Archive for book reviews

Book Review: What Price Gory by Terry M. West

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on January 17, 2014 by Alex S. Johnson

There are few things more satisfying than a good short story collection, if in What Price Gory, Terry M. West has provided just that. The horror film director-turned-writer ably delivers eight tales of the weird and macabre that range from the traditional Lovecraftian to Edward Lee-style splatterpunk and some gloriously strange places in between. I think my favorite from this book is “Cecil and Bubba Meet a Succubus,” which relates one of what we can only hope is a series of episodes featuring two Texas rednecks, a gipsy curse and, in this case, a metrosexual parapsychologist and a “suck a bus.” Then there is the title story, a dark allegory of the writing life, the creepy “Held Over” and the E.C. Comics-meets-Dante poetic retribution meted out in “Midnight Snack.” West’s prose is distinguished by its careful attention to craft and detail, his ability to re-conceive hoary terror tropes in ingenious new ways, and most of all by his sly wit. Fans of Stephen King, John Shirley, Joe Lansdale, Joe Hill and Karl Edward Wagner will find much to enjoy here and I recommend it without reservation.

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Tales from the Glory Hole by Jeff O’Brien: A Book Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on November 27, 2013 by Alex S. Johnson

Tales from the Gloryhole by Jeff O’Brien, 218 pages, Dark Space Publications

So I am asking myself, what is it about Tales from the Gloryhole, a collection of short stories and one novelette by Jeff O’Brien, that made me power it down like a chocolate milkshake in one sitting and temporarily forget the queue of writing tasks set before me? O’Brien’s bailiwick is funny horror, and once I finished the first story in the book, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist another one, and another one. Right down to the glorious cream in the center, “The Frankenstein Fairy.”

Gloryhole delivers pure reading satisfaction, with stories that run the gamut of familiar horror tropes such as serial killers and nightmare clowns, but with a twist that is all O’Brien. Not only does he clearly know the landscape of fear, his ironic sensibility lends the tales something extra. Much like the early work of filmmaker Peter Jackson, or Sam Raimi in the good old days, O’Brien mingles the shocks with the laughs and had me nodding, smiling, flashing mental metal horns and wanting more–living glory holes, vagina monsters, pretzels made of human intestines, vengeance demons, fish gods and babies tossed in wells. His prose is vivid, clean and unpretentious.

Capping off the collection, “The Frankenstein Fairy” reads like a cross between The Breakfast Club and The Faculty; it’s an allegory about the monstrousness of conformity and the power of love to overcome division. Beneath the Bizarro flourishes and the helicopter-spine blades, the mutants and hybrids and glow-in-the-dark Goth chicks, O’Brien makes an important point about honoring difference and celebrating those qualities that make us unique.

If you want a guaranteed good time in book-land, Tales from the Gloryhole is just the ticket. Get yours today.

–Alex S. Johnson