Welcome back my bloody fiends!  It is spring and with the death of
winter comes the beginning of life.  And life doesn’t come easy.  What we
have for you is a teacher/guidance counselor comes against his worst
fears: kids gone rougue, collection of three shorts stories that Jigsaw
from Saw would love to read and an anthology that is a one stop shopping
for horror and a guest book reviewer.  So pick up a book and enjoy
                                                                                    D. W. Jones

Children of the Damned by John Michael Osborne                        
    Osborne has been a writer for our magazine and it looks
like this is his first novel.  By what I have read, he wrote about
what he knows and it shows in his writing.  The books is very
much about teenage kids and anyone who knows kids knows
how scary they can be.  And Jamerson brings this out to the
    The story is about Paul Jameson, a high school counselor
starting a job with a new school after a bad experience at his
last job.  Now the first week, he already starts seeing signs of
trouble with word of The Evil Trinity.  It is lead by Angel, Adrian and a mysterious
Kerry, who may or may not exist.  As he investigates he doesn’t like what he find
and wanted to get to the bottom of it.  
    Angel and Adrian are starting to drag other kids to join their group.  Paul’s
daughter Monica meets a boy who is friends with them.  She is hoping to get some
inside information to help her father.  From the get go, she knows it is trouble but
stays around hoping to find the end game.  But bodies start turning up and Paul
needs to find out who Kerry really is and what they are planning before either he
or his daughter becomes the next victim.
    John Osborne takes a basic story and makes it a compelling story that truly
makes you relive the horrors of high school.  Like what King did with Carrie and
high school, Osbourne gives you the same feeling of dread of teenagers and how
vicious and susceptible kids can be to coercion and wanting to belong.  His
character are believable and you felt like you might of went to school with one of
them. There is some cool artwork on the cover.
    I recommend this book for the great storyline and real life feeling of the book.  
You can get his book at www.authorhouse.com and www.amazon.com.

Paradigms of Suffering: Dig the Knife Deeper by Greg
    This is the newest book by Dixon and it is part of the
Paradigms of Suffering line of short story collection.  I saw the
cover and thought it interesting and wondered if it was going to
set the tone of the book.  It definitely did and there is more than
you fair share of blood and gore.
    The newest collection has three stories, one novella and
two other short stories.  The first is Worked To Death.  Kevin
Distler is a career driven guy who will do anything to get ahead.  
He has just be accepted to the #1 real estate appraisal company and can’t wait to
climb the career ladder.  But from day one something isn’t right and now must
decided if he should give it all, including his life.
    Second is The Family That Preys Together.  It is about the head of the ring of
criminals that rob houses is getting ready for his last job before moving on to the
next city.  He sets everything up to the last detail.  But as he goes to complete the
job, he encounters something beyond anything he is expecting.  The last is
Tracking Carrie (Next Day Delivery).  It’s about Carrie who is down on life and
nothing is going her way.  A customer along her route, Jonathan is helping her
through this and giving her advice.  So Carrie decides to make her move for a new
life but is it in time or will it cost her your life.
    Dixon tells three different stories with a common thread of be careful of what
you want because it may not be what you think.  He delivers on all the blood and
gore and going into great detail.  The stories take you down the path and leads
you into the dark willingly before it bludgeons you over the head with the hook.  
My favorite was the second as it was the smoothest writing of the three.
    I recommend this book to anyone who would love a splatterfest in the vein of
Saw.  You can find this book at www.amazon.com.

What Fear Becomes by Jeani Rector                                        
    From the publishers of The Horror Zine comes their
anthology of short stories poetry and artwork edited by Jeani
Rector.  Just from the front cover I had high hopes of this being
a great collection and I was not disappointed.  
    There is a lot to like about this stories.  One of my favorites
was A Bad Stretch of Road by Dean H.Wild.  It starts off normally
enough where a man driving home after a bad fight with his wife.  
Then he start noticing things aren’t what their supposed to be
and doesn’t look familiar.  Drivers acting erratic all around him
and he sees strange things.  Now he fears for his life and looks
for anyway to get off this highway of hell.  The reason I like this is starts quiet but
one wrong turn and you, the reader, feels like you fell down the rabbit hole along
with Alice.  The writer really projects the felling of hopelessness and insanity all at
the same time.
    Another story I enjoyed was Adelle’s Night by David K Ginn.  It’s about Adelle
who goes out and meets a mysterious man.  He wines and dines her and
somewhere in the middle he starts talking crazy that what they’re living now is a
movie.  Not knowing what to do but still attracted to him takes him on his offer to
prove his point.  This takes Adelle into a dangerous place that takes reality TV to
a new dimension.  This is a great story that has you wondering how strange this
possibility is and makes everyone the star.  Ginn gives you that Matrix twist on life
and does a great job finishing it off.
    There are a lot more great stories in here ranging from haunted houses to acid
trips of horror that would give you the chills.  Rector does a great job at amassing
a wide selection of horror.  The poetry in this books equally stands up with the
fiction.  From the haunting Metamorphisis by Anna Taborska to visual  The Rules
of the Abyss by Christopher Hivner.  Don’t forget the artwork.  One of my favorites
was The Stare by Kalynn Kallweit.  It is a simple picture of a young lady nude
bending and hugging her knees.  What is most haunting is the eyes.  Is she a
victim or a predator drawing you in.  You decide.
    I recommend that you get this book if you want to have everything in horror
literature in one place.  And let me not forget to mention the Rector has two
samples of her work included.  You can get this book at amazon.com or

THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS: More Dispatches from the Dark
Frontier . . .Jason V Brock & William F. Nolan,
Review done by guest reviewer Mike Clarke

    THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS presents a challenge to all
reviewers of weird fiction.   It refuses to be pinned down, to be
easily classified and tagged through a short description of its
contents.  What it does deliver with each and every entry is
high quality and great story-telling.   While THE DEVIL’S
COATTAILS is not easily summarized, its impressive contents command a
carefully detailed review.  A critical analysis could accurately be justified by
claiming “The Devil Made Me Do It!”

    THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS contains 21 original works, all previously
unpublished and is embellished with weird art and illustrations of equally high
quality throughout.  It is a follow-up anthology to THE BLEEDING EDGE collection,
also assembled by the same team of editors (Jason V Brock & William F. Nolan).

    The highly imaginative and evocative cover art by Vincent Chong beckons
further exploration and seems to indicate that the inner contents may be very
horrific and frightening.  A ghastly horned demon in long overcoat dominates a
barren landscape with the only clutter from the discarded pages fluttering in the ill
winds.   A lone figure in the background faces away from the demon and seems to
be in contemplation.  Should he pick up the scattered pages, some with cabalistic
images along with text, and consider their contents? - - or just end it now at the
conveniently-placed desolate and apparently dead large-trunked tree that only
lacks a noose hanging from its few huge branches?

    That is not necessarily what the cover implies or promises inside, but simply
one reader’s interpretation of the image.   While the contents of THE DEVIL’S
COATTAILS did not completely fulfill the expectations of that initial cover
impression and induce shivers -- they did exceed the desire for a collection of
good short stories, poems and scripts and surpassed all other expectations
through its marvelous diversity of  genres, themes and writing styles.  It doesn’t
appear that anything in THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS will shock or increase the heart
rate in threatening fashion.  Rather, the horror may emanate from whatever
personal baggage the reader brings along for the ride.  It is suspected that many
of the stories will strike a nerve, create a reflective ambience, and perhaps haunt
the reader long after the story has ended.  That is what occurred for this reader.

    It seems clear from the introductory material by S. T. Joshi, Jason V Brock and
William F. Nolan that the guidelines for submittal to THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS
were deliberately general in nature and sought to avoid any specific
categorization.   That is the strength of THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS.  

    As S. T. Joshi describes it, “weird fiction” is not a genre, but a “mode of writing”
and William F. Nolan later refers to “imaginative fantasy.” Those serve as good a
description of the contents as any.  As may be expected, the majority of material in
THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS is “dark” and that may be the only thing that
distinguishes some of these stories from straightforward mainstream fiction.  
“Dispatches from the Dark Frontier”, indeed.  Vive le difference!  The other stories
that veer away from darker themes seem to be either light-hearted and humorous
or nostalgic.  Their particular placement throughout the anthology provides a
welcome intermission.  

    The other items that make THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS even more deserving of
appreciation are the inclusion of a short biography and photo of the authors
following each piece, as well as personal commentary on their own stories (which
proved very insightful in more than one instance).

    Also, when the stories in THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS seek to disturb they do so
without utilizing any “gore”, “splatter” or other violent effects.  The style and tone
are reminiscent of the late lamented TWILIGHT ZONE television series, a very
mature horror/fantasy anthology series that relied on fine script writing and visual
effects that implied much more than they revealed writing to achieve a feeling of
discomfort among its viewers.   Some of the writers in this collection have a
connection as former writers or other association with that series as well.

    What’s remarkable about this anthology is that there are few (if any) similarities
among the stories.  There is no repetition.   There is no filler.  There is no
“formula” employed repeatedly.  All these works stand alone on their own merits.  
While none of them would be considered merely “average”, there are at least 13
among the 21 that create the greatest impact and make THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS
a worthwhile investment of time.

    If only one inclusion can be considered for top honors (a tough choice) then
that would be “. . . And Dream of Phaedian Fancies. . . ” by Gary A. Braunbeck
which begins by proclaiming itself a “voice over script to accompany a film's final
cut.”   It’s a clever device that Braunbeck employs to insert commentary that helps
to make his points and also further enhances the feel of a documentary.   One
lonely individual deposits a bundle of flowers on the doorstep of an abandoned
home in a small village.  The reader is left to wonder why as the commentary
provides further details on the individual but no clear explanation for his actions.  
From there, the occupants of the village observe and interpret these actions which
lead to what amounts to a public gathering, the reviving of a troubled ghost, and a
disastrous outcome.   It’s a clever and sly observation by Braunbeck regarding
perceptions as well as group mentality.  He also manages to pull the reader in and
imply that they are also responsible for what happens.  This is both highly creative
and simply brilliant.

    Second place for top honors is shared by two stories:  “Object Lesson” by
Jason V Brock and “The Woods Colt” by Earl Hamner, Jr.  

    In “Object Lesson” as the last remaining parent passes away, the son is
haunted not by wraiths but by memories of lost opportunities. Some of the
reflective moments and thoughts that occur to the main character at odd times
(especially during the approach to the hospital where his mother is in critical
condition) will seem very real to anyone with a similar experience in their past --
and may linger long enough to create their own haunting moments of reflection
and regret.  Be forewarned.    “The Woods Colt” finds another surviving son at the
funeral of his mother.  He returns to the old, abandoned family mansion for one
last visit (before it is sold) and finds insight into his own secret past and
relationship to the other members of a very dysfunctional family.  

    The surreal “Knife Through The Veil” by Marc Scott Zicree details a revenge-
driven family member who continues to repeatedly pursue a killer, after death, to
achieve final satisfaction/resolution.   It’s a former television script for ROD
SERLING'S AFTER TWILIGHT -- a proposed series that the networks declined to

    One of the most disturbing tales in this anthology relates a fictional brush with
the unknown as experienced during Victorian London by writer/poet/translator
Oscar Wilde and aspiring artist/companion Frank Miles, who experiences an
encounter with a strange transference in “The Hidden Realm” by W. H. Pugmire &
Maryanne K. Snyder.   Equally troubling is a real-world look at the current casual
attitude towards AIDS by gay couples and its potential hazards in “If You Love Me”
by Paul G. Bens, Jr.  The desire to prove someone’s love for another through
challenges or ultimatums can have undesired consequences.

    A family member experiences the dying moments of others in “Dying to Forget”
by Sunni K Brock and learns the true details of their father’s passing in the worst
possible way.  An alien/mutant with a valued skill (the ability to decode not just
text, but also intent) experiences contemporary prejudice and fear among co-
workers in “Too Good to Be Human” by J. Brundage.  “On The First Day” by
James Robert Smith concerns itself with a paranoid fantasy with
evangelical/prophetic undertones as they relate to a global spider invasion.  “The
Moons” by modern horror master Ramsey Campbell makes its case for
independent thinking versus the group mind when an assemblage of youngsters
become lost among the sand dunes and pine barrens of a coastal village.  The
children of privilege, who expect to always be looked after, are blindly led astray
while a less fortunate child is not as trusting of kindly appearing strangers.

    Two stories have historical themes and utilize their careful research to tell
compelling tales.  “Gunboat Whores” by John Shirley contains a portion of his
upcoming novel about the young Wyatt Earp, who made a dramatic career change
after losing his wife and stillborn child.  “Crimean Vespers” by Richard Selzer is a
haunting love story that merges a one-night stand in pre-Communist Russia with
Greek mythology and also allows its author to honor both his father and writer
Anton Chekov.

    Among the more light-hearted tales in this collection, the best is “Can You
Imagine” by Paul J. Salamoff, that features a "when I was your age" rhyming poem
for the digital age of entertainment and gaming.
    Those are just the high points of this anthology.  Also found within the pages of
THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS  are entertaining tales of demon summoning,  ghost
friends, mosquito women, cat women, ash can racing, a haunted camera, and a
poetic re-telling of the Circe legend from the likes of Dan O’Bannon,  Melanie
Tem, Jerry E. Airth, Steve Rasnic Tem, Norman Corwin, Nancy K. Kilpatrick, and
William F. Nolan.  
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