The Amityville Curse: Fact & Fiction

amityville fact fiction reviewParapsychologist Hans Holzer really hates Jay Anson’s THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. He refers to it as “sensational” – and not in a good way – and won’t even name its author. After all, Anson’s book is considered fiction, but Holzer believes in the spirits that reportedly have plagued the famous Long Island home. So he wrote his own version.

Long out of print, that nonfiction study from 1979 has been combined with Holzer’s two all-but-lost Amityville fictional efforts from ’82 and ’85 for the three-in-one collection THE AMITYVILLE CURSE: FACT & FICTION. When it comes to competition from Holzer, Anson had nothing to worry about.

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Tales from the Crypt: No. 1 – Ghouls Gone Wild!

tales from crypt 1 reviewFirst off, let’s make one thing clear: TALES FROM THE CRYPT: NO. 1 – GHOULS GONE WILD! isn’t your father’s EC Comics CRYPT. Those looking for a direct ape of that beloved style will walk away disappointed. But remember that the CRYPT movies – from the ’70s British one to the ’90s American ones – weren’t exactly EC, either, nor was the long-running HBO series. Sure, some captured the spirit better than others, but the comic was its own thing.

That’s why this revival has both a blessing and a curse in carrying the official CRYPT name: because it already has garnered far more attention than it would have otherwise … as well as the criticism. If you can approach it with an open mind, you can enjoy it as the harmless horror-lite comic that it is.

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quickgasmBecause time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!

nightmare factory reviewThomas Ligotti is not the name-brand horror author he probably deserves to be, but hopefully THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY will help change that, introducing him to a whole new audience. This Fox Atomic anthology adapts four of his stories – all heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft – into comics. Results are 75 percent solid. THE SANDMAN‘s Colleen Doran provides art for the first and best story, the WICKER MAN-ish folk tale “The Last Feast of Harlequin,” about an unusual town’s unusual tradition. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT‘s Ben Templesmith illustrates “Dream of a Mannekin” (puppets = creepy), while Ted McKeever visits “Dr. Locrian’s Asylum.” Only “Teatro Grottesco” fails to excite, though no fault of artist Michael Gaydos.

haunted reviewRecently my wife read a novel in which a woman dumped her dead hubby’s ashes into a deep-fat fryer at a restaurant. “Isn’t that the sickest thing you’ve ever heard?” she asked. Having just read Chuck Palahniuk’s HAUNTED, I responded, “Not by a long shot.” After all, this quasi-novel kicks off with a short story about a kid whose guts get sucked out his butt during an ill-fated masturbation session in the swimming pool. It’s just one of many twisted tales provided by a motley crew who assemble for a unique writers’ retreat – unique in that they’re trapped against their will. As they grow increasingly insane, so do their stories. The one about a sex doll is particularly good ‘n’ gross. The poems, I could do without. This is a polarizing work; I happened to love it, even if it wears out its welcome. Its glow-in-the-dark cover, however, never will.

hollower reviewAlthough the cover of Mary SanGiovanni’s debut novel THE HOLLOWER may look like another entry into the invisibility genre, it’s actually one in psychological horror, with nothing disappearing except the sanity of its various characters. These include a cute bartender, a recovering coke addict and a mentally retarded girl and her exasperated brother, all of whom keep spotting this strange man in a fedora and trenchcoat, who sometimes makes it rain bugs. He’s called The Hollower, and he screws with people’s minds. SanGiovanni’s story follows a rather circular route, with these characters taking turns getting messed with, over and over again. Finally, it goes somewhere, only to end with a sequel-ready hook (and part two recently was sold to the same publisher). It’s a second-base start for a writer I expect to see hit a triple next time.

high seas cthulhu reviewH.P. Lovecraft meets CAPTAIN BLOOD in Elder Signs Press’ HIGH SEAS CTHULHU, an anthology edited by William Jones and consisting of 20 instances of “swashbuckling adventure” set in the Lovecraft mythos. You know what this means: lots of slimy, tentacled, underwater creatures. Most of the authors – among them, Alan Dean Foster, Michael McBride, Gerard Houarner, Tim Curran and John Shirley – take the period-piece narrative-diary route as Lovecraft himself often did … and therein lies the problem: The stories are too similar. It’s only when HIGH SEAS branches out – as Michael Penncavage does in a contemporary-day, corpse-aplenty tale – that the book flows your way. Mind you, these cookie-cutter stories aren’t bad at all – you can read any one and come away pleased – but they’re not different enough to make a cover-to-cover read smooth sailing.

horror library 2 reviewDon’t recognize any of the authors in HORROR LIBRARY: VOLUME 2? That’s exactly the point: to introduce you to some fresh talent. Some highlights: Stephen Bacon’s “The Trauma Statement,” in which a man is constantly receiving phone calls forcing him to make difficult choices on a dime (inoperable tumor in your stomach or a child you don’t know gets hit by a motorcycle?), while in John Rector’s “A Season of Sleep,” a woman is forced to pull the trigger against a family member turned zombie. The protagonist of Sunil Sadanand’s “Trapped Light Medium” uses his future-predicting powers to tip off photographers for cash, while the narrator of Michael W. Lucas’ “Opening the Eye” describes a homemade trepidation with a drill he finds in a dumpster. Other stories try to get by on disturbance alone; shock still requires story to work effectively, and when at least three stories end with an abrupt gunshot, conceit has become cliché. Still, even with well-intentioned missteps – Cameron Pierce’s dreamlike “I Am Meat. I Am in Daycare” – there are plenty here to make this LIBRARY worth repeat visits.

elm street book 1 reviewCinematic boogeyman Freddy Krueger goes graphic in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: BOOK ONE, WildStorm’s trade-paperback compilation of six issues of its recently launched comic. That means two completely story arcs are included, each not too terribly different from one another, but still not too terrible, either. The first, “Freddy’s War,” finds a new girl in town terrorized by Freddy in her dreams, only to confront him with the help of her well-armed Army dad. The second, “The Demon of Sleep,” finds several students terrorizes by Freddy in their dreams, only to confront him with the help of an ancient amulet and an attempt sacrifice. From writer Chuck Dixon and artist Kevin West, these tales don’t break new ground, but they’re enjoyable to read, more than competently drawn and better than a majority of the ELM STREET screen sequels.

friday 13th book 1 reviewFRIDAY THE 13TH: BOOK ONE is even better, which is to be expected since it’s scripted by JONAH HEXers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. Compiling the first six issues of the WildStorm title, it finds the infamous Camp Crystal Lake being reopened for potentially lucrative business to a morbidly curious public. A multiracial cast of young people has been hired to clean the place up. But there’s a kink – wait for it – Jason Voorhees is still hanging around! And as drawn by Adam Archer, he’s got a serious ax to grind. Er, make that a machete, which is planted in various body parts in gorier-than-usual detail. Sex, drugs and chopped-off skulls – what’s not to love?

texas chainsaw book 1 reviewThere’s a lot to dislike about THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: BOOK ONE, the first half-dozen issues of the WildStorm comic book based on the glossy remake of the grimy film original. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s story – dubbed “Americarnivore” – picks up after the events of such, with a slew of clueless cops descending upon the Hewitt home to investigate. Damn straight they meet up with Leatherface, Sheriff Hoyt and the rest of the dysfunctional family of freaks. Wesley Craig’s art makes it difficult to determine just who’s who among the good guys, and unfortunately, the entire thing is just as nihilistic as the movies. There’s a line where bad taste crosses over into just plain bad, and this leaps past that. –Rod Lott

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The Burglar in the Rye

burglar in rye reviewThe 10 books featuring full-time burglar and part-time used bookseller Bernie Rhodenbarr should really be on every mystery lover’s bookshelf. Lawrence Block is a master – a first-ballot Hall of Famer if you will – at writing the entertaining mystery novel, whether it’s the calm, reflective, insightful but violent world of the professional hitman Keller, or the knockdown slapstick THIN MAN-style witty repartee of the Rhodenbarr series.

In THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE, Rhodenbarr is commissioned to steal a horde of letters written by one Gulliver Fairborn, a famous but reclusive author who is very desirous of his privacy. His spurned literary agent has threatened to make the letters available by selling them through the Sotheby’s auction house, and this will discomfit Fairborn severely.

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Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality

dr 13 review100 BULLETS‘ Brian Azzarello plumbs the DC Universe for obscure characters for a story about being an obscure character in DOCTOR 13: ARCHITECTURE AND MORALITY. Ignore the rather academic-sounding title; this eight-issue collection is a self-referential comedy romp.

As witnessed in the early adventures of THE PHANTOM STRANGER, Dr. Terry Thirteen is a paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe in the paranormal, despite all surrounding evidence to the contrary. In the STRANGER series, he’s presented as an antagonistic hard-ass, but here, he’s a likable – if occasionally oblivious – hero.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Cthulhu, Cowboys & Crooks

bullets broads blackmail and bombsnew lovecraft circle reviewFor one of the most bizarre costume parties out there, we’re keeping tradition established by last Halloween’s column and covering nothing but short stories. This time, it’s three diverse collections, with some new takes on the Lovecraft mythos, Donald Hamilton picking a few Westerns and, finally, another one of those Alfred Hitchcock collections.

THE NEW LOVECRAFT CIRCLE edited By Robert M. Price – This 1996 collection is comprised of 25 short stories printed in various zines and chapbooks, most notably Crypt of Cthulhu. They run the full gamut from some truly good stuff to some utter dreck. Those who are expecting some carbon copies of H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, look elsewhere. These tales are in his vein – with some even referencing the man himself – more about taking some of his ideas and running with them.

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Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique

gilded lili reviewKelli DiNardo peels back the layers of Lili St. Cyr – fondly remembered even today as one of the greatest strippers of the burlesque era, a highly complex woman who was simply gorgeous – in the biography GILDED LILI: LILI ST. CYR AND THE STRIPTEASE MYSTIQUE.

As you’d expect, being a stripper doesn’t equate to a squeaky-clean existence. There are references to St. Cyr being “passed around” like a plate of hors d’oeuvres at a party, and perhaps this was intentional on her part. After all, she was sexually liberated at a time – the late ’30s and early ’40s – when such a thing was a no-no, and once stated her motto was “Time costs money, but sex is free.”

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The Raw Shark Texts

raw shark texts reviewRecalling MEMENTO, Steven Hall’s THE RAW SHARK TEXTS opens with a young man named Eric Sanderson awaking with no memory of anything, including who he is. Luckily he finds letters to remind him, written by himself … well, not exactly himself, but his first self. See, this is Eric’s second life.

His therapist pleads with him not to trust – not even to read – these letters, because their contents could be damaging. Meanwhile, the pieces of correspondence warn him not to trust the doctor, who tells him his girlfriend died in an accident.

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NEWSGASM >> 10.29.07

newsgasmAll the news that’s fit to capsulize!

astonishing adventures magazine reviewDID SOMEBODY SAY MONKEYS?
Pulp lives in ASTONISHING ADVENTURES MAGAZINE, a new, free-for-download e-mag with fiction, interviews and monkeys. The design could use an overhaul, but the staff has its heart in the right place, and those who miss the olden days of dime-mag derring-do should appreciate this spirited revival.

Court TV debuts its second season of MURDER BY THE BOOK – which features novelists talking about the crimes that inspired their works – on Nov. 5, and is celebrating with a “Search for the Next Great Crime Writer” contest. Wannabe writers can submit their manuscripts for a chance at winning $5,000 and a publishing contract through Borders. David Baldacci, Sandra Brown and Harlan Coben are among jurists who will make one wordsmith quite lucky.

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Win another copy of BOOK OF THE DEAD!

book of dead reviewThanks to a generous PR machine, we’ve got a second copy of Patricia Cornwell’s BOOK OF THE DEAD – her 15th novel featuring forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta – to give away.

Unless you already did last week, simply e-mail your name and mailing address to, and promise to tell all your friends about us. We’ll announce the winner on Friday, Nov. 2. Again, if you entered last week, you’re still eligible and there is no need to enter again; those who do will be disqualified.

Buy it at Amazon.

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