Nick Reads & Reviews Page 6

Poison Ivy by Travis Vp Fox

(2006 Q-Boro Books.)

I made Travis’ acquaintance on Myspace and was very interested in his Poison Ivy book and him as a person, and, one thing leading to another, I’ve ended up with his book in my hands and a review to do. So here goes:
The “Black Poe,” rap he’s given to promote himself placed a question mark in my mind which eventually led me to expect him to write something I’m more inclined to reading, such as a work of supernatural horror/fantasy, or something related to that genre. Poison Ivy, on the surface, is nothing like that……it first looks like an average piece of pulp fiction spoken straight out from an African American-in-the ghetto perspective that may fall way short of something meaningful and end up in the slush pile of thousands of manuscripts of like-kind.
After having read it, I’m telling you all now, this is not your momma’s bedtime story. It may be more familiar to that reality among us which countless holier-than-thou’s refuse to consider, how in America there exists a way of life that characters such as Ivy Davidson live every day, where sex exploitation is a way of life regardless of how old you are and turning tricks for the pricks that own your ass is as much a part of life as breathing. Here in this tale we have Ivy, who at a very young age turns to prostitution as a result of the fates of her mother and father, through no choice of her own but of the choices of the adults in the world around her, where men aren’t men but gun-toting johns and women and girls regardless of age are sexual playthings, a world where even the law partakes off the record from behind closed doors, drugs are passed like trick-or-treat candy and the difference between each day is that you’ve lived through the others and probably want to die from living that long.
But the reality of Ivy herself as a character shifts, to the point where she’s convinced her father is one person and then another, nobody is who they at first seem to be, including, astonishingly enough, herself. The expertise Travis Fox presents in the way he writes this work is raw and gritty, with twists and turns evident in the work of an accomplished writer. I can tell he knows the world of which he writes intimately, at least to a degree enough that he’s familiar with it…..I mean, you write what you know……but with this work he shines in a learned sort of literacy, for which he should be doing lectures to young underprivileged aspiring writers (hint hint, Travis), because Travis Vp Fox’s literary talent and passion is an inspiration to not only all of Black America, but to America as a whole regardless of where one comes from or the color of one’s skin.
And as far as proclaiming himself a Black Poe……well, I tell you, I’ve yet to see the kind of supernatural blood-and-guts genre-type stories from him, but reading this work presents material just as shocking, because it’s based on realism, which can often be worse than something whimsical one can whip up from nothing. Not to mention, the style in which Travis writes matched with the very ambition of the man makes him a literary voice that shines, of which I applaud, and I look forward to many future works courtesy of the Black Poe……

I Will Rise by Michael Louis Calvillo 

(2007 Lachesis Publishing.)

A high school English teacher wrote this, no kidding. In all of my educational years growing up, from grades pre-thru-all-the-way-up-to-junior-college, I never knew a single teacher regardless of vocational discipline to write a novel like this.
His students must really dig him…..

And here again we have a first novel, this time fallen right smack dab into our favorite genre and the one I should be constantly dealing with in the first place, outright in-your-face kind of horror with plot devices and characters and situations that grab you by the balls or region thereof if you have not balls.
     Bottom line: Charles, our main character who from first person narrates the tale, is one dude with wrenches thrown into the mechanics of his social life to the point he’s disciplined his private thoughts against even the temptation of masturbation. He’s just a joe with a shitass job and a clinically malfunctioned jittery hand until a confrontation with a police officer and his hound and the ghostly vision of a girl he encountered at a library suddenly play a part in that hand coming to life, its palm a black hole of fathomless vacuous suction with anyone it touches and, like a vacuum cleaner set on nightmare, it sucks the life right from you. A frickin’ dog gets swallowed up in it. And yet, all he has to do is touch you, and you’re dead in a couple days, and those who touch you are dead in just as much time. The girl from the library, as it turns out, is really a chubby blind girl in Arizona who appears to Charles in visions while she dreams, and in that vision she’s sexy and actually sees. She tells him a dreamer actually dreamt this world, and the dreamer is awakening and everyone must die to be saved…..or something like that…..and Charles is to purge this world relentlessly by killing everyone in it. But then there are the many people that dreamt of him doing so, and who fervently attempt to stop him. Not to mention, throughout his exploits to kill mankind, his face is all over the news. Ultimately, a popular televised psychic may be behind it all, but the only way Charles can find out the truth behind the possibly greater role he has to play is to continue down his path of global destruction and see what happens next.
     Calvillo has this, his first novel, as well as an extremely impressive promotional campaign to launch him down a path to certain literary success, if he keeps this up. I love hot girls that drive me to kill and In 24 hours everyone you know will be dead! are splashed across business cards and related marketing material are good catch phrases, but do they measure up to all the hype?
     You betcha. But I'm a redemption addict, and there are elements of the story and the character of Charles which render me unsympathetic to him; the focal point of firepower Calvillo directs towards us in first person with him should, I feel, lead him into a more palpable resolution. But all that shouldn't dissuade you from reading it, is just banter from me to the author. I think the reading public who digs horror will lap this stuff up.
     Truly, its nonconformity, as Calvillo boasts as part of the sort of writing discipline he's utilized to describe how he writes in author bio blurbs, is indeed just that, and that's part of what makes this work special.
     That, and, for an English teacher with a dark side, I Will Rise makes for a perfect addition to any library.

Into the Basement / Into the Spell by Norm Applegate

(each 2007 Triad Publishing) 

Here’s a dude who’s been around the block in the world, impressively, from his days as a drummer for the Toronto-based band Photograph to employment as a microbiologist studying the HIV virus, to travels as a popular hypno-therapist throughout Australia and New Zealand (from which he crossed paths with many colorful individuals), and he heralds from Scotland. Such is his life, or what I can make of it doing a little research, in a nutshell.

Sounds like the sort of chap who, if I’d ever met him and prior to his more recent days as a working author, I’d have urged him to try his hand at writing, and at writing fiction, for subject matter abounds. But of course, he didn’t need me to tell him that……
On the other hand, there does exist in this world many a poor soul who, try as they might, and in spite of their education or exploits, just can’t for the life of them tell a good story. So the question here is: does Applegate measure up? Is he good enough for any reader to throw out a small wad of cash and precisely choose his stuff over seemingly countless others (because, let’s face it, we can’t read everything)? His decision to choose writing as a serious direction to point his life towards is extremely recent, and as with any path one chooses to go down and take seriously there is at first that curious itching to do so, then there’s talent, then there’s ambition, and with these things going for you there then evolves the process of experience, perfection, finding your voice and becoming over the process of time real damn good, head-and-shoulders-above-most damn good.
And Norm Applegate is well on his way.
The novels I’m reviewing here represent the first two in a long series of “Kim Bennett Thrillers” penned by Applegate and published by the Florida-based small press Triad Publishing. Into the Basement, the first, introduces the character of Kim Bennett, whom Applegate describes as “an unlikely hero…… horrific situations.” Unlikely she is, in that as a sexually-charged full-fledged working bondage-fetish Mistress in contemporary San Francisco she’s catapulted into a situation where a Chinese underworld lord hires a Russian hit man to kidnap and bring him ladies of the night into his basement lair. It is there where he subjects the women to all the hell of real-thing snuff films where even his German Shepherd is involved. When he’s finished with them, his hired help dumps their bodies and law enforcement is left scratching their heads and looking to Kim and her possible inside knowledge for help.
Into the Spell continues Kim Bennett’s exploits, relocating her to Tampa and involving her with a mayor desperate over her daughter’s murder and a psychopathic magician/hypnotist whose responsibility for many grisly 44. bulldog gunshot killings directly links him as the real force behind the infamous Son of Sam case. While Into the Basement more thoroughly details the Kim Bennett character and makes her real, Into the Spell takes it for granted that we should already know her to some degree, which is the only noteworthy element lacking in the sequel. What’s truly exciting as a horror reader is, while the first book caters more to the mystery/thriller crowd, the second goes down a darker alley, and down that alley, we have us some very readably interesting vampires that promise to be exploited more fully in the third installment.
I can’t wait for that.
Norm Applegate’s writing truly delivers with all the raw force and prose of a top rate storyteller, seasoning his tales with a mixture of classic genre skill and infusion of intrigue and characterization that makes the stories move. As he further explores his own world he creates with these books and further flexes his literary muscles, we can hope for many increasingly outstanding works to come in this series, and beyond that, from a writer we would all do ourselves right to keep a keen eye on for as long as long as this writer writes.    

Phantom Feast by Diana Barron 

(2001 Barclay Books.)  

I was first introduced to Diana Barron at the World Horror Convention in San Francisco, circa ’06, who eventually became a dear friend of mine along with her husband Phil, and yet it took me until recently to finally read examples of her work, like, for instance, as published as a regular contributor to the currently head-and-shoulder-above-them-all genre periodical Doorways Magazine, and her Stoker-nominated (finalist) first novel Phantom Feast, which I’m reviewing here.

So what should I write about first, the author or the story? I can sum both up in one word:
As the person behind the writing, Diana’s worn a coat of many colors, is the white and dark meat of a Thanksgiving feast of creativity, talent, and imagination. By no means has she gone as far as she’d like in the field of literature, but she’s on her way like a rocketship from a sling shot at the speed of light towards that destination, having already made a name for herself and climbing that horror literature ladder. Her background has all the makings of a stellar author in the field, her life experience fertile ground for creating the same sort of story-weaving magic and energy as she’d put into, say, clothing design, for which she’d once owned an exclusive boutique and factory, or her magnificent art and illustrations. Her efforts have made her a personality and a voice worthy of paying strict attention to.
So let’s get on with the business at hand, Phantom Feast.
“It’s a jungle out there” is a cliché often attached to large cities, or when one is about to sojourn into one, but in the small town of Hester in the state of New York, on one particular darkly psychedelic day, all one had to do was step out of his house, and it literally was a jungle, like a wormhole into darkest Africa, and he could get swallowed by an awaiting python. In this book, likely, he will.
The jungle reality is unleashed through a dark magic of sorts surrounding a woman whose weight increases at a rapid rate who killed her parents and inherited their house that shares its property with a haunted circus wagon in the backyard that’s turned into somewhat of a guest house. It’s really a house haunted by the spirits of turn-of-the-century poorly-treated circus animals who died in a long-ago fire, and they come to life again through their framed paintings exhibited on the walls inside the house.
The more the animals in the paintings come to life, the more capable they become of bringing their painted environments out into the world of the living with them, until the entire town becomes a very deadly surreal jungle. As it turns out, it’s not merely the animals ghosts which are to blame for their escapades, but the dark will of Erin, the girl who killed her parents who’s gained so much weight she can’t move, who dreams herself a lioness and becomes so much at one with the animal spirits she joins them in spirit as a lioness and becomes capable of prowling about with a pride from one of the paintings and killing people throughout the town when the paintings come to life.
What’s more, Diana involves the characters of three dwarves, who separately come together to reside under Erin’s wing, who take care of her and live nice and comfy lives as roommates in her home. Mickey and Isolde become a touching romantic sub-plot, and they as well as the cavalcade of minor characters shine vividly and blend well with the driving story which, as you could hopefully tell in this review, is refreshingly original and reads like the work of a writer who expertly crafts us stories that don’t sound like a reinvention of something else, for a change.
I was first introduced to Diana Barron at the World Horror Convention in San Francisco, circa ’06, who eventually became a dear friend of mine along with her husband Phil, and yet it took me until recently to finally read examples of her work, like, for instance, as published as a regular contributor to the currently head-and-shoulder-above-them-all genre periodical Doorways Magazine, and her Stoker-nominated (finalist) first novel Phantom Feast, which I’m reviewing here.

The Evil Queen by Benjamin L. Perez

(2005 Spuyten Duyvil.) 

My first impression of this book, just by thumbing through it combined with my unfamiliarity with its author, was no more or less bias than with any book I normally receive from an author hoping to gain a favorable quote or reasonably enlightening advice. But it looked like it was going to be an easy read, about two hundred-fifty pages or so of what appeared to be random thoughts,
poems, lackadaisically constructed idioms, a book I could flip through at a rate of four seconds per page, so being how oftentimes it seems to take me forever to actually write a review, I bumped this book up my reading schedule thinking I could get this one read and written about in no time.
And in spite of the fact that it contains a glossary at the end, which, as I’ve said in previous reviews, is usually a telltale sign that the book is going to require paying real attention to, I was still convinced it would be a breeze to get through. I mean, just look at the words in the glossary anyway: cunt, fellatio, asshole, necrophilia, whore.
I have to explain this in layman’s terms because I am no scholar, though I regularly choose my words as to make myself sound intelligent, and likely the majority of readers whose eyes grace this page have that aspect in common with me. So let me say this:
The Evil Queen isn’t as simple as what you’d expect going into it. On the surface it reads like a constructed series of head trips and angst-ridden ruminations influenced by hard feelings towards the opposite sex, an invidiousness towards organized religion both eastern and western but particularly towards Catholicism, an impressively learned educational background decorated with university degrees and theological studies, and an affected inclination towards anal sex.
I guess I’ve gone a little lower than just the surface there.
What makes the work as a whole impressive to me is that it is intelligent and intelligently written, by far anything but mere ramblings, and it stimulates the brain as well as the more primal natural urges. Most of all, getting back to layman terms, although this is a work of fiction with no concrete story but more an assemblage of words crafted into something best described as anti-poetry, the exploits and character of the Evil Queen herself, as well as a handful of lesser characters, drives you to read further. The absence of plot doesn’t matter, because you find yourself wanting to read more about what the characters are like, and, like some surreal and perverted but entertaining coffee table book, you can find out at your leisure. There’s even a questionnaire in the middle and blank pages for notes towards the end.
It’s not for everybody, and it’s not intended for everybody.
But I do recommend it. I think a copy of it should be found in the leisure reading area of anyone with an open mind and dark inclinations, even in restaurant lobbies and medical waiting rooms, though likely some deviant will make off with it and you’d have to order a new one.

Hell Hath No Fury edited by L. Marie Wood 

(2004 Cyber-Pulp Press) 

This book boasts not only an impressive assemblage of authors…..Esther Schrader, Alex Severin (with an introduction by her, a great talent from Scotland), Stephanie Simpson-Woods, Lisas both Mannetti and Wilson and even Morton, Elizabeth Blue, L. Marie Wood (who also served as editor)……but is entirely comprised of female authors, all coming together under the themed adage hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Truly, hell hath no fury like such.
There are thirty stories here, some packing quite a wallop with this theme, others falling a tad bit short but only along the lines of literary critique when it comes to matters concerning story flow and perfection, but all in all there is no lack of creativity or trace of yawning ho-hum. Each author does their damnedest to make male readers question just how carefully they should go about treating a woman, and they each evoke in their tales a deep rich gooey blackness side of allegory and suspense, and not always a Cat Woman’s piercing night cry of militant feminism.
Which makes this collection appealing to all.
At least, to those of us persuaded towards the kind of highly entertaining fiction as to invoke suspense and night chills when your head’s against your pillow and it’s dark everywhere and you can’t get to sleep because of all those women-against-men vindictive visions surfacing because you read this anthology and it got to you. Especially if you’re a man.
Scarlett Dean’s slickly bloody Soul Surgeon, Sandra Ramos O’Briant’s blatantly feminist Mothers of Invention, and Lisa Mannetti’s The Ghost or the Hammer are preferential highlights, and goddess bless Ms. Mannetti for handing me this gem.
But if you want to get down to it, don’t take my review here for anything. Go to Heidi Martinnuzzi gets right down to a detailed description of this book’s best moments, with all the enthusiasm of a Cat Woman’s piercing night cry, which, after hearing it, is all it takes to rush out and get a copy to read for yourself.

Paradise by Koji Suzuki 

(2006 Vertical Inc.)

Before I proceed, I must firstly make a confession here. Prior to my attending the World Horror Convention in San Francisco in ’06, I did not know the name. Oh, I was familiar enough with The Ring from all the hoopla generated from its American theatrical and subsequent video release, and at the time it was all the rage. I never saw it at that point, am not certain if its sequel had yet emerged at that time. At that convention, I was prowling about the dealer's tables, and I came across a young Japanese lady sitting alone at a table displaying several stacks of the same unattractive-looking books she was literally giving away. I say unattractive, from the point of view of a guy with an eye for something offbeat and twisted and appealing to me, cool covers depicting creatures or zombies or a maniac holding a severed head, and not, rather, a skyscraper photograph below an Arizona mountaintop photograph. 
But that’s just me.
Aside from that, it was a historical love story and not my typical reading material of choice, or so I assumed, at least not something that would in itself attract me into buying it at a local book store. 
The lady was most gracious, and I was nonetheless grateful, adding it to my collection of books I would soon afterwards read and review.
Throughout the course of the convention, I found myself spending time with Koji, first accidentally spilling my drink all over his shoes and making an ass of myself, then for the longest time conversing and laughing with him and his interpreter over a few drinks at my table on the balcony of a publisher’s private party. He was mild-mannered, cordial, remarkably intelligent and possessed about him a rare wit.
The man truly impressed me, and I’ll never forget that time with him. It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway…..if you’re going to be introduced to an exciting author you’ve never previously heard of before though has been accomplished enough as to produce a pop culture horror sensation, that’s the way to do it.
Almost immediately upon returning home from the convention I set out to purchase Ringu on DVD (and not yet the Americanized The Ring, since I prefer to see the original foreign production before any Hollywood remake), and put Paradise on my reading schedule.
Ringu, the literary masterpiece itself (which I’m reading any day now) has been highly regarded as Mr. Suzuki’s first novel, but not so. It’s this one. The tale reads like an epic though has an easy 200 or so pages to it, and is divided into three parts, each linking together with the other, each taking place in historical periods hundreds of years apart from the other, progressively. Over this vast timescape, two souls long to be with one another, only to find loss and separation even after death. Firstly belonging to a prehistoric Mongolian tribe, the man sets out to achieve his manhood by hunting a legendary red deer. When he succeeds, the deer becomes his strength, and he becomes not only able to wed the woman he loves and be a father to their son, but is on his way to becoming chief of the tribe. 
That is, until terrible things happen which shake their world. 
The two meet again on an uncharted island centuries later, the man washed ashore from the aftermath of his sea ship going under in a storm only to be taken in by the peaceful inhabitants of the island paradise he’s inadvertently discovered, and by an exotic maiden who leads him into a cave where someone long ago had inscribed the image of a magical red deer. 
Not long afterwards, terrible things happen which shake their world. 
The final act takes place in modern times, set first in New York and then the vast Arizona desert, where the man is a successful composer of symphonies that wears the images of a red deer around his neck for good luck, who crosses paths with a woman journalist frustrated with her life and who has longed for true love for so very long……
I’m so grateful for having this book handed to me despite my initial disinterest. It read like a masterpiece, was a breath of fresh air and reminded me of all of those important masterworks I grew up reading in school for good grades and book reports. You know the same ones. Steinbeck, Ken Kesey, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Twain, London. Stuff I wouldn’t likely have ordinarily read unless I had to under those circumstances, classic works which actually ended up inspiring me and enhancing my life and my love for literature. Paradise reminded me of this love, and of the fact that even now I should broaden my reading horizons. It was thrilling, overflowing with emotion and poetic genius, the sort of book you find yourself reminiscing over in your mind weeks after you put it down. This book should be required reading at any high school or college here in America, and I say this, with the urgency to actually start a campaign. 
I think, just like me, if more readers who otherwise wouldn’t be drawn to it were exposed to its pages, Suzuki would be well on his way to achieving the sort of status that all great names in world literature share.      

Chasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber 

(2007 Ballantine Books.) 

My brain soaked up this Ballantine hardcover in a matter of three nights, and had I more time on my hands I would’ve made those handful of hours reading it consecutive because it was difficult to put down. I know that sounds cliché, but it happens. It was one of those mind foods that was easy to digest and never filling until you ate all of it, and I wanted to eat all of it like a glutton. Putting it down was like having to place a damn refrigerator because it was late and I had to rise early the following morning but was nevertheless still hungry and looked forward to the same dinner the next day.
     Enough of praise and of relating the praise to what we all can understand. Here’s something to understand and more to the point: Joe Schreiber’s Chasing the Dead starts at first like a Lifetime movie with all of the staple ducks in a row…...Susan Young’s husband left her and their little girl Veda alone in Massachusetts to live a life on their own, and recently so, Susan harboring a deep secret she shared with him, a secret which goes back farther than their first kiss to when they were kids and she witnessed him kill a child killer, helped dispose of his body. So many years later and after her hubby left her, she gets a phone call from someone who knows everything about her and starts making demands, telling her that he kidnapped her daughter and she must go on a night-long road trip through New England, following his directions, if she ever wanted to see her again.
     It’s a point-A-to-point-B story, where after the road trip begins we follow Susan throughout her trip until the very end, and I’m a sucker for these kinds of tales, the ones that don’t go back and forth and entail a lengthy cast of characters or locales. This ride is a sweet one, and almost at the get-go is where the Lifetime movie predictability takes a dive off the deep end and you have no idea what to expect from chapter to chapter. Without giving away much, I was impressed with not only the superb prose and story flow but more importantly with the almost iconic antagonist---the guy who abducted Susan’s daughter---who under the guidance of Schreiber becomes something of theatrical movie slasher caliber with a solid mythology.
     This is first rate stuff, for sure, and I’d never heard of Joe prior to this; I think I came across him on MySpace or him across me. Whatever the case which brought this novel and its author to my attention, I’m overjoyed to make acquaintance with high hopes for more.     

What If.....? by Steve N. Lee 

(2007 Blue Zoo) 

I put a great deal of thought into writing this review before I actually wrote it, and then, I figured, let’s say everything for what it’s worth. I was compelled to say to author Lee, essentially, hey, have your publisher send it to me and I’ll put it on my reading schedule because I was interested in the subject matter as well as to see what this guy has to offer. Every once in awhile I do get interested in literature outside the genre I love to write and, as a result, review. Normally, by the looks of it only by browsing through bookstore shelves, I wouldn’t be attracted to it, from its dusk jacket art to its very title. It’s publisher, England’s environmentally green Blue Zoo, to which those inclined to take seriously the discipline of manufacturing books in an eco-friendly way, which I applaud, did themselves justice in publishing Steve Lee’s material, but really sucked in regards to its presentation. I really don’t think they know what kind of potential success it is they have on their hands, and as of this writing Steve is still struggling to make a broad name for himself.
     This is his first book, his first public try that I’m aware of in writing something substantial and passionate for the world to read, while at the same time trying to make a statement in a way that doesn’t overcome the story itself. Its published form boasts reviews from humanitarians, Catholic and Buddhist priests, people both environmentally conscious and of religious authority. On the official website, it even boasts of its comparison to The Da Vinci Code, which is like selling a tomato by saying it’s an eggplant to an audience of eggplant lovers. True, its subject matter can call good attention to it in this regard, and I for one would richly welcome a good review of one of my works by a bishop (yeah, right), or a true scholar or theologian, but I believe this marketing route sells Steve’s story short.
     A journalist gets into a nasty car accident only to be rescued by a homeless man she at first assumes is trying to rape her, before blacking out. After realizing the mind-blowing aspects of the situation in how she should have died from the incident and this supposed rapist could have in fact somehow saved her, she begins to learn the truth about this homeless guy. John is his name, and as she, Mary, uncovers the truth about him, about his Christ-like ability to not only heal others just by touching them but to save others from death, we get into the What If title factor, which asks the question, what if someone like this really existed in these contemporary days, someone with the ability to heal by touch and not only that, someone who by wit and reason and selfless demeanor combined with the supernatural abilities to perform substantial miracles existed in current times with a political mindset capable of changing the world where everyone is finally in peaceful harmony?
     With Mary’s persuasions and the help of a wealthy devout Muslim with his own reservations, coupled by characters with motives extracurricular to saving the world and with political agendas that incorporate their own ideas of world peace, John decides to invade hospitals all across the United States and heals scores of people, develops a big fan base and stirs up a windstorm of media frenzy and public speculation to where most consider him an elusive prophet and godsend and other people either want him dead or desire his secrets.
     Throughout the story, Steve Lee imposes questions about the great What If, mostly in John’s very down-to-earth but nevertheless Messiah-like observations and dialog, but Lee himself never preaches, sticks to his storytelling flow without sidestepping noticeably, and even if he’s trying to state a point philosophically he never loses course in moving the tale along. The book is virtually flawless in that Lee’s vision is precise, poetic, skillfully crafted in the ways of what it takes to actually tell a story as to convey it like a writer who’s been doing this sort of thing professionally for many years. It’s entertaining and pulls the reader along in the sort of richly satisfying way that makes for broad appeal, and I enjoyed it on a different kind of level from my usual fantasy/horror persuasions.
In the same manner as John’s ability to heal……this book, after absorbing it, satisfied me and enriched me somehow, and it’s not necessarily due to any kind of message as is exploited in its marketing, but it’s simply because it’s damn good storytelling with a What If that actually gets answered at the end in a very realistic way.

Rise & Walk by Gregory Solis 

(2007 Hadrian Publishing/Lulu.)

Gregory Solis’ Rise and Walk was a book I had absorbed on my way to the World Horror Con in Salt Lake on a train, finished it on the train ride home and went on to the next book to read, Steven J. Adelmund’s The Hunger, which was similar to Solis’ novel in many regards, so I’ll address them together here. Zombies, particularly the slow-moving classic Romero sort, the living dead the way Romero defined and most of us know, are at the center of both, with some subtle twists. Each are novels by first time authors (at least first time in literature’s public eye), both authors made their decisions to self publish (Solis’ is from Lulu and Adelmund’s is originally from Authorhouse), and the books themselves are attractive enough to garner my attention should I have come across them completely independently while perusing a book store shelf before never having heard of them or their authors.
     And both authors are self-promotional powerhouses. Before I get into each, respectively, Gregory and Steve are both bright and shining examples of real writers with raw ambition, sporting the abilities to not only sit and decide well hell, I’m going to write a novel, and then to follow through with it, but they took on the reigns of promoting the shit out of their works in very impressive ways, all the while doing everything themselves with a little help from their friends.
     Let’s start with Rise and Walk. A junior college professor takes a handful of his students to a remote outskirts to investigate a fallen meteor and set up camp around it and study their findings. The meteor is mishandled, spewing a very Stephen-King-in-Creepshow misty greenness all over the teacher and a few pupils. Almost immediately, they start exhibiting signs of the living dead, and, as it happens with the living dead, they go after the remaining humans, infecting them, and their growing masses descend upon a group of paintball enthusiasts who are making a night of indulging in their favorite pastime not far away. It’s all traditional zombie fare from there, with a ragtag group of survivors who must fend off the walking corpses, must deal with their own lack of the resources they need, their wits and strengths, and at one point there is a standoff where main characters seek refuge in a lone shack where their efforts to board themselves up inside prove futile because persistent zombies never get the hint that they’re not wanted in situations like that.
     Though it’s highly readable and enjoyable it contains both the elements of a writer at the beginning of a promising career with some of the pitfalls of one who has yet to find his voice and infuse the sort of poetry in the story prose which is ultimately defining. And in this present day, with the market flooding with traditional lore such as in the case of vampires and zombies and the like, a writer must seek a strong sense of originality that goes beyond tradition, like looking outside the box, and it’s possible to do that while still paying homage to the great zombie icons such as Romero, as Solis (and Adelmund as well) intends to do.

 That said, Solis’ Rise and Walk has a massive appeal to it, hands down, and this author deserves attention as his continuation in further writing will well earn the recognition of all of us and I am anxious to read what he will do next. As for what he’s done already, he sports a Bachelors degree in Cinema at San Francisco State University and founder of Hadrian Publishing. 


Nicholas Grabowsky's Diverse Compendium


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