Monday, October 31, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

Seven Stories Press. 2005.

Physically an eleven year old black girl, Shori Matthews wakes up blind, with burns covering most of her body and serious skull fractures in two locations. She is able to quickly heal her physical wounds but her memories prior to her awakening are gone. It's apparent that Shori is not a normal human being and in her search to recover her memories, discover who she is, and what happened to her, she discovers that she's an Ina, what we would call a vampire, and also the target for a group set upon destroying her because she's also something more.

I first read this book upon its initial publication and was just stunned by how well it works. I was already well aware that Butler was a first rate author, but Fledgling succeeds in every aspect: the mystery behind Shori and her amnesia (which also works as a perfect way to bring in exposition as needed); Butler's fascinating biological and anthropological approach to the Ina, making them at once familiar as vampires and new and fascinating in the approach to how they function as both living organisms and as a culture; the rich, well-rounded characters; and the threat of being pursued by the unknown. While it is a completely satisfying self-contained story, it's clear that Butler had planned to explore this world further in subsequent books. Unfortunately Butler died in 2006 at the age of 58.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30

After the People Lights Have Gone Off  by Stephen Graham Jones

Dark Horse Press. 2014.

Stephen Graham Jones is one of the finest writers of horror fiction living. If you don't believe me, then pick up a copy of this book. The stories here favor a minimal, matter of fact narrative style that serves the stories well. Not only is there an "I'm telling you how it went down" aspect that makes what's happening feel more immediate and more intimate, it disallows easy answers. The reader will have to draw their own conclusions in some cases, but that makes the stories even creepier (and they are creepy) and allows them to end with a real punch in the gut. This book is definitely a high note on this list. Jones has around twenty other books out there and I plan to read all of them.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29

Something In the Blood by David J. Skal

Liveright Publishing Corporation. 2016

Dracula expert, Skal, concludes his defining explorations of Dracula from novel to play to movie with this massive biography of Dracula's creator, Bram Stoker. Skal's excellent storytelling ability and attention to detail makes this an engrossing read, but Stoker often vanishes into the shadows of his more flamboyant contemporaries such as Oscar Wilde and the theatrical star to whom Stoker devoted his life, Henry Irving, but their story illuminates his own. This is probably the greatest scholarship we'll see on Stoker barring a large discovery of important missing letters which could provide any real revelations still unknown. Like all of Skal's other books, this one is excellent.

Friday, October 28, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 28

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Margaret K. McElderberry Books. 2014.

I've been a fan of Emily Carroll's work for a few years now. Her art is beautiful; deceptively pleasant with a true creepiness lying in wait underneath. Her storytelling is similar in nature. Spare, almost matter of fact but so unnerving and often delivering a real punch to the gut by the end. Casually flipping through the pages you'd probably think there's no way this book could give you the willies, but trust me, it does. This collection of short stories in comic book form is one of the most disturbing books I've shared this month, and one of the creepiest graphic novels I've ever read, and I've read a lot. Best read while alone in a remote house in the country on a dark and stormy night. I'd also suggest by candle, but you'll want more light to see the artwork and what might be in the room with you. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 27

An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

Titan Books. 2014.

A fracturing family moves into The Hollow, the former estate of a popular children's author, in the country. Strange things begin to happen there, but it's more of the opposite of a haunting which they think of as being charmed. The magic relaxes them and brings them closer together patching over all of the differences that seemed to be driving them apart as they fall into harmony with the Hollow and it's invisible residents. This is a horror novel though, so while everything is indeed magical and idyllic, you can't but wait wondering when the other shoe will drop. When it does it hits with a wallop. The change is almost too abrupt, but by then you are so invested in this family that watching it, and each member begin to unravel as the harmony they once felt with the Hollow becomes cacophonous discord, that you are swept up in their turn towards tragedy and there's nothing you can do to stop them. It's a refreshing approach to the haunted house story and comes with an ending that's unexpected.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 26

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters by Britt Salvesen and Jim Shedden with Paul Koudounaris, Keith McDonald, and Roger Clark

Insight Editions. 2016

Tying in to the Guillermo Del Toro - At Home with Monsters exhibit currently showing at LACMA and to later travel to a number of other cities, the book looks at Guillermo Del Toro's collection of highbrow and lowbrow art and books including toys, comic books and model kits, and how he uses that collection to fuel his imagination and his own art as a filmmaker. For anyone who is a process junkie, this book is a treasure. This is a very informative look into the creative process from inspiration to integration and execution. For me, Del Toro's collection has become the new Ackermansion, and just as I closely studied those photos that Forrest J. Ackerman used to share in the pages of Famous Monsters, I've often given close scrutiny to photos and videos of the collections in Del Toro's Bleak House. While there are a number of photos of his collection in the book, I would have liked many more. Perhaps a full book of GDT shelf porn will come along in the future.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25

The Eyes of the Cat  by Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky

Humanoids. 2013.

This 1978 collaboration is a vey slight story about the relationship between a boy and an eagle that's horrifying and packs a real punch at the climax. The art, of course, is beautiful, and Jodorowsky contributes an introduction about how this book came to be that will take longer to read than the story itself. Budget conscious readers may want to pass on this, though it's only $5.95 on Kindle (see below), and can be found in hardcover for under $20.00 from 3rd party sellers.

Monday, October 24, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 24

The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo

William Morrow. 2013

Subtitled; A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece, The Lady and Her Monsters not only provides biographical information on Mary Shelley and her circle, but investigates scientific advancements and investigations, such as electricity and galvanism, philosophical questions of the time, volcanic eruptions, and the activities of anatomists and body snatchers that were taking place before and during the time of her writing Frankenstein. The book also relates the legendary events that took place Villa Diodati and led to a ghost story contest and the writing of Shelley's famous novel. While the material is covered in depth in other books, it is nice to have all of the disparate elements brought together between two covers. As the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein approaches, and 200 years now separates us from the events of Villa Diodati, it's a perfect way to go behind the scenes of the classic novel.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Tor Books. 2006.

Every Halloween a small isolated agricultural community stages "the Run." The town's 16-18 year old males, after five days of fasting, he'd out into the night armed with clubs, pitchforks, knives, hammers, and other deadly implements to try and find and kill the October Boy before he kills them and reaches his goal of the town church. The October Boy is a supernatural being, an ambulatory scarecrow topped with a jack o'lantern head and armed with a knife.

It's a simple, and very effective plot, yet Partridge is able to inject a surprising amount of twists and revelations into its compact length. Told in a driving narrative style that never lets you forget you're being told a story, Dark Harvest blasts out of the starting gate and never lets up until the end. This is the perfect Halloween book.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22

Ghostly edited, illustrated and introduced by Audrey Niffenegger

Scribner. 2015.

This is an anthology of ghost stories selected by author/artist Niffenegger. There is no theme or specified range of stories in the collection. They are simply stories that she liked and wanted to share. Niffenegger has great taste. While some of the stories are familiar and well anthologized in other collections of ghost stories, they still resonate and are in excellent company. Some of the authors include Edgar Allen Poe, Saki, Ray Bradbury, M.R. James, Niffenegger herself, Kelly Link, M.R. James and P.G. Wodehouse. It's a really nice mix. Everyone of these stories is a gem. If they could all be of this quality I'd encourage more anthologies of stories chosen by established authors based simply on what they like without concern about whether the stories have been anthologized before.

Friday, October 21, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21

Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts by Orrin Grey

Word Horde. 2015.

Orrin Grey should be a familiar name to followers of the Countdown to Halloween since he has been an active participant for several years now. Painted Monsters contains thirteen short stories most of which begin with old horror tropes, particularly cinematic ones. Grey then gives these tropes very new, clever, spins while often dropping nods to their inspirations. Lovecraft, Poe, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, Roger Corman, and others all have their fingerprints laying under the fresh paint. These are not pastiches, however. These are original works with their own dark secrets, and are all worth reading, particularly Persistence of Vision which is ripe with novel ideas and chilling in its scope and suggestion.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

William Morrow. 2015

When a medical cure cannot be found for 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett's increasingly troubled behavior, her father, John, turns to a spiritual one, and her mother, Sarah, reluctantly goes along with it. Father Wanderly believes that Marjorie is a victim of demonic possession, and secures permission to perform an exorcism, all of which will happen under the watchful cameras of the reality show The Possession. The family dynamic, already in jeopardy quickly unravels as related to us by Marjorie's eight-year-old sister, Merry, now an adult relating the events to the author of a book on the story of the Barretts.

At the center of the book is whether or not Marjorie is actually possessed, or just a troubled teen showing signs of mental illness. This is not spelled out in any obvious way, and no characters sit down and discuss this directly, but it's there, and Tremblay uses familiar possession tropes to reinforce this divide. To Tremblay's credit, the book is more troubling and disturbing if the possession isn't real. There's a real creep factor to this book. Sure, some of that comes from the implied supernatural aspect of the story, but most of it comes from watching this family disintegrate under the detached watch of the cameras, and where Merry seems to be the only family member who isn't falling apart, and who finds herself needing her troubled sister's love and comfort as her parents pull away from each other.

A Head Full of Ghosts is very well done. I'm looking forward to reading more of Tremblay's work.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19

Poems Bewitched and Haunted selected and edited by John Hollander

Everyman's Library Pocket Books. 2005

This book is exactly what it sounds like, a collection of poems about witchcraft and spirits. The poems are divided into five categories and come in a variety of lengths and styles. Some are excerpts from longer works. Unfortunately, there is no context provided for where these poems were taken and no real additional information about the poems, or poets is provided. There are some real gems here, and some that barely seem to fit the criteria. You won't face any sleepless nights dipping into this collection, but it's perfect for some bedtime reading by candle light on a rainy Fall, or Winter's night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18

Edgar Allan Poe's Spirits of the Dead - By Richard Corben
Dark Horse Books. 2014

Richard Corben is no stranger to adapting the works of Edgar Allan Poe to comics, having previously done so for Creepy and Eerie back in the 1970s. Now with a bit more room to breathe he has adapted a number of stories which appear collected here. Like Roger Corman's movie adaptations, Corben's interpretations stem from a mood or theme that Poe established in his poems, and filled out a narrative that built on that mood or theme and has turned them into a successful narrative adaptation. While Corben's almost sculpted, full color artwork may not seem to be what many people would think of as the most suitable style for adapting Poe, it works beautifully, grotesquely, or both simultaneously. This is not even the end of Corben's Poe adaptations, but is is a really nice collection and a welcome addition for fans of Poe, or Corben, to add to their library.

Monday, October 17, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17

Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

Mariner Books. 2010.

Of all the books I've posted so far this month, this one is my favorite. Based on true events that took place at the end of the 16th century, Daughters of the Witching Hill tells the story of an impoverished family living in an old tower in the woods. The family is led by Bess Southerns, a Cunning woman, who uses a mixture of herbology, prayer, and perhaps some gifts given to her by her familiar, Tibb, to heal the local sick and livestock. This gift is not present in Bess's daughter, Liza, but seems to be the destiny of her granddaughter, Alizon, who resists her calling. The story, told from the perspective of Bess and, later, Alizon, is an intimate look at their lives at home and in the surrounding community, and is a slow burn leading up to the tragedy that will destroy them that hits hard when it comes. This is an extremely well written book that transports you into the middle of the story. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16

Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt

Shock Totem Publications. 2016

This debut collection is a triumph. Eerie and mysterious with questions often left unanswered and the revelations all at an intimate personal level. Full of originality and dread, Wehunt never forgets that stories are about people, no matter how big, or uncaring, the universe is that surrounds them. Many of the stories are about loss and the emotional turmoil felt by those left behind, but each story is a unique gem filled with hidden secrets and treasure and the occasional door that should not be opened. As you can see by the great Michael Bukowski cover, other things lurk as well. This collection contains eleven stories. I can't wait for the next batch to appear.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15

Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont

Penguin Classics. 2015.

Beaumont who died an early death at age 38 is best known for the screenplays he wrote for Roger Corman and the 22 episodes of The Twilight Zone which he wrote, often based on his short stories, some of which appear in this collection. Beaumont was a master of the short story as evidenced in the almost two dozen stories here, not all of which are horror. Beaumont used the fantastic to showcase a deep understanding of the human condition, and his stories still hold up today. If you are a fan of Ray Bradbury (who provides the introduction) or Richard Matheson, then this will be right up your alley.

Friday, October 14, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14

Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters

Dark House Press. 2016.

Alison, a young woman who has been horribly burned, and become a recluse from the world, collects old photo albums, projecting lives onto the strangers within them. One one of her rare ventures out of her house she comes into possession of a photo album in which she can only access the first page. The other pages are all stuck together, but over time, the album seems willing to reveal them to her one more page at a time revealing empty rooms in a house, a house, that's not only not empty, but one she can enter through the photographs, and which seem to be physically healing her. Alison is aware that the promise being offered to her by the haunted album is probably a trick at best, and a trap at worst, but struggles to find the courage to resist its invitation.

Walters' portrayal of Alison as someone both physically and psychologically devastated rings true and makes for a compelling empathetic character as she longs to be whole again. The world and characters within the haunted album are creepy and enticing. Walters bravely holds back on the story behind Alison's burns until far into the story, and I wish she hadn't decided to include it, because while initially wondering at her back story, I actually felt we knew all we needed to through dropped clues, without actually visiting the scene itself, though I understand the rationale for including it. This is less a criticism than an admiration at Walters' ability to provide just enough exposition at strategic points to provide a picture. Walters also takes the time to build the story making for a more natural pace and fulfilling involvement with Alison and her plight.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13

The Art of Ploog by Mike Ploog

FPG. 2015.

Mike Ploog is known to many as the artist behind the definitive renditions of Marvel's monster characters such as Werewolf By Night, Ghost Rider, the Monster of Frankenstein, and Man-Thing. He's also a design and storyboard artist for movies including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors, Return to Oz, and John Carpenter's The Thing. Begun as a Kickstarter project and now available through the FPG website, this hefty volume is chock full of Ploog's art from his stint in the military, his comic book work, movie design and storyboards, and collectible card game work, among other pieces.

Order the book here.

or through Amazon...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 12

A Season with the Witch by J.W. Ocker

The Countryman Press. 2016. 

Ocker has a really cool profession which is to travel to lots of strange and incredible places and then write about them. You can find these observations regularly at his site OTIS - Odd Things I've Seen, and in his outstanding books, The New England Grimpendium, The New York Grimpendium, the Edgar Award winning Poe-Land, and his latest, A Season With the Witch

A Season with the Witch is an exploration of Witch City - Salem, Massachusetts over the course of its month long Halloween festivities in 2015. Besides diving into the local culture and attractions whether they be connected to the Salem witch trials of 1692, its maritime history, it's literary history via Nathaniel Hawthorne, or its modern witch and Halloween cultures, Ocker seeks to connect the dots from Salem's infamous place in history via the witch trials and executions to its modern embracing of a more pop culture friendly witch and Halloween atmosphere. He does so remarkably well, interviewing some interesting people along the way from haunted attraction performers, restaurant owners, historians, curators, politicians, the chief of police, and of course, witches. He does so with humor and insight and also makes the reader feel like they are walking the streets of Salem alongside him. I highly recommend this, and his other books. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 11

Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth - Studies in the Horror Film  edited by Danel Olson

Centipede Press. 2016.

Part of Centipede Press' Studies in the Horror film series, this book is a collection of essays and interviews pertaining to the pair of Guillermo del Toro's outstanding fantasy films set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. As someone who finds that dry academic analysis of anything tends to tell more about the pomposity of the writer than the subject, I'm happy to report that the analytical essays here are informative and insightful and only one of them crosses the line into going into intellectual grandstanding, but even that essay had its moments. The interviews with various cast and crew members from both films, along with a group with del Toro himself were also insightful both to art of filmmaking and the construction of character and story. Recommended.

Monday, October 10, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 10

Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth - edited by Stephen Jones
Titan Books. 2013.

This is the second of a trilogy of anthologies edited by Jones based around "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by H.P. Lovecraft. This volume is an improvement over its predecessor, which was filled with stories that were fine tributes on their own, but lacked enough diversity between them to make anything other than monotonous reading when taken one right after the other. The short stories which make up Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth, while all derived from elements of Lovecraft's tale, vary in content enough that they avoid the redundancy that occurred in the first volume, and to be honest, most of the stories here are of a better quality. It's actually nice to see the range of stories that were created out of elements from the same source material and to feel like there is still enough left over for further stories which means I will be picking up the third volume. If you are a fan of Lovecraft, or Weird fiction in general this is worth picking up.


Sunday, October 09, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 9

Memento Mori by Paul Koudounaris
Thames & Hudson. 2015

From ossuaries to Catholic mummies, Bolivian ˜Natitas, to gilded skulls, and fully dressed skeletons, photographer, Paul Koudounaris, a specialist in the culture of death takes us on a world tour of places where the remains of the dead are still part of the day to day culture and customs of the living. The photographs are exquisite, and the text informative. Like his two previous books (The Empire of Death and Heavenly Bodies), Memento Mori is a must have.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 8

Roy Thomas Presents Frankenstein - The Classic Series Written and Drawn by Dick Briefer Volume 3
PS Publishing. 2014.

Cartoonist Dick Briefer had previously crafted a comic book series starring a gruesome and often violent version of the Frankenstein Monster, but this volume (the first actually published in this series of collected reprints) presents a less horrifying, friendly, gentle monster who serves as the occasional protector of the town of Mippyville from an assortment of weird and malicious supernatural foes and criminals. While this is a humor book, there are some pretty dark images and character designs and some gruesome deaths. This is a very entertaining collection of stories.

Friday, October 07, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 7

Witches & Warlocks - Marvin Kaye, editor.
Guild America Books. 1989.

I've already written about a couple other anthologies edited by Marvin Kaye in Halloween Countdown's past. This one, centered around witches and warlocks, obviously, is varied enough in its content that it never becomes monotonous. Like any collection, there are going to be some stories more outstanding than others, and this is no exception, only here there are far more hits, and no outright duds. All of this beneath a gorgeous wrap around cover by Edward Gorey ( a print of which adorns one of the walls in my home).

Thursday, October 06, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 6

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher
Crown. 2015.

In the 1920s, in the wake of World War I, Spiritualism boomed in popularity as people yearned to know that their lost sons and husbands continued to exist after death, and hoped that they could still communicate with their loved ones. Drawn to believe in Spiritualism was celebrated author, Arthur Conan Doyle, following the death of his own son. Drawn to Spiritualism with a desire to find proof that it was real, and not a sham, was Houdini, who longed to communicate with his dear mother.

Houdini spent a lot of his time traveling and debunking mediums everywhere he went, often with great ease. Then along came Mina Stinson Crandon, a Boston woman, known to the world as "Margery" who was skilled enough in her performance that a scientific inquiry into the validity of her claims to communicate with spirits was about to declare her the genuine thing. Houdini didn't believe it though, and his efforts to prove her claims false proved to be problematic.

Jaher's book covers a fascinating rivalry with real drama and intrigue. My only quibble is that much of the material is presented without specific dates, making the timing of events difficult to keep track of, especially when there are a few points where the story jumps back and forth in time. Otherwise this was an interesting reading experience.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5

The Art of Horror - edited by Stephen Jones
Applause Theater and Cinema Books. 2015.

While many would argue that horror works best when letting the reader imagine the horrors themselves, the genre has inspired artwork going back to the dawn of time. Divided into sections by theme - Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, Witches, Lovecraft, Giant Monsters, etc., accompanied by an informative text by a panel of experts, this books displays a range of fantastic imagery from pulp illustrations to modern digital paintings, all of them glorious and beautifully presented.

There is no way that a single book can thoroughly cover the subject matter, but this is a great start and it allowed me to finally put the names of the artists to a number of images that have haunted me for years. I would have preferred less devotion to movie posters, as central an element to the theme of fine art and horror as they might be, but perhaps a follow up volume will appear that will fill in some of the gaps and expand the range of material and artists covered. This is really an excellent book and is a must have for any fan of the genre.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4

Slade House by David Mitchell
Random House. 2015.

Beyond an obscure iron door set in the wall of a hard to find alley, lies Slade House. Every nine years, its residents lure in a special person in order to devour their souls in order to extend their own lives. Fascinating characters, strange hallucinatory imagery, a sense of dread and fascination, and beautiful writing, make this a book that's almost impossible to put down. Captivating in every sense, Slade House lures you in and refuses to let you go, just like one of its victims.

Monday, October 03, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 3

Snowblind - by Christopher Golden
St. Martin's Press. 2014.

During a terrible winter storm, eighteen citizens of Coventry, Massachusetts meet their end. There are  a number of rational explanations given, but the truth, as one of them knows from witnessing one of the deaths first hand, is that there are terrifying creatures in the snow. Nearly invisible, icy bogeymen which are one with the storm, pulled and propelled through the gusts of snowy wind.

Every Winter since, the citizens of Coventry are made uneasy with every heavy snowfall. Twelve Years after the mysterious deaths, another big winter storm is on its way, and the survivors, those who were most directly touched by the deaths, find themselves in the midst of fresh supernatural manifestations, as they prepare for the return of the murderous ice creatures.

This is the perfect book to read against the backdrop of an actual blizzard, especially if you live in New England. Golden perfectly captures the weight and intensity of being caught in a blizzard and amplifies that with the addition of his wraithlike ice creatures. The book is eerie and tense with dread, but also moving as the varied characters cope with loss and the way their own lives turned out after the deaths from the initial assault. I read the first half of this book in one sitting as a blizzard raged beyond the window behind me, and finished it two days later when we were hit again by an even bigger winter storm.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 2

Haunted Castles by Ray Russell
Penguin Books. 2013.

Haunted Castles collects seven short stories by former Playboy fiction editor, and screenwriter, Ray Russell. The stories included are the loosely linked trilogy, Sardonicus, Sagittarius, and Sanguinarius, as well as Comet Wine, The Runaway Lovers, The Vendetta, and The Cage. Russell is a master of the modern Gothic, mixing in a gleefully cruel streak akin to the Grand Guinol. Twisted, more than twist endings are to be found here. This is a perfect collection for the season from this underrated writer.

As a bonus, the book comes with a special introduction from Guillermo Del Toro which is no mere fluff piece from a name genre director, but an insightful look into this (and the other five volumes in this set of horror masterpieces that Del Toro oversaw [see the links below]) collection, showing that Del Toro has explored the deepest recesses of horror and fantasy.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 1

Vampires, Two Centuries of Great Vampire Stories Edited by Alan Ryan

Themed anthologies are often hit or miss. On the miss side it's usually because of too much similarity between the stories contained together, or simply poor quality stories outnumbering the good stuff. This book is definitely on the hit side. While countless vampire tales have been written, Vampires is a wide ranging survey of quality work published between 1816 and 1984. The book contains some famous early touchstones such as Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest, but also contains some lesser known works such as the outstanding Cabin 33 by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. The quality of the work is high throughout and the range of stories that all qualify as vampire stories is quite diverse. This is a must have book.


31 Days of Halloween - Greetings

Welcome to my 2016 Halloween Countdown. This is my eleventh annual Halloween Countdown. This year I'm going to do something a little different. In past years I've posted several times a day including random, or themed, depending on the year, observations, art, riddles, links, photos, comic book stories, etc. devoted to the big holiday on October 31. Along with all of those posts I've also shared every movie I watch throughout the month of October one, two, and even occasionally three per day. That's around 650 movies so far. The plus side of that is it's a lot of movies, many of which I'd never seen before. The down side is that because I only wanted to cover movies I hadn't posted about previously that meant no repeats and left a lot of favorites off of my viewing list for October for a long time. This year I'm going to bask in the companionship of the Universal Classics as well as many other favorites, but I won't be posting about them here. If you want to see what I watched you can find a list here and the rest here. My previous Halloween Countdowns in their entirety can be seen by clicking on October of each year from 2006-2015 in the blog archive to your right.

Instead I'll be covering another love of mine. Same genre, different media, which doesn't get nearly the coverage during the Halloween season as it should. I'm talking about books. Anthologies, single author short story collections, novels, macabre non-fiction, biographies and graphic novels will all be represented as I share some of the relevant books I've read over the past few months. The good thing is that I've decided to share only books I really enjoyed, and only books by authors who don't often get the spotlight thrown their way. Sure, I really enjoyed Joe Hill's The Fireman, recent books by Stephen King, and graphic novels by Mike Mignola, but those guys don't really need a finger pointed their way. Also, because I really like to go into a book knowing as little about it as possible, the reviews are pretty general and as unspoilery as I could make them. Some of the books work incredibly well if you have no idea what they are about before starting them.

Each of the books I chose are also pretty easy to get your hands on, and I've even provided a handy link on each post so that you can order the book from Amazon. Please use this link. If you make a purchase from Amazon by visiting through those links (even if it's not the item in question) Amazon will throw some revenue my way. It's hardly a noteworthy amount, but can cover the cost of a book or two that I purchase later on.

I recommend doing this on any site that provides a link to something that the creator of that blog has steered your way. Think of it as a tip jar for being directed to quality entertainment.

Also, be sure to visit my companion blog, The Grim Gallery for all things monstrous 365 days a year.

I'm not alone in running an annual Countdown to Halloween. After you are done here, please visit Countdown to Halloween where you will find links to hundreds of blogs hosting their own countdown this year. If you want to be part of that group, information on how to do so can be found at that link as well.

Now go grab a warm glass of apple cider and curl up under a thick blanket while the wind howls outside and a branch (or, is it?) taps at your window glass. You have some spooky reading ahead of you. Enjoy.