Archive for September, 2011

Review – Super Supernatural Shenanigans!

September 27, 2011 - 9:46 pm No Comments

Sympathy for the Devil
Author: Justin Gustainis
Publisher: Solaris Books
Page count: 477pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Howard Stark wants to be President of the United States. And so does the demon inside him.

Occult investigator Quincey Morris and white witch Libby Chastain are on a mission to prove that Stark is indeed a demon and a series of ‘accidental’ deaths, scandals making candidates drop out and blackmail is connected to Stark and his go to girl Mary Margaret Doyle. We also have a small town teenage girl who appears to be possessed and Morris is trying to find an exorcist willing to rid her from her demon. After a disastrous initial exorcism attempt, Morris is riddled with guilt and determined to leave the ‘ghost busting’ business until Libby arrives to slap him back into shape.

This is the third Quincey Morris book by Justin Gustainis who also released recent supernatural police procedural Hard Spell, which already proved that Gustainis knows his supernatural stuff.

Set amidst the background of American politics, the novel is realistic and intriguing, with some great nods to known political scandals such as one involving a certain incident with a dress. These scandalous incidents are really good fun and the humour bubbles off the pages. Morris and Chastain arrive late to the fun, but there is enough diverse character interaction and plot movement to keep the reader fully entertained. There are some fun cultural references, particularly about other writers working in this field to keep knowledgeable readers pleasantly amused, such as references to an Anita, who may or may not be Anita Blake and a couple of visits to Castle Rock in Maine, Stephen King’s territory.

Gustainis is fast becoming a name to watch in the supernatural thriller arena and Sympathy for the Devil
is a great addition to his works. Blooming good fun!

If you like the look of this check out Sympathy for the Devil

Review – Walking With Zombies

September 20, 2011 - 4:22 pm No Comments

Walking With Zombies
Author: Ian Woodhead
Publisher: Kindle Edition
Page count: 75pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
The follow up to Woodhead’s earlier Zombie hit The Unwashed Dead (Zombie Armageddon)
, Walking with Zombies (Zombie Armageddon) carries on the theme of highlighting the decay in urban areas and the horror inherent in every day life.

The novella starts with Talbot Field. Wife Beater and Debt Enforcer, Talbot, like many of Woodhead’s characters, represents all that is bad, real and grimy about society, in this case, inner city Bradford. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as Lester Field Talbot’s Dad is pretty much the same man. Then there is young Thomas, a Jonah, and bad luck follows home everywhere but doesn’t affect him. Along with more rag tag characters including Dominic the cook and Marlene the bar maid, the cast of this novella is drawn towards a social club run by lethario Brendan, where the majority wait out this zombie apocalypse. Tonight is Zombie Night, the night when the pensioners descend on the Club for drinks and entertainment once the bingo is over.

During the apocalypse, Talbot is quickly infected, but unlike the regular zombies, he is different. He is in control of his needs and emotions and can hear the thoughts of his victims pre-empting their escape routes. Talbot is intent on building his own army of super zombies but must escape the regular shamblers who seem desperate to destroy him.

There are some technical errors such as names being mixed up and the odd typos, but the humour bubbles from the text and the Club setting is great for character exploration, violence and plenty of jokes. Each character has a distinctive voice of their own and Woodhead excels at local dialect and accent. This is a thoroughly British book, the feel reminiscent of Peter Kaye’s Pheonix Nights and is all the more fun because of it. I read it in one sitting. It is a great read and really good fun.

If you like the look of this book, check it out at Walking with Zombies (Zombie Armageddon)

Interview – Gary McMahon

September 19, 2011 - 11:59 pm No Comments

Gary McMahon, author of the recently released Dead Bad Things (Angry Robot)
took time out from his busy writing schedule to chat to me. AS well as his Thomas Usher novels, McMahon has embarked on an urban horror trilogy starting with The Concrete Grove (The Concrete Grove Trilogy)

Here’s what Gary had to say;

1. How did the ideas for the Grove develop?

Slowly, over a very long time. I first had the basic idea of a kind of possessed council housing estate when I was sixteen. It’s only now that I feel skilled enough to even attempt to write this story.

2. Do you have the full trilogy mapped out in your head including the end?

Nope. I’m just winging it, hoping that everything ties together as a cohesive whole. It isn’t a proper trilogy, strictly speaking, more of a series of interconnected works. I envisage this as being a potentially long-running series of books – that is, if people want to read them and Solaris want to continue publishing them.

3. I recently read Dead Bad Things (see my review at What can you tell us about the second Thomas Usher novel?
The second Usher novel is a direct sequel to the first, and it sets up the dynamic for the rest of the books (which I hope to write) going forward. These first two books form a kind of “origin story”, like you usually get with superhero characters. I really can’t say much more without giving things away, but I will tell you that I’ve taken a few narrative and thematic risks with ‘Dead Bad Things’. I hope they pay off.

You have recently started publishing your back catalogue in electronic format.
4. How do you think the upsurge of ebooks will impact on the traditional book business?

I’ve only released a couple of titles as an experiment, to see how they sell. The results aren’t promising – despite appearing near the top of a lot of those Kindle charts on Amazon, sales haven’t been too strong. It’s difficult to say how much on an impact ebooks will have on the industry in the long run, but the times certainly are a’ changing. All I’m seeing now is a mad scramble, with a lot of crap being shoved out on Kindle along with a lot of really good stuff. It’s increasingly difficult trying to decide what might be worth your time.

5. What’s the weirdest or spookiest thing that has ever happened to you?

I once lived in a house in North London that I’m convinced was haunted. I used to hear banging on the floor under my bed (and the guy in the room below never heard a thing). I felt somebody sitting on the end of the bed almost every night, and used to feel as if someone was in there waiting for me – standing in the corner – whenever I went to bed. What made the whole thing even stranger is that I don’t actually believe in ghosts…and yet, there was certainly some kind of presence there.

6. So what’s next in your creative schedule?

I’m currently working on ‘Silent Voices’, the second in the Concrete Grove series, I have several short stories that have been commissioned at different stages of completion, a Thomas Usher short story collection, and there’s also a Thomas Usher novella that’s recently started to demand my attention. Then there’s ‘The Quiet Room’, my haunted house novel which needs finishing so my agent can try to sell it, and hopefully a third Usher novel. I’m also currently putting together my next short story collection for a respected U.S. publisher, titled ‘Tales of the Weak & the Wounded’.

Many Thanks Gary

Review – Dark Dead Bad Things

September 19, 2011 - 11:35 pm No Comments

Dead Bad Things
Author: Gary McMahon
Publisher: Angry Robot
Price: £7.99 (Paperback)
Page count: 334pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Occurring six months after the events in Pretty Little Dead Things, Dead Bad Things (Angry Robot)
is told from three main points of view and follows the journey of these characters as they have to deal with the impact of a child serial killer in Leeds. We have Thomas Usher as one narrator, who was the narrator of the first novel and for his sins, has been able to see the dead since losing his wife and child in a car accident fifteen years ago. Next we have PC Sarah Doherty, a young police woman investigating these murders at the same time looking into the past and deadly secrets of her father Emerson Doherty; both respected and feared by his police colleagues. The third main narrator (there is briefly a fourth) is shamed TV psychic Trevor who has a grudge against Usher for revealing his dark secrets. Despite the number of narrators, you can hear McMahon’s distinctive authorial voice throughout.

This novel is all about secrets, many of them unpleasant. There is an extreme darkness to the tale and it shows a world if urban and moral decay. Truly atmospheric and genuinely creepy, Dead Bad Things (Angry Robot)
has to be read in order to reach the conclusions hinted at in the first novel. There are some great gasp moments, particularly near the end, and the reading of it is somewhat cathartic. This novel is quite simply, a symphony of pain.

If you want to know more about Angry Robot’s latest projects take a look at their website.

If you like the look of this book, check it out at Dead Bad Things (Angry Robot)

Review – Dead Island is dead good

September 19, 2011 - 10:39 pm No Comments

Dead Island (The Book)
Author: Mark Morris
Publisher: Bantam Books
Price: £6.99 (Paperback/Game Adaptation)
Page count: 334pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
Sporting the same cover as the Game, for which this is an adaptation, Dead Island
, is the eagerly awaited novelisation released as a tie-in on 8th September.
Royal Palms is a luxury vacation resort on the tropical paradise island of Banoi. A plague breaks out on the island and the islanders and tourists are transformed into flesh eating dead. Four survivors who are inexplicably immune must fight to survive and escape from the island, aided by a mysterious voice on their mobile phones. Visceral, bloody, gory, rather kitsch but also fun Dead Island
fleshes out the game (pardon the pun), creating characters with histories and motivation. Have no illusions, this pulp fiction but quality pulp; the writing a class above the norm and imbued with Morris’s signature exploration of fear and loss.
Some of the characters are blatant survivor stereotypes but have been designed for the game and brought to life by Morris. The characters in the ‘game’, or in this case, the novel, become more than simple zombie fodder or avatars. The reader actually cares what happens to these people. There are lots of nods to the tropes of game play; a mysterious benefactor, the choosing of weapons, a martial arts expert and an open ending, but this novel still makes for a tremendously fun read. Finishing with a cliff hanger, I am actually hoping for a sequel, so invested am I in these protagonists. Zombie goodness!

If you want to know more about Bantam Books’ latest projects take a look at their website.

If you like the look of this book, check it out at Dead Island