Friday, October 21, 2011


Since so much of what influences us during those darkening days of dying things are imagined, I figured I’d give focus tonight to five books which are bound to fuel your imagination should you be bold enough to crack one of these bound volumes open for a peek.

OCTOBER DREAMS edited by Chizmar & Morrish (Cemetery Dance HC) is both a memoir of Halloweens’ past and a feature for some of the finest scary stories set in and around the holiday we are so drawn to. It is a virtual love letter from some of the finest writers of fantastic fiction. Everyone from Dean Koontz to Poppy Z. Brite to Hugh B. Cave to Chistopher Golden to Ray Bradbury to Gahan Wilson to F. Paul Wilson to Tim Lebbon to Richard Laymon to Caitlin R. Kiernan to Ramsey Campbell to Peter Straub contribute to this wonderful volume.

From Publishers Weekly
The most enjoyable horror anthology of the year, this jumbo goody-sack disguised as a book is stuffed with Halloween-themed fiction and nonfiction edited by the founder/editor of Cemetery Dance (Chizmar) and the editor of the respected but defunct nonfiction horror mag The Scream Factory (Morrish). The book contains 55 entries (not counting original artwork), including nearly two dozen stories (half original), a novella reprint, about 30 original essays on "My Favorite Halloween Memory," a new poem by Ray Bradbury and three original essays on, respectively, the history, literature and cinema of Halloween. The list of contributors gathers just about every important writer in the field (other than King and Barker): Dean Koontz, Hugh B. Cave, Douglas Clegg, Richard Laymon, Poppy Z. Brite, Dennis Etchison, F. Paul Wilson, Ed Gorman, Peter Crowther, John Shirley, Douglas E. Winter, Thomas Ligotti, Ramsey Campbell and Peter Straub (with the novella, "Pork Pie Hat") are just a few. The insightful essays are by Paula Guran of e-newsletter Dark Echo fame ("A Short History of Halloween"), author Gary A. Braunbeck ("'First of All, It Was October...' An Overview of Halloween Films") and critic/anthologist Stefan Dziemianowicz ("Trick-or-Read"). The fiction is uniformly good, sometimes superb. The most seductive aspect of this book, however, is the Halloween memories, often potent snippets of childhood epiphanies (Elizabeth Engstrom remembers being abandoned, and growing up, one Halloween night in a junkyard filled with rats; Douglas Clegg recalls seeing, at age four, a witch fly across the face of the moon) that will bring back to every reader the autumnal magic of All Hallow's Eve.

IMAJICA by Clive Barker is a book about an epic struggle between god and man and nature and love. If I wanted to send any writer to another planet and have him write me back about the experience, I would send Clive Barker. Because of his surreal worlds drawn so clearly and matter-of-factly, you believe. And not only believe, see the sights, breathe the air, hear the music and taste the food of those realities. I read this book in small doses over a year and it lived with me. I could come back to it any time and the characters and places would be there as fresh and alive as always. This is not so much a horror novel as it is an epic fantasy worthy of the greats.

From Kirkus Reviews
Dazzling metaphysical epic-adventure as Barker surpasses his previous ground-breaking work (The Great and Secret Show, 1989, etc.) to reconfigure the Fall and to imagine a modern-day attempt to reverse it. A complex cosmology underpins the vigorous, at times horrific, action here: ``Imajica'' is the known universe of five ``Dominions,'' or parallel worlds, four ``reconciled'' but the fifth, Earth, ``unreconciled''--unaware of the other four, of the tyrannical ``Autarch'' who rules them, and of the ``God Hapeximendios,'' who oversees all five (and who wrested ``His'' power from the ``Goddesses'' of old). Periodically, Hapeximendios has sent His ``sons''--including Christ--to attempt to unite, by magical rites, the Fifth Dominion to the others. The last attempted ``Reconciliation'' ended in catastrophe--an invasion of Earth by hellish powers--and today magic has been nearly eradicated from Earth by a ``Society'' that alone knows of the Imajica and of the catastrophe. An astonishing feat of the imagination, immensely engrossing despite its demanding--at times indulgent--length, running riot with ideas, fantastical inventions, graphic sex and violence, soul- terrors, and emotional and intellectual resonances. Barker's best yet. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury is the ultimate coming of age story. Of how some of us want desperately to shed our childhood ways and move on to the adult world and how others want to hold onto their innocence and cherrish it for as long as they can. Only this tale involves a kind of magic that can only be dreamed of by a boy who grew up in the dust bowl of the depression and with the imagination of a god.

A masterpiece of modern Gothic literature, Something Wicked This Way Comes is the memorable story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, and the evil that grips their small Midwestern town with the arrival of a "dark carnival" one Autumn midnight. How these two innocents, both age 13, save the souls of the town (as well as their own), makes for compelling reading on timeless themes. What would you do if your secret wishes could be granted by the mysterious ringmaster Mr. Dark? Bradbury excels in revealing the dark side that exists in us all, teaching us ultimately to celebrate the shadows rather than fear them. In many ways, this is a companion piece to his joyful, nostalgia-drenched Dandelion Wine, in which Bradbury presented us with one perfect summer as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, he deftly explores the fearsome delights of one perfectly terrifying, unforgettable autumn. --Stanley Wiater

THE LONGEST SINGLE NOTE by Peter Crowther surprised me. I started out reading a random story from this collection of short stories and before I knew it, I’d gone ahead and read them all. Finished it off like a box of chocolates and feeling guilty as a murderer. I usually read collections and anthologies sparingly. Picking at them occasionally between longer works of fiction, but not this group. Compelling, touching, scary, imaginative and brilliant. Easily one of the best collections I’ve ever encountered.

From Publishers Weekly
Though perhaps best known as an editor of anthologies of horror and dark fantasy (Destination Unknown, etc.), Crowther proves in this generous debut story collection to be a master of those genres. From the hypnotic stream-of-consciousness of "Incident on Bleecker Street" to the casual violence of "The Visitor," his writing in the 26 entries here--including poetry and an excerpt from a novel-in-progress--exhibits a stunning range. The power of music supplies the resonant theme of both "Head Acres" and the title story; in the former, music leads to death, while in the latter, music transcends it. "Home Comforts" turns the familiar slayer-vs.-vampire plot on its head, while the evocative and touching "Too Short a Death" shows that vampires can be as human as anyone else. "Gallagher's Arm" is a light Lovecraftian pastiche and an effective query into Machiavelli's claim that "the end justifies the means." There's sly humor as well as horror in "Eater" and "Shatsi," and the volume closes with a series of informative Story Notes. Reports of the demise of the darker genres abound, but vigorous, genuinely fearsome work such as Crowther's demonstrates that the genre is decidedly undead. (July)
Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

CARRION COMFORT by Dan Simmons is epic horror told from a human point of view. It follows the struggle of a small band of a few humans who are aware that there is a secret group of ‘psychic vampires’ posessing and using people like so much cannon fodder for reasons as varied as simple ego, political and financial gain. Haunting one well after having put it down, the novel stays with you… in the back of your head. Lurking there. Waiting...

From Publishers Weekly
The second novel by World Fantasy Award-winner Simmons ( The Song of Kali ) is a 636-page epic that draws on a variety of genres--horror, science fiction, political thriller, Hollywood roman a clef. It centers around a small number of "mind vampires" who can subjugate other people to their wills, read their minds, experience through their senses. The immensely powerful vampires use others, often bloodily, and often in frivolous "games" (hunting human prey, chess games with human pieces, and so on). Opposing them are Saul Laski, a psychologist and concentration-camp survivor, who is devoted to tracking down the Nazi vampire von Borchert; Natalie Preston, whose father inadvertently and fatally crossed the path of a pawn of the ancient, dotty vampire Melanie Fuller; Sheriff Bobby Joe Gentry, dragged in while investigating the multiple murders that marked the departure of Melanie Fuller from Charleston.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

“CARRION COMFORT is one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century. Simple as that.” --Stephen King
"Epic in scale and scope but intimately disturbing, CARRION COMFORT spans the ages to rewrite history and tug at the very fabric of reality. A nightmarish chronicle of predator and prey that will shatter your world view forever.  A true classic." --Guillermo del Toro
"CARRION COMFORT is one of the scariest books ever written.  Whenever I get the question asked Who's your favorite author? my answer is always Dan Simmons." --James Rollins
"One of the few major reinventions of the vampire concept, on a par with Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. --David Morrell

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