Category Archives: Halloween

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.

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

Travelling Through Northwest Passages

TimeNorthwest Passages
Barbara Roden
Prime Books
hardcover $24.95 (out of stock)
ebook $6.99 Kindle Nook Weightless

I’ve chosen to officially kickoff my Halloween related posts with Northwest Passages by Barbara Roden.  Barbara is one half of the team behind Ash-Tree Press, the other half being her husband Christopher.  (You could say I unofficially started with Maplecroft or possibly Bleeding Shadows.)

I chose this particular volume because it’s been a while since I read any ghost or spook stories in the classical vein.  If you’re familiar with Ash-Tree Press, you know they’re the foremost publisher of ghost stories in the world.  So you would expect an author like Roden to know her stuff.  You’d be right, too. Continue reading

Happy Halloween

Copy of 20131031_153400

Brains. They’re what’s for dinner.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

I started the day by passing out exams wearing a grim reaper hood.  Quite appropriate, I thought, considering what some of the scores were.  When I took the hood off, about a dozen of the women in the class asked me to put it back on.  They said they wanted pictures, so I’ll take them at their word.  Some of them even had cameras out.

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Mmm, Mmm, good.

A number of members of the department dressed as zombies.  They even served brains.  I’m not sure where they got them since brains seem to be in short supply on our campus.

I had hoped to have some more Halloween themed posts done, including looking at Robert E. Howard’s “Pigeons From Hell”, but I’ve had too many other things going on.  I’ll post a couple of things as Halloween leftovers over the next couple of weeks.

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The Grim Reaper says “Have a Happy Halloween.”

For what’s left of it, have a Happy Halloween.

Two Items of Halloween Interest

I’m buried under a mountain of grading, so there won’t be any post on Robert E. Howard’s horror stories tonight.  Tomorrow doesn’t look too promising, but I’ll see what I can do.

HalloweenMagicMysMacabre-500I did, however, want to make you aware of a couple of items of seasonal interest.  First, I’m reading Paula Guran’s Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre  from Prime Books.  The review is for Amazing Stories (TM) and will go live on Monday.  It’s the sixth installment of a series I’m been running over there I’m calling Six Weeks of Scares.  I’ll be sure and post the link here when the review goes live.  I’m about halfway through the book at the moment, it’s quite good.

ShiversVIIThe other item is one from Cemetery Dance.  It’s the latest installment in the Shivers anthology series edited by Richard Chizmar.  I received a copy of the ARC through Cemetery Dance’s ARC club earlier this year.  I’ve read a few of the stories, and the ones so far are top notch.  There are a couple of rare stories in this one.  One is “Weeds” by Stephen King, which hasn’t been reprinted since 1979.  The other is a story by Clive Barker that was originally published in the New York Times on October 30, 1992.  I haven’t read those yet.  I’d hoped to have this collection finished by Halloween, but I probably won’t make it.  I will review it early in November if things go as planned.  They rarely do, but I can dream.

Another Halloween Treat

A Little Halloween Talk
Joe R. Lansdale
Cemetery Dance
ebook, $0.99

Here’s another little treat from Cemetery Dance’s 13 Days of Halloween.  It’s not one you want to share with the kiddies.

This one concerns a tryst in a graveyard that goes horribly wrong with the lady’s man interrupts her with his best friend.

I won’t give any more details away.  If you’ve ever read Lansdale, you know he can write in some of the most compelling voices in modern fiction.  This story is no exception.  The narrator tells his story in a laid back style that you know from the first page isn’t going to end well.  The reader is pulled in by his down home drawl.  Even though I was reading, not listening to an audiobook, I could still hear the guy’s voice as I read.

The plot is something out of EC Comics, something that should come as no surprise if you’ve read Lansdale.  This is a good thing, in case you were wondering.  I’ve read four or five of these Halloween shorts, and this one is easily my favorite so far.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

A Halloween Treat

Pumpkin
Bill Pronizini
Cemetery Dance
various ebpub editions , $0.99

Cemetery Dance has been publishing Halloween themed short stories on weekdays for the last couple of weeks and will continue to do so until Halloween.  It’s part of a promotion called 13 Days of Halloween. I’ll be taking a look at some of them, randomly selected.

These are all short stories, so I won’t go into too much detail.  In this one, Amanda Sutter and her husband run a pumpkin farm in California.  One day one of the field hands discovers that there’s something wrong with one of the pumpkins…

Pronzini is one of my favorites.  While he’s never to my knowledge written any heroic fantasy, he does occasionally venture from the mystery/crime fields to dip his toes in the waters of dark fantasy and horror.  I wish he would more often.  Although I have to admit that Pronzini is one of those writers whose work I would read regardless of genre.  In my opinion he’s that good.

This story isn’t his most gripping, but it’s still worth a read, especially the last page or two.  Pronzini isn’t one to go for the gross-out.  Instead, he prefers the quiet buildup.  And he’s good with the twist at the end.  This story fits that bill quite well.

It’s short, only about 10 pages long, but worth the price.  If you’re in the mood for a Halloween treat with a little trick at the end, check it out.

A Visit to Orangefield on Hallow’s Eve

Hallow’s Eve
Al Sarrantonio
mass market paperback, Leisure, 2004
Kindle edition $3.99

Al Sarrantonio’s work had been favorably compared to that of Ray Bradbury.  I suspect part (but not all) of the reason is that like Bradbury, much of Sarrantonio’s work deals with October in general and Halloween in particular.

And a great deal of that work is set in the fictional town of Orangefield, self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World.  Hallow’s Eve is the second volume of a trilogy.  The first volume, Orangefield, was published as limited edition by a small press, and as far as I know, never had a mass market edition. 

You don’t need to have read that volume to enjoy this one, however.  I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with the story, although I knew enough about the events in that novel and previous short stories to recognize some of the references. 

Frankly, there wasn’t that much to keep track of.  The plot is pretty simple, and some of the subplots obviously carry over from what came before.  Corrie Phaeder has returned home to Orangefield after a dozen years away.  As a boy, his dreams invaded his waking world, and things would change without warning.  When he left, his mother had recently been murdered, and he had been the prime suspect, at least in the eyes of police detective Grant.  Before everything is over, Grant, along with a neighbor girl, will become Phaeder’s ally in a battle against Samhain, the Lord of Death.

This isn’t the best horror novel I’ve ever read.  The events that brought Phaeder back to Orangefield are lightly sketched, so that his homecoming feels somewhat contrived.  I didn’t find much about it that was scary, although the scene towards the end where the pumpkin men attack Grant in a deserted farmhouse while he’s trying to protect Phaeder and the girl was great. 

What does work is the atmosphere.  Sarrantonio does an excellent job of setting the mood, and Orangefield sounds like a nice place to live if it weren’t for the Lord of Death constantly stirring things up.  The book was by turns creepy, pastoral, and mildly suspenseful, but never really scary.

This is the only novel of Sarrantonio’s I’ve read, and based on this reading, I would say his strength lies more at short lengths than with the novel.  There’s a final volume in this series, Halloweenland, in which a carnival arrives in Orangefield.  Frankly, that trope appeals more to me than the walking scarecrow and the pumpkin men from Hallow’s Eve, although I do enjoy a good ambulatory scarecrow.  I might read it before Halloween, but given the way the last few weeks have gone, I’ll probably save it for next year.

Hallow’s Eve isn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t as good as I was expecting it to be.  Still, it was a pleasant way to pass a few hours and is quite appropriate to the season.

A Couple of Halloween Themed Anthologies

Halloween
Paula Guran, ed.
Prime Books
trade paper, 480 p., $14.95
ebook, $6.99 Kindle, Nook

This one came out last year, and I’ve only read a few of the stories in it.  Nor do I plan to read all of them, at least not this year.  I’ll take my time with this one and spread it out over several years.  In other words, this is more of an FYI post than a full-on review.  However, I’ve been impressed enough by the contents so far to feel I should bring this one to your attention.

First of all, this is a reprint anthology, and there is one difference between the print and electronic editions.  That’s the inclusion of Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Game”, which isn’t in the electronic edition.  Now if you recall, I have a very high regard for Bradbury, but I wish he hadn’t been so stubborn about electronic rights. “The Halloween Game” is a story that deserves to be in this book.

Even without Bradbury’s contribution, the table of contents is impressive.  The stories I’ve read include “Night Out” by Tina Rath and “On a Dark October” by Joe Lansdale.  Both are worth the read.  I”ll dip into this one again, at least to reread “Hornets” by Al Sarrantonio, which takes place in his fictional town of Orangefield.  I’ve just started reading one of the Orangefield novels, and it makes reference to the events in “Hornets”.

October Dreams
Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish, ed.
Roc
trade paper, 656 p., oop, various prices second hand

This one came out ten years ago (I think there was an earlier limited edition), and it’s been almost that long since I read it.  It contains a mix of memoir, reprint, and what at the time was new.  I don’t remember all of the stories well enough to try to do a full review, but this is one anthology I intend to revisit, something that doesn’t happen with much of what I read.  I probably won’t get to it this year since the library is still in a state of disarray since the move, but I recommend this book if you come across a copy or want to order it online.   It’s got some great stories in it.  Like Halloween, this is another anthology that’s perfect for dipping into on a evening when there’s a nip in the air and you’re not sure if the sound you hear is a branch scraping against the window in the wind or something else.