The Priest of Blood

Author: Douglas Clegg
Genre: Horror
Reviewed by: Kim Richards

Priestofbloodcover-1The Priest of Blood is one of the latest projects by horror author, Doug Clegg. This story is pleasantly surprising in that it is more of a fantasy which takes a very dark turn. The Priest of Blood is a story of one boy’s life journey from that of destitute son of a prostitute to becoming the Priest of Blood. We walk with him as he finds fortune enough to earn the role of falcon boy for the local nobility, across the battlefields of holy war and into the realm of the vampyre.

This tale is not to be lumped with the traditional vampire tales of our generation. It is decidedly different with an atmosphere more mythological than anything else. The world involved has a medieval feel with its own rich history and ancient legends of demons and witchcraft.

The story is spoken to us by the Priest of Blood himself, formerly known as Aleric “Falconer”. His is a tale of love and loss, friendship and hardship, life and death and life-after-death. He bears witness to his own mother’s burning, finds a long lost brother and unwillingly leads two friends into a hellish life ahead filled with death and damnation.

Fantasy enthusiasts will love this story so don’t let the former horror works of the author fool you into passing it by. Horror fans will not be disappointed either for Clegg brings a vivid tale to life with fantastical monsters from which even the vampyre are not immune.

Reviewer’s note: The copy I have of The Priest of Blood is a limited, signed, collector’s edition from Shocklines Press. However, this wonderful story is slated to come out in trade hardcover in 2005. Look for it from Berkley/Ace. The Priest of Blood is only the beginning. There will be more to come which I will be anxiously waiting to get my hands on.


January 5, 2005 in Horror | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Battle for Barnstable

Author: Alan M. Brooker
Genre: Horror
Reviewed by Susan DiPlacido

11210402This latest, thrilling offering from Alan Brooker opens innocently enough. Alex Anderson is a small-town reporter looking for his big break. When local stories (along with subscriptions) fall to an all- time low in the sleepy town of Barnstable, his editor dispatches him on a mission to find some news. Alex decides on a series investigating local historical landmarks, and his first place of interest is the ancient Barnstable Manor. While the manor was built by and was home to the Barnstable family for several hundred years, when their family tree dried up – under mysterious circumstances – over ten years ago, the mansion was bought and is now inhabited by Louis Armitage.

During a lukewarm meeting with Armitage, Alex begins studying Barnstable history and is also introduced to Armitage's lovely niece, Lisa. Besides being interested in Lisa's obvious charms, Alex also finds himself drawn in by the strange story of Andrew Barnstable, the last heir to the flamboyant family. It seems Andrew disappeared many years ago while on a trip to Europe. But what seems to be isn't the truth, as Andrew is actually still alive and well, but he's a vampire. Meanwhile, unaware of her father's bloodsucking propensities, his daughter Sara is soon enlisted to help Andrew gain entrance once again into Barnstable Manor. Though it was his previous home, he cannot enter now without being invited, and something inside its walls has drawn his intense interest. Namely, the lovely Lisa.

Once dispatched to the mansion to procure an invitation for him, Sara also finds herself immediately drawn in by the enchanting but cloistered Lisa, and they soon find themselves celebrating Sapphic-style. But all is not well in Barnstable. For Lisa was kept so closely protected and guarded by her uncle because he's a Satanist who plans to offer her as a virgin bride when he summons his master. But now that Sara has taken her virginity, his plans must change and he needs to find a replacement.

When dead bodies start appearing, our feckless reporter Alex finds himself no longer researching a historical human-interest piece, but embroiled in a full-blown murder investigation with many occult ties. And he's going to have to piece the puzzle together and sift through the vampires and Satanists to defeat the true evil. And if he doesn't do it in time, all hell is going to break loose.

Once again, Brooker dabbles in the occult with more than a little flair for the flamboyantly sexual. The Battle for Barnstable effectively ties horror with suspense while bending expectations and taking the reader on a fast-paced, unravelling mystery. Well written with multiple points of view, this is sure to be a wicked delight for fans of these genres, all the way up to the nail-biting finale.


November 28, 2004 in Horror | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tainted Blood

Author: Mary Ann Mitchell
Genre: Horror
Reviewed by Kim Richards

573If you've read Ms. Mitchell's earlier works involving the vampire, Marquis de Sade, you'll find some familiar characters in Tainted Blood. Sade's presence serves more the role of a catalyst for the story than you might expect from a former main character.

The real story here is that of the Hughes family: the not-so-normal nuclear family consisting of the father, mother, daughter and two sons; all of whom are vampires. Things happen in their house which would make the neighbors shudder, if they knew. There are bodies beneath the house, siblings killing siblings, parents killing children, neighbor children turning into vampires, body stealing, and lots of innuendo which occasionally bursts into scenes of sex.

The one thing which disappointed me involved an interesting character named Babette. Her blood, for which the book is named, turns her into a vampire destroyer because it reacts like a poison. I wish she'd played a greater role than that of temptress to Sade. I found her the most intriguing thing of the entire story.

This book is an easy read so if you like vampire stories, give Tainted Blood a try.


July 11, 2004 in Horror | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tharne's Quest

Author: Alan M. Brooker
Genre: Horror
Reviewed by Susan DiPlacido

574In Tharne's Quest, Alan Brooker posits a truly terrifying premise. One of Satan's most powerful devotees is gathering his strength to unleash total destruction upon mankind.

Alison has just finished a lackluster date with her NASA scientist boyfriend Chad when she seemingly falls into a trancelike dream-state as a sentient mist gathers behind her and begins telling her to contact her boyfriend or else havoc will ensure. Unfortunately for Alison, Chad, and the rest of mankind, she wasn't in a trance. It's quite real. Alison gathers Chad and the mist contacts him, revealing itself to be ancient Tharne, who is in hot pursuit of "the Adept", a being that had several other incarnations on earth, the most recent being Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's deputy in the Third Reich. Upon death, Himmler, the Adept, was able to give Tharne the slip and instead of passing through the astral planes as he was supposed to, he took his own journey, and is gathering his forces to reunite himself with Satan and unleash revenge and destruction upon humanity.

His first plan of action is a sabotage of Chad's current artificial intelligence project due to be launched. Enlisting Chad's help, and quickly making him believe the gravity of the situation, Chad is recruited to help Tharne defeat the Adept before his power becomes indomitable. What begins with Chad counter-acting the sabotage attempts upon his project quickly leads into much more perilous territory as he's forced to infiltrate a local depraved coven.

Brooker's style is quick and captivating, and the chills are relentless. His smooth style and likable characters keep the story anchored as the stakes raise and Chad has to subjugate himself to more vile duties as he gets closer to the center of evil power.

Reader beware, demons do abound in this story, doing demonic things. There's violence and bloodshed, and more than sex. The coven Chad has to infiltrate is one particularly obsessed not just with sexual cravings, but particularly sexual cravings for the young. And Chad does follow along on this journey, falling deeper into the depravity as the sinister layers of the occult unfold.

It's not for the squeamish. But Brooker crafts a well-written, absorbing, fully realized world here, where the stakes are high and the action never stops.


July 11, 2004 in Horror | Permalink | Comments (0)

Four Dark Nights

Author: Bentley Little, et al
Genre: Horror
Reviewed by: Kim Richards

 Cover ArtEveryone has, at some time in their life, experienced the awfulness of an imagination running rampant in the darkest hour of the night. Four Dark Nights is a wonderful letting loose of those images from the minds of four of horror's best writers. They grab us by the front of the shirt and drag us in to see what we really hoped didn't wait in the darkness.

"The Circle" by Bentley Little lets us spend the night in a suburban neighborhood. We visit the various neighbor's homes to discover each family's part in the unleashing of a witch's revenge and the consequences of stirring something truly dark from her back yard.

"Pyre" by Christopher Golden takes us to an island where Viking warriors were cremated upon huge funeral pyres. One girl's selfish need to confront her dead father ends up costing her much more than she expected. It's not nice to wake the dead.

"Jonah Arose" by Tom Piccarilli leads us down the ever-changing halls of The Works to meet with ghosts and freaks while we examine the hell men put themselves through. This is a bizarre and nasty place he takes us to.

"The Words" by Douglas Clegg is my favorite in this collection. Two boys grow into young men, toying with an ancient darkness until it destroys them and threatens the rest of human kind. The images in this story are strong. It almost has a kind of moralistic quality with regard to playing around with and not taking seriously things our forefathers sought to protect us from.

Four Dark Nights is an entertaining set of stories likely to give you four sleepless nights after the reading.


May 12, 2004 in Horror | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ghost Writer

Author: Staci Layne Wilson
Genre: Horror
Reviewed by: Jeremy M. Hoover

Cover ArtCary Bouchard is below average guy: his skin is pale, he wears a bow-tie with his gray suits, he is referred to as “effeminate” by his coworkers, he works as a secretary at an art studio, even his feminine-sounding name is suggestive of his bland personality.

Cary is lazy, bored with his job, and yearns to be a writer of great renown. To the dismay of his boss, who often reams his out for it, Cary daydreams about writing the Great American Novel while at work.

One day, Cary fantasizes about killing his boss, and later that night is able to write at a furious pace. Unfortunately, Cary does not remember too much about his writing: he zoned out, and when he came to, several pages of a manuscript had been written.

Cary continues to have periods where he zones out, and one day when he arrives at work, his boss is being wheeled out, dead, on a stretcher. The police indicate that someone had murdered him. Of particular concern for Cary is how his boss was murdered. He had been murdered in exactly the same way Cary had fantasized about days earlier. Shortly after this Cary quits his job and devotes himself full-time to writing.

Over time Cary is able to complete his manuscript. He finds a publisher, Hermann Winesapp of Old Scratch Press, who publishes his book under the title Vengeful Ghost. The book becomes on overnight success. Around this time he reconciles with his girlfriend, Diana, and they begin spending much time together. One day, while Cary is reading the paper, he reads that a lawyer’s dead body turned up in the river, drowned. But Cary does a double-take at the name—it is Hermann Winesapp, and Cary wonders if it is the same Winesapp from Old Scratch Press.

Because Cary is still waiting for a copy of his contract, he calls Old Scratch Press, only to find out their number has been disconnected; they are no longer in business. Cary is relieved at this development, because he had since signed a contract with a major publishing house and wasn’t sure how to cancel the contract with Old Scratch.

During this time Cary finishes his second novel, called The Brandie Killer. It is a sadistic novel about a serial killer who rapes and mutilates women because of a hatred of his mother. It, too, is a huge success, and Cary is sent out on a book tour. While on the tour, several ominous things happen to Cary. He continues to zone out for periods of time; he finds himself unable to write the Great American Novel because his creative energy seems to be dried up. He appears on a talk-show where he is reminded that his mother tried to kill him, and Cary receives three pictures, from two different people and a wolf, of dead women, mutilated in the same way that Cary’s serial killer mutilated women. Cary is arrested for questioning after he receives the third picture, and the police confiscate the pictures and begin to suspect him of something.

These omens lead Cary to quit his book tour and return to New York, where he promptly suggests to Diana a weeklong country visit to mother’s house. Strange things happen there as well. Cary spots the same wolf that “delivered” the third picture to him on his book tour and everything he eats or drinks tastes like death. Cary appears to be undergoing some sort of character transformation—he is becoming more abrupt and mean, and during intercourse with Diana he tries to strangle her.

Cary and Diana go out for a walk the next morning to discuss his behavior, and when they return, Diana’s mother is dead from a heart attack. They attend the funeral and return home, where they fight over a mysterious note Cary received from “a lover,” accompanied by a picture of this woman and Cary in bed together. Diana leaves, and Cary decides to go after her.

When Cary arrives at Diana’s house, he finds her dead and sprawled out on the floor. Because of the run-in with police on his book tour, he decides he cannot go to the police, so he packs up Diana’s body in a suitcase and leaves to bury her in a rose garden at her mother’s estate. While on his way, Cary is driven off the road by a car behind him, and he crashes.

When he wakes up, he is told he is in a prison infirmary and under arrest for several murders, including Diana’s and the women in the pictures. When Cary goes to trial, the prosecutor turns out to be Hermann Winesapp! After Winesapp uses a phrase the Winesapp from Old Scratch used, Cary knows he is in trouble. We finally learn that Cary is being targeted by an ancient evil, leading to two major plot twists and a chilling and disturbing ending.

Wilson has written a very engaging novel of suspense and horror. Her writing style flows, and the book is very easy to read. It starts strong and ends even stronger. Some stylistic issues are troublesome, such as awkward character development in some parts of the story (Diana’s sense of Cary’s “meanness” dawns on her too suddenly), too many adjectives in the early chapters of the book, and several point-of-view switches.

In spite of those concerns, Wilson has told a beautiful story in the style of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Cary is an excellent protagonist. Following him through the story allows us to follow ourselves—who doesn’t want to be a writer, after all?—and question our own motives and thoughts about the people in our lives. Ultimately, we are left at the end with the question of what is real, and what is not real. The epilogue shows us that our lives run in varying degrees of truth and fiction, and it is up to us to sort it out.


May 12, 2004 in Horror | Permalink | Comments (0)