Tag Archives: Mark Allan Gunnells

Welcome to the Graveyard and Other Stories

I have long enjoyed the short fiction of Mark Allan Gunnells. I like his longer stuff as well, but I think the short story is where he shines. And why it shines is his attention to detail in character, in his taking everyday situations and incorporating a sense of oddness or unease and, at times, whimsy.

Welcome to the Graveyard is his newest collection and it’s pretty damn good. After a glowing introduction by John R. Little, “Dancing in the Dark” leads off with a sure foot. Named for one of Bruce Springsteen’s most annoying songs, this story follows a young man who feels that song is his bad luck theme and tries to avoid hearing it at all costs. “After” would be a humorous little tidbit were it not for the dark bitterness of the finale, a great smack to the face. “The Napkins” is a story that is so much deeper and nastier than it seems, and it takes the final paragraph to burn it into your brain.

“What Little Boys Are Made Of” reminds me a bit of the classic Charles Beaumont story “Miss Gentilbelle,” a version yanked violently by the hair through the last forty years and screaming and plant it firmly in the now. And it’s just as jarring when we get to the final punch. This one will stick with you.

Many of these tales are quite short, flash pieces. I was lucky enough to see a number of them as entries in flash contests and I love that he’s polished them up and served them here. One of the best is “A Midnight Errand.” Running about a page and half, this thing packs more emotion into its leanness than most novels.

The collection finishes with the title story, a tremendous tale of youth and the painful transition to adulthood, wading through the rapids of peer pressure, bullies, and self-loathing. It’s about finding the ghosts and standing up to them even when one of them is you. A great story.

Gunnells can always be relied upon to deliver the goods. His stories are sharp and I can say it’s been fun to watch him grow as a writer over the years. His prose is smooth and easy and his characters are believable. He wears his influences proudly and yet has his own identity showing through.

Welcome To The Graveyard is available through Evil Jester Press.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Secrets/Outcast

JournalStone’s DoubleDown series was inspired by the old Ace double novels, which paired veteran authors with up-and-comers. Past DoubleDown series have paired Gord Rollo and Rena Mason, Lisa Morton and Eric J. Guignard, Joe McKinney and Sanford Allen, and Harry Shannon and Brett J. Talley.

In the fifth installment, John R. Little and Mark Allan Gunnells team up to tell the story of Karen Richardson. The stand-alone novellas share a prologue, but that’s about it.

In Little’s Secrets, Karen is able to stop time, though she can’t control when it happens or for how long. While time is frozen, she enters her neighbors’ homes and discovers their dirty secrets (and they’re all dirty). During one of her excursions, she meets another person able to slip through time, Bobby Jersey. At first she’s intrigued by the boy, but in time it’s clear he’s psychotic.

The premise is intriguing and Little does a great job ratcheting up the suspense as the Bobby Jersey character gets creepier and creepier. The ending feels a bit anti-climatic and predictable, but it’s still a fun ride.

In Outcast by Mark Allan Gunnells, Karen is a college freshman with no social life, no boyfriend, and the power of telekinesis. (Think a well-adjusted Carrie.) She befriends an older witch who helps Karen harness her powers, but the woman is keeping a bunch of deadly secrets. Bobby Jersey is here, too, but unlike in Secrets he’s a sweetheart. Still, he’s just as strange as his counterpart; maybe even stranger.

Whereas Secrets feels more like a dark thriller, Outcast plays out more like a paranormal romance. That’s not a knock on the story. It’s definitely a page-turner.

Secrets/Outcast is due out August 22nd.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dominoes—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce that Dominoes, by John Boden, is now available!

Dominoes is a Little Horror Book, the perfect bedtime read for strange parents and bizarro children, a book not only meant to be read but also experienced.


Click for full-size images.

Cover art and interior illustrations were once again handled by the amazing Yannick Bouchard, who also did the cover art and illustrations for Beautiful Sorrows.

Praise for Dominoes:

“Now for something strangely different: death falls like a hellish deck of bruised songs through the lives of old and young in the unexpected flow of images screaming in Dominoes by John Boden.” —Linda Addison, author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial

“Strong stuff. Strange, incantatory, and speaking of things that might already have come to pass. This is some seriously weird shit.” —Gary McMahon, author of Tales of The Walking Wounded, Pretty Dead Things, and The Concrete Grove trilogy

“Equal parts evil and beautiful, John Boden has created a prose poem that reads like a bedtime story that would work best if told right before the apocalypse.” —Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen, Video Night, and Bound By Jade

“Boden is a master of the surreal. His language is lyrical and haunting, and he packs each sentence with more emotion than other writers manage to accomplish in an entire novel. Dominoes is a wonderfully off-kilter apocalyptic tale of madness and misery.” —Mark Allan Gunnells, author of Asylum, The Quarry, and The Summer of Winters

Dominoes is available in paperback format (no digital version for this release) from our webstore or Amazon.com (for other regions, see your specific Amazon website) for $6.99.

Posted in New Releases, Shock Totem News, Staff News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Announcing Dominoes…

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce Dominoes, by John Boden.

Dominoes is a Little Horror Book, the perfect bedtime read for strange parents and bizarro children, a book not only meant to be read but also experienced.


Click for full-size images.

Cover art and interior illustrations were once again handled by the amazing Yannick Bouchard, who also did the cover art and illustrations for Beautiful Sorrows.

Praise for Dominoes:

“Now for something strangely different: death falls like a hellish deck of bruised songs through the lives of old and young in the unexpected flow of images screaming in Dominoes by John Boden.” —Linda Addison, author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial

“Strong stuff. Strange, incantatory, and speaking of things that might already have come to pass. This is some seriously weird shit.” —Gary McMahon, author of Tales of The Walking Wounded, Pretty Dead Things, and The Concrete Grove trilogy

“Equal parts evil and beautiful, John Boden has created a prose poem that reads like a bedtime story that would work best if told right before the apocalypse.” —Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen, Video Night, and Bound By Jade

“Boden is a master of the surreal. His language is lyrical and haunting, and he packs each sentence with more emotion than other writers manage to accomplish in an entire novel. Dominoes is a wonderfully off-kilter apocalyptic tale of madness and misery.” —Mark Allan Gunnells, author of Asylum, The Quarry, and The Summer of Winters

Dominoes will be released in paperback format this coming October.

Posted in New Releases, Shock Totem News, Staff News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Up Jumps the Sequel

In Michael Poore’s quirky and brilliant debut, Up Jumps the Devil, we are treated to a stunning, near biographical study of the fallen angel.

We find that John Scratch (aka Devil) is made of wood, looks like a rocker or a TV bounty hunter, smokes mice and other critters in a pipe, whips up a mean gumbo, is the unbridled object of bovine affections, and isn’t an entirely bad guy. He does not abuse his magical capabilities and trick you out of that soul of yours.

He decides Earth, more so America, is ripe for grooming into the best place to be—his Heaven. He sets out to escort it into its own, all the while scheming of a way to lure his long lost love, a fellow fallen angel named Arden, back to his side.

We read about Scratch’s exploits throughout history. Events he has touched or somewhat orchestrated, from Woodstock and the rise of Tele-Evangelism to the science of cryogenics. From early escapades with God and creation all the way up to a bargain struck with Elvis’ father. He was at the battle of Gettysburg and helped invent the Internet. He tends to dole out a fine meter of morality and self-discovery while handing you the payment for that soul.

This wonderful novel is loaded to the gills with cool pop cultural flourish and witty characters: A blues musician who has death trapped in his guitar, a man named Benjamin Franklin who seems to be onto something with his wild experiments, George Washington, Pocahontas (whom the Devil seems wary to speak of), and loads more show their faces in this ingenious book.

I could go into more detail on the wild adventures that fill this tome, but I won’t—you need to read it. Read how well written and goddamn funny it is. See the richly painted characters and oddly goofy scenarios that play out within its pages. This truly enjoyable debut is available from Ecco, which is an imprint of HarperCollins.

I have read and reviewed the work of Mark Allan Gunnells before. I count myself a fan. He has a knack for nailing realistic characters and conversation. Sequel is his love letter to 80s slasher films, and his love is bold.

Sequel begins with the original cast members of the slasher film Class of ’93, all being hired to reprise their roles for a sequel. After nearly a decade of varying degrees of sordid misadventure, none seem truly ecstatic to rekindle this fire, but they all climb aboard anyway.

From there it chugs ahead with a familiar head of steam as it follows the schematics for nearly every slasher flick ever released. Cryptic threats and gruesome murderous mayhem. Distrust and dishonesty abound. There are no real earthshaking surprises, nothing completely unexpected, just buckets of blood and campy whodunit shenanigans. What elevates this above the cheese platter it could have been is the author’s sense of fun and his always delightful characters. This is written with tongue firmly in cheek. It is a brisk and enjoyable read. One that made this fan of 80s horror pretty damn happy.

Sequel is available through Gallows Press.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dark Treats from the Midnight Asylum

I first heard about Mark Allan Gunnells through James Newman, a mutual friend and a writer I consider family. On the merits of that alone, I knew Gunnells’s work must be special.

So I contacted Mark, and we quickly became friends. He is a sweet and humble guy. More importantly, he has a lot of heart. The one common thread that weaves through all that I have read from him, is the empathy and humanity his characters possess.

That is not always an easy thing to get across in print. In his short story collection, Tales from the Midnight Shift, Vol. I, Gunnells gives us a fine and varied compilation of these types of characters. From the fantastically titled “God Doesn’t Follow You into the Bathroom” to the breathtakingly surreal “Jam.” He goes from serious and somber to silly at the drop of a hat.

I won’t go into details on every story here, but I will touch on a few that left a lasting impression.

The tome opens with “God Doesn’t Follow You into the Bathroom.” While slightly predictable there is enough freshness injected here to keep your attention. Sometimes confession does not gain you the absolution you hoped for. This is followed by my absolute favorite in the collection, “Jam.” A traffic jam is the setting for this bleak exercise in tension and fear and humans being. “The Gift Certificate” teaches a valuable lesson about possession. “The More Things Change” is astounding, a heart-wrenching painting on bullying. This is one of the best things in the collection.

Tales from the Midnight Shift, Vol. I was the first example of Mark’s craft I encountered. I have since delved deeper into his work and have yet to be dissappointed.

Despite its short stature of 67 pages, Asylum has a lot of substance.

At a glance, the premise—a group of misfits, standing tall to fight off the zombie apocalypse—doesn’t seem all that original. Mark peoples this story with an almost entirely gay cast, sets it in a gay club, and spatters it with plenty of gore and sex.

But where Asylum shines is with the deep textures given to the characters.

They are not mincing caricatures or flaming queens—well, maybe one is—but instead they are presented as the flawed human beings that we all are.

Once again, this proves to be Gunnells’s strong suit—painting pictures of people.

Just in time for this past Halloween, Mark gave us all this little gift—Dark Treats, a five story collection, with all tales revolving around the October holiday.

Opening with “Halloween Returns to Bradbury,” we get a riotous romp about how the devil has grown disgruntled with the commercialism of his holiday and returns to show us how it’s to be done. Some fantastic and ridiculous imagery ensues. “The Neighborhood that Halloween Forgot” is a slightly cliché tale of tolerance.

“My Last Halloween” is a sad little coming-of-age tale. “Treats” finds us in cheesy 80’s horror movie territory—silly monsters, rational logic, great fun! The collection ends on the somber “Family Plots,” which, while good, seems a bit cramped, begging to be worked into a longer work someday.

Mark Allan Gunnells is one to watch. His work is consistently entertaining and full of heart and soul.

Sometimes that’s what you need.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews, Short Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments