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100 WORD HORRORS: BOOK 4


Kevin J. Kennedy, ed. KJK Publishing


The fourth volume of the 100 Word Horrors series (and final one, according to the editor’s notes) is proof positive that you needn’t be long in the tooth to make a lasting mark. The collection delivers a cornucopia of thrills and chills from various au- thors who’ll drive you into a frenzy dog-earing your favourite entries for repeat visits. The stories run the full gamut of horror, from clas-


sic monsters to creepy hauntings, to cosmic terror and the killer next door. Along the way, there are a few tales of the more extreme and taboo variety to round things out. Suffice to say, no tombstone was left unturned in the creation of this book. Hell, there’s even an entry about the perils of compiling a collection of hundred-word stories which, evidently, is far deadlier than you might think. While some tales read like an ex- cerpt from a larger piece, most simply allude to a much bigger picture than what appears on the page.


One possible criticism is that consid- ering the relentless bombardment of images, plots, and mayhem from over a hundred different drabbles, 100 Word Horrors could have benefitted from some defined sections separating the contents by theme, style, or some oth- er classification for easier digestion. At times, I worried my personal favourites might get lost in the heavy traffic. Unlike the long-term commitment of a novel or even the heated tryst of a novella, the drabble is a quick kiss that leaves you wanting more. So whether you’re between bus stops, in line at the bank, or stooped over that afternoon java, there’s no excuse not to trade a minute of mundane reality for a dose of tiny terror.


RICK HIPSON R M 48 THE NINTH CIRCLE


THE FACES


Douglas Clegg Alkemara Press


Douglas Clegg’s latest novella exceeds ex- pectations, offering a creeping tale of the high- est calibre, told the way only Clegg’s distinctive voice can tell it. But the real strength of The Fac- es isn’t what’s being described therein, rather what’s left simmering beneath the surface of this seemingly everyday world we’re cast into. In this place, with its rising social pressures to fit in and be liked, many people have gone to extreme measures for the sake of a good impression and the chance to feel accepted, or important, if not downright popular.


But, what if, like our main char- acter Harold, you were so disen- chanted by your demeaning job and various socially awkward situations that you begin seeing things you’re certain nobody else can see? And what if, like Harold, despite projecting the impression of confident calm, you discover how to create the perfect image everyone prefers you to be? What if you could finally identify the famil- iar face in the crowd, the face nobody else sees, which speaks only to you? Would you follow it on a whim, so desperate for its secrets you’re willing to overlook any hideous truths you might encounter? As the titular faces start to reveal themselves, Harold realizes his greatest fears have been in front of him, watching, all along. He must now choose between the em- bodiment of his every wish or regress back into his natural self and inevitably lose it all. A subliminal immersion into wonder and dread,


Clegg’s approach all but demands speculation beyond what's written on the page. A suspense- ful tale of mounting terror that’s apt to burrow so deep into your subconscious that you’ll linger a bit longer on the next familiar face you spot in a crowd.


RICK HIPSON


THE BOATMAN’S DAUGHTER


Andy Davidson MCD x FSG Originals


Andy Davidson sped onto the horror scene in 2017 with his Bram Stoker Award-nominated debut novel In the Valley of the Sun. That book left readers clamouring for more, and three years later, the wait is over. The Boatman’s Daughter is sure to satisfy current fans and ensnare new ones as Davidson continues to explore themes of resilience and regionalism with spookiness to spare.


The author’s beautifully blunt prose is on full dis- play as he crafts an intricate narrative in the heart of the bayou. Enter Miranda Crab- tree, the tale’s protagonist, who, after the death of her father, gets caught up fer- rying contraband through the swamp for a corrupt preacher and a host of oth- ers. It’s a job that casts her into a maelstrom of witches, magic, secrets, and horrible people. Surrounded by this abundance of evil, pinpoints


of light and love are the only things that continue to propel Miranda through the fate she’s been dealt.


The author handles the book’s other characters just as smoothly, providing depth while creating a full cast to love and revile. The swamp, full of slinking critters, ancient trees, and muck-cov- ered water, creates a tangible atmosphere, and, in the spirit of American regionalism, becomes a character and force in its own right. Add a bit of black magic, corrupt law enforcement, as well as some true tests of human nature, and The Boatman’s Daughter successfully re-imagines Southern gothic horror.


Readers will delight in the supernatural night- mares Davidson conjures throughout, with gore and blood delivered at all the right moments. The art of marrying all this with a compelling story is a skill solidly in the author’s wheelhouse, and The Boatman’s Daughter creates a world that’s immersive and easy to lose oneself in. Recom- mended to fans of Michael McDowell’s Blackwa- ter, Cormac McCarthy, and other literary fiction. TRACY ROBINSON


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