Thursday, November 25, 2010

Knuckle Supper by Drew Stepek

If ever there was a book that captured the gritty, needle scratch and hiss of some of the greatest punk rock records, it's Drew Stepek's Knuckle Supper. This book holds enough raw power in it's pages to bring the memories of anyone who was involved in the punk rock scene of the '70s, '80s, and early '90s - screaming back with a vengeance, and is layered with a grimy, basement feel reminiscent of Penelope Spheeris' The Decline Of Western Civilization or Suburbia...with Vampires.

Los Angeles' drugs are run by the undead. When the LA heroin-addicted vampire and gang leader named RJ reluctantly takes in a twelve year-old prostitute called Bait, humanity is introduced to his otherwise lifeless existence. An unforgiving, vicious and realistic horror story, Knuckle Supper explores chemical dependency, inner-city brutality, religion, molestation, abortion and the very nature of evil itself.

You can see by the above synopsis that this book isn't your happy-go-lucky spin on a vampire tale. It's actually quite the opposite. While being peppered with some levity here and there, the core of the story is exactly what you just read - unforgiving, vicious, and realistic. There's nothing funny about teenaged prostitution, or the evils that befall those children that find themselves thrown out on the street, facing a life that isn't meant for anybody. In Knuckle Supper, Stepek balances the description of real life horrors with a somewhat uncanny ablity to infuse some silly and downright hilarious dialogue. The characters absolutely jump off the page, giving the novel a very comfortable feel - right before tearing your soul out and handing it to you for dinner.

I'm not going to pretend that this is your run of the mill novel. With all of the underlying themes and emotions running ranpant throughout the story, this book really hits hard - all while taking you on a whirlwind journey of chaos and...again...brutality. The characters are instantly likeable and addictive, but can also be completely despicable and loathesome. Stepek infuses a great deal of humanity into his monsters - tricking the reader into forgetting that they're actually reading about supernatural creatures. The sheer fact that, if one looks deep enough into their own city, you can find the exact same things happening right outside your door, only lends weight to the horror present in this piece of fiction.

Stepek obviously has a knack for writing descriptively driven scenes of horror, and will most likely be well received by modern horror readers looking for some gruesome scenes that will haunt them for a while. I, for one, had to re-read certain parts just to make sure that he did - in fact - go to the depths that he did. It was a very pleasant experience for someone who enjoys disgusting imagery. If you like to read fiction that pushes the envelope, you're going to want to pick this one up.

With this novel, Stepek and the publisher have joined forces with Children Of The Night - a private, non-profit orginaization that is dedicated to assisting children between the ages of 11 - 17 who are forced to prostitute on the streets for food to eat and a place to sleep. 10% of the hardcover sales, and $1 from every digital sale is donated to Children of the Night. This is a cause I'm positive we can all get behind. Check them out at www.childrenofthenight.org

You can grab this novel at a ton of places, and honestly - I suggest you do. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and am hard pressed to think of another book that affected me as much at this one did, in the past year.

Check out Knucle Supper on their Official website, on Facebook, Twitter, and grab the book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

PBH.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Red Sky by Nate Southard

Nate Southard's first full length effort feels like the work of a veteran horror writer, beginning with a solid punch to the gut - leaving the reader with the taste of blood in his mouth. Southard's writing will hurt you on many levels, and after reading Red Sky, I'm convinced that this is his goal.

When a bank job goes horrifically wrong, career criminal Danny Black leads his crew from El Paso into the deserts of New Mexico in a desperate bid for escape. With a psychopath and a hostage keeping a gutshot redneck company in the back seat, Denny soon finds himself with no choice but to hole up in an abandoned factory, the former home of Red Sky Manufacturing.

Surrounded by nothing and no one, Danny thinks he may have finally found some breathing room, a chance to think and to plan. Danny and his crew aren't the only living things in Red Sky, though. Something waits in the abandoned factory's shadows, something horrible and violent. Something hungry.

And when the sun drops, it will feast.

20 pages into this novel is all you will need to become a hardcore fan of Southard's style. The story is completely engrossing, the writing is absolutely perfect in it's combination of terrifying description and black humor, and the overwhelming and consistant sense of dread sends chills up your spine, riviting your eyes to the page throughout the entire novel. I would be hard pressed to come up with a single thing wrong with this book, it's that goddamned good.

Southard's characters are instantly likeable at the same time as being completely despicable. His ability to craft dialogue is impeccable. The characters in Red Sky actually say very little, but what dialogue Southard has chosen to include is obviously the best of the best. Known to be someone who writes and rewrites until the piece is as perfect as it can be, it's not hard to say that Southard has obviously worked his ass off, presenting the reading public with an incredibly awesome first novel. If this is any indication of what we can expect in the future, I'm locked in for life.

Red Sky also features 4 short stories that are absolutely compelling - sometimes funny - butmostly horrific. Senorita is a short about how far a man will go for the love of a young girl, reaching heights of brutality not often seen written this well; First Day is an awesome look at an employee's first day at a very special workplace; Inside The Box is a painful look at human trafficking that has a wicked surprise twist at the end; and The House On Toledo Street is a good ole boys tale revolving around the classic haunted house dare. Southard's take on all four tales is unique, brutal, and unquestionably genius. A great addition to this amazing book.

Fast, gritty, gruesome, and as hard-fucking-core as possible, Red Sky is definitely a novel worth it's weight - and then some. You can grab a limited edition copy from Thunderstorm books (only 110 copies are being printed) here, but you're going to have to move fast. At only $60 a pop, they're selling out wicked quick.

For more information on upcoming stories and books - visit Southard's website, and make sure you follow him on Twitter and/or Facebook.

PBH.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tales From The Crypt #9 by Papercutz

For someone who grew up with horror themed comics and trading cards as a kid, I was both wickedly excited and incredibly nostalgic when I received the 9th installment of Papercutz' Tales From The Crypt series. I'd read the 8th volume, which was the first in the series to introduce Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid - an instant favorite - and am thrilled to tell you all about the newest issue.

Here's a little run down before I start gushing all over the place.

In the three stories, the original Crypt-Keeper offers his twisted take on all the countless manifestations of the Wizard of Oz, including the long-running Broadway musical in Wickeder, a chilling tale about an off-shore oil rig disaster entitled Kill, Baby, Kill! and to the delight of countless fans, the much requested return of The Stinky Dead Kid, Glugg and his little dog in Dead Dog Dies!

I LOVE this series. I'm going to go further out there and tell you that I love everything that Papercutz is doing, but the parody stuff is by far my favorite. The stories are fast paced and fun, the characters are addictive, and the dialogue is hilarious. It's all in the vein of the old school, tongue-in-cheek, horror mags/comics that we all loved.

As mentioned before, this volume features the return of The Stinky Dead Kid. A favorite among fans, TSDK is a great parody of the YA hit Diary of a Wimpy Kid - but geared towards those kids (young and old) who have an affinity for something darker, and potentially more insidious. Papercutz pulls no punches when getting to the jokes either, making them the best in the business at what they do.

It would be a sin not to talk about the art involved in this publication. The first story - Dead Dog Dies - features some of the best ink I'm seen this side of anything. The style is both old school, but with a new school flair. It's heavy on the black lines, rich with shadow and texture, and amazingly eye catching. The dedication to detail in very appreciated, in that you actually pick up something new every time you glance at the panels. The rest of the book gives beautiful examples of how perfect the Old School (Kill, Baby, Kill) and the Newer School (Wickeder) comic styles are - when put together in one volume.

This graphic novel, while short (clocking in at 64 pages), is a fun read designed for fans of both artistic styles, and anyone looking for a quick jolt to satify an itch.

I urge you to check out Papercuts at their website. You can pick up their comics, graphic novels, and other fun stuff directly from them, at almost any bookseller (especially B&N), and online at Amazon.com.

And keep an eye out for more parodies, including: Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring, Dielight (A parody of Twilight that had me in stitches - TFTC #8) and more.

PBH.