I return to normalcy at “The Strange, Far Places” after settling with the family into a new home here in Cedar Park, Texas, FINALLY beginning to bring to an end this crazy cross-country relocation process. AND… It’s fitting that I am penning this post from the “library” in our new digs, because today’s reviews are of two absolute PILLARS of modern horror lit.


“I have just discovered Thomas Tryon,” your TSFP author says VERY sheepishly.

How could this have happened? In my meanderings through all things horror… How could I have missed these seminal works of modern horror? How could I have never taken the time to explore Tryon’s work?

Well… I can really offer no excuse. Mea maxima culpa.

I suppose it’s rather like actually trying a genuine NY bagel for the first time… Alllll warm and chewy, piled in bacon / scallion cream cheese. I watched my wife do that one. Or perhaps my first experience with Bananas Foster, the flames uniting the flavors of the dish in sweet perfection. There is a dawning that echoes from the experience and makes one ask “Where the hell was I?”

Tryon is one of those guys who you used to just have to shake your head at. That guy in your dorm at college you didn’t know if you should love or hate. You know the type. You do love him because you want to BE him, but you hate the fact that you can’t. So, you rather jealously remain ambivalent. Tyron had true matinee idol rugged good looks and a successful acting career, so that would be enough for many. But to then leave that burgeoning career to start writing is amazing. Annnd THEN to master the writing game in a truly lyrical way… Well, that’s the stuff that makes you shake your head in awe.


Look at that gent. Damn you… And THANK YOU, Thomas Tryon for being so awesome.

I’m reviewing two of Tryon’s masterworks today, “Harvest Home” and “The Others.” I am thrilled to share these with you. I will review them together because I view them as a perfect one-two KO punch of classic horror perfection.

Here’s what the publisher’s description has to say about the stories::

THE OTHER — “Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions.

Thomas Tryon’s best-selling novel about a homegrown monster is an eerie examination of the darkness that dwells within everyone. It is a landmark of psychological horror that is a worthy descendent of the books of James Hogg, Robert Louis Stevenson, Shirley Jackson, and Patricia Highsmith..”


HARVEST HOME — “After watching his asthmatic daughter suffer in the foul city air, Theodore Constantine decides to get back to the land. When he and his wife search New England for the perfect nineteenth-century home, they find no township more charming, no countryside more idyllic than the farming village of Cornwall Coombe. Here they begin a new life: simple, pure, close to nature—and ultimately more terrifying than Manhattan’s darkest alley.

When the Constantines win the friendship of the town matriarch, the mysterious Widow Fortune, they are invited to join the ancient festival of Harvest Home, a ceremony whose quaintness disguises dark intentions. In this bucolic hamlet, where bootleggers work by moonlight and all of the villagers seem to share the same last name, the past is more present than outsiders can fathom—and something far more sinister than the annual harvest is about to rise out of the earth.”

These publisher’s summaries might feel like stories you’ve heard before, but don’t let that deter you. That’s only because Tryon has proven SO influential. Both of these are landmark works and so many have plumbed their genius to create lesser spawn.



“The Other” is the quintessential sibling / twins horror story. It twists and turns, beguiling and manipulating the reader, allowing us to fall under its spell and then shocking us in a new direction, turning us like . Then doing it all over again. Repeatedly. This is no mean feat. Even the jaded modern reader finds themselves at the novel’s mercy leaving you like you want to read it again when you finish, just to see how Tryon did it. This is real psychological horror.

I think a huge part of Tryon’s ability to beguile us into submission is directly to dazzling lyrical style. This is gorgeously crafted prose. Plain and simple. Look at this quote ::

The icehouse was fronted by big doors, warped and wide enough for a wagon. Leaning against one, he let his weight swing it inward. The interior was cool and dim; sun through the ruined roof sketched in beams, rafters, scaffolding; through the giant hole in the platform flooring, where the blocks of ice used to be hauled up, the river was a lake of murky green. Cattails clustered at the bank, sausages skewered on slender wands. Removing his sneakers, Niles waded knee-deep into the water. A flat bug skittered across its surface, spidery legs tracing intricate geometric patterns behind. Slippery gray mud at the bottom oozed between his toes; he gripped for balance as he edged along a narrow shelf and reached out to break the stalks of the rushes.

With a goodly harvest, almost more than he could manage, he footed his way back along the mud shelf to the loading platform. He dropped the cattails in a heap and lay on his belly beside them, head hanging over the platform edge, eyes staring meditatively down at the water. It was pleasant there in the shadows. It smelled of coolness, like a fern garden; like the well once had before they sealed it up. From upside down, one piling, gloved with green algae and slime, and larger than the rest, seemed to rear back as though resisting the gray mud that mired it. He squinted, looked hard, saw: primordial ooze, spawning strange beings down below, a race of quasi-lunged, half-legged creatures dragging themselves along the bottom; a world sunless, gloomy, nocturnal, where sunken logs lay, sodden and heavy, poor dead drowned things, and with them, hidden in the murk, savage bloated creatures, mouths wide as shovels, thick lips nuzzling threads of water-whitened ganglia, picking clean of flesh skeletons through whose empty eye-sockets coldly glowing eels wound like night trains, while overhead, through the ruined roof, pterodactyls soared the vacant sky.

He drifted, dreamed; and dreamed some more.

Are you even serious??? Muscular. Transformative. Poetic. This lush mastery of language, coupled with a true craftsman’s touch for story creation places “The Other” among the great horror lit canon. Amazing for a debut novel, no less. Sheesh.

Here are a few of the reviews from the book’s entry into the market. I don’t usually include these, but here… I think they made great sense.

“It is perhaps unfair and a little inaccurate to typecast The Other as a horror story. It is so ingenious and well-written that it transcends that—or any—label. The setting is the small Connecticut town of Pequot Landing, which under other circumstances, might be idyllic.  But the people who inhabit Tryon’s New England are just as haunted as O’Neill’s, and a lot more violent…His [Tryon’s] characterizations have depth and subtlety, the narrative is well-paced and suspenseful. Where he really excels is with mood and atmosphere. Rarely have such commonplace surroundings been made to seem quite so dark and menacing and chillingly evil.” – Chicago Tribune


“This first novel from Thomas Tryon is a distinguished one, it may well leave you blenched with horror, but it is beautifully, even poetically, wrought, and within its boundaries there would seem an actual divination into the spirit of murderess insanity….In due time The Other will doubtless become one of the classics of horror tales, comparable to The Turn of the Screw.” – Dorothy B. Hughes, Los Angeles Times


“A humdinger… A whirlpool of Oh-My-God horror. Please congratulate Mr. Tryon for me. What a marvelous job he’s done.” – Ira Levin, author of “Rosemary’s Baby”

I could NOT agree more. This is a can’t miss read, perfect for your Halloween season.


RATING ………………. 5 STARS



Tryon followed the 1971 masterpiece of “The Other,” in 1973 with “Harvest Home.” No sophomore slump for this guy. “Harvest Home” is yet another memorable entry into the “Hall of Greats of Horror Literature.” Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place?

Tryon is working with themes of neo-paganism here and rarely, if ever, has the subject been handled so deftly; with such a strong hand. Again, if a story of small town horror and neo-pagan ritual seems like something we’ve heard before, it’s only because other writers have borrowed so liberally from this work. Tryon, in his first shot at it, DEFINES this type of story. Though there are others in that followed, many that we all know well (Mr. King, I’m looking at you with “Children of the Corn”), this is the one to read.

Now, I do have to give props where they are due. The great Lovecraft himself mastered the art of small town northeastern horror and we see that clearly echoed here. And, lest we forget, 1967’s “Ritual” from David Pinner was a HIGHLY deft and influential work along these lines, eventually forming the basis for the horror film classic “The Wicker Man” (which came out a year after “Harvest Home”). So to be fair, Tryon had some weighty predecessors to stand on. However, this book is different, unique, and that’s why it defines the sub-genre for me.

Why? Again, I think it’s the peerless combination of pitch-perfect pacing and intricate plot creation here powered by Tryon’s tantalizingly rich language. The book ingratiates itself to us, working its way inside through pace, allowing us to totally identify with the main characters. Then it draws us in further through the intrigue of plot on top of subplot, layering and texturizing the story. And all of it presented in Tryon’s gorgeous prose. It adds up to something deeply affecting and horrifyingly unforgettable.

That can’t be understated here. This book really is affecting. It got inside me. It bubbles with an inner energy that is at once edgy and subversive, palpably sexually charged, claustrophobic and wonderfully devilish. I literally laughed out loud when I hit the end of this book, reveling in how it toyed with me and the heady mix of emotions that I felt. I have not done this in a very long time, but I reread both the climax and ending of this novel (among other passages) over and over in the weeks after I finished it, unable to dismiss it from my mind.

In all, this is the perfect follow-up to “The Other” and an awesome way to celebrate the harvest season. Read it.


RATING ………………. 5 STARS



As I mentioned in my previous post, I worked my high school (and a few college) summers in the bright sun and the heady atmosphere of an amusement park.

I remember it all… The roar of the carousel’s organ in the air, the metallic grind from the sea of gears hurtling laughing park-goers to and fro, the bark and sigh of the games on the midway, the smoky spice of Italian sausage on searing grills, the cloying sweetness of magenta clouds of cotton candy, the smoke of graphite powder covering my shoes and socks after a night running rides like “The Teacups,” the sunny smiles of beautiful girls in shorts and t-shirts with their sleeves rolled up in some attempt to brown their bare, white shoulders in the precious few months of sunshine that upstate New York has to offer.


Situated at the spot where Irondequoit Bay opens into Lake Ontario, Seabreeze Amusement Park is a true American icon amongst amusement parks. The park opened in 1879, making it the 12th-oldest operating amusement park in the world and it’s still going strong. Despite a ton of updates over the years, the “Jack Rabbit” roller coaster is still the crown jewel of the park’s offerings. “The Rabbit,” as all of my former co-workers in Rides called it, opened in 1920 and it’s the 4th-largest coaster still operating world wide. In all, it’s a park steeped in a rich history and I’m thrilled to have Polaroid memories of those “Seabreeze Summers.”

That’s undoubtedly one reason why I just loved Stephen King’s “Joyland,” a DIRECT connection to the book through my own life experience. But it’s certainly not the only reason. There’s a ton to love about this college-kid-coming-of-age-story set amongst the summer carny life of a reportedly haunted amusement park.

Here’s what the publisher’s description has to say about the story ::

“Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.”

This hints at the key aspects of the story like any good tease should, but only barely hints at the resonance here and I think that emotional resonance is the core strength of this book.

King has styled this as a “hard case paperback,” hearkening to the back-pocket love of those great grab-and-go stories of childhood. He succeeds in creating something that turns pages like those old school paperbacks did. It’s fun and titillating in all of the right ways with just the right touch of a ghost story. The novel goes by like a summer afternoon and it seems ringed in a golden haze when you think of it afterwards.

But that doesn’t get to the emotional core of the book any more than the publisher’s description does.

Then there is the rich, storied language that King uses throughout the book, a hard-boiled patois of carny life, part real, part invented. Even to a former real-life-college-kid-turned-summer-carny… An insider… It feels tactile and real and adds a strong sense of place and tradition to the story. Big kudos to King for this aspect of the book. We feel immersed and are the better for it. I could almost hear echoes of the circus folk of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic film, “Freaks”… “We accept her, one of us! ONE OF US!”

BUT… That still doesn’t speak to the emotional appeal of “Joyland.”

That emotional appeal lies in the wonderful sense of longing that King brings to his main character, Devon Jones. We see a “good kid” at that deliciously heart-wrenching crossroads between adolescence and adulthood in Devon. He is, in turns, naive and wise, angst-ridden and jubilant… Mature enough to be focused and sometimes even emotionally self-possessed but boyish enough to be hopelessly heartbroken in love and still unable to even control his erections. King gives us tableaus throughout the book that show us this without telling us. I have been in the places this book takes us to before, both in my heart and in my experience, and it was wonderful to visit them again.


In all, Joyland gives us a beautifully textured portrait for a “pulpy paperback” and Devon’s experience, his physical and emotional journey, is a true wistful joy. For anyone that has felt that longing, the pull of standing at that crossroads of youth and adulthood, it’s a story that totally disarms and delights with bittersweet touch. Oh, and don’t forget that there’s a ghost story here, too.

SO… Here’s to your “Seabreeze Summer” wherever it may take you!


RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS



In a special tribute to “Mother” in the broadest sense, we’re bringing you two reviews today uniquely suited to Mom’s Day.



Let’s start with another review from the world of dark cinema.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )



YEAR :: 1980

DIRECTOR :: Charles Kaufman


Ahhhhhh, Troma. The bizarre, the sensational, the “beyond the pale.” Always with Troma. This film is a textbook example of what the studio was best known for.

In many ways, “Mother’s Day” is a classic. Certainly, it’s an unforgettable ride. It tries to carry forward the schlocky fun of so many of the grindcore classics of the period, especially from the studio that brought you “The Toxic Avenger,” and on some level it succeeds in doing that. There are guilty laughs here. Overall, there is a strong sense of the ridiculous to the piece as a whole.

I mean, when the titular character, “Mother” is suffocated with an inflatable pair of fake boobs during the final “boss fight,” it’s hard not to think of this as a comedy of sorts.

That’s where the film succeeds, without question.

However, I honestly can’t think of the last comedy I watched where abduction, torture and rape were central to the plot. All of that is here in spades along with the ridiculous camp. This is the tough thing with “Mother’s Day” when fed through modern sensibilities. Grindcore just isn’t very often played for comedy anymore.

That’s where the film will run aground in the eyes of many.

So, where to net out on this film?

Personally, I have a soft spot for this type of fare. “Mother’s Day” and films like it, were what I cut my teeth on as I delved into more “adult” horror cinema as a young teen. There was something undeniably taboo about this strain of film and magnetic accordingly. I think it is that frame of mind that I can drift back into today when watching “Mother’s Day.” For that reason, I have to give it props.

Conversely. The film’s subject matter does have to take it down a peg or two. For the uninitiated, this would be a bit of an endurance test.

If you’re up for what Troma typically has to offer, this can be something quite fun. Bizzarre, grim and challenging, but fun. If you’re new to the studio or the style, I wouldn’t suggest starting here. Try “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” instead.


RATING ………………. 3.5 STARS



OK… This one’s a tough one. It’s funny to review this with “Mother’s Day,” as they do share some elements. What “Kin” does not share with “Mother’s Day,” however, is any sense of fun. This book is a blunt instrument, speckled with blood and crawling with maggots.

Here is how the publisher describes the story ::

On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers — a family of cannibalistic lunatics — are closing in… A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood… In snowbound Detroit, a waitress trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back on the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun… And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance… a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers… It’s time to return to Elkwood.

This description only provides the barest HINTS at the twisted craziness that is “Kin.” As someone who spends a LOT of time in this space, even I have to say “Holy crap, this one’s relentless.” NOT for the faint of heart.

The good :: Burke does create some images that sear into the brain. One in particular was nothing short of heart-stopping. I won’t put any sort of spoiler in this review, but it was truly a skin-crawling image and concept that has remained with me since I read it (that involves a mom). Kudos on that. On that front, the book offers some inventive stuff with a solid turn of phrase. This is the best part of “Kin.” Again, very challenging material, but unforgettable.

That’s really where the novel’s true wins stop, however. Beyond those select few chilling images and set pieces, the novel is a pastiche of things we have seen before.

I was immediately reminded of the notable X-Files episode “Home.” Here is a collection of scenes from the show ::

There ARE differences. Sure. But the similarities are SO numerous that it’s tough to think there wasn’t some pretty darn siginifant influence here. And there are many other pieces “out there” that act as direct parents to this novel. That was a shame, because it cheapened the book.

The other MAJOR issue I had with the book itself was the ending. I did like aspects of the final fight at the climax of “Kin,” but the neat, shiny bow placed on the dovetailing storylines as the novel comes to an end is… At best… Unrealistic… At worst… Just plain ridiculous. Honestly, it was one of the least plausible endings I have read in a very long time. It really felt as if Burke just got tired of writing and tried to end it all quickly, giving us something sweet to chase away all of the stomach-churning images he had created thus far.

I’m giving this one the same sort of treatment I did the film above. If you’re ready for something NUTS that will leave you with creative-but-indelible images of horror, this is something to explore. But this one is really only suited for the most hardened fans of horror and they should read it for those images, those set pieces that Burke creates. Beyond that, “Kin” unfortunately charts little new territory.


RATING ………………. 2.5 STARS



A truly different book merits a very different kind of review.


I will give you my take on Cormac McCarthy’s blood-soaked epic “Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West,” BUT, to be honest, everything I say will pale in significance to the sheer muscularity, the crimson sinew of this masterpiece. It comes to life like a dreamlike Gehenna that is equal parts Updike, Jodorowsky, Faulkner, Pynchon and Peckinpah with a soft kiss of Hesse. It’s rather like a crazed dark composition akin to something like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor composed by a demonic and unhinged anti-Copland. It is a true treasure of the American literary cannon and among the absolute best books of our time. In fact, Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list.

But… Why here? Why review this book on a blog dedicated to the horrific? Because it is just that, majestically horrific, brutally violent and bluntly chilling to the marrow.

But again, anything I write here will pale when set alongside the strength of “Blood Meridian.” I feel it best to share four haunting passages from the book to allow you to experience in small part its dark grandeur for yourselves and say nothing further.

Check these quotes out… Truly… Stunning…


“A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained wedding veil and some in headgear or cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a Spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of Christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.”


“They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them. The shadows of the smallest stones lay like pencil lines across the sand and the shapes of the men and their mounts advanced elongate before them like strands of the night from which they’d ridden, like tentacles to the darkness yet to come.”


“Spectre horsemen, pale with dust, anonymous in the crenellated heat. Above all else they appeared wholly at venture, primal, provisional, devoid of order. Like beings provoked out of the absolute rock and set nameless and at no remove from their own loomings to wander ravenous and doomed and mute as gorgons shambling the brutal wastes of Gondwanaland in a time before nomenclature was and each was all.”


“All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear.”


In all, an enduring, violent vision of the American West, charred, blood-stained, caked with mud and choked with dust… All staggeringly, beautifully realized.


RATING ………………. 5 STARS



I trust everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season! To celebrate the season here at “The Strange, Far Places,” I wanted to create a poster series in tribute to the Charles Dickens ubiquitous holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.” This is the second installment in the series.

We all know the story and we all tend to think of it for it’s message, a universal story of redemption and change. What we tend to forget because of its hopeful holiday context is that it’s really, in style and subject, another one of Dickens’ ghost stories. Realistically, this story is crawling with them — the four main agents of change within the story being spirits bent on not only educating Scrooge into a new way of life, but also scaring the nightshirt off of him to do so.

With the advent of the New Year, I am posting the final in a 4 poster series in tribute to the season and the ghosts that drive this story of chills and change. Here is poster No. 4 ::


The happiest of New Year’s wishes to all!




Welcome to Part II in our ongoing series in tribute to the great master Ray Bradbury. You can read Part I here. In tribute, I’m sharing horror works featured on a brilliantly produced radio series featuring Bradbury’s stories called “Bradbury 13.” YouTube user “The Edge of Nightfall” has posted episodes from the series. Soooo, here is “The Veldt,” a creeptastic classic …




I trust everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season! To celebrate the season here at “The Strange, Far Places,” I wanted to create a poster series in tribute to the Charles Dickens ubiquitous holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.” This is the third installment in the series.

We all know the story and we all tend to think of it for it’s message, a universal story of redemption and change. What we tend to forget because of its hopeful holiday context is that it’s really, in style and subject, another one of Dickens’ ghost stories. Realistically, this story is crawling with them — the four main agents of change within the story being spirits bent on not only educating Scrooge into a new way of life, but also scaring the nightshirt off of him to do so.

Between now and the New Year, I am posting 4 posters in tribute to the season and the ghosts that drive this Christmas story of chills and change. Here is poster No. 3 ::


The happiest of holidays to all!



I trust everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season! To celebrate the season here at “The Strange, Far Places,” I wanted to create a poster series in tribute to the Charles Dickens ubiquitous holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.” This is the second installment in the series.

We all know the story and we all tend to think of it for it’s message, a universal story of redemption and change. What we tend to forget because of its hopeful holiday context is that it’s really, in style and subject, another one of Dickens’ ghost stories. Realistically, this story is crawling with them — the four main agents of change within the story being spirits bent on not only educating Scrooge into a new way of life, but also scaring the nightshirt off of him to do so.

Between now and the New Year, I am posting 4 posters in tribute to the season and the ghosts that drive this Christmas story of chills and change. Here is poster No. 2 ::


The happiest of holidays to all!



I trust everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season! To celebrate the season here at “The Strange, Far Places,” I wanted to create a poster series in tribute to the Charles Dickens ubiquitous holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.”

We all know the story and we all tend to think of it for it’s message, a universal story of redemption and change. What we tend to forget because of its hopeful holiday context is that it’s really, in style and subject, another one of Dickens’ ghost stories. Realistically, this story is crawling with them — the four main agents of change within the story being spirits bent on not only educating Scrooge into a new way of life, but also scaring the nightshirt off of him to do so.

Between now and the New Year, I will be posting 4 posters in tribute to the season and the ghosts that drive this Christmas story of chills and change. Here is poster No. 1 ::


The happiest of holidays to all!




In 2012, we lost one of the greats, the ever-imaginative Ray Bradbury.

Bradbury’s stories range from the truly heartwarming to the hauntingly horrific and it is this intersection that makes his work as emotionally resonant as it is imaginative or terrifying to us. I’m, of course, focused on the author’s horror work on this blog and what a body of work it was. From “Something Wicked This Way Comes” to “Autumn’s People” to “Zero Hour” to “Small Assassin” and SO MANY others, he gave us some of the most enduring and heart-pounding images of youth.

His control of language was wonderful, sometimes even giving greats like Updike a run for their money. Look at these passages from two Bradbury short stories…

It came on great oiled, resilient, striding legs. It towered thirty feet above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker’s claws close to its oily reptilian chest. Each lower leg was a piston, a thousand pounds of white bone, sunk in thick ropes of muscle, sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin like the mail of a terrible warrior.

— AND —

How tall they stood to the sun. In the last few months it seemed the sun had passed a hand above their heads, beckoned, and they were warm metal drawn melting upward; they were golden taffy pulled by an immense gravity to the sky, thirteen, fourteen years old, looking down upon Willie, smiling, but already beginning to neglect him.


An early summer camp experience I had was my formal introduction to Mr. Bradbury’s work when a camp counselor would read a story each night to the dimly lit cabin from Ray’s shorter pieces after “lights out.” Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to those short stories was that they held a VERY squirrely group of pre-pubescent boys TOTALLY rapt in the quiet darkness of those warm summer nights. We would actually beg for the stories each night.

One of the stories that we heard was the Bradbury masterwork of tension, “The Ravine.” The story was also featured on the first episode of a brilliantly produced radio series featuring Bradbury’s work called “Bradbury 13.” YouTube user “The Edge of Nightfall” has posted episodes from the series. I will be sharing some of the horror pieces here in tribute to the master’s work.

Soooo, without further claptrap from me, “The Ravine” …




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



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.



This one is pretty dang cool. I just LOVE this sort of thing — taking an existing fictional universe we’re all very familiar with, something from the common pop-culture lexicon, and imbuing it with a new sense, especially something dark. That’s exactly what the creators of “Afterlife with Archie” have done. It officially releases 10 / 09 / 13! Sooooo, get to that comic store today, horror fans.

Here’s what the official description has to say  ::

“NEW ONGOING SERIES! “Escape From Riverdale”—This is how the end of the world begins… Harvey Award-winning writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Stephen King’s Carrie, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and Eisner-winning artist Francesco Francavilla (Batman, Black Beetle) take Archie and the gang where they’ve never been before—to the grave and back! A horrific accident sets off a series of grim events and Sabrina the Teenage Witch must try to repair the unspeakable evil her spell has unleashed. Gasp in horror as Riverdale faces an impending zombie Arch-pocalypse in this brand-new, spine-tingling ongoing series—but be warned, kiddies, this one’s not for the faint of heart! For TEEN+ readers.”

Check out these preview images from the series ::


FUN stuff with an absolutely A-list team at the helm. Definitely one to watch.



From Tim Cahill’s “Buried Dreams” ::

“I ain’t into that,” the man says in the boy’s whining voice, “I ain’t good at that…”

“You do it right, maybe I’ll take the cuffs off.”

At Menard, John Wayne Gacy fumbles with the catch of his pants, then lets them drop around his ankles. On the outside, he wore sheer briefs, almost panties, in various colors. Now he is wearing prison-issue shorts, and under them is the hint of an erection. He glances down at himself.

This, he seems to be saying, is the proof. Here, between my legs, is the truth. I am Jack; I am the one who lives in John’s mind. I am out now and I make no apologies. I have no regrets, I feel no remorse. All those things goody-goody John consistently denied — all the atrocities, the very worst of them — really happened. I am Jack and Jack did it all. See my proud proof. Yes, I played the cop; yes, I hurt the boys; yes, I forced them to perform sex acts; and then, yes, I hurt them again and again and again. The proof that this, finally, is the way it all happened, the hard evidence of my sincerity is here. See, here!


“Buried Dreams” is harrowing. Plain and simple.

The original publisher’s book description from 1986 sums it up this way ::

This account examines the case of John Wayne Gacy, a successful and respected member of the community who cheered up sick children in hospital dressed as a clown, but who was also one of the most prolific serial killers in criminal history. Inside his scrupulously tidy suburban home, in 1978 police found the remains of 29 teenaged boys, all brutally tortured, violated and strangled. The author explores the complex personality, compulsions, inadequacies and torments of a profoundly disturbed human being.

In my review of “The Killer Inside Me,” I mentioned that it’s fascinating for me to see what makes a killer tick; to explore how their sociopathy or psychopathy manifests itself. It’s directly connected to my love of horror and with true crime books like this, the reality of the story makes it all the more horrifying. Cahill gives us that glimpse in a truly unique way.

The book explores Gacy’s experiences largely from Gacy’s own viewpoint. The detail and immediacy of this approach gives the book its strength, but it was no easy task for the author to complete this piece. Cahill said this of the experience of writing the book, “My first book was called ‘Buried Dreams,’ about a serial-killer, which was probably about ten years ahead of the serial-killer curve. It was a national bestseller, but it was three years of living in the sewer of this guy’s mind.”

As difficult as that three year slog through Gacy’s mind must have been for Cahill, it pays off in spades for the reader as we take that trip with the author in “Buried Dreams,” experiencing first-hand the truly chilling center of Gacy’s dysfunctional mind.

Some have leveled criticism that this “from the horse’s mouth” approach engenders affinity or gives too much of a soapbox to the killer himself. I fundamentally disagree with this. At no point in the read did I ever feel a sense of sympathy for Gacy, nor did I feel that Cahill was asking for it for his subject. Often times, the most damming way to present a subject like a serial killer is from his or her own perspective, knowing that we, the readers, understand the deeply disturbed mind at work in someone like Gacy. Cahill keeps handing Gacy more rope throughout the book, aware that he will hang himself. He does and it’s captivating to watch through these pages.

“Buried Dreams” is filled with grim scenes demonstrating Gacy’s bizarre pathology. They are deftly delineated with penetrating detail, transporting the reader. To that end, it is especially worth noting the chapters centered around Gacy’s prison re-enactment of a crime with a young teen. The above quote kicking this review off is from that section of the book. It is a truly unforgettable scene and, for me, forms one of the most wrenching and frighteningly fascinating passages in any book I have experienced.

NOT for the feint-of-heart, “Buried Dreams” really does take us into the twisted mind of John Wayne Gacy in a very primary way — a must-read for those that are ready for that dark journey.


RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS