Tag Archives: KendallReviews

Secrets Of The Weird – Chad Stroup (Kendall Review)

I was somewhat apprehensive as I dipped into this novel with an opening line that certainly sets the tone for a surprising reading experience.

That opening line?

TRIXIE LOATHED HER PENIS.

Welcome to Sweetville and Secrets Of The Weird

Secrets Of The Weird is set in the early 90’s, references to presidents (Clinton) and musicians (The Cure, The Smiths) ground this novel in reality but it’s key setting, Sweetville, is a fictional City populated by a wild assortment of characters. From the relatively normal residents going about their day-to-day lives, to the neo-Nazis club scene to drag queens, prostitution and even cannibalism. Sweetville is also under the cloud of a powerful new designer drug, Sweet Candy. It’s streets are full of the lost and the lonely with an unusual cult, that speaks in a tongue that only the broken minded can understand, the Withering Wyldes are only too happy to prey on the weak.

Secrets Of The Weird is relatively light of plot, but that really didn’t matter. The central story is about Trixie, a strong young woman born male, trying to earn enough money to complete her transition. It’s a powerful story but not preachy in the slightest. Stroup uses Trixie’s diary entries to let us know about her past  and her hopes and fears for the future. A clever mechanic that added a grounded reality to some of the madness going on in the present. Trixie is a fantastic protagonist that I’d love to read more about. More that I’d like to read about are the plethora of Sweetville residents that we briefly meet in pushing Trixies’s story along. There are so many interesting characters populating this City that it’ll be a crime if Stroup doesn’t bring us back.

Prose is tight and very well written, Stroud has created a believable world that’s filled with  the unbelievable. I must warn you that there are scenes that do not make for a particularly easy read, but Stroud is skillful in being explicit without going into details (The Zane brothers first encounter with Trixie springs to mind).  As well as the gritty side of the story there are many good-humoured moments, with a Crying Game reference making me laugh.

Secrets Of The Weird is not a book I would have ordinarily picked up. I don’t believe I have read much in the way of ‘weird’ fiction and after Secrets I feel I may be missing out on something. In Sweetville, Stroup has created a City full of adventure, danger and eroticism populated with a range of characters that simply jumped off the page and with his lead Trixie, he has created a strong female character that I absolutely want to read more about.

…and now a word from our sponsor

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

Before – Paul Kane (Kendall Review)

Part horror story, part thrilling road adventure, part historical drama, Before is a novel like no other. Described as “the dark fantasy version of Cloud Atlas,” Kane’s Before is as wide in scope as it is in imagination as it tackles the greatest questions haunting mankind-Who are we? Why are we here? And where are we going?

In 1970s Germany, a mental patient at the end of his life suddenly speaks for the first time in years. A year later in Vietnam, a mission to rescue a group of American POWs becomes a military disaster.

In present day England, the birthday of college lecturer Alex Webber sends his life spiralling out of control as a series of disturbing hallucinations lead him to the office of Dr. Ellen Hayward. And things will never be the same again for either of them. Hunted by an immortal being known only as The Infinity, their capture could mean the end of humanity itself…

One of the first things I read about Before was Paul Kane himself calling his latest novel his The Great And Secret Show. Now that’s some claim! Clive Barker is one of my favourite authors, with The Great and Secret Show being a true epic within his bibliography. This not only shows Kane’s confidence in his new 491 page tome but it also sets a level of expectation for any prospective reader.

Before is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure story with horror/supernatural elements. Although not as eloquent as Barker, Kane’s prose is incredibly effective . I particularly enjoyed the Cambodian Village chapters, full of believable characters and well written action set pieces. It was also here that I noticed my first real nod to Barker,  a sequence of events made me think of the attic at 55 Ludovico Place. (I won’t be more specific as I hate to post spoilers, but once you read it I’m sure you’ll agree.)

Alex Webber is a believable lead and plays off well against Ellen his psychiatrist. I did find the love triangle a tad melodramatic with too much attention paid to Beverley, Alex’s ex-wife. My main issue with Before is the criminal underuse of The Infinity, a fantastic creation. I loved it anytime he was on the page, which wasn’t anywhere near enough sadly. I thoroughly enjoyed his dialogue and the way he interacted with his minions. To counter that though, Kane really shone  with Lucas Peck, a nasty piece of work that has a unique talent.  Peck is The Infinity’s sadistic sidekick, and with his skills, I’m not sure if there isn’t a touch of the Cenobite about him. And don’t get me started on what he does with some flowers!

Paul Kane can certainly tell a story! To be able to keep the reader engaged across multiple settings, eras and genre can only be classed as a triumph. Before mixes action adventure, horror and the supernatural skillfully.  I burned through nigh on 500 pages in only a few days. Before may not have been as epic a story as I was expecting, but it was a fast paced enjoyable read that kept me hooked till its thrilling conclusion.

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

 

 

Nights Of The Living Dead: An Anthology – Edited by George A. Romero and Jonathan Maberry (Book Info)

I was delighted to be contacted by Duckworth Overlook about a new title they are releasing in September 2017 entitled NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD: An Anthology. Nights is a collection of short stories that take place during the first 48 hours of the zombie outbreak as it occurs in Romero’s classic film. The book also contains Romero’s last published work before his tragic passing in July 2017.

The terrifying tribute to 50 years of zombie lore by the masters of horror

It all started in 1968 on that dreadful night in a remote farmhouse… the world experienced a brand-new kind of terror with the debut of George A. Romero’s landmark film Night of the Living Dead. The dead rose to attack the living, not as vampires or werewolves, but as something modern and terrifying. Since then, zombies have invaded every aspect of popular culture.

Nights of the Living Dead returns to that night when it all began. New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry teamed up with Romero, the godfather of the living dead, to present a collection of all-new tales set during the forty-eight hours of that legendary outbreak. In addition to original stories by Romero and Maberry themselves, some of today’s most important writers have contributed short stories to this anthology. Nights of the Living Dead is an instant classic that belongs on the shelves of every horror and sci-fi reader.

I hope you agree that this sounds like it’s going to be a fantastic read! Keep an eye out for my review which will be dropping prior to publication.

Author Biography

JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-selling and five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author, anthology editor, comic book writer, and much more. He has published over a hundred short stories in a variety of genres and is a jurist for the Edgar, Stoker, and Scribe Awards. Visit his website www.jonathanmaberry.com

GEORGE A. ROMERO (February 4, 1940 – July 16, 2017) was an AmericanCanadian filmmaker, writer and editor, best known for his series of gruesome and satirical horror films about an imagined zombie apocalypse, beginning in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead, considered a progenitor of the fictional zombie of modern culture.

Duckworth Overlook website can be found here

Goth Witch Of Philly – Lincoln S. Farish (Kendall Review)

One of the benefits of running a blog like KendallReviews is discovering new authors. One such discovery is Lincoln S. Farish, author of the successful Inquisitor series of books. An ongoing series of books that’s been described as a darker Dresden Files. I have the first book of the series Junior Inquisitor on my ‘to read’ pile and with a blurb that certainly has my caught my interest it won’t be long before I’m going to dive in.

Brother Sebastian is halfway up a mountain in Vermont, hell-bent on interrogating an old woman in a shack, when he gets the order to abandon his quest for personal vengeance. He has to find a missing Inquisitor, or, more likely, his remains. He’s reluctant, to say the least. Not only will he have to stop chasing the best potential lead he’s had in years, this job—his first solo mission—will mean setting foot in the grubby black hole of Providence, Rhode Island. And, somehow, it only gets worse…
If he’d known he would end up ass deep in witches, werewolves, and ogres, and that this mission would jeopardize not only his sanity but also his immortal soul, he never would’ve answered the damn phone.

Until that moment, I was delighted to find there’s a stand a lone short story set in the Inquisitors world. For me this seems a perfect way to sample the series and Farish’s writing style. And with a title like Goth Witch Of Philly how could I resist?

Asked to investigate a spate of disappearances, Brother Maurice somewhat reluctantly heads to Philadelphia to investigate reports of Witchcraft.

I really enjoyed this, the writing was pacey with plenty of humour. Action scenes were believable as were the strategies employed by Brother Maurice to try to solve the case. Based on what I’ve read its not an entirely original premise, but it was great fun. It’s a story that features heavily armed Monks that fight the supernatural! How can that not be? In it’s 10 action packed pages there was enough here for me to move Junior Inquisitor up the ‘to read’ pile. The Goth Witch Of Philly  has done her job.

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

Goblin – Josh Malerman (Kendall Review)

Josh Malerman invites you to take a walk through the rain-sodden streets of Goblin, a City populated by the weird and the wonderful. A City with stories to tell, stories that will captivate you, make you laugh, chill you to the bone, make you want to pull a loved one closer.

Goblin, the third novel from Josh Malerman, is a limited edition publication from Earthling (Pre-order information is at the bottom of this review) that consists of 6 novellas that for me perfectly echo the classic TV anthology shows I used to watch as a kid. From the horrors of Creepshow and Tales From The Crypt to the wonders of the Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Each story works individually but together they’re linked, sharing characters and locations. Events in one story, although slight have a knock on effect to another. Goblin is a living, breathing City. No word is wasted in creating Goblin and it’s inhabitants. The people of Goblin are, mostly, very human. Normal people like you, or I, living with the understanding that the fantastique is part of their normality. In Goblin, people can be just as monstrous as whatever’s rumoured to live in the North Woods.

An unusual friendship is the centrepiece of A Man In Slices, an incredibly dark tale that sparked with some very amusing dialogue. The swim camp sequence was fantastically written that escalated the darkness superbly till the satisfying, although not entirely surprising ending. A man so terrified of being scared to death by a ghost is the premise of Kamp.  Walter Kamp goes to extreme lengths so that nothing can creep up on him in his apartment. How I’ve never though of Malerman’s answer to the ‘monster under the bed’ is beyond me. Such a simple idea, genius! Big game hunter Neal Nash is celebrating his 60th Birthday in Happy Birthday, Hunter. Nash has killed a lot but still has animals on his hunting wish list, one of which is the protected Goblin Great Owl. Seems it’s a good idea to go try to bag one whilst drunk with some of his friends, at night, in the middle of the North Woods…what could possibly go wrong? Presto is a wonderful tale about a boy finally having the opportunity to see his favourite magician, Roman Emporer. Other magicians on the circuit don’t like Roman, they suspect him of practising ‘dirty magic’. The audience is in for one hell of a performance at the midnight performance in the Goblin Domino Theatre. There’s plenty going on in this story but it’s Pete and his open-eyed wonder that I enjoyed the most. Next we follow Dirk Rogers’ descent into madness whilst alternating jobs at both the Goblin Slaughterhouse and the Goblin Zoo.  A Mix-Up At The Zoo has a different writing style to anything else in the book. It’s a fantastic piece, with some stunning imagery, although for me it didn’t fit as neatly into the concept as the other tales. The last story from Goblin sees a girl get to the end of Goblin’s biggest maze, a tourist attraction known as The Hedges. No-one has ever done it before, so when she reports what she finds at the end of the maze to the Goblin Police, the attractions creator goes on the run…and ultimately ends up in the North Woods. Malerman writes kids very well, Margot is a delight. She’s a little madam but as the story progresses she displays an innocence that’s wonderful to read. I’d be very interested to hear the authors thinking behind the Goblin Police, they’re referred to a lot throughout the book, mostly with a sense of fear. So when Margot gets to the Police Station and we finally get to see them, it’s…wonderfully…bizarre! Either side of these six novellas a Prologue/Epilogue that bookend Goblin perfectly, with the Prologue giving a very strong Creepshow vibe.

Josh Malerman has not only written the best book I’ve read this year, with Goblin he’s written the best book I’ve read in the last few years. The pages couldn’t be turned quickly enough, I was completely under his spell, so much so I was upset once I had finished reading. There must be a multitude of stories waiting to be told, I genuinely hope that Malerman has more planned.

Goblin is an absolute triumph, wonderful characters, fantastic stories and in Goblin, a place you will want to return to again and again.

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

Firstly, I’d like to thank Paul Miller at Earthling Publications for sending me an advance copy of Goblin.

Secondly, to Josh Malerman who has written a story that has utterly reignited my passion for reading…Thank you!

Goblin is to be released as an extra special book to celebrate the 13th year of Earthling’s Halloween Series. It’s only going to be available via Earthling Publications and will be limited to 500 numbered and 15 lettered signed by Josh Malerman.

Please go to www.earthlingpub.com for preorders which should be live from the 14th August. 

Praise for Goblin

Goblin should be listed on every horror reader’s itinerary of places to visit, with the lights turned low and the night breeze creeping into the room. An incredible Halloween find for all.” –Dave Simms, Cemetery Dance Online

Goblin is a mesmerizing, terrifying tight-rope walk.” –Clive Barker

“Malerman has created a Derry for a new generation.” –Sarah Pinborough

Goblin is another triumph from Josh Malerman.” —Christopher Golden

“A perfectly-realized universe that’s sometimes hilarious, and often horrifying.” —Mark Alan Miller

Goblin’s charm will beckon you, its citizens will dance like ghosts in your mind.”—James Henry Hall

Goblin proves what I’ve been saying for the last few years: Malerman is becoming one of the true greats in weird fiction. He is the genre’s new dark prince!” —Jonathan Maberry

 

 

Goblin – Josh Malerman (Book Post)

Receiving books from authors and publishers is a genuine thrill for me. I take it as a sign that my Blog and how I review are moving in the right direction. I’m incredibly passionate about the genre and love nothing more than reading new and exciting titles. So you can imagine how I felt when I opened the parcel that arrived for me this morning, inside a brand new journey for me to go on, an advance copy of one of  favourite authors books to review, I’m delighted to have this beauty in my hands…

All my thanks to Paul at Earthling Publications!

A novel in six novellas

A Man In Slices – A young man wants to prove to his long-distance girlfriend that they have ‘legendary love,’ better than Vincent van Gogh, so he sends her more body parts that just his ear in the mail.

Kamp – A man so horrified of encountering a ghost that he sets up a series of ‘ghost traps’ all over his apartment, desperate to catch one before it can sneak up on him.

Happy Birthday, Hunter! – Big game hunter Neal Nash leaves his own meat-themed birthday bash to go hunting for Goblin’s hallowed (and protected) Great Owl. But the North Woods are unkind at night.

Presto – In the pages of Presto magazine, a young boy reads that his favourite magician, Roman Emporer, is coming to town. Problem is, Pete doesn’t know that Emporer’s magic is real, and his latest trick involves audience participation…a little boy volunteer.

A Mix-Up At The Zoo – Dirk Rogers works at both the Goblin Slaughterhouse and the Goblin Zoo, but the workload is really getting to him. Will he be able to separate the two jobs on the night he finally breaks down, or will the slaughterhouse and the zoo overlap in his cracked, dark mind?

The Hedges – A young girl finally reaches the end of Goblin’s biggest tourist attraction, The Hedges. But what she finds there sparks a mad chase between the owner of the Hedges and the Goblin Police, through the streets of the rainy city and into the terrible North Woods.

The author of Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel welcomes you to Goblin. May your night there be wet with rain, breathless with adventure, and filled with fright.

Due for release November 1st 2017 and published by Earthling Publications

Goblin will be limited to 500 numbered and 15 lettered hardcovers, all signed by the author.

The Die-Fi Experiment – M.R. Tapia (Kendall Review)

“I would like to welcome the world to The Die-Fi Experiment. Please join us in the fun that is the deterioration of the world by means of social media.”

The Die-Fi Experiment is the tale of newly wed Marie, who with her husband, travels to Japan. They have both suffered emotional trauma and feel that getting away from everything will give them the time to heal. No-one knows where they are, the couple even ban themselves from using social media to prevent detection. They don’t want to be found.

In a believable twist, whilst trying to earn themselves a free phone the young couple find themselves forced to take part in ‘The Die-Fi Experiment’, a game show live streamed on the internet where contestants compete with each other to the death.

There’s a lot packed into this novellas concise 74 pages, we have a damning critique of social media and the power of the internet, an incredibly violent horror story, made all the more abhorrent as the faceless game show hosts are fuelled by ‘likes’ and other digital interaction whilst at the stories heart, for me anyway, a love story. Love itself is an incredibly powerful weapon, what would you do on a loved ones behalf to prevent them pain?

I’ll be honest, the violence in The Die-Fi Experiment was bordering on too much for me. I’m not a fan of extreme violence in fiction, but M.R. Tapia has been skillful in giving the reader breathing time. Here chapters alternate between the horrors of the game show and the unnamed husband relaying the story of how he met Marie, their romance and how they ended up in Japan. In doing this you understand how strong a relationship they have, I felt fully invested in their lives, this juxtaposition from normality to utter carnage worked incredibly well. Had it just been constant violence it would have been too much, here I was completely in the husbands head, the utter terror about his own mortality beaten only by his determination to save his wife.

The Die-Fi Experiment is an incredibly powerful, well written emotional rollercoaster of a novella. This is the second release I’ve read by M.R. Tapia, and certainly won’t be the last. I’m looking forward to reading his debut novel ‘Sugar  Skulls’ which is out November 2017.

Oh, and if you see an offer for a free iPhone-X…walk away!

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

 

 

 

Macabre Notions – Aaron White (Kendall Review)

The lack of word count certainly doesn’t hinder these stories, with six tales of the supernatural expertly covering just 60 pages. Macabre Notions is a thoroughly enjoyable quick read that should earn Aaron White quite a few fans.

Kicking off this delightful collection is A Bad Dream, a tale of guilt and paranoia built around a late night knock at the door and a horrifying revelation. For me, the revelation would have been enough in a perfect Tales Of The Unexpected type finale. For the story to then carry on seemed unnecessary, lessening the gut punch revelation. Evolved focuses on a killer that uses his psychic abilities to find victims, but what if the tables were turned? This was my second favourite tale in the collection. A very interesting premise that I could see being expanded into a full length novel. Bereavement and loss are the central themes of An Impression Of Grief. Having recently lost his wife in an accident, an artist seeks to ease his grief and find answers through his art. The Farmhouse is the true gem of this collection, a haunted house story told in three parts. White here seems to of found his comfort zone, the phrasing and descriptive passages were wonderful to read. Easily my favourite story, with part two having a really strong Hammer Horror vibe and a twist that had me smiling and eager to push on towards part three.

Macabre Notions succeeds in highlighting that Aaron White knows how to tell story. All four tales had their moments but it was The Farmhouse that stood out for me. Showing that although White is more than capable at the short story, being able to spread his wings and having more room to breath and tell a story may be where the author finds his true calling.

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

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/