[REVIEW] Devouring Dark – by Alan Baxter

DEVOURING DARK by Alan Baxter

When I went to read Alan Baxter for the first time, I ended up choosing Devouring Darkbecause its premise reminded me of a comic series I enjoyed when I was growing up: The Darkness. You have your anti-hero with a shadow-like power surging inside him that can be unleashed in horrific ways. There’s a lot than can be done with this idea, but for now this is a standalone novel and not a series (though Baxter has several others, so maybe there’s hope yet for Devouring Dark to continue).

Though I definitely enjoyed this book, I had a few issues that nagged me along the way. There’s a surprising amount of slow sequences for what should be an action-fueled story. There’s also the matter of Matt’s guilt (which powers his darkness); what he did as a child is absolutely terrible, and yet Amy (the character he falls for with a similar power) is very easygoing about the whole thing. She basically tells him not to worry, it’s no big deal, and he should confess it to his parents and smooth things over. I’m sorry, but that was unbelievable – if my kid came and told me they had done such a thing, we would not be able to “smooth it over.” What Matt did is unforgiveable, even if he was just a kid when he did it.

I would have liked to see more action – though I get Matt’s condition keeps it from showing up hardly at all in the story – as well as some different interaction between his character and the others to gain sympathy from me. I was interested in our anti-hero up until I learned the cause of his guilt; I didn’t care about him after that, and felt Amy was just blinded by her interest in him and willing to overlook his evil.

My complaints aside, I did enjoy the majority of this book, enough so that I would like to read a sequel. I also found Baxter’s writing comfortable and inviting, so I will look into his other work in the coming months. So, overall, this is a recommended title (especially for comic fans). – by Andrew Redman

3.5/5.0

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[Review] – The Town That Feared Dusk – Calvin Demmer

This short story is part of the Short Sharp Shocks collection, and it really delivers on that. After the death of her colleague, Sylvia needs a story to boost her career. She finds information on a ‘Suicide Bridge’, but the investigation drags her deeper than she ever expected to go.

This is one of those stories that’s really easy to get carried away in, as the reader follows Sylvia to the bridge and beyond, as she discovers there’s more than meets the eye to the suicides reported there. The empty town, the non-cooperative locals, and the eerie imagery all builds up to a tense climax, making the reader as eager to find out what is happening as Sylvia is. The ending packs a shocking punch, as promised in the collection.

The only downside is how short it is – I wanted more, more about the town, more about Sylvia, more about the unfolding events. But that’s just the sign of a good short story. The way elements are combined words really well, and I can’t imagine anyone regretting picking this one up.

4/5 – Elle Turpitt

[Review] Grind Your Bones To Dust – Nicholas Day

Dangerous, deadly creatures emerge from the night, leaving nothing but slaughter in their wake. But monstrous beasts aren’t the only evil haunting these pages. Enter a preacher and raven, determined to cause as much destruction as the flesh-eating donkeys in the desert.

It’s rare I would describe horror as beautiful but damn, is this book beautiful. And haunting and violent and absolutely, utterly mesmerising.

The novel is split into four parts, each distinct and fresh, feeling perfectly blended to the character the prose is following. Each character feels unique, with everything needed from a character; their own wants, desires, arcs. Their own voice. Each section bleeds wonderfully into the next, leaving the reader wanting more with every page. The imagery is striking, the landscape terrifying, the events gripping. Day paints a bleak, unrelenting world, in a story of loss, love, redemption and pure horror. This is not a novel for the faint of heart, but one which will, without a doubt, linger with the reader for a long time to come.

5/5 – Elle Turpitt

[Review] Ink Heist Podcast

​Do you like horror? Or laughter? Perhaps you’re looking for a place to discover new authors of dark fiction. Ink Heist – A Podcast for Readers of Dark Fiction is your answer. First a quick ink Heist history lesson. Created on April 14th 2018, the ‘zine focused primarily on speculative fiction and films of all types. Heavily favored genres include: crime, noir, neo-noir, and horror, with a dash of poetry, creative non-fiction, and crossover genres.

The Founders

Rich Duncan

A Philadelphia suburb native, that currently resides in Central New York with his wife, daughter, and dogs. A few years before he and Shane became partners, he created The Horror Bookshelf, which is still very active to this day! Horror is his first love, but crime and noir have an equal place in his dark heart. His other interests include searching for vintage paperbacks to add to his immersive collection, watching an unhealthy amount of movies, and losing himself in underground music from the 1980s through the 21st century.

Shane Douglas Keene

​A Portland, Oregon native that lives with his wife and three dogs. Formerly of Shotgun Logic, and a semi-regular contributor to monumental review platforms such as Gingernuts of Horror and This Is Horror. Like any good lover of horror literature, he has an unhealthy amount of books. When his mind isn’t being consumed with reading, he finds himself writing about books and their creators, as well as listening to heavy metal and blues, and focusing his energy on encouraging literacy.

The Podcast

This pod is 100% unscripted. Shane and Rich lead every guest with a specialized conversation starter, which ends up leading them and their guest into a unique conversation. With each episode, we get a new piece of Shane and Rich, as well as bits of the guest’s background and some of their hobbies beyond writing. From start to end, the show runs like a well-oiled machine, even during an occasional pause or forgotten muted mic. The pauses have a certain beat to them that almost always are followed with comedic dialogue. 

Episode Breakdown

Episode 101: The Fearing with John F.D. Taff

​First aired – July 8th 2019

​Run-time – 48 mins 26 seconds

​Considering that Rich reviewed Taff’s earlier novels in 2014, it’s only fitting that he be the first guest. We get the overall concept and ideas which inspired Taff’s latest serialized novel The Fearing. He tells us about the publisher he mainly works with—Grey Matter Press—and the man behind GMP, Anthony Rivera. The behind-the-scenes of putting together a single book is absolutely fascinating, and that’s exactly what we learn about. They also touch upon on the authors in the indie horror community that are making the biggest strides and pushing the indie movement forward. 

Episode 102: A Very Irreverent Conversation with Hunter Shea

​First aired – July 23rd 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 32 mins 11 secs

​Hunter Shea, The Monster Man, tells us about working with Don D’Auria of Flame Tree Press, his most recent novel Creature, and his upcoming novel, Slasher (released October 24th). For me, slasher films from the 80’s and 90’s is what started my horror craze. They don’t even have to take themselves too serious to capture my attention. Slasher sounds like it is exactly that, a fun horror film in book form. There really aren’t enough books out there like that, which is all the more reason to get pumped for Shea’s upcoming novel!

Oh yea…and Rich wrestles with his dogs. Nothing unusual here, folks!

Episode 103: A Conversation with Laurel Hightower

​First aired – August 6th 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 14 mins 35 secs

​Hightower and the ink Heist boys talk about her debut novel, Whispers in the Dark, brought to you by Journalstone/Trepidatio. She tells us how her mother was a writer and the lessons she instilled in Laurel at a young age. Hightower is not only a rising name in this expansive community, but she’s an intelligent, funny, and fluent conversationalist. I have yet to read her novel, but this episode only made her name and book stamp a place in my mind. It’s going in the TBR pile! They discuss and dissect parts of the book but never actually spoil anything. It’s an intriguing enough story, but don’t take my word for it…check out this episode!

Episode 104: Digging deep into The Fearing Book One: Fire and Rain with John F.D. Taff

​First aired – August 13th 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 2 mins 6 secs

​Taff is back, making him the first guest to appear on the show multiple times, which is pretty impressive considering the show is only six episodes in. This time, we focus on book 1 in The Fearing story. This is the first of a four-part series. The four episodes will have an in-depth breakdown for each book. We meet the characters and their potential arcs in Fire and Rain. Afterwards, theories on what fears would haunt Shane, Rich, and John are contemplated.

Episode 105: A Conversation with Josh Malerman

​First aired – August 27th 2019

​Run-time – 1 hr 56 mins 32 secs

​Author of Birdbox, Unbury Carol, Mad Wheel, and Inspection, Malerman discusses his stories, creativity itself, and describes the indie horror community with the perfect word: “elasticity”. They cover what determines horror (who cares, it’s all horror!) and how the genre is being stretched like an elastic band by new and interesting voices. They mention how they’d like to get together one day over some drinks and discuss horror. I would love to be a fly on that wall (while enjoying my own fly-sized beer). The genre as a whole, being carried by the indie community, is emphasized, which it’s certainly hard to argue. If you’re new to this podcast, I’d suggest starting with this one. It just may get you hooked on a few good Malerman books too!

Episode 106: Rich and Shane: Screaming Into the Abyss

​First aired – September 3rd 2019

​Run-time – 2 hrs and 54 secs

​This episode has no guests. It’s all about Shane and Rich going back-and-forth with questions and answers, which branch off to other topics and…it’s just glorious. This is my favorite episode, so far…but I have a feeling next week’s episode will become my new favorite episode, hehe.

​Right off the bat they get into a great book discussion on what they’re currently reading, books they’re looking towards, and break down author catalogs. A recent love that Shane talks about is Chade Lutzke’s upcoming The Pale White, set to be published September 27th through Crystal Lake Publishing. This novella is already hyped to be a lovely addition to Lutzke’s ever-growing bibliography. 

​Something I really love to learn about is new publishers in the indie world. If you haven’t heard of them yet, now’s the time to look into Silver Shamrock Publishing. A few titles to look for: In The Scrape, a fantastic novella by James Newman and Mark Steensland; Cricket Hunters, a novel by Jeremy Hepler, and a highly anticipated anthology coming October 1st, Midnight In The Graveyard, with names such as Robert McCammon, Kealan Patrick Burke, and Catherine Cavendish!

​One of the most fascinating parts of this episode is when they talk about why they’ve pursued horror. Shane tells a tale about him as an eleven-year-old. A boy that became magnetized by one of his father’s book covers. He had to have it…so he stole it. After he read it, it changed him. That book was Stephen King’s ’Salem’s Lot. Rich on the other hand found his love in the film world—slashers from the 80’s and 90’s. He rented a VHS copy of Candyman. Someone told him the plot and it scared him so badly that it sat and taunted him from his kitchen table for a week straight!

​Rich brings up a project Shane and him are collaborating on. A book. This is something I left out of episode 105’s breakdown (the first time they mention it). Neither one gave away too much, actually they barely gave away any details. What they did inform us on is it’s a strange tale that has potential to be of novella length. Shane describes it as “mayhem within a drug facility in the middle of nowhere”. After hearing these past six episodes, I know for a fact these guys are nuts about horror and they have good taste. I can only imagine how well-crafted their finished product will be. Sign me up for a copy!

​Towards the end of the episode they talk about future guests. They should all be met with equal anticipation: John F.D. Taff returns to have a deep dive into book 2 of The Fearing. Scott Thomas talks about his recent book, Violet. Chad Lutzke will discuss his bibliography and upcoming novella, The Pale White. Laird Barron is anticipated to elegantly talk about crime and horror novels, as well as his Isaiah Coleridge series. Other future guests include: Betty Rocksteady, Caroline Kepnes, Todd Keisling, J. Danielle Dorn, and Karen Runge. 

Final Thoughts

I love this podcast and was hooked after the first episode. Without a doubt, this is a MUST listen. I binged the series—while washing dishes, performing house work, even while driving—and now I’m waiting excitedly for episode 7. It’s just as enjoyable for a veteran author, as it is for an editor, publisher, or a reader. This podcast has opened my eyes to a lot of names in the indie horror community. My love and interest has only grown for it. In fact, this podcast and community has nabbed my heart and ran off with it for keepsies.

Social Media

​Main Website: inkHeist.com

Facebook: /InkHeist

Twitter: @InkHeist

Check out Ink Heist – A Podcast for Readers of Dark Fiction on Spotify! What episode(s) have you listened to so far? Did we introduce you to the show? If we did, please tell the ink Heist boys that Dead Head Reviews sent you!

[Review] – Mr. Deadman Made Me Do It – Chris Baker

Who doesn’t love a good anthology? And, friends and fiends, this is a good anthology.

This delightfully gory collection centres around the figure of Mr Deadman, each short story featuring the strange character in one way or another. They all feel different, with characters from different walks of life, all with their own version of Mr Deadman, but it still feels like the same character, slipping from one person to another, offering them whatever they need at that particular time.

Inside the anthology are stories about revenge, love, or just out and out gore. Some characters are truly and utterly pitiful, pulling you into their stories in a way that just won’t let you go. And when their despicable acts are committed, they come out with the same response – Mr Deadman made me do it.

Not all stories end in the same way, and not all characters are pitiful. Some try to resist him, some find themselves faced with the consequences of summoning Mr Deadman. All are entertaining. 

Slightly more editing could have been done on the stories, but in the end it didn’t really matter. The anthology was fun, a rollercoaster of gore and violence, and easily able to carry the reader through to the very end. An excellent read for anyone who enjoys a lot of splatter.

4/5 – Elle Turpitt

[REVIEW] The Night Crawls In – by Steve Stred

I have read a few of Steve’s books this year – including The Stranger, Jane, and The Girl Who Hid in the Trees – but I think The Night Crawls In has to be my favorite so far. This collection of drabbles (stories averaging just a couple hundred words for the most part) and poems may be short, but it leaves a lasting impression. So many of them read like excerpts of novels, leaving me wanting more.

The drabbles of “The Night Crawls In,” “The Clearing,” “Curiosity,” “Text Message,” and “Random Bruise,” all left me wanting the full story. It would be great if Steve ever uses them for novels or novellas down the road, because they all left imprints I couldn’t shake.

As for the poems, I found “Worms,” “Forever,” “Six Shots (To Redemption),” and “Self” to be the most memorable and striking. I’m not much for rhyming, so it was great to read so many of these entries without that structure at work. And like the drabbles, there were a handful of stories to be found in some of these poems that would do well as extended pieces.

The Night Crawls In is something you can read in an hour or two (depending on how you choose to savor each entry). Generally speaking, this would make me shy away from an actual purchase. However, this collection is worth the cost; you’ll want to reread it from time to time, I’m sure. – by Andrew Redman

4.5 out of 5.0

[REVIEW] The Crow’s Gift (And Other Tales)- by Sonora Taylor

I have found these short collections to be very useful in finding new favorite authors in the indie community. If it only takes you a couple hours to check out a release, you’re more likely to give a new writer a chance you wouldn’t give if they only had long novels available for introduction. As such, I have found a slew of unknown authors I intend to follow from this point forward.

Sonora Taylor is one that caught my eye with the promotions of her latest collection, Little Paranoias. But rather than request an ARC for review, I decided to use my Kindle Unlimited membership to see if she had anything already available (that way I could decide if I wanted to pursue her new work or not). I immediately found the four-piece collection, The Crow’s Gift, which was released several years ago. The other night, I sat down and gave it a quick read.

Though I wasn’t blown away by it – some of the writing felt too easy and some of the dialogue made me roll my eyes – there was enough imagination here to put Sonora on my watch list. The first story, “The Crow’s Gift,” was easily my favorite. I would have loved to see this story expanded upon. It reads like that kind of horror fueled by magic, the kind that made Coraline and The Monster Calls so popular. I also enjoyed the way “I Love Your Work” played out, even if it wasn’t one of the stories that felt too simple in its writing. “I Never Knew Your Name” was sadly forgettable, and “All the Pieces Coming Together” staggered in its dialogue. The characters, however, would have been enjoyable to explore further.

Despite its shortcomings, Sonora Taylor did do enough here to get my attention. I will seek out more of her work in the comings months, and maybe even pre-order Little Paranoias. I feel like there’s something great just bubbling beneath the surface of what I’ve seen thus far. – by Andrew Redman

3.5 out of 5

[Review] From Hell – By Alan Moore

I love graphic novels. They’re like films you can hold in your hands. You can visit them intimately whenever you like. A secret, immersive cinema all for you. 

Alan Moore’s From Hell is a trip into an interesting time in history that is stranger than the fiction inspired by it. Alongside Eddie Campbell’s artwork, Moore takes us on a trip into British fear, Victorian barbarianism and infamy. He documents and fictionalises the Whitechapel Murders; the very mesh of documentation and theory that he delves into regarding the identity of the killer and the circumstances around the murders, serves as its own mirror to the environment of the time. He navigates the attitudes towards class, progress and our relationship to infamy and fear with a backdrop of some of the most effective uses of shadow and light from Campbell. Northampton’s top world-builder gives us an insight into the persecution of the working classes, through the treatment of Prince Eddie’s secret shop-girl wife, Annie. The mistreatment of her mental health is a truthful example of the long-standing political agenda for the working classes. Keep their minds under control, within walls, and all is well. I think this underpins the whole novel. I think Moore uses the Whitechapel Murders as a vehicle for the relationship of the working class to the elites. On the surface, upper-class life is charmed, but they fear us. They have to keep this secret. 

The conspiracy that binds the working-class to the upper-class is cleverly sustained and it never feels convoluted. He takes us through human studies of grief, fear, and theology and although he’s delving into history, it seems so familiar. It reminds us that humans still have the same mentalities we always have and that the elites are still afraid of the working-classes. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. The characters are fully formed, the artwork is stunning and always impactful, and the world Moore manages to create, linking the highest of the high with the perceived lowest of the low is both empowering and terrifying in the dingy streets he makes us walk with him.

4/5 – Sammy Willbourne

[Review] The Bone Collector – By Jeffrey Deaver

I stumbled across The Bone Collector a few years ago and was blown away by the dynamics in the book. Reading it again this year solidifies it as a timeless story. One thing I love about this book is the fact that although we are plunged into this fast-paced battle of wits between Lincoln Rhyme and the killer, it has an undertone of irony. The Bone Collector brings out the best in Rhyme and connects him to his talent once more, giving him a purpose after an accident renders him paralysed emotionally and physically. There’s a duality between the two that I think makes the whole story so electric. 

The depths of depravity the killer goes to, makes it a difficult read. It’s not just the way these victims die, it’s the situations the killer leaves them in that build the ultimate tension. Deaver crafts tension like not many authors I’ve read; he manages to be urgent in his restraint without sacrificing pace. The knowledge of forensics is top tier. None of the dialogue or world-building seems false. The crime scene analysis scenes are so well written, they add to the urgency of the journey we’re on. 

The relationship between Rhyme and Sachs. She becomes his presence in the outside world and that bond becomes a really interesting dynamic in the story. They elevate each other in various ways and it adds a further element of danger. The killer doesn’t need to directly get to Rhymes to really hurt him. The book is far more involved than the film, which is expected, but it’s really a testament to Deaver for his multi-dimensional descriptions and intense research. 

If you enjoy fast-paced twist and turns, horrific deaths and clues that will keep you up at night, this is definitely worth a read!

4/5 – Sammy Willbourne