Tormentor – William Meikle

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Jim Greenwood’s life is devastated with the death of his wife from cancer. He attempts to start over by getting away from all of the pain that surrounds him in London by moving to a remote home on the NE coast of Scotland near Dunvegan. The home is the oldest in the area and the locals seem to be frightened by it. Soon Jim finds out why. Mysterious sooty smudges appear while he sleeps that seem to be forming some sort of code. In an attempt to avoid the madness of it all, Jim resorts to drinking heavily. Is something from beyond trying to communicate with him or is Jim slowly going insane?

Meikle is a master at telling tales and Tormentor is no exception. He crafts a tight storyline with realistic characters that you quickly identify with. Tormentor is a fun romp of a haunted house story that you’ll savor through every page.

5 stick figures out of 5
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The Winter Box – Tim Waggoner

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The winter box was an antique wooden box purchased by Heather when her and Todd were first together and they would put one object in the box on their anniversary that represents something about their relationship. Twenty one years later, their relationship is in peril of collapsing. Snowed in on their anniversary, they’re close to throwing in the towel when an outside force reveals how bad life can be apart.

The Winter Box has a nice atmosphere and Waggoner has an easy writing style, but somewhere along the line it doesn’t fully deliver. There’s not much in the way of scares and the reason why the events take place is fuzzy and never really explained. The story kind of comes off as a derivative of A Christmas Carol for relationships. However, it still shows promise and doesn’t discourage me to check out more of Waggoner’s work.

3 white out blizzards out of 5
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Grave Business – Graham Ingels and Al Feldstein

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I have vivid memories of going through my older brother’s comic book collection when I was kid. He was a big fan of the many different Marvel superheroes and rarely missed picking up the latest Spider Man or X-Men offering. He would also hit garage sales with my grandma and use his allowance to pick up box after box filled with comics that some parent was selling off now that their kid had grown up and didn’t read them anymore. Years later, these same grown up children would lament when they would learn that their old comic collections was now worth a king’s ransom, but was sold off by their unknowing parents years ago. While I did enjoy Marvel’s superheroes (The Hulk was the one I gravitated towards), the ones that I really liked were the older EC comic’s The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror, and Tales From the Crypt. I would be mesmerized for hours going through the dog-eared copies that had the most amazing illustrations. Keep in mind, this was the late 1970s/early 1980s and kids read their comics – over and over. They didn’t keep them in pristine condition in protective plastic. So read those EC tales I did and I loved them. When I stumbled onto the Grave Business collection on Amazon, I couldn’t click BUY fast enough. And so the walk down Memory Lane began…

Grave Business is chock full of gothic tales of revenge and mean people getting what they deserve. Sure it all follows a predictable formula, but the stories are so entertaining, so reminiscent of horror stories you’ve read from many of the greats. Then, you realize that those stories were written many years after Graham Ingels drew them for EC and you can’t help but wonder how many horror authors were heavily influenced by those beautifully drawn macabre tales. Grave Business also includes the tragic story detailing how horror comics were considered to be the root of all evils amongst children and that there was even a congressional hearing that caused the comic industry to impose a code of ethics that basically sounded the death knell on horror comics, EC, and the lively hood of their talented creators. Entertaining AND educational. I loved Grave Business and I think you will too.

5 bubbling cauldrons out of 5
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The Haunted Halls – Glenn Rolfe

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The Bruton Inn has had its share of evil history. Mysterious deaths that were later found to be murders at the hands of Sarah, a girl that exploits everything and everyone around her for her own evil whims. Fast forward thirty years and the Bruton Inn is experiencing some strange happenings behind the locked doors with the Do Not Disturb signs on the handles.

The Haunted Halls is a hodgepodge of good ideas and some sketchy ones. The storytelling tends to be all over the boards. Flashbacks and different characters POV make it a staccato burst of telling that you have to repeatedly go back to see who this and that character is. There’s lots of gore, but very little scares. Many of the characters are introduced only to be offed moments later. The character of Sarah is a real head-scratcher. You never really understand why she does the things she does or if she’s a real person, a demon, or something else. The most interesting character, for me, was Lee, the “ghost hunter” who re-discovers his shaman heritage. The Haunted Halls is one of Rolfe’s first stories that he ever wrote and it shows. His later work is written much tighter. There are some really good pieces in The Haunted Halls. I wish Rolfe could go back and reconstruct the story. I think he could do a much better job with it now.

2 1/2 Ice Queens out of 5
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They Thirst – Robert McCammon

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I’m not sure how this one slipped through my fingers. I could’ve sworn that I’d read They Thirst many, many years ago, but for some odd reason I couldn’t remember much at all about it. So, I figured it was time for a re-read. Well, now I know why I don’t remember much about it – I never read the damn thing, in the first place! And oh what a treat this has been. Imagine discovering a new book by your favorite author written smack dab in the time period of when they did their best writing. That’s what They Thirst was for me! Now, McCammon lists this as one of his early books that he’s not very proud of and, yes, you can see a few things that might not fly these days. But, keep in mind, this was written back in 1981. Many things written in ’81 wouldn’t fly today! So, in my opinion, McCammon should be very proud of this one.

Andy Palatazin is the head of homicide in L.A. and is working night and day to catch The Roach, a serial killer that roams the streets strangling prostitutes. Soon, Andy will have to deal with an evil that has followed him to the states from the old country. One that makes The Roach seem like child’s play. Gayle is a reporter for the Los Angeles Tattler, a National Enquirer type of tabloid rag that Andy despises having to give any type of interview. Gayle, who is hot on the story of The Roach, longs for her big break that will allow her to work for a respected newspaper. Soon, Gayle will come face to face with a far greater story of evil. In East L.A., Father Silvera works tirelessly to keep the drug dealers out of his parish. Soon, Father will discover that his parishioners have a much greater evil overtaking them than addiction. For Wes, an up-and-coming comedian, he’s looking at a bright future with his African girlfriend, Solange, who also happens to be sensitive towards the spirit world. Soon, Wes will find that Solange’s talents are much more than parlor tricks. At the top of the hill overlooking L.A., an evil has moved into the abandoned castle that eccentric horror movie actor, Orleen Kronstein, resided in many years ago. And this evil is looking to grab L.A. by the throat.

They Thirst is a fun-filled romp of a vampire story done right. The characters and the atmosphere are perfect. Think of how the movie The Lost Boys was done (six years after They Thirst was written, mind you) and you’ll get an idea of the tone of this one. McCammon’s greatest strength is his wonderful characters that you feel like you know and They Thirst is no different. Top notch all the way. Sink your fangs into this one immediately!
5 dug up coffins out of 5
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