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review 2018-12-11 18:45
THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES VOL. 3 ed. by James Jenkins and Ryan Cagle
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume Three - Charles Beaumont,J.B. Priestley,James Purdy

THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES: VOLUME THREE is the latest entry in Valancourt Books' excellent anthology series. I certainly hope they continue this outstanding tradition next year!

 

What I like best about all of these anthologies is the fact that I haven't read any of the stories before. Introducing me to new authors, some I enjoy, some not so much, Valancourt has expanded my reading horizons and for that, I will always be grateful.

 

I can't get into all of the stories but I will mention those that had the biggest effect on me:

 

THE PARTS MAN by Steve Rasnic Tem. This man is a legend and he's a national treasure as far I'm concerned. This short story had wonder and grief all mixed together and I thought it was somehow both beautiful and sad. BRAVO! (This story is original to this collection.)

 

DON'T GO UP THEM STAIRS by R. Chetwynd Hayes. I loved the tone of this tale so much I bought one of his other books from Valancourt as soon as I was done.

 

THE FACE IN THE MIRROR by Helen Mathers. A terrific little ghost story wherein the lady saves the day!

 

THE LIFE OF THE PARTY by Charles Beaumont. A sad tale of an acne-ridden boy at a school dance. The introduction to this one states that it's partly autobiographical.

 

BLOOD OF THE KAPU TIKI by Eric C. Higgs. A creepy little story with an ending that made me chuckle.

 

THE BOTTLE OF 1912 by Simon Raven. A man returns home after WWII after serving as a spy. He returns with the hope of seeing his family again and celebrating with a special bottle of wine.

 

BEELZEBUB by Robert Westall. Next to THE PARTS MAN , this was my favorite story in the collection. Robert Westall was super talented and I wish he had written more tales in the dark fiction vein because I've loved every one of them I've read.

 

Once again, Valancourt Books knocks it out of the park! Consistently full of rare stories that offer up a diverse range of horrors-this anthology has something for everyone. This, the third in a series of anthologies containing authors that Valancourt has already published, is as much of a MUST-READ as the first two.

 

THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES: VOLUME 3 receives my highest recommendation!

 

You can order it and other fine books directly from Valancourt here, with FREE shipping from now until the end of 2018: VALANCOURT BOOKS 

 

 *I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* 13 likes

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review 2018-10-11 18:45
THE FUNGUS by Harry Adam Knight
The Fungus - Leroy Kettle,John Brosnan,Harry Adam Knight

Mushrooms: I'll probably never eat one again! THE FUNGUS is a fast paced, funny and disgusting 80's horror story that contains everything you'd ever want from a fungi-based creature feature. 

 

I recently read another book by this author, (two authors, really, using the pseudonym of Harry Adam Knight. Get it? HAK?), called SLIMER. I liked that one slightly more than this because there was no real science, just a fun, slimy, creature. In this narrative, we do have an attempt to be science-y, but not overly so, which I appreciated.

 

We follow several characters from the beginning, including the scientist who accidentally created this rapidly mutating fungi. Before we know what hit us, all of London is infected and not just people either. There are several types of fungi attacking concrete and other building materials eventually resulting in the literal crumbling of the city. Will any of the plucky characters survive? What about the doctor who created this mess? Will London itself make it through? You'll have to read THE FUNGUS to find out!

 

These two authors, John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle were actually very talented, (I say were, but one is still alive-Leroy Kettle,) and they knew how to write a creature feature without getting too bogged down in the fake science. Just enough to make it plausible to non-biologists is fine. Of course, using the old trope of science making a mistake and thereby destroying humanity is always rich with possibilities, maybe even more so these days than back in the 80's when this was written.

 

Being that this book was written back then, there are some sexist views, (a few racist ones too), and a few other things that don't fit in with today's culture and attitudes. There are also a few extraneous sex scenes thrown in there, because hey-in the 80's that's how the horror genre rolled. None of which bothered me much because this tale is just. that. much. fun.

 

Valancourt Books is dedicated to bringing back these out of print books, some of which have become nearly impossible to find. (If you are lucky enough to find one, you'd better be prepared to pay through the nose.) Over the years I've watched as they've become more and more popular and with their forthcoming PAPERBACKS FROM HELL series, I think they'll have reached the pinnacle as far as retro horror publishers are concerned. (They publish other lines as well, if you're interested, check out their website.)

 

THE FUNGUS isn't trying to masquerade as scientific or serious, it's just trying to provide imaginative, fast paced, creature feature fun. It has succeeded!

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Valancourt Books provided me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-10-04 18:45
WORMS by James R. Montague
Worms - Christopher Wood,James R. Montague

 

WORMS! What can I say? This is not your normal B-movie creature feature. It is more well written than most and it contains elements of guilt and psychological horror as well. I enjoyed the heck out of it!

 

Mr. Hildebrand and his harridan of a wife take a badly needed vacation together, in a more quiet destination than his wife would have preferred. She is unhappy about that and never misses a chance to remind him of that fact. In the quiet town, Mr. Hildebrand feels at home, accepted even, while his wife just complains and complains. How will he deal with her? Will they be able to enjoy this vacation together or will this be the final straw in their marriage? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I said above that this is more well written than most creature features for a few reasons. Its pacing is much slower than the James Herbert or Guy N. Smith novels of the time, and it's definitely much slower than the pacing of today's novels by Hunter Shea and the like.

 

Another reason this differs from most other novels of its kind is because of the time we spend inside Mr. Hildebrand's head. Told in the first person, we're right there to see why he does certain things, (and I admit it, I actually agreed with some of them!), and because of that the reader feels a bond with him. We shouldn't, but we do, (or at least I did.) The psychological horror that results from his actions, as well as the guilt he feels over them, adds another layer to this tale not normally found in stories of this type. The first 2/3 of this book I would label as quiet horror and the last third as pure creature feature fun, along with a few real surprises that I didn't see coming. In addition, there were some truly gross-out moments that made me laugh out loud with glee! GLEE, I say!

 

Lastly, as the final portions of the story unfolded a few events occurred that made me look back at clues I had previously overlooked. I realized then how neatly this entire story fit together, like an intricate jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces were perfectly cut. The fact that James Montague is a pseudonym for Christopher Wood, (a writer of screenplays for James Bond movies such as Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me), may play a part in that. There are scenes in WORMS that play out just as a film would, (several of them in fact), and the novel feels like it's built around those scenes and grows outwardly from them.

 

WORMS was originally written back in 1979, the era when I first got into and began to love the horror genre. Somehow this book escaped my attentions back then, and to be honest? I might have been too young at that time to appreciate this intimate look into a man's head. However, I'm sure I would have appreciated the vivid writing style and film-like quality of it. Now I'm old enough to appreciate ALL the wonderful things about this novel and I'm glad that Valancourt Books has brought it back from sure death so it can be enjoyed once again.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*I received an e-ARC from Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-04-27 15:32
FIGURES UNSEEN: SELECTED STORIES by Steve Rasnic Tem, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Figures Unseen: Selected Stories - Steve Rasnic Tem,Matt Godfrey

 

FIGURES UNSEEN: SELECTED STORIES by Steve Rasnic Tem is an exceptional example of short fiction at its best. I've been reading Mr. Tem's work for years, but never have I seen so many of his short stories collected into one volume- and what an outstanding collection it is!

 

There are far too many tales to go into each one individually, but my favorites were:

 

JESSE: A very disturbing story that tricked this reader-I picked the wrong bad guy.

 

CITY FISHING: Other than the word "unsettling," I have no idea how to describe this. It was the first tale in this collection and it hasn't completely left my mind since I finished it.

 

HUNGRY was just...sad.

 

"It's like the love goes inside me and gets lost. And then it just isn't there anymore-like I eat the love, momma. And then I'm still hungry." 

 

RED RABBIT: Yet another disturbing tale which starts out being about one thing but by the end it was about something else entirely.

 

LEAKS: This one gave me a bad case of the creeps. Something was wrong with this horrible, damp, wet house. I shudder in disgust just thinking about it.

 

MIRI: is a special kind of stalker. INVISIBLE: Who in their life has not felt invisible at times? Those points where it feels like no one in the world even knows or cares you're there? This one touched a chord deep inside.

 

THE MEN AND WOMEN OF RIVENDALE: There are a lot of stories in this volume about grief. I felt this was one of them. Grief is powerful, but extended family can be a big help when they're there for support, right? Right?

 

GRANDFATHER WOLF actually made me grin, though I'm not sure it was supposed to. It makes me wonder what lengths a family would go to to keep a family member close, even if that family member is dangerous.

 

VINTAGE DOMESTIC: This one turned my stomach. Then I laughed with delight.

 

PREPARATIONS FOR THE GAME is a tale that started out one way and then slowly morphed into something else entirely. Better get dressed now, it's almost time to go.

 

I guess I'll stop there. Not every story in this collection worked for me, but most of them did, and they worked WELL. I know these tales won't be for everyone, but for me this was a perfect collection of stories. They all complemented each other and flowed like a freshwater spring from one to the next. In short, (too late!), they left this reader blown away.

 

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Matt Godfrey, whose laid back style is perfect for this collection. The combination of Steve Rasnic Tem, Matt Godfrey, and Valancourt Books is like some unholy trilogy of excellence and FIGURES UNSEEN: SELECTED STORIES is the result of their union. Don't let it pass you by.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

*I received this audiobook free, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2018-04-26 22:30
FIGURES UNSEEN by Steve Rasnic Tem...
Figures Unseen: Selected Stories - Steve Rasnic Tem,Matt Godfrey

I just finished it and I'm going to need a little bit of time to collect my thoughts on all these stories. That said, this collection vaulted right past many others directly onto my  ALL TIME FAVORITES list. 

 

More tomorrow when I post my review, but seriously? If you're a fan of horror and/or dark fiction, and you're not reading the work of Steve Rasnic Tem? 

 

You are missing out on some of the best stories in the genre. Period. 

 

 

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