Gerald Manley Hopkins late 1880’s poem, “Carrion Comfort,” begins this way ::

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man

This definitive call of hope and perseverance forms the basis for Dan Simmons’ epic horror saga of the same name.


When I say epic, I mean it. On a host of levels. Yes, the book is long, clocking in at nearly 650 pages in my version (with some printings topping 800 pages), but it is the concepts behind the book and reach of the story that truly makes it epic.

The publisher’s book description sums it up this way ::

THE PAST…  Caught behind the lines of Hitler’s Final Solution, Saul Laski is one of the multitudes destined to die in the notorious Chelmno extermination camp.  Until he rises to meet his fate and finds himself face to face with an evil far older, and far greater, than the Nazi’s themselves…

THE PRESENT…  Compelled by the encounter to survive at all costs, so begins a journey that for Saul will span decades and cross continents, plunging into the darkest corners of 20th century history to reveal a secret society of beings who may often exist behind the world’s most horrible and violent events.  Killing from a distance, and by darkly manipulative proxy, they are people with the psychic ability to ‘use’ humans: read their minds, subjugate them to their wills, experience through their senses, feed off their emotions, force them to acts of unspeakable aggression.  Each year, three of the most powerful of this hidden order meet to discuss their ongoing campaign of induced bloodshed and deliberate destruction.  But this reunion, something will go terribly wrong. Saul’s quest is about to reach its elusive object, drawing hunter and hunted alike into a struggle that will plumb the depths of mankind’s attraction to violence, and determine the future of the world itself…

Ummmm yeah… It’s a large, far-reaching concept that manifests itself in a great big, sprawling horror masterwork that spans time, distance and humanity.

True, “Carrion Comfort” is big and there’s no question that some will find it a challenge, but it also crafts what only a select few genre books manage to: a compelling statement about not only man’s inhumanity to man, but also the humanity that bonds us all together across all barriers and labels. That’s an extremely tough thing to do, but “Carrion Comfort” delivers with grace.

In the book, Simmons reinvents the vampire concept, breathing new life and vigor into it and consequently building new chills in the process. This is NOT your typical vampire fare and PRAISE STOKER that it isn’t. The book explores a powerful psychic vampirism rather than the standard blood-on-the-neck variety and the psychological bent that this reinvention brings to the book is a revelation. The vampires of “Carrion Comfort” still view humanity as mere “tools” for their use, but the concept of mind rape and control moves this use beyond a physical need, easily held at bay with garlic and the cross into something far more sinister than mere hunger and more terrifying than animal instinct. Humans are still disposable, but it comes to life in a far more callous and degrading way here to great effect.

With “Carrion Comfort,” to get into the specifics of plot in a review like this beyond the tease I have included above is fruitless; a bit like attempting to stuff a full loaf of bread into a shot glass. BUT, rest assured, it’s a broad and varied journey that the book takes readers on, replete with interesting tableaus and terrifyingly imaginative setups and situations. Some of these are truly indelible images, unforgettably innovative and disturbing set-pieces of modern horror that left me shaking my head, grinning ear-to-ear.

“Carrion Comfort” is also a masterwork of style. As I mentioned in my review of another Simmons’ classic, “Summer of Night,” the author has an incredible way with tactile detail. We feel the bone-crunching, neck-snapping, warm blood of violence, the desert breezes, cold winter bluster and sweaty torrents of myriad locations, and a range of emotions from the gentle touches of budding love to the horrible invasion of the mind rape and loss of will inherent in the vampires’ attack — all with a brutal sense of immediacy. Simmons has a touch both nuanced and sinewy that is very satisfying for this aging English major.

If ANY criticism could be leveled at the work, it is that some feel it could use a good edit. Fair enough… Perhaps. I certainly wouldn’t want to lose what works so well about the book.

I’ll wrap this review with some comments from luminaries infinitely more talented than I ::

“’Carrion Comfort’ is one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century. Simple as that.” — Stephen King

“Epic in scale and scope but intimately disturbing, ‘Carrion Comfort’ spans the ages to rewrite history and tug at the very fabric of reality. A nightmarish chronicle of predator and prey that will shatter your world view forever. A true classic.” — Guillermo del Toro

“‘Carrion Comfort’ is one of the scariest books ever written. Whenever I get the question asked Who’s your favorite author? my answer is always Dan Simmons.” — James Rollins

Annnd… The awards ::

Bram Stoker Award, The Locus Poll Award for Best Horror Novel, The World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and The August Derleth Award for Best Novel

“Carrion Comfort” is NOT to be missed if you are looking for a weighty read with some true chills, a real journey.


RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS



As you may be able to tell, I love great poster art, but especially posters from the great horror movie cannon. This is the fourth installment of my countdown of the best of the genre.

Here’s how I selected the list. I used three main criteria to shape my decisions ::


>> DESIGN / IMAGE — This is the baseline. As a designer by trade, I feel strongly that any great or effective poster HAS to start here. Is the poster effective as a piece of art? Is the poster is a strong representative of the art of graphic design? Did it capture a particular spirit or movement in design?

>> TITILLATION / PROMOTION — Though we tend to contextualize film and the associated collateral as “art,” it is ultimately a form of commerce. Any movie poster has to promote the film it supports either through a delicious tease or overt sales pitch. How effective is the poster at selling the film it is tied to?

>> IMPACT / LEGACY — Sometimes even mediocre films get truly great posters. Sometimes, we even remember the image of the poster far longer than the film itself. What was the lasting effect of the poster? Was it iconic or timeless in some way? Was a part of a larger context?


Every poster on this list is a cocktail of the above elements, mixed in different ways. All successful in their own right. Let’s jump in to 35 >> 31…
















Look for Part V, coming right up!

Special thanks to for many of the images in this countdown. AWESOME site.




Time for another great horror short. This one’s entitled “La Cruz (The Cross).” We’re going international for this one, folks, so be ready for some subtitles.

Lovers of classic horror will really enjoy this. Director Alberto Evangelio’s brilliant storytelling and strong central concept give this film a taut core strength. Solid performances bring this core story to life with empathy and immediate immersion for the viewer. I really love the photography here, too — nice angles and choices that aren’t self-conscious, but rather underscore the story in a effortless way — no mean feat. Enjoy!




Welcome to the latest in an ongoing tribute to the master of the calavera, José Posada. As I say each week… His rapier visual wit and penchant for the visual metaphor of the human bone remain stunningly fresh today. Sadly, he died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave. May this series serve as that lasting nod to his incredible legacy.




All apologies to Mr. Frampton and Colin Clive on that headline.

For lovers of great horror, this is really cool news. Mary Shelley’s original, groundbreaking manuscript for her gothic masterpiece “Frankenstein” is now online. The New York Public Library, The University of Maryland’s Institute for Technology in the Humanities and Oxford’s Bodleian Library (among other institutions) have banded together to bring this to life as part of the Shelley-Goodwin Archive.


Not only is it fascinating to see the story in Shelley’s own hand, it’s really captivating to see so directly the collaboration between Mary and Percy (the literary giant that was her husband) that comes through in these pages. Amazing stuff!

Explore it ::




ANNNND… Sooooooo cool that they chose Halloween as a launch date! Big ups on that one.



I wanted to wish you all the most horrifying Halloween night you can have. 

As you might imagine, Halloween in our household is a very special holiday. As you may also guess, we have a special Halloween rule for our daughter, Logan Blue.

Since her very first Halloween, she has always been able to choose her own costume, but that costume MUST be a spooky one. Whatever she wants to be. We will put our collective creative powers to work realizing that costume as well as we can, but again, it must be scary in some way. Over the years in our house, we’ve had a mummy, a witch, The Bride of Frankenstein, a bat, an undead, gothic cheerleader, Morticia Addams, The Corpse Bride, a Day of the Dead beauty, and a zombified Alice in Wonderland, among others.

Logan has really come to treasure this spooky family tradition and she really views the holiday as one focused on not just the scary side of things, but also the only one dedicated to pure creativity on the calendar. It’s her favorite and that makes me smile. 

What better way to celebrate this penultimate horror holiday than with this year’s costume, The Grim Reaper. Logan Blue is 11 this Halloween ::


I know I should have staged the background of the shot differently, but the serious-but-candid nature of the shot has a lot of appeal for me, too. The best thing about it is that it captures Logan’s love for the holiday.

Seriously… Enjoy tonight. Embrace the creativity of the day. Even if you’re not a fan of the macabre, embrace that chill that dances on the spine when things go “bump” in the darkness for just this one night. Most importantly, embrace the little ghouls in your lives or at your doors tonight. Give them all something good.