Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- The State of Shock Totem Publications, or We Are Not ChiZine Publications
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
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Tag Archives: Mary SanGiovanni
Late last year, Kevin Lucia delivered a wonderful collection called Things Slip Through, a great gathering of tales presented in a wholly unique way. The voice of Lucia’s writing is old school—think early King or later Bradbury. So obviously, I was quite anxious to read this novella, Devourer of Souls, which is actually a pair of longer stories which are stitched together by a similar framing device as those in Things Slip Through.
You know the old saying: “If it ain’t broke…”
Devourer of Souls starts with two men meeting in a diner. They are members of a sort of coalition in the Clifton Heights area, a group of men who meet once in a while to keep one another apprised of the weird shit that seems to be bubbling under the Rockwellian surface of their town.
The first half is a great tale called “Sophan.” A group of boys and an outcast dying to be drawn into a strange and ancient game of chance called Sophan, a tile game offered to one of the boys at a rummage sale. During the last breaths of summer, one boy is consumed by hatred and bigotry while his friend is called to fix things. A father is haunted by the ghosts of war and another by his good fortune to have returned and moved on. Lucia does a great job of bringing these characters to life. The emotions are realistically rendered and easily relatable, he keeps them simple but something that we can all recognize, honestly written and stronger for it.
“The Man in Yellow” is the second feature, and it is just a good as the opening act. Set in another flyspeck town that neighbors Clifton Heights, this story involves a young man on the cusp of adulthood, angry at the world and the God he isn’t sure is out there. He and his friend discover that faith can be a monster when a new minister arrives in town. A charismatic stranger in a bright yellow suit and an ancient agenda. This one has a decidedly darker tone than “Sophan,” and given the brooding cloud of faith and/or lack thereof that hangs over it, it isn’t surprising. .
Lucia’s strong characters and smartly simple and realistic dialogue are one of the many things that propel his writing along the rails. His pacing is good and he knows how to tell a good story without a lot of fat. Too many times writer’s bog down their stories with unnecessary jewelry and gloss when a simple story—simply told—is what is needed. Lucia gives us a refreshing old-school style—not that he can’t throw down the words, but he understands that the story needs to be the star.
Devourer of Souls is available through Ragnarok Publications.
I had the pleasure of hearing Mary SanGiovanni read from Chaos at the Scares That Care! convention a few months ago. After the reading (and much discussion about haunted mental asylums, creepy places, and eyebrow bugs), I got a copy.
The tone, style, and vibe of the book took me back to 80’s pulp horror, though the setting is contemporary.
Chaos tells the story of Bridgewood Estates, built upon the grounds that were once home to Bridgewood Asylum before it was torn down. The asylum once being the setting for a grotesque and horrific explosion of violence. Now, only the old office ward remains. Unluckily for the tenants, something evil still stains the grounds, and has for decades.
Upon moving in, Myrinda and her boyfriend are greeted warmly by the neighbors. The old lady across the hall nervously extols the virtues of the place, but then the things that haunt the building loosen her nerve and she tries to warn Myrinda about what she’s moved into.
And soon the other residents begin to have their own sinister encounters: the writer who begins seeing the woman shambling in the yard, without feet or hands; the ex-cop who begins a blood-drenched courtship with the mysterious woman in 2-C, a courtship of sticky notes and gifts of flesh; the man who is ordered to murder his wife by the man on the TV. All of these characters and events weave a tale of paranoia and terror.
Bridgewood is the site of a hole between dimensions and the neighbors that are coming through are far from friendly. They’re insane and malicious. It will take all the courage the young couple can muster to try to resolve things before it’s too late for them and the other dwellers of Bridgewood Estates.
Having read a few of SanGiovanni’s earlier works and enjoyed them, I found Chaos to be a bit different. Whether or not it was intentional this seemed to have a nostalgic sense about it. As I stated at the opening, it reminded me of the “evil in a small town” kind of novels I devoured as a teen (and sometimes as an adult): Salem’s Lot, The Wicked, The Ceremonies…that sort of thing.
The writing is strong and vivid, with well-drawn characters and events. It was a great B-movie of a novel, fun and frightening. Probably excellent with popcorn.
Chaos is available directly through www.marysangiovanni.com.