Tag Archives: Dybbuk Press

Die, You Badass Bubbles, Die!

Earlier this year, Jan Kozlowski delivered her debut novella, Die, You Bastard! Die, via Ravenous Shadows, an imprint where every book is handpicked by John Skipp. This fact alone should be enough for most horror fans to take note, but if it isn’t let me up the ante: This book is hardcore!

Claire is a paramedic, and a damn good one at that, one who has spent her adult life trying to make up for and forget her childhood.

The novella opens with her and her partner answering a disturbing call: A little girl trapped beneath the body of a naked man. This case, coupled with a phone call, drags Claire back to the horrific events of her childhood and a lifetime of dark and dastardly suffering at the hands of her father.

Her father has been hospitalized, and in answering the call Claire is drawn into a warped scenario of revenge and double-cross and some of the most disturbing tactics ever committed to the printed page.

Ravenous Shadows debuted with a lofty promise of nearly forty titles a year, but sadly hit the wall after only five. Other than Jan’s, I have only read Adam Cesare’s wonderful Tribesmen, although I intend to track down and read the remaining titles.

Maybe after this unspecified hiatus Ravenous can get all oars in the water again and keep the line flowing. I truly hope so, but if not I am already grateful for being turned on to a pair of great authors I hope to follow for quite some time.

Dybbuk Press dropped this little collection, edited by Michael Stone and Christopher J. Hall, way back in 2006. Consisting of seven stories, all poised to slap you in the face and hopefully knock out a few teeth. It was a promise I found sadly unfulfilled.

We open with the tale “Pool Sharks,” by Gerald Brennan. This is more or less hood-heavy, thug drama with a simple ghost-story twist ending. Not a bad story, but not anything a veteran watcher of Twilight Zone would not have seen coming. Next up is Garry Kilworth’s “The Stray,” a strange little number that is heavy with metaphor and satirical symbolism. Quite clever at times and a little silly at others, I rather enjoyed it. Michael Hemmingson’s “Hardboiled Stiff” is an overlong exercise in noir and the undead.

Ronald Malfi’s story, “All the Pretty Girls,” is my favorite. What we get is a darkly strange and spiritual tale of a man working to appease his god—in a very sinister fashion. Gord Rollo gives us a standard evil-tattoo tale in “Moving Pictures,” while Davin Ireland delivers “The Essences,” a story with an almost-dark-fantasy vibe. Closing out the collection is Michael Boatman’s gory “Bloodbath at Lansdale Towers,” a morality tale with a knifey twist.

While I did enjoy Badass Horror, only Malfi’s made me stand and say, “Wow!” Overall I couldn’t help but feel there was not enough “badass.” But I was entertained and could not call the evening spent reading this a disappointment.

Before reading Black Bubbles, released by Thunderstorm Books, earlier this year, I was familiar with Kelli Owen only by name, having never read her work. After reading Black Bubbles, I can say that Owen is a very good writer of dark fiction.

Reliant on character over shock and awe, I found this collection to be good, with several stories hanging on the cusp of “Holy shit, this is brilliant!” There was, however, one story that floored me. So much so that I have re-read it at least five times since the initial read, and given the amount of stories I read a year, that is saying something.

I won’t go over all of the tales, but will touch upon a few that I dug. “The Tin Box” is a familiar theme but the angle and delivery are what makes this a standout. The passing of a grandparent opens up an atmosphere of reminiscence and love…until they find evidence of family secrets best left hidden. “Shadows in a Bowl of Soup” is a wonderful prose piece. “Dig the Hole” is a fantastic slice of dark reality. A groovy little violent satire on therapy and sociopaths comes in the name of “How’s That Make You Feel?”

But “Spell” is the one. THE ONE! This story punched me in the face, wiped the blood from my lips, and then drew a big L on my forehead for not having expected it. Simply amazing story. I’m not even going to mention its plot as that would be a disservice to it.

Black Bubbles is a solid collection. While some stories were very strong, and others seemed like they could have been a bit more fleshed out, I liked every one. I hope to check out more of Kelli’s work in the future.

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She Nailed a Stake Through His Head

My first introduction to Dybbuk Press founder, Tim Lieder was from his Shock Totem submission “Bop Kabala and the Communist Jazz,” a submission we would eventually accept for issue #3. So when asked to choose some books to review from the secret cache at Kenwood Mansion, I asked for this one. The title alone cried for my attention—She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror. Catchy!

Upon its arrival, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little hesitant to dig in, mainly due to my lack of knowledge of many things biblical. Sure I know most of the big stories, but many of the lesser known parables would be alien to me. After putting it off a few weeks, I jumped in…and I’m glad I did. This collection is inspired and ecclectic.

The nine tales in this anthology kick off with “Whither Thou Goest,” by Gerri Leen, an interesting piece in which Ruth, the protagonist, is some sort of psychic leech. Daniel Kayson takes the story of Daniel and the writing on the wall and sets it in a modern corporate setting, rife with sinister dealings and spiritual treachery in “Babylon’s Burning.”

In “As if Favorites of Their God,” by Christi Krug, King Saul pays a visit to a witch to communicate to the prophet Samuel. “Psalm of the Second Body,” by Catherynne Valente, is the fourth in line and my absolute favorite. The language of this piece is flawless, a sweet hybrid of prose and narrative that I loved. Non-conformist writing. It defies description and must simply be read, a commandment.

Take a measure of Mad Max futurism and mix liberally with prophets, the damned, and revenge and you have Elissa Malcohn’s, “Judgement at Naioth.” In “Judith & Holofernes,” Romie Scott gives us the premise of endless beheadings. A darkly humorous tale.

Lyda Morehouse appears via the tale “Jawbone of An Ass,” a bitter story of domestic non-bliss and unspoken gods. And what has to be the most inspired craziness in the book, Stephen M. Wilson has crafted “Swallowed,” a glorious mutation of Jonah and the “whale” swirling with Lovecraftian nightmares, parasitic twins and deviant sexual appetite. The closer is D.K. Thompson’s “Last Respects,” a unique vampire tale, delivering smooth nostalgia and heartfelt sentiment.

Lieder knows what he likes and it is nothing close to traditional, and that is one of the many things I like about the guy. This is an ambitious anthology, one that could easily alienate a section of the book-buying market, the ones who eschew anything biblical. And sadly, it would be their loss. On the other hand, it brings a dark little smile to my lips thinking of all the Flanders out there who may see this title somewhere and assume it is of the “Left Behind” ilk, spiritual but sanitized to the point of blandness. This is a splendid collection, full of fresh ideas and images that will play in your mind long after the story has been read.

This can be ordered directly from here from Dybbuk Press.

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