The Best of DF Lewis – by DF Lewis – book review

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The Best of DF Lewis – by DF Lewis

TAL Publications 1993

 

I first discovered DF Lewis in the small-press horror magazines of the 1980s. He was an unknown author at the time, appearing in home grown magazines amongst other unknowns. I didn’t know what flash fiction was, but I was learning quickly. His stories were little more than a page long and left more of an impression than the featured stories in the publications. Often I reread his stories because they almost seemed like a magic trick. How could it be that the shortest story in the publication is the one that haunts me for the rest of the night?

 

I recently found this chapbook of DF Lewis stories, a limited edition, signed used copy from TAL Publications. There’s 15 stories, but it barely reaches 55 pages. Having not read any of his stories in many years, it was clear from the start I was in for a treat.df-lewis

 

In Jack the Ratter, Jack is hunting rats. Only his concept of a rat and everyone else’s is quite disturbingly different. The barely 300 word Dreamaholic twists in upon itself in demented splendor until the final treat is revealed. The 1k word, Bloodbone effectively creeped me out when an unnamed protagonist travels to the ‘dark side’ of the city for life’s answers. The chap book ends with its longest story, The Weirdmonger, which seems to insinuate that a stranger can completely tear your life apart by imparting a few words upon you.

 

Most of his stories would be considered weird tales or weird fiction but they also have a strong horror element, so much so they are undeniably horror tales, perhaps with a Lewis Carroll undercurrent. Here I am trying to label the unclassifiable. The stories break all boundaries, making perfect sense in their abstract nature, delivering twists that are unfathomable, and leaving the reader mortified yet satisfied. DF Lewis is a mad genius, like Dr. Seuss with ill intent and sinister motives. The collection includes an introduction by Ramsey Campbell.

 

Currently Mr. Lewis is active in the underground press reviewing fiction and publishing anthologies by authors who align with his fiction mantra. He has published over 1,500 stories in his lifetime. He has won the Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society for his accomplishments and also been nominated for his Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing of fiction books. For more info about DF Lewis check out his blog:

https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

For a bibliography, click here:

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/d-f-lewis/

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parlor of horror’s books and book reviews

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What Price Gory – by Terry M. West – book review

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What Price Gory
Terry M. West

This is a fantastic collection of short stories in the paranormal horror genre. West manages to steer clear of the usual horror tropes that plague the horror market and conjure new ideas and concepts. Most important, he creates real characters that live and breathe, not perfect, but likeable nevertheless. They are interesting people that you feel the need to follow into the dark pits of terror and see their journey to the end. I’ll recap a few of my favorite stories.

In Car Nex, Adam Campbell and some poker buddies are holed up in a barn as a dark and nasty supernatural beast rips apart their town. Adam is the only one with information about the beasts origin, and he has one hell of a confession for his neighbors. Next, Cecil and Bubba aren’t the brightest cards in the deck but they earn an honest… well, fairly honest living. They are hired as bodyguards for a ghost hunter, in an investigation of a house with a bad reputation. Read what happens in Cecil and Bubba Meet a Succubus. In Midnight Snack, follow Colin Winslow on a detour to avoid a traffic jam that leads him straight into a roadside truck stop from Hell – it’s a fantastically amusing story. And finally, What Price Gory is the price one has to pay for horror author glory and to reach the pinnacle of best-seller fame.

Also included is an excerpt/preview from the upcoming book, Cecil and Bubba meet the Thang. I had already taken a liking to these two characters in the short story. The excerpt just builds on that and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

This is a top-notch collection of supernatural tales featuring authentic characters who are plunged into extraordinary circumstances. These are imaginative concepts in terror that bleed off the pages like gouged flesh and lead you to nightmare destinations. It’s not a gorefest, for those who are questioning the title; these are well-written character driven tales. I recommend it as an entertaining and enjoyable read for the horror fan.

Amazon Kindle Edition

Amazon Paperback Edition

www.terrymwest.com

www.pleasantstorm.com

 

My writing in 2013 – an overview

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Fun facts about my Fiction:

My favorite horror story I’ve written this year: Motel Impressions is a ghost story that takes place in a motel room. It is set in Long Beach NY and was sparked by a true story (of a murder, not ghosts) for which I built a fictional story around.

My favorite creature/monster that I created: The giant tentacled worm from The Gates of Lament is part Lovecraft and partly inspired by my post, Scariest Creatures of the Sea

My best opening line in a story: Upstanding Citizen The moment old lady Ambrose bent over to look in my basement window, I hit her in the back of the head with a hammer… (read more at the Carnage Conservatory)

My favorite character: Jason from The Suitcase is probably most like myself. This story takes place on Long Island and was written in 2011 when the state police were finding the remains of several female victims off of Ocean Parkway.

My favorite message/bigger meaning in a story: Holiday Icon demonstrates the hypocrisy of people during the Christmas holiday. Most of my stories have some alter/bigger meaning, moral or message. Some are more obvious than others.

The two demons in Lessons in Demonology are named after the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos – Greek mythological words that translate to ‘fear’and ‘terror’

In The Gates of Lament, there are three blatant nods to 1970’s Americana in the names of the characters.

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o little town of deathlehem cellar door II small web from beyond the grave Miseria's Chorale -  cover large

A list of published works for 2013:

(story title/place where published/date published)

Upstanding Citizenthe Carnage Conservatory (website) 2/6/13

The Suitcase From Beyond the Grave (anthology) 4/15/13

Lessons in DemonologyTwisted Dreams Magazine 6/1/13

PigShadow Masters: An Anthology From the Horror Zine – 6/23/13

X-Ray Specs SNM Horror Magazine (website) – 7/1/13

Maynard’s Secret SNM Horror Magazine (website) – 8/1/13

AwakeningTwisted Dreams Magazine – 10/1/13

BloodsuckersInfernal Ink Magazine – 10/1/13

Uninvited100 Doors To Madness (anthology) 10/12/13

The Memory ThiefDark Eclipse Magazine – 11/3/13

Motel ImpressionsMiseria’s Chorale (anthology) – 11/26/13

The Gates of LamentCellar Door II (anthology) – 12/06/13

Holiday Icon Oh, Little Town of Deathlehem (anthology) – 12/24/13

total: 13 for 2013 – more info on my Bio page
published stories in the horror fiction short-story market to date
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Visit my Amazon.com Authors Page: Michael Thomas-Knight

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I would like to thank the editors of all the publications for taking the time to work with my fiction and for seeing something original and provoking enough to accept them for publication. Look forward to working with you all in the coming year.

100 doors to madness Infernal Ink Oct 2013 Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067] dark eclipse #28

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In The Tall Grass – Stephen King and Joe Hill – Book Review

in-the-tall-grass - king - hillIn The Tall Grass
Stephen King and Joe Hill

This is a kindle short, a novella, by King and his son, Joe Hill. What I like most about this tale is, after a few pages of set up, the story is almost all in the here & now – no flashbacks, no back-stories.

A brother and sister, on a cross-country road-trip from NH to San Diego, take an unexpected detour. While traversing the open land and big sky of Kansas, they hear a cry for help. They pull off the road, into an abandoned church parking lot. They clearly hear the cries of a young boy from the field of tall reeds that stretch to the horizon. They enter the field to help find the boy and lead him to safety but soon find themselves lost. From inside the field, direction is incomprehensible, sound travels at different angles and positions seem to change, even when nobody is moving. As the hours fly by and hopes are dashed, young Cal is determined to save his pregnant sister and her unborn child. Cal soon discovers the lost boy holds the secret to their salvation.

This story is like a fuse. Once lit, it burns quickly and brightly until its end. I had trouble putting it down and often found myself walking around my house with the Kindle raised before my eyes, so as not to delay the story’s finale. It’s a great tale with a disturbing ending. It is a fun and enjoyable read for any fan of horror, even for those who don’t read much. I recommend it highly.
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Lovecraft – Fear of the Unknown – (2008) – dvd review

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Lovecraft – Fear of the Unknown – (2008)

A Wyrd Documentary 
Directed by Frank H. Woodward

PrintThe solid and well-made documentary/biography explains the creation, evolution and expansion of the Cthulhu Mythos from the moment of origin in H.P. Lovecraft’s fertile mind to the present. We follow Lovecraft’s life from childhood and see how personal tragedies and situations influenced his story-telling. The timeline points to periods in his life and his emotional states at the times of certain writings and it addresses – with no apologies – his xenophobic mentality and biased visions of the world. The documentary touches on his friendships with author peers, Edith Miniter, Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, amongst others, and his unique relationship with the pulp magazines, most notably Weird Tales.

For anyone that doesn’t truly understand what all the fuss is over Lovecraft, it explains how Lovecraft moved horror out of the predominantly Gothic style – whose monsters were human in origin (ghosts, vampires) –  into something completely different and how writers of the day followed him into this strange new world of cosmic horrors.

hplovecraft1The basis for the Cthulhu Mythos is this; many eons ago, other races of cosmic Gods and strange creatures ruled the universe and will one day come back to claim the worlds which were theirs. They are not at war with humans; they are completely indifferent to them and regard them the way mankind would regard the common house fly. Lovecraft stories are part mystery, part scientific discovery and part mythology, usually affecting a solitary individual on the brink of insanity for his inability to accept or comprehend the impossible.

The documentary explains the origin of the Necronomicon and how other writers began using the sacred book in their own stories, further propagating the notion that it was indeed a real book of spells and transgressions. When Lovecraft was once asked if he would document/write a complete Necronomicon, he replied that doing so would take its power and mystery away. It was better for people to keep wondering what else was in this ancient book and what other horrors could it bring forth.
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Lovecraft’s baroque style and his love for earlier literature, including his admiration of Lord Dunsany’s work is evident in this historical investigation. The documentary is laced with quotes and short readings of his work exemplifying his unique and sometimes overbearing style. The coherent story of his life and works is compiled with opinions and statements from modern horror directors; Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon. His influence on modern authors is evident when hearing praise and descriptions from; Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, S.T. Joshi, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Peter Straub, Robert M. Price. In the end they speak with cultist Isaac Bradley about the growing cultism of the Cthulhu Mythos.

The dvd is available for purchase at Amazon.com – or –
You can see the whole film at: http://www.crackle.com/

You can also read most, if not all of Lovecraft’s published stories at:
www.hplovecraft.com
There, you can also investigate the gods and beasts of the mythos, terminology, and everything Lovecraft.
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lovecraft pic 3“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.”  – H.P. Lovecraft,   ‘The Thing on the Doorstep’

“I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the black planets roll without aim,
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge, or lustre, or name.”
 – Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Songs of a Dead Dreamer – Thomas Ligotti – book review

ligotti - songs of a dead dreamerSongs of a Dead Dreamer – Thomas Ligotti (1986)

This is Ligotti’s first collection of stories, a book that is now out-of-print and editions sell for prices ranging from $26 to $260 on Amazon and Ebay. This was the very first book I downloaded onto my Kindle-Fire and may have been part of the reason I even wanted an e-reader in the first place.

This collection encompasses the strange worlds and people in the Ligotti universe. They all start off as rather bland subjects – an artist with no imagination in one, a Christmas Eve at Aunt Elsie’s in another – but take a wicked turn during the course of the tale. The artist stumbles upon a church to an unknown God in a dream, waking to find his latest painting has changed. The young man, tired of Aunt Elsie’s fireside story, leaves the house and is drawn through the fog by twinkling Christmas lights to a house that should be abandoned. They are all weird tales and subtle horror, so do not expect blood and guts violence or dominating monsters to rise from the ashes of nuclear fallout. And this collection from his earliest writings is not super strong on character development. However, the overall absurdness and abstract reality of his writing shines through in many places.

In Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech, the doctor searches a seedy part of town to engage the service of one Mr. Veech. He is told to bring his wife and best friend down a certain block at a certain time. Once there, the cheating spouse and her lover are suddenly plucked from the street by some unknown force. Dr. Voke looks up to see them dangling by strings, somehow turning into wooden puppets before his eyes.

In Sect of the Idiot, a man rents a room in an old town. The town is claustrophobically clustered, with stacked roof peaks overhanging one another, upper stories of shops and homes reaching to unknown heights and blocking out the sky. A knock at the door by a stranger leads the man to a high room in the highest towering structure in the town, where some sort of entomo-aliens sit in commune and oversee the town’s activities. They have a special reason for summoning the man, a fact he will soon learn.

The abandoned mental hospital in Dr. Locrian’s Asylum holds some bad memories of wicked events that took place there. The asylum casts a constant shadow upon the town and a blemish on its good standing. However, when the townsfolk decide to tear it down, they unleash all the trapped souls that have so long been waiting for this day, to exact revenge upon the town that ignored their cries.

Songs… also includes two essays on writing. In Notes on Writing Horror, Ligotti describes different writing styles, then takes one short story and rewrites it in several ways to exemplify those styles. In Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horrors, Ligotti attempts to explain man’s want and need for horror from a historical perspective.

While not all the stories share the same persistent voice as his later works – most were written for the small press with common small press themes – in many you can see that Ligotti’s unique style had already solidified. His strange worlds of puppets and clowns, hypnotists, conspiring entities and strange troupes with hidden agendas, rush forward from the darkest places of man’s psyche.

Recommended for fans of Lovecraft, Machen, Blackwood, Poe.

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“Life is a nightmare that leaves its mark upon you in order to prove that it is, in fact, real.”  Thomas Ligotti

flash fiction – The Station

The Station
By Michael Thomas-Knight

I assumed ghosts and spirits had taken over the station. Humanly figures moved about with a dream-like quality. Last night, sleep had consumed me and I missed the last train to Albany. When I awoke, the morning sun blazed brightly through the windows of Buffalo Central Terminal.

My co-workers had left me behind, not notifying me of the departing train. We all attended the seminar on ‘insurance algorithms’ together. We had been discussing it last night, although much of it’s content was beyond me. You’d think they would have awakened me and said, Jimmy, the train is here.

Upon closer inspection of the persons in the terminal, I realized they were not ghosts. They were quite alive but moved unnaturally. I walked up to the woman with the purple knit beret and fur-collar wool coat as she paged through a magazine. She wore leather Bebe ankle-high boots which were very popular these days. I waved my hand in front of her face. She could not see me. Her chest rose and fell with calm breaths. I leaned in closer to feel the warm air from her nostrils and smell the fragrance of lavender upon her neck. When she moved she became a blur. She took no notice of me at all. I looked around. The terminal buzzed with commuters running for trains and waiting for departures with I-phone earbuds in their ears and laptops in tow. The faster they moved the more blurred they became.

I knew I was not dead. I had sustained no injuries; I had no run-in with thugs the previous night. Somehow I had fallen out of time. I could not keep up with the advances at work. I could not keep up with the hustle and bustle of this modern world any longer. I had slipped out of sync… with everything.