Monday, February 21, 2011

The Frenzy Way by Gregory Lamberson

Renowned police Captain Anthony Mace  is a media darling after his apprehension of the Full Moon Killer.  His superiors place their full faith behind him as a new killer begins to ravage New York.   The useable clues are sparse and as the mangled decapitated corpses begin to grow in number Mace begins to fear what the truth may be. 
“Mace’s body tingled.  Standing there, he felt overwhelmed by the notion that his team had caught a case that could destroy careers as easily as it could make them, and he regretted being a departmental middleman.”
Gregory Lamberson’s The Frenzy Way is a modern piece of pulp fiction.  This is meant to be a compliment.  The story follows Anthony Mace as he tracks a werewolf serial killer through New York.  One of Lamberson’s greatest accomplishments with the novel is he keeps the investigative elements fresh and exciting even though the  reader is in procession of more information than the main protagonist.  This is accomplished by the breadth and detail of the scenes where Mace investigates the carnage of the werewolf.  In each scene a new element is revealed, while not always helping Mace they bring the reader deeper into Lamberson’s world.    Mace’s character is supported by the enigmatic werewolf hunters John Stalk and Pedro Phillipe.  While interaction between the three characters is very limited their actions work to fully flesh out Lamberson’s world. 
A werewolf novel is difficult to write.  This is evident by how few novels there are regarding the classic creatures.  While bookshelves and movie houses are packed with zombies and vampires somehow the werewolf is left out.  Lamberson’s werewolves are supported by an incredibly realized mythology.  Staying true to the classic creatures Lamberson fleshes out the world they inhabit.  Rather than explain the creature a potentially dull task, the world in which they operate is given detailed thought.  The background of the werewolves and the hunters in The Frenzy Way could fill multiple tomes, and it is here that Lamberson excels again.  The story never loses focus from the hunt for the werewolf serial killer.  The novel is entirely self contained, and leaves the reader both wanting more and satisfied with the final outcome.      
In the end;
Gregory Lamberson’s The Frenzy Way will without question appeal to genre fans or pulp fans.  The brisk pace of the story is never tethered and catapults forward with fervor.  The action sequences are well paced and satisfying.  Anyone searching for a novel approach to werewolf mythology would be hard pressed to find a better title.  The Frenzy Way is also a rare novel where the cover art is wholly accurate.  If the cover art appeals to you, you will enjoy this novel. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Horde

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From executive producer Xavier Gens comes the French Zombie film, The Horde.  The film’s setup is simple.  Four police officers enter a crime lord controlled apartment to execute and avenge a fallen comrade.  Soon after the officers enter the building the zombies lay siege to the location.  Despite the standard set-up The Horde separates itself from the pack of typical zombie films being released today.
First and most notable, the film plays the ensuing events straight.  Nothing is tongue in cheek, the intent is clearly to create a dark, brutal zombie flick, in this it succeeds.  The movie has a gritty seventies feel to it, but the action sequences are clearly modern and at times highly inventive.  A highlight is a straight-up fisticuffs throw down between a survivor and a pair of zombies.  The group trying to survive the horde are at odds with one another.  This has been seen before however, The Horde ups the ante.  The survivors were trying to kill each other prior to the zombie onslaught.  This adds an additional tension to the film, and allows for more inventive plot elements in a standard formula.
The high production values of the film are noticeable and appreciated.  In a genre prone to high concepts and low budgets what appears on screen does not bare any resemblance to a low budget B feature.  The actors in the film are strong adding depth to simple character types.  The choreography, cinematography and direction are well constructed keeping viewers in the story.
The zombies themselves are not the shuffling creatures defined by Romero, yet the film as a whole feels vary akin to the first three films in his Dead series.  (author’s note after being disappointed by Land of the Dead I stopped watching Romero’s zombie outings)  The reason for reanimation is never revealed, nor is there any true reason to.  In the end, The Horde is a strong effort sure to satisfy zombie fans willing to give something with subtitles a try.  And for those who are not the DVD has a dubbed track.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Horns by Joe Hill

One morning Ignatius (Ig) Perrish wakes up hung over after desecrating the memorial placed where his ex-girlfriend was raped a murdered one year ago.  He was never tried for her death, but nearly everyone believes him guilty of the crime.  The physical discomfort of his hangover is compounded by the horns now emerging from his forehead.  Ig soon makes a startling discovery, no one truly notices the horns, yet they now feel compelled to burden Ig with their most horrible thoughts.

The first chapter
Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things.  He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances.  He was so ill-wet eyed and weak- he didn’t think anything of it at first, was too hung-over for thinking or worry.
But when he was swaying above the toilet , he glanced at himself in the mirror over the sink and saw he had grown horns while he slept.  He lurched in surprise, and for the second time in twelve hours he pissed on his feet.  
As Ig’s journey begins with the discovery of his new horns, and soon learns the effect they have on others.  The horns elicit confessions from all those he encounters.  The confessions at first are simple.  From “I’ve been unfaithful…”  to “…I want to have more sex and take drugs…”  Ig amuses himself with these confessions until he develops his purpose; discovering who raped and killed his girlfriend the night she broke up with him.    
Joe Hill’s follow up to Heart Shaped Box is a deftly woven mystery.  Nearly every scene contains a human element, that adds to the whole and never detracts from the pacing.  The residents of Hill’s Gideon New Hampshire are alive in their condemnation of Ig, the only suspect in Merrin’s torture and murder.  The town of Gideon is best compared to that of Twin Peaks.  A distinct location  with an unmistakable feel.  The town is populated by unforgettable characters adding vibrance and life.  With his new power Ig is forced to confront truth in Gideon; not only the truth of what happened to Merrin, but the truth of how he is perceived by others.
In the end;
Hill weaves his single fantastical element perfectly through his story.  The often graphic violence is always secondary to the emotional impact of the actions. Horns is a human tale.  In the realm of horror fiction Joe Hill brings his work into the realm of The Exorcist and Silence of the Lambs.    A superb work destined to find its way into the American conciseness.  The character of Ignatius Martin Perrish deserves attention.  Joe Hill’s sophomore novel steps beyond the realm of horror fiction and into that of American literature. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Black Train by Edward Lee

Originally published as Gast, Edward Lee’s The Black Train strengths lie primarily in the sympathetic characters and perfect grasp of the elements genre fans demand.   The Black Train follows Justin Collier, “The prince of Beers,” for The Food Channel  trying to discover the final beer he needs to complete his latest book.  This brings Collier to Gast, Tennessee and the Branch Landing Inn.  Shortly after his arrival the past of the inn, invades Collier’s life.    
The first five sentences;
"Morris chopped off the girl's hand with a hatchet then guttered laughter. The poor mulato wailed, her stump pumping.
"What'choo do that for!" Cutton bellowed. He hadn't even gotten his trousers off before Morris had pulled this move."
Edward lee wastes no time drawing in readers. 
Lee’s novel switches between the past and the present chronicling the original downfall of Harwood Gast in the 1860’s and the day to day activities of Justin Collier.  A rich cast of characters surround Justin Collier; from Dominque Cusher, local Brewmaster of Cusher’s Civil War beer, to Lottie and Jiff the children of Helen Butler the Inn Keeper of the Branch Landing.  The strength of the supporting cast is the richness of their character.  They never fall into a pre-determined horror cliché, though on first impression they are meant to.  Lee relies of the reader’s prejudice to shock them later.    Justin Collier himself is a fully developed person, with strengths and failings.  This will either draw readers in, or turn them away as he is a protagonist, not a hero. 
The Black Train fits within the haunted house genre.  Readers will know immediately something is amiss at the Branch Landing.  Through the book they will not only discover what, but why.  Not completely contained to the Inn, the town of Gast provides a creepy atmosphere completely trapping Collier.  Edward Lee’s prose is direct and effective, the story moves quickly which is an accomplishment in a supernatural mystery.  Lee never lingers longer than needed on any scene.  The supernatural elements are incredibly fantastical, but remain grounded by the truly human characters populating the world created by Lee. 
In the end;

Edward Lee’s the Black Train is a high caliber supernatural horror novel.  The combination of terrifically realized characters with well drawn fantastical horror elements, create an experience like few others.  While some readers may feel disappointed by the novel’s climax most will find a refreshing set of events proving beyond a doubt the wide breadth of potential in the horror genre.  Those familiar with early Clive Barker will be pleased with The Black Train.  The novel’s harrowing prologue of past atrocities grow in clarity as the story progresses.  The reflection of self that the supernatural elements represent combined with and a clear though unconventional journey of the protagonist harkens back to the early works of Barker.  Above all the maturity of character development which stretches beyond the confines of the horror genre readers of Barker will find immediately familiar. 

    Much mention has been made of the graphic nature of Lee’s writing, never shirking from violence or sex.  Personally  these are frivolous comments.  Edward Lee is a writer of premiere horror fiction.  To comment that he can make you squirm should only be seen as a compliment.  Despite the graphic details provided they enhance the story they are not an element unto themselves.