January 9th 2017 I made my first ever Kendall Reviews post, I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone and how much the blog has grown since then. I certainly didn’t think I’d have the support of Team KR, a wonderful group of people that have helped me to PROMOTE HORROR.
Some of the team have shared their ‘Best Of’ lists, I hope you find the time to read through them and of course my list which I’m sharing with you today.
I’d love to hear from you about these lists. Have you read any of the books we have listed? If you decide to buy any of the titles then please do let me know, and after you’ve finished reading I’d be delighted to host your review.
I’m also looking for new additions to the team. Would you like to join Team KR? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email if this is something that appeals to you.
So, it is with great pleasure I share with you my favourite reads of 2020.
England’s Screaming By Sean Hogan
England’s Screaming is an outstanding work where the British Horror Movie world is one universe and characters interact regardless of movie release date.
What connects Duc de Richleau (The Devil Rides Out), Julian Karswell (Night Of The Demon), and Damien Thorn (The Omen)? Carol Ledoux (Repulsion) and Dr. Channard (Hellbound: Hellraiser II)? Jo Gilkes (Beasts) and Angel Blake (Blood On Satan’s Claw)? How is Karswell linked to Hugo Fitch (Dead Of Night) and Emily Underwood (From Beyond The Grave)? What connects Dorothy Yates (Frightmare) to the deaths at Russell Square (Death Line)? How and why does Damien Thorn know Julia Cotton (Hellraiser)?
It s a common thread of Film Criticism to note the influences and precursors of one film to another, especially in relation to genre: by definition, genre films are connected by a frame. What then if the characters could see each other? What if they existed not only as fictional characters in our world, but in a single chronology of their own? What if they could talk to each other, know each other, love and hate each other?
Who would align with whom, and what might we discover about how influences breed? What might we then learn about the warp and weft of our beloved genre and the patterns that are woven through it?
Absorbing it all, Sean Hogan steps inside the world of UK Horror to examine it from within. To see how the characters, themes and stories interact, and what the bigger picture might reveal. Is there a story behind and between the stories we already know? What might it say about the history of UK Horror and the culture from which it was spawned?
Admittedly I did have to look up a few of the movies/characters involved, but that actually added to the whole experience.
You really need to read this book blind. The joy in characters turning up from possibly your favourite movie to interact with other classic horror creations is so convincingly written. At times the writing is a little choppy to get characters together but all in all its a brilliant execution of an idea that I’d love to see more of.
Sean Hogan has a possible blockbuster on his hands here and future volumes would be more than welcome. Some of these stories could even be expanded ìnto novels or original novels featuring this ‘mash-up’ idea would be a joy.
All the stories have this old school vibe about them regardless of the movie release date. Hammer & Amicus fans are going to lap this up.
England’s Screaming is a brilliant book that’s not afraid to stray into some controversial subject matter.
England’s Screaming can be summed upped in two words ‘A MASTERPIECE’
Wyrd And Other Derelictions By Adam Nevill
I love an author that isn’t afraid to take risks. But an author to release a book with no characters, no conversations, a book that quite literally drops the reader into the aftermath of events to wander alone is a risk too far isn’t it?
Derelictions are horror stories told in ways you may not have encountered before.
Something is missing from the silent places and worlds inside these stories. Something has been removed, taken flight, or been destroyed. Us.
Derelictions are weird tales that tell of aftermaths and of new and liminal places. Each location has witnessed catastrophe, infernal visitations, or unearthly transformations. But across these landscapes of murder, genocide and invasion, crucial evidence remains. And it is the task of the reader to sift through ruin and ponder the residual enigma, to behold and wonder at the full horror that was visited upon mankind.
I’m delighted to report that as risky as Wyrd And Other Derelictions sounds, it’s a masterclass in writing. Fans of Adam Nevill will already know that his writing style is incredibly expressive, descriptive prose that triggers the mind’s eye, a style that, for me, is second only to my writing hero, Clive Barker.
Being led by Nevill through some truly outstanding scenarios was an absolute joy. I just wish there were more Derelictions to walk through.
The Cockroach King By Andrew Cull
The Cockroach King is one hell of a read. This is Andrew Cull doing what he does best.
“We’d been in the house two weeks when Tommy pulled the first bones from the garden.”
When Cassie Baker buys the house on Cedar Street, it’s partly because it reminds her of the house she grew up in in the ‘80s. It reminds her of happier times, when her Mom was still alive, before the cancer had taken her. It seems like the perfect place to raise her baby boy, Sam.
That is, until a friend unearths the remains of a dog, buried in a shallow grave in the backyard.
After the bones come the cockroaches…
I’m not sure there’s an author writing today that can blend horrors as well as Andrew Cull. From the emotional horrors of grief and loss to the visceral horrors of sliced, decaying flesh Cull writes them all in a believable way.
All I can really say is read everything you can by Andrew Cull as soon as possible. A brilliant author.
Deity By Matt Wesolowski
Investigative journalist Scott King, hosts a podcast that examines complicated cases via a series of six interviews. Each interview unveils a new revelation, until the final secrets are revealed.
Deity is the fifth book in the Six Stories series but was my first time reading Matt Wesolowski and based on the brilliant plotting and expert narrative it won’t be the last.
When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.
Online journalist Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Whose remains – still unidentified – were found in the ashes? Why was he never officially charged?
The delivery of story via interviews, newspaper clippings and of course the podcast is incredibly well done. Wesolowski absolutely nailed the story, keeping me on my toes whilst I frantically turned the pages as I worked towards the conclusion of Zach Crystals controversial life.
Deity works perfectly well as a standalone story but there does appear to be a slight spoiler for a previous case.
Matt Wesolowski has a new fan in Kendall Reviews.
Weed By Joseph D’Lacey
Weed is some of the best fun I’ve had reading a book in ages.
Fortescue Hall – the palatial stately home of Lady Cynthia Fortescue and the hub of her global business empire. The Hall is a pressure cooker, simmering with the secret resentments of abused staff and her rival sons, Jacob and Herbert.
On her birthday, Jacob and Herbert vie for their mother’s favour with lavish gifts, one of which is a rare and unusual seedling. Pincher, Her Ladyship’s cannabis-cultivating head gardener, is fascinated by the new plant but it goes missing before he can inspect it more closely. Then people begin disappearing.
It soon becomes clear that Fortescue Hall is infected with a genetically enhanced parasitic organism – a species of plant which uses humans as hosts and food.
As the Hall is overtaken by sentient growth, the Fortescue’s and their staff find themselves in a fight not only for their lives but for the future of the world. Could it be that mild-mannered Pincher is the only one who can save them all?
Brutal in its violence and gore whilst keeping its tongue very firmly in cheek, several scenes had me smiling with the horrific destruction being set upon a cast of characters that mostly deserved it.
One scene, in particular, is one of the most hilariously offensive things I think I’ve ever read.
It’s all so preposterous yet I was hooked. Bar being a little too slow initially to get going Weed is a frantic, sex-filled, grotesque body horror thrill ride that had me turning pages with glee.
Imagine Swamp Thing and the Marquis de Sade throwing a party, add a subtle political/ecological message and a bucket load of body horror to inflict on guests who are all mostly rich arrogant types that deserve what’s coming.
Weed is very highly recommended.
Dead Girl Blues By David Sodergren
A modern twist on Giallo offers the reader an incredibly brutal tale that sets up a new genre, Slasher Noir.
When a young woman dies in Willow Zulawski’s arms, it sets in motion a chain of events that will push her to the brink of madness.
A mysterious video is the only clue, but as Willow digs deeper into the murky world of snuff movies, those closest to her start turning up dead. Someone out there will stop at nothing to silence her.
After all, when killing is business, what’s one more dead body?
As with David’s previous work, Dead Girl Blues is incredibly well written with lots of action, horror, strong characters and a splash of humour.
Not the easiest of reads due to some of the themes covered proving Sodergren is an author not afraid to take risks.
That’s three books I’ve read by Sodergren now and all three are incredibly different yet all achieve a remarkably high standard of storytelling. A near-perfect trilogy of novels.
Maggie’s Grave, David’s fourth novel is out now and I’ll be reading it shortly.
No One Gets Out Alive By Adam Nevill
I can’t recall a book that has made me feel so uncomfortable. 82 Edgehill Road is a true house of horrors both real and supernatural.
Darkness lives within …Cash-strapped, working for agencies and living in shared accommodation, Stephanie Booth feels she can fall no further.
So when she takes a new room at the right price, she believes her luck has finally turned. But 82 Edgware Road is not what it appears to be. It’s not only the eerie atmosphere of the vast, neglected house, or the disturbing attitude of her new landlord, Knacker McGuire, that makes her uneasy – it’s the whispers behind the fireplace, the scratching beneath floors, the footsteps in the dark, and the young women weeping in neighbouring rooms.
And when Knacker’s cousin Fergal arrives, the danger goes vertical.
But this is merely a beginning, a gateway to horrors beyond Stephanie’s worst nightmares.
And in a house where no one listens to the screams, will she ever get out alive?
The story is initially skillfully paced and the first 9 days of Stephanies stay at Edgehill Road flew by. Equally gripped as disgusted this is another example of Nevill knowing exactly how to twist and manipulate his readers. By day 9 I was emotionally done. Brilliant.
The main players are all superbly written, Knacker & Fergal are abhorrent specimens, Stephanie isn’t the stereotypical final girl and the house is written so well its as strong a character as the humans. I can see the rooms and corridors even now after the book’s been snapped shut.
My only criticism is that post day 9, the tension drops dramatically and remains a slow burn for possible a little too long but once things ramp up to the final act then the gloves are off and it’s once again a tension-filled spectacular.
I’m not entirely sure if the recently announced Netflix adaptation can be truly faithful. This book is brutal in its themes and in its violence. Brilliant on the page but seeing it all up there on screen might be too much for some.
Me, I’ll be there, front and centre as No One Gets Out Alive is outstanding.
Studio Of Screams By Stephen R. Bissette, Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon, Stephen Volk & Mark Morris.
Blythewood, a studio held in the same high regard as Hammer and Amicus.
Studio Of Screams brings together the authorised novelizations of four Blythewood classic horror films
After each story there’s a delightful interview which reveals more about the studio and the movies.
1) Sword Of The Demon
The classic cursed tomb/object theme is brought to life brilliantly by Mark Morris. The pre/post-story interview is a joy.
2) The Devil’s Circus
A superbly claustrophobic tale of missing kids, the circus and freaky clowns.
I couldn’t get Tod Browning’s Freaks out of my head as I read this. Not sure if that was Christopher Golden’s intention but it worked beautifully for me.
3) Castle Of The Lost
Well that escalated quickly
Blythewood adds gratuitous sex and violence to its movies in this tale of a war veteran returning to his childhood home with his own family.
Another superb story & interview.
4) The Squeamish
My favourite story in the book.
A wonderful tale about censorship and the battle between the director and the dreaded scissors.
Wonderfully entertaining and along with the interview this is a must-read.
Studio Of Screams is a wonderful read. It captures the essence of what I love about those old Amicus movies perfectly. I really enjoyed how the stories escalate in sex and violence as times/attitudes change.
I thoroughly recommend you buy this book from PS Publishing. It also works as the perfect companion to another brilliant PS book, England’s Screaming.
I really do hope we get to see more movies from Blythewood as Studio Of Screams is a brilliant read.
A Distasteful Horror Story By Johnny Mains
All horror fans should have a least one Johnny Mains book in their collection.
Carson Fisher, one of the world’s greatest horror authors, is dead. In fact, he’s been dead for over a decade, mouldering away till there’s nowt left but bones. His murderer, also a horror author, but nowhere near as talented – and Carson’s lover – has written the ultimate ‘kiss ‘n kill’ autobiography from inside prison, documenting their strange life and explaining why Carson deserved to die. Turns out Carson has been a very naughty boy.
Overall this book is a deep dive into the horror community and the life of a horror writer as they climb the ladder of success within the genre. Often funny with some horrific scenes scattered throughout this was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I get that names have to be changed due to some of the activities of characters within this book but there were moments where I feel this book is written for those in the know. It’s still a fascinating read with names we recognise mixing with those we don’t. Poor old Ramsey Campbell certainly goes through it.
The Messy Man By Chris Sorensen
A superb conclusion to a wonderful trilogy. I did struggle with pacing initially and the age of Ellen may have been better written a little older.
Ellen Marx sees ghosts. Her mother Rita just wants her to be a ‘normal’ eleven-year-old kid. But that’s tough to do when you receive a birthday card from your dead father.
Following a trail of breadcrumbs left by her dad, Ellen sets out on a journey to unravel the mystery surrounding her father’s disappearance and ends up unearthing secrets best left buried.
Minor criticisms really as this is a very clever and well-written sequel. How Sorenson has merged timelines and characters into a cohesive work is incredible.
A solid tale that across three books chilled, thrilled and brought a tear to my eye.
I’m living in the South-East of England between London and Brighton. I’ve been married to Laura since 2000 and have two daughters. (Emily & Freya). I’ve always had a passion for horror and decided, as a hobby, that I’d like to create a blog to showcase this fascination with the darker genres.
I started Kendall Reviews in January 2017, initially to host my reviews of books and music that I had in my sizeable collections. Pretty quickly, this became a passion project and morphed into a blog that wanted to help PROMOTE HORROR.
I want to thank all the people that interact with the blog and of course to the rest of the Kendall Reviews team.
Please find all my contact details here