disaster, strange creatures begin to pull themselves from the darkness to hunt the living.
These creatures are not just mindless zombies though. They reason, they run in packs, and they are all too hard to kill. Throw all that at our hero and then place them in a foreign city with limited language ability and you begin to get the idea of what our heroes have to go through. Of course, don’t expect all the humans to be helpful either. As society crumbles, man’s rules deteriorate and danger lurks everywhere.
By Ethan Cross
Joe McKinney’s incredible new book, PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD, has been described by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Brian Keene as “merciless, fast-paced and genuinely scary”while author Weston Ochse says that “McKinney writes zombies like he’s been gunning them down all his life.” Here’s a description of it:
For thirty years, they have avoided the outbreak of walking death that has consumed America’s heartland. They have secured a small compound near the ruins of Little Rock, Arkansas. Isolated from the world. Immune to the horror. Blissfully unaware of what lies outside in the region known as the Dead Lands. Until now. Led by a military vet who’s seen better days, the inexperienced offspring of the original survivors form a small expedition to explore the wastelands around them. A biologist, an anthropologist, a cartographer, a salvage expert—all are hoping to build a new future from the rubble, which they call the “Dead Lands.” The infected are still out there. Stalking. Feeding. Spreading like a virus. Wild animals roam the countryside, hunting prey. Small pockets of humanity hide in the shadows: some scared, some mad, all dangerous. This is the New World. If the explorers want it, they’ll have to take it. Dead or alive. . .
The prolific McKinney, who’s had much success of late, graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
Tell us about PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD in one line.
Thirty years after the zombie apocalypse, a ragtag group of explorers sets out to see what remains of their world.
What kind of research did you conduct for PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD?
PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD takes place thirty years after the zombie apocalypse. My explorers are from a small town that walled itself up during the worst of the initial zombie outbreak. Since that time, their community has not only survived, but thrived, and now it’s time to see what lies beyond the walls. I spent a lot of time thinking how a community like that would organize itself, and what kind of jobs its people would work at. One of the main characters is a salvage expert, and when things start to go really wrong for the group, he uses all his improvisational skills to make what the group needs to survive. Some of the things I researched were how to silence a rifle using only trash found on the ground, how to build a still out of old car parts, and the art of mapmaking. The research was a blast.
By Cathy Clamp
Fifty years ago, a zombie uprising changed the face of the United States. Finally, the coasts have recovered to become thriving metropolises, but not everything is back to normal. Edward Schuett, the first person to ever come back from being a zombie, possesses a unique ability that made him the most powerful biological weapon in history. He’s created a small colony of Z7s, people like him who were once undead but are once again alive. Unfortunately, the fragile utopia they’ve created is about to be challenged when the latest Z7, Sandra Wolfe, shows uncontrollable powers far beyond the others. When she escapes, Edward and the others must find her before she brings the wrath of the outside world down on them.
THE BIG THRILL’s contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down and talked with the author about a zombie reality unlike any other.
This is the second book in what might be considered a futuristic horror/thriller. For readers just learning about your reality, what can you tell them about the world of Z7?
The series takes place about fifty years after the Zombie Uprising. Unlike many other zombie stories where it’s all about survivors right after the zombies have risen, the characters here view the coming of the zombies as a historical event the same way we would Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Society has adapted to zombies roaming the wastelands and has rebuilt, although with varying levels of success. Into this I introduced the main character of the first book, Edward Schuett, who was a zombie that slowly regained his humanity. By the start of the second book he has learned how to make this happen to others as well, and he’s built a small community of former zombies far from the rest of society.
Is this a book that’s closer to Young Adult or more Adult in themes and “scare factor”, since the heroine is a teenager?
It’s weird, but I never thought of it as Young Adult. There’s a tendency these days to classify anything with kids or teenagers in it as being for a younger reading level. It certainly works for a teen audience, but I don’t think it has a teen as one of the main protagonists. I think that’s because a young adult audience can handle much more than many people give them credit for. They’re perfectly capable understanding adult themes, because many teenagers still have to deal with deep, dark things in their own lives. So I think it works on either level.
It was supposed to be fun. A chance to get away. An opportunity for two sisters to bond and for one sister to heal. It was a small river, calm, slow-moving. Perfect for a leisurely canoe trip on a beautiful summer day.
But then they hear a baby crying on the shore, abandoned and overheated. Alie and Carin have to take her with them. They can’t just leave her there.
A simple canoe trip becomes a rescue mission. But there’s something on the shore, hidden by the trees. Something that’s following them every step of the way – watching, waiting . . .
Around every bend, the river becomes stranger, darker, more dangerous, until Alie isn’t sure what’s real and what isn’t. The river wants the child for itself, but no matter what it throws at her, Alie’s determined to get the baby to safety. She’s already lost one child. But she’ll have to fight the darkness that haunts the river – as well as the darkness within herself – if she doesn’t want to lose another.
By Brian Knight
The drying up of the world’s oil resources leads to the fabled End of Days. Technology stagnates and communities grow ever more insular. With communication between cities lost and attention turned inward, the vampires rise from the shadows where they have survived for centuries and sweep across the globe.
By the time word spreads, it is far too late and Vampires enslave humanity and keep them in walled cities to breed. The Vampires are masters of the darkness but maintain control by day through the use of thralls—humans who have been bitten but have not yet crossed over, and whose inhuman lusts make daylight as terrifying as night.
VAMPIRE APOCALYPSE, TRAIL OF TEARS is Derek Gunn’s fourth book in the acclaimed series. The author, who is a fan favorite in the genre, agreed to answer a few questions about the book and his life.
Tell us a bit about your new release, VAMPIRE APOCALYPSE (BOOK #4): TRAIL OF TEARS.
It has taken a while to write this one. The first three books came out one after the other and then I took a break to write some other novels. My mind kept returning to the characters in this series though. While I did not leave it in a cliff-hanger, per se, some of the plotlines were certainly not completely resolved.
Many of the reviews on Amazon and a number of mails sent to me directly kept asking for another one so I started to think seriously about where the story could go and how I could make it different but still retain the elements that made the first three so popular.
The fact that Permuted Press wanted to release the first three books in new editions with cool new covers only made the decision easier.
By J. H. Bográn
Thomas M. Malafarina’s new novel—DEAD KILL—opens in the year 2053. It’s been ten years since the long-anticipated zombie apocalypse arrived with a vengeance and wiped out more than half of humanity. However, not only did the humans manage to survive but they also succeeded in destroying the seemingly countless hoards of the undead and regained their rightful place at the top of the food chain. Now living safely in fortified towns and cities, humans go about their daily lives with little concern for the greatly reduced numbers of undead remaining in the unprotected outlands and forests. These creatures have been reduced to roadside nuisances albeit deadly ones.
Beginning with these potent images, I had the opportunity to probe into the mind of one of today’s best and most prolific horror authors.
How did the idea behind the post–zombie-apocalypse for DEAD KILL come about?
Well, every one and his brother seemed to be doing zombie apocalypse books, comics, TV shows, and movies for the past way too many years. And I fought the urge to jump into the fray for a very long time, feeling that the genre had been done to death; so to speak. I decided if I was going to take the time to write a zombie-based book it would have to be different than anything else out there.
In THE PENTACLE PENDANT, Stephen M. DeBock’s debut novel, a contemporary werewolf who becomes a won-woman star chamber takes center stage. METAMORPH chronicles the further adventures of one of the characters introduced in the TPP, and explores the question of what happens when Beauty becomes the Beast.
In METAMORPH, a vampire who has slaked his taste for terror through centuries of history’s darkest eras puts a hold on his covert attacks on America in order to pursue a secret vendetta against a beautiful bi-racial woman who has scorned him.
But the woman has a secret of her own. She is a metamorph, a hybrid shape-shifter with the healing powers of a vampire, the heightened senses and strengths of a werewolf, and the needs that accompany both. Needs that conflict with her strong moral code; needs which compel her to conceal her extra-human identity from the mortal man she has grown to love.
METAMORPH combines known history with speculative fiction, a strong female protagonist, and the pitting of a creature of unmitigated evil against a pair of unsuspecting lovers in a complex cat-and-mouse pursuit.
THE BIG THRILL had a chance to talk with the author and find out a little more about his latest effort.
As your series progresses, what changes are occurring to the story and your writing process?
THE PENTACLE PENDANT introduces the contemporary werewolf Claire and her friends, lovers, and associates, as well as the vampire villain, Daciana, who will link TPP, METAMORPH, and the upcoming HEMOPHAGE. The first book’s focus is the local and contemporary; METAMORPH is a thriller that introduces both Daciana’s back story from the seventeenth century to the present and one of her acolytes who has become a modern-day terrorist. He becomes a threat to Rowena, a character introduced in TPP who plays the protagonist’s role in this novel. HEMOPHAGE, now nearing completion, delves even more deeply into Daciana’s influence upon new characters, again dating from the 1600s and continuing into the present day. Persons and events introduced in the former two novels are intertwined with the lives of the new protagonists of HEMOPHAGE.
By J. H. Bográn
In Michael McBrides’s new novel, ANCIENT ENEMY, Sani Natonaba’s ancestors have lived in these canyons for more than seven hundred years, but they aren’t the only ones. When he awakens to the bleating of his family’s sheep being slaughtered, he learns that something is stalking this isolated corner of the reservation, a predator unlike any he has encountered before, one that attacks with alarming stealth and ferocity.
Only his grandfather knows what lurks outside in the darkness, but a stroke has left him unable to communicate, forcing Sani to embark upon a journey into the distant past to discover the horrible truth. And he’s running out of time. There’s no sign of an end to the killing and already he’s found claw marks and strange footprints around his home.
Sani must decipher the clues hidden a millennium ago by the Anasazi before their mysterious disappearance if he’s to have any hope of surviving the impending confrontation with an ancient enemy that has already hunted his bloodline to the brink of extinction.
What was the inspiration behind ANCIENT ENEMY?
ANCIENT ENEMY was born of a fascination with inexplicable historical mysteries, in this case, the disappearance of the Anasazi from the Four Corners region of Colorado. I previously touched upon it in my 2012 novel, VECTOR BORNE, and felt as though it deserved further exploration. As the story developed, however, it became less about the Anasazi than the modern-day characters inhabiting the land they abandoned. I found myself becoming increasingly invested in the characters in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Rest assured, though, there’s still plenty of action and adventure. The plot revolves around the discovery of clues left in the ruins of a once-great society and deciphering them before it’s too late.
By Dan Levy
Write what you know. We’ve all heard it a gajillion times in school. Later, it was the advice from some well-meaning relatives when we announced that words were going to be a mainstay of our lives/livelihoods. But as his fourth book debuts, Philip Donlay is a great example of a new approach to writing, Write what you’re passionate about.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Donlay discovered the Pacific Northwest, where he now lives, and a passion for the environment later in life. So, instead of drawing on the flood of stories that would naturally flow from a decades-long career as a global corporate pilot, Donlay decided that Donovan Nash, his series protagonist, would follow Donlay’s passion for the environment.
Donlay explained his series started like many, “I developed some interesting characters, then I needed to find a way to get them into serious trouble.” But in choosing to write thrillers with an environmental slant, Donlay noted, “I know that novels are not a place to preach, but they’re a great springboard for discussion.”
Donlay offered the practice of shark finning as an example of how novels can be eye opening without being heavy-handed. “It’s a tragic and indefensible form of poaching,” Donlay said. “When I started asking people what they knew, I was surprised at how little it was.” So, Donlay knew he had an opportunity to educate and entertain. “People told me they never looked at shark fin soup the same way again.”
Tim Waggoner has been a fixture in the horror community since around the time people started realizing there was one. The author of numerous novels and three collections, Tim has more than one-hundred short story publishing credits to date in the horror, fantasy and thriller genres and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. THE BIG THRILL caught up with Tim to discuss his latest novel, THE WAY OF ALL FLESH, slated for release this month from Samhain Publishing, and he was kind of enough to answer some questions about the book and his take on writing in general.
Congratulations on your latest novel! Please tell us a little about THE WAY OF ALL FLESH. How did this particular novel, this story, come about?
The seed for the novel was planted in 1994, when I first heard the Cranberries’ song “Zombie.” The refrain “What’s in your head, zombie?” got me thinking. What, if anything, goes on inside the head of someone who’s become a zombie? Is there any remnant of the person they once were? And if so, what’s it like to be trapped inside a rotting shell that’s ravenous for human flesh?
The idea stuck with me for the last twenty years, and it became the basis for the story of David, a man who finds himself trapped in a nightmarish, distorted version of his hometown, which is overrun with insane cannibals and ivory-fleshed, fast-moving demons who seek to kill him. It’s also the story of his twin sister Kate, one of a group of human survivors who hunts zombies and can’t escape the feeling her brother is still somehow alive. And it’s the story of Nicholas, a serial killer who hates having been “upstaged” by the zombie apocalypse.
I love playing with tropes and putting new twists on them, and that’s exactly what I did with this novel. I guarantee it’s not like any zombie novel people have ever read before!
People still ask me why I decided to write thrillers about cops and … werewolves. As if it were a conscious decision. Sometimes stuff just happens, and next thing you know you’re “that werewolf guy.”
How did I get here?
Well, there was a progression of sorts, and it makes more sense than it ought to. As usual, it’s all about the things we read and watched and listened to when we were kids. The things that piqued our interest, the things that tickled our creativity, the things that made us feel as if we belonged even if we were outsiders. The things that gave us shelter from reality, taught us lessons before Life could, and gave us license to dream (even if those dreams were nightmares).
Growing up, I went through a series of phases that would lead me to the place where writing about a homicide cop who is also a werewolf—and who finds himself in the crosshairs of an evil Blackwater-like security contractor made up largely of (you guessed it) werewolves—would seem completely logical.
I didn’t realize I was on a journey, but apparently I was and its highways and byways led me here, to the release of my fifth Nick Lupo thriller. WOLF’S CUT will be out by Samhain Publishing on March 4.
It was an interesting journey, so let’s step back and map it.
By George Ebey
Nate Kenyon, author of eight novels and dozens of short stories in the horror, thriller, and sci fi genres, is back with DIABLO III: STORM OF LIGHT, another exciting adventure set in the world of the popular DIABLO video game series.
Full of a rich mythology, the DIABLO series offers much in the way of fantasy and adventure.
This time around, as Tyrael searches within himself and the Heavens for reassurance, he senses the Black Soulstone’s grim influence on his home. Where harmony of light and sound once reigned, a mounting discord is threatening to shroud the realm in darkness. Drawing powerful humans to his side from the far ends of Sanctuary, Tyrael reforges the ancient Horadrim and charges the order with an impossible task: to steal the Soulstone from the heart of Heaven. Among the champions entrusted with this burden are Jacob of Staalbreak, former avatar of Justice and guardian of the angelic blade El’druin; Shanar, a wizard with phenomenal powers; Mikulov, a lithe and reverent monk; Gynvir, a fearless and battle-hardened barbarian; and Zayl, a mysterious necromancer. With time and the forces of both good and evil against them, can these heroes unite as one and complete their perilous mission before Heaven falls to ruin?
Nate and I caught up recently to discuss the mythos of the DIABLO series and what it’s like to adapt a popular gaming experience for readers.
Crime fiction author Ines Eberl, who has successfully written across the mystery and suspense genres, recently met the challenge to call on her own law and writing career to craft her first horror novel. In DEVIL’S BLOOD, crime author and lawyer Ben Ingram is living in an old farmhouse in the mountains of Salzburg, Austria, when suddenly things begin to happen that lead him to doubt his mental health. Although he doesn´t believe in ghosts, when a young woman dies under mysterious circumstances, his wonderful mountain world breaks down.
As well as being a crime author, Ines is an Austrian law historian and practicing lawyer. She was born in Berlin, studied at Salzburg University, and practices law in Salzburg. She is a member of both the International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writer´s Association. DEVIL’S BLOOD is her fourth novel.
DEVIL’S BLOOD is your fourth novel. Why this particular story for your fourth book?
Ben is a writer of mysteries that take place in the Highlands of Scotland. I included the main chapters of his book in mine so I could switch between the horror story DEVIL’S BLOOD and a real Agatha Christie mystery—HIGHLAND MURDER. I got the idea last Christmas when I drove my car through a cold and foggy night in the Austrian mountains. Two books in one was a challenge that I loved.
If you’ve had more than enough of vampires and werewolves, you may be ready for MARROW’S PIT, a tale of real dystopian terror from horror-master Keith Deininger.
The setting for this shocking story is called “The Machine,” a huge construct built to enclose an entire range of lifeless mountains. An entire society exists within the vast halls and endless corridors of this clanking environment, living day-to-day with the sounds of squealing gears, hissing steam, and grinding metal. Countless generations have come and gone within this mechanical beast, but this story focuses on one citizen, a man named Ballard. Unlike the protagonist in most thrillers or even horror novels, Ballard is no hero, according to his creator.
“He’s a normal guy,” Deininger says, “a working-class Joe; at least he’d like to be. The problem is that, because of his father, he’s seen a bit more of the world than most citizens of the Machine. He’s poisoned by thoughts of the world outside the Machine, of possibilities.”
It is these thoughts that drive him to question things, making him an outcast from his society. Ballard sees the Machine as a tedious place, filled with ignorance and cruelty. His mundane job seems pointless and he secretly questions the purpose of the Machine.
Most of Ballard’s fellow inhabitants work, live and die within the Machine. Much of how it came to be or what its original functions may have been are lost in the mists of time. Those inside work by blind faith, in fear of and in reverence to the Machine.
By Basil Sands
Welcome to 2014. And as a flash bang of a New Year start let me recommend the latest release by Cynthia Tottleben, a dark psychological horror novel that will have your mind in its clutches from page one: THE EYE UNSEEN.
Cynthia, tell us about THE EYE UNSEEN.
In THE EYE UNSEEN, my characters are festering.
Lucy Tew’s life is a box her mother slowly nails shut. When we join her story it is the autumn of 1999 and she is imprisoned in the rural Iowa farmhouse she shares with her mother. Lucy has little to occupy her time but her dog, Tippy, and the view of the cornfield that stretches out her bedroom window. She suffers through long bouts of solitude and starvation while her mother heehaws with the notion of killing her.
Joan, Lucy’s mother, has a clock ticking in her head that grows raucous as the new millennium approaches. She has long been the hostage of a family curse that is on the verge of fruition, a nightmare that has darkened her entire life and leaves her standing on the precipice of sanity with a daughter she despises locked in the other room and a shiny new ax waiting for her in the corner of the kitchen.
Trapped in the house together, these two women explore the warped boundaries of their noxious relationship while playing hopscotch with reality and trying to bury the demons that have plagued their family for generations.
By Derek Gunn
Zombies eating hamburgers and drinking whiskey! The American dream for the zombie apocalypse? Well not quite. Peter Giglio has presented a unique take on the now all too familiar zombie theme. Rather than becoming a ravenous horde that destroys civilisation, zombies become work drones that appear to be a great untapped resource. Of course the strain on the economy for the living is so bad they may prefer a full blown feeding frenzy rather than the slow death by economic ruin.
This is not a horror or a zombie novel. Well, it is but only in that both themes figure prominently. It is more a social statement that draws on humanity’s strengths and failures. Can a zombie love a living person? Are they self-aware? All these questions are posed in a surprisingly thought-provoking novel.
The publisher is quick to suggest that there are parallels to Philip K Dick and I can see where they are coming from. However, I felt Peter Giglio has managed to lift himself out of the mire of being merely compared to past masters and has created a story that stands on its own without the need for comparison. There really isn’t anything that I have read quite like this. It is disturbing, the longevity of the dead makes more sense in this story than in most and so comes closer to home; and it is worrying, our economy or way of life really could not support itself if we still had to feed the dead (I’m sorry ‘Second Lifer’ is the correct term) as well as the living.
Fifteen years ago Second Lifers began to rise after a young man, more concerned with love than in changing the world, makes a wish. The world changes drastically as the second lifers have to be cared for and fed, there are many parallels to this in our society and this is what makes to novel particularly insightful. No one reading this will be able to ignore the obvious message, but it is not all about the message either. There are moments of genuine humour, surprise, and shock.