A Confabulator Cafe Review of John Hornor Jacobs’s Fierce as the Grave


After a bit of a hiatus due to other demands on my time, I have posted a new review at The Confabulator Cafe. This week, I review John Horner Jacobs’s Fierce as the Grave: A Quartet of Horror Storiesa collection  from the author of Southern Gods and This Dark Earth. You can find the review here.



Confabulator Review of The Least of My Scars

least-of-my-scarsThis week at The Confabulator Cafe, I reviewed Stephen Graham Jones’s amazing and disturbing novel The Least of My Scars. You can find my review here. It’s an excellent book, and I hope anyone who is a fan of dark, DARK psychological horror checks it out.

I had a great time at Planet Comicon this weekend. I am always extremely impressed at all of the work the artists put in. It’s got me really looking forward to ConQuest in a couple of months.


A Confabulator Cafe Review of Fortunately, the Milk

My latest Confabulator Cafe book review is available. This week, I step away from my standard dark fiction to review Neil Gaiman’s recent children’s story Fortunately, the Milk. My son gave me the book for Christmas (with my girlfriend’s help), so that I could read it to him. The review is less about the book and more about what it meant to me. You can read it at http://www.confabulatorcafe.com/2014/01/neil-gaimans-fortunately-milk-book-review/

A Cafe Review of McCarthy’s The Sunset Limited and “Flute of the Dead” News

In case you missed it, my latest book review is up at The Confabulator Cafe, featuring Cormac McCarthy’s The Sunset Limited: a Novel in Dramatic Form, and experimental scripting of a discussion between White, an atheist professor, and Black, a devout ex-con. You can find my review here: http://www.confabulatorcafe.com/2013/12/cormac-mccarthys-sunset-limited-book-review/

The latest issue of Bete Noire, containing my story “Flute of the Dead” is now available on Amazon. Check it out here: Bete Noire Issue #13

Thanks for reading. There are plans for a Lawrence NaNoWriMo next month. I’m planning on using it to finish the first draft of Heaven’s Edge before the spring semester begins. It looks like I will have a lot of work waiting for me when I graduate in July. Three novels and a host of short stories.

Thanks for reading,


Confabulator Cafe Book Review: Alan Ryker’s Nightmare Man


I have a new book review up at The Confabulator Cafe. Head on over and check out my thoughts about Alan Ryker’s latest novella from Darkfuse, Nightmare Man.


Book Review: House of Leaves

House of LeavesHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

House of Leaves isn’t so much a book as a literary amusement park. Most books, I could explain the plot, and while you may not experience the writing style, you will get the idea. House of Leaves is barely explainable in text. What is the plot anyway? The Navidson’s house? Zampano’s criticism of the Navidson film? Navidson himself? Zampano himself? Johnny Truant’s tumble down the rabbit hole? Or is the plot the book, just reading and finishing the book, just like Johnny Truant before you.

I’ve spoken to people who read the book in a couple of different ways. Some read it linearly, some (like me) followed all the notes to various other sections as they were mentioned, essentially reading out of order. Some said they didn’t really read the footnotes. Definitely read them. There is so much there. In fact, that is part of the brilliance of the book. The footnotes are incomplete. There are things still to be translated and decoded, and they are things that really do add to the story. I found myself writing footnotes in the margins, finishing the work.

House of Leaves takes a lot of chances. Writers are always told to strip anything that slows the story down. Danielewski plays with speed like a four year-old at record turntable. They are told to never remind the reader that they are reading a book. Danielewski constantly reminds us, and in fact makes it a challenge.

This is a book about a book about a movie (and a book?), and before long, the real story, at least for me, becomes the book itself. The two major plotlines are serviceable and would have been great on their own in stand-alone novels, but by making this book the way he did, Danielewski created something special that will last the test of time. It’s fun and disturbing. References and allusions abound and you will find the familiar ones to be spot on. Students of literary criticism will see a lot of satire long with the horror, as the book takes a lot of satirical shots at academic criticism and theory, but you really don’t have to know anything about criticism in order to love this book.

Overall, I cannot recommend it enough, read slowly, with a pencil for notes, just like Truant.
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Book Review: Southern Gods

Southern Gods

I met John Hornor Jacobs at ConQuest 44 in Kansas City. He was on a panel I attended and had some things to say about writing that I strongly supported. He spoke a little bit about his debut novel, Southern Gods. I bought it from a bookstore in the dealer room, and made it my next book to read.

Sometimes, you run in to a book that falls directly into your wheelhouse. Researching John Hornor Jacobs, I quickly found that we had similar backgrounds and similar literary interests. His influences were listed on Goodreads as Stephen King, William Faulkner, and Donald E. Westlake.  Prior to writing, he was a musician and graphic artist. While none of this specifically explains the appeal of Southern Gods, it definitely sets up a sort of compatibility with a certain writer (me) who would share his influences.

The book description makes Southern Gods sound like a regional Gothic novel mixed with H. P. Lovecraft. I don’t think that is particularly accurate. There is a lot more Stephen King in the flavor than Lovecraft, and while the South is a strong component of the story, the narrative more closely mirrors a pulp crime novel. Bull Ingram, one of the novel’s two protagonists, is a hardboiled character sent in search of a strange, dark musician with the ability to raise the dead and drive men mad. The Lovecraftian elements come in to play with strange books and old gods, who can’t help but involve themselves with humanity. As Vonnegut would say, so it goes.

The story doesn’t feel like a first novel. There are a lot of good things happening. Jacobs has a talent for storytelling. I found the characters and situations to be very interesting. Reviewing the book on Goodreads, one of my friends said after reading the novel, he wondered why he had never thought of it. I believe that is a great compliment to the story. It feels like it could have only been told in one way, as if the story was always there, just waiting to be written. It feels natural and simple, but without roaming into obvious.

I found myself staying up late into the night to finish the novel, which is something I don’t say very often as I get older. I didn’t read anything else from the moment I started the book to the moment I turned the last page, which is also uncommon. It kept my attention and it kept me reading. There isn’t much more you can ask from a book.

There is room for improvement, don’t get me wrong. Technically, the writing is above average, but will no doubt get better. It improved quite a bit between the beginning and end of the novel. However, it’s hard to imagine a better debut novel by a relatively new writer, which is obvious by the Stoker® nomination and the successful sales.

If you are a fan of regional horror and the style of a fifties crime novel, Southern Gods is definitely worth a read. I enjoyed it immensely.

Review: Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon

Red Moon: A Novel
by Benjamin Percy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Benjamin Percy is a fantastic, talented writer. His prose is tight and descriptive. He’s got great imagery and you never question his characters’ motivations. I enjoyed this novel. It has a weight to it that we are sometimes missing in the horror genre. This is true “literary” horror, steeped in political tensions. Like the best of its predecessors, this book is reflective of its time, an artifact of the particular fears of a particular generation. The best horror has always stripped away the pretenses of modernity, cracking the facade and letting through a truer light of our fears and our reactions to them.

The weakness of this novel is structural. Writers of our generation grew up with television and film, and you can see that influence in a lot of modern writing. There are several parts of this book that read like a movie. The scene will cut from a character, just as something is about to happen, creating tension. However, when you return to the character, the action has already occurred and the character is left to reflect upon it. As a result, you may find out a character is dead, and then spend the chapter finding out how they died. But just as human memory is not as strong as human experience, flashback is never as strong as active narration.

Percy rectifies some of the structural damage of this narrative style by writing in present tense. As a result, the flashbacks read in the past, rather than past perfect, which would have weakened them further. However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that we are sometimes robbed of visceral, immediate experience that is such a trademark of good horror. We don’t get the cathartic emotional release because we already know the outcome of the scene.

Ultimately, the book feels like something very good, that had a shot to be something special, but just barely missed. I highly recommend it, but can’t help but think of what might have been.

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