I have to admit, my fascination with witches has extended to Witchy-Poo from Bugs Bunny, Hocus Pocus and the TV show, Charmed, mostly because it had Alyssa Milano.
When it came to witches in horror fiction, I hadn’t even dipped my toes in the water until I read Brian Moreland’s THE WITCHING HOUSE, which was so good, I knew in an instant I was hooked on a sub genre. It came just in time, because I was getting pretty damn bored with vampires and zombies.
So imagine my delight when I found out that fellow Samhainer, Catherine Cavendish, came out with her own witch’s brew of horror, THE PENDLE CURSE. It only took two pages for me to realize I was in the capable hands of someone who is at the top of their game, and with that, I settled in for one of the best novels of this very young year.
Four hundred years ago, ten convicted witches were hanged on Gallows Hill. Now they are back…for vengeance.
Laura Phillips’s grief at her husband’s sudden death shows no sign of passing. Even sleep brings her no peace. She experiences vivid, disturbing dreams of a dark, brooding hill, and a man—somehow out of time—who seems to know her. She discovers that the place she has dreamed about exists. Pendle Hill. And she knows she must go there.
But as soon as she arrives, the dream becomes a nightmare. She is caught up in a web of witchcraft and evil…and a curse that will not die.
As someone who has a chronically ill wife, my biggest fear is losing her. So right away, I’m completely sympathetic to Laura, a woman trying to cope with the loss of her husband. There’s a little touch of a ghost story here, too, just enough to make you wonder what’s coming next and to feel her pain and curiosity about the strange things happening in her home.
Cavendish expertly takes us on a ride between past and present as Laura is cast under the spell of the Pendle Curse. A simple trip to get away from things and heal turns into an absolute nightmare. She does a fantastic job creating what could have been cookie cutter characters into fully fleshed out human beings with strengths and faults that make you love them one minute and hate them the next. I literally had no idea what was going to happen, and for someone who knows how the sausage is made, this is high praise indeed.
Now, the witches in The Pendle Curse aren’t sporting warts or riding around on brooms, but they are terrifying in their own right. And there’s a little something extra within these pages for fans of classic VC Andrews yarns. I’m not giving away any spoilers, because you have to get the book and read it yourself.
Catherine Cavendish is now on my top 10 list. I give it 5 out of 5 brooms!
File this one under “How didn’t I think of this first?” Keith Rommel’s latest book. THE DEVIL TREE, is a story so strange and compelling, I can’t believe it flew under my radar! Thankfully, the true story has gotten the full horror treatment by a master at the top of his game.
I mean, Jeez, the name alone is worth the price of admission (or Ebook/print). The fact that the actual tree still stands in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the scars of its sordid history visible on its bark, makes this tale all the more chilling.
Over the past couple of years, Keith Rommel has become a true friend – a friend I’m envious of because he can walk to Mets spring training games. Yes, I can drive 20 minutes to CitiField to see them during the regular season and playoffs (fingers crossed), but spring training is something special. Kinda like Keith, and just like The Devil Tree.
Based on the Port St. Lucie Legend …
Back in the 1970s, a series of bizarre incidents occurred at what has since been known as “The Devil Tree.” Beneath this ancient denizen, evil was wrought by a sick serial killer, calling upon forces most evil and dark. People were hung there … and bodies buried there … exhumed by the police. Overcome by superstition, some tried to cut down the tree, to no avail. Since then, it has stood in a remote section of a local park — left to its own devices — quiet in its eerie repose — until now!
Best-selling psychological-thriller author Keith Rommel has imagined the whole tale anew. He’s brought the tree to life and retold the tale with gory detail only possible in a fiction novel. Action-packed, with spine-tingling detail, this thriller is beyond parallel in the ground it uncovers … one author’s explanation of what may have really been said — what may have really happened — under Port St. Lucie’s “Devil Tree.”
Now, I’ve talked to Keith about the writing of this book. Basically, it was like a fever that came over him, and the only prescription was….not more cowbell…but to write until his fingers bled. In just a few weeks, he wove a fictional story around the tapestry of truth, plucking the most sinister aspects of what happened at the Devil Tree and amping up the scares. This is his most visceral book to date, a departure from his previous work, and he nails it.He even includes pictures taken of the tree in its current state. To me, the scariest stories are always the one that contain a kernel of truth. This one has enough kernels to send tiny demons dancing up your spine.
What happens at The Devil Tree is not for the faint of heart. Read the book, then visit the old, twisted tree if you can find it. Just don’t try to bring harm to the tree, and cleanse yourself in holy water when you’re done.
Visit Keith Rommel’s website to learn more and order your copy today!
Hola from the land of ice and snow. I’ve been shoveling and chopping ice daily for a month now. Still not fed up with winter, even though we’re just a few inches shy of the all time record of 70 inches for a season. I think my parents adopted me from an eskimo family.
The good thing about being trapped in the house is that I have plenty of time to get things done, writing-wise. I’m going over the final page proofs for THE MONTAUK MONSTER, just handed in the sequel to SINISTER ENTITY and I’m on day 3 of working on my next thriller for Pinnacle. I’m hoping this one will induce palpitations and night sweats.
Amidst all this, I was thrilled to see the very first review for my upcoming novella, THE WAITING, over at Horror Novel Reviews. I think I have to put the reviewer, Tim Meyer, in the will or something. The book is a little over a month away, so this was a nice early surprise present.
Here are the tasty bits of the review…
The Waiting is one of Hunter’s best, most personal works to date.
…has all the makings for a classic ghost story.
Hunter’s style implants moving images in your brain that captures your mind, making his words nearly impossible to put down.
This novella has relatable characters, an engaging plot, and a creepy little boy I hope stays inside Hunter’s novella and the hell away from my house. Go read it!
To check out the entire review, click here.
And for those intrigued, here’s a picture of the actual where the phantom boy in The Waiting has been seen on and off for the past 20 years.
OK, time to buy Demi Lovato tickets for my daughter. Life can’t all be ghosts and monsters.
I get asked to read self published books all the time. Over the years, I’ve grown a tad leery of self-pubbed works, unless they come from the minds of traditionally published authors who are taking full advantage of the changes in publishing today. You can find some great work out there by fantastic, long established writers like Scott Nicholson or J.A. Konrath. They take the time to create slick covers and, most of all, edit their books like the pros they are.
Well, my take on self-pubbed books was thrown on its ear after reading Tim Meyer’s In The House of Mirrors. This is a book I could see published by any of the big, medium or small houses. It’s his third book and proof positive that he’s a writer with a big future ahead of him.
When Ritchie Naughton, amateur photographer, stumbles upon a house in the woods, strange things start happening. His camera captures images that should not exist, things that cannot be explained. Soon, he’ll realize that the people of Red River, New Jersey are in terrible danger. A darkness grows within the house, threatening them all.
The House of Mirrors is open, and once you see yourself in, there’s no way out…
Let me start by saying that Ritchie Naughton is no hero. This guy is a true everyman; a man down on his luck with a newly diagnosed heart problem, no place to live and a writing career that’s firmly in the shitter.
He moves back home to live with his sister in New Jersey, and after a month of self imposed exile, goes out seeking a job, any job, to kick start his life. He finds one, as a photographer of all things, at a small town paper. Down in the musty basement, he comes across a camera to use for his new job – a Denlax. Never heard of it? Neither has he or anyone he meets.
It turns out, the Denlax has a dark air of mystery about it. It takes pictures, sure, but sometimes, there’s a little something extra, like black spots that cover people’s faces or an old man in front of a crumbling house that wasn’t there when the picture was taken.
Ritchie and his Denlax delve deep into the muck after he agrees to do some side work as a private eye for his uncle. He stumbles into a Satanic cult and falls in love (or lust) with a pretty new cult member. From here on in, things get very, very strange. We’re talking evil circus, netherworlds, black magic and demons from other worlds. Holy crap, this book has everything!
The best part is the writing. Meyer has a very deft hand at building his characters. You really feel for Ritchie and he newfound friend, Chris. The editing is far better than 99% of self-pubbed books. The tension and horror build with precision until you’re left reeling through the last 40 or so pages. I devoured this book and will go back to get his previous two, Demon Blood and The Thin Veil.
Tim Meyer also has a podcast called Splatter Chatter where he talks all things horror. Click here to visit his website, check out his books or listen to his podcast. It’s the perfect place to gear up for the Halloween season that will be here before you know it.
I decided to use this month’s column to devote to one book. I was recently given a chance to take a sneak peek at the latest zombie book, Warm Bodies, this one by newcomer Isaac Marion. At first, I was both excited and reluctant to read it. I love a good zombie story, don’t get me wrong here. It’s just that it seems the zombie wave has crested and is heading back out to sea. It all started, as far as I’m concerned, with Brian Keene’s master work, The Rising, in tandem with 28 Days Later (and the even better,28 Weeks Later). Life was good. Great new minds had picked up where George Romero left off and the horror hound public was better for it.
Then came the deluge. Over the past 3 years, it seems like every other horror movie is about zombies and there are enough awfully written undead books out there to stoke a mountain sized furnace. Granted, there are still some gems (Dead Snow, and World War Z come to mind), but I, like so many others, had grown weary and leery of the genre.
So while I was away on a quick vacation a couple of weeks ago, I decided, what the hell, let’s give this Warm Bodies a shot. If anything, it will be the gravemarker on the genre for me. Two pages in made me realize just how wrong I was.
Warm Bodies is the story of R, a zombie experiencing a sort of mid-death crisis. R lives in an abandoned jet at an airport with his zombie wife and kids. A council of older, more intelligent zombies assigned the makeshift family of the dead to him. During a raid for food (you know, the human kind) in the city, R comes across a beautiful young girl, Julie. After ripping her boyfriend to pieces, he inexplicably saves her from the sloppy zombie feast and brings her back to his home/jet.
Sounds crazy? You’re damn straight, it does. But here’s the best part. The writing is beautiful. I can honestly say, this is the first literary treatment of the zombie genre. Want to hear something even crazier? It’s a love story. That’s right, a love story between a zombie and a living girl. It may be the most poignant, heartbreaking, uplifting love story you read all year. Wow, that even looks crazy when I read it.
Isaac Marion has managed to do the impossible, breathe new, original life into the dessicated lungs of a genre that’s drying faster than Norman Bates’s mother. It’s a book about love, transformation, fear and triumph over the numbness of our souls. It’s already being made into a movie that should be out next year.
I’m giving Warm Bodies two meat clevers up and adding Isaac Marion to my Must Read list!