Book Review – The Cauldron by Sirren Rossi

This was a departure from my normal reading fare, which is kind of odd if I stop to think about it. The Cauldron is billed as sci-fi erotica, erotic sci-fi, and sci-fi romance. All good-hearted people love sci-fi and most people can dig on erotica when the mood strikes. Yet, somehow or another this was a story I wouldn’t have sought out. But you meet other authors on Twitter, someone asks nicely for a review, and, well, the rest is history.

Long story short: I really enjoyed this story.

Now, for those of you who don’t think you can intertwine erotica and sci-fi, I’d suggest a little-known book called Altered Carbon, which contains more sex than the average Game of Thrones episode and without the ritual beheading at the end. Sex and sci-fi can play nice with each other if the author has a solid handle on both genres and understands how to intertwine them for the best effect. That doesn’t necessarily mean busting out the R-4310 Orgasmatron, either. It means linking science fiction – the best examples of which are about people not tools – and erotica – again, people not tools. Not saying there’s no room for the R-4310 Orgasmatron in erotic sci-fi, just that the story shouldn’t be solely about advanced sex technology.

So, enter Sirren Rossi, an author who gets that good stories, no matter the genre, always come down to people. And the people in this case largely revolve around one Commander Scirocco Piers who starts the story doing a little sex therapy for a crewmate and ends up showing a softer side of herself spending time with a friend. After fighting off an alien ship with all the gusto of a Klingon yelling, “Perhaps today is a good day to die.”

Ostensibly, The Cauldron is part one of a series and the novella does a good job of leaving us wanting more. It wraps up its own plotline nicely, but teases that’s there’s much more to the story than we’ve seen so far. One would hope Rossi is working on a sequel that will answer some of the underlying questions left behind as well as provide another opportunity to let Commander Scirocco spread her wings and fly a little further into the manic wonderland The Cauldron is setting up.

As an added bonus, like all good sci-fi, this one comes with detailed pictures of the ships involved. It’s like a bit of sex, a lot of action, and some cool nerding out to spaceship porn at the end. Everything you really need in one tight, taut, story about aliens, sex, and interstellar naval battles.

It is the 24th century. Deep in unexplored space lays the uncharted star system GS-104. The Terran Alliance starship ‘Lightning’ – a long range scout vessel – is tasked with surveying this far-flung system for potential colonization. The ‘Lightning’s’ Chief Intelligence Officer – Commander Scirocco Piers – part spy, part officer, and part sex therapist – expects another routine mission.

What she does not expect is that the Lightning will encounter an alien ship from a rival galactic empire – and that the ship will break a long-standing treaty and attack – stealing secrets vital to Terran security across known space.

Now, Scirocco is called upon to use her many and varied skills to attempt to retrieve the stolen secrets and prevent the enemy from getting away with them and putting the whole of the Terran Alliance at risk – all without starting a war.

But with her captain dead and her plans falling apart, Scirocco is faced with challenge after challenge – on the alien ship, on her own ship’s bridge, and in bed – forced to test all her skills with the fate of two empires hanging in the balance.

Can she find it in her heart to be what she must be and do what must be done?

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Book Review – The Devil’s Valley by DM Shepard

Back in May of 2020, I reviewed a great novel by DM Shepard – The Dark Land. Even though 2020 felt like it lasted twenty years, that was only a little over a year ago. The Dark Land was a horror novel set in that arctic hellscape we like to call Alaska – a place where the mosquitos are organized and voracious, it snows in July, and vampires stalk the long night to feast on the blood of the living. No. Wait. That last bit was the plot to 30 Days of Night, a movie which, um, had vampires in it.

Anyway, rather than rely on the trope of vampires as the prevailing monsters, Shepard did her research and found Alaska was already populated with far worse monsters than a 19th century gentleman in Ireland could come up with. Rather than sucking the blood out of victims and making women pine away for the vampire’s gaze, Shepard’s Tailed Men played soccer with human heads and turned women into zombie sex slaves. Perhaps the gentry of 19th century Europe found rejecting the church and drinking blood to be oh so gauche, something only the lower classes would do, while a gentleman was expected to avoid such tawdry things.

Alaska has a long and rich heritage of people living there for millennia. These were tough SOBs who would probably say, “Drinks blood? So what? Had bloodsicles for breakfast since I ran out of whiskey.”

By taking the sheer toughness of Alaskans and pairing it with a long native story-telling tradition (What else are you going to do when it’s 0 degrees Kelvin outside?), you get tough hombres facing off scary tough hombres in an epic hombre cage match. Only the cage is made of ice and the chill in the air will freeze your lungs.

The Dark Land ended on a relatively upbeat tone. Sure, a lot of people were dead, but it looked like the enemy had been pushed back across the 39th parallel and things would calm down for a while. In the fine tradition of sequels everywhere, in The Devil’s Valley we find that while the Tailed Men may have been pushed back, they were by no means down for the count. They come roaring – well, snarling, snapping, and chittering – back with vengeance in their dark little hearts.

Like The Dark Land before it, The Devil’s Valley is a terse thriller. It gives us believable characters stuck in a horrifying situation, but it’s not weighed down by subplots or other malarkey. Think of it as the Ariel Atom of horror stories. Pure, lean, mean, and ready to rip your flesh off. Which, frankly, is how horror stories should be. It fills in some details about the Tailed Men’s motives and expands on their general nasty demeanor while also giving us a bit of backstory about how this isn’t the first time the bastards have crawled out of their caves. The Devil’s Valley also hints at more stories to come and ends on a cliffhanger, so hopefully Shepard is hard at work in Alaska right now figuring out how to get her characters out of the pickle she left them in and also finding bigger pickles to put them back into.

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Five friends on a winter fishing trip discover that something bites harder than the Alaskan winter. Evil places earn their names for a reason, and were never meant for humans to trespass.

Rose and Ulrik must make a choice—return to the safety of civilization, or save the ones they love.

On the heels of their near-death battle with the legendary Tailed-Men at the Headless Ravine, Rose and Ulrik face a new challenge. The dead walk in the icy forest; leaving nightmares in their wake. Voices whisper in the darkness, driving people to question their sanity. Surrounded by monsters in a vast wilderness, the psychological warfare is now worse than the creatures’ obsidian claws and whip-like tails. When a group of their close friends on a winter camping trip are the next targets of the Tailed Men, Rose and Ulrik will risk everything to save them.

The answers to defeating the Tailed-Men hide behind the jade grin of an ancient and mysterious golden skull, and time is running out to unlock its secrets and save their friends. It’s a treacherous race against time and darkness to reach the north side of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park to a remote place known as:

The Devil’s Valley

The Dark Land is now waging war. The stakes are their lives…and the souls of the ones they hold dear.

Book Review – Land of Allusions by Andrew Davie

There are a couple things you need to do if you want to pull readers into a memoir. You can be famous – see almost every celebrity ever – or you can be good at writing – something a lot of celebrity memoirs lack. You can also be interesting. Again, something sorely missing from most celebrity memoirs. “On the set of x, y happened and omg isn’t that hilarious?” No, not really, but I wasn’t there so don’t take my word for how funny it was.

One of the things I do find interesting is stories from regular people. After all the billionaires and jokesters who manage to skate through life, finding someone who can tell a story – really tell a story – about dating or getting a first job, or suffering a debilitating brain aneurism is a breath of fresh air. These are things we’ve all done. Well, maybe not the aneurysm part; those things are thankfully rare. Surviving one is even rarer and it’s interesting to see the take a person who doesn’t necessarily have access to a team of highly trained research doctors has to say about it.

A lot of Land of Allusions is broken into snippets. Rather than large blocks of dense narrative, we get text messages back and forth, or letters, little bits of information that, on their own, don’t amount to much. But when you take a bunch of little bits of information and arrange them with all the patience of a master ikebanaist, you get a whole, cohesive story that sneaks into your psyche.

I won’t spoil the ending other than to say he wrote the memoir, so Andrew Davie managed to get on Lady Luck’s good side and stay there. Beyond that, you’ll just have to read it.

Land of Allusions will be released on June 29, 2021, but you can preorder it here.

Land of Allusions follows Andrew Davie as he negotiates life’s various pitfalls while making pop culture references. Whether he’s comparing his online dating experiences to Seinfeld’s George Costanza, discussing how the film Platoon is the perfect analogy for teaching, or finding solace within the pages of the books of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron during ruptured brain aneurysm recovery. Split into two sections: comedy and tragedy, you’ll discover the joy or sadness in any of these moments is just a matter of perspective.

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Book Review – The Heron Kings by Eric Lewis

I haven’t read much fantasy since I was in high school. Somehow or another, sci-fi knocked it off my reading list and then urban fantasy knocked sci-fi off the reading list. Eventually something will come along that will knock urban fantasy off. Probably crime-based horror erotica or something equally disturbing.

Anyway, back when I was reading fantasy, it was a different world. It was very much good guys in shining armor taking on the bleakest bastards the author could think up in fight to determine the fate of the whole planet. The good guys were really good and the bad guys were excruciatingly bad, so throughout the whole book – or series, those guys were big on series – you knew exactly who you were supposed to root for.

Those were fun books in their own way, but the meat in them was closer to supermarket bologna slices than a good slab of steak. Not to say they were bad, and I’m definitely not knocking the fantasy genre. Remember, I also spent a lot of my formative years reading Mack Bolan books, so I’m not exactly in a position to complain about someone’s literary choices.

Anyway, fantasy stories seemed like they were all about the good kingdom versus the bad kingdom and all the characters had high-minded ideals like “preserving love and freedom” or “making sure only good magic is used” or “slaughtering those insipid fools while they sleep”. Mighty armies march on each other, good is almost defeated but at the last minute someone who’s really, really good saves the day. Then it’s mimosas and brunch for everyone!

Meanwhile, there are a bunch of dead guys on the battle field and probably a whole host of folks on the bad guy’s side got roped into a bad situation and now they’re dying, too. The production capabilities of the countries in question were converted to wartime footing since arming and feeding the armies was of paramount importance and that left a lot of people with decaying infrastructure and no food. Even though the good guys won the day, they left a trail of wrecked lives behind them on their march.

That’s the fundamental reality of warfare: It wreaks havoc civilian populations who really couldn’t give a rat’s ass that Evil King Rottenbastard was insulted by Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks. Or that Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks repeated called King Rottenbastard a lard ass on the more than one occasion even though he repeatedly and politely asked her to knock it the hell off.

Good guys and bad guys. Kinda boring if you stick to the formula.

Eric Lewis understands this. He understands the toll war takes and he understands that the best stories aren’t the ones about Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks fretting away from her ivory tower. The best stories are the ones on the ground. Move a few pieces around on a map, worry about the outcome, and then retire for brandy by the fire. Way less interesting than the poor schmuck who’s sleeping in the mud because Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks’s army set fire to his house when they needed to stay warm.

The Heron Kings is a tale about royal courts going to war, but it’s less about the courts and more about the boots on the ground. Or, more specifically, the folks who not only weren’t soldiers but actively didn’t care who won. This is the story of the forgotten people of war, the ones pressed into corner and doing anything that can to survive another day so they’ll have the opportunity to survive another day. It’s the story of how far down the rabbit hole they go and the decisions they choose to make. And let me just say, that is way more interesting than which dress the queen chose for the ball.

Lewis threw me a curveball. I was basically expecting another gleaming armies bashing each other story. What I got was not only an exciting change of pace, but a well-thought pondering of the human condition in times of extreme stress. He doesn’t pull punches, either. And to make things even better, Lewis takes human nature into account. There aren’t many high-minded ideals in this book nor are there any people you can point to and say, “That’s the good guy.” This book is a shot of whiskey and a punch in the gut and it is worth every damned minute I spent reading it.

After a warlord slaughters her patients, Sister Alessia quits the cloister and strikes out on her own to heal the victims of a brutal dynastic conflict. Her roaming forest camp unwittingly becomes the center of a vengeful peasant insurgency, raiding the forces of both sides to survive. Alessia struggles to temper their fury as well as tend wounds, consenting to ever greater violence to keep her new charges safe. When they uncover proof of a foreign conspiracy prolonging the bloodshed, Alessia risks the very lives she’s saved to expose the truth and bring the war to an end.

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Book Review – Fate by Ryen Lesli

About a year and some change ago Ryen’s first book, River, found its way onto this site. River was the opening salvo in a series about a young woman plucked from normalcy and dropped into a fantasy setting where she finds out she’s a princess. Some people would say this kind of thing happens with alarming regularity, but I’m still waiting for my tiara. All I’ve got is this lousy paper crown I fished out of the dumpster behind Burger King and my subjects are a bunch of drunks and meth-heads. But, yes, it’s a commonplace story in YA fiction because I think almost everyone looks around and asks, “What is that beautiful house? Where is my large automobile?” It’s a universal thing but, let’s face it, just because something’s been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be good. “A Fistful of Dollars” was an excellent take on “Yojimbo”, even if Akira Kurosawa was less than impressed.

So, put all that aside and focus on the story itself and how it plays out.

Fate, like River before it, is a coming-of-age story set in a world where magic is a thing and our would-be princess absolutely does not get along with her mom. Lesli’s tales do not paint a pretty picture of ballgowns and easy life in the castle where the main conflict of the story is which china to use for the big gala. They’re grittier and Lesli has no qualms about getting into the muck with her characters. And that’s another thing – traditional princess stories focus on the princess and maybe her interactions with royalty and that one cute boy who sells potatoes and is secretly a foreign prince only he didn’t know it because his evil grandmother sold him into potato farming to cover her gambling debts. Lesli’s River – the character, not the book – spends most of her time with warriors and running from demons. It’s a YA romance at its heart, but the story and the character could easily be pushed into the adult world like some kind of awesome new Princess Punk genre. And River would probably be right at home hanging out with the spud-slinging prince of Potatostan, even if he wasn’t a prince. She’s that down-to-Earth.

Fate’s tale picks up almost where the events of River took off. She’s beginning to come to grips her new reality, even as that reality spirals out of control as the main plotline of the series takes off. We’re talking pairing, demons, trapped mermaids, and a whole lot of folk shuffling off the mortal coil. Frankly, as an action writer myself, I was more drawn in by the intrigue and fight scenes, but I understand some people get into that whole “romance” thing and there’s plenty of that to go around, too. All this in addition to River’s fun, snarky character.

So, if you like the idea of a hidden world that you secretly belong in but loathe the idea of glass slippers and chastising the help for minor infractions, check out Fate.

Secrets always lie…It’s only been a month since River’s world was destroyed and she was forced home to the ebb. Held prisoner by her uncontrollable power, River struggles with the long buried secrets of her forgotten past. When the Demon twins sneak into the Banyans clan, hunting for a sacrifice, Cat and Wolf must fight to keep River safe. After one of them falls to the deadly blade of fate, River spirals into darkness, one that brings her face-to-face with the Reaper. River must make a choice. Either drown in her pain or claw her way back to the light.

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Book Review – Timberwolf: Symmetry by Tom Julian

I really love sci-fi that doesn’t pull punches. All too often, sci-fi stories show a humanity that’s evolved beyond our petty differences and everyone comes together to fight some alien monster that represents our past prejudices or fears. Reality will probably be far different. We’ll likely upgrade our differences along with our tech and entrench our worst natures even further in the face of an emotionless void.

Back in 2015 – in the before times, in the long, long ago – Tom Julian released the first installation of what would become the Timberwolf saga. Now, five years seems like a long time, like Julian was pulling a Martin and painting his house, but the extended cook time has yielded the beginnings of what looks like it’ll be a great space opera. Think Peter Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction series or Alistair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series. Gritty, nasty stories filled with less-than-stellar people doing what less-than-stellar people do best.

The basic gist of Timberwolf was a war between religious zealots, giant spiders, and everyone else who just wanted the religious zealots and giant spiders to go the hell away. Like all good wars, the war of Timberwolf didn’t end, so much as shift in ways no one expected it to. Now, in addition to the religious zealots and giant spiders, new elements have been added: the last remaining brother of Highland and a race of giant cats that were stuck in time for a few million years.

While Timberwolf itself was a complete story, it really worked as an intro to the larger story arc. It set up all the pieces and got the conflict going. Timberwolf: Symmetry points the car at interstellar war and stomps on the gas.

But it’s not just god, guts, guns, and glory. Julian takes the time to flesh out the characters and put them in positions that help justify their actions. Old enemies will become allies, at least for the time being. This is the gritty, nasty kind of sci-fi I love to read.

Civil war rages!

Between those that want peace with the rest of the galaxy, and those that want to conquer all they can see. As humanity tears itself apart, the Symmetry awaken – an ancient force that knows nothing but obliteration.

The question is… who woke them up and why? Timberwolf Velez has to figure that out and bring the fight to the most dangerous enemy the human race has ever known.

Action, twists, turns and great characters will keep you turning pages. Book two in the acclaimed Timberwolf series.

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Book Review – Poppy Ogopogo by Susan Faw

Here’s a fun fact about me: When my son was little, he wanted me to read Dr. Seuss’s Fox In Socks every night for months. If you’ve ever read Fox In Socks, it was Seuss’s attempt to punish the world for wanting to read to their kids. It’s one long, absolutely brutal tongue twister. Imagine stumbling around drunk in the darkness while Luke Luck, his duck, and a mass of tweetle beetles are putting clothespins on your tongue. And then laughing at you when you try to talk. That’s Fox In Socks.

Amazingly, I got pretty good at it after a few months. By that time, I’d mostly memorized the book and had enough practice to know when to slow down and when to speed up and what places were gotchas.

Now my son is older and unless things get blowed up real good, he’s not interested. As a result, I don’t look into children’s books anymore unless something slides across the table at me.

Hence, Poppy Ogopogo.

First up, for those who don’t know, the Ogopogo is a lake monster in a Canada whose sightings go back over a century. Whether the critter is real or not, it’s usually described as a long, snakelike creature that does sinister things like swimming in a lake without a permit. Canadians are big on lake swimming permits.

Poppy Ogopogo, like a lot of children’s books, is a collaborative affair with words by Susan Faw and art by Alison Baker-Rasmussen. In children’s stories, the art is just as important as the words and must match with the text. It wouldn’t do to have a sweeping, epic tale of love at first sight and have all the pictures be charcoal drawings of demons. Unless it was about falling in love with a demon, but that probably won’t be a children’s story any time soon.

Instead of a story about demons, Poppy Ogopogo is perfectly matched tale of an Ogopogo who just wants some friends and the butterflies who make fun of her for not being a butterfly paired with gorgeous art to bring the characters and actions to life. It also confirmed my bias that butterflies are total jerk-faces.

By and by, catastrophe happens and Poppy finds herself in a conundrum. Whether or not to save the butterflies who treat her much like Luke Luck and those damned tweetle beetles treated me. It’s the perfect lesson to teach children and teach them early. And often, if the state of the world is any indication.

If you want to know what choice Poppy makes, you’ll just have to buy the book. It’s a great tale for young kids, especially those who might have an interest in xenobiology (yes, it’s a thing). But even those kids who probably wouldn’t want to spend their lives hunting down Ogopogos, Sasquatches, and Chupacabras should still be able to get into the vibe of beautifully-written story and the gorgeous artwork.

Poppy Ogopogo isn’t beautiful like the butterflies that live on the shores of the lake. Their mean laughter makes her sad, so instead she plays with her imaginary friends.

One day, the butterflies are swept out into the lake. Will Poppy forgive those who hurt her and become a hero?

Or will she leave them to their cruel fate?

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Book Review – Beneath A Fearful Moon by R.A. McCandless

I’ve always felt the novella doesn’t get enough love. In this day of digital and on-demand publishing, there’s really no reason to focus exclusively on massive tomes just because they’re easier to run through the printing press. Not every story needs to be four hundred pages long and trying to stretch a shorter tale into a full-length novel just gives you Star Trek: The Motion Picture. A story should be precisely as long as it needs to be and no longer.

Returning to Aqualine in the form of a novella was a good thing. It’s the perfect length for the story it’s telling. The story is clever and handled well and, thankfully, didn’t get dragged out into 400 pages of extraneous details. McCandless aims the story right at the point and stands on the gas. What comes next is a short, intense read that builds on his work in The Clockwork Detective.

And just like Clockwork Detective, Beneath A Fearful Moon is a great example of blending two genres to come up with something new. Part steampunk, part urban fantasy, Moon is a story that straddles worlds without letting the setting be overbearing. Imagine clicking gears and the so-perfect-they’re-alien Fae. Sundry things like steam-powered tree strippers meet fantastic water dryads. Nature buts up against iron technology. Even Aubrey, our protagonist, is a study in straddling worlds.

If you like steampunk or urban fantasy or just want to see what happens nine months after they get drunk and have a torrid affair, check out McCandless’s Constable of Aqualine series. Both The Clockwork Detective and Beneath A Fearful Moon are available on Amazon and both are well worth the read.

Constable Aubrey Hartmann did her duty, fought for the Empire and lost her leg in the process. All she wants is a quiet life, and the chance of some fun, romantic entanglements in the frontier town of Aqualinne.
When bodies start turning up, slashed from head to toe, she’s duty-bound investigate. As the clues start to point to the reclusive and deadly Fae in the prohibited Old Forest, Aubrey must rely on her war-forged nerves and her trusty Manton pistols. The challenge isn’t just to solve the case, but to survive it.

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Book Review – The Man Without Hands by Eric Malikyte

Traditional narrative structure follows a three-part process: Introduce the characters and the plot, drop the characters into the worst possible place, Salvage the situation just before everything goes completely to shit.

Both of you longtime readers out there know I’ve reviewed Malikyte’s books before. Both Echoes Of Olympus Mons and Mind’s Horizon were clever, well-executed books that took horror into some amazingly fun new places. Rather than simple hack and slash, put on the hockey mask and kill some teenagers having sex, both books added a sci-fi spin to horror. They both had a brooding sense of “something is terribly wrong” that lurked in the narrative like an overbearing lover looking in your window.

The Man Without Hands has some elements of Echoes and Horizon – you can sense the DNA in the stories – but is very different beast. While the celestial horror is still there, The Man Without Hands is more both more exploratory and more action-packed. This is Malikyte taking his time, building worlds and giving us hints at a lot of back story that hopefully will be fleshed out in future installments.

At its heart, The Man Without Hands is about rebellion. All the magic and action and high-powered fighting serves to emphasize the differences between the protagonist on one world and everyone else and the antagonist on a different world and everyone else. And through the threads of the narrative we see the similarities between the protagonist and antagonist and begin to wonder if our initial assessments of “good guy” and “bad guy” are accurate. Which, frankly, is no mean feat and shows that Malikyte has a big idea brewing in his head.

As usual, Malikyte spends time developing his characters. They’re not two-dimensional cutouts, there’s a richness to them that makes them pop off the page. Even the minor characters have enough quirks to make us feel something for them. For some of them, it’s concern. For others, it’s an undeniable desire to punch them in the nose.

The Man Without Hands is book one in a series. Book two, The Rise of Oreseth, is available now. The Man Without Hands serves as step one of the traditional narrative; we get a good idea of who the players are and what’s at stake. I’m expecting book two will take the characters we’ve come like and drop them into the meat grinder.

The last war is on the horizon…

On an alien world, beneath an alien sky, deep beneath the mountains, the last remnants of a doomed people are preparing to go to war. Their enemies rule the humans of the world above like gods and command the power to reshape the planet itself.

The High Elder has declared that all Sulekiel youth must enter the Trials, giving them months to prepare for a deadly test of strength and otherworldly power when they should have had years. For Sage, the son of a traitor, it is a chance to prove himself to those who never trusted his tainted blood.

But none of the Sulekiel are aware of the power sleeping inside of him—or that one of their brethren has traversed the veil between universes, traveling to a place called Earth on a reckless quest to fulfill a bargain with an Eldritch god, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake. As the consequences of this traveler’s doomed bargain reach across worlds, powers beyond comprehension stir. The fate of both worlds might just rest in the hands of the traitor’s son and a desperate small-town cop.

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Book Review – Tales From The Hearse by David Allen Voyles

Imagine you’re riding through a cemetery in the back of a hearse on a quest to find some ghosts. No, you’re not one of the ghosts, you’re just looking for ghosts. Notoriously difficult critters to find. Fortunately your guide, in addition to driving a hearse like a real American, knows the lore of the land and isn’t afraid to share it with you while guiding you to your doom. Because, honestly, what else are you going to drive through a cemetery in, a Honda Civic? No way, that’s not how things are done.

It’s the little things that count when you’re trying to creep out your audience. Hearses. Cemeteries. Good stories with dastardly endings. Those are the things that turn good horror stories into excellent horror stories. Details. Nitty gritty stuff. It’s not enough to just say, “And then it turned out he had a hook for a hand!” There must be a build.

Too many horror authors get themselves wrapped up in the gore and the shock and don’t realize that jumping straight to the knife in the chest or the mouthful of alien juice doesn’t work. It’s not a shock or a terror if you can’t juxtapose it with the normal.

Voyles doesn’t fall into that trap. He doesn’t rely on jumping straight to the scare like a teenager in the back seat. Voyles romances us, sets us up, and then pulls the floor out from under us.

He also doesn’t skimp on details. For such short stories, they’re richly detailed without being overbearing. Voyles gives us a world that lives and breathes, something alive and normal, and characters that aren’t trite caricatures. That reality makes the horror elements feel more real and that’s when things get scary.

So, if you’re into gore, this isn’t the collection for you. If, however, you can feel the rumble of Hell’s V-8, hear the voice of the frighteningly knowledgeable driver, and see the silver moonlight casting shadows over rows of tombstones, then this is the collection for you.

“Virgil Nightshade is an expert storyteller, mixing the local supernatural lore and a bit of theatrics with a stage magician’s flare to create a sophisticated carnival ride. All while riding in a hearse.” – TripAdvisor Review

In Tales from the Hearse, David Allen Voyles evokes his past role as Virgil Nightshade, the storyteller and ghost tour host, with this collection of thirteen stories of the macabre. One can easily imagine riding in the back of his 1972 Cadillac hearse through a spooky graveyard listening to him tell his tales of horror just as his customers did in Asheville, NC. If you love ghost stories, haunted houses, and walks through the graveyard, climb in the hearse and take a dark ride with David Allen Voyles. Just make sure your doors are locked.

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