Tag Archives: Graham Masterton

He’s most dangerous when he’s being pleasant.

29. 13 More Tales of Horror – A. Finnis, ed.

And so we shall commence the unholy terror that is the “Christmas in July” theme month. For the rest of this month, the YA horror will be set at Christmas and the mixtapes will be somewhat lackluster because I’m not really a fan of Christmas music. I tried. I really did. And I filled in some large gaps with Kauna’s deeply gloomy metal opus treatment of the Dyatlov Pass incident. Holiday spirit!

There are also sort of presents. Sort of in that they do not become presents unless you buy them and they are only available online. I am way more like Krampus than Santa, I do like hooves and horns and subversion. And if you want “presents” from me in person this year, come to SUPERCON July 12-15 in Fort Lauderdale and Geekcraft Expo St. Louis July 28&29. I won’t have my horns on, my hooves will be hidden, and I probably won’t bring my switch, so it’s painless every way but monetarily.

Present Number One – A very specific sale! Smashwords is having their 2018 Summer/Winter Sale (Hemispheres) and I have discounted the entire Squirrelpocalypse Trilogy by 25% !!! !!! !!! So, if you have been tempted to read my ridiculous trilogy of lab experiments, gore, and friendship, now would be a good time to get it. Take advantage until July 31!

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I mean, just imagine this on your virtual bookshelf for a total of $8.97. …$8.97? What have I done? Get It Here

We begin with a non-Christmas themed book, the second of the Point Horror short story collections, 13 More Tales of Horror, and the mixtape just includes one Christmasy thing – a song/sermon from the Reverend A.W. Nix from the “Death May Be Your Gift” Christmas compilation. Cheery!

“The Cat-Dogs” – Susan Price – So the font that they used for the title pages for each story is straight out of Scooby Doo. Thankfully many of the stories are a bit less predictable than the average Scooby episode. “The Cat-Dogs” is one way to learn the lesson of not bringing home any stray animals you find – especially not if you find them in a bag in the forest. Bringing them home just gives them a better chance to eat you and all your relatives. There was a particularly nice scene in the forest at night in this one. Disorienting.

“The Piano” – Diane Hoh – This is one seriously manipulative haunted piano.

“The Devil’s Footprints” – Malcolm Rose – This story was very weird and refreshing for me as an allergic asthmatic who has had many people say “I don’t smell anything” and “It’s fine” when my canary senses are firing on all cylinders telling me to run from the bad air. A Halloween party, a devil, a house computer named Brian that keeps warning the occupants only they don’t listen…it’s another metaphor for climate change that some people don’t want to listen to because they aren’t personally effected by it. Yet. I’m excited to see the hoof prints leading away from their house someday.

Murderface and Pickles would’ve listened to Brian the house computer.

“Softies” – Stan Nicholls – An interesting concept, but a bit smashed into the short story format. I could easily see this expanded with one of those “stuffed animal with a bloody knife” horror paperback covers. Would’ve been cool. As it is, it didn’t invoke my consistent childhood nightmare that my toys would get mad at me. Thanks a lot, Child’s Play TV trailer, they were all I had.

“The House That Jack Built” – Garry Kilworth – It is really hard to know what to do when you’re stuck by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. If you’re in the wrong place, you’ll end up as an evil talking house’s manservant.

“The Station With No Name” – Colin Greenland – One thing I haven’t mentioned is that this collection is very UK-specific. I’m used to my Point Horror being very U.S.-oriented because the U.S. is a major source for teenager-based horror in fiction and real life. But I did get my MA in England and London happens to be my favorite city on earth, so it wasn’t too hard for me to get into these. This story involved the UK version of tagging and a station that hadn’t been open since WWII…because it’s super haunted. “The bombers got the line.”

Murderface wonders about these children who can’t stop spray painting their own first name onto things. If it was her name or Pickles’ name she’d get it because those are cool names.

“Something to Read” – Phillip Pullman – True hell is not being able to turn the pages because you’re non-corporeal.

“Killing Time” – Jill Bennett – Don’t move that alarm clock, or you’ll have to answer to that creepy dude on the hill who keeps telling you the earth needs blood. Really, the old gods need to get some new tricks – like the ones that did the Christmas crafting on Supernatural. Wreaths and pipes for everyone followed by brutal tooth pulling and other assorted bleeding!

“J.R.E. Ponsford” – Graham Masterton – I always expect a level of vulgarity from Graham Masterton and frankly, this was downright sentimental. I was extremely perplexed when the characters died in a way that was borderline off-page for Masterton. What the hell, Graham? Vulgarity is totally for teens.

“The worst part was when he mentioned an ear turning to ‘red gristle.'” Pickles summarizes the grossest part of “J.R.E. Ponsford” for Murderface so she doesn’t have to be disappointed by Masterton for teens.

“The Buyers” – David Belbin – This was not a horror story, it was a kidnapping story that definitely needed more zazz. Now, I know that in the Library of Congress classification system kidnapping and murder are close together, but that’s not all you need for horror.

“Closeness” – Chris Westwood – Guarantees of “FOREVER” are not for the faint of heart. It’s almost always better when they turn out to be unintended lies in a relationship too.

“The Ring” – Margaret Bingley – I would say this was a case of “Be careful what you wish for,” but when Kate wanted that ring, she didn’t want it because she thought it would allow her to hear all the horrible things her family and friends were thinking about her on her birthday. She wanted it because it was pretty.

“Bone Meal” – John Gordon – Texas Chainsaw Massacre-light for the UK includes way more dusters. Dusters.

Murderface and Pickles never answered the door. So they never had to murder anyone just for showing up.

Mixtape:

1. “Skogens Hamnd” – Finntroll
2. “Under My Chin” – The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
3. “Cellophane” – METZ
4. “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” – Grinderman
5. “Moths” – Wolfmen of Mars
6. “Patterns of Evil” – Electric Wizard
7. “16 Psyche” – Chelsea Wolfe
8. “Someone’s in the Wolf” – Queens of the Stone Age
9. “King of Bones” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
10. “Evil” – Grinderman
11. “Scratch at Your Skin” – Ice Dragon
12. “Begin a New Life on Christmas Day, Pt. 1” – Rev. A.W. Nix

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“We had the best time at your party”

22. Scare Care – Graham Masterton, ed.

Graham Masterton, master of the vulgar description, is responsible for this short story collection. He established the “Scare Care Trust, a charity set up to fund organizations that help abused and endangered children” get access to vulgar descriptions. Not really. It’s a nice thing from the 1980s. I didn’t research whether or not the trust is still in operation because I am apparently heartless when it comes to endangered 1980s children. Sorry. I watched several of those farm accident videos. Desensitized. Never rest!

Baby Finny also doesn’t care about endangered 1980s children. He is not sorry. He didn’t even watch Apaches (Thank you, Grady Hendrix, for introducing me to Apaches, my mom has the silverware they’re setting the table for the “party” with).

Anyway, all the stories were donated and I shan’t go in to all 38 of them, but here are some of the ones that struck me in particular.

Kit Reed – “Mommy” – This story is based around the question: “Where did the hundred pounds she lost go?” Kit Reed is one author I will always read. She really is a master of feminist horror. Also, she validates many of my lifestyle choices as non-horrific, despite what others might say.

James Robert Smith – “Things Not Seen” – One of the more affecting stories, super short, super impact. “Do you think they’ll like Sonny?”

Ozma likes Baby Finny. She likes not-baby Finny now too.

James Herbert – “Breakfast” – Excellent, another short punch about a woman and her family in the post-apocalypse. Images that really get into your head. Very sticky.

C. Dean Anderson – “Night Watch” – This begins with a killer squirrel. We like that around here .

Jeff Gelb – “Family Man” – A nice little take about accidentally getting a nice ghost family when you buy a new house.

Baby Finny wants a ghost family. He’s not getting one.

Gile Gordon – “A Towpath Tale” – This was one of the more disturbing things I’ve read about a man and his bitch.

Brian Lumley – “David’s Worm” – Don’t let kids go into the garbage at your lab or they’ll become one with an amorphous blob they grew. He named it “Planny.” You can’t give things names or they’ll never go away. Think of Mr. Peppy on Futurama and always remember that lesson from Hermes.

Graham Masterton – “Changeling” – This reminded me of that Angel episode that introduced me to VAST. Gender-swapping as STD is a bit more disturbing, also, now I realize that It Follows owes a heavy debt to Angel’s first season.

Non-baby Finny is still not sorry. But he is interested in more horror-focused short story collections from the 1980s.

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“I learned it by watching YOU!”

9. Feast – Graham Masterton

Having spent a very, very, very small fraction of my childhood inside restaurants I didn’t like with my father, I can relate to some elements of Feast. I never stormed off to speak to a mysterious dwarf when he would ask me about school even though I only ever saw him over Fourth of July weekend, but I certainly rolled my eyes super hard and reminded myself I’d be going home to my own things soon enough. Being able to relate to any aspect of Feast probably seems terrible if you’ve read the book, but, whatever. It’s probably better that I didn’t get kidnap-inducted into a flesh-eating cult during one of those Fourth of July weekends. It’s not like I was doing anything fun instead. Mostly I was sneezing. Stupid summer.

I could also relate to seeing one’s father as selfishly involved in their own shit instead of interested in me, so, thanks for all the non-vulgar relatability for once, Graham. Thanks. Charles McLean, restaurant critic, and his son Martin are using their quality time as a vehicle for Charles to do work and Martin to be bored while eating in Connecticut. Charles finds out about and begins trying to get an invitation to a super underground restaurant that turns out to be a bit of a front…for a cannibal cult. A self-cannibalizing cult. See, eating yourself prepares you for meeting God, because cult-logic is the most solid kind.

It must be said that Feast was not as gross as I expected it to be. And I expected a lot because all the other Graham Masterton books I’ve read have at least one specifically disgusting or vulgar scene that just sticks in my head and will not leave (olive oil, dog in a pool, fishnets *shudder*); but Feast didn’t have one of those for me. Guess I got too caught up in the relatively ancient hype this time.

Sure, Horace will join your cult. After he finishes napping on his froggy. You're not his real dad.

Sure, Horace will join your cult. After he finishes napping on his froggy. You’re not his real dad.

 

 

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This one time, I got to my anthropology class before the previous class was done and got to see a slide of a very burnt body that reminded me of Pillsbury crescent rolls when you pop the packaging.

10. Spirit – Graham Masterton

Oh, Graham. Jeebus. I am a big fan of the Snow Queen fairytale, especially Kelly Link’s version “Travels with the Snow Queen” from Stranger Things Happen (no one will ever regret reading this short story collection, so, I unabashedly recommend it); and this was the second Graham “master of the vulgar description that gets stuck in your head and makes you basically forget most of the plot” Masterton book I’ve read, so I feel like I was prepared when I read this, but I was quite taken aback by the olive oil scene. Totally prepared for the frostbitten to a crisp man scene [insert Pillsbury Doughboy giggle], not the olive oil. Why was that even in there? Anyway, it was an interesting take on the Snow Queen, and the perils of regret and losing a child, and ghosts, and girls named Peggy and a primer on things that should not happen with cooking oils… Hard frown.

“They did what with olive oil?” Belvedere, perpetually too young to read Graham Masterton books. I wouldn’t even let his mother Murderface read a Graham Masterton book and she was a very advanced pig.

“They did what with olive oil?” Belvedere, perpetually too young to read Graham Masterton books. I wouldn’t even let his mother Murderface read a Graham Masterton book and she was a very advanced pig.

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Rites of Spring

2. Walkers – Graham Masterton

Druids! Lunatics! Lunatics who think they are Druids because they harnessed the power of ley lines by reading about them while cooped up in an insane asylum versus a muffler shop owner – this book was not what I expected. I also did not expect it to be set between Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was wacky. And strangely vulgar in places. I now know things I did not want to know about fishnets. I can now visualize what it looks like to find a drowned two headed dog in a bag floating in a pool. Eek.

The main strength of this book can be found in the many, many descriptions of gross things and its full commitment to the wacky premise. The main weakness of this book is that the characters sound like British people imported into their setting when I’m supposed to believe they’re American. For example (and I’m currently reading another Masterton book set in the 1950s U.S. that bothers me for the same reasons) no one born in the U.S. has ever said “Hallo” (that’s just not our tone) to me in Wisconsin or referred to their trunk as a “boot.”  A different kind of boots tend to take precedence in Wisconsin, especially during the freakishly cold, neverending winter that happened this year. Masterton is a British author and he has the same problem that was repeatedly brought up to me while finishing my MA in England – we use different words for things – it’s not a huge problem…but because of my experience, everything that didn’t ring true to U.S. custom stuck out like a pack of sore thumbs waiting to be scraped on concrete. I spent quite a few workshop sessions explaining what things like “twin beds” were or explaining how we can buy two liters but don’t regularly use the metric system and that hindered my ability to receive a critique that had something to do with my writing instead of my culture. Of course, I was there during the Iraq War and U.S.icans were not popular, and that put me at a disadvantage in more situations than I expected. I was also twenty-two, which seemed like a good secondary excuse for some people not to take me very seriously. One thing that I can take away from that experience and reading this is that translating cultural norms was not as important to the editors of this book as it was to my workshop and I, like many readers, would appreciate someone going the extra mile in terms of cultural research – I certainly would never confuse a biscuit with a cookie if I was writing a novel set in England and I’d put the spare tyre in the boot if need be. So, you can be as wacky with your premise as you like, but if your dialogue sounds wrong every time people meet, it’s going to hurt my ability to believe in homicidal maniacs having the ability to move through the walls and make that “Sssssssshhhhhhh” sound as described.

Danger Crumples will show you wacky.

Danger Crumples, his own brand of Druish princess.

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