19 Reviews (2 New)
A Dark and Scary Place
Mason Perkins is a self-employed plumber in New Milford. He is called to the Bodine residence to check discolouration in the water. Taking a sample to the Health Department, Dan Kirk analyses it and discovers micro-organisms which under the microscope resemble sea horses with a rudimentary respiratory system, which secrete large amounts of a substance that colourises the water. Mason and Dan find a mouse in the lab which has drunk the sample of water and developed a carapace and crustacean-like spikes. Not able to contact the Bodines, they go to the seemingly empty house, where they find serious water damage - particularly in the boy's bedroom - and an impossibly high tide mark on the walls. They find the apparently drowned boy, and a carapace in the bathroom twice the size of a crash helmet.
They bring in the local police. A medical examiner finds a tough carapace on the child, along with spikes along his back. The organisms in the water are found to date from prehistoric times, making it astonishing they are still alive. Mason returns home to find a hysterical missing boy from the neighbourhood in his house. He is at the point of unconsciousness but tells Mason he has spoken to Alison and Jimmy Bodine in the darkness of the woods. He couldn't see them properly and they spoke with strange, frightening voices. They want to meet with Mason - with no police present.
Mason and Dan check out the well at the Bodine residence. It is continually seeping water. A neighbour tells them that none of his ancestry have ever drunk the well water due to a warning nursery rhyme. He comes from a book which he has in storage. Mason goes to meet the Bodines , who he can't see clearly in the darkness. They have both been transformed into something else, and he is attacked by what was Alison. Dan precipitates their escape by hitting her with Mason's pipe wrench and hearing the breaking chitin. They tell the police what happened, and they dispatch a search party for the Bodines. Dan is later dozing on his sofa when one of the creatures breaks a window and copious amounts of water impossibly fills the room. He only narrowly escapes drowning.
Mason recovers the book from storage; it is leather-bound and dates back to the late 1700s. There is a page about the wells, and a rhyme of warning from the Red Indians: "Ye beast-gods have tentacles like unto sqiddes & claws like unto lobsters, & above all exude ye odour like unto ye rottige fishes." At a nearby town a family has been slaughtered in their car, the roof cut-off like a huge tin-opener. Someone has spotted one of the creatures in the woods nearby, and the police drive to the location, followed by Mason, Dan and Rheta, Dan's colleague who Mason has aspirations on. Mason tries to talk to the creature that used to be a friend, but nearly dies again in the process. The Sheriff fires a rocket launcher at it, and it bounces on the ground, penetrating the underbelly of the otherwise heavily armoured creature.
They are told they will need a spirit clairvoyant or medium when the Sheriff arranges to drill down into the Bodine's well. They convince Mrs Thompson who turns out to be a descendant of the person mentioned in the book who traversed the caverns of the beast. But the awakening beast creates a psychic projection of itself and creates a flood from nowhere in her house. Mrs Thompson is killed by a falling weather vane (shades of The Omen).
The drilling has already started when Mason and Dan arrive at the Bodine residence. Mason is persuaded by the Sheriff to go down and check-out what's there, but all three of them agree to be lowered down one-by-one. They find a cavern with a natural balcony overlooking a lake. A large crab creature rises to confront them. The Sheriff shoots-off its eye stalks, but before he can bring the rocket launcher to bear, he is dragged into the water and crushed by its pincer claw. Mason, seeing the near loss of their only weapon, throws himself at the creature, but is dragged under the water. He manages to fire the rocket launcher, and fights his way to the surface only to find himself in a lower cavern where sits the huge black maggot creature known as Quithe, Chulthe, or Satan. It seduces him, showing visions of all the monstrosities it will inflict on the earth under its new regime.
Using the distraction of a floating dead body, Mason dives down and finds the waterway to the higher cavern. It has been decided by Dan and a police deputy to blow-up the cavern so that the water all runs down to the lower, dry caverns, thereby stranding Chulthe, who is a creature of the water. Without a check to confirm the success of the ploy, Mason is taken to hospital to recover and return to his normal life.
As a life-long horror fan, I've read many authors; however none can touch Graham Masterton, who not only has a captivating writing style but has an extraordinary gift of being able to take myths and legends from different cultures and times and placing them in a contemporary setting with real authenticity. From the moment I first discovered and devoured his debut bestselling novel, The Manitou, I have been a convert and devoured every horror novel he has written. Inevitably, some are better than others, but they never fail to captivate me. It is only recently, when he returned to horror after a string of police thriller novels, that I decided to embark on a marathon re-read of early Graham Masterton horror books. The Wells of Hell is my first selection.
You'll find that there is no padding in Masterton's books; he simply gets on with the story, making the majority of them fast-moving - which, of course, also keeps the tension taught, whilst still allowing for the odd tidbit of humour to humanise the characters and ground them in near-reality. In this one no one believes anything unless they see it with their own eyes. The creatures are kept in darkness much of the time, as Masterton realises that fear of the unknown has the most power. This is a new realisation of the devil borrowed, it seems, from H.P. Lovecraft's Old Ones or Elder Gods - and in particular Cthulhu - as the main name for the devil utilised in this story is Chulthe.
The character of Mason Perkins is your everyman tradesman. Although many people in reality would turn their back and run a mile if presented with this horror, it helps that the people in the town appear to know each other well. This places a moral obligation to help friends and associates in trouble. At times, Mason seems to lead a charmed life, nearly losing his life on at least a handful of occasions. Whilst coming across as a reluctant hero, the reality of the character is that he goes with life's events, trying to ride them to the best possible conclusion, rather than reinventing the wheel. This makes the relative open-ended climax somewhat more realistic. Our hero doesn't even get the girl. It's clever to have a conventional solution to a supernatural terror, too.
One of the most striking points of this impressive book is that there is always a forward plan of events. It's almost mapped-out like story-boarding in a film. But rather than happen one at a time, they overlap. A piece of information is planted to follow-up later, or there is someone to visit. Or a significant horror takes place off-page, so-to-speak. All these these things happen while something else is taking place, leaving intrigue for the reader to chew on. This also helps the narrative to flow and the story race to catch-up.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to lovers of 1970s and 1980s pulp horror, although Masterton is head and shoulders above most of the hack writers from this period. The majority of his books are available for easy eBook download. Try this one out. You won't be disappointed.
(Original Review Ty Power 2020)
Collected together here for the first time we have the horror novels, Night of the Living Dead, and Return of the Living Dead, written by John Russo under the collective title Undead. It is published by Titan Books, who maintain their high standard of well-presented books on good quality paper. There is also an interesting introduction - 'Birth of the Dead' - describing the background to these stories, and then we are straight into the action.
Of course, Night of the Living Dead became a celluloid horror classic; original, daring, and pushing established social boundaries. The script was at first jointly written by Russo and director George A. Romero, but Russo took over the full writing duties whilst Romero’s attention was directed elsewhere. It was Russo who introduced the concept of flesh-eating zombies - the first thing generally associated with this sub-genre. What is little known is that the novel form of his script wasn’t written until 1995, a full 17 years after he wrote the sequel.
This first novel is understandably familiar from the start, but hasn’t lost any of it’s edge-of-the-seat status. The narrative is flying from the start; it wastes no time in telling its tale, and sensibly concentrates on the human characters and their reactions to events, rather than on the monsters, as too many books and films make the mistake of doing these days. It’s telling that the central protagonist, Ben, isn’t there from the very beginning, but that Barbara, who is, spends the majority of the action sitting in a chair staring into space. This is essentially a siege. There is one failed escape attempt, the rest of the story being very claustrophobic, with Harry proving to be as much of a problem inside as the zombies outside. The extreme horror, whilst slightly lessened by time and general acceptability, remains very edgy, aided by a flowing prose which also aids comfortable reading.
Return of the Living Dead was John Russo’s scripted sequel to the first film. Eventually, it was decided not to film the script, and instead go for a totally different and dark humorous piece, not a million miles away from what Sam Raimi did with The Evil Dead. Russo’s follow-up was written in book form in 1978. He, quite rightly I think for the time, went for a serious continuation of the original concept. It is set in the same region, but only Sheriff McClellan returns from the first story. It takes place ten years after the events of Night of the Living Dead, when the virus (hinted at being caused by a returned space exploration satellite) rears its ugly head once more. Interestingly, the central character seems to change as the story progresses. At first, it is a hard-edged farmer and his daughters, one of whom is pregnant; then it is some policemen who are not what they seem; and then some captives, who take over centre stage for the finale. And all the while we flick back to the sheriff and his armed men systematically sweeping the district of the undead.
I highly recommend this release. Both novels motor along at an incredible pace, and are definite page-turners. Oh, and you won’t want to miss the child in the cellar.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2011)
Released to coincide with the release of the Fantastic Four movie, this book looks at the origins of the characters. Comics Creators on Fantastic Four contains interviews with everyone from original co-creator Stan Lee to classic writer/artists Walt Simonson and John Byrne, right up to recent and current stars such as Jim Lee and Mark Waid.
Containing exclusive sketches and script pages, the book tells the behind-the-scenes story of the creation and development of the Thing, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and Mr Fantastic: the Fantastic Four...
This book follows the same format as the Comic Creators on Spider-Man book which I reviewed a year or so ago, also put together by Tom DeFalco and published by Titan Books. It comes with an attractive artwork cover and a nice layout incorporating inset information on integral characters and major storylines. The thoughts and memories of many of the big names in writing and artwork are collected together here in interviews about their contribution to the continuity of the Fantastic Four.
Joe Sinnott, Roy Thomas, Keith Pollard, Doug Moench, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Walter Simonson, Mike Wieringo, Warren Ellis, Jim Lee, Paul Ryan and Mark Waid are all cross examined in-depth. Recognise any of those names? If you do, that's great, but the chances are you won't... and therein lies the problem. If you can't relate to the individual's work you might as well be reading an interview of your friend's uncle's milkman's next-door neighbour. The only names I recognised were Ralph Macchio, John Byrne, and the great Stan Lee, creator of all of Marvel's best loved characters. Those pieces I enjoyed, but they were only a small part of the book.
The comics I read as a kid were mainly Spider-Man and Batman, which I found to be the most accessible. I know what the Fantastic Four can do; however, I have no knowledge of their history, only what occurred when they occasionally appeared with the web-slinger himself. Therefore, any avid fan of the Fantastic Four will probably love this, but it will not interest the casual reader.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2005)
I must confess to having been a mite apprehensive upon hearing the news that a Spider-Man book was on its way for review. As an avid reader of the comics as a kid and an admirer of the character concept in general, I was cringing at the thought of yet another movie tie-in with big glossy pictures of nothing in particular as a cheap and exploitative gimmick. Boy, was I wrong!
This is an attractive-looking trade paperback-size book crammed with interesting and informative interviews in small but comfortably readable print. The idea is that Tom DeFalco, himself an integral cog in this constantly turning industry wheel, has interviewed many of the big names who have been involved in the writing and artwork of this much loved Marvel hero. Among these names are Stan Lee, the creator, John Romita, Mark Bagley, Gerry Conway, J.M. De Matteis and many more.
Aside from Stan the Man, for me the person who had the most dramatic influence on the story development and particularly the artwork was Todd McFarlane, who went on to create Spawn and now runs a handful of media and toy companies of which the Movie Maniacs line is most impressive. He changed the look of the character by enhancing the spider side of his nature and redesigning the webbing so that it could be fired dramatically toward the reader. You could say that this was the point when superhero comics grew up and began to aim for a more mature young market and older collectors.
If you're looking for a "How To..." book, forget it; this is more about how each individual stamped his mark on Spider-Man and made the comic series his own. They do talk about some of their techniques, and also their friendships or conflicts with each other, but this more closely explores how they got into their profession and what point of the character continuity they influenced.
Sprinkled among the text at random intervals are the histories and origins of the family, friends and villains of Peter Parker, landmark Spider-Man publications and popular storylines. There are some nice design sketches and unused covers, but with no colour photos taking up room this book can concentrate more on the people behind Spider-Man, rather than the Web-slinger himself.
The appeal for me here is the discussion of plot lines and layout. You get the feeling this is the type of book Tom DeFalco himself wanted to read, but the truth is Comics Creators on Spider-Man from Titan Books will appeal to those interested in graphic design, the multi-layered character of Spider-Man or fans of comics in general. Highly recommended.
In the Introduction DeFalco apologises for the exclusion of Babylon 5 writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski who was too busy to meet the deadline, and artist John Romita who is interviewed extensively in Artists on Comic Art, also published by Titan. Perhaps these minor oversights can be rectified in a future follow-up to this book. I recently bought two Spider-Man graphic novels simply because Straczynski had scripted them. It was simply the greatest pairing of storyteller and artist I have seen in a long time.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2004)
This is the latest in a series of stand-alone reference books by insider Tom DeFalco which delves into the writing and artwork of comics. The emphasis seems to be very much on Marvel and has continuity in mind as it follows a title from its conception through to recent events. With Comics Creators on Spider-Man and (both also published by Titan Books) having already been handled, it was perhaps inevitable that the popular X-Men would be next.
The format, used to tell the history and developments of storylines and individual approaches to artwork, is a collection of interviews with similar questions surrounding background, and new ones explaining plot and characterisation.
Appropriately we kick-off with Stan Lee, creator of a multitude of loveable superheroes which many of us grew-up reading. Other writers covered who have worked on the comic series include Roy Thomas (the creator of Wolverine and Banshee), Chris Claremont (who devised the Jean Grey "Dark Phoenix" saga), and Grant Morrison. Artists include John Byrne, Marc Silvestri, Neal Adams, Dave Cockrum and others. All interviews are pretty informal and punctuated with insets explaining story arcs and some nice examples of sketched artwork. There are also monochrome representations of groundbreaking covers.
Rather like the festive season, you reap what you sow as far as these books are concerned. Personally, I enjoyed the Spider-Man one best, but only because I read the comics as a kid and could relate to many of the twists and turns that the character endured. I know much less about the X-Men and, consequently, couldn't really get caught-up in the enthusiasm of those involved. I found it interesting only from the writing angle (the most talented seem to be those who are not afraid to put their protagonists through hell and have them permanently affected by events).
If you're a long-time X-Men enthusiast, you'll lap this up. If you're a fan of the films or animated shows and want to find out about the origins of the comics, you could do worse than start here. Otherwise, Comics Creators on X-Men will be of only casual interest. Stand by for Comics Creators on The Hulk; it must surely be next.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2006)
Amazingly, this is the first biography ever written on Cozy Powell, in my opinion the best rock drummer of all time. It's even more surprising that no one has previously sung his praises with a book when you consider the legacy he has left behind. For those who don't know, he has worked with the Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, The Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake, Keith Emerson & Greg Lake, Black Sabbath, The Brian May Band, Peter Green's Splinter Group, and Yngwie Malmsteen. Phew! Further he's had the bands Cozy Powell's Hammer, Bedlam, Forcefield, Big Bertha, The Sorcerers, and Young Blood. And, as if that isn't impressive by itself, he's had at least five critically acclaimed solo albums, seven solo singles - including the chart-popular Dance With the Devil, has done countless sessions and guest appearances, and played alongside guitar greats such as Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Brian May, Jeff Beck, Michael Schenker, Micky Moody, John Sykes, Bernie Marsden, Peter Green, Gary Moore, and many more. Oh, and he broke the World Record for playing the most number of separate drums in a minute (200).
What this book bring across more than anything is Cozy's easy-going, down-to-earth attitude to life. He seemed to get on with most people, but at the same time was no-nonsense, and didn't suffer fools gladly. Unlike some other individuals in the business, he didn't have any rock and roll heirs and graces. He took things as they were, at the same time knowing his own mind. In times of band conflict he would try to sort things out, and if it wasn't working he would get out quickly and move on to another project. When another musician once made a very derogatory comment about him in a magazine, he went and sought out the guy, 'chinned' him, immediately made it up and bought the guy a drink. While this action shouldn't be condoned, it does show that Cozy was salt of the earth and wore his heart on his sleeve.
Cozy was often cited for his criticism of the music business; however, in interviews he always said things as they were. If the deal wasn't right for him (he, rightly, wanted an active part in the band's decisions), he would walk. On numerous occasions he became disillusioned with the proceedings, and spoke about abandoning the music for his other love: racing. Nothing very much is known about his private life, but we do know that he had an on-going passion for fast cars and fast motorcycles. It is sad that this passion ultimately killed him, and the industry - along with countless fans around the world who loved him and his talents - lost a huge asset to the music world.
Much as this book does go over some of the same details several times, Laura Shenton has still managed to produce a fitting tribute to one of our greatest musicians - told mostly in quotes and interviews. What better than hearing the stories from Cozy himself! The book ends with some tributes from famous colleagues and friends. I would have preferred a large coffee table hardback with lots of colour pictures included (this one has black and white ones on glossy paper). Perhaps that will come at some time.
(Original Review Ty Power 2020)
After winning the custody of her two young children from her ex-husband, Lily Blake is assaulted in the middle of the night and narrowly escapes being burnt alive. Her children are kidnapped and, when the FBI fail to find them, turns to John Shooks, a shady Native American Private Investigator. He in turn takes her to George Iron Walker, a Sioux shaman, who summons up a hunter forest spirit called a Wendigo. For payment he demands a piece of land sacred to the Mdewakanton Sioux, which the company Lily works for is selling for development. Too late, she discovers that the Wendigo is effectively cannibalistic and kills her ex-husband. She tries to call the deal off, but once the spirit is set on its path it can't be stopped. When she fails to secure the piece of land too, the Wendigo begins to attack everyone close to her. With no other choice, Lily is forced to go on the offensive, but the Wendigo exists in only two dimensions, so it can turn edgewise and seem to disappear...
Graham Masterton is a prolific writer of thrillers, short stories, historical fiction and even non-fiction (allegedly!) sex manuals, but is best known for his horror fiction - and with some justification. I have been an enthusiastic follower of his work in this genre since the heady days of The Manitou (his first offering in this field which was published to great acclaim in 1976 (I have the Star paperback from 1977) and hit the bestsellers list. Since that time Masterton has authored a veritable plethora of high-quality horror tales. His foremost skill, I believe, is the enviable ability to take a legend with supernatural qualities and place it in a modern and believable setting so that the whole feels entirely convincing. Unlike Stephen King, who can bore the pants off you with pages of pointless descriptive passages, Masterton utilises vivid metaphors so that you can picture exactly what he means in one or two sentences.
With Edgewise, Graham Masterton returns to familiar territory with the use of Red Indian (or Native American spirits and human guides (or Shamen) both good and bad. There are some similarities to the aforementioned The Manitou, with a vengeful spirit and an even more powerful entity waiting to enter from the sidelines and take its revenge on the white man for betrayals and so many deaths. However, this is an individual tale in its own right which motors along at a cracking pace, with characters which rise from the page with a life of their own. There's only one other writer I've come across who can consistently conjure relatable players in this way, and that is Raymond E. Feist. This book also benefits from at least two false endings, so there is no fizzling out at the conclusion.
A new paperback division of Severn House is welcome indeed. With many of Masterton's books in recent years appearing in hardback format for library distribution only, people such as myself, who like to own each title for their collection, have found it difficult to locate a copy outside of the publisher or major outlet. I long for a return to the days when I can walk in to any good book shop and simply pick-up one of his new books. Manitou Blood and the latest Night Warriors book were exceptions. Perhaps this new trade paperback division from Severn is the result of public opinion.
In short, a highly enjoyable read (if a little over-priced), with a comfortable writing style and edgy plot. Graham Masterton has come home (no, he really has; he's returned to live in Britain!).
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2007)
The Oxford University Press releases Frankenstein or ‘The Modern Prometheus’: The 1818 Text, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Edited by Nick Groom, Professor of English at the University of Exeter. This new edition includes a 50-page Introduction, Select Bibliography (editions of Frankenstein, works written or edited by Mary Shelley, books on her life and background, literary criticism, medical science, horror and other categories), A Chronology of Mary Shelley 1797 to 1851, and Notes on the Standard 1931 edition. There are also Explanatory Notes throughout the text. For anyone who’s just arrived on holiday from Mars, Frankenstein follows the illicit experiments of a doctor of medicine to defy God and revive the dead using various body parts...
What more is there to say about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein except that it is a true literary all-time classic. Not only is it believed to be the first proper horror novel, but it is jam-packed full of moral dilemmas – the foremost being who is the true monster here, Frankenstein or his creation? Medical procedures are also put under the spotlight, as this was the time that ‘playing God’ was the accusation against new and inventive processes.
Everyone should have a copy of this novel on their bookshelf. It’s a solid release, with explanatory notes marked by regular asterisks (which I find a little distracting). Every new publication of this ground-breaking work should be celebrated. It could have been improved by binding it in leather and making the cover design more attractive, but you can’t have everything.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
Most Reel Art Press releases Frankenstein – The First Two Hundred Years, by Christopher Frayling. It is an 11 x 9 inch full colour hardcover book chronicling the classic patchwork monster in all forms of media. There are more than 200 images, many of them full page.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – like Bram Stoker’s Dracula – is an ageless horror/science fiction/moral tale which has resounded through the ages. Ask anyone to name a well known horror novel and this one is likely to get a mention in most cases. It first saw the light of day in 1818 but it wasn’t until the tale was adapted as a stage play that it captured the public imagination. Since then there has been more than ninety adaptations alone between 1931 and 2016.
Of course, the iconic image most people still relate to is the Universal Pictures black and white version starring Boris Karloff. But that is just the tip of the iceberg; this book covers Universal sequels, Hammer Films, and more modern representations. Furthermore, stage plays are covered, as are advertisements and even pastiche. Some people might have forgotten The Munsters, for example; but who could forget The Rocky Horror Picture Show which incorporates Frank N Furter (played brilliantly by Tim Curry) who creates a muscle man in his laboratory.
The first thing that draws me to this book is the smell. There is nothing like the smell of a newly printed hardback book. Other true bibliophiles will agree with me, I’m sure. The history of the Frankenstein scenario is a compelling one. Even so, it could very well have been heavy-going. I was ready to dip in and out of it, as you might with most reference works. However, the narrative doesn’t bog you down, preferring instead to offer only the facts. It’s a lovely touch to see Mary Shelley’s original handwriting for the creation scene.
Where this tome really succeeds though is through the quality of its images. Full page glossy photos of Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, Bride of Frankenstein, Der Golem, Robert De Niro’s creature from the Kenneth Branagh directed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Curse of Frankenstein with Christopher Lee as the monster, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, the 2011 stage play with Benedict Cumberbatch, and even Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. A very well presented book.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Following the Frightfest Guide to Exploitation Movies, and the Frightfest Guide to Monster Movies, comes the third in the series from Fab Press: the Frightfest Guide to Ghost Movies. This volume is written by Axelle Carolyn – film set and review journalist, short story and screenplay writer, and director of shorts and her first feature, Soulmate. She also penned the very enjoyable It Lives Again! – Horror Movies in the New Millennium. There is also an introduction by Andy Nyman, co-writer and co-director of the British release Ghost Stories, based on the popular West End play. This is a large format softback book incorporating 240 pages of full colour glossy paper. 200 of the most memorable ghost movies from around the world are ‘surveyed’ here in an uncomplicated but precise manner – beginning in 1921 with The Phantom Carriage and ending in 2018 with The Lodgers and Winchester (starring Helen Mirren).
This is a book which is appealing to the eye for many reasons. A striking image from John Carpenter’s The Fog adorns the cover, and inside the sheer number of quality photographs and representations of film posters or DVD covers is impressive. Of course, this means there is less room for text, as there is generally one film per page covered. I have heard some criticism of the first two books that there is too little information on each movie, but I think this book is targeted just right, as the horror film buffs, like myself, will use this as a reminder and reference for cast and crew. Less seasoned viewers will surely find this a delight, as a pointer towards those films worth seeking out. Newcomers to the genre will not want to be bogged-down with excessive data which they can find elsewhere if need be.
Doing this allows more films to be covered. They’re not all here, but every ghost or supernatural tale committed to film – which is ground-breaking, unusual or just popular is honoured with basic credits and a paragraph or two of text. A few of my favourite films make an appearance here, including the aforementioned The Fog (1980), the science fiction chiller Event Horizon (1997), and the original Pang Brothers version of The Eye (2002). That’s inevitable, I suppose. Popular films covered in this category include: Poltergeist, The Shining, Insidious, The Others, Sleepy Hollow, The Frighteners, and Ghost. Light-hearted examples include: Casper, Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, and ParaNorman. All time classics include: The Sixth Sense, The Entity, Ghost Story, The Changeling, House On Haunted Hill, and Dead of Night. Foreign stunners include: Ring, Fragile, The Grudge, The Eye, The Devil’s Backbone, and Diabolique – to name but a few.
This is an attractive and well-presented book, which has made me think about possibly seeking out the other two volumes. Those of you who appreciate a good hardback can order a limited copy directly from www.fabpress.com
(Review originally written by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 2018)
Oxford World’s Classics publishes Horror Stories – Classic Tales From Hoffman to Hodgson, an anthology of genre short stories from between the period 1816 to 1912. There are 29 tales encompassing ghosts and the supernatural, psychological, medical, colonial, and scientific horror, plus the uncanny, and precognition. It is edited and introduced by Darryl Jones, Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin – where he teaches 19th Century literature and popular fiction. His previous collections include the recently reviewed Arthur Conan Doyle: Gothic Tales, and M.R. James – Collected Ghost Stories. This book also incorporates Notes on Text, a Select Bibliography, and a Chronology time-line.
A collection of old horror stories is always welcomed with open arms by me, if no one else. For the casual curious reader this is an ideal manner in which to example various writers and differing writing styles. I should point out, however, that because these are from the late 19th century and very early 20th century, they do confirm to a formal retro style. They are invariably told by well-to-do or blasé rich men. The stories are relayed from what one person has told another, rather than the action happening in real time as we read. People born in the 21st century may consider this material stuffy and long-winded, while at the same time enjoying a modern film version of the tales. I for one love this format, and possess leather bound collections of such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many others. Consequentially, I have read many of the stories presented here already.
People’s opinions are obviously going to differ, but I often wonder at the choices of stories selected from writings in the public domain. Many anthologies will want to include all of the most popular stories. Indeed, this one has 'Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter' – by Sheridan Le Fanu; 'The Signal-Man' – by Charles Dickens; 'The Body Snatcher' – by Robert Louis Stevenson; 'The Yellow Wallpaper' – by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; 'The Case of Lady Sannox' – by Arthur Conan Doyle; 'The Monkey’s Paw' – by W.W. Jacobs; and 'Count Magnus' – by M.R. James. However, there are also nice examples from those horror writers from the period who are often underrepresented in modern collections: Arthur Machen ('Novel of the White Powder'), Algernon Blackwood ('The Wendigo'), and E.F. Benson ('The Room in the Tower').
Of course, other famous names can’t go without a mention, and these are undoubtedly used to pull in potential readers. We have Bram "Dracula" Stoker’s 'The Squaw', Rudyard "The Jungle Book" Kipling’s 'The Mark of the Beast', and Edgar (too many to mention) Allan Poe’s 'Berenice – A Tale'. There is nothing wrong with selecting any of these classic writers, but often the same stories are chosen in different collections to represent them. Therefore, connoisseurs of this period, such as myself, may well feel cheated by receiving only up to half a dozen titles they haven't already got in other collections. Nevertheless, I look on this release – like many other anthologies – as serving a purpose to show the world how these are, not only examples of early sub-genres copied today, but that they still have an impact in their own right. I am disappointed, however, that H.P. Lovecraft – undoubtedly one of the best horror writers of all time – is not included here.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
In all honesty, my expectations for this release were not great. To a certain degree, when reviewing a programme guide, you can only reiterate. Providing all the relevant information is included and correct, they are much of a muchness.
However, rather than merely The Twilight Zone, this book is a Rod Serling guide, encompassing the entire surrounding field. It comprehensively incorporates Night Gallery, Serling's involvement with other television and the publishing world, as well as his contributions to the film industry. There is a section on Twilight Zone: The Movie, and an additional episode guide for The New Twilight Zone, spawned by its relative success.
The outstanding segments of the book - what sets it aside from just another episode guide - are the profiles and interviews with integral personnel at the latter end. These include, Buck Houghton, the original Twilight Zone producer; Richard Matheson, the most common writer after Serling himself; Frank Marshall and Joe Dante, involved with the movie; and Wes Craven (of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame), Philip DeGuere and Alan Brennert, all important individuals regarding The New Twilight Zone. It would have been interesting to read the brief comments of actors whose careers have been helped along by The Twilight Zone - particularly William Shatner - but the line has to be drawn somewhere, Perhaps the restrictions of space prevented such a move.
Personally, I feel there is no need for the indexes of Episode Titles, Creative Personnel, and Actors at the rear of the book, the space for which (34 pages) would have been better utilised elaborating on the episode plots, which are extremely brief. But there you are; you can't please all of the people all of the time. Aside from the omittance of a Rod Serling interview (okay, so he died many years ago; but there must be one somewhere that could have been used!), this is probably the best TV programme guide I have seen.
The Twilight Zone has a considerable history, so it is pleasing to discover the appropriate credits and other data collected together in one place. This is an indispensable read for anyone with a healthy interest in the series, and the casual reader may be surprised to learn that the 1985 series benefited from adaptations of works from such classic science fiction writers as, Joe Haldeman, Harlan Ellison, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg and Greg Bear; and horror masters, Stephen King and Robert McCammon.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 1995)
Let me start by saying that Blake's 7, the television series which ran from 1978 to 1981, was complete and unadulterated claptrap. I just thought I would get that out of the way first. What do you mean, "Don't you like it, then?" It was cheap and amateurish with many loose scripts which incited overacting by certain cast members. Am I being too harsh? Is this a case of memory cheats, listening to excessive pointless jibes aimed at the show from over the years? Nope. Even a recent BBC rerun on Saturdays proved that my opinion has not changed in 20 years. After little more than ten minutes viewing, washing dishes and Hoovering took on a new appeal.
Blake's 7 most assuredly deserves all the criticism of wobbly sets wrongly aimed at Doctor Who by casual viewers who watched a science fiction series and associated with the long running Time Lord's adventures. Okay, Doctor Who had its duff moments, but not for virtually its entire duration. No, that was Blake's 7. I still find this amazing, as so many behind-the-scenes people worked on both shows.
However, this is a review of a book about the series, not the series itself, and I'm going to surprise everyone now by stating that this is a very well structured and presented guide. Argh! What am I saying? But it's true. Blake's 7 aficionado Alan Stevens, along with Fiona Moore, has collected together everything you could possibly wish to know. There's a background and genesis, before an in-depth breakdown of each of the three seasons. Each episode contains a detailed synopsis and analysis, as well as cast information, transmission date, viewing figure and chart position. Afterwards a couple of fiction books are examined, and then it's on to the two official BBC Radio 4 plays, The Sevenfold Crown, and The Syndeton Experiment, both written by well-known Doctor Who producer/writer Barry Letts. The final section explores the Independent Audio productions, many written by Alan Stevens himself.
Of course, many of us will already know that Blake's 7 was devised by Terry Nation, whose greatest claim to fame was creating the Daleks for Doctor Who (although not designing them - hello Ray Cusick). He also originated The Survivors, and wrote numerous scripts for popular TV shows of the sixties and seventies. What comes through most strongly reading this guide, particularly early on, is how well-intentioned and determined Nation was that Blake's 7 should effectively display his intended hard-edged political and oppressive atmosphere. Whether it actually happened like that, I'm probably not the best person to say, but it is obvious that when Nation relinquished this project to Chris Boucher due to work commitments elsewhere, the format somewhat lost it's way. Don't ask me if it was better or worse, because to me whatever was intended it failed to materialise on screen.
Telos Publishing deserves credit here for this reference book packaging with quality paper and a computer generated cover image (I can understand how photos of the original model work might turn away prospective purchasers; this was experimenting as you go, as it was for Doctor Who). I have no idea if the wealth of information here is accurate, but it certainly looks good.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2003)
The British Library publishes a collection of fourteen short stories from the first half of the twentieth century, called Menace of the Monster. The linking theme is monsters, whether they be from Earth’s past, mutations or frightening alien beings. It is edited by Mike Ashley, a historian of popular fiction who has been involved in more than a hundred books. He is a long-time contributor for the British Library, and is the editor of their classic anthologies Lost Mars, Moonrise, Menace of the Machine, and The End of the World and Other Catastrophes. This volume is presented in paperback form, with 240 pages, and cover artwork and frontispiece both by Warwick Goble...
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells is a dramatically condensed version produced by Wells himself to accompany many skillful artwork depictions of the inherent scenes, which were emerging at the time. King Kong, by Draycott Dell & Edgar Wallace is the literary interpretation of the popular movie from 1933. The plot of this is widely known. I love H.P. Lovecraft, and no collection like this should be without him. In this case, his work is represented by Dagon, an early tale from the Cthulhu Mythos. The movie, directed by Stuart Gordon, is actually the story of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, although there are brief sightings of Dagon.
The real appeal of this collection comes from the lesser-known half-forgotten stories. They range not only in years (from 1899 to 1961) but in quality. For example, although the format has been copied countless times, The Dragon of St Paul’s – by Reginald Bacchus & C. Ranger Gull – is so basic an idea as to be pretty dull. There are plenty of good reads here, however, some of which subsequently influenced better-known books and films. In Amundsen’s Tent, by John Martin Leahy – about a Polar expedition and a madness inducing creature found in a Norwegian tent – is said to have inspired Who Goes There (the book which was made into the movie The Thing) and also to a lesser extent by Lovecraft’s In the Mountains of Madness. The Cloud-Men, by Owen Oliver is an Earth invasion which you can’t imaging working without the foundations set in place by H. G. Wells, but it is interesting enough to stand on its own two feet.
The stand-out story for me is De Profundis, by Coutts Brisbane – about a vast army of 1.5 inch man-eating ants which sweeps from the Cornish mines and eventually overruns London. Also noteworthy is The Monster From Nowhere, by Nelson S. Bond – about a dangerous two-dimensional creature. Science Fiction stalwart A.E. Van Vogt is represented by Discord in Scarlet, about a carnivorous alien being treated in a galactic hospital. However, I prefer the home-grown monsters to the alien ones. There is a real mixed bag here; nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019)
Roger Obst is an intelligent bookworm at Lennox High, the subject of constant taunting, ridicule and physical violence at the hand of the other kids. His uncomplimentary nickname is Horseface. Chris Martins has just moved to California with his mother. It is his first day at Lennox High, and he makes the unfortunate mistake of choosing Roger as his friend. The pair run a regular gauntlet of terror until the fateful day when they meet a street bum pasting up mini posters of seemingly meaningless drivel. However, until a year before the man was Tony Soznick, a telephone engineer.
Whilst working an emergency repair during a storm, he had somehow become connected to someone phoning the Samaritans. Listening, shocked, he hears the woman shoot herself and something speed along the line and enter his consciousness. From that moment on he begins to experience a series of blackouts, sometimes lasting weeks at a time, after which he would wake to find himself in another city, sharing a room with pots of paste and piles of posters describing darkness, hate and Jesus not loving some people.
Susan Warrick and Jordan Cayle are partners on the police force, reassigned to investigate an upsurge of juvenile suicides in the region. All too soon they settle on Lennox High and in particular Roger Obst. Through writing secret letters to each other using lemon juice, Roger and Chris discover that something is trying to communicate with them. Roger assembles a rudimentary telegraph machine connected to nothing at the other end, and they learn the contact is known only as Othersyde.
Chris gets cold feet and goes home, but Roger continues the stilted dialogue. Othersyde asks him what he wants. Initially, it's to be unseen in the girl's locker room, but this soon extends to walking out of shops, visible but unseen, with whatever he wants, and finally to revenge as he realises the possibilities. In the yearbook he circles the faces of those individuals who have beaten on him or ridiculed him in front of others. A writhing blackness, named by Roger as 'Eater in the Dark', exacts his revenge on students, teachers, the police, and even his own father. As the deaths mount up, Chris begins to fear for his own life, but is caught between helping his former friend and stopping the Othersyde. Now Roger thinks he is being given what he wants, but how long will it be before it wants something in return?
There is real mystery and intrigue at the heart of this story. The descent into darkness for Roger Obst comes through powerfully, as he sees a chance to be somebody at last, after an age of taunting, bullying and physical violence. J. Michael Straczynski uses his own experiences as a child to great effect here. In a way he is Chris, the new boy in town, with no in-crowd to protect him. He chooses a friend based on joint association, and that only increases his feeling of isolation. However, whereas Chris knows when to leave well alone, Roger embraces the dangerous and evil influence, risking his mind and soul in exchange for the power he believes he requires to seek vengeance for his treatment.
As Straczynski has written a multitude of material for broadcast on TV, it's perhaps no surprise that Othersyde reads very much like a script or screenplay which motors along at a cracking pace and contains no descriptive padding. Of course, this is a novel, but it's very easy reading and because you don't need to concern yourself with difficult writing styles you can immerse yourself totally in the tale. This is made all the more gratifying with the major strong point in JMS's writing arsenal: characterisation. The characters seem to leap from the page with realism - and when you believe in the protagonist and other main players then the chances are you are going to believe what is happening to them. Or at least suspend your disbelief.
Othersyde is published by ibooks (USA) and is available on import. I thoroughly recommend seeking this out from a specialist shop or via the internet. You won't be disappointed. For readers of mystery, horror or simply character-based drama this book is too good to miss. NB: This was later released in the UK by Headline Books,
(Review originally written by Ty Power for the Typo Literary Site 2005)
The London Folio Society releases Pierre Boulle’s classic novel Planet of the Apes in hardback, with strong slipcase. La Planete des Singes was first published in 1963. It was first published in Britain the following year – translated from the original French by Martin Secker & Warburg – and given the title Monkey Planet. This book follows the 1964 edition, with minor emendations. It is translated by Xan Fielding, with illustrations by David De Las Heras, and an introduction by Frans De Waal. There are 172 pages of good quality thick paper, and wide outer margins.
Ulysse Merou, Professor Antelle and his assistant Arthur Levain, a physician, travel to the star system of Betelgeuse and, when investigating an interesting planet called Soror, their shuttle craft crash lands, stranding them there. A group of naked humans approach the men with curiosity, but seem animal-like in their reactions. None of them can speak. A hunt suddenly ensues; several people – including Arthur – are killed, and many others caged and sent to different areas by gorillas in uniform, who are intelligent and speak with authority like men. Ulysse loses touch with the professor, but is caged with a beautiful but primitive woman. He soon learns about a hierarchy of supercilious orang-utans, the more articulate and reasoning chimpanzees, and the mostly brusque and brutal gorillas. He builds-up a rapport with Zira, a female chimpanzee behavioral scientist. His goal is to be on an equal footing with the simian race, but when Nova – the woman he had been caged with – falls pregnant and gives birth to a son, it quickly spreads fear of a potential new race of intelligent humans.
When I was young, it seemed as though Planet of the Apes was on TV all of the time. In fact, this series had only around 13 or 14 episodes, but there were five feature-length films which used the same award-winning make-up effects. If nothing else, check out the original Planet of the Apes film, starring Charlton Heston. It’s not only a science fiction classic, but an all-time film classic. It is phenomenally good. Of course, that film deviates in some respects from this book, for the sake of dramatic impact.
The book begins with a, frankly, superfluous scene in which a couple are enjoying a holiday away from it all in a small spacecraft. They collect a message in a bottle drifting in space, which contains the written accounts of Ulysse. It is read by the male, with constant interruptions and debate about the content. This section is messy and difficult to get a handle on. The only reason it exists is for an extra revelation at the conclusion.
Once the book settles down to a first person account of Ulysse’s plight, you are drawn straight into the action. It’s a real page-turner. It’s not all shouting and charging about though. There are periods of poignant introspection: on the treatment of other animals, the moral dilemma of investigative surgery, and the question of authority over cognizance. Very soon I found myself dismissing the imagery of Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, and appreciating the original book on its own merits.
The ending is also very different to the film. Our hero and his new family make it back to the orbiting spacecraft he arrived in (wouldn’t the orbit have decayed over this period?), only to encounter another shock. Charlton Heston’s character doesn’t even get to leave the planet before he is met with an astounding and quite different revelation (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film).
This is a good classic to add to your collection. London Folio should be commended for bringing so much addictive literature back to the masses in such an attractive style. The illustrations are simple but strikingly effective. I love the uniformed gorilla on the front cover of the book, with a back view on the reverse cover. If I have a niggle, it’s that there is nothing printed on the slipcase. I realise it’s there primarily to protect the book, but the title on the spine would have been nice, because now the book has to be displayed on a shelf open-ended, so that you can see the title on the spine of the book.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2020)
The Oxford University Press publishes Sleeping With the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror, by Darryl Jones – Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, where he teaches nineteenth century literature and popular fiction. His other books include, the Oxford World’s Classics M.R. James's Collected Ghost Stories, and the previously reviewed Arthur Conan Doyle’s Gothic Tales, and Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson.
Unlike the latter two releases, this one is not simply edited by Jones but an exploration of the horror phenomenon in all its forms. And therein lies the rub. Any non-fiction text or auto/biography hinges decisively on how the information is put across. For example, an autobiography might describe I went there and I did this, which is dull compared with a series of interesting and humorous anecdotes which place you squarely in the action. Similarly, here I feel I’m being dictated to. Jones is a lecturer, so I suppose that’s only to be expected. However, rather than mixing it up and dealing with horror as a whole, this book pigeonholes everything. We get separate sections on Monsters, the Occult and the Supernatural, Horror and the Body, Horror and the Mind, Science and horror, and Horror Since the Millennium.
I think that many devotees of the fiction horror genre will know much of this information already. Those parts which might otherwise come as a revelation are written in such a stiff manner that you might subconsciously put up a mental wall and not take it in anyway. Of course, there are some writers (Kim Newman being one of them) who I feel are much more interesting in person than in print – Darryl Jones could be one of them.
I have inferred that this is a case of design over substance, and the design is very nice. It’s a pocket-size hardback book. Much of the front cover is cut out in the shape of a light bulb to tie-in with the title. Through the cut-out you can see a silhouetted zombie scene in black and red. The page are very nice quality, too. With such a nice presentation, I feel this book is a missed opportunity to make it a more saleable release.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
Ex-journalist Tom Maitland is still trying to get his life in order after the unexpected loss of his beloved wife, when he learns that his grandfather is in hospital near death from a stroke. He has no love for the man, but agrees to meet his mother (the sick man’s daughter) at a café. She persuades him to check that his grandfather’s bungalow is secure. Once there he catches a glimpse of a boy who simply vanishes. But this is just the start of a bigger mystery. News clippings are discovered dating back to when his grandfather led the police investigation into the deaths of two young boys and a third who was still missing. Curiosity piqued, Tom’s journalistic instincts take over to the point it begins to take over his life...
This is an 108-page novelette written by Paul Lewis (comedy sketch writer and author of The Savage Knight) and published on good quality paper by Telos. The prose makes for comfortable reading, and the story avoids convoluted plot strands. Thankfully, it keeps to the point and concentrates on characterisation; namely, the protagonist and his mother. I would say that the witnesses and the all the answers he seeks fall comfortably into Maitland’s hands, without the requirement to venture very much out of the local area of his grandfather’s bungalow. Additionally, certain elements of the tale are somewhat predictable. However, I did get drawn in by the human element, and was only half right when predicting the ending.
It’s an enjoyable but regrettably short book, which may well cause people to balk at the £9.99 RRP. A nice saving grace is that my copy is one of a limited number of signed copies by the author.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Titan Books publishes X-Men: Mutant Empire – A Marvel Omnibus, comprising the trilogy Siege, Sanctuary, and Salvation – all written by Christopher Golden (author of Snowblind, Ararat, and Of Saints and Shadows). Main X-Men villain Magneto plans a global Mutant Empire. His first step in doing so is to take over a top-secret government establishment which houses the Sentinels, which are mutant-hunting robots. The X-Men, who wish to build a world where humans and mutants can live safely together, must prevent Magneto from utilising this dangerous technology. To achieve this they are obliged to team-up with old enemies, but the line between heroes and villains becomes somewhat blurred. The book format is paperback, and incorporates 688 pages of reading material. More than enough to keep the average Marvel fan happy.
No matter how anyone feels about the comic book characters of the late great Stan Lee, we cannot have failed to notice the swathe of high-quality big-budget Marvel movies which have practically swamped the cinematic world over the last decade and more. Their success has given the origin stories a well-deserved respected status and revitalised subsequent comic book sales. Consequentially, spin-off merchandising has rocketed, with detailed collectible figures, T-shirts and books such as this one making their mark in an adult as well as child demographic. When I first received this doorstop of a book for review, I made several assumptions about the content: that it was written for a young or teenage market; that it would have very wide margins and a large print font; that it would incorporate many sketches to take up space; and that the characters would act like over-enthusiastic children.
I’m happy to report I was wrong on all counts. The font size is average for a paperback, so you could be reading this omnibus for weeks (perhaps the ideal reading material for the holidaying Marvel aficionado – when he’s not donning his spandex to save the world). The aspect of this book which impresses me the most is the depth of characterisation. Considering there are so many individuals, it’s amazing just how relatable they become – and not just because of their mutant abilities. All of the main players have back stories; they feel, they rebel, they hurt emotionally. They have real problems as well as superhero ones (undoubtedly down to Stan Lee’s great early writing).
Batman and Spider-man (and Daredevil, to a certain extent) were my favourites as a child, and I still love the characters. If this had been a novel about them I would probably have been sucked right into it by the standard of writing, which is pretty good. However, because I’m not as invested in the X-Men, I found it somewhat more difficult to immerse myself in the situations. However, I will finish by saying that, if you’re a follower of the X-Men, the chances are you will love this book aimed at a normal adult audience.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019)
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