Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle
by William W. Johnstone
Zebra, 1986

(review previously published 1/13/14)

Anya and Pet are a little girl and cat who were created by a Egyptian cult thousands of years ago.  Every 25 years they awaken, eat a few people, then go back into hibernation.  A mining crew disturbs their hiding place and when they are attacked they become mummies.  And the mummies attack other people and they become rapist mummies.  And the woman the mummy rapes come back to life and, well, Johnstone kind of loses track at this point.

A severed mummy arm at first starts sprouting a new body, then instead spits out flesh eating maggots that fill an entire room.  Cats start attacking people en masse, and demonic Old Ones crawl out of bleeding gashes in the ground and set people on fire with their eyes.

That's the good stuff.  The blah stuff is Sheriff Dan, the Johnstonian hero.  His children obedient, his wife strong but knows when a woman should shut up.  He spends half of his time complaining that the federal government is lying and covering things up, and the other half lying to the press and covering things up.

Most of the wordage is Dan and his crew dealing with multiple government agencies that involve the FBI, CIA, KGB, corporations, and religious groups.  He also is harassed by a liberal muckraking reporter who doesn't trust the government.  You'd think she'd make an interesting ally, but she's shut away in a cell and mostly forgotten about.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things I Didn't Finish - The Beast of Barcroft by Bill Schweigart

The Beast of Barcroft
by Bill Schweigart
Hydra, 2015

The Beast of Barcroft by [Schweigart, Bill]

I started this because I had never read an urban big cat cryptozoological horror novel before.  And I still haven't, because this about some shapeshifter Indian magic skinwalker whatever.  And yes, I know I'm being particular.

An animal hoarder causes problems in an Arlington suburb and may have attracted a mountain lion, but that didn't happen because it's an Indian magic were-mountain lion.  A neighbor teams up with a big cat expert from the Smithsonian, who would know about urban big cats but wouldn't know anything about Indian magic, and they later team up with a cryptozoologist, who might know a little more about skinwalkers, but hey, just look it up on Wikipedia.

Even with the lack of urban big cats, animal hording could be a good backdrop for a horror story.  It isn't here, but it could be.  And if you like Indian magic skinwalker were-urban big cats, you might have more patience for the endless council meetings and code enforcement discussions than I did.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beasts by Stephen R. George

by Stephen R. George
1989, Zebra Books

A couple contract a mutant form of rabies which gives them super-powers and a thirst for blood.  The man controls his urges with medication, while the woman takes off on a killing spree across the country.

Michael Smith returns to his home town for a vacation and falls in love with a single mother bookstore clerk.  His ex comes to haunt them, leaving a trail of bodies as she goes.

The body count and level of gore were probably sufficient, but the blandness of everything else just brought the whole level down.  This is like a muzak cover of a horror novel, only without the charm.

Even the characters seem sleepy and unmotivated.  People are having their throats ripped out as soon as I come into town - could it be my bloodthirsty, serial killing ex?  Eh, maybe, I'll futz around for a hundred pages or so before I make the connection.  Hey, your serial killer ex gave my kid a vial of blood, but yeah, we'll just stay here alone at home, I'm sure things will be fine.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Shadow Child by Joseph A. Citro

Shadow Child
by Joseph A. Citro
1987, Zebra Books

Mysterious deaths in rural Vermont, possibly connected to mysterious ancient stone structures.  Slow moving, but with a surprisingly good payoff.  The tone kind of depressed me, as it accurately captured a certain small town sadness.  Not in a David Lynch kind of way, just old folks drinking hard liquor, pretending to work on cars, and avoiding their wives while they slowly wait to die.

Citro does a great balancing job with a lot of his elements.  Just enough violence without getting silly, just enough explaining without spoiling the mystery.  Given that Citro is primarily a "non-fiction" writer on Unexplained Vermont, he didn't go overboard on the exposition.

No clowns, but props on having evil fairies.  Not enough evil fairies in horror literature.  Guardian Angels is a sequel.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Devil's Touch by William W. Johnstone

The Devil's Touch
by William W. Johnstone
1984 Zebra Books

"Who cut off your father's testicles and penis?"

Some quick beast rape and some teen deflowering with a Lucifer dildo for a prologue and we're catching up with the Balons.  It's three years later.  Sam and Nydia are married and still half-siblings.  Their child Sam Jr. is two years old, and we don't know yet if he's the spawn of Satan or just the product of inbreeding.  They live in Logandale, New York, and attend Nelson College.

The local Satanic coven is plotting against the Balons.  Janet Sakall, the child sleeper agent of Satan from the last book, is now a teenager and the babysitter of the Balons.  She plots to sleep with Sam, while forces conspire to have young teen Jon Le Moyne seduce Nydia.

Things get moving pretty quickly.  The coven has taken over Logandale and the Balons gather up the select to fight them.  This time it's a couple members of the local police, some church leaders, and an author who went mad investigating the occult.

We get a little more time spent with the coven this time around, showing their recruitment methods, ceremonies, and incestual orgies.  Under the influence of Satan, Sam sleeps with Janet and another satanic moll Desiree Lemieux, while Nydia sleeps with Jon.  Satan lifts his influence, the two forgive each other, and go on as normal, unlike all the other Christian teens of Logandale who turn evil after being raped.

The good guys take over a fortified house and Balon runs around town sniping Satanists and starting fires.  One of the priests may be an immortal ancestor of the Balons.  Balon's demon child is now a teenager, Princess Xaviere, and wants to sleep with her father, and this must happen on Friday between 6 PM and midnight because of those rules everyone is constantly breaking.  This was the goal of the witch characters every book, every book it happens, and nothing ever seems to come of it.

The tablet is back, and for the first time we kind of know of why it's important.  If the tablet is destroyed, the person destroying it "will have some control over the actions of Satan."  And again, the tablet just gets teleported away by Satan.

The fires kill everyone, Xaviere sneaks off, and the Balon's ride off into the sunset.

Perhaps the first time I've seen this in a book - there are looooong excerpts from the last installment.  Pages of them.  We also find out that Sam Jr. was part of the Dog Teams, the fictional unit of another, non-horror series of Johnstone's.

Available for Kindle from Amazon.

Click here to read a sample.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Horror Stories by Francis James

Horror Stories by Francis James
Reprinted by Radioarchives

Music of the Damned
Seven fingered warriors with a triangle cut out over their lips guard an ancient Aztec treasure.  "A flood of crimson belched out of the ripped flesh."

Nursery of Horror
"Between the scrawny, withered breasts, the old crone had another mouth!"
This is the stuff right here.  With basically no set-up, deformed monsters attack a woman in her home.  Two heads, seven legs, all kinds of stuff.  No Scooby-Doo cop out here: a mad scientist creates a new race of humanity by interbreeding freaks created with prenatal x-ray exposure.  He kidnaps women and has them tortured with whips, the rack, and itching powder until they consent to marry the creatures and spawn their horrid offspring.

When Men Died Screaming
A mansion was built at the mouth of hell, raising the furor of legendary Rumptilkin.  A lengthy hillbilly-gang-rape-menacing scene takes up a big chunk of this one.

The Woman Who Killed For Satan
A ranting hobo inexplicably drives women to publicly strip naked for him, and the men who become aroused are engulfed in flame.  There's a War of the Worlds reference, as the hobo is able to take over the radio waves.

Valley of Corpses
We're getting past the prime of Weird Menace here in 1940.  Spooky ghosts and implied violence.

Scourge of the Faceless Man
Another 1940 tale.  The advantage of the Weird Menace pulps getting tamed down is that they also went off-formula.  A mutated form of leprosy takes over the town, and only magical mummy juice can grant immunity.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Teacher's Pet by Andrew Neiderman

Teacher's Pet
by Andrew Neiderman
1985, Zebra

A sinister tutor comes to a small town and works with some of the local children.  Their grades improve, but they are also groomed into a team of sociopaths.  They frame a teacher for pedophilia and hammer a student to death for bad-mouthing their tutor.  The end.

Low stakes stuff here.  You've got horror, then terror, then thriller, then suspense, and four more levels down you've got Teacher's Pet.  It might have not been so bad without the horror novel packaging, but then I wouldn't have read it in the first place.

I expected the tutor to be some full blown Svengali or Charles Manson or Lucifer, and instead he's Mystery from the Pick Up Artist.  His machinations get him a quickie with a bored housewife and that's about it.

Neiderman is capable of suspense, but there's none here.  After the one act of violence I expected some tension with the kids worrying about getting caught, turning on each other, etc., but no.  The tutor turns them in himself and moves to the next town.