Monday, November 23, 2015

This Week of Thanks Giving...

....I'm giving big props to an old, old friend. In fact, I haven't spoken to this person since Caloosa Middle School. Let's call him Wade M. Why is this important, you ask? Because when I was around 15, Wade M. was the sole reason I got hooked on books, and thus, became a writer. Maybe that's giving too much credit, but not really.

My friend, Wade, started reading these slim action-adventure series books called MACK BOLAN, THE EXECUTIONER. No doubt, you've heard of this long-running and legendary series by the late Don Pendleton, but if not, the basic premise was Mack was a Vietnam vet who's parents were murdered by the Mafia, and upon returning from war, Mack seeks revenge by launching his war against La Cosa Nostra. The books were barely over 200 pages but with lurid covers and taut storytelling, so it was easy to get hooked. In Middle School, we were required to read a book  every week or so, and write a report on it. Thankfully, my Mom indulged her son with these books, even though she had minor reservations. And I gobbled them up, reading all the Bolan books, and the 80's relaunch of Bolan's New War against Terrorism, the spinoff books, and the Jerry Ahern Survivalist and Hank Frost series. I discovered Conan the Barbarian, at some point, but by then I shifted my creativity from art (for years I drew my own cartoons and comics) to writing, emulating the action-driven stories I'd been reading voraciously. To be fair, Wade M started creating his own similar stories, which had inspired me.

Then, shortly after graduating high school in 1985, while browsing the bookstore shelves, I picked up PET SEMETARY by Stephen King...and my literary love affair with horror fiction was forever solidified.

So, in this week of giving thanks, thank you, Wade M where ever you are, my old, old friend. You might not have realized it then, but you played a big part in kickstarting my love of books and writing.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Take A Ride on the Wild WOLF LAND!

                                                                           Just a couple werewolves and a vampire princess.

Let's face it, folks...werewolves are the absolute badasses of the entire pantheon of monsters in the horror genre (both in print and film, but since this is more of an homage and review of books, that's where I'm focusing). Not to take anything away from the classic creature, the vampire, but let's face it, that story has been done to death, or undeath, if you will. Besides, whereas vampires constantly need blood to survive, werewolves aren't always locked in to that one thing. Yeah, there's the need to transform into the bloodthirsty furry killing machine every full moon (but not always), and those pesky silver bullets (again, not always), but for the most part, they are the Ultimate Badass Monster in Horror.

And wouldn't it be cool as hell to see a bunch of ravenous shapeshifters let loose during the zombie apocalypse? Heh. Problem solved!

Horror fiction has had plenty of great werewolf stories, from Guy Endore's classic, THE WEREWOLF OF PARIS, to WOLFEN by Whitley Strieber and of course CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF by Stephen King. And yes, I know there are many other early tales of the loupgarou. But I wanted to focus on newer works of werewolf carnage and mayhem, some perhaps folks aren't aware of, and to highlight an excellent new release by one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Janz.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

Horror fiction fans that love these types of stories have undoubtedly read Gary Brandner's THE HOWLING, and subsequent two other novels, and if you haven't, you should. Or ANIMALS by Skipp & Spector, which is one of my all-time favorite horror novels. Ray Garton's RAVENOUS and BESTIAL brings his own twist on our wolfish fiends by adding in an erotic element, in that the curse is passed on through sex. The late JF Gonzalez wrote an interesting and enjoyable horror novel several years ago, SHAPESHIFTER, where he explored the idea of man tapping in to his primal dark side, which was the basis for the Skipp & Spector book, but with a unique spin of his own. And then there's horror fiction's beloved court jester, Jeff Strand, who's written WOLF HUNT and a sequel, WOLF HUNT 2. If you haven't read the first book, do so, since no one in horror can write comedy and blood and guts better than Strand does. Besides, his take on werewolves is a blast!

Recently, a couple of new releases should be Must Reads for werewolf horror fiction fans. Glenn Rolfe's BLOOD AND RAIN is a lean, no-hold's-barred gorefest that grabs you by the throat with razor-sharp claws and doesn't let go. Kind of a throwback to the aforementioned Stephen King novel, Rolfe is a newer horror author that fans should be reading.

Which brings me to that Janz guy.
                                                                                                 Badass Horror Author

Jonathan Janz needs no introduction, and if you have been one of the few supposed horror fiction fans out there who hasn't read his work yet, to paraphrase Brian Keene, you need to unfuck that From THE SORROWS and SAVAGE SPECIES to THE NIGHTMARE GIRL, Janz is one of the most talented and prolific horror authors out there, and what has impressed me most about him is he can write anything. From the classic ghost story and haunted house to vampires to deadly killer cults and the demonic, Janz can do it all, whether it be the more quiet, subtle terrors or the bloody, flesh-rending stuff. The man just consistently writes good kickass horror.

So now we have WOLF LAND, his latest release. Set in rural Illinois, the novel involves several friends gathering for their ten year high school reunion. There's the failed sports hero, the overweight and nerdy guy, the handsome brooding type, the former blonde cheerleader, the shy librarian, the girl who everyone thinks is a slut, and the lecherous redneck. While these characters all seem like stereotypes, as the story unfolds, and the layers peeled back, like life, nothing is as it seems. And when absolute horror erupts in bloody carnage and mayhem, those who survive are indelibly changed. Janz paints a gory canvas with this book, easily his most graphic story to date (and that's saying something, if you've read SAVAGE SPECIES, for example), and the plot really doesn't let up until the stunning conclusion. But what's equally impressive is the beating heart of this book. It has a big heart, and halfway through I found myself rooting for many of the characters, hating others, and if you weren't truly heartbroken and touched by Melody Bridwell's tale, your heart is charcoal. And his creation of the Antonov sisters is simply brilliant.

So, do go pick up Jonathan Janz's new horror novel, which is already on my Top Books of 2015 list. You won't regret it...but brace yourself for one hell of a wild ride!