Tag Archives: Ravenous Shadows

The Devoted

A few weeks ago, John Skipp announced the demise of Ravenous Shadows. This was an offshoot imprint of Ravenous Romance for which Skipp was head wrangler. He sought out novellas that could be devoured in a single sitting. Long story short, I recently got and read one of those novellas, Eric Shapiro’s The Devoted.

The Devoted concerns the final day of a group of cult members. A suicide cult. Beyond that, I had no expectations going in, other than I knew I was in for a wild ride. Skipp doesn’t make empty promises.

Two hours after I began reading, I sat there, brow furrowed in thought as I tried to digest what had just happened. The lean prose is such that you literally feel like you’re there. My stomach ached, it’s that tense of a story.

The Devoted is a gritty, honest, and tense read. (I know I just used that word but hell, it fits!) Now that Ravenous Shadows is a corpse along the publishing highway, several of these books have found new homes. I’m not sure if this is one of them, but I would strongly recommend you track it down regardless. It’s a helluva read!

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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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Tribesmen

One of the greatest rewards that comes from publishing Shock Totem is being able to watch young writers evolve within—and sometimes beyond—their craft. Even when I read something less than great, there remains something special about it.

It’s in the knowing that they’re going to eventually come back with something that will knock my socks off, I think. There’s an it factor, involved—easy to see, but impossible to explain.

And Adam Cesare has it.

Tribesmen is Adam’s debut novella, and it’s a thing of bloody-good brilliance. Setting the bar even higher, it was published under John Skipp’s new imprint, Ravenous Shadows, which is quite a place to make a literary home.

The book centers around a cast of filmmaking misfits attempting to create a movie that is less an homage to and more of a blatant rip-off of the Italian exploitation horror films from the 80s. In the spirit of Ruggero Deodato’s feel-awful classic from 1980, Cannibal Holocaust, Cesare’s Tribesmen takes place on a small Caribbean island, where the indigenous people become much more than visual props by instead making their directorial debut.

This is a character-driven book fueled by fear, greed, lust, violence, and the blood-red lure of cinematic glory. Tribesmen is a smart, visceral, and poignant commentary on the ugly side of humanity. Which, in this case, is a beautiful thing.

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