Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Shapes of Midnight by Joseph Payne Brennan

Shapes of MidnightThe Shapes of Midnight
Joseph Payne Brennan
Berkley, 1980
mass market paperback, $2.25, 176 p.
Introduction by Stephen King

Joseph Payne Brennan has sadly become one of the more neglected writers of fantasy and horror from the second half of the 20th Century.  Fortunately there are were copies of his work available at reasonable prices.  Which is why a couple of weeks ago, after I’d read about half the stories in this book, I bought them.  By reasonable prices, I mean in the $10-25 dollar range for used hardcovers.  (Brennan created an occult detective named Lucius Leffing; I managed to snag a signed collection of some of those stories.)

When I did a search on Advanced Book Exchange for The Shapes of Midnight, the cheapest copy I found (there were only 4 of them at the time) was nearly $60.  Ouch.  Continue reading

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard: “The Children of the Night”

Howard HorrorThe Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey
trade paper $18.00
ebook Kindle $11.59 Nook $13.99

I read this story for the first time recently in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy collection The Spawn of Cthulhu.  (The subject of my next BAF post for Black Gate.)  Just from the title, I could have sworn I’d read it before, but I think I would have remembered this one.

“The Children of the Night” was first published in Weird Tales in the April-May issue of 1931.  It’s an interesting little story in that it ties two of Howard’s series characters in with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Continue reading

A Journey Through The October Country

October Country 1The October Country
Ray Bradbury
Illustrations by Joe Mugnaini
mass market paperback 307 p., $7.99
ebook Kindle $7.21 Nook $10.99

I first read this collection in the early ’80s, around 1980 or 1981, I think.  Some of the stories have stayed with me (“The Small Assassin”, “The Scythe”), while some I’d completely forgotten (“Touched with Fire”, “The Cistern”).

Most of the stories were recycled from Dark Carnival, with a few being left out and a few being added.  I’d hoped to have time to read the ones left out and discuss the differences in the two collections, but that will have to wait for a later post.  For those unaware, Dark Carnival, from Arkham House, was Bradbury’s first collection.  Original copies are hard to come by and will cost you a pretty penny.  The author’s definitive edition from a decade or so ago isn’t cheap either.

Fortunately there isn’t that much difference in the contents, and the casual reader can enjoy the stories as they appear in this volume.  There will be spoilers on some of them. Continue reading

A Look at Weird Tales 362

weird-tales-issue-362-front-coverBefore I start the review, I’d like to thank Doug Draa for the review copy and apologize for taking so long to get the review posted.  The review  copy is a PDF file, and I’d intended to read it while traveling over the summer.  For some reason, my ereader (a first generation device) wouldn’t open the file.  Anyway, since I hate reading for fun on a backlit screen (which I do enough of for work), it was a while before I managed to read it.  So thanks and apologies, Doug.  I promise to do better in the future.

There are a total of seventeen pieces of fiction, five poems, a tribute to Parke Godwin by Marvin Kaye,an interview with Joyce Carol Oates, and a look at how one of the illustrations was developed by Jeff Wong.

Overall, I found this issue to be a strong one, though not without a few stories which weren’t to my taste.  The theme for this issue is The Undead.  And no, not all of the themed stories are about zombies.  Just some of them, which is good because I’m not a big zombie fan.  But overall I found this issue to be a great read for Halloween. Continue reading

My Halloween Posts Creep into Other Blogs

Blind ShadowsNot all of the things I’ve been reading for Halloween are getting reviewed here.  There have been two other posts that might be of interest to some of you.

The first post that went live was at Amazing Stories yesterday.  I had intended to have it ready to go a week earlier but an out of town wedding derailed my plans.

Anyway, if you’re a fan of pulp fantasy and horror, this is one you need to put on your radar.  There are a number of nice treats (and no tricks) in this novel.  It’s about a pair of former police partners.  One is now the sheriff and the other is a private investigator.  The book opens with the discovery of the body a former classmate of theirs.  He’s been ritually murdered.  Blind Shadows is a great combination of pulp, horror, and hard boiled adventure.

Lovecraft Sarnath frontI’ve been doing a series of posts at Black Gate for about a year now on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series.  My goal was to have one completed about once a month, but that isn’t quite what has happened.  Things have been a little more irregular than that.

This afternoon, my latest went live.  It’s over H. P. Lovecraft’s The Doom that Came to Sarnath.  This is a collection of stories written as Lovecraft was transitioning from fantasy in the vein of Lord Dunsany to his better known work in the Mythos.  Many of these stories are quite short, but overall they’re an interesting read as they show a writer moving from imitation to his own unique voice.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to at other venues for Halloween.

A Visit to Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show

something wicked this way comesSomething Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury
Avon, 304 pgs.
mass market paperback $7.99
ebook $3.99 Kindle Nook

I first read this book something like 35 years ago, give or take, probably in 5th grade. I reasonably certain it had to have been before spring break of my 6th grade year, because that was the year of the tornado. After we rebuilt the house, I got to have a room of my own. This is relevant because I envisioned the room I shared with my brother as Will’s room as I read the book.  (Assuming my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.)

There’s a risk when you return to a beloved novel from your youth. Will it live up to the memory? Often it doesn’t.

The advantage here is that after so many years, I didn’t remember more than a few scenes from the book, primarily the Dust Witch coming after the boys in the balloon in the middle of the night. Other than a few general things, I didn’t recall much.

I’m pleased to say that the novel held up quite well. It was better than I remembered. Continue reading

Invoking Dark Gods

Dark GodsDark Gods
T. E. D. Klein
mmpb, Bantam, $3.95, 1986, 263 p.

One of the top practitioners of horror fiction in the latter half of the previous century is also one of the most frustrating.  T. E. D. Klein has published very little after making a name for himself in the 1970s and 80s.

His first collection, Dark Gods, is a perfect example of what an author can accomplish in an understated manner.  The four novellas in this volume are strong examples of that type of horror.  Perfect reading for Halloween. Continue reading

At 75% Off, I Couldn’t Resist

Copy of 20141009_133837The second hand bookstore that’s going out of business has now reduced inventory to 75% off.  This is like offering catnip to cats.  I’ve broken the titles up into 4 loosely related groups.  Makes it easier to see them in a picture that way.

First, Joel Rosenberg.  I’ve never read any of his books, but years ago a friend recommended them.  They look like a lot of fun.  Not all of them are Guardians of the Flame series, but most of them are.  I think I got the whole set.  The other two (D’Shai and Hour of the Octopus) seem to be a blend of fantasy and mystery.

20141009_133650The next group is general fantasy, with an emphasis on sword and sorcery.  The Glen Cook is a reading copy.  The copy I have is signed.   I’m in the process of obtaining more of Kurtz’s Deryni novels.  I’m not sure I’ll read all of them, but I’ve heard the earlier ones are good and aren’t as depressing as the later books.  The Oron books I’m not too sure about.  David C. Smith has written several different S&S series, but I’ve not read any of them.  I know nothing about this series.  The Hour of the Dragon is, of course, something I’ve got other copies of, but I thought I would grab this one on general principles.

20141009_133437I’ve got the Chad Oliver volumes of Classics of Modern Science Fiction, but,  hey, this Chad Oliver.  These were originally published when I was in college, although the first few volumes may have come out when I was in high school.  It’s been too long to be sure.  Not all of the volumes appealed to me at the time (still don’t), so I didn’t try to collect them.  I may try to accumulate a set and see if I can get anything for it on ebay.  The Leinster I hadn’t seen in this edition.  I also love the cover of Medea, although I’ve got a trade paper copy of this one.  It’s hard to go wrong with a Freas cover.

20141009_133932The final selection is science fiction.  I’ve been eyeing the Mike Shepherd/Moscoe books for a while.  (Shepherd and Moscoe are the same person.)  I’ve liked pretty much everything I’ve read by Michael Bishop.  My reading has been confined to short stories mostly, so I thought I would give his novels a try.  Ditto for Robert Thurston.  Simak is always worth reading.  I’ve got this particular title, but still.  Finally, I read some of the shorter pieces that make up The Expediter in high school when they were published in Analog and thought I’d see if they were as good as I remembered.

The store is still open, although some of the best stuff is starting to disappear.  (I missed a set of H. Rider Haggard because I waited.  Blasted cash flow.)  I’m sure I’ll pop in again before too long.

A Review of Shane Berryhill’s Bad Mojo

Bad MojoBad Mojo
Shane Berryhill
Ragnarok Publications
Paper $13.95
ebook $3.99

If you like your supernatural thrillers with a strong Southern ambience, then Shane Berryhill’s Bad Mojo might be just your glass of tea (sweet tea, of course).

Ash Owens (short for Ashley, but don’t you dare call him that) is a veteran who came home from the Middle East with a monster. Literally. He keeps it in check with help from a conjure woman named Zora Banks. They now work together, solving problems for the residents of Chattanooga. Of course most of their clients are from the supernatural community, which lends their cases an added element of risk.

Ash is approached by a Senator of his acquaintance to help find the missing wife of a Congressman who is running for governor. She’s disappeared into the supernatural community and is hooked on drugs. Oh, and if Ash can find the missing woman’s diary, well then, all the better.

You can see where this is going to go. Of course it isn’t going to be that simple… Continue reading