Of Foster Homes and Flies – Chad Lutzke – book review

Quiet horror in this coming of age story…

 Chad Lutzke - of foster homes and flies

Of Foster Homes and Flies – Chad Lutzke

We have a genuine masterpiece here and I’m so glad I’ve had the pleasure to read the work of this very talented author.

(There are slight spoilers though this whole review, but I have to convince you why you should read this book)

If you want to be blessed by an emotional moving story, you have to read the tale of a young boy whose hopes and dreams are about to be dashed by a non-loving, alcoholic mother and the intervening finger of fate. The 12-year-old boy, Denny, lost his father several years ago, left to be raised by his neglectful and perpetually boozed up mother. Denny’s dad had one time won a ‘spelling bee’ at his hometown school and Denny cherished thspelling bee postere ribbon award as a great memory from his father. Denny had never entered the spelling bee because of lack of confidence and drive. However, this year was supposed to be different. Denny had studied since the beginning of the school year, practicing, rehearsing the spellings, and preparing himself to do good in his father’s eyes and follow in his footsteps. With the Spelling Bee fast approaching there was nothing that was going to stop him from paying this ultimate homage to his dad. Then a few days before the big event, his mother dies overnight on the living room couch. In the first few minutes of this event, Denny makes a big decision. He is not going to miss the spelling bee. His mom was dead; calling the police now or at the end of the week was not going to change that. Now Denny just has to bluff his way through a few days, foiling his neighbors, ducking friends, and keeping his dog out of trouble. Throughout the tale young Denny comes to terms with the strained relationship he had with his alcoholic mother, bringing tears to my eyes several times.

It’s not straight up horror but shades of King abound with the dead body of Denny’s mom doing what dead bodies do best, being creepy.

(spoilers ahead)

To show you how the depth of a story affects the variant of horror, the scariest part of the book is the night before the spelling bee, when Denny has made it almost to his goal. His mother’s boozer, card playing girlfriends come by for their weekly card game ringing the bell and twisting the door knob ready to expose his mother’s rotting maggot infested body to the world. Only seconds before this Denny had caught sight of hundreds of squirming maggots devouring her forehead. He threw up on himself and had to answer the door that way, covered in puke. It probably doesn’t sound like much here but in context, this scene really made me tense.

(end of spoilers)

of flies

The story built such density that it made the spelling bee seem as exciting as being chased by velociraptors or being in a car chase and gun fight with a serial killer. The outcome is fantastic.

The final few pages when Denny calls the police and they arrive to the scene of the ‘crime’ are incredibly written and pulled on my heart-strings the way few stories have in a long time. It was gut-wrenching sadness and happiness at once; a strange combination. My chest was tight and I felt for Denny like a real person would feel for a neighbor or friend.

You may ask why a story such as this would make me feel so good? Because life is a struggle and not always a nice place, but we have to move through our darkest days to find better ones ahead. That is what Denny did in this story and against all odds found those brighter days on the other side of death.  I want to tell everyone that reads to get a copy of this; I want to yell from a mountain top with a bull horn, it’s just that damn good!

Get it now@ Of Foster Homes and Flies – Chad Lutzke on Amazon.com

abandoned house 2

recommended if you like:

Stephen King’ s The Body/ Stand by Me, Robert McCammons’s Boys Life, William Goldman’s Temple of Gold, James Newman’s Midnight Rain, and movies such as The Rivers Edge, Bottle Rocket, and Ghost World. Also a touch of them old classics; Tom Sawyer, Catcher in the Rye, and even Stephen King’s, Silver Bullet (movie).


Chad Lutzke

 

Darker Tales from the Den – Dona Fox – Book review

Darker Tales from the Den - Dona Fox

Darker Tales from the Den – Dona Fox – Book review

JWK Fiction

Dona Fox has a certain style to her stories that can catch you by surprise. There comes a point when you realize what is going on, but it’s too late to brace yourself or to look away. These are dark, macabre stories about people in bad situations that only seem to get worse as the night goes on. The top tales in the collection leave a lasting sting or dull thud of heartache, either way a welcome experience for the horror reader. I picked a few of my favorite tales here to say a few words about.

Something bad crawls out of the dark attic in The Chill and Willey Snake dragging long forgotten family secrets in tow.

Bruised Cardamom begins with a poignant description on the death watch of a woman, Mrs. Macy, true in its words and gut wrenching to anyone that has watched a loved one die.  The description of the woman shredding tissues and curling them into little balls as she’s waiting in fear for death is unsettling. A line that struck me… “How many boxes of tissue does it take to die? How meaningless are paper tears?” The volunteer stays with her into the night learning a deep dark secret in this outstanding tale.

In One Historic Night, one friend invites another into his twisted Nazi fanatic world and drags him down to the depths of madness.

Shypoke’s Tears, which I had read before in the anthology, Ghosts Revenge, (JWK Fiction) is a short piece with a big punch. From the first paragraph a transgressiodona foxn is taking place in the characters and it’s a thrill to see the outcome.

In The Calais Curse, we visit the French Resistance of the German occupancy. This tale is a haunting centerpiece of the collection as a young woman begins a process too free her grandmother from her nightmares. The story started out a little loose and all over the place but stick with it and it settles into streamline tale where a tragic, moving ending is revealed.

Li Gran Toy Zombi is a creepy tale I first read in the Toys in the Attic anthology and was happy to revisit here. It takes place in New Orleans, 1977, and if you’re thinking Voodoo Curses you are correct and in for a devilish treat.

Crystal Bones on Gossamer Wings is a fitting finale for the collection as the tale is written in deep first-person as were the earlier stories in the book. Dona’ s greatest storytelling aspect is when she immerses the reader in that strong character voice. Those stories are distinctly superior to the more standard narrated tales. There are shades of Joe R. Lansdale in those stories where the reader shares each thought, vision, and reaction as it happens in the character’s head. When she combines that voice with her astute perception of life, death, and human suffering, she delivers haunting horror fiction.

Darker Tales From The Den – Dona Fox – Paperback and Kindle

 

crows by Favim

 

Toys in the Attic – Anthology Book Review

Toys in the Attic 

Anthology – JWK Fiction
Edited by Mary Gwenivieve Fortier

toys-in-the-attic“Into the Attic” is a short poem that suitably opens the wonderfully themed anthology, Toys in the Attic. It’s followed by an introduction for the theme, tempting the reader to journey up the steps into that dark and dusty place at the peak of the home where forgotten playthings wait in the shadows. Both are written by the talented Mary Gwenivieve Fortier and they set the mood for what lies ahead; toys that are monsters and monstrous toys, sinister fun for the horror fan. The horror comes in poetry, prose, limericks and short tales. The poems are not the poems of days gone by but modern tales, easier to read and more blatant than a Frost or Whitman. The first striking poem is “Aiding Evil” by Lemmy Rushmore, where a dollhouse removed from the attic portends the fates of the family in the real house. It was followed by a short story concerning a dollhouse titled “Light in the Attic,” by Essel Pratt where the character starts on the outside looking into the toy windows only to have at some point experienced a paradigm shift and is then looking out of the dollhouse windows and doors. “Magic Macabre” by Sheldon Woodbury was a finely written story and a pleasure to read. The disappearance of an aging magician leads a man back to his childhood home where he discovers a magic kit in a trunk that had been waiting there for him since he was a child.

“Tea Time for the Innocents,” by Nicola Nicoli was a horrifying tale concerning a child’s tea set carefully laid out in the attic of a man’s new home and a creepy ghost girl host that needs living children to attend her little tea party. “The Pig in the House” by Alex S. Johnson was unnerving, as a young girl finds a dollhouse with figures that represent everyone in her family plus one extra, of a Pig. Josh Brown had a haunting tale about a view-master toy in which he saw his wife’s death among the images. This one reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. John Palisano had an interesting story about the early video game system, the Atticus 2000 titled, “The Waiting.” This mystery story and was a good deviation from the horror tales. Right away you sense a difference in the writing style. “Gronk the Gruesome” by Thomas M Malafarina was another of my favorites for its nostalgic sense of old toys, 50s sci-fi and childhood wishes, when a man finds an old robotic monster toy in the attic of a former grade school bully.

Tim Wellman‘s, “The Last Turn” displayed shades of Jumanji but had its own feel. I was impressed with Chad Lutzke’s story, “Calm Before the Storm.” It had the restraint and class of a veteran writer of an earlier time, reminiscent of Ambrose Bierce or Robert Bloch. “Etched in Blood” was a chilling tale of an evil child trapped in an etch-a-sketch by Lori R. Lopez. “Maggie and the Zeotrope” by Krista Clark Grabowski was a well rounded story that relayed the short life of a child and her wicked step-mother. “Jacks” by Nicholas Day was a great short tale with excellent pacing. Dona Fox had a wonderful tale concerning a toy snake taken from a voodoo priestess grave in New Orleans many years ago in, “Li Gran Toy Zombi.” It’s always a chilling pleasure to read her stories. The anthology ends with an eerie tale by David Shutz II, concerning a toy phone.

There were some great poems and artwork included in the book along with the top notch stories I highlighted here. An enjoyable read over all. See if your favorite childhood toy has taken up residence in “the Attic” and what evil deeds it will unleash upon those who discover them.

kindle or paperback versions
Available at Amazon: Toys in the Attic

teddy bear and toy chest cristinasroom on etsy

 

Dark Companions (1982) by Ramsey Campbell – book review

RC Dark CompanionsDark Companions (1982)
by Ramsey Campbell

Dark Companions is a book of short stories previously published in magazine’s ranging from pulp to pro markets through the 1970’s into 1980. Many of the stories have to do with childhood experiences that we can all relate to. The Chimney entailed a terrifying urban legend and a young boy who guarded the fireplace in his room every Christmas as a black figure slithered down the chimney and into his sanctuary. It wasn’t until many years later as an adult, called by the police to his parents home, that he learned what that frightening creature was. He stared in disbelief as his childhood home burned to the ground.PunchAndJudy

Other creepy stories included fan favorites Macintosh Willie, The Invocation, and Out of Copyright. The book also includes, The Puppets, a tale of first love, it’s untimely ending and it’s maligned correspondence with an old vagabond’s stage-carriage puppet show.

Dark Companions is a collection of psychologically creepy horror, quiet horror that lingers after you’ve read it. It’s a great starting point for those not indoctrinated into the work of Ramsey Campbell. These stories represent a period in which Campbell desired to break away from his Cthulhu Mythos origins and find his own voice as a weird fiction author. You will find the stories highly successful in their intentions to get under your skin and fester as each tale progresses.

ramsey campbell pic

 

Throttle – Stephen King/Joe Hill – Kindle Single/Book review

throttle knidle book coverThrottle
Joe Hill/Stephen King

I don’t know if any of you reading this have ever owned a motorcycle, but this story brought back some memories. I haven’t rode a bike in many years but parts of this tale really captured the feeling of an open throttle on an open road. Sons of Anarchy is starting it’s final season in a few days, so I figured this would be a good time to review Throttle.

This is a Kindle single, a novelette of approximately 50 pages, by a father and son team about, among other things, a relationship between father and son. The very first page of the story makes an interesting acknowledgement; A story inspired by Duel by Richard Matheson. The difference here is, it’s a gang of bikers on the run that are being chased and crushed by a crazy trucker.

If anyone has not read any of Joe Hill’s fiction, I would strongly recommend it. He captures some of the best qualities of his father without going off on a tangent in the middle like so many of King’s stories. Hill also has the advantage of a younger person’s views and tapping into the mindset of younger generations. Possibly even better than the two authors separate stories is when they work together. Throttle is a fast and tense story that will get road rage characteryour heart racing. It’s the kind of story that is hard to put down once you’ve started and you may find yourself finishing it in one sitting. You’ll be thrilled by every point of action and every reveal of secrets held by this band of bikers known as, The Tribe.

If you are into bikes, the open desert road, and maniacal truckers hell-bent on murder, this story will hit all the entertaining sweet spots. It’s a short but engaging read.

This was first released in a commemorative anthology honoring Richard Matheson in 2009 along with a dozen A-list authors such as Ramsey Campbell, F. Paul Wilson, William F. Nolan and Joe R Lansdale. The book was titled, He is Legend and each story in the book is based on a Matheson original. Then it was in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, edited by Stephen Jones. Then in 2012, it was adapted into a Comic Book by IDW Publishing as Road Rage and seems to have at least 4 issues.

I definitely intend to purchase and review He is Legend in the near future.

Throttle Kindle Single – http://www.amazon.com/Throttle-Kindle-Single-Joe-Hill-ebook/dp/B007QXV9S6

throttle comic throttle adaptation cover 2 RoadRage2 cover

road rage - throttle comic adaptation

The Narrows – Ronald Malfi – book review

abandoned-barn

The Narrows
By Ronald Malfi

I admit it took me a few chapters for The Narrows to hook me, but once it did, I was fascinated. Malfi has a clean, no nonsense style that relays the story in simple terms. The story relayed the sentiments of a dying small town in the US, how it rots from within and slowly withers until one catastrophic event finishes it off for good. In the case of The Narrows, the town of Stillwater is finished off by a flood that overruns its banks. BThe Narrows - Ronald Malfiut that is not the full story, those that had lived there know the event started several weeks earlier when an unknown entity began sucking what little life the town had left from its struggling veins.

When a pale dead body of a boy washes ashore in a minor flood, it has strange holes down its spine and a featureless face. A few days later, the body goes missing from the morgue. That night, Maggie Quedentock is driving home from a secret tryst as her husband works the midnight shift. She hit’s a person crossing the road in a rural area and she swears it was a naked young boy. An investigation reveals no body. When this boy-like creature comes for her on the following night, it is a suspenseful and creepy situation providing some great ‘can‘t put the book down‘ reading. Meanwhile, young boys from the neighborhood go missing. The mystery turns out to be more than deputy sheriff, Ben Journell, had bargained for. Combined with a big storm heading their way, The Deputy Sheriff and his men race against time and the elements to try and save the town’s people from a terrible fate.

The book has a strong climax, a mystery to unravel and an original creature for the town’s people to deal with. It gets better with each chapter and is well worth a read. If you are not familiar with the work of Ronald Malfi, this is a great story to begin with.

 

abandoned house 2 abandoned car

 

Keyport Cthulhu – by Armand Rosamilia – Book Review

keyport-cthulhu

Keyport Cthulhu

by Armand Rosamilia

The Cthulhu Mythos rises in a small fishing town on the New Jersey coast. When New England author, Harrison, inherits his eccentric grandfather’s home in the seaside town of Keyport, he is encouraged to sell it quickly by both his wife, Nicole, and the local real estate agent. Despite cold treatment from the townsfolk and reluctance from his wife, they stay in the home overnight. It turns out to be a big mistake. During the stormy night, strange noises permeate the walls, a locked upstairs bedroom reveals a dark secret and a hallway ‘painting’ holds a strange power that overwhelms all that gaze upon it. Before the night is over Nicole is kidnapped and Harrison plunges into a downward spiral that seems inescapable. We are soon introduced to ‘The Esoteric Order of Dagon’ and their plan to raise Cthulhu from his resting place off the Atlantic coast through ritual and sacrifice.

Each of the first few chapters introduce the reader to a new character, almost like a separate short story. Eventually all the characters converge in order to work against the cult. Rosamilia does a great job at portraying an unfriendly town with strange people who are weary of outsiders. The tale escalates to a tense climax as the outsiders work to save Harrison’s wife from the cult and escape Keyport. They might just save the world in the interim. The story is entertaining and fun for the Cthulhu Mythos reader, written in modern style.

At the end of the story narrative, a related story begins. Set in the past, it demonstrates the Cthulhu mythos migration to NJ from New England. This one is written in Lovecraft’s first person, early 20th century style and is a nice addition to the book. Following that is a story Rosamilia wrote with his 11 year-old daughter called, Cthulhunicorn, which reads like mythological lore. It’s a short fun story and almost seems like a strange alternate world to the rest of the book. Keyport Cthulhu was an entertaining read and worth a night at the shore with a book or Kindle in your lap. However, if you see strange lights out on the water and hear scratching in the walls, pack up and head inland… before it’s too late!

Keyport Cthulhu on Amazon