Book review: King Carrion – Rich Hawkins

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‘King Carrion’ sees Rich Hawkins team up with the Sinister Horror Company for a short novella of vampiric horror straight out of the top drawer. After a brief glimpse into the past, we join Mason; a recovering alcoholic, seeking to piece his life back together after a drink driving incident and time served in prison. He returns home a broken man, penniless, friendless, hoping to hook up with his lost love Ellie.

Things are not what they once were and after spending the night on the street, Mason learns of a series of disappearances among locals and the homeless community. I have enjoyed both ‘Deathcrawl’ and more so ‘Scavengers’ this week, however ‘King Carrion’ feels like a really well focused story and is a sure favorite among the three.

Thankfully, Hawkins steers well clear of the loved-up ‘Twilight-style’ vampires, instead giving us a story filled with shredded throats and streets of blood. Mason is a sad sort. It’s difficult to like him after what he has done, but he does have his moments and when you compare him to the ruthless head vampire, I guess he isn’t really that bad.

Although it’s only a novella, it doesn’t feel rushed. There aren’t endless bit-part characters that hinder the flow of the story. Instead it’s a punchy tale featuring some excellent set pieces and a human protagonist with all sorts of problems both natural and unnatural. When the action comes, it’s frantic stuff; gripping and visceral, just the way we like it.

‘King Carrion’ is a fine addition to the vampire mythos, definitely worth checking out. I Loved it.

Pick up a copy of ‘King Carrion’ from here.

Book review: The Rib from which I Remake the World – Ed Kurtz

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‘The Rib from which I Remake the World’ is a book that has been on my radar ever since I saw the cover art. It is a mix up of noir and horror that works very, very well, thanks in part to Kurtz’ smooth, easy writing style and some great characters and settings. Despite the obvious influence of Bradbury’s classic tale ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and perhaps even King’s ‘The Stand’, Kurtz has produced and excellent book, one that I believe will feature in a number of top read lists come the end of the year.

The book starts off a little slowly, but I didn’t mind that because once a body is discovered by hotel security guard, Jojo Walker then the pace settles into a very nice rhythm. The story builds around a rather odd group of movie makers that come to visit the sleepy town of Litchfield to “educate” it’s residents about the pitfalls of sex! There is something not quite right about performers. Led by the mysterious and elusive Mr Barker Davis, the locals are enticed one-by-one into watching a “special” screening at midnight inside of the local theater. Jojo suspects something isn’t quite right with these people and takes it upon himself to solve the bizarre and brutal murder which eventually leads him into a dark web of voodoo and sorcery.

The main character, Jojo is excellent. He has a few demons and these are slowly revealed as the story progresses. His face is heavily scarred and the rather odd reason for this is revealed later on. He is a no-nonsense type, chain-smoking, hard-drinking guy that doesn’t really want much from life, that is until the circus comes to town and he is forced to take matters into his own hands. The atmosphere throughout the book is excellent. I almost felt like there was little daylight and that most of the stories of the town occurred at night time. The book is definitely dark. Each resident has a history of woe and as the second world war rages overseas it is difficult to imagine where is the best place to be; at war or in Litchfield.

Barker Davis is another great character. Reminiscent of Randall Flagg from King’s ‘The Stand’, he has a real menace, swagger and invincibility to him and the scenes with him in are terrific.

Whereas the first half of the book is great reading it is the second half of the book when things really shine. As the town unravels, its residents are exposed to the horrors of the secret showing and it’s up to Jojo and a couple of others to make a stand. The conclusion to this novel is excellent. So many times stories fall down as they get close to the end, but this one really worked for me. I didn’t expect what eventually happens and that’s always a plus in my book. I do think that this book has great appeal. Fan’s of noir and horror will get a real kick out of it, and if you’re a fan of the T.V. show ‘True Detective’ then there is also something here for you to enjoy. It isn’t happy reading, not by a long shot, but it is an engaging, well-written, easy read, that ticks all the right boxes for this reader. An excellent piece of work.

Pick up a copy of this fine novel from here.

 

Book review: The Night Cyclist – Stephen Graham Jones

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Any well-read horror fan should already be well aware of the talents of Stephen Graham Jones. He’s a writer that effortlessly turns out great story after great story and ‘ The Night Cyclist’ is another fine example of the man’s talent.

A Tor.com original short story, ‘ The Night Cyclist’ is a short tale of supernatural horror. A chef cycling on his way home comes into contact with another rider, one who seems to have an unnatural ability on his bike as well as having a ghoul-like appearance. The death of two local boys has the chef keen to know more about this night cyclist.

‘ The Night Cyclist’ is a great short story. Jones’ keen eye for detail, even in such a short story as this is one of the things that sets him apart from other writers. The little details about cycling and cooking add authenticity to this superb and haunting story that has a quite bloody conclusion. A great ending caps off a very well spent 30 minutes reading.

Pick up a copy for less than a buck from here.

BtB Storytellers ‘Bleak Week’ special with Rich Hawkins

You may be aware that I am currently running a feature every Sunday here at the blog that allows writers to tell the story behind the story. So far there has been great pieces by Andrew David Barker, Stephen Kozeniewski, Alan Baxter and more recently Betty Rocksteady. With the ‘Bleak Week’ running all through the 26-30 September, I thought It would be rude not to invite Rich Hawkins to the party.

Rich wrote about my novel of 2015 ‘The Last Outpost’ – an apocalyptic tale of dread and despair set in a country overrun by a hideous plague. ‘The Last Outpost’ was my favorite novel from 2015 and I’m very happy that Rich decided to write about this one. Thanks to Rich for wanting to be a part of this feature.

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The Last Outpost

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Rich Hawkins

The Last Outpost’s first aborted incarnation – an abandoned manuscript of approximately forty-thousand words – frustrated the hell out of me. I’d just finished writing my novella Black Star, Black Sun, and I’d been thinking about a sequel to The Last Plague; something much bleaker and character-driven, to show the effects of the alien plague on the world and, in particular, Great Britain.

But instead I wrote forty-thousand words of crap, and I shelved it. It wasn’t even called The Last Outpost. I think its working title was The Huntsman. And I’m really, really glad I did toss it into the dark crevice of my ‘spare parts’ file in my laptop, because otherwise I wouldn’t have written the book of mine of which I’m most fond.

The novel’s protagonist is a man named Royce, a lone survivor wandering the countryside. A desperate, terrified soul trying to stay alive. His life has been reduced to mere survival, haunted by the memories of the old world and his dead family. Exhausted and half-starved and burdened by guilt, he roams from village to village, house to house, scavenging for supplies and seeking shelter. The Infected hunt him; they stalk the land in groups numbering from small packs to great swarms. There is no respite from the hunt, no hiding from the horrors of the plague.

I envisioned him as a hopeless man at the end of the world, a witness to extinction. Or so he thinks.

Because then I gave him some hope.

Aside from my family and Tottenham Hotspur FC, there are two other things that I love: Cheddar cheese and post-apocalyptic fiction. I grew up watching stuff like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, The Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, The Last Train, and The Postman (I know) – and my interest in PA films, books and TV series only increased into my twenties and onward (Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is possibly my favorite novel of all time). And now I’m writing about the end of the world. I always wanted to write what was, to me, a stripped-back tale of survival, loss, and grief for the old world, filled with a cast of traumatized characters just trying to stay alive for no reason other than a biological imperative. This became The Last Outpost. And I know there’s loads of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction out there, with more zombies than ever before, but that didn’t matter to me at the time, and it still doesn’t bother me now; it’s a crowded marketplace, but all you can do is write your best and hope it works out.

The novel, like The Last Plague and the final book in the trilogy, The Last Soldier, was published by Crowded Quarantine Publications in September 2015. I can’t thank them enough for taking a chance on me.

 It’s strange, because once I finish a story and it’s sent away to the publisher and eventually published, I find myself disliking it, as if it’s something deeply flawed, like a spotty illegitimate child that no one particularly likes. But it was different with The Last Outpost, because although it has its flaws, as any sane writer would think about their own work, I think it’s the piece of writing that’s come closest to embodying what I try to aim for in my fiction. It’s a story straight from my withered black heart. I just hope that the people who’ve read the novel enjoyed it for what it is. And I hope that any future readers enjoy it too.

Well, as much as someone can enjoy a story about the all-consuming death of our civilization…

 

Pick up a copy of ‘The Last Outpost’ from here.

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The Bleak Week wraps up tomorrow night with a review of ‘King Carrion’ – the latest release from Rich Hawkins and Sinister Horror Company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book review: Detritus in Love – Mercedes M. Yardley & John Boden

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I am fan of both of these writers works. They both have a unique take on fiction, reveling in that kind of dreamy prose that allows for a great reading experience. The two writers that are quite similar, yet also quite different, join forces for this short novella ‘Detritus in Love’.

When authors co-write stories, I often approach with caution. The results can be either spectacular or as if the two authors didn’t have any correspondence whatsoever. Thankfully, ‘Detritus in Love’ reads like it was written by a single person, though the scattered references to 80s rock bands gave away the chapters written by Mr Boden.

The story tells of poor Detritus; A lonely, lost young boy in love with a ghost (the blank) and kept company by his only friend Shultz, a Nazi clothe wearing ghost. Det’s mother despises him, wishing him to be erased from her life and to be replaced by the Opposite (the unborn darkness from her womb), whilst his father is an evil creature, a man with an almost demon-like personality. This heartbreaking short story follows Detritus as he tries to live a life where he remains unloved and unappreciated.

‘Detritus in Love’ is a sad, sad story. Detritus is another word for discarded matter or waste, and this is how the boy’s mother looks at him. There is a desperate scene where his mother tells him she wishes he hadn’t been born and that she’d birthed something else instead, It is truly heartbreaking. It may sound like it is all grim reading but that’s not always the case. There are some heartfelt, beautiful moments shared between Det, Shultz and Blank that briefly bring a ray of light to an otherwise loveless tale.

As I read this novella I couldn’t help but think of a particular a well-known movie from the 80s. Now this may sound a little odd, but I kept thinking about The Nothing from the Never Ending Story whenever the opposite was mentioned. It is similar in the way that the opposite represents all of the dark and bad stuff in the world, much the same way as the nothing did. Maybe that’s just me, but hey! different strokes for different folks…

This highly original and thoughtful story is very well written, with some beutiful passages and it’s easily digested in a single sitting. The final third of the book elevated this story from a four to a five star read. Things really ramp up with some grim imagery as the black clouds begin to roll in.

Fans of Mercedes and John’s writing will be thrilled with this collaboration. This is a unique and original read that should be cherished.

Published by Omnium Gatherum, you can pick up a copy from here.

Book review: Scavengers – Rich Hawkins

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The second review this ‘Bleak Week with Rich Hawkins’ comes from another self-published title in the form of ‘Scavengers’. This time a husband wife and daughter, along with two friends take a trip to the countryside for some fun and fine wine. On the discovery of an abandoned car, our foursome come face-to-face with a tribe of little horrors and a daring fight for survival ensues.

I liked this one a great deal. It’s a little longer than ‘Deathcrawl’ and is the better for it. The chapters are nice and short, often leaving you on a knife edge as to if our bloodied travellers will escape. The reason behind these scavengers is revealed later on, and throws another problem in the direction of the survivors.

Lots of gore, torn flesh, spilled intestines means I’m a very happy camper. The characters are given enough so that you get a sense of who they are. In particular, Ray who is a struggling writer, not entirely excited about the trip away with these ‘friends’ of theirs and someone who comes across as a little sarcastic (which I like). I found the brief conversation held in the car between Ray and Tim about vampires to be most amusing.

The novella romps along at a fine pace leading towards a satisfying conclusion. I thought this was a cracking story and I recommend it to all fans of horror. Great stuff!

Pick up a copy of ‘Scavengers’ from here.

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