Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero (Kendall Review)

Thirteen years after the Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their greatest case by revealing who the The Sleepy Lake Monster was at the  Deboën Mansion, Andy (Andrea) Rodriguez decides to get the gang back together. Andy is running away from her past and trying to forge a future with Kerri, who works in a bar although a scientist. Together they helped form the BSDC alongside Peter, who despite being incredibly successful, took his own life and Nate who still, bizarrely, talks to Peter and often admits himself to the local asylum. Completing the group is Tim, a dog that is the offspring of the original clubs dog, Sean. The BSDC are all now troubled young adults, they saw something else that day back in 1977 and it’s now time to return to Blyton Hills to face their demons.

The premise for the book had me genuinely excited, Scooby Doo was (and probably still is) one of my favourite cartoons. The characterisation is different enough to avoid a lawsuit, but this novel is essentially grown up Scooby Doo. The core storyline is great fun with all the tropes you would expect from the Hanna Barbera classic but seen from more mature eyes all tied off with a Cthulu bow. Yes, that’s right, Cthulu! There’s some weird stuff going on in and around the Deboën Mansion. No wonder the BSDC have scars that won’t heal.

This book could have been a solid 5/5 had it not been for several choices by the author that I found quite surprising and at times, irritating. I went into this book expecting an interesting juxtaposition between the zany kids story of ’77 with it’s rubber masked villains, to the current day tale of troubled young adults facing very real dangers. And that’s exactly what we had for the first third of the book, that is until *minor spoiler* the gang break Nate out of the asylum. I’m not sure Scooby Doo in its prime would come up with such a comedic way of breaking someone out. I’ve gone from developing a relationship with these ‘real’ characters for them to morph into cartoon caricatures. If I had known this was Canteros intention I would have approached the book from a very different angle. From that moment on, it was difficult to take the characters often angst ridden woes seriously, for me, the story would have worked so much better had it kept its comedic mask on all the time. Don’t get me wrong. the characters are great, but they work better for me as the characters from a cartoon. I don’t need to know that Fred is desperately in love with Daphne, who in turn is in love with Velma. Or that Shaggy came from a broken home and that Scooby only went along as they were all feeding his crack habit. Obviously they aren’t spoilers but you get my point.

The prose is all over the place in Meddling Kids, it switches from second to third person and even moves to a script format (with stage directions). I found it quite off-putting, taking me out of the book at times, additionally a lot of the exposition seemed to have one sentence too many, which made for a sticky reading experience. I know that Canteros first books were not written in English, it did make me wonder if Meddling Kids had also been written in Spanish and then translated poorly. And if that doesn’t make you scratch your head, Cantero also throws made up words into the equation! These certainly took me out of the book, I had to reread, even google some of them to decide if I misunderstood something.

Meddling Kids made for a frustrating reading experience. There is a great story here, with fantastic set pieces and plenty of action. I’d ordinarily recommend you give it a go, but with the issues I’ve highlighted, although not book ruining, do make the book a challenge. Which is a real shame as this could have easily been Scooby Doos greatest adventure!

Star Rating (out of 5): 3***

Enter The Dark – Chris Thomas (Book Excerpt)

KendallReviews brings you Chapter One of dark crime thriller Enter The Dark, the debut novel from Chris Thomas.

An anonymous website, a few clicks, and Joe Henderson’s life is changed forever.

‘The Red Room’ is the only place where the failings of a weak justice system are righted and where the line between good and evil becomes blurred. When the lights go up, viewers bid, criminals are punished, and the Brotherhood of the Righteous broadcasts a show like no other.

The room has remained hidden until now, when a video arrives in the inbox of the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit. But outclassed, outplayed, and torn apart by corruption, is there anything Detective Pete Harris and his team can do except watch?

Their only lead may be the room’s latest bidder, Joe Henderson. Because when Joe found the Red Room, it found him too, and now the Brotherhood are watching through the wires, willing to do wrong for a righteous cause.

As they pull Joe deeper into the dark web, will he find any mercy or a way out? And could he be the Red Room’s next volunteer?

Enter The Dark – Chris Thomas

Ladies and gentlemen of the deep web, I bid you welcome!” said the figure striding towards the camera. In one outstretched hand he held a microphone, in the other, a gold clipboard. He wore a dark grey boiler suit, patterned like a tuxedo, and if it wasn’t for the white and green clown mask obscuring his face, this could easily have been mistaken for any primetime Saturday evening family variety show.

His footsteps echoed as he walked across the cold grey floor of the warehouse. Behind him, a white glow from the double doors illuminated the cloudy fog of dry ice through which he had just walked. The doors closed. Above them hung a large sign, red letters and yellow light bulbs blinking hypnotically, spelling out The Red Room.

In front of him were the camera operator and two others; one tapped away on a laptop, the other fiddled with a small box of controls. The latter turned a small knob on the control panel and the thumping techno soundtrack that had accompanied the man faded out to silence. All three gave a thumbs up. The lights came up and the man stopped.

Good evening,” he said, holding the microphone to his mouth. “Welcome to the latest instalment of The Red Room. We’re The Brotherhood of the Righteous, I’m the Host, and have we got a show for you tonight! Please say a big hello to our latest ‘volunteer’.”

With that the doors opened again, and silhouetted against the light were two burly masked figures, goons, wearing 1980s-style red tracksuits with white stripes on the legs and arms. In between them, struggling for all his worth, was a portly figure dressed in a tight white t-shirt and white y-front underpants. On his head was a hessian sack marked with a big red ‘V’.

They frogmarched him down towards the Host, who spoke into the microphone.

Here he is, people. Mister Gary Sweetman. You may remember him from twenty-twelve, when he was arrested for grooming and holding hostage two thirteen-year-old boys from the football club where he worked as a youth coach. Because of serious flaws in the police investigation, the judge could only jail him for a maximum of… wait for it … four months. Well, tonight you’re going to put that right. Start placing your bids!”

A large monitor descended from the warehouse ceiling on two heavy chains. On it were a list of ten indiscernible nicknames, and next to each was a number.

Slowly, the numbers began to change, and with them the order of names, ranking from highest to lowest. After a few seconds, the screen resembled a stock market trading screen; a flashing, blinking mix of names and numbers as more people joined in, bidding higher and higher amounts.

The two goons sat the man down on a wooden chair and buckled his wrists and ankles tightly to it. As he struggled in vain to free himself, the Host reached out and grabbed the top of the sack.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you …” and then he quickly pulled the sack off, revealing the face of a chubby man with bruises and dried blood around his eyes and mouth.

Sweetman blinked and shook his head, desperately trying to acclimatise his eyes to the bright light that beamed down on his face. Clearly, he had no idea where he was; this was the first light he had seen since being snatched from outside his house two days ago.

Where am I? Who the fuck are you?” he spluttered, his eyes wide with terror.

Gary, Gary. So many questions,” said the Host, sympathetically, as he walked around the chair, placing a comforting hand on the man’s shoulders. “You’re here because you’re special. A chosen one, if you will. You were convicted of committing the most heinous of crimes and yet you received a punishment that has been deemed unacceptable.”

What? Unacceptable by who? I served my sentence, I’m a free man, and you have no fucking right to do this,” he retorted, mustering a little more defiance.

The people, Gary. The people whose taxes had to pay for your charade of a trial. The same people whose taxes will have to pay to support the young boys as they try to recover from the ordeal that you put them through.”

You can’t do this. Let me go!”

Sorry, Gary. The rules are very clear on this. You have been chosen and you will answer. These good people have paid their bitcoins and there are a few things that they want to know.”

This can’t be–” he started, but was cut off by a hand over his mouth whilst the Host turned to face the screen.

The Host glanced over his shoulder at the laptop operator, who prodded the enter key and gave another thumbs up. Turning back towards the screen, the Host looked up.

And it is… ‘SliderMonkey’. And with a massive seven bitcoins as well, fantastic. Welcome to the show, Slider, what’s your question?”

I’m not answering anything, you bastard,” shouted Sweetman, shaking his head away from the hand. The Host slowly turned around to face the chair, then, quick as a flash, smashed the clipboard around the side of Sweetman’s head. Sweetman hissed in pain, then dropped his head to his chest and started crying.

My apologies, Slider, go ahead,” said the Host, turning back to the camera.

There was silence as the screen behind filled with words, the first question of the night.

Do you have any comprehension of the amount of pain that you have probably caused those boys? Pain that will stay with them for the rest of their lives?

Good question, Slider,” said the Host, as he scratched the top of his head with the corner of the clipboard. “Well, do you?”

Sweetman stammered. “I, I, I was convicted and I served–”

NO!” shouted the Host, barely two inches from his face. He slammed the clipboard down into the man’s lap, causing him to wince in pain. “That isn’t the question!”

Sweetman struggled to talk in between his deep breaths. “They were… They… I loved those boys. They weren’t entirely innocent in all of this. They led me on.”

Oh I see,” said the Host, softly, as he walked around the chair like a buzzard circling a piece of carrion. “You hear that, folks? I guess it was the young children’s fault. It was their fault for just being too sexy in the first place. I’ve heard enough. Slider, choose your punishment.”

What?” shouted Sweetman, as he strained to look behind him at the monitor, which once again displayed an incoming message.

The camera panned up so all the viewers could see the statement, Start with stomping the groin, but leave some for the others.

Before Sweetman could protest or effect even the vaguest attempt at closing his legs, the Host swung around and planted a boot square in his groin. Sweetman screamed in agony, desperate to grab his crotch to ease some of the pain searing through his body.

The Host swung back round to face the camera and held the microphone to his mouth.

Time for another question, I think. Let’s see who’s at the top now.”

The leaderboard on the screen stopped, before flashing up another name.

Clearly this chap has got a lot of you wound up. The winner, with nine-point-five bitcoins, is CruelJudge.”

You can’t do this. I have rights,” gasped Sweetman, as he struggled to hold his head up.

The Host walked over and gripped him by the throat, smacking his head back against the seat.

That’s what they all say. But just what exactly are you going to do about it? Sue us?” He forced Sweetman’s head to face the camera, which started to draw closer. “There, see that? You’re in their hands now. Let everyone take a nice long look deep into your eyes. The window to the soul, apparently. If you even have one, that is.”

Sweetman began crying again, whimpering, “You can’t do this… You can’t.”

The question began to materialise on the screen.

Hopefully now you are starting to feel just a fraction of the fear that those boys felt. What I want to know is, did you apologise to them after doing whatever it is you did?

A very interesting question, thank you, Judge. Not the sort of question that the legal types would bother asking at your trial. As we all know from past experience, some abusers will ‘apologise’ to their victims after causing them unimaginable suffering. They think it redeems them, causes them to feel less guilt perhaps in the misguided delusion that the victim will forgive them. Is that how it happened, Gary?”

I can’t remember…”

You can’t remember? You can’t remember if, after you assaulted two young boys, you said sorry to them?”

I might have done, I don’t know.”

Of course you do!” the Host roared.

OK, OK. Yes, I said sorry.”

What did you say sorry for? At your trial you completely denied any sort of assault took place.”

And the case was thrown out,” said Sweetman, desperately, spitting out a mixture of tears, saliva, and snot. “I was jailed for false imprisonment of those boys; I wasn’t convicted of assaulting them.”

Not convicted doesn’t mean you didn’t do it though, right, Gaz?” replied the Host, calmly. “You just told everyone that you apologised to the boys and I very much doubt that was for imprisoning them. Judge, pick a punishment.”

No, no please,” begged Sweetman, who had by now lost control of most of his bodily functions, as clearly visible through his underpants.

The screen went blank before one word appeared: kneecaps.

A track-suited goon stepped forward and handed the Host a baseball bat; he placed the clipboard and microphone down on Sweetman’s lap.

Hold these, please. One or both, Judge?” shouted the Host, to the camera. The words just one appeared on the screen behind. “Well, Gary, looks like someone is being lenient! Aren’t you lucky?” He brought the bat crashing down on Sweetman’s right knee, causing him to scream out in agony. “Actually, better do both just to be certain.” The resulting pain was too much, and he passed out.

Right, we have just about time for one more question. Get your bids in while we revive our volunteer.” As the two goons wafted a vial of smelling salts under the unconscious Sweetman, the Host went behind the camera, lifted his mask, and took a sip of water.

How’re we doing?” he asked the laptop operator.

This is one of the biggest yet. We’ve got just over four hundred people viewing, most of them have only paid to watch. But around twenty or thirty are bidding heavily and I reckon they’ll follow on to the end,” they replied.

Good. Let’s get this done and get out of here.” He replaced the mask and headed back towards the chair.

A groggy Sweetman raised his head as best he could, but it kept flopping to the side and to his chest.

Don’t worry, Gary. This will all be over soon,” whispered the Host, softly, in his ear, as he stood behind the chair, massaging both shoulders with his hands. He picked up the microphone and spoke to the camera. “Alright, everybody, this is it, the big one. The final question. Let’s see who it is…”

The lights around the screen flashed and up came a name, Dredhed.

With a massive thirteen bitcoins, it’s Dredhed. Dred, what’s your question, my good man?”

By now, Sweetman was incapable of mustering the energy to even attempt to look at the screen. His knees had swollen up like melons and his underpants were sodden. His once pristine white t-shirt was stained with a mixture of spit, snot, and blood, into which he now added vomit. As the message began to appear, letter by letter, on the screen, the Host read it out loud, propping Sweetman’s chin up with the corner of his clipboard.

Right, the final request is… ‘Firstly, can you tell Gary that I think he is the most wretched, despicable excuse of a man and he deserves every ounce of pain that he is in right now?’ Okay, will do, Dred. Gary, did you get that? DID YOU?”

Sweetman gurgled a vague attempt at a reply.

I can’t hear you, Gary! This is what people, decent, ordinary people, think of you and your sordid crimes. You should defend yourself!” shouted the Host.

But Sweetman either couldn’t speak or wouldn’t speak, as the message carried on coming through.

OK, let’s see,” continued the Host. “‘Secondly, if you could speak to those two boys right here and now, what would you say to them?’ Great question, Dred. Let’s see. Gary? Those two poor young boys, remember them? The ones that you kidnapped from their warm, loving families and subjected to who knows what kind of depravity. The same ones that you tried your damnedest to make out in court were liars and fantasists just in order to save your own sorry self. What would you say to them?”

Sweetman raised his head as far as he could, spat out some frothy pink liquid and looked at the Host.

Very softly he said, “I would forgive them. Forgive them for ruining my life.”

A pause, before the Host turned to the camera and spoke. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, in case you didn’t hear, Gary here said that he would forgive the boys. Forgive them for ruining his life. Time to end this I think. Dred, you have the honour of removing this man. Did you know they’re becoming something of an endangered species now, ‘Garys’, there’s not many of them left. Anyway, would you be so kind as to select an ending?”

The message on the screen disappeared and then showed up a single word: knife.

Excellent choice. Well, I hope you have enjoyed another episode of The Red Room with us, the Brotherhood of the Righteous. I think we can all be satisfied that this sad little sicko understands that if the pathetic justice system in this country won’t give the people what they want, then we will. We’re going to switch the exit nodes on this transmission now. If you want to see the ending of this trial, you’ll need to transfer another two bitcoins and reconnect to the settings that will be sent upon receipt of your funds. If you have seen enough, thank you for watching and keep an eye on the message boards for upcoming editions of The Red Room.”

The Host stopped as one of the goons handed him a pristine silver hunting knife. He ran his finger along the blade, pretending to test its sharpness before putting his face up close to the camera.

See you after the break!”

Enter The Dark is published by Bloodhound Books

Amazon Link – Kindle

Amazon Link – Paperback

Author Biography 

Chris Thomas was born near London in 1978 before moving to Buckinghamshire a few months later. He attended the University of Bristol, graduating with a degree in psychology in 1999. It was here that he developed his interest in criminal psychology and serial killers.

After a brief stint working at an investment bank in London, he left the City to work for his wife’s family business, a position he still holds.

Chris is an avid film fan, especially horror, thrillers and dark comedy- something that he tries to blend in his writing. After attending a creative writing course, he gained the confidence to pursue his dream of writing a novel. He self-published his debut novel The Red Room in February 2017 before joining the Bloodhound Books stable and re-releasing the book as Enter The Dark.

Further works are already in the planning, including a sequel to Enter The Dark, which is intended to be even more dark and disturbing!

In his spare time, Chris enjoys karate (holding a black belt) and spending time with his wife and two young daughters.

You can keep up to date with Chris via the following methods…

Twitter – @cthomasauthor1

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/christhomasauthor/

Websitehttp://www.christhomasauthor.com/

 

KendallReviews chronological Stephen King read through.

I was 2 when Stephen King’s debut novel, Carrie, was released in 1974. King has had a book published pretty much every year since with his latest Sleeping Beauties out 26th September. I’m a horror fan, I run a blog dedicated to reviewing horror. So why is it I have only read 4 Stephen King books?

I recall the first King book I tried to read was IT back in 1986, I was 14 or so.  I remember the book being a beast with over 1000 pages, it was also incredibly ‘wordy’ with pages of exposition. It felt to me at the time that King was saying in 5 pages what I felt could of been said in 1. I gave up on IT after a few attempts to read it.

I wanted my horror more immediate, and found myself drawn to  the likes of James Herbert, Richard Laymon or Shaun Hutson. These authors satisfied my wish for quick punchy, gory tales that were a quick read. I wanted my horror fiction like the movies I was watching at the time. As the years passed, I have dipped back into the King Bibliography and read Carrie, Cycle of the Werewolf, The Tommyknockers & Skeleton Crew enjoying them all, but never venturing any further.

Of course, thinking about this now I’m hanging my head in shame. There is nothing wrong with the quick fix approach to horror fiction, Herbert in particular has a raft of quality novels under his name. I honestly cannot say why it’s taken me so long to finally decide to do this, it’s something I’ve toyed with for years.  My tastes in horror literature have broadened since I first picked IT up with incredibly eloquent writers like Clive Barker & Adam Nevill, among others, filling my bookshelves.

So here I am, in the incredibly fortunate position of being a first time reader for books long deemed classics. The chronological read through will begin once I have read and reviewed the upcoming Stephen/Owen King collaboration Sleeping Beauties.

There have been some superb blogs doing exactly the same as I am about to take on, and I wouldn’t dream of even trying to compare what I’m doing to them. This is my journey, I’ll post updates as and when, with reviews and thoughts as I read my way through 43 years of Stephen King.

Of course, I won’t be reading King exclusively, I’ll be interweaving his work with the books I review for the blog. I think it’s going to work well…I really can’t wait to start, I’m looking forward to when I can call myself a Constant Reader.

What Monsters Do – Nicholas Vince (Kendall Review)

In browsing the shelves of the KendallReviews library trying to feed my current obsession for anthologies, I decided to pull out a little book by Nicholas Vince entitled What Monsters Do, a 104 page book with a stunning cover, containing ‘Seven Short Stories of Psychological Horror’.

From novel takes on the classics  (Werewolves, Ghosts and The Mummy) to monsters of the authors own creation, What Monsters Do is a thoroughly intoxicating read that will both shock and delight you in equal measure.

Family Tree reveals the chilling reason why two brothers have not seen each other for 25 years. It’s a fantastic start to the anthology showing Vince not only has the chops to horrify you, he can also get you so emotionally involved with characters that the ending really does offer a punch to the gut. Tunes From The Music Hall is set in Victorian times. A tale about forbidden love told from a very unusual perspective. An incredibly passionate story where the real monster is not from supernatural realms. Green Eyes is a chilling piece of fiction! I really enjoyed how it was written, almost riddle like, making you think, leading you by the hand to its shocking conclusion. Death Is But The Doorway is great fun. The Mummy sub-genre is given a good kick in the arse with a rip-roaring tale of curses, missing people and death-dealing statues. And in Nan, a character that I loved! Nursery Rhymes is possibly my favourite tale in this book. I found this brilliantly dark. Humans are very much the monsters here in a tale of rejection, jealousy and revenge. There’s a true open-mouthed shock moment in this story, that in lesser hands could have ruined the story. Powerful stuff!  The Worst Day tells the story of a father who needs to protect his recently deceased sons name. But in doing so, ghosts from his past show he may not his sons best interests he’s trying to preserve.  The Beast In Beauty is wonderfully poetic at times, mixing sub-genres and adding very real-life issues into the story to produce something that is incredibly mysterious and keeps you thinking long after the book snaps shut.

What Monster Do is a 104 page treasure, you’ve really got no where to hid in so few pages and 7 stories. A weaker tale would stand out like a sore thumb but credit to Nicholas Vince, i’m struggling to pick a tale that has been hit by that dreaded hammer, what I can do is suggest you go and pick up this book now. It demands to be read!

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

Monsters Exist – Edited by Mr. Deadman & Theresa Braun (Kendall Review)

I’ve always enjoyed reading anthologies, particularly those with a theme. Monsters Exist ticks that box nicely by having 14 tales all about Monsters. I was not familiar with any of the authors prior to reading this book, something which may be of benefit as I would then have no expectations based on previous reading experience.

There are not many anthologies I’ve read that have had a 100% hit rate. In fact from memory there are 2, Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and my current book of the year, Richard Chizmar’s A Long December. Monsters Exist is incredibly close to having all its tales hitting the spot, and I really do mean incredibly close. There were so many positives crammed within it’s 148 pages, it was a blast discovering what Monsters Exist!

Monsters Exist opens with Master Vermin by Wallace Boothill, a tale about rats in Baltimore. I loved how this had me shuddering at a couple of superb ‘yuck’ moments and then totally surprised at it’s somewhat epic ending. Theresa Braun’s Legend Trippers takes us into one of my favourite sub-genres, the urban legend. Here we have a tale about the Goatman who lures its victims in front of an oncoming train. It’s a great story that was well paced. S.J. Budd gave us a tale about a woman who climbs into the back of a taxi who’s driver has a dark secret in The Murder Of Crows. I really enjoyed the writing and the ending was very satisfying. Wicked Congregation by Gary Buller is one of the standout tales in the anthology for me! A shocking tale of fairies and human sacrifice. Echoes of Adam Nevill in the story’s setting and an ending that would grace Tales Of The Unexpected at its peak. I have to add, there’s a line in Wicked Congregation that really stood out for me ‘Every 20 years they take a little of our future so we may keep the rest’ Fantastic writing! Playing Dead by S.E. Casey is a dark tale about the devil monkey where you’re never quite sure what’s real or not. Superb! Mr. Deadmans Lake Monster has sublime characterisation and punchy dialogue. Just what would it take for Gary to believe in the Goat Man? Another standout tale is Calvin Demmer’s Never Sleep Again, a clever use of the old monster under the bed trope. I for one won’t be dangling hands or feet over the edge of the bed…or futon! I let out a sigh of relief at one point during Philip W. Kleaver’s The Voice From The Bottom Of The Well, the author had me convinced Johanna was going to do something quite terrible only for the rug to be pulled out from under me. I really enjoyed this tale with its smile inducing ending. Eclipse At Wolf Creek is another well written urban legend tale, this time involving the Mothman. To be honest, I may have found Sylvia Mann’s descriptions of poor old Grandma the most disturbing part of the story. No. 7 by William Marchese has moments of excellence with a tale of ‘super’ soldiers crossing paths with a bunch of kids. I did struggle with the tale to be honest, and even reread it in case I had missed something. There’s a cracking story here, the author himself holds his hands up in this honest post that things could have been better. I’d be very interested to read any rework that appears in the future. A variant on the Bigfoot legend is the next tale in John Palisano’s Criatura. This is a deliciously gory story that I had great fun reading. There’s a wonderful sense of humour in the writing, with the line ‘maybe because it was sticking out and is the easiest target’ earning a genuine laugh. If spiders aren’t your thing  then Bitten by Christopher Powers is going to make for an unpleasant reading experience. To add to your pain these spiders are the size of dogs, and in one scene (that had me proper squirming) the description of a spider ‘probing and pushing into an ear deep enough to cause blood to seep out’ is wrong on so many levels. Christopher Powers, I salute you! Kelpies by Leo X. Robertson is an unusual tale about a man lured into the water by a mysterious seductress. Any fellas may think twice about any ‘momentary wavering’ after reading this excellent piece of dark fiction. Lastly, in the final tale Bloodstream Revolution M.R. Tapia writes an engrossing tale involving Chupacabras in the time of the Mexican revolution. I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion to Monsters Exist especially as it convinced me that it is actually humans that are the true monsters.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I was not familiar with any of the authors prior to reading. Now that I have finished the book, I’ll be looking out for each and every one of them in the future. Monsters Exist is a superb read with a variety of styles that works as a collective. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

Monsters Exist is edited by Mr. Deadman & Theresa Braun and published by Deadman’s Tome

The Truants – Lee Markham (Kendall Review)

An interesting twist on the vampire myth as the last vampire learns that his partner since the Stone Age has killed herself. Rather than face eternity alone he decides to commit suicide by waiting for the sun to claim him. His plans are thwarted however when he’s stabbed as the sun rises, his suicide remains successful, yet he retains a degree of consciousness as his soul is now being spread through each subsequent victim that falls to the blade. He must get the knife back and reclaim his soul, the problem is, someone doesn’t want him to get it back.

The Truants is a tale of the social underclass, of knife crime, drug abuse and poverty  with a clever new interpretation of the Vampire mythology woven between the rat infested tower blocks. It’s beautifully written, almost poetic at times, there were several passages that literally stopped me reading for a moment it was so powerful. The way Markham details the grief of a murdered childs mother were stunning, the vile descriptions of poverty and abuse in a small flat where drug addled parents fester whilst their dirty, lice ridden child is in another room desperate for love and attention is simply heartbreaking.

The story is certainly not an easy read, but the elegant way in which it’s written pulls you through the blood and filth.

The Truants is a remarkable piece of work that demands to be read.

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

The Truants is written by Lee Markham and published by Duckworth Overlook

Clive Barker News! Hellraiser Anthology: Volume 2 Announced!

Clive Barker’s Seraphim Comics has announced Hellraiser: Anthology Volume Two, a sequel to the cult hit graphic novel released in April.

Hellraiser: Anthology Volume Two will be released in September, debuting at Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank, CA and available a week after via www.realclivebarker.com, both as a hardcover graphic novel and a digital download.

The anthology will feature stories written by returning Hellraiser comic scribes Ben Meares, Christian Francis, Mark Alan Miller, David McKendry & Rebekah McKendry and Matt. Murray, as well as newcomers to the series Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler (The Dregs) and Ken Winkler. Artists include returning Hellraiser alumni Daniele Serra (who provides the cover along with a six-page story), Riley Schmitz, Jim Terry and Nick Percival, along with newcomers to the series Mark Torres (Zombies Vs. Robots: Undercity, Judge Dredd), Hector Casanova (The Lurkers, Screamland), Christian DiBari (Hoax Hunters, Magdalena), Simon Gough (GI Joe: Snake Eyes), Devmalya Pramanik (Nightbreed) and Nino Cammarata (The Black Cat).

Additionally, the graphic novel will feature a prose story detailing the origin of the fan-favorite Cenobite the Chatterer, written by the Chatterer himself, Nicholas Vince. The tale will feature pen and ink illustrations by Clive Barker.

“I’m beyond excited to finally share a story I drafted in December 2012,” Vince said in regards to his contribution to the anthology, titled Prayers of Desire. “It’s worth the wait, as it’s found it’s spiritual home beside wonderful illustrations by Clive and amongst superb storytellers.”

The anthology is edited and compiled by Ben Meares and designed and lettered by Christian Francis.

“I think, with the first anthology, we managed to put out a book that reminded people why Hellraiser works so well in comics,” Ben Meares, Editor-in-Chief of Seraphim Comics said. “It’s a wildly versatile mythos, and with this second volume we get to explore with even more variety the possibilities within the world that Clive has so graciously allowed us to play in. Volume Two will feature more stories, more pages and more creators than Volume One. I’ve been absolutely floored with the kinds of original, fresh and brilliant stories everyone involved has contributed.”

“I’m so thankful to everyone who helped make the first volume such a smashing success despite us trying our hardest to offend everyone, “ said Mark Alan Miller, Vice President of Clive Barker’s Seraphim, Inc. and contributing writer. “It’s so much fun to have the opportunity to do it all over again.”

Release Dates:

Son of Monsterpalooza, Pasadena, CA – September 15-17, 2017 (Hardcover only)

www.realclivebarker.com September 24, 2017 (Hardcover & Digital Download)

The Last Days Of Jack Sparks – Jason Arnopp (Kendall Review)

Author Jack Sparks is an arsehole, he really is incredibly unpleasant. A man looking out for himself who has no qualms who he pisses off and how, as long as he gets what he wants. He courts a social media world, and sees online followers as some badge of honour. Having written books on gangs and drugs (where he ended up trying every drug imaginable…for research purposes obviously), Jack is now looking for a new challenge, this time he is looking to debunk the supernatural world.

Now, spoilers can be a real pain, but bizarrely I can tell you that Jack Sparks dies in this book, yes, you read that correctly! As the title suggests, we follow Jack through his Last Days. Days fuelled with drink and drugs, sex and violence, guilt, estrangement and unrequited love, oh, and the supernatural.

When a video appearing to show a ghost is mysteriously uploaded to his YouTube account. Sparks travels from Italy (where he has already claimed an exorcism he saw to be an elaborate hoax) to Los Angeles (via Hong Kong), as he investigates the clips origins.

The story is mostly told in Jacks hand. Due to his demise, Jacks brother Alistair finished the book by contributing notes and corrections, as well as some extra interviews with people that Jack had met throughout the investigation. This offers a very interesting aspect to the story as sometimes the information gathered by the brothers contradict each other. What’s fact or fiction?

This is a dark book, it’s also incredibly funny, actually, it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. What it wasn’t, for me anyway, was scary. The humour mostly nullifies the scares, there are certainly moments of tension and unease throughout, but I was possibly expecting more scares. Arnopp does a great job in keeping you alongside Sparks. On several occasions I actually started to like him only for him to go and do, or say. something abhorrent. He’s an unreliable narrator that you just can’t help liking (sometimes).

Following Jack can make you feel somewhat grubby, you will question a lot of his actions and motives, but it’s a journey well worth taking especially as it will bring you to a truly spectacular conclusion. A conclusion that left me slack-jawed and thinking about the book long after I had finished.

I really do recommend you join Jack Sparks for his Last Days!

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

Dork Diaries – Rachel Renée Russell (Freya, Guest Reviewer)

Nikki Maxwell gets a diary for her Birthday. She isn’t interested at all, but eventually goes on to writing in it. She joins a new school – Westchester Country Day (WCD) and meets a new mean girl, a new crush and new BFFs, Chloe and Zoey. The three of them are total dorks, doing funny and wacky things. There’s an author meet and greet happening in New York in a while and Nikki, Chloe and Zoey need to prove to Mrs Peach that they are good LSAs so they can go.

They all sign up to be Library Shelving Assistants (LSAs) to help Mrs Peach (the Librarian) in the Library. They have tons of fun reading all the magazines and books; testing out perfume samples and catching up on the latest gossip about their favourite celebrities.

I absolutely LOVE this book. It adds the frosting on the cake by making it a diary entry. It adds all of Nikki’s personal feelings, why she doesn’t want certain people to know things, like how she feels. I especially love how good she is at art – she shows off her artistic ability by drawing in her diary, showing readers her style and copying her designs of temporary tattoos she drew on the CCPs (Cute, Cool and Popular) and dorks.

Overall, I would rate it 10/10.

The Chocolate Box Girls ‘Cherry Crush’ – Cathy Cassidy (Freya, Guest Reviewer)

This book is about a girl called Cherry, who lives with her Dad. Things soon change when they move to Somerset where a new Mum and four new sisters await. Her Dad had a chocolate-making business, and her Mum runs a B&B with her daughters.

I absolutely love this book! The way it’s written, the story…everything! I really like Cherry Costello – the way she has such a big imagination and I find the stories inside her head interesting. Most of the time, when a character is feeling different, I feel different (in a good way).

Overall, I would rate it 10/10.

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