The Grim Reader

This is not the greatest blog in the world. This is just a tribute.

Book review: Deathcrawl – Rich Hawkins


Nobody does bleak horror quite like Rich Hawkins. If you’re looking for some light reading to cheer yourself up on a lazy weekend afternoon, then you have come to the wrong place. However, if you are looking to wallow in a fictitious town where the locals are busy butchering each other and themselves for no apparent reason then ‘Deathcrawl’ will be right up your street.

Hawkins wastes not time at all in grabbing the reader by the scruff of the neck and the start of the story serves an ominous warning as to the death and depravity that will soon follow. That opening passage is great, really  setting the scene for what is a violent, extreme read that certainly pulls no punches. Hawkins trademark descriptions are rife throughout the novella, painting a grim picture of a community in ruins.

Jed, a widower, is the main character who finds himself in a battle for survival, relentlessly pursued by neighbors and friends. He soon befriends Charlie, a young boy and together they try to escape Beacon Fell to see if the disease has spread further.

It’s gore filled scene after gore filled scene, with the town dinner party being particularly unpleasant, one that i’m sure will test your gag reflex.

Being a novella, ‘Deathcrawl’ is a fast and furious read. Things are wrapped up fairly quickly, and despite a slightly rushed ending this is another fine entry into the Hawkins catalog.

Pick up a copy of ‘Deathcrawl’ from here.

Stick around this week for more reviews, an interview and a BTB Storytellers piece!

BTB Storytellers episode 4: Betty Rocksteady talks ARACHNOPHILE


Last week we heard from Alan Baxter, talking about his novel ‘Bound’. You can read that here in case you missed it. This week we dive into Bizarro fiction waters! What is Bizarro fiction? Bizarro is a kind of surreal, absurd style of storytelling where pretty much anything goes. The genre continues to grow. Bizarro heavyweights such as Carlton Mellick III, Kevin Strange, Cameron Pierce and numerous others have all contributed to this vibrant scene with books that sometimes defy all logic, taking the reader on a journey into the unknown where you are never sure of what is going to happen next.

Each year Eraserhead Press publishes the NBAS range of books, around November time, if memory serves me correct. I always look forward to checking out some of the new talent on show within the genre. Last year saw the release of ‘Arachnophile’ by Betty Rocksteady as one of the NBAS books. It’s a love story with spiders…yep, you heard that right. This oddly erotic tale was fantastic and I absolutely loved it. Very weird, but very easy to read as well. The book explores a number of different themes and I urge you to check it out. It is only a short read, less than 100 pages, but well worth your time and it serves as a great gateway into the Bizarro world.

Betty is today’s guest on BTB Storytellers, talking about ‘Arachnophile’. Enjoy. Thanks to Betty for this great piece.




Betty Rocksteady

So I wrote an erotic horror novella that focuses on the relationship between a man and a spider.

I hated spiders, and I had never written erotica before. 

Arachnophile was written as part of the New Bizarro Author Series 2015 lineup. I had done a few of Garrett Cook’s workshops, and he liked my work and invited me to participate. He wanted a few pitches to work from, and the spider one was sort of a filler in my brainstorming process. It started out extremely different, something like “Arachnophobic man lives in a society of giant spiders, no one believes him when he discovers the occult agenda of his new neighbor.” Garret liked the giant spider bit, but thought I should make it a romance. Ditch the occult horror bit. And he kept pushing me to make it sexier. 

I was at an in between point in writing. Summer makes me really tired, and uninspired, and this all started last August, and I just figured, what the hell? Let’s just do this thing. Let’s just keep saying yes.

Arachnophile was totally a breakthrough for me. I powered through it in less than a month, and just kept pushing myself harder. Can’t picture spiders being sexy? Too bad. Make it sexy and write it down. And judging from the responses I’ve gotten, I managed to make spider sex totally plausible. Don’t like writing romance? Too bad. Make it romantic and write it down. Miss the gore and horror aspect of your writing? Well… okay, let’s let a little of that through.

Writing erotica was uncomfortable for me as it was, it was definitely pushing all my boundaries, but once I accepted the idea that my mom could NEVER READ IT, I was able to break through. It was really liberating to let go of all the taboos and push myself harder than I had before, and let weirdness come out in my writing – I always liked weird, and I love reading extreme writing, but this was the first time I REALLY set it free. My writing since has been totally changed by the experience, and I squash my own boundaries as much as I can. I just don’t squash spiders anymore.

Like I said, I was never a big fan of spiders. They creeped me out. I squashed them or made someone else squash them. They’re so alien, so far from human, and they move so fast. Ugh. I knew it was irrational, they don’t hurt us, nature, blah blah blah, but I just didn’t like them, that disgust came from somewhere deep inside me that I couldn’t quite place. But now I was writing a whole book about spiders, so I didn’t really have a choice but to learn about them.

I read some Wikipedia articles, read about different kinds of spiders, watched a bunch of short documentaries on YouTube, and you know, they were really kinda interesting. At first it made me twitchy and uncomfortable, but like, being uncomfortable is kind of cool. I liked it. I kept learning and kept writing and now, they don’t really creep me out at all. I don’t smush em anymore. I watch them. I’ve somehow become the spider girl and people keep sending me links to weird spider stuff, and I keep buying spider jewelry, and now I’ve got spiders on the brain and I’ll probably fall in love with one, sooner or later. 

Pick up a copy of ‘Arachnophile’ from here.


Look at all these places to find more Betty Rocksteady!

Betty Rocksteady website


Guest post – David Agranoff talks Punk Rock Ghost Story!


I came across this book on Twitter last week and I loved the cover art. I also love music, especially when it’s ingrained inside of a story. I read a book by David Agranoff a couple of years back called ‘Boot Boy’s of the Wolf Reich’. It is a coming of age Werewolf horror story, and yes, it is as good as it sounds. David has another book called ‘Amazing Punk Stories’ which is a collection of…yep, punk stories, but, these stories have a bit of all sorts going on with them. Stories of horror, science fiction and the bizarre run rife in a collection that is slowly working it’s way up my TBR pile.

‘Punk Rock Ghost Story’ is released on Friday 23rd September through Deadite Press and is sure to be another excellent entry into the Agranoff catalog. I recently approached David and asked if he’d be interested in doing a guest post about his latest book. He said “yes” and so here it is. Enjoy.

The Music of Punk Rock Ghost Story

By David Agranoff

I was asked to write a piece about the musical influence on my newest novel Punk Rock Ghost Story. It is clear from the title that the punk rock scene is very much a part of this novel. This is final book in a unofficial thematic trilogy of punk books that began with my coming of age novel Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich, continued with my second short story collection Amazing Punk Stories.

All three books have as much of a foundation and influence in the punk and hardcore of my youth as they do the horror novels and movies I consumed.  Growing up in Bloomington, Indiana I discovered horror movies watching a late night horror host named Sammy Terry that showed horror movies late night on friday. I had lost my mother when I was 12 and it put me at a dark spot, I learned to embrace the dark tale to avoid despair.

As a kid I always liked being different, whatever my sister was into I liked the opposite. Whatever all the kids at school were into I liked the opposite.  So punk and horror were naturals for me. The first Punk rock song I heard was Nazi Punks Fuck Off by the Dead Kennedys. I laughed because they cursed, and the song was so fast I couldn’t believe it. Knowing I was a horror movie fan my friend’s older sister suggested I listen to the Misfits and it was over. I was hooked.

Indiana had a bigger and more active punk scene than people outside of the state would ever give it credit for. Bloomington was a college with a music scene that produced hundreds of punk and alternative bands from the Gizmos in the late 70’s to today. I played in a few bands myself, put on hardcore shows for a few years but mostly I was another slamdancer in the basement.

The punk and hardcore scene was my world growing up. It was everything to me. I loved movies that depicted this world but most didn’t ring true to me. Most felt like they were made by people who researched punk, and had not lived it.

So for years I have been wanting to tell stories that represent that world while exploring well known tropes of genre.  Amazing Punk Stories for example has a space opera, western spy story, cannibals in the woods and haunted houses stories.

Punk Rock Ghost Story is a little different. Inspired by the lost Indiana punk band the Fuckers.



Unlike bands like the Gizmos who are fondly remembered or the Zero Boys who are still playing they were a Indiana band that disappeared. Lost to history in part because the singer Frank Huff who went by the stage name Frank Fucker never came home. They made one tour of the states in a van held together by duct tape, with handmade records, violence, riots and mayhem followed them. Little was known besides a mystery what happened to Frank?



Punk Rock Ghost Story is a novel not a history, but a story that seeks to answer questions. We will never know what happened for sure, that is why I had to blend a fictional and real punk scene. The novel aims to be a traditional ghost story but it has a underlying theme I didn’t discover until I had finished the first draft.

The punk rock scene of 1982 and 2016 are very different. Punk has been declared dead more times than I can count, and Dead Kennedy’s correctly pointed that it needed a good death. The novel explores those changes and how the ghost of the lost scene that hangs over the young kids who want desperately to be a part of the trailblazing part they missed.

I hope you’ll check out the novel, it was labor of love that worked on for almost nine years.

-David Agranoff

San Diego September 2016

Go here to pick up a copy from Amazon.

Favorite punk albums I listened to while writing this record:


Circle Jerks – Group Sex and Wild in the Streets

Dead Kennedys – Plastic Surgery Disasters

Bad Brains – Rock For Light

The Accused – More Fun Than a Open Casket Funeral

The Exploited – Horror Epics

Zero Boys – Vicious Circle

Cock Sparrer – Shock troops

Blitz – Voice of a Generation

Minor Threat discography

7 Seconds Walk Together, Rock Together


David Agranoff is the author of four published novels, and two short story collections. His novels include The Vegan Revolution…With Zombies, Hunting The Moon Tribe, and Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich. His first short story collection, Screams from a Dying World, was nominated for the Wonderland Book award. His short stories have appeared in Dark Discoveries, The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, and his story Punkupine Moshers of the Apocalypse appeared in the Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade anthology.

 David has more than five-hundred book reviews, focused mostly on sci-fi and horror fiction, on his blog, He cut his teeth doing a straight-edge hardcore zine called Voicebox.






Book review: Marta Martinez Saves The World – Victorya Chase


I love Kaiju books and stories. I loved ‘Pacific Rim’ – yes, it was very silly and cheesy, but come on, giant freakin’ robots fighting giant freakin’ monsters from another dimension. What’s not to like about that?

‘Kaiju Revisited’ is a new series of novellas from Apokrupha about…Kaiju! The first in line is this one from Victorya Chase, an author I was not familiar with coming into the book. ‘Marta Martinez…’ is a strange little story. Marta is an engineer, hopelessly in love with jock Clarence Cunningham. When her home appliances begin to grow and develop personalities of their own, Marta knows she has to do something to prevent total destruction. She is aided by her pet cat, her pet toaster! and fellow engineer Jayce.

‘Marta Martinez Saves The World’ is a quirky take on the Kaiju mythos. If you are a fan of Bizarro fiction then I’d say you will get a bit of a kick out of this. For me it didn’t quite hit the mark and was just OK. There is something about giant appliances wreaking havoc that doesn’t quite set my pulse racing the way a three-headed monster can. I applaud Victorya Chase for her originality, and it certainly wouldn’t put me off reading more from her, just so long as there are no white-goods involved.

Pick up a copy of ‘Marta Martinez Saves The World’ from here.


Book review: The Con Season – Adam Cesare


‘The Con Season’ seems like a natural progression for writer, Adam Cesare. It features different elements from his previous books in that it has the dark humor found in books such as ‘First One You Expect’ and the gore factor from books like ‘Mercy House’.

The concept of ‘The Con Season’ is great – B-list celebs are invited to take part in a convention in the middle of nowhere for a large fee. The Blood Camp Con isn’t all it seems and our unlucky celebs soon find themselves in a fight for survival against the organizers. Although only a short novel, it does take a little time for the action to really hot up, but when it does, it is wonderful. Cesare’s knowledge of the con scene and the horror genre shines through. He has the knack of describing people being offed in a way that few other writers can and there are definitely a few scenes in the second half of the book to make you squirm.

‘The Con Season’ pays homage to the classic slasher films of the 80s and having attended a convention myself, I felt the characters were spot on. All of their insecurities were on show and they prove to be a colorful bunch. There is a hilarious scene when audience members are having their photos taken with a corpse, thinking it is a part of the show, and  there is a great scene featuring a chainsaw!

I liked this book a great deal. My only criticism would be the pacing was a little up and down. The second half of the book, when the carnage starts is a little stop, go; a great scene of horror and brutality followed by a little more character back story.

Fans of the horror and con scene will find a lot to like about this book and Cesare fans will lap it up too.

Pick up a copy from here.

Book review – Eye of the Storm – Frank Cavallo


Do you love to watch those movies screened on a lazy Saturday afternoon? I’m talking ‘The Land that Time Forgot’, ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and the like. I mean the pulpy movies from the 60s and 70s where dinosaurs roam free, people embark upon journeys through times past and long forgotten. I love that sort of stuff. I grew up with a great affection for these movies and whenever a story falls into my lap that is described as a mix of fantasy and horror then I’m all in.

Frank Cavallo’s ‘Eye of the Storm’ is definitely not breaking any new ground, nor is it trying to be anything other than a damn enjoyable and entertaining book about sorcery, dinosaurs, heroes and villains. The stage is set very early on with the discovery of a body of a Neanderthal which leads to the putting together of an expedition to find out more about this strange creature. Enter ex Navy Seal Eric Slade as the team leader/TV star and Dr Anna Fayne. As our team gets closer to their destination, they come across a rare sight and are transported to a land and time far, far away where a war is brewing. As our weary travelers learn to adapt to their new surroundings they soon find themselves befriending a leper called Kerr. All is not as it seems though and our two castaways embark upon very different paths.

There is a lot to enjoy in ‘Eye of the Storm’, although Slade is a bit of a jock, he gradually becomes more likable as the story progresses, as does the leper, Kerr. The pacing is great, with barely a moments breath between scenes. The dialogue, particularly from Slade is a little cheesy at times, but it fits in well with his personality. The chapters are nice and short meaning when you finish one you tell yourself just one more before you go to sleep and before you know it you are deep into the book. The story motors along towards an epic conclusion between good and evil and for quite a big book, the pages fly by. ‘Eye of the Storm’ doesn’t suffer the same fate as many other fantasy reads by getting swamped in political chit chat. It is a good old fashioned quest style fantasy tale with enough blood and guts to satisfy horror fans too. Good fun!


Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo Tour Banner.png

TITLE: Eye of the Storm

RELEASE DATE: 08/10/2016

AUTHOR: Frank Cavallo

KEYWORDS: fantasy, adventure, sword & sorcery, wizardry, knights, magic, horror

CATEGORIES: Horror/Fantasy

SYNOPSIS: On a research mission in one of the most remote regions of the world, former Navy SEAL Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne are caught in a mysterious storm. Catapulted through a rift in space-time, they are marooned on a lost world.

Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm.

ONE LINER: Catapulted into a lost world, Eric Slade and Anna Fayne must hunt down an ancient treasure that holds their only chance to return home.


ISBN: 978-1535327077

IMPRINT: Dark Serpent


AUTHOR BIO: Frank Cavallo is the author of The Hand of Osiris and The Lucifer Messiah. His short stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including Every Day Fiction, Ray Gun Revival, and Lost Souls. He has also written for the Black Library’s Warhammer property, including several short stories in their monthly fiction magazine Hammer & Bolter, as well as a novella featured in the collection Gotrek & Felix: Lost Tales.










BTB Storytellers episode 3: Alan Baxter talks BOUND

Thanks for stopping by once again. The first two weeks of BTB Storytellers has had a horror slant with guest posts by Andrew David Barker and Stephen Kozeniewski. This week, and the next two weeks, we will be exploring different genres. Today we have Alan Baxter joining us to talk about his book ‘Bound’ which features cage fighter and all round bad-ass Alex Caine. ‘Bound’ is a cracking read. The Alex Caine trilogy (of which ‘Bound’ is the first book) has recently been reissued with some kick-ass artwork by those folks at Harper Voyager. I read ‘Bound’ a couple of months back and you can read my verdict here.

‘Bound’ is what you’d call a dark fantasy thriller, I guess?! It’s a book that features an engaging protagonist, magic and martial arts! What’s not to like?!

Alan, like myself is an Englishman living in Australia and I was well pleased when he decided to write a piece on this fine book. He is an award-winning writer and has received praise from many authors including Laird Barron, Angela Slatter and Greig Beck. He is also a master of Kung Fu!

Alan has a collection of short stories coming soon from Ticonderoga Publications called ‘Crow Shine’ – more information of which you can find at the bottom of this article along with links to Alan’s website and social media links.

Thanks to Alan for this great piece that takes a look behind ‘Bound’.

Alan Baxter.jpg

Episode 3: Alan Baxter – BOUND





Alan Baxter

Adrian at Beavis The Bookhead asked me to write about the story behind the story of one of my books. As the Alex Caine Series is out now across Australia and New Zealand, and starting in the US in December, I thought I’d write about book 1 of the trilogy, Bound.

It’s a complicated collection of things that took a long time to come around. My first novel was RealmShift, originally self-published in 2006, then acquired by Gryphonwood Press in 2010. The main character in that book and its sequel, MageSign, is a guy called Isiah. He’s a powerful immortal with an unenviable burden, and he’s also an accomplished martial artist. After all, you can get pretty good at something when you’re immortal. Because of those books, among other things, I got a reputation for writing good fight scenes. Given that I’ve been a martial artist for over 35 years now, and my day job is as a martial arts instructor, it’s no real surprise that I was writing what I knew there. And apparently doing an okay job of it. For a long while I’ve been running workshops on the subject of writing better fights, helping other writers to put together more realistic and compelling scenes.

And then I got to thinking. I’ve written lots of characters who happen to be capable martial artists, but I’ve never written a character who was a career martial artist first and foremost. A practitioner and competitor, happily living his martial arts life, who then becomes embroiled in a story. And that was the spark for the character of Alex Caine. Caine starts Bound as a successful underground cage fighter, making good money in illegal MMA matches, happy to avoid the glitz and politics of the big mainstream events. Until he runs afoul of mobsters and magic. Now the thing about good stories, for me at least, is that they’re rarely one story. The best stuff for me usually comes around when two or more interesting ideas kinda crash into each other and the whole becomes far greater than the sum of its parts. So I needed a plot for this martial artist in trouble with the mob. I needed something else for him to get tangled up in.

For a long time, I’d been noodling around with this idea of an evil book. I had also for a long time wanted to write a subverted fantasy quest. The idea of the long quest, with the protagonist travelling the land in search of something, up against evildoers and all that. But I wanted to do that set in our time, our world, with thriller pacing instead of big fat fantasy pacing. And I wanted dark and horrible occurrences involved, because I’m a dark fiction writer at heart. But I’m also a genre masher.

So eventually all these ideas and characters slammed together and Bound, the first book in the Alex Caine trilogy, was born. Alex Caine, the career martial artist, falls afoul of the mob, and finds a possible escape in the form of a strange Englishman who wants Alex to read a mysterious book. When Alex takes the opportunity to slip away to London to look at this book, thereby avoiding the mobsters for a while, he ends up trading mobsters for monsters and all kinds of mayhem. He finds himself on a quest to find a few items that might save him, but not if the new bad guys he’s picked up along the way get there first.

So then I had to start researching the places and history of what he was up against, and Bound slowly took shape. I wanted it to be a standalone novel originally, and it is that, but I also realised that the history of the stuff I was creating meant there was a lot more story to tell, so books 2 and 3, Obsidian and Abduction, were quick to follow. Each of those is a standalone dark fantasy thriller too, but there’s an overarching thread that links all three books into one trilogy. And hopefully they’ll sell well and the publisher will ask me for more, as I’ve got lots of ideas for more in the series if I get the chance.

By the end of Abduction Alex Caine’s life as a fighter at the top of his game must seem like such a distant memory to the poor bugger. But he’s certainly had  the opportunity to put an awful lot of his martial arts training to the test.

The Alex Caine Series – Bound, Obsidian and Abduction – is available in paperback and ebook across Australia and New Zealand now. The trilogy starts in the US and UK in December, with Obsidian and Abduction following in July 2017.

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over seventy short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.


Book review: Others & Oddities – Edward Lorn


I feel bad that I have only just gotten around to reading this fantastic collection of dark fiction from Edward Lorn. I’ve had it on my Kindle for some time and and after approaching the author for a spot on my Storytellers feature, I thought I’d sneak it into the ever bulging TBR.

I have a great fondness for short story collections. This one features a couple of stories that are more in the novelette category and prove to be among the strongest pieces. I have to be honest in saying that not a single story here disappointed, and one of the real strengths of this collection lies in the unpredictability of the stories. We’ve all read a hundred plus stories on Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, and though I still love these tropes, but it’s always nice to be surprised by a writers reluctance to visit them, choosing instead to go somewhere very different.

By the end of the first story I knew I was onto something a little bit special. It’s a tale about genetic tampering and the bloody aftermath of a strange birth, which was quite bizarre but also unsettling. Elsewhere, strange gold creatures attack a family and only music can keep them at bay, kudos here to Mr Lorn for name dropping Cradle of Filth and Blind Melon in an excellent short story. The real jewels were perhaps the longest pieces. ‘The Scare Rows’ was like ‘Children of the Corn’ meets Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and I absolutely loved it – sex, gore, men with pumpkin heads ravaging the locals! Oh my, wonderful stuff. I loved ‘Crawl’ too, the story about a cheating husband and his wife who become involved in a car crash…but, things don’t end there. Juliet wakes up crucified to a stake and the night gets progressively worse.

I haven’t read anything by Edward Lorn before, and I know some of these stories have been made available elsewhere, but that doesn’t worry me. If you’re looking to sample some of Mr Lorn’s shorter works then this is the perfect place to start. It is a collection where Lorn shows off his full repertoire of horror with frightening ease and a real unpredictability in his storytelling. His style is easy to read and his characters are great. Bursting with fresh ideas, blood and guts, this collection is mindbogglingly good. I loved it.

Pick up a copy of this great book from here.

Book review: The Girl Who Couldn’t Come Up With an Original Title – The Behrg


This is only a short story by The Behrg but it packs quite a punch in dealing with some heavy themes that are close to my heart. It is a book that manages to balance the macabre with a sense of deep thought, handled deftly by a writer who has, by his own admission stared into the black abyss.

Depression is a very real issue, one that affects millions and millions of people and whilst people deal with it in different ways, The Behrg has chosen to write this short story about a girl who just can’t get a break and attempts to commit suicide. The suicide doesn’t quite come off and instead leaves her battered and broken. The girl seems to spiral into a sort of morbid purgatory which has The Behrg delivering some vivid and unsettling imagery.

It took a few pages to get into this when it finally clicked what it was about. ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Come Up With an Original Title’ is a dark but utterly engaging story, pitch black, but ultimately a rewarding and deep literary horror experience that is well worth your time. This also features another short story, equally as bleak but again well-written.

Short stories are difficult to get right. When they do and they pack a punch like this they prove to be a great experience. The Behrg writes with a literary flair, with heart and with an honesty that makes me glad to be a reader.

Pick up a copy of this short story from here.

Blog at

Up ↑