Roadkill by Joseph D’Lacey – review

Joseph-D-Lacey-Roadkill-211x300Roadkill is touted by the publisher, This Is Horror, as a chapbook. It’s sold as such and there are a limited 125 signed hard copies available. I was sent an ecopy to review, but I’m not sure if it will be made available as an ebook in the future. However, in any format this is actually a short story. With a chapbook, you expect something of at least novelette length, preferably novella (maybe 10,000 words or more) This story is more like the setup of something bigger.

And it’s not a horror story, though it is dark future sci-fi of a sort and that’s good. It’s told entirely from the point of view of one driver in a two car race through a blasted dystopian future. They’re on a race stretch called the Final Five, set up with all kinds of obstacles to interrupt their incredibly high speed, custom race cars. The worldbuilding, especially in such a constrained story, is excellent up to a point. But, of course, I wanted to know more. D’Lacey is a great writer and this story is visceral and powerful. The racers are trying to gain social standing by winning the race, but every second they’re risking their lives. The intensity of their situation is carried well throughout the story. But only in the car.

And where the worldbuilding was excellent, but lacking depth and therefore reader immersion, the characters were similarly lacking. There’s only one real character that we’re close to, in the driver’s seat with him while he races. We know that he wants to graduate to a better standing, but we don’t know why. I wanted to know more about who he was, what the new standing would mean for him should he win. I also wanted to know more about the world – why it was this way, why racing had become such a symbol of achievement and so on. Every aspect of this story was both excellent and frustratingly incomplete. The moments inside the car were tight and increasingly intense, but everything outside it was nebulous and unformed. This made it hard to really engage with the story, as none of the stakes were properly explained.

The story is excellently written and it’s well worth a read, but it’s not enough. This is a good short story, but it could have been an outstanding novella. Here’s hoping D’Lacey expands on this story or this world in future work.

The chapbook is available here.


Book Review – River of Bones by Jodi Cleghorn

This is a cross-post from Adventures of a Bookonaut.

river_thumb[1]River of Bones was previously published by the Australian Review of Fiction under the title of Elyora, the name of the town featured in the novella.  I read it back in January and by a stroke of good fortune happened to read Dr Lisa L Hannett’s article, Wide Open Fear: Australian Horror and Gothic Fiction at the same time.  Hannett introduced me to the concept of unheimlich, a term that roughly translates to an object, situation or place that has a quality of being familiar yet foreign at the same time.

The term describes River of Bones perfectly.  The setting is familiar, yet strange and Cleghorn presents a story that straddles the borderline between the everyday, the mundane and the disturbing.  She presents an Australian landscape and characters that I know and manages to embed a “wrongness”, a fractured reality that builds until the true horror is revealed.

Australia is the sort of country where a wrong turn can kill you, either the people, the animals or the environment.  The initial opening of the tale ( a short prologue was added with the new edition) starts off with a band in their combi-van traveling an outback road to a gig.  Most Australian’s have that experience of the road trip, of turning off into towns bypassed by the highway, of taking shortcuts that turnout to be long-ways-around.  Elyora could be anyone of a hundred once-were-towns in my state.

Read the rest of this review at Adventures of a Bookonaut.


Book Review – The Bride Price by Cat Sparks

This is a cross-post from Adventures of a Bookonaut.

tbp[1]Cat Sparks is probably more widely known for her role as an editor and small press advocate (indeed she was included in Donna Maree Hanson’s Australian Speculative Fiction: A Genre Overview as such). A talented graphic artist and photographer she’s been a stalwart, a firm fixture in the Australian Speculative Fiction scene long before I rocked up.

The Bride Price collects works that have appeared intermittently over the course of the last decade or so, it’s the short fiction that she’s fitted in around being generally brilliant and multitalented with everything else. And like everything she does in Australian speculative fiction its got that polished feel to it.

You can perhaps tell I am a little bit of a fan.

No collection can be everything to everyone, there’s usually some stories that hit the mark and some that don’t but heavens, I’d have trouble finding a story in this collection that I thought was even slightly off the boil.

Read the rest of this review at Adventures of a Bookonaut.


Shivers VII edited by Richard Chizmar – Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

shivers7Shivers VII edited by Richard Chizmar –
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Publisher: Cemetery Dance 2013
Trade Paperback, 512 pages

The eagerly awaited seventh installment in the highly regarded, award-winning anthology series from Cemetery Dance is now finally here and well worth the wait.

Bookended by two prestigious reprints by Clive Barker (a fantasy tale previously published as “Hermione and the Moon”, now re-titled “The Departed”) and by Stephen King ( “Weeds”, firstly appeared in Cavalier and Nugget magazines in the ‘70s), the hefty volume collects twenty-four other stories, mostly original and mostly of excellent quality. Some are indeed outstanding and I will start by mentioning those.

“Red Rover, Red Rover” by Norman Partridge is a superb piece of supernatural horror revolving around a drowned little girl’s dog and raising the question whether live persons can be scarier than ghosts.

The astonishing, surrealistic ”Born Dead” by Lisa Tuttle reveals the incredible secret in a successful businesswoman’s life, while the riveting , dark “The Baby Store” by Ed Gorman ( a cross between SF and crime) addresses the accidental death of a little kid.

In the strong and gripping “Memory Lake” by Robert Morrish , small town old , dirty secrets and crimes are literally unearthed, and in the nasty, graphic “Beholder” by Graham Masterton, the statement that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is pushed to the extreme consequences.

Having presented my own favorite tales, I must proceed by pointing out a group of remarkably good stories which contribute to make Shivers VII possibly even better than the previous, terrific six volumes.

Bill Pronzini’s “Breakbone” is the disquieting report of the nightmarish meeting with a loser who will finally reveal his true nature, while Bev Vincent’s “Severance Package” is an ingenuous mix of horror and crime, only slightly spoiled by a rather moralistic ending.

Time-honored subjects are effectively revisited with accomplished, original takes: zombies (Tim Waggoner’s “Zombie Dreams”), doppelgangers (Don D’Ammassa’s “Echoes”), on the road “car duels” (Rick Hautala’s “GPS”).

Brian James Freeman contributes “As She Lay There Dying”, the perceptive portrait of a college professor struck by “runner’s block” after two close encounters with sudden death, and Kaaron Warren offers “Sleeping with the Bower Birds”, a dreamlike, atmospheric story where strange birds fly around, new clothes shine and an odd family goes on with life.

In addition, the book features stories by Norman Prentiss, Al Sarrantonio, Darren Speegle, Scott Nicholson, Travis Heermann, Greg F Gifune, Kevin Quigley, Del James, Joel Arnold, Roberta Lannes, Rio Youers.

Many, many reasons for securing immediately a copy….

 – Reviewed by Mario Guslandi



The Australian Horror Writers Association is pleased to announce the AUSTRALIAN SHADOWS AWARD for LONG FICTION will be named the PAUL HAINES SHADOWS AWARD for LONG FICTION in honour of Paul Haines.

New Zealand-born horror and speculative fiction writer, Paul Richard Haines, 41, died on 5 March 2012 after a five-year battle with cancer.

Raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Paul moved to Australia in the 1990s after completing a university degree in Otago. He attended the inaugural Clarion South writers workshop in 2004 and was a member of Melbourne’s SuperNOVA writers group. Paul had more than thirty short stories published in Australia, North America, and Greece.

Paul collected numerous awards including winning Australia’s Ditmar Award five times: Best New Talent in 2005; Best novella/novelette for The Last Days of Kali Yuga (2005) and The Devil in Mr Pussy (Or How I Found God Inside My Wife) (2007); Best Collection for Slice of Life (2010); and Best Novella for Wives (2010). He won the Aurealis Award three times: Best Horror Short Story for The Last Days of Kali Yuga (2004); Best Horror Short Story twice for Wives tied with Slice of Life – A Spot of Liver (2009). The Sir Julius Vogel Award was awarded four times: Best Collection for Doorways for the Dispossessed (2008); Best Novella for Wives (2010); Best Novella for A Tale of the Interferers: Hunger for Forbidden Flesh (2011); and Best Short Story for High Tide at Hot Water Beach (2011). He won two Chronos Awards; Best Collection for Slice of Life (2010); and Best Short Fiction for Her Gallant Needs (2011).

In 2011, Paul’s The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt won the Australian Shadows Award for Long Fiction. Here was a tale that mixed fiction with reality in Haines’ unique way, merging the line between what’s real and what isn’t until you felt uncomfortable. It was at once horrifying and highly emotional.

Paul’s writing interrogated the horror constrained within the heart of civilized convention; the difficulties of being human while living with animal instincts intact. Sharp, smart and observant, he managed to make the grossest of gross stuff funny – and therefore accessible.

Paul focused a spectrum of disturbing truths though the prism of his lens. His writing style was tough, mesmerising, visceral, no holds barred. In a word, authentic, just like the man himself. He wrote with certainty and strength. Sympathetic to tragedy, he enticed us to engage with and acknowledge elements of the dark within.

Grateful for the inclusion he experienced from more established writers early on, he made a point of extending the same friendship and courtesy to newer writers following behind.

He is survived by his wife Julie and daughter Isla.


Brimstone Press announces three new novel lines

Brimstone Press have emerged from hiatus after their move from Australia to New Zealand and have announced the upcoming reading period for three new dark fiction novel lines. They will be holding an open reading for three months from 1 July to 30 September 2013 for the following types of novels:

Brimstone – dark fiction for adults.

Horror, thrillers, and all sub-genres – including psychological, supernatural, apocalyptic, and Lovecraftian. The primary intent of your novel is to inspire fear or suspense in the reader.

Bloodstone – dark romance.

Gothic and paranormal (no blatant porn). The primary intent of your novel is to explore tragic, taboo, and/or ill-fated relationships.

Moonstone – dark fiction for young adults.

Same as the above lines (Brimstone & Bloodstone) but aimed at a younger (teen) audience.

All the submission guidelines can be found here.


Horror Writers Association Celebrates 2012 Bram Stoker Award® Winners

From the HWA blog:

The Horror Writers Association chose a historic hotel in the haunted city of New Orleans to announce the winners of the 2012 Bram Stoker Awards® tonight. The presentations were made at a banquet held as the highlight of the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend, which this year incorporated the World Horror Convention.

Fifteen new bronze haunted-house statuettes were handed over to the writers responsible for creating superior works of horror last year. This year’s winners are:

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL
Life Rage by L.L. Soares (Nightscape Press)

Superior Achievement in a YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster)

Superior Achievement in a GRAPHIC NOVEL
Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times by Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton (McFarland and Co., Inc.)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION
The Blue Heron by Gene O’Neill (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION
“Magdala Amygdala” by Lucy Snyder (Dark Faith: Invocations, Apex Book Company)

Superior Achievement in a SCREENPLAY
The Cabin in the Woods” by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy Productions, Lionsgate)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY
Shadow Show edited by Mort Castle and Sam Weller (HarperCollins)

Superior Achievement in a FICTION COLLECTION (tie)
New Moon on the Water by Mort Castle (Dark Regions Press)
Black Dahlia and White Rose: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco Press)

Superior Achievement in NON-FICTION
Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton (Reaktion Books)

Superior Achievement in a POETRY COLLECTION
Vampires, Zombies & Wanton Souls by Marge Simon (Elektrik Milk Bath Press)

Read the full announcement here.