Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gillian's Marsh by Michael Faun

(eBook/print; 2015, 2017: novella)

From the back cover

"Gillian's Marsh 1866

"The treacherous wetlands where a young woman, Louella Lee, ends up after escaping the horrors of her puritanical home in the town of Gillianswick.

"Collapsing in the black woods near the marsh, she is found by Red, a loner woodsman, and their rendezvous sets a nightmarish wheel into motion.

"Whilst their unorthodox relationship blossoms, stakes are burning in Gillianswick after a series of strange disappearances.

"Convinced that the town is in the grip of black magic and deviltry, overzealous Cyrus Reiterman initiates a merciless witch-hunt that eventually draws him to the betraying bog, where baleful forces await."


This tale of witchcraft, lust, familial betrayal and violence, a malevolent tree and other horrors is a burn-through  and superb read, one that is worth owning if you are not squeamish and like your gory thrills raw with a nasty attitude.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

In Matto's Realm by Friedrich Glauser

(pb; 1936, 2005. Second novel in the Sergeant Studer series. Translated from the German by Mike Mitchell.)

From the back cover:

"A child-murderer escapes from a Swiss insane asylum. The stakes get higher when Detective Sergeant Studer discovers the director’s body, neck broken, in the boiler room of the madhouse. The intuitive Studer is drawn into the workings of an institution that darkly mirrors the world outside. Even he cannot escape the pull of the no man’s land between reason and madness where Matto, the spirit of insanity, reigns."


The second Sergeant Studer book is a decent, if overlong read. While Glauser's writing conveys well the sense of insanity in both the world and the institution, he lets a few of his characters ramble on too long about what often amounts to nothing. I understand that he is trying to create an atmosphere where one cannot trust his (or her) senses and that people dance around the veracity of their motives, but when your characters' villainy or better humanity are already somewhat transparent, psychobabble and other unnecessary obfuscations dilute the potential excellence of the story.

Matto's is a worthwhile book for its multilayered themes, mood and characters, just do not expect greatness -- rather, expect a sometimes interesting, flawed work from a fascinating writer.

Followed by Fever.


Two films resulted from this novel.

Matto regiert (English translation: Madness Rules) was released in Germany in 1947. Leopold Lindtberg directed and co-scripted the film. Alfred Neumann co-authored its screenplay.

Heinrich Gretler reprised his role as Wachtmeister Studer/Constable Studer (Gretler also played Studer in the 1939 film Wachtmeister Studer, also directed by Leopold Lindtberg).

Heinz Woester played Dir med Ernst Laduner. Irene Naef played Margrit Laduner.

Hans Gaugler played Leibundgut. Emil Gerber played Pfleger Jutzeler. Max Haufler played Pfleger Weyrauch. Emil Hegetschweiler played Pfleger Gilgen. Hans Kaes played Portier Dreyer.

Olaf Kubler played Herbert Kaplaun. Adolf Manz played Georg Caplaun.Walter Morath played Dr. med Neuveville. Elizabeth Muller played Schwester Irma Wasem.


Matto regiert aired on German television on September 14, 1980. Wolfgang Panzer directed the film, from Helmut Pigge's teleplay.

Hans Heinz Moser played Wachtmeister Studer. Walo Luond played Oberst Caplaun. Peter Leu played Herbert Caplaun.

Sybil Buri played Irma Wasem. Kurt Bigger played Dr. Blumenstein. Franz Lichtenhahn played Dr. Laduner. Carmen Klug played Frau Laduner.

Hans-Joachim Frick played Dreyer. Paul Buhlman played Gilgen. Fritz Nydegger played Schmocker. Franz Matter played Jutzeler.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Redemption by John Everson

(pb; 2017: third book in The Curburides Chronicles)

From the back cover

"What if you woke up in hell?

Alex hadn't really thought of what would happen after she dragged Ariana through the portal to close the gate between worlds. She hadn't given sacrificing herself a thought, she'd just wanted to end the demonic summoning before it was too late.But when Alex wakes up on the other side, in the world of the Curburide, she has to think fast if she ever wants to see Joe Kieran, or Earth, again. Her only ally is an occult serial killer. Demons are searching for both of them, and there's nothing demons love more than human fear and pain. They feed on it. In the world of the Curburide, demons are everywhere.

And they're


Redemption is an excellent, fun, b-movie of a horror novel, with well-written characters, explicit and hellacious sex, gore and reader-hooking (and fast-moving) storytelling. Like its prequels, Covenant and Sacrifice, it is worth owning, with a finish that leaves this not-for-the-squeamish series open to continuation while successfully closing its immediate tale.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Feverish Fiction, issue #1 (December 2016) edited by Michael Faun

(2016; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)

Overall review:

This slim-volume magazine, thus far, is an excellent venue for dark and horror fiction works. Its microstories, poems and art are entertaining, humorous, not politically correct and, in some cases, bizarre. It is worth owning, as are the works of its owner/editor, Michael Faun.

Stories, other works:

1.)  "The Prized Bottle" - Justin A. Mank: A man (Leon Jenkins) make questionable choices when confronted by a strange little man in his late-hour kitchen. Fun, good tale.

2.)  "Amelia and the Coffin Plant" - Alex S. Johnson: Goth-, rock 'n' roll- and plant-themed horror piece about a woman (Amelia), her dead sister (Clara) and comforting seeds. Clever, swift-paced and excellent story.

3.)  "Seawitch's Grotto" - Ashley Dioses: A witch enthralls a poet, with dark-hearted results. Rhyming poetry is not my usual reading wont, but Dioses's entertaining visuals made me overlook that pet peeve. Good, worthwhile write.

4.)  "Mrs. Krampen" - Patrick Winters: A lust-impelled blackmail scheme backfires on two men (Carter, Brandon). Good, genre-fun read.

5.)  "Krampus" - K.A. Opperman: Thoughttful, visually rich rhyming poem. Well-written.

6.)  "Mama Lovebeast" - Konstantine Paradias: Solid, cinematic fairy tale-esque piece.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Thumbprint by Friedrich Glauser

(pb; originally published as Wachtmeister Studer in 1936. First book in the Sergeant Struder series.Translated from the German by Mike Mitchell in 1995.)

From the back cover:

"The death of a traveling salesman appears to be an open and shut case. Studer is confronted with an obvious suspect and a confession to the murder. But nothing is what it seems. Envy, hatred, and the corrosive power of money lie just beneath the surface. Studer’s investigation soon splinters the glassy façade of Switzerland’s tidy villages and manicured forests."


Thumbprint is a good, intriguing police procedural, punctuated with its lead character's intuitive flights of logic-driven fantasy -- one of Studer's idiosyncratic traits. It is these traits, along with Studer's patience, empathy and sense of justice, that lead him to flush out the whys of the novel's events and the motivations of the bad guys (who do not pretend to be otherwise). Good, sometimes chatty tale, this -- one worth reading -- from a writer whose personal life is equally (if not more) fascinating.

Followed by In Matto's Realm.


Wachtmeister Studer was released in Germany on October 13, 1939. It was directed by Leopold Lindtberg and scripted by Horst Budjuhn, Kurt Guggenheim and Richard Schweizer.

Heinrich Gretler played Jakob Struder. Adolf Manz played Burgermeister Aeschbacher. Bertha Danegger played Mutter Aeschbacher. Armin Schweizer played Gottlieb Ellenberger.

Ellen Widmann played Anstasis Witschi. Robert Trosch played Armin Witschi. Anne-Marie Blanc played Sonja Witschi. Robert Bichler played Erwin Schlumpf.

Hans Kaes played Polizist Murmann. Zarli Carigiet played Schreier. Rudolf Bernhard played Schwomm. Alfred Lucca played Gerber.


A remake, Kriminalassistent Bloch, was released in Denmark on October 22, 1943. It was co-directed by Poul Bang, from a script by co-director Grete Frisch and Axel Frisch (the film's star).

Axel Frische played Kriminalassistent Bloch. Elith Pio played Kriminalassistent Steffenson. Ellen Margrethe Stein, billed as Ellen Margr. Stein, played Jenny Frank. Sigurd Langberg played Redaktør Philipsen.

Asbjørn Andersen played Frugtplantagejeer Steen.Betty Vølund played Sonja Frank. Jens Asby played Otto Frank. Tove Bang played Berta.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Halloween by Curtis Richards

(pb; 1979: based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill)

From the back cover:

"Tricked by his cunning ... Treated to his savagery ... Annie, Linda and Laurie ... fresh, pretty, ready to be taken ... stalked by a sadistic power who has returned to claim new victims, on this ... the most frightening night of the year."


Halloween is an above average movie tie-in/novelization of John Carpenter's 1978 iconic slasher flick. What elevates the book version in relation to other movie tie-ins is its expansion into the background of why Michael Myers is what he is, as well as some of its characters' motivations (whose logic-challenged actions are sometimes frustrating).

What keeps Halloween from being excellent is its Richards's occasional flirtations with cheesy writing and love of unnecessary adjectives; also, there is the Laurie Strode's weird visualizations of Judith Myers's murder. These visualizations feel forced, unnatural, like Richards felt like he had to keep those sadistic images fresh in his readers' minds.

This out of print and pricy book is worth owning despite these minor nits, not only for its rarity but for its overall suspenseful writing and how it builds on the ideas, characters and horror of its source film. Followed by Halloween II (by Jack Martin, a.k.a. Dennis Etchison).

Additional note: A Wikipedia article relating to Dennis Etchison claims he also wrote under the name Curtis Richards, an assertion I have not yet confirmed.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Every Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2016)

From the back cover:

"Known for his cute, disturbing, and utterly absurd novels, cult author Carlton Mellick III returns with a tale of childhood love and spontaneous face explosions.

"Ethan is in love with the weird girl in school. The one with the twitchy eyes and spiders in her hair. The one who can't sit still for even a minute and speaks in an odd squeaky voice. The one they call Spiderweb.

"Although she scares all the other kids in school, Ethan thinks Spiderweb is the cutest, sweetest, most perfect girl in the world. But there's a problem. Whenever they go on a date at the Dairy Queen, her whole fucking face explodes. He's not sure why it happens. She just gets so excited that pressure builds under her skin. Then her face bursts, spraying meat and gore across the room, her eyeballs and lips landing in his strawberry sundae.

"At first, Ethan believes he can deal with his girlfriend's face-exploding condition. But the more he gets to know her, the weirder her condition turns out to be. And as their relationship gets serious, Ethan realizes that the only way to make it work is to become just as strange as she is."


This sweet-natured, physically icky, original and fast-moving novella is a joyous, sometimes laugh-out-loud read, an R-rated romance for those with bizarro, flirting-with-horror leanings. Every, a near-impossible-to-set-down work, is one of the best strange books I have read in a long while -- worth owning, this.