Blurring The Line, ed. by Marty Young – Review by Greg Chapman

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ed. by Marty Young

Cohesion Press

Review by Greg Chapman

Blurring the Line was definitely not the anthology I expected.

But, in this case, that’s a very good thing.

Described as a collection of fiction/non-fiction, Blurring the Line delivers on its intent of exploring the grey area between real and inventive horror, and in doing so, revealing just how diverse – and satisfying – horror fiction can be.

Commencing with probably the most definitive non-fiction piece, Tom Piccirilli’s Our Doom is Nigh, is a poignant and revelatory insight into his battle with cancer. From there though, the lines do indeed begin to blur. What follows are stories that delve into paranoia, witchcraft, cryptids, human anomalies, conspiracies and several cracking ghost stories.

Some of the stand-out tales included Lisa Morton’s Woollen Shirts and Gumboots, Tim Lebbon’s Clown’s Kiss, Miskatonic Schrödinger by Steven Lloyd Wilson, Consorting With Filth by Lisa L. Hannett, Hoarder by Kealan Patrick Burke, With These Hands by Brett McBean, The Body Finder by Kaaron Warren, Paul Mannering’s Salt on the Tongue and Annie Neugebauer’s Honey.

All in all, the selections by editor Marty Young, are inspired and several of the stories even managed to have me scanning Google to see if there was any truth to them.

The only negative – if there is one – was the inclusion of the “non-fiction” articles interspersed between the stories. Although I believe they were designed to give the reader a taste of the proceeding stories, I found the articles occasionally inhibited the flow of the stories. But this is just the reviewer’s personal opinion.

Blurring the Line is a very solid anthology of horror stories that certainly kept me enthralled and entertained and wondering what is truth and what is fiction.

Recommended.

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The Eschatologist by Greg Chapman

Queensland horror author Greg Chapman has announced the upcoming publication of his fifth novella, The Eschatologist.

The Eschatologist is a survival horror tale centred on David Brewer, who is trying to keep his family alive in a world torn asunder by a Biblical apocalypse. Yet there is salvation, in the guise of a stranger who offers survivors sanctuary. All they have to do is declare their faith in God’s final – and bloody – plan.

The post-apocalyptic tale is expected to be published by Voodoo Press in the second half of 2015.

Chapman’s previous novellas include Torment, The Noctuary and The Last Night of October. Black Beacon Books released his debut short story collection, Vaudeville and Other Nightmares in September last year. He is currently working on a novel.

Bullet Ballerina, the one-shot comic Chapman illustrated for Tom Piccirilli and SST Publications is also now available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats.

You can find out more by visiting www.darkscrybe.com

Bullet Ballerina now available for pre-order

Bullet Ballerina, written by Tom Piccirilli and illustrated by Greg Chapman, is now available for pre-order from Short, Scary Tales Publications.

Cover & interior art © Greg ChapmanJohnny Booze is an Iraq War vet and ex-cop who went off the grid when mobsters killed his family. He’s been a shadow on the street, a killing machine who fancies himself judge, jury, and executioner.

But this isn’t his story.

It’s the tale of Ellie, a ballet student who’s found Johnny to ask him not to kill JoJo “the Ganooch” Ganucci. Because she wants to do it herself. She thinks JoJo has taken everything from her when he stepped on her toe and ruined her future as a world-class ballerina.

What’s worse than a trained soldier with a mad-on for anyone connected to the New York syndicate?

An unbalanced sixteen-year-old girl with a grudge.

Written by Tom Piccirilli and illustrated by Greg Chapman, BULLET BALLERINA is a blackly humorous tale of revenge that takes the elements of hardboiled/noir and twists them in a unique fashion.

Full ordering details can be found at Short, Scary Tales Publications.

The Awakening by Brett McBean – Reviewed by Greg Chapman

awakeningThe Awakening by Brett McBean
Publisher: The Asylum Projects/Tasmaniac Publications; First Edition edition (2012)
Paperback: 432 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9871-9492-3

The Awakening, by Melbourne horror author Brett McBean is a novel that proves the value of horror fiction as a story.
For horror to work it has to have heart, not only in its characters, but also in what the story is trying to say and McBean lays the “heart” on thick in this tale.
And at its heart, The Awakening is a tale about a boy growing up, but it’s also an intricate exploration of prejudice, retribution and forgiveness.
The basic premise of the story centres on young Toby, a boy on the cusp of adulthood and his curiosities about life after grade school, girls, alcohol – and the strange old man across the street – Mr Joseph, a black man, who many in the town regard as a freak.
McBean takes his time in the first half of the book, moulding Toby, Toby’s parents and friends and creating an air of mystery around Mr Joseph, but when another stranger arrives in town, an apparent acquaintance of Mr. Joseph’s, the story goes into overdrive.
After Toby and his friend are brutally attacked on their way to an after school party, Toby is set on a path where he gets to know Mr Joseph on a very personal level and we discover the old man’s origins and a dark past that takes us back to Haiti and zombis!
Through the course of their interaction, Mr Joseph teaches Toby about the real world, but at the same time the old man learns a lot from the boy, especially about letting go of the past.
With an overload of zombie fiction, involving viruses or plagues, it was a joy to have McBean take the zombis back to their Haitian roots. The author, in my humble opinion, made the monsters worthy again.
And with great skill McBean manages to weave everything together for an edge of your seat climax where many mysteries are solved and the characters we’ve cared for are actually “re-awakened”.
The Awakening reminded me a lot of the film Stand By Me, based upon a story by Stephen King, yet it stands on its own as a new classic in not just the horror genre, but fiction as a whole.
I should also congratulate Tasmaniac Publications for creating the wonderful hardback edition of McBean’s book, including Erin Wells’ interior art and Ray Garton’s inspired introduction. The end product speaks very loudly to the fact that an e-book just can’t shine a light to a proper paper book made with love.
Although the limited edition hardback has sold out, rumour has it that a paperback edition will be released in the near future.
Highly recommended.
Review by Greg Chapman (http://www.darkscrybe.blogspot.com/)

Review: Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times

witch-hunts-a-graphic-history-of-the-burning-timesWitch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times
By Rocky Wood & Lisa Morton
Illustrated by Greg Chapman
Publisher: McFarland
Paperback, 186 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7864-6655-9

Blurb: For three centuries, as the Black Death rampaged through Europe and the Reformation tore the Church apart, tens of thousands were arrested as witches and subjected to torture and execution, including being burned alive. This graphic novel examines the background; the witch hunters’ methods; who profited; the brave few who protested; and how the Enlightenment gradually replaced fear and superstition with reason and science. Famed witch hunters Heinrich Kramer, architect of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, and Matthew Hopkins, England’s notorious “Witchfinder General”, are covered as are the Salem Witch Trials and the last executions in Europe.

Way back when I had just started High School I discovered, in the library, graphic novel versions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. There were also graphic novels of the life of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. They were brilliant. They not only introduced me to wealth of historical figures and to Shakespeare’s genius but they cut through all the hard work of the original texts. They presented art and history in a visual way that made the past exciting and interesting. It is something that stuck with me. It is something that helped pave the way for my own journey to becoming a writer and illustrator.

What has ‘Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ to do with this?

Well, I think they’re much the same. On opening ‘Witch Hunts…‘ for the first time, I was struck with a wave of nostalgia. Like I was that little kid in the school library, just now pulling down one more book after all these years. Within a couple of pages —  or maybe it was only a couple of panels — I was hooked.

Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ begins with a brief introduction, an overview that sets the direction and tone of the work. There’s a bit of time-jumping in the chronology of this section, but bear with it. ‘Witch Hunts…‘ very soon settles into a detailed chronological telling of ‘The Burning Times’ (roughly 14th to 18th centuries) and beyond to the horrors still perpetrated around the world today.

A couple of things struck me about ‘Witch Hunts…’. Firstly, the obvious knowledge of the authors is there in every word. It was sort of amazing to me, as I read, to see how much history they’d encapsulated within such short bites. To distil all that information down to just a few words shows a real depth and understanding of the subject matter. Also, I felt I learnt more, retained more, and enjoyed it more than I ever have any history text-book. HWA President Rocky Wood and Bram Stoker Award winning author Lisa Morton really have to be congratulated on achieving such a feat.

Secondly, the artwork by Queensland author/illustrator Greg Chapman is spot on for the work. The style is not that of the modern ‘comic’ — all mood, bold blacks filling 80% of a panel — but much more what I remember from those old Illustrated Classics in the library — less chiaroscuro, more detail, more character. Again, as with the authors, the research that must have gone into each and everyone of Chapman’s illustrations is mind boggling. To be honest, I’m no expert on any of this stuff, but every page looks authentic. The clothing, the hairstyles, all the little objects in the background. They mesh perfectly with the narrative, really drawing you into the stories that Wood and Morton are telling.

The overall narrative is one we’re all familiar with through the culture of horror-literature and -cinema: that despicable period of inhumanity that began with the Spanish Inquisition and spread as Witch Hunts and Witch Trials throughout Europe and the New World. But Wood, Morton and Chapman take us beyond that; back to the religious and biblical origins of ‘Witchcraft’ as an evil and as a sin in the introduction, then later beyond the 18th Century. They also delve deeper. They offer up an onslaught of historical events and incidents. Grotesque images by Chapman. Individual things that happened to individual people, and these people had names. Sure, I’d sort of read and seen TV docos on the sort of things that the Catholic Church did in the 15th Century, or what occurred in Salem. But never before has this history been shown to me on such a personal level. As I said, these people had names, and now I know some of them. That has to bring anyone closer to history, doesn’t it? Gets you right in there, and you begin to really understand what these people went through. Isn’t that what learning history is all about?

That’s where ‘Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ really worked for me. It showed me stories of real people. All the horror and the torment they went through and all the madness of the people who’d condemned them. It certainly is graphic — Chapman’s illustrations are often more uncompromisingly gruesome than the text — but it serves to show a truth about our past that we should not shy from. In light of some of the religious and political events happening around the world today, remembering that truth seems, to me, an especially important thing.

Ultimately, ‘Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ is informative in a way few non-fiction works are, and it’s great-looking too! Definitely a worthwhile addition to any horror reader’s or writer’s library.