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  1. #61
    AMERICAN MORONS by Glen Hirshberg (Earthling Publications, 2006; Ash-Tree Press, e-books, 2012. Winner of International Horror Guild best collection award)

    American Morons is Glen Hirshberg’s second collection, and according to the Earthling Publications website, they still have the trade hardcover in print. Although I consider Hirshberg’s first collection, The Two Sams, stronger, this contains a fine group of ghost stories and is well worth your time to seek out.

    Most of the best remembered ghost stories create tension and suspense through evoking a sense of impending disaster, of fated doom; they perform a sort of macabre strip-tease, slowly unveiling the nature of the threat to the protagonists. Hirshberg, perhaps taking his cue from writers like Henry James, Walter de la Mare and Shirley Jackson, widens this approach even as he establishes cause for dread.

    Here, as in his first collection and his novel, The Snowman’s Children, Hirshberg specializes in protagonists who are sensitive to the changing emotional states of those around them, protagonists all too aware of their own fallibility even as they grope toward knowledge and understanding, sometimes reaching it soon enough and sometimes not. While his stories have a full emotional palette that includes wry humor, love, friendship, compassion and empathy, around these emotional colors the shading and shadowing are gradations of melancholy. This melancholy usually stems from the past and from regret born in personal history, regret for past actions or for past inactions, for not understanding a situation until too late or for understanding it and either not admitting its reality or being unable to rise above personal limitations to contend with it, for not being the person you thought you were or you wanted to be or the person the people you care for need. This is not to say these stories are despairing. Some end sadly, some in fear, some with revelation, some with an earned, mature hope. Whether dealing with older characters (“Transitway”, “The Muldoon”) or younger (“Safety Clowns”, “American Morons”, and “The Muldoon”) Hirshberg homes in on their needs and insecurities, their sensitivities and concerns, and their love for each other, and frequently weaves the supernatural into their stories in such a way that the weird and supernatural isn’t so much an intrusion into their lives as an extension or illumination of who they are.

    The stories in this collection:

    “American Morons”: Two American students, trying to rekindle their high school romance, tour Italy. They hear reports of ritualistic killings of Americans near Rome, but because of the language barrier know little of what is happening. Then their car stalls at a toll booth and they are dependent on two young Italian men. Are the two men there to help? What is that odd crying beyond the wall beside their car? When do you recognize the moment you are aware the person you love no longer loves you and may not even respect you?

    “Like a Lily in a Flood”: A two-person set piece. The hostess of a bed and breakfast reads from the diary of her great-great-grandmother to Nagle, her guest, someone who has vacationed at the house yearly for two decades. Each has ties to the past, but what are their ties to each other?

    “Flowers on Their Bridles, Hooves in the Air”: The title refers to the carousel Rebecca remembers her father taking her to as a little girl, and to which she takes her husband, Eliot, and Ash, Eliot’s best friend. Rebecca and Ash share an affinity, an unspoken understanding. She hasn’t been the same since 9/11 and the birth of her daughter has not entirely shaken her out of her funk. Here at the arcade, in spite of its run down condition, in spite of the carousel no longer being in place, still there’s a sense, a feeling of what she remembers as a child that brings her father back to her. But that is not necessarily good.

    “Safety Clowns”: Max’s mother has died and while he can afford to stay in her condo a while longer, he needs money to return to school. What more enjoyable summer job than driving an ice cream truck, bringing happiness to the people you meet? But there is happiness and happiness and Max must choose, and there are consequences for choices.

    “Devil’s Smile”: Historical fantasy. A government employee has come, to inspect the lighthouse in a small Maine town, a town he knew well as a boy. He finds the town nearly deserted, one of many such he’s found along the eastern coast, perhaps losing their populations to the new whaling centers like New Bedford. His cousin Amalia and her father once lived here, and the barrenness of the area and of the town causes him to wonder where they have gone since he hasn’t heard from them in years. Then he meets the woman who lives in the lighthouse, widow of its former keeper, and hears her story. There are strange stories to tell of the sea, and some of them may answer his questions.

    “Transitway”: Two old men, newly freed from the bonds of employment, living in a haze of memories not located where they can quite grasp them decide on a little trip. But the car is broken down and their only transportation is the new bus terminal. Has anyone they know used it? Has anyone they know come back from it?

    “The Muldoon”: Grandpa was a big man in the community, and at his death Martin and Miriam learn more about him, more about his capacity for helping and caring for his family. This is a deeply felt study of kids coming to understand something about adulthood, about the responsibility of caring for family members. Its focus on family has a feel something like a compressed To Kill a Mockingbird, and it’s a fine ghost story, as well.

    The only story that dissatisfied me was “Like a Lily in a Flood.” The embedded historical story is fascinating, but its contemporary setting feels a bit conventional to me in ways other Hirshberg stories do not. Of the other stories, I expect to see “Devil’s Smile,” “The Muldoon,” and especially “Flowers on Their Bridles, Hooves in the Air” in many future anthologies. That last combines weirdness with a kind of sweetness that made it my favorite in this collection.

    More by Glen Hirshberg:
    The Two Sams (collection)
    The Snowman’s Children (novel)
    (You’ll have to scroll down to find the message; it’s number 62)

    NOTE: Ash-Tree Press was established In the mid-1990s to bring back into print the supernatural works by writers from the turn of the 20th century, specializing particularly in the ghost story. Recently they have been converting older, out of print works to e-book format. This is one of a few titles not originally published by them that they are also offering as an e-book.

    Next: The Snowman’s Children by Glen Hirshberg

  2. #62
    [Not sure I'll have Internet access tomorrow, so here's one for the weekend.]

    The Snowman’s Children by Glen Hirshberg (Carroll & Graf, 2003; first published in hard cover by Carroll & Graf, 2002)

    In the dark, through the stinging sleet, the lightless buildings of downtown Detroit seem to tilt toward one another like sunken ships on the ocean floor. The streetlamp bulbs have all blown, so that everything wavers in the hissing shadows. Even the traffic lights float like buoys cut adrift to ride the Friday-night ghost current. I have the car window cracked open despite the cold. All I hear is the furtive slosh of tires and a faint industrial whistling. At first glance, this place looks exactly the way I left it seventeen years ago. Or maybe it’s just the new snow, having its usual effect on me.
    -- first paragraph

    The Snowman’s Children is a contemporary, non-supernatural Gothic set in Detroit, a coming-of-age story behind and around which lurks a serial killer, a novel dramatizing familial love while also sounding notes of regret and melancholy as well as hope. Hirshberg’s familiarity with and expertise at writing ghost stories serves him well as he reveals the full extent of his story bit by bit over the course of the novel, building suspense but also establishing and extending our understanding of a 1970s suburb of Detroit, and of the main characters and their situation.

    Told from the perspective of Mattie Rhodes, The Snowman’s Children alternates chapters set during his return to Detroit as an adult in 1994 with chapters set when he is in college in 1985 and chapters set in 1976 and 1977: Mattie in 1976-77 is a bright eleven-year-old and a loner who feels like he's uncovered treasure when he makes a friend, Spenser. Meanwhile, Mattie is also trying to figure out just what his relationship is with Theresa, another class-mate and competitor, who could well be even smarter than Mattie and Spenser. But Mattie’s hometown of Detroit during the winters of 1976 and 1977 are plagued by a serial killer who targets children around their age. Called the Snowman because he only kills in winter, he is all the more terrifying for the children and their parents because he leaves each victim out in the open, neatly posed, and in a location that meant something to that child. Like the other children, Mattie is fascinated by the news reports, nursing a growing anxiety as the list of victims grows, an anxiety further stoked and fed by his awareness that something is wrong with Theresa. Mattie and Spenser can't figure out what is troubling Theresa, but they want to help, and that leads to a decision that affects the lives of all three children, their parents, their neighborhood, and even the city.

    There are stories that try to surprise you, and stories that indicate from early on the direction in which they are headed. This is one of the latter. But it does not matter. The novel, told in clear, direct, exemplary prose, progresses with an inevitability that makes the reading all the more intense, in no small part because of the believability of the characters and their families and the actions they all take. While providing the pleasures of any good thriller, Hirshberg’s novel also examines family, friendship, loyalty and regret while following Mattie as he seeks his future by facing their shared past.

    This novel and his two story collections, The Two Sams and American Morons, have made Hirshberg a favorite writer of mine. I cannot recommend his fiction highly enough.

    Other dark non-supernatural thrillers:
    Thomas Harris: Red Dragon & The Silence of the Lambs
    Tom Piccirilli: The Dead Letters

    Scary Human Tricks

    Next (Monday): The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan

  3. #63
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    And one to keep us going. have put up a short story, one of HP Lovecraft's, The Terrible Old Man.


    It's also in Otto Penzler's Great Book of Ghost Stories, which I've already mentioned is my Halloween reading of 2012. (Have already started reading it, actually.)

  4. #64
    THE DROWNING GIRL by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Roc, 2012)

    “I’m going to write a ghost story now,” she typed.
    “A ghost story with a mermaid and a wolf,” she also typed.
    I also typed.
    -- first lines in The Drowning Girl

    The subtitle is “A Memoir” by India Morgan Phelps, known as Imp. Imp calls herself crazy, a madwoman, as were her mother and grandmother, and she was once diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. The Drowning Girl is a story pieced together from Imp's fragmented memories some of which contradict themselves and each other, merged and stirred with bits of esoteric lore picked up by Imp from her mother and grandmother, mixed with a great deal of reading, and inspired or catalyzed or dreamed into by viewing a painting titled “The Drowning Girl.” Art, paintings in particular, play a significant role in this novel and Kiernan does a fine job of describing what a painting depicts as well as the feelings it evokes, in particular the titular work of a young woman, nude, standing in shallow water at the edge of a river, a dark and even threatening wood behind her, her face averted as though looking over her shoulder.

    As in her previous novel, The Red Tree, throughout Kiernan illustrates the creation of story as we piece together Imp’s life and the events and observations and the reasoning behind building her own story. Simultaneously Kiernan questions the nature of story-telling by adopting the voice of a young woman who is trying to both find and declare the truth through writing her memoir, an undertaking often in conflict with itself. The Drowning Girl is an intricate, complex book – how can Imp seem to meet Eva for the first time twice? is the first appearance of Eva a werewolf? is the second first appearance of Eva a mermaid? what is the significance of the nuns who are not nuns walking through a park near Imp’s home? The complexity is deepened by Imp’s honesty or apparent honesty about her own lies, forcing the reader to weigh each revelation, each reason given for her lie(s), to determine which story is a construct spurred by psychological defenses, which facts back which events. Kiernan’s novel becomes a search for meaning and for peace of mind, and it’s lovely in spots and brutal in others.

    As with the stories in To Charles Fort, With Love plot has its role and use but is not the main focus. Kiernan is trying, though literary means, to share an experience of confusion and dread and anxiety through her antagonist, who is at once vulnerable and tenacious, surprising the reader with her inner resources in what seems the most dire battle a person can face, a battle with her own mind.

    Kiernan’s work amazes me. Her novels seem at once deeply personal, fine explorations of psychological distress, and even finer explorations of worlds of fantasy, dark fantasy, where the threat is not necessarily death but being lost from yourself, subsumed in or maybe consumed by something larger and more powerful than oneself. This novel would be interesting as paired reading with her previous novel, The Red Tree, since both deal with a fracturing psyche and a woman trying to survive demons within as well as demons without, yet the women have contrasting styles: Sarah Crowe in The Red Tree a woman who easily angers (the novel occurs in summer, during a period of intense heat) while Imp is more contemplative and not liable to being riled The Drowning Girl, much of which occurs in winter, in snow and ice and cold).

    If I’m not as taken with The Drowning Girl as I was with The Red Tree, I expect in a year or two I will consider rereading both and that both will repay rereading. I also expect anyone who read The Red Tree will be eager to read this one.

    Other, impinging realities:
    Jonathan Carroll, The Land of Laughs & Voices of Our Shadows
    Ramsey Campbell: Midnight Sun, The Grin of the Dark
    Thomas Ligotti

    Next: To Charles Fort, With Love by Caitlin R. Kiernan
    Last edited by Randy M.; October 23rd, 2012 at 01:17 PM. Reason: Fixed link to review of RED TREE

  5. #65
    I hope you'll keep us posted on your progress and what you think of the anthology, Mark. Right now I'm working on a somewhat more manageable length (for me) anthology The Book of Horrors ed. by Stephen Jones. I've read the first five stories, at least two of which I expect to see in next year's best of volumes.

    Randy M.

  6. #66
    TO CHARLES FORT, WITH LOVE by Caitlin Kiernan (Subterranean Press, 2005)

    [indent][indent] “This is one of those stories which takes very seriously my belief that dark fiction dealing with the inexplicable should, itself, present to the reader a certain inexplicability. It’s not about resolution or understanding, but that brief, disturbing contact which usually characterizes actual paranormal encounters.”/
    Caitlin Kiernan writes this in the afterword to her story, “Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea,” but it applies to many of the stories in this collection: Some have more obvious conclusions than others, but all leave the reader with the feeling that something has happened, something supernatural or paranormal, or maybe indefinable.

    Kiernan does not seem overly concerned with plot. It's there and has its importance and any plot offered is resolved, but several of the stories end with the implication of actions beyond the end of the story that might have been of interest to the reader, even if not pertinent to what Kiernan is dramatizing. What Kiernan focuses on instead is the revelation to a character of other worlds that may be less than a step away and, sometimes, what that may mean to the character.

    At the risk of repeating myself, let me be clear that these stories are resolved. Kiernan’s descriptive powers are vital and occasionally astonishing, and her characters understandable. Those qualities coupled with her scientific background – she has published articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals of paleontology – ground her stories, giving them a base from which to launch more esoteric flights of invention. For example, the volume’s first story, “Valentia”: A paleontologist has been murdered at a site in Ireland and much of the dig he was supervising has been destroyed. Anne Campbell, a colleague and former lover, flies from New York City to see what can be salvaged. The locals seem distant, and the intern who picks her up from the airport seems deeply distraught. Anne quickly realizes the age, scope and import of what is being uncovered, experiences a dream about the significance and history of the site and the fossil findings, and learns who killed her friend. But why? Why was he killed? Something like an answer is implied, but it’s elusive. The mystery remains mysterious, the importance and the power of the site evocative rather than concrete. And Kiernan, like two of the writers who inspire her, Arthur Machen and H. P. Lovecraft, is well able to evoke that sense of something greater in the surroundings and in the actions of the people around Anne.

    There are a couple of stories that feel more conventional – “Standing Water,” maybe “Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956)” – and a couple that take a different tack like, “So Runs the World Away” and “The Dead and the Moonstruck”; in his afterward, Ramsey Campbell points to the latter two as reminding him of Ray Bradbury's stories of the Elliot family ("Homecoming," "Uncle Einar," etc.) and I agree, though I’m not sure I’d have thought of it without him pointing it out. And that hint of Bradbury extends to other stories, too, but the Bradbury of “The Foghorn” or passages in Something Wicked This Way Comes, where the writing is geared toward conveying the experience as much as about resolving plot.

    Kiernan is a stylist whose approach to language and story-telling stresses the emotions of the person going through the inexplicable experience, whether it be fear or awe, wonder or confusion or dread, as in “Le Peau Verte,” where all of these emotions come into play. The title of one story, “Onion”, indicates Kiernan’s approach in her more complex stories: While some stories are straight-forward (“Valentia,” “Standing Water,” “So Runs the World Away,” “The Dead and the Moonstruck”), others like “Onion,” “Le Peau Verte,” and “A Redress for Andromeda” are denser with incident, more layered, require the reader’s attention to detail to arrive at an understanding. These stories are not joy rides but puzzles to be studied and pieced together, reading as archeological dig. If you enjoy stories that appeal to the emotions without abandoning the intellect, I would urge you to read Caitlin Kiernan, one of our finest practitioners of weird fiction.

    More Weird:
    Thomas Ligotti: Grimscribe
    My Work is Not Yet Done (note: this is unusually violent for his work as well as being weird)

    The Weird ed. Jeff & Ann Vandermeer
    (I’ve only read a cross-section of this, and most of that stories originally written in English; those stories alone make this a notable anthology)


    STAY OUT OF NEW ORLEANS: STRANGE STORIES by P. Curran (Cadiz & Cadizn’t Press, 2012)

    I’ll be up-front: I am biased in favor of this collection of short stories.

    Late in September I had the pleasant surprise of being contacted by P. Curran, asked for my home address and a few days later receiving a very nice trade paperback in which my name is included in the acknowledgments. Between May 2005 and November 2006 I read and commented on the stories that make up this collection, engaging in a back and forth email correspondence with P. Curran that, whether true or not, I’ve chosen to view as vital to the final book. See my ego, hear it roar. Realistically the other people similarly acknowledged were probably helpful, too.

    I suppose.

    I haven’t had a chance to read the final version, yet, but I can tell you in the form I first saw these stories they were well worth your attention and I expect they are stronger now. P. Curran depicts New Orleans pre-Katrina convincingly, in particular the quarters where the not-so-well-off gather and live, the eccentrics who populated the city and the odd events that were a little out of register with what we consider reality. These stories, though not as overtly fantastic as Kiernan’s, might make interesting reading in conjunction with the Kiernan, both for the contrast in approaches and because a story or two in her collection also takes place in New Orleans.

    For anyone interested, ISBN: 0615690610.

    More New Orleans:
    Poppy Z. Brite: Wormwood (story collection)

    Next: “Pickman’s Model” by H.P. Lovecraft and “Far Below” by Richard Barbour Johnson
    Last edited by Randy M.; October 24th, 2012 at 08:01 AM. Reason: Can't believe I forgot to add Poppy Brite's story collection

  7. #67
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy M. View Post
    If I’m not as taken with The Drowning Girl as I was with The Red Tree, I expect in a year or two I will consider rereading both and that both will repay rereading. I also expect anyone who read The Red Tree will be eager to read this one.
    I think that may have been one of my largest issues with The Drowning Girl (review just posted), I wasn't able to connect nearly as well with the story as I was with The Red Tree

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy M. View Post
    Other, impinging realities:
    Jonathan Carroll, The Land of Laughs
    This novel is superb, from appearances it should be light but it is anything but.

  8. #68
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob B View Post
    I think that may have been one of my largest issues with The Drowning Girl (review just posted), I wasn't able to connect nearly as well with the story as I was with The Red Tree
    I agree that Kiernan does not make it easy to identify with Imp and that Imp can be off-putting, as can Abalyn; however, I found it easier to accept both and empathize with them the deeper I got into the novel, in no small part due to the way they treated each other. But what also interested me as I read were the contrasts between the two novels: TRT is summer hot and TDG is winter cold; Sarah in some ways gives up on her relationships and pushes them away, and Imp keeps working, keeps pushing to have a relationship; Sarah is a skilled writer trying to hide from truth and Imp is trying to state it though she has imperfect tools to do so.

    I rather wish I'd read the two novels back to back because I think one would gain from the other.

    This novel [The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll] is superb, from appearances it should be light but it is anything but.
    Probably my favorite of the fantasy novels I first read in the 1980s. I like most of what I've read by him since, but this is the novel that hit me hardest.

    Randy M.

  9. #69
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    I've wanted to read Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin for years and will finally remedy that now as my Hallowe'en read for this year.

  10. #70
    “PICKMAN’S MODEL” by H. P. Lovecraft (H.P. Lovecraft: Complete and Unabridged [Barnes & Noble, 2008]; first published in Weird Tales, 1927)

    “You needn’t think I’m crazy, Eliot – plenty of others have queerer prejudices than this. Why don’t you laugh at Oliver’s grandfather, who won’t ride in a motor? If I don’t like that damned subway, it’s my own business; and we got here more quickly anyhow in the taxi. We’d have had to walk up the hill from Park Street if we’d taken the car.”
    -- first paragraph

    The narrator, a sensitive, nervous man who thought he wanted to know the secrets of the world until he learned them, will no longer ride by subway and even disdains a car if he cannot park near enough to his destination. His fear stems from too close appreciation of the work of Richard Upton Pickman.

    Pickman paints the grotesque and macabre. The narrator, seeing and admiring Pickman’s work at the Art Club, makes the artist’s acquaintance and they become friends. Being friends with Pickman means viewing more of his work, the work the Art Club refused to show, work that begins to appall even the narrator. Then he visits Pickman’s studios, in particular the one in the cellar of an empty house in a poor and mostly deserted neighborhood; and then there’s the question of Pickman’s models.

    S.T. Joshi says in his introduction, this tale is a relatively conventional story for Lovecraft, which may be true, but it’s also a very well-structured and effective horror story, one of Lovecraft’s most popular, having been anthologized dozens of times in English – the screen at the Internet Science Fiction Database ( would cover two written pages, single-spaced.

    “Pickman’s Model” was filmed in 1972 as an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery and is the basis for one of Hannes Bok’s more famous illustrations. I suspect it influenced Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks” [LINK] and Laird Barron’s The Croning, and I’m positive it influenced the following story.

    ”FAR BELOW” by Richard Barbour Johnson (The Weird, eds. Jeff & Ann Vandermeer, Tor, 2012; Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors, ed. Stefan Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, Martin H. Greenburg, 1988; first published in Weird Tales, 1939)

    With a roar and a howl the thing was upon us, out of total darkness. Involuntarily I drew back as its headlights passed and every object in the little room rattled from the reverberations. Then the power-car was by, and there was only the “klackety-klack, klackety-klack” of wheels and lighted windows flickering past like bits of film on a badly-connected projection machine. I caught glimpses of occupants briefly; bleak-eyed men sitting miserably on hard benches; a pair of lovers oblivious to the hour’s lateness and all else; an old bearded Jew in a black cap, sound asleep; two Harlem Negroes grinning; conductors here and there, too, their uniforms black splotches against the blaze of car-lights. Then red tail-lamps shot by and the roar died to an earthquake rumble far down the track.
    -- first paragraph

    Inspector Craig of the N.Y.P.D., responsible for the security of the N.Y. City subway system, tells our narrator of those who lurk in the deepest stretch of the system under the city. Once he had been Professor Gordon Craig, called in to assess the nature of a monstrosity found pinned under the wreckage of a train, a wreck caused by the purposeful burrowing of the creatures to catch their food. After reading his report, the authorities who called him in hired Craig and for over twenty years he and his force have secured the system, keeping the creatures from derailing any more trains and hunting them, reducing their numbers. But there was more to learn about the creatures, and the worst of it wasn’t what they did or what they fed on.

    Johnson sets his scene immediately; rather like a one-act play, the story occurs entirely in a small room off one of the tunnels housing both the Inspector and a newly installed board that shows where the trains are at any time, giving the story a closed in, claustrophobic feel. And he doesn’t dawdle getting to his subject; by this time, only two years after Lovecraft’s death, doomed scholars and antiquarians were largely a thing of the past, as was the Lovecraftian approach of a painstaking, gradual unveiling of the true nature of the thing being faced. Works by writers like Fritz Leiber and Robert Bloch were now written in the vernacular of the times, the pace quicker, and horror dragged out of museums and personal libraries and into the city streets, finding the terrifying in the everyday.

    According to the introduction in Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors, Dorothy McIlwraith, the last editor of the first iteration of Weird Tales, called “Far Below” the best story ever published in that magazine. I’ve read quite a few stories from the original Weird Tales and I’m not quite prepared to agree – tough to choose between it and Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Dark Eidolon” or Robert E. Howard’s “The Pigeons from Hell” or Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls,” to name only a few – still it’s a strong story, one that references Lovecraft without attempting to incorporate his mythos or writing style, and one I suspect Lovecraft, given his aversion to New York City – he lived briefly in Red Hook – might well have admired.

    More underground horrors:
    "City of the Dog" by John Langan
    (scroll to post #13 – appropriate, isn’t it?)
    “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner
    The Throne of Bones by Brian MacNaughton

    Next: The Croning by Laird Barron
    Last edited by Randy M.; October 25th, 2012 at 07:04 AM.

  11. #71
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Pickman's Model is also in Penzler's anthology Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! as well.

    Must also recommend the Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors as well, which collects some quite difficult to get hold of Weird Tales stories.

    (And, ironically, is increasingly hard to get hold of itself...)

  12. #72
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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    I started Dracula, Randy! The first bit seems kinda hard going, it's not as smooth to read as I'd hoped, but it might improve. What were your thoughts on it?

  13. #73
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Pickman's Model is also in Penzler's anthology Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! as well.
    Thanks, Mark. Completely blanked on that.

    Must also recommend the Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors as well, which collects some quite difficult to get hold of Weird Tales stories.
    (And, ironically, is increasingly hard to get hold of itself...)
    Yup. I found it used earlier this year and was quite surprised to do so.

    Randy M.
    Last edited by Randy M.; October 25th, 2012 at 03:48 PM.

  14. #74
    Quote Originally Posted by Loerwyn View Post
    I started Dracula, Randy! The first bit seems kinda hard going, it's not as smooth to read as I'd hoped, but it might improve. What were your thoughts on it?
    Hi, Loerwyn.

    I was a teen when I read it and I found it surprisingly effective, especially the first third, in spite of all the filmed versions I'd seen. It does bog down for awhile after that first third, then picks up again as it nears the end. If you finish it, be sure to look up "Dracula's Guest." Though DG was published separately after Stoker's death (as I recall), it was an excised part of the novel. I also found it effectively creepy.

    Randy M.

  15. #75
    THE CRONING by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books, 2012)

    “That venerable tale of the Miller’s daughter and the Dwarf who helped her spin straw into gold has a happy ending in the popular version. The events that inspired the legend, not so much.”
    -- first paragraph

    Don Miller, an elderly geologist, is married to Michelle, an anthropologist, whose career has flown higher than his in spite of her search for what her son calls, “the little people,” the type of research that ordinarily leads to being tagged as a crank and charlatan. Even in his eighties, Don still marvels at his luck in marrying such a beautiful, accomplished woman, in spite of her dark moods, in spite of his continued discomfort living in her family’s home, his vague but intense fear of the basement, his concerns over what else might be there. Michelle has always been a mystery: What did his grandfather know about her and her family’s past? What does she really do when attending her yearly conferences? And where was she really on their vacation to Mexico in 1958 when she was called away by her mentor? When she didn’t contact Don for days, he started searching for her and was nearly killed by hard men, former cops, with connections to Mexican intelligence agencies, supposedly helping him find her. And why did two National Security Agency agents track him down in 1980, trying to learn more about Michelle, her connections and activities? And what does their pregnant daughter-in-law confer with Michelle about?

    And, more distressingly, why do Don’s memories of all this and more – memories of the pictures of the NSA agents sent him anonymously, of his trip to Camp Slango – fade so rapidly? Don worries about insipient dementia, but is it? And who is Old Leech and who are the Children of Old Leech?

    Barron is the bright, new kid on the block, the latest to have the mantle of Lovecraft draped on his shoulders. This mainly stems from the strength of his short stories, many of which are collected in The Imago Sequence and Occultation, both collections from Night Shade Books. I’ve only read three of his stories, “Strappado,” (in Occultation and originally published in Poe, edited by Ellen Datlow) which I found somewhat repulsive and fascinating all the same, and which concerns a piece of vicious performance art; “Old Virginia,” a powerful horror story which revolves around an intelligence community mission gone badly, frighteningly sideways; and “Shiva, Open Your Eye,” also powerful, an odd story of a sculpture in progress (both stories in The Imago Sequence).

    Those readers who have followed Barron’s career to date began salivating as soon as they heard of this novel. But the response has been mixed, some loving it and some disappointed. Such may be the result of exorbitant expectations. Having only read a few of his stories, I didn’t have those expectations and found the novel entertaining, maybe not the great American horror novel, but structurally complex, thematically intriguing and mostly well-written. The Croning shares some of the same influences as Caitlin Kiernan’s The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl, and Ramsey Campbell’s The Grin of the Dark; if it doesn’t reach the complexity of and isn’t as assured as those novels, still I feel no hesitation nor have any reservations in recommending The Croning as an intense and sometimes disturbing read.

    Other Reading:
    John Langan: House of Windows
    John Jacobs Horner: Southern Gods (scroll to post #50)

    Next: The Grin of the Dark by Ramsey Campbell

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