Horror Book: Thom Carnell
Reviewed By Gary Twigg
I’ve never read anything by Thom Carnell before, but it’s clear to me after reading this book that he’s an accomplished and experienced writer.
The title of the book is kind of misleading, however, because the majority of the short stories contained in this collection were not what I would categorise as horror, although there were elements of horror contained in some of them. I also felt a little at a disadvantage here as some of the stories and situations in them were drawn from previous novels, such as No Flesh Shall be Spared and The Carpe Noctem Interviews, which I haven’t read.
Having said this, I appreciated the range and diversity contained in Horror Book. This touched upon horror, obviously; the complexity of relationships, religion, adventure and a couple of stories that spoke of existential crises of the human condition. There’s even a hard-edged jailhouse thriller thrown in for good measure. There are some racial slurs in this story, so it might be useful to highlight this as a trigger point.
Stand outs were:
Homecoming. A tale of a bereaved wife suffering in the wake of her husband’s death as she cares for their little girl. When Daddy comes home in the dead of night, it’s more Pet Semetary than happy families.
Esurience. When Speakman performs a health-check on an old college friend, Josh, he is shocked to discover the obsession that has put an end to Josh’s young life. But as Speakman delves into his friend’s diary, the words contained within take on a life of their own.
Happy Together. A wedding is planned; a time of joy and celebrated love for all concerned in families where religion is a pillar of meaning and strength in their lives. But in what way has this particular brand of faith twisted the ceremony into something shocking?
Sovereignty. The aforementioned jailhouse thriller, which takes our main character, Santiago, to a strange meeting in the heart of the prison in the middle of the night. A proposal is made by those in power; a carrot dangled in front of Santiago, a man with a long prison-stretch ahead of him. But the terms of the deal include murder.
Tomb of The Living Dead. Chris and Jill, a typically likeable young couple stumble across a spooky house in the middle of the Spanish countryside. But it’s not really a house at all, and terror soon ensues.
The Dagger of Golgotha. This is more of an adventure story, containing a character that Mr Carnell has obviously written about before, Father Thorpe. The Father seems to be a cross between Robert Langdon and Indian Jones; written with great verve and physicality as he journeys from The Vatican to discover an undiscovered religious artifact that dates from the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and has hidden powers.
This collection marks the ninth book by Fangoria / Dread Central writer, Thom Carnell. In this volume, we present fourteen tales—some old, some new—designed to mesmerize and astonish. From “high adventure” to quiet stories detailing the darkest corners of the human experience, Thom Carnell presents them all with an unflinching eye toward both terrifying and entertaining the unsuspecting reader.
I mainly write horror and paranormal thrillers although I am probably the most squeamish of people when it comes to watching horror movies and normally watch the scary parts through my fingers. Why I write in this genre of fiction is therefore quite ironic, but I’ve always been attracted to horror and thrillers in all their forms, whether on print or large and small screen. I have early memories of secretly watching Appointment With Fear with my older brother on an old black-and-white portable TV on Monday nights when we should have been asleep. The image of Christopher Lee crashing through French windows in the first Hammer Horror Dracula movie, with blood on his fangs chills me to this day!
Predictably, I am a huge fan of Stephen King, but also love writers such as Dean Koontz, Joe Hill, CJ Tudor and James Herbert. When I was a kid, I was fascinated and enthralled by Robert E Howard’s sword-and-sorcery tales of Conan The Barbarian and several other creations, and then by Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series. These stories really fuelled my imagination and made me want to write my own stuff. When my older brother introduced me to Stephen King, I was soon lost in even darker worlds and I haven’t wanted to come out of them ever since. My books are, therefore, quite disturbing, gory at times, but I try to also litter them with characters who, while flawed, display the finer human qualities such as bravery, loyalty, and above all love of other people above themselves. I hope that you think that I have succeeded in this.
In my normal life I work for a charity that supports blind and partially-sighted people and I am also a qualified psychotherapist. This is all after spending twenty-five years in the private sector, where I wasn’t just unfulfilled, but also monumentally bored. Working with people directly to help them solve their own problems was definitely a better fit for me.
I live in Cheshire with my wonderfully patient wife and our small dog, Bailey, who loves nothing better than cuddles, food, and waiting until I’m relaxed of an evening before she demands some attention.