Sunday, September 30, 2018

CHAINSAW by John Bender

You hear that? That's the sound of a chainsaw. wher-wher-wher-brum-brum-brum-brum-brrrrrrrrrrr CHAINSAW is gritty and viciously brutal. The chainsaw's mixed gas wafts from the pages. I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time. CHAINSAW is a throwback to the 80s horror classics. 

The main characters, Randy Lee Travis and James Taylor Gunderson, are dumb as bricks, but I rooted for them every step of the way. They are wanna-be criminals. Looking for a quick way to buy a car, Randy Lee and JT decide to steal a chainsaw from Farmer Benton and rob a bank with it. Well, their plan is pretty flawed from the get-go, but it's still fun watching them try to make it work. 

Farmer Benton finds out Randy Lee and JT took his chainsaw. That is when blood and gore pour from the page, leaving you satisfied. John Bender has a great writing style, which makes for a quick read. There isn't a dull moment in the novella. The scenes burn into your retina. The harrowing scenes made me winced more than once in this book. 

CHAINSAW is one helluva debut! Is there room for improvement? Yes, but you will get your money's worth with this one. CHAINSAW is a great escape. I dig it!


Saturday, September 29, 2018


You're going to need your floaties for this one. THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER is a brilliant collection of flash fiction. 23 stories fill the collection, each better than the last. I dig the arrangement of the stories. I don't want to go near the ocean any time soon. 

I enjoyed all of the stories, but there was one story that stuck with me. It's about a shipwreck and the passengers are floating in the ocean. One by one, they are pulled down to the murky depths to their death. Who's next? To me, watching everyone die before you, knowing your time is at hand is the scariest thing in the world. 

Calvin Demmer hits on different types of horror. I dig his writing style. The setup and execution of each story is spot on. THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER is a quick, exhilarating read. It's a real nail-biter. Nothing can prepare you for this book. 

THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER is a great way to spend an hour or so. If you haven't checked out Calvin Demmer's work, then I suggest diving into this one. You won't be disappointed. It's a top-shelf collection. 

Highly Recommend!

Friday, September 28, 2018

SHILOH by Philip Fracassi

This is my first time reading Philip Fracassi. I enjoyed SHILOH, mainly because it's a historical horror story. I dig US military history, and this one was in my wheelhouse. Even though Fracassi didn't knock this one out of the park, he did hit it to the warning track. 

“The ground had opened up and spit out hell and the detritus was Shiloh.”

SHILOH takes place in 1862 during the Civil War. Shiloh was a small patch of land in southern Tenessee used as a battlefield. Shiloh was a bloody battle indeed. For twin brothers Henry and William, infantry soldiers in the Confederate Army, the battle held more than the horrors of war, it was a portal to something beyond mankind, where the spilling of blood brings not only death, but eternal damnation.

One brother starts seeing strange things. He starts questioning his sanity. Dude is not crazy. Trust me. I wasn't expecting the direction Fracassi took. It is odd, yet riveting. I dig Fracassi's writing. The ending is great. The story slowed a bit for me, but overall, it's a solid read. 

If you haven't read Philip Fracassi, then SHILOH is a good place to start. It's a quick, satisfying read. 


Interview With John Everson

John Everson is a staunch advocate for the culinary joys of the jalapeno and an unabashed fan of 1970s European horror cinema.  He is also the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of ten novels, including his latest The House By The Cemetery, which takes place at a real haunted cemetery -- Bachelor’s Grove -- in the south suburbs of Chicago. His first novel Covenant, was a winner of the Bram Stoker Award and his sixth, NightWhere, was a finalist for the award.  Other novels include  Redemption, the conclusion to the trilogy begun in Covenant, as well as Violet Eyes, The Pumpkin Man, Siren and The 13th. Over the past 20 years, his short stories have appeared in more than 75 magazines and anthologies. He is the founder of the independent press Dark Arts Books and has written novelettes for The Vampire Diaries and Jonathan Maberry’s V-Wars universe (Books 1 and 3), the latter of which is currently being developed for NetFlix. He’s also written stories for The Green Hornet and Kolchak, The Night anthologies. He has had several short fiction collections, including Needles & Sins, Vigilantes of Love, Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions and most recently, Sacrificing Virgins. For more on his obsession with jalapenos and 1970s European horror cinema, as well as information on his fiction, art and music, visit

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always known I’d be a writer in some form. I wrote my first short story – a story set in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation universe, when I was in grade school. In high school, I was an editor on the high school newspaper (at the same time as I worked on the underground student newspaper!) and in college I got my degree in journalism. My very first job was as a reporter.  So I’ve always written – sometimes non-fiction, sometimes opinion columns and… sometimes… fiction.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?  What do you do when you aren’t writing? Any hobbies?

My writing schedule is wildly sporadic.  It’s been different with every book, honestly. My first novel, Covenant, took years to write because I kept it in a drawer more than I worked on it. My second, Sacrifice, was more than half written in a single month, because I started it during National Novel Writing Month and got the requisite 50,000 words done in November of 2002.

A couple of my novels, including Siren, were written when I tried working an hour every day before going to my dayjob and took about six months to produce. I am NOT a morning person, though, so that schedule didn’t stick around long.  Several of my novels have depended on “Writing Nights” wherein, after the dayjob, I would decamp to a local pub and sit and work for about five hours. I’d get a good chunk of writing done on that night, and then the rest on the weekend.

The long and short is, I have a really demanding dayjob, and I’m also a husband and father. So… I fit writing in where I can. I’ve basically averaged a novel and a couple short stories a year over the past few years.

As for hobbies – basically anything that’s creative. I write music, garden, cook, occasionally do woodwork. And drink beer and watch old Italian horror and giallo films!

CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?

I kind of described one above – I do enjoy my writing nights, where it’s just me in the back of a bar, with good music (hopefully) playing over head, some hot wings to hold back the hunger and a waitress who keeps my pint full.  I also really enjoy sitting out on my patio in the summer and fall and working at the “outdoor” bar with my iPod playing through the garden speakers.

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?


CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

Chicago has a great horror scene.  There are zombie pub crawls and horror movie festivals at some of the second run theaters. And we have an awesome annual horror film convention that I always do a book booth at called Flashback Weekend: Chicago Horror Convention.

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?


Seriously – I’ve written four of my novels largely without outlines… but the other six were all sold to publishers based on outlines – I couldn’t contract the books unless the publishers knew what I intended to produce. So I’ve worked both ways.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

I wrote short stories in grade school, high school and college. So… while actually selling the first one made me feel more “validated” as a writer, it didn’t really change my process.  But when I sold my first novel - that gave me a lot more confidence that I could actually complete a novel, and I think it made the ones that I worked on after that a little easier to get through… because I’d proven to myself that I could do it. Whether it was good or not, the first hurdle was simply proving you could stay the course and complete one. I’m still always insecure about the work… but I know that I can at least competently produce a work that saleable… and every release seems to find a base of fans who really enjoy it. So… I’ve gotten a little more confident that I’m at least pleasing some people!

CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story? 

Characters that you can relate to, in situations that are unreal.


The House By the Cemetery started, in some ways, back when I was a kid in Cub Scouts. That’s when I first heard about the “haunted cemetery” hidden “somewhere near here” in the woods.  As a young newspaper reporter, I got an assignment to write about the history of the “haunted place” for a Halloween feature, and that was the first time I set foot in the place. Not long after that, I was inspired to write a fictional story about the cemetery and a woman who was buried there (I had taken a picture of her gravestone.  Many years after that, I wrote a second story based on one of the ghost legends of the place, and that’s when it finally occurred to me that “hey… you could really write a whole novel set there!”

CHHR: What character do you relate to most in THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY?

I always share an affinity with my main characters… which is why I always find it funny when people question their actions or motivations. Because usually those characters are based on “what I think I might do” in such a circumstance. I think they magnify both my strengths… and weaknesses.

CHHR: Did any scene scare you while writing THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY?

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve written anything that scares me… I already know the beginning and end, so it’s hard to be scared by something I write. I can be emotionally moved by my stories. And those are actually my favorite stories that I’ve written – the ones that leave me with a very strong “feeling.”

CHHR: What are you currently working on?
A new novel – my 11th! –  called The Devil’s Equinox.  I’m hoping to finish it before the end of the year.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

Books that I picked up ten years ago!  Trying to squeeze in writing around my day job has meant that I almost never read anything, anymore. Which is a situation I hate, since my love of reading is what made me become a writer. But… last year, I think I read three novels, one of which was Anne Rice’s really short Angel Time book.

CHHR: What is the scariest book you’ve ever read?

I’ve been more creeped out in my life by scary movies than scary books, but when I read Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game, while in a hotel alone on a business trip in my 20s… well, I remember that book creeping me out pretty good!

CHHR: What is your favorite scary movie?

The original Alien. It is the perfect mix of mood, building suspense, eerie setting and unexpected shocks. It’s both the perfect science fiction and horror movie.

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

I am resisting the urge to look up what a spirit animal actually is so that I can answer that (yes, I’ve heard the term… no, I don’t really know what it means!)

CHHR: What is your favorite beer?

Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero IPA. It’s the IPA that changed me from being a dedicated English Brown Ale drinker (largely Newcastle) to drinking almost exclusively Pale Ales and IPAs.

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

Well… I had tea once with Clive Barker, to interview him for a newspaper.  And I’ve had dinner with Edward Lee a couple times. So… I’m good with living authors. Now… give me the chance to quaff an ale with William Shakespeare, and I’d be in heaven (though it’s been a really long time since I studied Iambic Pentameter…)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Movies About Writers by Matt Betts

Movies have always meant a lot to me and a lot to my creative process. As a writer, I’m always fascinated by how writers are portrayed in films, and there is no shortage of examples of authors in the cinema, from real-life scribes to fictional creators. Here then, are six of my favorite films about authors.

1.     Wonder Boys
Avengers assemble! Well, not yet. The cast of this one brings together Michael Douglass (Ant-Man) Tobey Maguire (Spider-man) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) in maybe my top pick for favorite film about writers. Douglass is stuck on his second novel, he isn’t really blocked… he just can’t seem to stop. As his world unravels around him, he has to deal with his agent (Downey), a star pupil (Maguire), an affair (Francis MacDormand) and a dog. Adapted from Michael Chabon’s second book.
What it gets right about writers: Imposter syndrome, jealousy, academic life, fear of failure.
Moment that stuck with me: The manuscript tornado. If you’re a writer and you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

2.     Misery
Oh where to start talking about Misery? James Caan is a famous writer who has a car accident out in the middle of nowhere. He’s rescued by Cathy Bates, playing Caan’s number one fan. She nurses him back to health until she discovers her favorite character is being killed off. Then… well, she takes steps to change things. In many ways it speaks to the fans of all media, and was wildly prescient about today’s rabid fans and their desire to control their favorite things. This is the first Stephen King adaptation on my list. Who knows writers better?
What it gets right about writers: The need to please readers vs the need to write what they want.
Moment that stuck with me: There’s a sledgehammer involved.

3.     Capote
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is Truman Capote and Catherine Keener plays Harper Lee in the story behind the story of In Cold Blood.
What it gets right about writers: The desire to get characters and details right, the depth of research by some writers.
Moment that stuck with me: All of Hoffman’s amazing performance as Capote.

4.     The Shining
This Stephen King adaptation takes us deep into the troubled psyche of author Jack Torrence, who takes a job tending to a hotel on the off season in order to get some work done on his book. It does not go well for him or his family as he’s haunted by the hotel’s past. Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall
What it gets right about writers: It shows the agony of writer’s block, annoyance of distractions, and the occasional bloody elevator (kidding mostly.)
Scene that stuck with me: The meltdown and the axe through the door.

5.     Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
This envisioning of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel is nearly as trippy as its source material. Director Terry Gilliam takes the drug-addled book and runs with it, thanks to a game cast that includes Johnny Depp and Benico Del Toro. It’s crazy, it’s weird, and it’s a film that is hard to look away from.
What it gets right about writers: Thompson is the poster boy for immersion in a subject, and getting the story at all costs.
Scene that stuck with me: Fictional Thompson meeting real Thompson. “There I was.”

6.     The Whole Wide World
This was an under-the-radar film about the life of Robert E. Howard, the author that brought stories like Conan the Barbarian to life. Based on a memoir by Novalyne Price about her relationship and romance with Howard. Performances by Vincent D'Onofrio and Renee Zellweger are the leads, and while the story may run a little melodramatic at times, it’s still fascinating.
What it gets right about writers: It shows the highs and lows of the writer’s ego, the effect of criticism, and this writer’s process.
Scene that stuck with me: Howard pointing off into an empty field and asking “See that lion over there?” Price saying no, and Howard replying “I do.”

There are a lot more films about writers that I enjoy but had to leave off the short list. What are some of your favorites about authors?

ISBN: 9781947879041
Not everyone lands their dream job.
Take Abe: He's bottomed out as an Imaginary Friend and has to find a new job before his bosses assign him a truly crappy one. Just as he's about to resign himself to a life of making toys in a workshop, he's given a reprieve--of sorts. Now he has the opportunity to be the first policeman on the Hill and solve an impossible murder.
For assistance he ropes in his career counselor, a Bigfoot, and his best friend, a Boogeyman. The job requires him to talk to Tooth Fairies, Leprechauns, Yetis and everything else humanity has dreamt up over the years. None of them offer any clues, but since Abe's supervisors are Mother Nature, Father Time and Death, he can't just give up and walk away.
Dream job? Dream on.

"A dreamlike quality permeates this story, and the basic whodunit set-up turns into a multilevel metaphysical quandary as Betts injects one twist after another into an increasingly unsettling tale."--Publishers Weekly
"The moments of humor are well-earned, and Brady and Zane are standouts....The ending manages to be both fascinating and endearing. An offbeat, entertaining look at timeworn mythical characters."--Kirkus
"There is something under your bed. There is something going bump in the night. Something is following you.' Betts' novel finds a way to encapsulate that chilling sentiment in a surprisingly hilarious way..."--Booklist
"What starts out as a quirky tale about a burnt-out Imaginary Friend turns into a locked room murder mystery for a creature that cannot die. An entertaining mash-up of "Monsters Inc." and "Chinatown" in a world populated by Bigfoot, Tooth Fairies, and Boogeymen. Perhaps, the start of its own genre: Imagin-noire."--Josef Matulich, author of Camp Arcanum

About the Author
Matt Betts worked for years in radio as an on-air personality, anchor and reporter. His fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. His work includes the steampunk novel, Odd Men Out, urban fantasy book Indelible Ink, the dark fantasy The Boogeyman’s Intern, and the giant robot vs giant monster novel The Shadow beneath the Waves. His poetry collections include See No Evil, Say No Evil and Underwater Fistfight.