Monday, July 2, 2018

New Collection! Occasional Beasts: Tales Pre-Order Info and TOC!

I've been away.  Now, I am back.
What are you back with, JC?
A new collection, Occasional Beasts: Tales, from Omnium Gatherum.
A new collection? Details, please...

First, so I don't forget, here's the Amazon link for the kindle version, and the Omnium Gatherum link, for the print version; yes, the print will eventually be on Amazon as well, of course.

Here's the back cover copy:

"Occasional Beasts: Tales features fourteen stories, four never before published, exploring the landscape of love and transformation, of desire and damnation, of unleashing the beast within, or encountering the beast of another made flesh, including gods made monsters in the eyes of deranged acolytes, and even the unflinching revelation of one’s true self, be it beastly, otherworldly, or the most horrific beast of all: Man. 

We are all Occasional Beasts…"

And here's the TOC (the titles with asterisks are previously unpublished, and total close to 34k of the almost 92k words):

*The Glove
The Wounded Table
*A Declaration of Intent
The Cooing
The Occasional Beast That is Her Soul
This Darkness
*Personal Jesus
I Am...
Vox Terrae
*The Johnny Depp Thing
The Land Lord

Lovely, eh?  Well, I think so. A lot of weird and horror and weird horror and body horror and speculative explorations of the 'other', all that stuff I wrote for the back cover copy, too! And more!

I will be doing Story Notes as blog posts starting up soon. I might wait until I am settled in Rome for the summer, which will start in less than three weeks. But be aware, Story Notes are on the way.

Are you ready?

Here's the exquisite cover art. I know, I know...she's adorable...

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Wilderness Within: A Snippet From Chapter 4: Gone Fishing...

...because that's when we get a better feel for the mysterious forest...

Here's a taste:


“Don’t you feel it here?” Wrinkles laced as confused, cursive script across his forehead, his eyelids scrunched, the light within his eyes quivering, almost pleading for me to understand.

“Sense what?” I said, fooling neither of us. 

I sensed something, a discomfort that was like the weight of everything I had felt at Auschwitz, or at least a similar, immeasurable mass. I sensed an undefined something here as I stopped looking to Frank for answers, burrowing into my own mind for perceptions rooted in a consciousness I understood, to try and make sense of the ambience that even in this empty space seemed to crowd into me. The claustrophobic embrace of nothingness, but nothingness with presence.

The forest before this spot was perfunctory. Since I hadn’t been paying attention the images I could pull up of the last twenty minutes’ walk to this point were vague at best. They were images that fit into the catalogue my brain has of forests. There was nothing distinctive because my brain was looking inward, not all around me.

Until now. 

Taking in the forest here, I scanned the whole of where I was and everything that surrounded me. The trees were maybe ten yards in a loose circumference from where we were standing. The glade was threaded with a carpet of branches, twigs, weeds, and mushrooms, thicker than outside of the circle, from what I could see. A handful of tree stumps jutted forth, having been witness—been participants—to some kind of violence. Probably something natural in nature, yet the trees that had been connected to the torn stumps were nowhere to be found. The stumps were covered in a bruised yellow into black moss that looked more like disease than anything of florid health. Gray lichen covered the larger rocks that dotted the glade. 

Spider webs stretched across the expanse, a lattice whose prominence made my skin itch. I could not imagine how many spiders it had taken to create this death net hotel, yet further investigation showed no trespassing insects were cocooned within. The hotel seemed dead itself, the vacancy, permanent.

The smell of the place didn’t deter my rising discomfort. The omnipresent earthy odors were cut with a stench that seemed of animal origin. Not musky, though something similar, rich and tangy. Injury bandaged with moss, never healing, always moist, the moss thriving on that which seeped from within. 

The trees at the rim of our circle were tinted with the odd moss as well, as if the disease that had stricken the stumps had spread beyond, to feed on the more vital trees.

Beyond what I saw and smelled, I had a sense that something was quite simply wrong here, that something about what I saw suggested a deeper meaning to why it was like this here.

I sensed in my mind something picking through my thoughts, as if my skull had been opened up and something was looking for whatever special thoughts, memories, and imagination that it fed on, and was diligently feeding: beetles picking the carcass clean.

Not unlike exactly what Frank had suggested. 

“You do sense it, don’t you?” Frank switched the tackle box to his right hand. It joined the pole as he put his left hand on my shoulder. 

I lowered to my haunches, leaned my weight on my hand as I pressed the palm to the ground, an upper-limb kick-stand. I could swear I felt something pulsing warmly just below the surface. An image of the diseased moss covering bright red abrasions, or possibly just thick veins, came to me; I was tempted to plunge my eager fingers into the ground and find the source. 

I shook the intrusion from my head, dismantling the skewed perceptions from my thoughts. Ridiculous! Standing up, I smiled, something I’m sure barely succeeded in accomplishing its intent.

“It’s weird out here, sure. But you know me. I’ve never been one for forests. Nature’s a ravenous bitch.”


I hope that piques your interest and, if you've not yet bought the novel, will purchase a copy now.  There are some excellent reviews up on Goodreads, of which some have migrated over to Amazon, where you can buy a well as from the publisher, Trepidiatio/JournalStone.

Also: While I am here, if you are a reviewer, we're looking for more reviews, so contact me at and I can hit you with a pdf, mobi, or epub version.'s a painting of a strange tree by one of the true masters of weird art, Zdzislaw Beksinski.

Friday, October 13, 2017

An Interview & Review Links & More Stuff

I meant to post something a week or so ago, but at that time I was entering the last few days of my stay in Rome, so I was...busy, to say the least.


Now that I'm back to the blog, I'll post a few links to pertinent stuff dealing with The Wilderness Within, as well as a surprise, too.

First: I did an interview over at Hellnotes.  Check it out.  Some good info and intriguing details. I had fun with it.

Second: There are already 10 5-star ratings and five reviews up on Goodreads, as well as four of those reviews have made it over to Amazon as well.  Check them out, some wonderful perceptions, and nobody gives anything away, which I dig, as there are a few big surprises in the novel, yet you'll just have to read it to find out what I'm talking about.

Third, as in, More Stuff: I was pleased to see editor Ellen Datlow included two tales from my Dunham's Manor chapbook, The Wrath of Concrete and Steel, in her Honorable Mentions 2016 - Horror of the Year Volume Nine.  "The Land Lord" and the title tale get notice, which brought a smile to my Friday the 13th morning.

So there ya go, a few goodies and more reason to check out the new novel...and the previous chapbook, too!


Monday, September 18, 2017

How About Some Book Blurbs on my Birthday...?! ;-)

My birthday is September 19.  Okay, I'm a day early.  How old are you, JC?  I am, as I like to say, borrowing this quote from Neil Peart of Rush, "Old enough to know what's right, but young enough not to choose it."  (From the song, "New World Man.")  Either that or I am ancient, which is my other most used response.


Below I have some blurbs from three writers who deserve your attention with their own amazing work.  I'm hoping these blurbs either:

1) inspire you to pre-order a copy of my second novel, The Wilderness Within (coming from Trepidatio/JournalStone)...for my birthday (a gift for me--sales, y'know?!!! [yeah, well, I had to work the reason for the birthday reference in here somewhere]--but more of a gift for you, ahem, once you read the novel, because you Will Not Believe where it all ends up) (really, you won't believe some of what happens in the novel; I don't, and I wrote it!), just because you're intrigued or

B) REVIEWERS & BLOGGERS interested in receiving a pdf, mobi, or epub copy, perhaps these will inspire you to get in touch with me ( and I'll hit you up with a digital copy.  I've sent out copies for potential reviews and blurbs already, of course--part of the pre-publication deal--but more is always a good thing.

What?  Why, yes, that might be the most parenthesis I've ever used in a sentence.

Here's my Amazon author page, just in case you want to purchase anything else by your humble, rambling host...

I'm honored to have these blurbs! 


“Enthralling, surreal, mystical, and evocative, John Claude Smith’s The Wilderness Within is a mind-warping tale for devotees of weird fiction, written by a master of the form. I loved it!” – Tim Waggoner, author of Dark and Distant Voices <--out in December

"With each new work John Claude Smith combines the psychological, physical and supernatural in ever more subtle configurations. You will lose your bearings in this fictional world of Lovecraftian noir where everything is alive with sounds, sensations and an eerie suspicion that our hero would be much better off if he had never answered the call of a lifelong friend. Marvelously evocative writing." - S.P. Miskowski, author of I WishI Was Like You & Strange is the Night

"John Claude Smith's fiction is consistently out of this world, and with The Wilderness Within, his second novel, he continues reaching new literary heights. Written in gorgeous, gripping prose, this twisted tale blends music, the surreal, and hints of nostalgia to pull readers deeper into the darkness of the woods until, like protagonist Derek Gray, the forest closes in around them, and there's no chance of escape."—Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe

Check the hyperlinks for stuff by moi, and stuff by these talented writers, too! 

Here's a birthday cake that seems appropriate for the festive occasion. 
Art courtesy of Flavio Greco.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Anthology Update, Part 1: Where to Find Some Short Fiction By Yours Truly

Over the last month and upcoming in September and October, I have four tales in new anthologies, so let's quit messing around and get to it!  I'll touch on the already released tales in this blog post, then the forthcoming titles in a follow-up blog. Post. Whatever. 

Out early in August was the fabulous Phantasm/Chimera: An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams, edited by Scott Dwyer.  The TOC is a knockout and features Adam Golaski, Matthew M. Bartlett, Christopher Slatsky, Thana Niveau, Brian Evenson, Livia Llewellyn, Mike Allen, Jon Padgett, Clint Smith, and Jason A. Wyckoff, and me. 

My tale is called, "Chrysalis."  What do a bird, a beetle, a television set, and a mirror, have to do with one woman finding her way out of a hellish marriage?  Well, you need to purchase the anthology to find out. 

Here's the opening sequence, to set the mood and pique your interest.


     “What in the…?”

     The black bird plunked down on the kitchen tiles and skidded along the floor to Regina’s feet.  She turned and immediately took to standing on her tip-toes before her balance wavered and she set her heels back down on each side of the trembling creature.  She shuffled to one side, the shock of the intrusion one to shake her out of the doldrums of her dreary existence.

     While listlessly washing the dishes, she’d once again been daydreaming about suicide as a legitimate goal in life.  A goal she knew she was too weak to attain.  She used to write bleak, depressive poetry, which might seem a cliché many maudlin young girls on the cusp of womanhood undertake, but her aspirations and talent were obvious.  A few years later, as Regina had begun to make a name for herself, the weight of her dead whale marriage crushed her Muse.  She allowed real misery to derail her burgeoning writing career before it truly got off the ground.  It sank without a struggle, an anchor tied to the ankle of promise. 

Also out in August was the Joe S. Pulver, Sr. edited A Walk on the Weird Side, an anthology put together in conjunction with NecronomiCon 2017.  The stellar TOC features: Nadia Bulkin, S. P. Miskowski, Kristi DeMeester,  Matthew M. Bartlett, Ann K. Schwader, Michael Griffin, Craig L. Gidney, Farah Rose Smith, Peter Rawlik, Ashley Dioses, Daniel Braum, Nathan Carson, Jon Padgett, Rebecca J. Allred, Alistair Rennie, Starry Wizdom, Rhys Hughes, Michael Bukowski, Michael Wehunt, Anna Tambour, Christopher Slatsky, Scott Thomas, Lynda Rucker, Tom Lynch, Cody Goodfellow, Robert Levy, Jayprakash Satyamurthy, Philip Fracassi, Maura McHugh.  And me.  Did you just say, "Wow"?!!! ;-)

I corrupt the proceedings with a warped piece called, "Eouem Chumkpaa," which deals with, well, um...language, in a way...and an invasion, of sorts. 

Here's the opening paragraph:


     They’d driven out to the desert, Cal and the thing that wore the body of the woman he knew as Kayla.  It sat in the passenger seat, knocked out old-school style with a rag doused in ether acquired from a friend of a friend who knew people who dealt in illicit drug concoctions and sales.  The thing that was not Kayla was bound in rope, with duct tape wrapped tight around the wrists and ankles.  A gray strip covered its mouth.  Not her mouth.  Its mouth.


Also of note, and completely unrelated, as you might know, my second novel, The Wilderness Within, will be published by Trepidatio/JournalStone on October 6.  The digital and print versions are now up on Amazon, so do that pre-order thang, because you know you want it. 
Thank you!


Here's the cover art for these amazing anthologies.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pre-Orders are Up for My Second Novel, The Wilderness Within.

I know it's been too long since I last blogged...but it's time to fire this thing up and get to it again.  What with a new novel and other story info, it only makes sense.

Let's get to it.

First up: my second novel, The Wilderness Within, is available for pre-order!  It will be published October 6th...and you're not going to want to miss it.  Just click on the >>> Trepidatio/JournalStone <<< link to order your copy; the Amazon link will be up soon.  You get a free digital version of the novel if you order straight from the publisher, always a good thing.

ETA: Now available on >>> Amazon, <<< too!

Here's the back cover copy, then I'll give you a wee bit more info.

"The forest is alive.

While visiting fellow writer, Frank Harlan Marshall, Derek Gray senses a palpable dread within Frank’s house and the forest that surrounds it; a subtle, malignant sentience. What should be a joyous event, as they await the surprise arrival of a long-lost friend, comedian “Dizzy Izzy” Haberstein, is fraught with unease Derek does not understand.

Derek’s confusion is upended by the chance meeting with musician Alethea, formerly of Dark Angel Asylum, a band that dropped out of sight once the leader, Aleister Blut, ended up in an insane asylum. As their relationship blossoms, Derek’s disorientation at the hands of the forest manifests as his world turns sideways…and one of Frank’s fictional creations—a murderous monster named Average Joe—gains foothold in the surreal, psychological terrain.

As the worlds of reality and fantasy meld, what transpires bounds from deeply profound to pure madness."

Sounds intriguing, eh?  Well, this is only the foundation upon which layers of story unfold.  There are questions of reality, fantasy, and what exactly the sentient forest's intentions are.  There's elements of philosophical nuance mixed with the passion of love and the power of friendship, and whether we truly know anybody besides ourselves.  There's nods to the arts of writing and music, and even comedy, what with a comedian as one of the five, well, six main characters.  (Why is JC being uncertain about how many characters are in this tale?  You'll see...) 

In essence, there's a lot going on, unfolding as a slow burn with escalating dread and disorientation, before all bets are off...and where it ends up is like nothing you've ever read.   

A friend who read an early incarnation of the tale said, "It's like Nightmare on Elm Street as crossed with Solaris." 
Yeah, well, there is some odd sense in that, I suppose, haha...

If you enjoy my writing, or writing that's willing to stretch into places not often explored, I think you'll dig this ride.  A ride that is as far away thematically from my previous novel, the Bram Stoker Award finalist, Riding the Centipede, as can be, yet still caters to the willingness to go to unexpected places, as that one did, in its own way.  I mean, c'mon, I want to continue to grow as a writer and would get bored settling into formula fiction.  Admit it, you'd get bored, too!   

I'll be posting again soon!

Here's the Amazing cover art. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Reviews for #Horror Fiction, #Weird Fiction & Even A #Poetry Collection


I’ve wanted to get this put together since August, but I was sidetracked by a rush of inspiration, completing three new short fiction pieces within about a five-week period.  Considering the funky way the year has gone, I just had to strap in and ride them to completion.  That said, there’s more story ideas (and a new longer piece started about three weeks ago) bubbling underneath, but before locking in with fiction again, I believe it’s time to deal with some of the wonderful books I’ve read this year.

Shall we? Oh, before we get started, there are links EVERYWHERE!  Please click on them for maximum pleasure...or, well...

Let’s start with  

 One of the key elements in any Scott Nicolay (Ana Kai Tangata) story is a keen sense of frisson.  He magnifies this aspect by diving into the mind of one of the characters on such a level as to bring the reader fully into the story on multiple levels.  The staging of his tales runs the gamut of possibilities, some of which include starting off with the character already steeped in a bad situation and we’re at that point where something needs to change (“after”--though, of course, then the really weird stuff kicks in), or putting the character in a situation that gradually escalates into uncertainty (“Noctuidae”), while distorting the world around the character in such a way that ‘normal’ is no longer a part of the narrative (many of his tales; perhaps most of his tales, including the two noted in this sentence).  In Noctuidae, we spend the duration of the terrifying tale in the mind of Sue-min, who is on a hike with her boyfriend, Ron, and Ron’s friend, Pete.  She doesn’t like Pete.  We don’t like Pete.  The core of the tale takes place in a cave, at night, after Ron goes missing.  The frisson rubs hard as the circumstances deteriorate to a point where the possibility of rape hangs in the air like a clothesline draped with soiled laundry, all while something indescribable looms outside the cave.  The moments in-between are fraught with tension, fear, and exhaustion.  The creature might seem the bigger peril, but for much of the tale, Pete is right on par with it.  Toward the end there’s a beautiful moment that tapped the valve on the tension I was feeling, finally able to breathe again, though a few paragraphs later, I realize it was only the loosening/readjustment of a noose before having the chair kicked out from beneath me.  Hope may play a role in the motivations of the characters, but ultimately, hope is the lie they’ve succumbed to in this powerful tale of truly weird and truly human horrors heightened to unbearable.

Happiness.  We all want it, but our paths are distinctly different in what exactly happiness is, and how we attain it.  Benny’s got issues, but perhaps these issues have been made static by medication meant to help, yet only really stalling any- and every- thing in his life.  Benny is already afraid of living--of life itself, really--until an incident at his therapist’s office, and a friendship to make Kafka smile changes things for him.  Perhaps Stag in Flight is a love story.  Perhaps it’s a mad fantasy, a twisting of the fabric of reality as triggered by Benny’s mind.  Perhaps it’s about one man achieving a form of unexpected, surreal happiness. 


Using taut lines and clipped language, not unlike what a chorus of insects sounds like, Miskowski (Knock Knock + the just released, Muscadines, which I also will be reviewing at a later date) shows us once again why she is one of our finest writers with this absurd and, in a way, beautiful tale.  Stylistically, the story ‘feels’ like it’s from another era, yet the focus keeps it firmly in the here and now. 

Since I dig insects, the excellent artwork by Nick Gucker appeals to me.  It is grotesque and, as with the tale, rather beautiful.   

Join Gary, his older sister Abby, and their mother, Martha, as they look to enjoy a relaxing afternoon swimming in the pool at the recreation center.  Seems everybody else has the same idea, so the pool is overflowing with bodies. 

Just another normal day in the middle of a hot summer, right?

Far from it…

Fracassi expertly layers other characters and a gradually tightening thread of anxiety into the seemingly joyful setting, relayed to the reader mostly through the mind and eyes of Gary.  Some of the anxiety is palpable, as his sister is dragged into a real-life situation fraught with menace.  Even beyond that, though, the tension twists into a knot…and then normal is shown the door...and horror takes the reins.  What happens as things escalate to a breaking point is wild, shocking, unexpected…and brilliantly imagined as Fracassi takes us to a place where…well, let’s just say, what he introduces to the situation has curious influence over many, and is hungry, so hungry. 

Fracassi’s previous chapbook, Mother, crawled under my skin with a truly unnerving finale.  With Altar, he does it again, with a master’s touch.  Definitely a writer I will be following.  

Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters was a debut collection that put him firmly on the literary horror map.  Horror from a different angle.  Writing that sings. 

The Visible Filth follows Will and his girlfriend by default, Carrie, as well as his actual love interest, Alicia, her new boyfriend, Jeffrey, and Eric, “a plug of muscle and charisma,” who turns into an asshole when he drinks too much.  That drinking leads to a bloody fight at the bar Will works at (and where Eric lives upstairs), after which Will finds a cell phone left behind by a group of college kids.  What the cell phone contains infects both Will and Carrie, and sets a harrowing row of dominoes tumbling, ending in a place so bleak and shocking it knocked me sideways.  Actually, replace dominoes with cockroaches, as they’re scuttling around everywhere in this horrific tale. 

Seems Ballingrud had fun writing this tale, leisurely mounting the terror until it’s almost intolerable. But as with everything I’ve read from him, he writes it with such shimmering precision, one cannot look away.  Even if one really, really wants to.  It’s all rather mesmerizing. 

Perhaps with his words, he’s infected the reader, just as the cell phone did to poor Will.


Intermission (a break between chapbooks and collections): How about some poetry?

The poems in The Operating Theater dissect with unflinching clarity what it means to be human; a human who feels too much.  It’s a condition that constantly breaks down like-minded souls, yet we find a way to push through, rise above the waterline, gulp fresh air…before dipping back down into the depths of pain.  These poems are raw, extremely  visceral (“Holy Father Violation”), devastatingly heartbreaking (“The Right Time to Move On”), and even brutally fucked up, guilt-driven, no reason spared, all reason splayed open, all contemplation laced with poisonous self-emasculation (“The Loser Manifesto: Notes From Dirt”—really, this one’s hard to read, more an uncomfortable experience like…like remember the first time you saw David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Frank Booth came on and placed the oxygen mask over his face and…yeah, that’s the kind of discomfort wired into this one).  Much of this poetry acknowledges a religious/spiritual foundation, and much of it is apparently born of autobiographical experiences.

Whew!  After reading this collection, I am emotionally wasted, and gleefully so.  Gleefully?  Yes, because when art digs this deep, there’s a kind of understanding, a pact made with readers willing to go along for the ride: we are here and we hurt, but we find strength in our art, and in those who are brave enough to never turn away, no matter how deep the blade slices into the soul of existence. 

Ropes recently released a chapbook, Complicity, that I look forward to reading soon.

Excuse me for this, but it’s what popped into my head when I went to put some words down about Michael Wehunt’s fabulous debut collection, Greener Pastures.  I was inspired in…well… Read on.

Drop a cube of sugar in the tall glass of iced-tea.  Place a long spoon into the glass and mix gently.


At first, the sweetness is only a promise, a suggestion at the back of your thoughts, where expectation resides.

Sip again.

There it is, the promise touches the tip of the tongue.  You close your eyes to allow no outside distractions.

Such joy.  Such relief.

But then the flavor changes.  Expectations disperse.  You realize sweat is beading on your forehead. 

You open your eyes. 

The tea is stained with something red.  Something that can only be blood.

You pull sharply away from the glass, wondering if it is chipped.   A quick observation negates the thought. 

From behind you there is laughter.

When you turn to see who would be so cruel, you are confronted by a mirror.

Your mouth is a splayed-open wound, yet when you wipe at it with the sleeve of your shirt, most of the blood disappears.  A couple more swipes, and your mouth is suddenly sealed shut.

Screaming is no longer an option…

Yeah, well.  This is a lot like what many of the tales in Michael Wehunt’s debut collection, Greener Pastures, feel like to me.  He easily draws the reader in, a thread of loss being one of the major linking devices—we can all relate to loss--and subtly, irresistibly tells his tales.  My favorite one is “Onanon,” which explores Adam’s family history via an infected text, curious photos, and a mysterious woman who seems to have been there for much of it.  What it all reveals, well, I’ll leave that for the hive-mind to figure out…just read it.  The title tale is road-weary when it starts during the graveyard shift at a diner, then veers into a really dark place between the gaps.  I was reminded of the best work of Dennis Etchison, which brought a smile.  Wehunt isn’t a one-note writer, though, as the nerve-wracking found footage circle within a circle construction (and constriction, really) of the “October Film Haunt: Under the House” can attest.  

An excellent debut from a writer I look forward to reading more from.  The writing is crisp, drawing the reader in, passing the reader a tall glass of iced-tea.  Go ahead, have a sip…

As a matter of fact, if you want a taste of what Wehunt can do, and perhaps my inspiration for ordering the book, check out “Birds of Lancaster, Lairamore, Lovejoy” and tell me that doesn’t make you want more.

What Michael Griffin brings in his debut collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, is a deep imagination tethered to the quiet side of horror and weird fiction genres.  Yet in saying that, weird and horror might just be touchstones, as his real strength is characterization.  Nobody, I repeat, nobody does relationships, couples in all stages of their time together, like Griffin does.  He’s particularly adept with couples who’ve got some years under their belt, like in the masterful “Far from Streets,” which I’ve previously reviewed and consider a modern weird fiction classic (and is included here).  Another high point for Griffin is his use of pacing.  I think it shows Griffin has confidence in his abilities as a storyteller, putting trust his instincts.  Layering with finesse.  Atmosphere is key as what I’m saying is Griffin brings a jam-packed writers' toolbox, and uses everything for optimum impact.  With his exquisite explorations and word-building, he’s painting a big picture, even as it might be intimate, as in the outstanding short (mystery leading into hallucinogenic terror into...?) novel that ends this collection, “The Black Vein Runs Deep.”  That intimacy, especially in this tale, is brought to the forefront as the reader occupies Colm’s mindspace as he contemplates possible connections with Adi, as well as the underlying mystery.  It’s good stuff, honest, never backing away, before the reality Griffin has built tumbles into a fantastical place…that might just be an illusion.  Or is it cosmic and epic?  The ambiguity leaves the reader contemplating what exactly just happened…in a satisfying way.  The harrowing between-death (post-death?) tale, “The Accident of Survival,” left me disorientated, perhaps because I could relate to the confusion the narrator was experiencing.  “No Mask to Conceal Her Voice” carries on with a different kind of disorientation as Hollywood train-wreck, Lily Vaun, looks to kick-start her derailed career, accepting an invitation to be in a film by the strange director, Leer Astor, leading to a surprising revelation in the finale. 

All of this combines to introduce the readers to a writer who has a full grasp of his talents, yet also invites speculation on where he will go next.  Griffin is one of those writers whose storytelling demands a large canvas.  I can see many novels in his future.  No matter what, more Griffin will always be welcomed by this reader. 

(Muzzleland Press) <---of note: Creeping Waves is only $5 on the site until Halloween.

Matthew M. Bartlett made a major impression with many readers (including this one) with his debut collection, Gateways to Abomination, a rare self-published book that left a huge impact.  Creeping Waves plays off of the ideas incorporated in Gateways, primarily the thread of the insidious WXXT radio station, as well as his two other chapbooks published in the interim, The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts and Anne Gare’s Rare Book and Ephemera Catalogue, and combines, expands, and refines it all.  I think of the GtA and CW much as I think of Evil Dead and Evil Dead II.  Like the original Evil Dead, GtA is raw, but sets a striking foundation upon which the second book uses as a springboard, and furthermore, Bartlett’s writing has grown into a real force.  Much like the second movie, Creeping Waves plays up the gruesome, the horror…and the humor.  The meatier tales (though often laced with worms—just…just read the book) have real weight, but one cannot discount the slighter in-between tales, as they add character and depth to the all-around reading experience.  “Night Dog” is corporate horror that pushes latter-stage Ligotti, or perhaps Mark Samuel, right off the page.  It’s harrowing and unflinching, especially when our narrator witnesses the transformation of CEO Wren Black into…something truly nightmarish.  (I may have said too much, yet the ride is full of witty writing, so you’ll want to take it anyway.)  “Rangel,” which I reviewed before, messes with memory and loss before it stumbles into a bizarre celebration of Boschian proportions. (Just read my full review HERE.)  “The Egg” is absurd and shocking and contains “chickens and eggs and flesh and love” and a whole lot of crazy shit!    

I didn’t read this “collection” as a straightforward collection.  It’s more like a mosaic novel (thanks for this, Nicolay), where all of the pieces, the shorter and often humorous and/or curious pieces, help to create an overall atmosphere upon which the longer pieces reach in and drag you through the abattoir of horror.  The tone, the setting, it is all woven together with the skill of a spider, and the mind of a diabolical mad scientist.  Wicked, brilliant, and always entertaining, Bartlett brings the goods and then some with this phenomenal…collection? Mosaic novel? Satanic songbook?  er…whatever the hell it is, it works!

This was fun.  It always is, but I am going to attempt to write and post reviews more consistently, as opposed to letting things stack up.   I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did writing them.
Also: all of these reviews will be up on Amazon and Goodreads soon, probably next week when I get back to the states. 
That's it for this one.  Now...go out and purchase the books I've included here (at least the books still available, as a couple were limited--and write your own reviews. 
These writers deserve your attention.

Painting by Andre Martins de Barros.  This is pretty much exactly how I feel right about now...