Horror Fiction (Too Much Horror Fiction): Known for penning the novel The Night of the Hunter upon which the classic 1955 movie was based, Davis Grubb (1919-1980) was a West Virginia native well-versed in the pride, poverty, tribulations and superstitions that were endemic to that region. This collection of short stories ranging over 20 years, Twelve Tales of Suspense and the Supernatural (paperback edition from Fawcett Crest, June 1965) includes some Weird Tales works as well as tales first published in popular magazines like Ellery Queen, Nero Wolfe, Woman’s Home Companion, and Collier’s.

 

Science Fiction (Classics of Science Fiction): The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson is not the kind of book you can recommend people rush out and buy. It is legendary for being difficult to read, and many consider it boring and tedious. However, The Night Land is one of those cult classics that have inspired a selective group of writers and readers. I had no trouble listening to an unabridged audiobook edition of the book that was just over eighteen hours long. I think hearing it rather than reading let me appreciate the archaic style Hodgson developed for telling his story.

Science Fiction (Strange at Ecbatan): Fritz Leiber was born on Christmas Eve in 1910. He died in 1992. One of my favorites among his novels, The Sinful Ones, and its earlier version, “You’re All Alone.” The Sinful Ones had an odd publication history. It began as a novella called “You’re All Alone”, slated for John Campbell’s fantasy companion to Astounding, Unknown. When the World War II paper shortage killed Unknown, Fritz Leiber had to abandon it.

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There was a time in the 1990s that Brian Lumley was one of the big names in horror fiction. Lumley was someone I read in Lin Carter edited anthologies in the early 80s. Tor published the first Necroscope book in the U.S. in late 1988. A steady number of paperbacks in the series followed through the 90s.  The books gained an audience. In fact, you would never know there had been a collapse in horror fiction publishing in the early 90s if you looked at Brian Lumley’s presence.

I read three of the Necroscope books in the mid-1990s and enjoyed them quite a bit. They are what I call “action-horror.” There is mood, supernatural thrills but plenty of action to satisfy.  Brian Lumley must have been a good seller for Tor Books considering the number of other books by him they put out. There were Cthulhu Mythos collections, horror collections, the Primal Land books, and the ones set in Lovecraft’s Dream World. Read More

The Shadow cleans up Chicago in Gangdom’s Doom, the fifth Shadow novella.

Inspired by the April 1931 Chicago election, The Shadow takes on the crime empire of Nick Savoli, a thinly disguised stand-in for Al Capone. Gangland Chicago was a breeding ground for pulp stories, from Amusement, Inc. to Black Mask and a host of hero and detective pulps. But the editors thought that The Shadow needed a little more motivation to face their version of America’s first celebrity gangster: The order came from on high to writer Walter Gibson: The Shadow’s agent, Claude Fellows would die.

Fellows would be the first and only agent to fall in the pulps. And Gibson protested the decision. But the editors stood firm. The blow was softened as Gibson went to Bermuda, dividing his time between writing and running publicity for the magician Harry Blackstone.

Gibson would later recount how he turned the noisy Bermuda streets, complete with the hammering riveting of construction, into scenes in side alleys of Chicago, complete with Tommy gun fire. “It gave me jitters to walk past the Bermuda building, but it helped the story.”

Onto the story.

Claude Fellows has been assigned to investigate the Chicago mob. Soon after their talk, first, his contact, then Fellows himself are killed, with the latter falling in a Tommy gun drive by.

In response, The Shadow sends Harry Vincent to Chicago, where Harry works his way into the confidence of Marmosa, a gambling king. While Harry learns about the mob’s organization, from kingpin Nick Savoli down to the hired killers, the same killers burst into the gambling den.

The Chicago killers get into a firefight with New York thugs, including one Monk Thurman. They kill one of Marmosa’s guns before Monk Thurman drives them away. Suddenly, Thurman is of great interest to Marmosa–and to Savoli’s organization. Should they hire him or kill him?

A familiar felonious face, Steve Cronin from New York, meets with Marmosa’s henchmen and casts enough doubt on Thurman to convince Marmosa’s goons to kill the New York gunman. But when they call a meeting with Thurman to kill him, no one shows. Confused, Cronin and Marmosa’s henchman leave, unaware that, in secret, The Shadow is watching their every move.

Later, Cronin meets with mob boss Savoli, who tells him to murder Chicago’s most aggressive district attorney. But before Cronin and his crew can pull the trigger on their Chicago typewriters, The Shadow appears behind them and knocks them out.

When Cronin wakes up, he crosses paths with Harry Vincent, who resolves to settle the score from earlier adventures between them. Soon after, Savoli gives Cronin a way to redeem himself from the night’s failure:

Kill The Shadow. Read More

Ring in the new year with an action-packed collection of new releases featuring cloak and dagger espionage, assault mecha, giant robots, and renegade starships.


Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming (Combat Frame XSeed #3) – Brian Niemeier

It’s not over.

Genius or madman? Monster or Savior?

Arthur Wake is missing in action. His fragile HALO alliance shatters under the Coalition’s counterattack.

Desperate to recoup their losses, the Coalition turns to a pilot with a grudge against HALO. Brutal false flag attacks soon jeopardize Hainan Island’s hard-won independence.

Sullia Zend uses the fray on Earth as cover for her secret agenda. But can even the Sentinel manage a ruthless lawman, her own estranged sister, and a HALO defector on the eve of a cataclysmic reckoning eons in the making?


Confrontation (Baldwin’s Legacy #1) – Nathan Hystad

A new flagship. An unfamiliar crew. An old nemesis.

Thomas Baldwin has been appointed captain of the state-of-the-art cruise ship Constantine, named after his heroic grandfather. When their first diplomatic mission turns deadly, all signs point to the return of a former adversary, one the Concord claims to have defeated five decades earlier.

No one has seen Baldwin’s commander, Treena Starling, since her previous ship was destroyed in a gruesome battle, leaving her the sole survivor. Can her secret help them rescue one of their crew members from captivity at the enemy’s hands?

When the Concord advises Baldwin to walk away from a fight, he must rely on his new crew, including the AI based on his younger grandfather, Constantine, to make the right decisions. One wrong step, and Captain Baldwin could be throwing the entire Concord into another intergalactic war…and this time they might not be so lucky.


Earthlings (Soldiers of Earthrise #2) – Daniel Arenson

Conquering this backwater planet should have been easy.

But the natives are fighting back hard. The bodies pile up. The bombs keep falling. There is no end in sight.

Jon is an Earthling, a soldier eager to serve his world. But now he’s bogged down in the jungles of an alien planet. And the enemy is ruthless.

Maria is a Bahayan, a native of this world of deep forests and deeper secrets. Her ancestors came from Earth, Filipino colonists seeking a better life. But Maria was born on Bahay, and she would die to defend her homeworld.

Jon knows she is the enemy. That her betrothed, a cruel warlord, murdered his brother. Yet Jon cannot help it. He is drawn to Maria like a moth to the flame.

And this flame might burn the galaxy.


Return of the Corinari (The Frontiers Saga: Rogue Castes #13) – Ryk Brown

A host of new allies…
A plethora of advanced technologies…
A daring gamble to advance their forces…
A chance to retake lost worlds once and for all…

The Dusahn have been backed into a corner, barely able to hold the worlds of the Pentaurus cluster, let alone the entire sector. Forced to dig in, they may have to resort to drastic measures to save their fledgling empire.

Captain Scott must use all his military and diplomatic skills to prepare his forces for the final assault on the Dusahn Empire. But he cannot do it alone. He needs help, and lots of it. Read More

The various crews at Arkhaven, Dark Legion, Castalia House, Infogalactic, SocialGalactic, and Unauthorized wish you a very Merry Christmas indeed.

Dashiell Hammett (Don Herron): Mean Streets readers get a Christmas Treat this year from no less than the pulp authority John Locke, doing a deep-dive into the origins of Hammett’s career as a writer. John made a cool discovery in the forgotten trade magazines of yesteryear, he and Terry Zobeck exchanged a few remarks about the find — combine those angles with his longstanding interest in Hammett and the pulp world, and you’ve got magic. You know what’s really hard to do? I’ll tell you: Say Anything New about Hammett.

Ghost Stories (Old Style Tales): Arguably Dickens’ most famous work, there is something inescapably archetypal about “A Christmas Carol.” Its heavyweight power to charm, chill, and awe has made it one of the most adapted pieces of literature, featuring in dozens and dozens of films, audio dramas, and stage plays. There are half a dozen musicals built around the story, countless cartoons, not to mention operas, ballets, and commercials. What is it about Scrooge’s cathartic redemption that has made this seasonal novella surpass “David Copperfield,” “Great Expectations,” and “Bleak House” in popularity?

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The third bio-bibliography book in this series is Talbot Mundy: Messenger of Destiny compiled by Donald M. Grant. Talbot Mundy is one of the great writers for Adventure magazine in the 1910s and 20s. He had the Jimgrim series, about a British agent in India ferreting out skullduggery. Tros of Samothrace was a series in the middle 1920s that ran in Adventure. Tros crossed swords and minds against Julius Caesar in a series of novellas and a short novel. Robert E. Howard probably read the series. Fritz Leiber and H. Warner Munn most definitely did read the series. Read More

It’s been four years since the Confederation and her allies stopped the advance of the Highborn invasion. Now, with sacrifices back home blunting enthusiasm for a much needed defense, Admiral Tyler Barron is compelled to take the fight to the Highborn before they launch a renewed offensive. However, the attack will certainly be a trap, and the Highborn have developed their own fighters. The one advantage the Confederation had over the Highborn is now gone. And as Barron’s fleet flies to certain doom, the Highborn exploit the tensions back home.

Empire’s Ashes is the latest in Jay Allan’s Blood on the Stars series, a worthy successor to Honor Harrington. The past couple books, however, prompted fears about the series growing too fond of desperate last stands and a procession of increasingly stronger enemies. Fortunately, Empire’s Ashes tries something new for the Blood on the Stars series as Tyler Barron embarks open-eyed onto what should have been a naval blunder. As always, the bravery of the men and women of the Confederation is the key to Barron’s success and survival. The stakes are personalized in the fighter duels between the Confederation ace and the Highborn’s mysterious yet familiar ace–a conflict that only heightens the terror of the Highorn’s favorite brand of technological tyranny. The result invigorates a series that had grown comfortable and was drifting close to formulaic.


As an impending asteroid collision threatens to wipe out humanity, “Grim” Jack Mitchell has won the lottery. Not the one for a place in the few shelters set aside for survivors, but for a chance to irreversibly upload his mind into Viridian Gate Online, an MMO designed to survive the cataclysm. Soon after he arrives in game, Grim Jack learns that the offer of eternal paradise in a game hid a dire prison. For the rich, corrupt, and ruthless in the real world have made deals with the programmers to allow them to rule over the millions of unsuspecting players. Worse still, Grim Jack has stolen the key to do so from a violent drug kingpin who is ready to turn Grim Jack’s ticket for survival into eternal torture.

In Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm, James Hunter uses the threat of extinction and transhumanism as a backdrop to the battle inside the game’s servers. To save millions, design choices, favors, and compromises were made that directly influence the evolution of the in-game story. But it’s still a game, and subject to the familiar, almost cozy tropes of litRPGs and progression fantasies. Thrust into becoming VGO’s equivalent of World of Warcraft’s Thrall, Grim Jack, a former medic, must prevail over hostile players and the increasingly perilous quests the game throws at him if he is going to defeat the drug kingpin out to ruin him. Cataclysm may be a power fantasy, but Grim Jack and his companions are grounded compared to many of his peers, lacking the indulgences common to the genre. For instance, the flamboyances of 2018 harem fantasies are nowhere to be found. As for the rattle of virtual dice and the crunch of rules, Hunter minimizes the intrusion of video games elements without shying away from the reality of playing a game in an immersive environment. But for those what want the coziness of a Let’s Play video, the encounters are pretty crunchy and consistent with the rules laid out by the story. Those readers looking for an introduction to litRPGs will find none better.

Vengeful warriors, demon-slaying androids, refugee gamers, and a legendary frog hero fill this week’s collection of fantasy new releases.


Deadline (Afterlife Online #4) – Domino Finn

Black knights. Dastardly pirates. Bloodthirsty rebels.

And those are the good guys.

War is coming to the Midlands. Like a kettle ready to bubble over, cities teeter at the brink of boiling, all while a spymaster fans the flames.

Witness the rise of the Violet Order.

It was always coming to this. Freedom isn’t given, it’s wrenched from the choking grips of those who would stifle, contain, and control. Legends are rife with noble heroes standing over vanquished enemies, but reality is more grisly. Peace is hard-won with blood and sacrifice, and sometimes the good guys pay the ultimate price.

Thus Talon, Izzy, Kyle, and the Black Hats are tasked with raising an army, storming a fortress, and fighting a war on multiple fronts, all on an impossible deadline. In three days, Haven’s beta test ends, and in three days, so too might their entire world.


Foundling Wizard (Apprentice to Master Series #1) – James Eggebeen

Magic is just one more thing to be stolen…

For over a hundred years, the Temple of Ran has been sacrificing young wizards in order to steal their power. When Lorit discovers that he holds the rare ability to use magic, he becomes their next target.

At first, he runs, working to master his abilities on the move so that one day he might be able to resist them. But that was before the Temple targets his beloved sister, Onult. In order to save her life, he infuses her with his own power.

Now, they’re both targets.

Together, they’ll battle to make the world safe for magicians everywhere… if they can survive the temple’s power-hungry priests. If they can’t, their enemy will absorb their magic and become unstoppable.


Karma’s Touch (Chronicles of Ethan #3) – John L. Monk

A showdown with destiny. Paradise or deletion. The hero of the hour.

In an act of desperation, Ethan takes a quest to free himself and his wife from Mythian forever. Melody only has one life, and nowhere is safe for her, not even the cities.

To help keep Melody safe, Ethan travels alone, at least until an old ally joins him—one who could prove to be the key to his success… or the destruction of all he holds dear.

The seeds of Karma were planted long ago, and they are about to yield fruit. One choice is poison, one is salvation. It’s time to decide.


Karnov: Phantom-Clad Rider of the Cosmic Ice – Matthew Knight, Howie K. Bentley and Byron A. Roberts

Returning from battle, the warrior Karnov discovers his family murdered and his homeland ravaged by vampyres. Learning that the undead Lord Ghormanteia is responsible for unleashing nosferatu hordes upon the land, he seeks aid from the sultry witch of a nearby woodland. By blood and sorcery, he is granted the supernatural ability to traverse worlds and absorb undead souls to gain strength. Declaring Ghormanteia shall fall by his ice-encased blade, Karnov sets out on a quest of vengeance to cleanse the land of its evil scourge.

Ghormanteia’s minions are not the only threat Karnov must face on his journey. A scheming blood-countess, a serpent monster with time-displacing venom, a mutant-breeding necromancer, daemonic forces, an uprising cult, and myriad creatures all stand in his way. Aided by witchcraft and sorcerous allies, will Karnov’s powers and burning lust for retribution be enough to avenge his loved ones, or will undead wraiths corrupt the earth forever? Through mist-shrouded graveyards, haunted castles, cosmic gateways and strange worlds, Karnov: Phantom-Clad Rider of the Cosmic Ice will take you to the heart of the vampyre’s lair and beyond! Read More

Merry Christmas! What better way to spend this joyous season than by curling up beside the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and…a dark horror novel? 

Stick with me here. Maybe December makes for the perfect season for a horror novel. Now, when the nights are longest and the weather coldest and nature has gone to bed for the year, might be a better time to experience a bit of darkness before the light shines on Christmas once more. Maybe the contrast between everything merry and bright adds to the darkness of the shadows. Maybe it’s always a good time to be reminded of our own fragility in this hostile universe in which we live. Or maybe you’re just a horror fan who feels that it’s never a bad time to read something creepy.

Whichever category you fall into, you’re going to want to pick up a copy of David V. Stewart’s Eyes in the Walls. In addition to navigating the rocky shoals of his parents’ acrimonious divorce and the usual stresses of puberty and public schooling, Billy’s daily routine includes spending his afternoons in a funeral home. He’s a decent kid, Billy, and of an age where he faces that fork in the road between the self-destructive choices of ‘the wrong crowd’ and the more respectable paths laid down by the expectations of the adults that surround him. Which makes him particularly vulnerable to the demons he faces before the turn of the last page.

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Giorno Giovanna, a holdover from Winter 2018

Outside of the horrendous and tragic Kyoto Animation fire, this was an amazing year for anime. The fire is a terrible loss to the community; there is no softening that blow. But as far as the quality of the shows that came out – WOW!

This is going to be a pretty long post, because there’s so much to get to. Before we start, here’s the structure:

  • I will be naming one show per season as the “Winner”, and then pick a runner-up.
  • Only new shows will be counted – if a show from a previous season is continuing or a season 2 is airing, that won’t count.
  • That said, best continuing show/sequel will be its own category.
  • An anime of the year will be named as one of the winners at the end.

Without further ado…Let’s begin! Read More

Weird Western (David J. West): It was fun to reread some old Louis L’amour books and even a couple Lovecraft stories I had missed like The Strange High House in the Mist – because I have a hardly touched Lovecraftian god = Nodens making an appearance.

Fiction (Wasteland & Sky): For those that don’t know, mundane science fiction was a movement spearheaded by the Clarion Writer’s Workshop to tell writers what their imagination needs to be focused on in order to shape the future properly. You pay money for this sort of advice. The result has led to an already low selling genre bottoming out and losing to independent Space Opera series in sales. Despite being a 15 year old movement, it has yet to produce a single hit, despite having the entire Oldpub machine behind it. That’s the legacy this movement has.

Lovecraft & Cinema (Tentaclii): Hollywood-watchers report that work is underway on adapting the Hans Rodionoff / Giffen / Breccia graphic novel Lovecraft (2003). The adaptation is mooted as a possible costume horror-drama which “will take place in the 1920s”. Sounds good, though the first sixth of the 130-page book is actually set in the 1890s with Lovecraft as a boy, which would entail two sets of period costumes. Read More