Rabid Reads: "Voice" by Joseph Garraty

Voice
by Joseph Garraty
Ragman Press LLC (2011)
354 pages
ISBN 0983711704
If you could, would you strike a deal with the devil to achieve your greatest ambition? Sometimes when you look at a Hollywood A-lister, or a wheelin’ dealin’ politician, or one of those tycoons on Wall St., you have to wonder if maybe, just maybe, some signed their own names on the dotted line. In Joseph Garraty’s debut novel, Voice, is an aspiring rock star named John Tsiboukas who gets his wish … for a price.
Voice isn’t just about John, who after gaining his voice adopts the persona of Johnny Tango, but also looks at what happens through the eyes of his bandmates. In particular, his new lead guitarist, Stephanie Case, whom he lured into the ragtag band after hearing her play her heart out with an even less talented band than John’s. Along with their bass player, Quentin, and John’s brother Danny on drums, they are Ragman. And with Johnny Tango leading the charge, the derelict band soon gains fans, paying gigs, and a rocketship to stardom. All the while, a sinister, seedy looking man named Douglas watches on, and Johnny’s voice starts to do more than just belt out the hits.
Voice is a strong debut that offers an authenticity with its rock-and-roll backdrop, as Garraty is a musician himself. And his characters really jump off the page at times, especially Case with her brassy onstage demeanor and take-no-bullshit attitude offstage. In fact, the book really felt like it was her story more than it did Johnny’s while reading it, thanks to her budding friendship with a coworker to whom Case becomes an informal self-defense instructor, plus the simmering sexual tension between her and John’s brother–John’s married brother. Through some of this subplot though, the pace and direction of the novel loses is lost at times, or at least diverted on tangents from time to time.
The behind the scenes view of a struggling rock band was pulled off quite well by Garraty, but I’ve never immersed myself in music culture, so a lot of the lingo and scenarios were foreign to me. The jargon can be a bit of a stumbling block, but without it, there’d be a lot less to give this story its tangibility.
It’s a good book, and a genuine surprise when I was expecting something more conventional with the timeworn premise of “selling your soul.”

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Filed under book review, horror, Joseph Garraty, Rabid Reads, rock music, Voice

Chasing Tale for November 1st, 2011: Peter Crowther, N.K. Jemison, Kelli Owen …

I am not goingto complain about the cold this year. At all. That being said, I havegotten two colds so far this fall. Maybe it’s like the recession andit was just the same one that turned into a double-dip. That,however, was my own fault. I will not blame the weather. Afterthose sweltering days of summer, I welcome the impending snow stormswith welcome arms. I’m built like a polar bear, so that helps. Allyou skin-and-bones types are on your own.
If I will complainabout anything it is that I don’t have an open fire by which to readby books. That’s something I have never done in my life. I’ve neverlived anywhere that had a fireplace, at least not a functioning one.Wood stoves, sure, but not a fireplace with a quaint mantlepiecepropping up stiffly-orchestrated family photos and darts trophies.Someday, perhaps. Until then, I’ll settle for that TV channel thatcomes on in December with the crackling fire and incessant Christmascarols.
Heading intowinter, here are some of the books I’ll be reading sans fireplace:

Darkness Falling byPeter Crowther Angry Robot Books is only acouple years old now, but they’ve already got quite an impressivelooking library. One of their most recent releases is this horrortale about a small town becoming possessed one person at a time.Sounds creepy as heck and ought to be a fun, spooky read.

The First Husband byLaura Dave -Fridays on Twitter, Iusually tweet what my #fridayreads are for that week. I had no ideathere was a book giveaway attached, so imagine my surprise when I wasannounced as a winner. The book isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I’llgive it a chance then hand it off to one of the ladies in the family.Guaranteed someone will enjoy it.

TheHundred Thousand Kingdomsby N.K. Jemisin– Kat over at No PageLeft Behind sent me a paperback of this much-heralded fantasynovel. A fantasy involving kings and gods and a power struggle thatthreatens everything. Neat. It’s the first book in a trilogy, so ifit’s good then that means I have yet another series to get hooked on.
TheNew Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn andTheGentling Box byLisa MannettiLisa sent me signedcopies of these two books, which is wonderful as I covet her work. Inow have two signed copies of TheGentling Box: myoriginal Dark Hart Press edition from 2008 and now the ShadowfallPublications edition from last year. I shall hoard them both.
TheNeighborhood byKelli Owen -I won this signed chapbook from DreadfulTales (formerly Paperback Horror). I’ve yet to read Kelli’s work, but PatDreadful and the gang approve, and I’ve heard her guest spots on GregHall’s The Funky Werepig and she is a hoot. Plus, Brian Keene put herover as a writer to watch, so there’s that too.
Demons byJohn Skipp (editor) -A big thanks to Darkeva’s DarkDelights for sending me a copy of this very cool lookinganthology. This book is brand new, but I literally hadn’t heard of ituntil Darkeva told me about it. I’m a sucker for a good themedanthology, and this one ought to be good. When the contributingauthors is as diverse as Charles Beaumont, Neil Gaiman, BentleyLittle, and Alethea Kontis, it’s gottabe good.

So there’s the new crop added to my reading pile. What did you snag this past month?

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Filed under Angry Robot Books, books won, Chasing Tale, e-books, John Skipp, Kelli Owen, Laura Dave, Lisa Mannetti, N.K. Jemison, Peter Crowther

Rabid Reads: "Shock Totem #4" edited by K. Allen Wood

Shock Totem #4
edited by K.Allen Wood
131 pages
Shock TotemPublications (2011)
ISBN9781463754709
Lee Thompson was charitable enough to give away a few copies of ShockTotem’s latest issue and I was lucky enough to snag one. When itcomes to periodicals, I buy the electronic versions exclusivelybecause of shipping costs to Canada, so this was a real treat. Ibought and read a Kindle edition of Shock Totem #1 not toolong ago and was eager to read some more.
This time around there was a very diverse ensemble of authors fromvarying backgrounds, with established names like Weston Ochse, aswell as first publications for authors like Tom Bordonaro. There’salso a couple of interviews, one with Kathe Koja that turns into anopining on the state of publishing today, and a chat with one of thisissue’s contributing authors, Renny Sparks, that includes discussionabout her music career. And one of the missing sections from digitaleditions is the book review portion, with some interesting looks onbooks, films, and albums by John Boden, Robert J. Duperre, and thewitticisms of Ryan Bridger. There’s also a brief essay by headhoncho, K. Allen Wood, that provides a surprising punch to thestomach.
As far as the stories are concerned, this issue begins with a tragicgem by Lee Thompson called “Beneath the Weeping Willow,”about Davey, a young autistic boy’s ordeals within his family as heand his older brother, Jacob, cope with the break-up of theirparents’ marriage. The story is told in the rare second-personperspective, which is a hard nut to crack, but Lee seemed to have theperfect story in which to use it. As for the relationship betweenDavey and Jacob, it’s heartbreaking and all too believable.
From there, we jump into the absurd with the debut story of TomBordonaro, “Full Dental,” about an office worker at hiswit’s end over the demonic coworkers he must work alongside. Tomwanted to approach this story in the same way you might approach asketch comedy routine, and I think he hits just the right note withthe juxtaposition of bloody mayhem and office politics.
I think my favorite story of the bunch came from a very short storyby Michael Penkas called “Dead Baby Day.” Now, before youget your quills up, the title is a tad misleading. It’s really abouttwo brothers. Unlike, Lee Thompson’s Davey and Jacob, Michael’s Lukeand Mark don’t have quite so caustic a relationship. Mark does ribhis little brother about his origins as they lay in their beds. Youknow how big brothers are sometimes: a-holes. Well, Luke’simagination starts running wild when Mark tells him about Dead BabyDay, which happens to fall on Luke’s birthday. Creepy, funny stuff.
There’s plenty more packed into the 130 pages and is a kind ofthree-ring circus for dark fiction. Don’t like the clown car? Thenstick around for the lion tamer. And make sure you read Cafe DoomCompetition winner’s story, “Fade to Black,” by JaelitheIngold. It feels a tad predictable at first, but the ending remediesthat.

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Filed under book review, horror, Lee Thompson, Rabid Reads, Shock Totem, short stories

AND THE WINNERS ARE …

The Return of the Monster Movie Marathon was a great success, in my opinion. A ton of great contributions from a diverse crowd. Thanks again to everyone who participated. I’ll try to bring all the links together in a single post soon.

For now, however, it’s time to announce some winners.

The winner of the audiobook copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is: Anthony J. Rapino!

 The winner of the trade paperback copy of Cthulhurotica is: Mark Devery!

 The winner of a monster book of their choice via Book Depository is: Darlene!

The winner of a signed trade paperback of The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is: Maegan Morin!

And the winner of the digital edition of The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is: Christine Davis! 

I will be contacting all of the winners shortly. Thank you to everyone who entered, and hopefully I’ll be able to offer you at least one more giveaway before Christmas. Fingers crossed. Until then, I hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween!

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Filed under Book Depository, book giveaway, Cthulhurotica, Lisa Mannetti, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, winners

Critters: a guest post by Dylan Duarte

The guest posts aren’t quite over yet. I have one more bonus post from a blog reader who contacted me at the start of the marathon asking to take part. Who am I to refuse when the subject is Critters, one of my guilty pleasures. Enjoy.

… and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Critters
by Dylan Duarte
I grew up in the 80s without any cable. The rabbit ears we slapped on top of the television gave us a few channels, but most of my time in front of the television was spent re-watching old VHS tapes that we acquired from God knows where. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was on one of those tapes, which explains my undying love for the Paul Reubens character. Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive was on another tape, or maybe even the same as Pee Wee, so that was another film I watched repeatedly. There are certain scenes ingrained into my memory. I’ll never forget the scene where the vending machine shoots a soda at the baseball coach’s crotch, or the driver-less ice cream truck, or Stephen King’s cameo, where the ATM calls him an asshole. I don’t know how I knew who Stephen King was way back then, but I did.

These films shaped me, for better or worse, but none of them had an impact like the 1986 science fiction horror Critters. Like a lot of horror films, especially from that era, the main protagonist was a kid, Brad Brown. Brad was played by actor Scott Grimes, who was fifteen years old at the time. Grimes’s biggest roles to date have been Dr. Archie Morris on ER, Will McCorkle on Party of Five, and Tech Sergeant Donald Malarkey on the critically-acclaimed HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. I was never a fan of ER or Party of Five, but when I spotted him on Band of Brothers, I immediately jumped on the internet to see if he was the kid from Critters, which he obviously was.

Despite the impact the film had on me, there are bits and pieces I don’t remember, but I do remember plenty. I remember Brad, I remember Charlie, the town drunk, I remember the Critters themselves, and I remember the shape-shifting bounty hunters that were sent to clean them up. And I even remember Billy Zane, though at the time I didn’t know who he was.

Critters were the reason that I never watched my back for monsters, I watched my feet. And there small size was deceptive. It made them harder to spot and ultimately harder to kill. They were wily, fast, and while you were focused on killing one of them, a dozen more would make their move.

There’s a moment in the film in which Helen Brown (Dee Wallace-Stone) is watching dishes in the kitchen. Their sink, like most, is situated in front of a window, and Helen peers out into the night as she cleans. Suddenly, she spots something moving and becomes frightened. She might’ve screamed, I’m not sure. She thinks it’s an animal, we know it’s a critter. To this day, I grow slight uneasy when looking out my kitchen window at night. It could be for a multitude of reasons, but that scene in Critters will always stick in my mind.

And then there’s the matter of my childhood bed. When I was a child, my bed was very low to the ground. It had a frame, but one that barely lifted it. I imagine a lot of kids had similar beds, for accessibility reasons. My bed was adjacent to the door, which stayed open at night. I would lie in bed, facing the doorway, and peer out into the hallway. We had night lights in the hallway, but they only made it worse. A lot of kids prefer night lights, and I’m sure I did to some extent, but they were not without their downside. The light is great, but it’s where the light stops that’s truly terrifying, that wall that fades into darkness. So there I was, every night, at Critter feeding level, staring out across the carpet into the outskirts of the light, watching for those glowing red eyes.


Guest author Dylan Duarte is crazy about film, the written word, and potted meat. He writes on a variety of subjects, including Halloween costumes. He can be reached at dylnduarte@gmail.com.

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Filed under Critters, Dylan Duarte, guest post, monster movie marathon

My Five Favorite Monsters from Childhood

Oh what a monthit’s been here on the blog with a slew of great contributions fromauthors and bloggers. Look, if you haven’t had a chance to pore overthe Monster Movie Marathon guest posts, I urge you to do so becauseeverybody did a fantastic job. So many aspects of monster movies werecovered, and monsters in general, and because of that I kind of feellike I should apologize for taking the tone to a kindergarten level.But it is my blog after all, so if I want to reminisce aboutmy childhood some more, I will.
I didn’t become abig fan of monsters until probably my teen years, but the seed wassewn way back when I was a little boy. Looking back there were a slewof monsters I saw in movies and on television–not to mention thechildren’s books–so I thought I’d offer up a fave five list of myfavorite monsters from childhood. Don’t tell me there aren’t at leasta couple from your childhood too, that you hold dear.
5) Gizmo(Gremlins): I wasprobably ten years old when I first saw Gremlinsand lemme tell ya, when those cuddly critters ate after midnight andmetamorphosed they freaked me right out of my own skin. I think JimHenson’s Workshop worked on the character design for these guys(correct me if I’m wrong). In any case, Gizmo was absolutelyadorable. I mean come on, don’t tell me you didn’t want one just likehim when you were a kid. Sure, they were higher maintenance than aprize poodle, but what dog could compete with such a cute littleface.
Andif you consider Gremlins2 the cuteness factoronly skyrockets. Remember the scene where he straps on the redbandana like Rambo and starts fashioning his own bow and arrows.Effin’ sweet. Yes, the movie was kind of crap–but in a good way.
4) Beast Man (He-Manand the Masters of the Universe):When I comes across the occasional episode of He-Manwhile channel surfing, Ihave a hard time figuring out just what the heck I loved so muchabout that show. The animation was recycled to a ridiculous degree,the plots were utterly silly, and talk about an unrealistic settingof the bar for a boy with body image issues. The entire male cast ofthis show had to be on some magical form of steroids.
Anyway,one of the many thugs under Skeletor’s employ was Beast. He was anorange, musclebound halfwit that got thrown around by He-Man probablymore than any other villain–maybe Lockjaw took more thumpings perepisode, but it’d be a close call. Still, the character design wasgreat, and despite being an ineffectual villain the guy struck animposing image when on screen. Of course, he’d open his mouth and theintimidation factor went out the window, but the same could be saidfor every characteron that show. I have a soft spot for the orange galoot though, so Ihad to put him on the list.
3) The TazmanianDevil (Looney Tunes): Lessmonster than marsupial perhaps, but I say the adorable holy terrorcounts so he’s on the list. He’s dumb as a post with sharp claw andteeth, and a ravenous appetite for destruction. Honestly, Daffy Duckhas long been my favorite WB cartoon character, but I’ve got a softspot for Taz. He was one of the villains that I rooted for as achild. Him and Wile E. Coyote.
My memory is a bit foggy, but I don’t think there were many vignettesmade with Taz. I should hit YouTube and see what I can find. Lordknows there are a ton of Coyote sketches. But they’d have to be fromthe early era of WB for me to enjoy them. All the cartoons they didafter 1960 really lost their appeal. It’s those ones from the 40s and50s that are really special to me, in terms of animation style andtone. Sigh, now I really need to go find a Tazmanian Devil cartoon.
2) The Wolfman(Hilarious House of Frightenstein) -I’m not sure if anyone outside of Canada even got this show. Maybe acouple New England stations. Anyway, this was one of my absolutefavorite kids shows when I was growing up. Hosted by VincentPrice–yes, THE Vincent Price–it was basically a sketch comedy andvariety show. There was Dracula, Igor, Frankenstein, the Witch, and afew other zany characters. The vast majority of which were played byone man. But the character I dug the most was the Wolfman
I don’t know who was doing the make-up for this show, but the Wolfmanwas one of the most convincing jobs on the show. And for a campyCanadian children’s show that’s a remarkable achievement. The Wolfmanwas the house DJ of sorts, spitting out a whole lot of radio discjockey cliches with some punny monster gags, then he’d play a classicrock song. Maybe there was some disco thrown in–it was an oldshow–but I’ve blocked those memories out. Throw in a psychedelicbackdrop as he and Igor danced to the songs, and the sketch was justmesmerizing for a kid like me.
1) Super Grover(Sesame Street): I couldhave populated this entire list with Jim Henson’s Muppets, but Iforced myself to keep it to one. Just about everything I loved aboutSesame Streethad something to do with monsters. There was the two-headed monsterwho fought with itself, the aliens who beamed into homes and marveledover household objects, and Cookie Monster of course. Picking onethat was a constant joy to watch though, I gotta go with Grover. Notjust Grover. SuperGrover!
Groverhad to be the most artless andlikablecharacters on SesameStreet.He was a dimwit and a clutz, but so genuine a personality it wasimpossible not to smile when he was on TV. The little sketches whereGrover talked to little kids were surreal in that I could easilysuspend disbelief, ignoring it was just some guy with a hand puppet.That was Jim Henson’s magic, though. Those Muppets, more often thannot, felt as real as the people on the show. So when Grover put on ared cape and a steel helmet to become Super Grover, my eyes wereglued to the screen.
Well, there’s my list. I’m interested to know what you’re list mightlook like, so feel free to leave a comment and share what yourfavorite monsters were when you were a little kid.

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Filed under childhood, fave five, Gremlins, He-Man, Hilarious House of Frankenstein, monster movie marathon, monsters, Sesame Street, Taz

Rabid Reads: "Benjamin’s Parasite" by Jeff Strand

Benjamin’s Parasite
223 pages
ISBN 9781934546123
Purchase via: Amazon / Book Depository
It’s been a little while since I read a book that nearly made me retch. If I was keeping a daily tally on how long it’s been since the last time a book managed to make me a bit queasy, I’d have to set it back to zero now. It’s not a gore fest, mind you, but there were just a couple scenes that really made me cringe. Body horror has a way of doing that to me. What kind of horror fan am I?
So, this is a novel about Benjamin Wilson–and his parasite. Well, technically it’s not his, so much as it’s the property of a top secret project, and it just happens to wind up inside Benjamin after a tangled series of events, which is capped off with him having to shoot one of his students in self-defense when the boy goes on a seemingly random psychotic rampage. After that traumatic event, he begins to experience some strange cravings and inhibitions are lowered. Basically his every latent compulsion and desire is coming to the surface, sometimes when he’s not even aware of it.
Then there’s that searing pain in his stomach.
This novel is a quick, crazy read. And, it’s not just a horror novel, as there is a wild kind of road story to it, too. That’s because Benjamin is saved early on from certain death by a femme fatale bountyhunter who abducts him and tries to get him to the folks responsible for the parasite, so they can get it out of him. There are others who are aware of the parasite too though, and will stop at nothing to get it–whether Benjamin lives or dies in the process. Gunfights, car chases, double crosses, etc.
Benjamin is an amiable character and easy to root for, but there are moments when he is hip deep in the action and it feels like he is just taking it all in stride. Like, he’s in such an incredibly unheard of onslaught of circumstances and he still maintains an aloof sense of humor at times. Most of the time he is freaking out and scared shitless, so that helps, but his wisecracking feels overdone once in a while.
Other than that gripe, this is great pulpy horror/action novel, and it served as a great sample of Jeff Strand’s work. I’m eager to read more of his work down the road.

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Filed under Benjamin's Parasite, book review, comedy, horror novels, Jeff Strand, monsters, Rabid Reads, sci-fi novels