Nick Reads & Reviews Page 2

The Curse of Mesphisto's Seed (Book One: The Day of the Awakening) by William P. Haynes

( 2004 PublishAmerica )

Elliott is cut and dry evil, Mesphisto's seed. The son of the Devil, in other words. Throughout the first chapter or so of this book as the reader is introduced to him and is taken through episodes of his childhood, one can easily develop a certain sympathy for him, for his loneliness, for his poor worrisome mother still suffering the emotional repercussions of finding herself widowed by his human father's death.
     At some early point the story abandons Elliott's character development and shifts its focus primarily to Josh Riley, the sheriff of their town, and his deputy Mark Talbot. Together, they investigate murders which eventually lead to Elliott and a hell-spawned wolf as being responsible, and a violent confrontation renders Talbot blind, copper-haired and endowed with unbelievable powers of dark wizardry transforming him into a formidable foe not only for Elliott but for Mesphisto himself.
     William P. Haynes' storytelling is at its best chronicling the struggles of its protagonists in their fight against evil. Alas, his use of a present-tense prose throughout the entire tale was oftentimes distracting and inconsistent and is a style best utilized to enhance dramatic affect in appropriate passages; it's a risk to write an entire novel that way. But it's merely from personal taste that I say this, and I found the story itself to pull me in regardless. Haynes has a good grasp on making the reader follow the story and care for the principle characters, and to see the visions he expresses on paper.
     The sequences with Mesphisto that take place in hell are very involved and are inspired by Dante. Here and there I can tell that the author's passion for re-realizing this abysmal world mildly overshadows the action that takes place there, and I recommend brushing up on Dante's Inferno before reading the tale to enhance the experience of mentally visiting Haynes' take on it. The story timeline leaping from the 1960's to 1987 is indeed an ingenious predicament he lays upon his heroes, and by that time Elliott is still alive and well and is a charismatic evangelist. I liked that.
     A good talent has weaved this tale, this much is evident, but this is Book One in a series, and, without giving anything away, I can tell you that by the end of this book you'll find you're going to have to read the next one.

A Red Dark Night by A.P. Fuchs

( 2004 Coscom Entertainment ) 

 Camp Silveryway holds most memories universal to summer camp sojourners from youth to counselor. There's plenty of hiking, fishing, games, sing-along songs, counselor's sexual escapades....and, oh yes, rips through the fabric of time large enough to usher in beings from the future.

These beings are called Bloodans, creatures composed of blood that can liquefy as well as take human form who like to feed off of humans by absorption.  Whatever is left of their victims becomes one of them as well.  It's a process where the Blob meets vampires, all in all.  What's more, a mysterious man in black sporting a cape, cowboy boots and a rather nasty gauntlet about his arm arrives from the future as well to save the camp from the dreaded Bloodans.    

A Red Dark Night reads like a classic '60's B-horror flick with a slight contemporary feel, and an even slighter literary upgrade.  Its very simple premise makes for a remarkably complicated read as the story progresses, which three-quarters of the way can become oftentimes confusing.  This is by no means to say the read isn't worthwhile;  Fuchs is an exceptionally fluid writer with a keen inventiveness and proficiency sadly lacking in the works of many writers of today.  He is diehard in his craft, as is evident in every aspect of his career as a writer, from his ambitious "A Stranger Dead" to his short works to founding Coscom Entertainment, a small Canadian press flaunting an expanding line of impressive titles worthy of the larger publishing houses.    

The Bloodans themselves are reason enough to give this tale a good once-over, and the story does its job in wanting you to further your journey, to read page after page to find out what's going to happen next and how the black-clad gauntlet-wielding stranger will save at least a handful of helpless camp counselors, but if this isn't reason enough, I dare you to pick up a copy if only to catch a glimpse into the mind of A. P. Fuchs.     We'll be hearing a lot more from him soon.  And check out the chapters involving the bus.....that in itself is indeed visionary

Magic Man

(by A.P. Fuchs, prior review) takes an urban myth, however personal to the author, pins it down and turns it into a legend. Fuchs is at his best here, taking for the most part a campfire story and turning it into a philosophical metaphor....there is a lot of insight and narrative infused into the idea of a "magic man" that could make all one's dreams come true, for a price, no matter what price it is. Sometimes that price can make you learn something valuable about life, then it sticks you with a circumstance you never knew was coming around the corner. Fuchs, a great writer in his own right, takes poetry and storytelling prose to another level!

Ghostwriter/ Hourglass by David Lester Snell

( 2004, 2003 PublishAmerica )

Two short novellas, same author, a short handful of nights' worth of reading them back to back, hence I chose both for review. Let's go:
     Ghostwriter is a tale of a bestselling novelist attached to
an ordinary guy. That ordinary guy is Stephen Crown, and that bestselling novelist is his own hand, possessed as it were, writing of its own accord, with a drive and a mind separate from Stephen.
     Stephen goes to his Oregon cottage retreat to get away from it all and to let loose the force which governs his ghostwriting hand to pen a new masterpiece. But the surrounding community has changed since he'd last visited, and for the worse, led by a fire-and-brimstone preacher bent on sending Stephen and his books "written by the Devil" back to hell's burning depths. I can personally relate to that.
     Hourglass is a different presentation altogether, a science fiction fantasy that takes place in another world, perhaps another time, perhaps another version of our own Earth itself. The story deals with Oz Noble, a forest-dwelling widower whose only son suffers the fatal bite of an arachnid wasp. Oz must embark on a quest through miles of perilous and alien terrain to find the last existing hourglass tree which holds his dying son's fate and salvation.
     David Lester Snell has crafted two masterfully told simple tales. There's good talent here, executed skillfully by damn good writing. Snell knows how to convey his stories in strikingly vivid fashion and no wonder --- he takes his art seriously. An editor for a college magazine and a writing tutor working towards a university degree in Creative Writing, he knows what he wants and knows how to do it.
      I suggest you read both books back to back just as I did for a similarly satisfying couple of doses of Snell's rich blend of vision and prose. Here's another we'll all be hearing more from, and I'll be looking forward to it.

Unholy Alliance by Dana Reed

(2004 Archebooks Publishing) 

Author Dana Reed, when submitting this book to me, insisted it was not actually a horror novel but rather led me to believe it fell more on the lines of a detective thriller or merely a work of suspense.
     
A warning to all: this was clearly not the case, not entirely. I mean, suspenseful? By all means. A detective thriller? Certainly, even to many degrees by definition. With the utmost respect for those elements, however, readers with an appetite for gut-wrenching, in-your-face, relentlessly psychological and shamelessly graphic horror, Reed's Unholy Alliance comes through with guns blazing and the stench of a body count rising to high heaven in the aftermath.
     In the streets of New York, a detective with a rattled past finds herself joining forces with a reporter harboring even darker demons from a life under an abusive father responsible for many of those demons as well as the loss of her leg. Together, they hunt down the Necrophiliac, a killer who harvests body parts from his victims to keep the ever-accumulating number of lifeless members of his "family" he dwells with fresh and free from decomposition. At the scene of each murder, he leaves behind a single glass rose. This poses as a problem for the reporter when he leaves a rose for her as well early on, a chilling indication that she is not only next on his hit list, but as we discover later that he desires her to be his bride.
     Dana Reed has been down this literary road before, a veteran of this sort of thing with eight novels of horror as well as other works under her belt, and she has seen herself as a well-received teacher of writing and journalism. Unholy Alliance, I might add, is the first in a series that promises to escalate in intensity and to further establish its unforgettable mark in genre literature. Reed's skill and craftsmanship with the written word is enough to make for a vivid and frightening read when coupled with such a compelling storyline often lacking in today's overdone and overblown world of crime/suspense dramas.

The Two by Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc

(2005 Lulu Press)

 Pressley Barclay is a dark novelist whose works are successful enough to give him a large following and a degree of enough wealth to make him capable of purchasing a remote, centuries-old English mansion that nobody else wants when he tires of living in busy London.
     Pressley is enchanted and awestruck with his new estate, with its statue garden, private beach, grove of fruit trees, rumors of the mansion's dark history. As he explores and inspects its interior, marveling at the exquisite architecture and the many archaic rooms, he discovers a full-length mirror of stunning beauty hidden in the depths of a sub basement.
     And the mirror sucks him in.
     He finds himself roaming the same property five centuries prior, at a time where its occupants were a wealthy family of high society overshadowed by two brothers whose images grace a vast painting near the home's grand staircase. Their father is the town constable, who's been taking townsfolk heat from his inability to bring to justice those responsible for a mean streak of intensely brutal sexual murders. Pressley finds himself witnessing enough of the events to be taken into the web of a fascinating mystery encompassing the house and the identities of the sadistic killers.
     Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc writes with conviction and beauty and carefully vivid detail, and I applaud her. She casts an eerie haunted atmosphere like a fog bank through a graveyard in your mind which settles there throughout the read's duration, in a way not menacing but surreal like feeling for obstacles as you walk across a dark room and your eyes hadn't yet adjusted. The detail in her work matches the craftsmanship described in the story concerning the contents of the mansion, and you'll feel almost as though you've been whisked away with Pressley through that mirror with him.
     Andrea has graced the literary world prior to this with critically acclaimed poetry and works ranging from goth to horror to related erotica, and her much-praised "Gothique--A Man of Two Worlds." She's a part-time model, and you can photograph her beauty beside her favorite cemetery statue, any day.
     Pay attention to Andrea's works, she's a true literary artist. 

Demon of Mercy by A. William Robinson

(2002 Aventine Press)  

 I, for one, wouldn't say Marilyn Reins is your average shrink. Shrinks aren't supposed to indulge in carnal affairs with their clients. Julian Marks, as far as clients are concerned......single clients whose tormented pasts haunt their nightmares and catch up with their waking dreams to bite them on their asses on a daily basis and could be responsible for extremely sociopathic behavior, such as a string of intensely grisly murders.....it stands to reason that Marilyn is more than playing with fire, toying with her career, but fooling around rather dangerously with her life and the lives of others. 
     Yes, unspeakable murders are being committed and, as detective Martin Travis explores each crime scene, he summons the assistance of an old friend who is involved prominently in the underground Jamaican crime world. The nature of the killings inevitably gives the perpetrator the nickname "Demon of Mercy," albeit the method of each killing is by no means merciful. What's more, there is talk that Marilyn's client Julian had a long lost sister who'd endured years of torment and sexual abuse at the hands of their father.
     Now, to begin with, we have here a sly, effectively-written little slice of crime/detective terror on our hands. The characters are indeed, over the course of the read, vivid enough to carry the story to its fruition and utter climax. I have a tremendous problem with the formula of the work, however, how its skeletal structure is almost a photocopy of countless other works of its genre boasting nothing that can make it stand out as exemplary. Oftentimes, as in the case of sequences involving Julian's sister or crime scene descriptions, the shock value of its graphic depictions superceded the need to keep the story going and I found nothing wildly original enough to sink my teeth into. Don't get me wrong, Mr. Robinson indeed has a talent enough to make it sinful to ignore, and I beseech him to spread his wings, take a deeper dive into the kind of story that can really stand out in a medium where that's really a hard thing to do. Let's take the crime/thriller formula and start into new territory that no reader has read before, and I hope that's just what A. William Robinson will do next.

Lost Hunger (Once Bitten, Forever Alive) by Angelina M. Robinson

(2004 Authorhouse)

Angelina M. Robinson's debut novel is a heartfelt endeavor infused with the sort of epically romantic side of vampirism whose rise in the ranks of pop culture is held largely responsible by the likes of Anne Rice's works.  The characters and their situations are told in first person and with a very cultured, aristocratic flavor reminiscent of that sort of sub-genre, and this particular work made me want to envision it more as a Victorian period piece and I had to repeatedly remind myself that it was set in a time as contemporary as Burger King.

Additionally, Lost Hunger gave me the feeling of reading a diary, and the impression that the author was struggling between a written exhibition of raw longing and emotion, and maintaining a proper and lady-like presentation. It works well that way at times, because the read-between-the-lines conflict of the author finding her voice as a writer runs down the same rapids as Daenara Tereus (Robinson's main character) and her passionate longing to become a vampire, longing to know the face behind the unknown shadow forever watching her from behind every corner. The real point I'm trying to make goes even further, for after reading the book I find it evident that there's plenty of natural talent in Robinson's blood to make her one hell of a writer in the same way Daenara is revealed to have vampire blood in her, all along. The similarities are apparent, and I'm sure Angel as well as her accumulating number of fans wouldn't disagree.
     It's a great work for a first novel in that some of its flaws are responsible for some of its magic and appeal in what could otherwise have been a redundant cliché of just another novel about vampires dwelling in human society. What we've got here, on one hand, is the work of a young writer who takes her career more seriously than a lot of seasoned writers I know, and on the other hand we've got a work shining not as a whole but with examples here and there of how well Robinson paints a picture, or how she develops a character, how she takes her time with Daenara's thoughts. Robinson's writing often shares some of the same characteristics found in the beauty, charm and grace of a classic silver screen love story just because of its simplicity. I recommend that Angel take more risks with her writing approach, see to it that her editors don't overlook so many grammatical and punctuation-related errors, and go wild with the written word, the storyflow, the drama, and the gritty instinct to strip down and tell it like it is in her head.....raw and uninhibited.
     In the story, Daenara is haunted by personal horrors and mysteries past and present: the death of her father, the enigma of her childhood, an endearing guardian, a vampire who wants her as much as she wants to be like him, watching her nightly from within the shadows. She begins a journey into an eternity of darkness where a vampire lord wants her dead and she wants to live......undead.
     Not bad at all for a first attempt, and with sequels to follow, I believe just merely keeping an eye on Angelina Robinson would ultimately be to sell yourself short when looking for something fresh in a genre where freshness is hard to find.........don't just keep an eye on her, read her work and watch it blossom. The Hunger Series promises to be more than merely a romantic vampire epic, but a series of progressive endeavors from a writer learning to exercise her remarkable vision into something even darker, even more expressive, and all the more wonderful.

Shapelessness by Angie Hulme

(2005 Cyberwit.net)

Unaccustomed to reviewing book-length collections of poetry, I'd forced myself to make an exception from my preferable genre fiction with Angie Hulme's Shapelessness. Angie is accomplished in the literary world with a most respectable body of work including the novels Disbelief, Virtually Real and her swansong After the Fairytale.
     In Shapelessness, Hulme explores
love and loss of love, anguish and profound emotion invoked by daily living, indepth thought and personal philosophy. Entries such as "Grey," "I Want To Abolish Equality," and "Read the Turner Diaries" illustrate the poet's frustration with the current world and social climate, probably exhibited more preeminently in "Inevitable Darkness," where it's "easiest just to let go." She personifies this despair and angst in "I'm Waiting.....," where the writer herself is the embodiment of all fear.
     Full of eloquent and timeless prose, Hulme weeps words well and exhibits true talent as effortlessly as downing a few drinks and taking the alone time required to do so.
     A moving exploration of human insight and feeling, passion and brilliant articulation, Angie Hulme's Shapelessness is an exceptional collective work.  

Pseudo-City by D. Harlan Wilson

(2005 Raw Dog Screaming Press)

"Mama didn't love me," the stick figure proclaimed as he stepped out of the manhole and established himself as the icon of Stick Figure Inc., a promotional entity of one D. Harlan Wilson, the author here and who, in the opinion of this reviewer, holds particularly peculiar obsessions and/or phobias regarding obsessions and phobias. I'm certain only Mr. Wilson would understand that.
     Pseudofollicilitis City is a  metaphorical metropolis of surrealistic, ideological, irrealist proportions, where an ingrown facial hair condition is a predominant social status in a world of Burroughs-esque interzones and city streetscapes. Commuters fill its skyline harnessed into rocket back packs for as far as the eye can see, and handlebar moustaches are commonplace. Facial hair has even been known to be sold on the street as pets with their very own leashes. For that matter, a widow's peak may steal its owner's best suit and fly out the window to make a life of its own. Famous fictional characters wage war to become real among the populace while not far away a dime store sells nothing but dimes. In one of its innumerable town squares, dueling Air Guitarists (by licensed profession) gather the attentions of city-dwellers, some of which are teachers authorized to kill their students any way they'd please for any reason. Down the street, there's a lonely human thumb protruding out of a sidewalk while overhead a naked man hangs by his toes from a lamppost as punishment for holding a business meeting in a public place. Deep somewhere underground, a mantis-like behemoth produces the hats worn by every male in the city by coughing them up and placing them for sale upon a shelf. 
      Wilson's writing is difficult to entirely convey in a review without presenting such examples of what to expect to find upon reading his work. But you get the point, and I adore this sort of writing. Wilson's style and flights of literary fancy are expressed in matter-of-fact narrative prose, taking himself seriously, and therein lies the humor and magic and allegorical majesty that is Pseudo-city.
Wilson has primed himself in his craft for such an affair as this work's creation. Its predecessors include the highly acclaimed The Kafka Effect and Stranger on the Loose; Wilson's published over a hundred stories to media around the world and he teaches college writing and literature. He's been around the block, his mental tapestry, body of work, and literary skill makes him a visionary, and readers who enjoy a good fix of great entertainment beyond conventional storytelling are in for a treat that doesn't bombard your head with laundered story formulations and the same old same old. D. Harlan Wilson, you've won yet another fan! 

Nicholas Grabowsky's Diverse Compendium

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