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Friday, August 12, 2016

What I'm Reading: Booklist's Horror Spotlight Issue

In the August 2016 issue of Booklist I had three reviews and 1 online only review. I know there are still three more turned in reviews in the pipeline for the September issues and I have another stack piled up here at home to read.

The haunting season is coming fast. Time to get ordering. Also a quick note, I will not add extra readalikes to these reviews because I have a ton in the review, but I will pull out my three words and I have added links to authors and such.

A Long December
By Richard Chizmar
Oct. 2016. 520p. Subterranean, hardcover, $40  (9781596067936)
First published August, 2016 (Booklist).

Chizmar may not be a name readers know, but they certainly know the names of those he has published in his 27 year career running the award-winning Cemetery Dance Publications- Stephen King, Justin Cronin, Joe R Lansdale and Gillian Flynn to name only a few. This huge collection of 35 tales spans Chizmar’s entire career offering a wide range of genres from crime to dark fantasy to horror. Some pieces, published previously are included as is, while others have been reworked, and still others were never available before now, but all are subtly terrifying tales of normal lives that are completely upended by circumstance beyond anyone’s control. Chizmar’s stories are united by the feelings they produce, dread, anxiety, and suspense, but more remarkable is how they are presented with a poignancy and underlying sweetness that cannot be ignore like in the eponymous novella where the protagonist wakes up to police surrounding his neighbor and best friend’s home because that man is a serial killer. How can you process that? It’s well past time to let the man behind so many other great stories have a chance to wow readers with his own chilling words. This is a must read for fans of intense tales where psychological suspense and horror overlap like in the novels of Peter Straub, Scott Smith, or Adam Nevill.

Three Words That Describe This Book: suspense, stories, chilling

The Motion of Puppets
by Keith Donohue
Oct. 2016. 272p. illus. Picador, hardcover, $26  (9781250057181); e-book (9781250057211)
First published August, 2016 (Booklist).

Donohue [The Stolen Child, The Boy Who Drew Monsters] has written a masterpiece of psychological horror that will change the way you look at puppets forever. Kay, a performer in the cirque and her new husband, Theo, a French professor in New York, are spending the summer in the old portion of Quebec City while Kay performs and Theo translates the biography of the artist and pioneering photographer of motion, Eadweard Muybridge [whose macabre yet intriguing life adds wonderful depth to the novel]. After a late post-show dinner, Kay walking home alone, frightened and disoriented, enters an old toy store which was surprisingly unlocked, only to find herself transformed into a puppet and held prisoner in the back of the shop, where all the puppets can come alive between midnight and dawn. What follows is each of their tales, told in alternating points of view. Theo desperately searching for his vanished beloved begins to find connections to the old toy shop but is having trouble believing those who say the puppets may be alive; meanwhile Kay is slowly forgetting the human world she came from and is embracing her life as a puppet with her new friends. Time may be running out for Theo to locate Kay and convince her to come back to him. Intricately plotted, absorbing, dark, and suspenseful, this is a moving, modern story set in what could feel like a fairy tale world, but is actually terrifyingly realistic. It is a tale of true love, missing persons, and the beauty of the mechanics of motion all wrapped up in one awesome creeptastic package. Give this to readers who love creepy doll stories like those in Ellen Datlow’s award winning The Doll Collection, as well as any fans of Neil Gaiman, Steven Millhauser, or Elizabeth McCracken.

Three Words That Describe This Book: askew, macabre, compelling

Last Train from Perdition [I Travel By Night, Book Two]
by Robert McCammon
Oct. 2016. 184p. Subterranean, hardcover, $35  (9781596067387)
First published August, 2016 (Booklist).

Horror legend Robert McCammon is back with book two in his highly entertaining, vampire western series. Trevor Lawson, a reluctant vampire and his human sidekick, sharpshooter Ann Remington, are still on the hunt for LaRouge, the woman who turned Lawson into a vampire during the Civil War and kidnapped Ann’s father and sister, in the hopes that killing her will allow Lawson to become human again. While they search, Lawson takes discreet, dangerous jobs with the business motto, “All Matters Handled.” It’s now 1886 and a new job takes the pair from New Orleans to the frontier town of Perdition, MT to rescue a wealthy young man from a band of outlaws. Lawson tries to extricate the man without violence, but between the outlaws and the vampire Dark Society, it appears a peaceful getaway is not going to be an option. This thrilling story culminates with a fantastic battle scene on a train where unlikely alliances are formed, adding a new wrinkle to Lawson’s quest for freedom from his vampiric curse. No need to have read the first book as the necessary details are supplied without sacrificing the pace. Clear a couple hours because you will want to devour this in one sitting. And while there are no new additions to vampire lore here, you will be having too much fun to care. This is perfect for fans of the TV series Deadwood and the award winning American Vampire graphic novel series by Scott Snyder.

Genre Note: This is clearly equal parts western and horror. That is a huge appeal that cannot be underestimated. It does both genres VERY well.

Three Words That Describe This Book: vampires, plot driven, the old west

Zombie Gold
by John L. Lansdale
Aug. 2016. 202p. Short Scary Tales, hardcover, $29.95  (9781909640641)
First published July 21, 2016 (Booklist Online).

Chris and Will are your average, modern day 20-somethings. Chirs’ family has owned the Flying G Ranch for generations and Will is a college student and Civil War history buff who is working the ranch for the summer. The boys strike-out alone, to the local mountain, named for Ernest Kaman  a Civil War soldier turned gold robber, whose band of thieves is said to still haunt the isolated area. But they aren’t ghosts...they’re zombies, stuck on the mountain, protecting their plunder. Chris and Will escape the zombies but end up being transported to 1863, only miles away from the impending battle of Gettysburg. Chris and Will are thrown into a much bigger adventure than they bargained for trying to explain themselves, avoid being forced to enlist in the army, and dodging the constant bloodshed. Their only hope to return to the 21st Century is to find Kaman and follow him back to the mountain as he steals the gold. Can they make it back in time and will it be before the zombies wreak havoc on those searching for the missing boys? Zombie Gold is an entertaining, well paced science fiction-historical-horror blend with resourceful protagonists and a solid cast of secondary characters. While this will obviously appeal to fans of the weird western, Hell’s Bounty that Lansdale co-wrote with his brother, bestselling author Joe R. Lansdale, fans of Jonathan Maberry should also give this a try.

YA: Teens will love watching Chris and Will make their way through time, struggling to survive in the 1860s and battling the zombies who have crossed into the 21st Century.

Genre Note: More time travel/historical fiction blend than horror so will still be a great suggestion for Civil War era fans.

Three Words That Describe This Book: time travel, coming of age, Civil War

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