Carpenter’s Corner: Big Trouble in Little China

Carpenter’s Corner Big Trouble in Little China By David Wing In 1986, the USA and the world alike was introduced to a cinematic hero and while the front cover has all the hallmarks of a straight-to-video production, it is far better than the B-movie offal so many of us growing-up in the 80s saw. I was born in 1979 and as a result, my film education was firmly saturated in the universe of action heroes. Stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Bruce Lee kicked, punched and exploded their ways onto our 4:3 screen, even when their BBFC ratings said they shouldn’t. Funnily enough, it was my mother that discovered Big Trouble in Little China sitting on the shelf in the local Woolworths department store and convinced me to spend my not-so-hard worked allowance on. I never looked back. This was my first Carpenter film and from then on, I was hooked. Starring Kurt Russell – who would go on to star in a total of four John Carpenter films, most notably as the anti-hero, Snake Plissken (we’ll come to that later) – Russell plays Jack Burton, a truck driver who’s been everywhere and seen everything, until he arrives in San Francisco’s China Town. Jack plays cards … [Read more...]

The Starved: Inception – Book Review

The Starved: Inception Rick Ochre Carson Five May 4, 2015 Reviewed by Tim Potter The Starved: Inception by Rick Ochre is an interesting new horror novel set against a unique and genuinely creepy backdrop. The story is set between the years 1944 and 1958, turbulent times when one of the world’s greatest concerns was the recovery of Europe from the second World War. One of the most pressing issues was how to feed people affected by the war, where infrastructures that would provide nutrition were destroyed, and how to treat those who had been malnourished during the war, how to return them to health. Author Rick Ochre does a very good job of rendering the world of the story in the era in which it is set. The characters feel like they really live in the 1940s and 1950s and the world around them is consistently that of the time. The time frame is key to the story, without it the motivations of the characters would not work. The main characters, Carl Yoder and Hank Phipps, are sharp and realistic and the arcs of the characters through more than ten years of life are compelling. The supporting characters are likewise good, mainly existing in one time, not over the same decade, … [Read more...]

Truth or Dare? – Book Review

Truth or Dare? Edited by Max Booth III Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing October 30, 2014 Reviewed by Tim Potter Truth or Dare? is a solid anthology from editor Max Booth II and Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. It’s a shared world collection centering on a situation rife with storytelling opportunities: a drunken high school game of “Truth or Dare” in a dark Ohio forest on a Halloween full moon night. The stories are all firmly grounded in horror, but explore a wide variety of subgenres and situations. Richard Thomas kicks things off with his short entry “Shackled to the Shadows.” It’s a nice, if lean, story that establishes the setting and concept of the anthology more than anything else. “The Unpleasant Truth About Death” by Eric J. Guignard follows and is an interesting tale about an ill-fated childhood game of Dead Man’s Reflection, probably better known in the Bloody Mary incarnation. The character in this story chooses “truth” and must share how he died, exactly three years prior, when playing the ominous game. The creature feature “Mantid” by Kenneth W. Cain is a traditional but very effective entry that finds a character on a dare attacked by tiny river … [Read more...]

Dust of the Dead – Book Review

Dust of the Dead John Palisano Samhain Publishing June 2, 2015 Reviewed by Tim Potter With the novel Dust of the Dead, author John Palisano takes on zombies with some new ideas, but also some mixed results. The premise is a solid, interesting take on traditional zombie lore. The spreading of the disease is mainly done through the inhalation of “dust” of the reanimated dead, the portions of the dead that have grown old and dry and has been sloughed off like dead skin. Don’t worry, the dead still want to attack and feast on the living, but the main threat turns out to be their “dust”. It’s an interesting idea taken, likely, from the fact that bone dust from corpses is very dangerous to real human beings and can carry all sorts of diseases. When the story zeros in on this idea the story is a success. For the first half of the book, the idea of the “dust” gets lost among some other ideas that don’t have the same impact. The narrator of this first-person tale is Mike Lane, a believable and authentic character, though his motivation is questionable until almost exactly midway through the story. At that time the character of Jenny is introduced and Mike’s priorities become clear … [Read more...]

Dark Rising – Book Review

Dark Rising Vincenzo Bilof Severed Press Reviewed by Marvin P. Vernon Vincenzo Bilof is one of the more adventurous writers out there. His poem/novel, The Horror Show, was exciting, challenging and beautiful all at once. It was a grand experiment which, for the most part, successfully merged poetry, bizarro-lit and horror fiction all in one package. When I picked up Dark Rising, I knew I would be reading something different than The Horror Show. The plot appears to be rather mainstream. It concerns a rich celebrity, Ana Vivaldi, who finances a journey to trace the last voyage of her mother who disappeared at sea. She hires the two survivors of the doomed expedition: Whitmore, the alcoholic captain and Nightingale, a man who seems to have an obsessional grasp on the reason the first ship was destroyed. It involves a suitably awful sea creature and much more. At first it appears to be straight forward horror of the sea monster variety, yet we soon catch a glimpse of something else that is quite original and very surreal. Bilof’s style is anything but mainstream. He cannot disguise (nor should he) his very poetic style of angst and dread mixed with a sometimes florally … [Read more...]

The Damned – Book Review

The Damned Andrew Pyper Simon & Schuster February 10, 2015 Reviewed by Tim Potter Andrew Pyper’s latest novel, The Damned, in an interesting and philosophical supernatural thriller that delves into the question of what happens to people when they die. The afterlife, in all of it’s different forms, is experienced and explained by the narrator of this first person tale, Danny Orchard. He is a man who has died, and not just once, and returned to the world of the living to share his story of Heaven and Hell. It’s a lyrical, well written novel that, on a few occasions, gets bogged down by it’s introspective nature, but is ultimately satisfying. Danny Orchard is something of a celebrity having written an incredibly successful book about his experience in the afterlife when he died at the age of sixteen. The book-within-the-book is called The After and it relates his story about how his Heaven was riding in the car with his father through the streets of Detroit, reliving his best day ever. Danny also dies and experiences what it is like to go “the other way”, to Hell, or to be one of The Damned. When Danny died at the age of sixteen, his twin sister Ashleigh, or Ash, also … [Read more...]

April JournalStone Hellnotes Newsletter

Happy Spring! Warm (or warmer at least) weather has finally come. Hopefully you're taking the time to bask in the sun and enjoy a JournalStone Book while you're soaking up the rays. I have to lead off this month with an admission of error. In last month's newsletter, I displayed the books that were being released in March, but I mentioned the April releases in this column. My sincerest apologies go to the authors whose works I neglected to mention. I hope that you give these books a look. I know you'll enjoy them. I know I did. First of all, we had Black Water by Bobby Norman. It's a tale of witchcraft and revenge in the swamps of the Louisiana bayou. You won't want to miss this one. We also had Loonies by Gregory Bastianelli. I can honestly say that this one will keep you guessing right up to the very last page, with an ending that you just won't see coming. This one is a must read. This month sees the return of Matt Rowley in Patrick Freivald's Black Tide. I know many of you got to know Matt Rowley in Jade Sky. If you've been anxiously waiting the next book in the saga, I'm happy to let you know that your wait is over. We also are proud to release Benjamin Kane Ethridge's … [Read more...]

Beyond the Nightlight – Book Review

Beyond the Nightlight Edited by Adrean Messmer A Murder of Storytellers December, 2014 Reviewed by Jess Landry Whether it was the monster under your bed or the creature living in your closet, we’ve all had our share of childhood fears. So hell, why not live vicariously through your younger, bed-wetting self and indulge in an anthology that brings your boogeymen back to life? Beyond the Nightlight delivers twenty-four writers with twenty-four different takes on things that go bump in the night, be it through the eyes of a child or an adult reliving an unforgettable past. These may be stories about kids, but they’re certainly not for kids (unless said kid is a tiny bad-ass). As can only be expected from a collection about childhood fears, monsters are the main focus of a good chunk of the stories. A few stand-outs from the anthology include The Quiet Company by Robin Kirk, an atmospheric story in which the population is infected with a mysterious disease and only a number of young survivors remain. Methods of Coping by Adrian Ludens follows a young boy as he attempts to deal with his mother's death and his father's odd habits. Taking a deliciously nasty turn, the … [Read more...]

The Visible Filth – Book Review

The Visible Filth Nathan Ballingrud This is Horror March 31, 2015 Reviewed by Tim Potter With The Visible Filth, Nathan Ballingrud has written a swift, visceral and at times outright thrilling novella of horror and paranoia. The book reads like a Hitchcock-worthy thriller, the story of an average Joe thrown into a situation he doesn’t understand, and, through no fault of his own, is threatened by. There are also strong elements of noir at play, the atmosphere and fear of the unknown and unknowable, the seeming hopelessness of the situation that could be straight out of a Cornell Woolrich story. The story is set in New Orleans, a dingy and dark corner not inhabited by Mardis Gras tourists but by locals and cockroaches, all of whom seem to have a strong attraction to strong drinks. Bartender Will is the protagonist, a man who ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After a fight in the bar, once spilled drinks, tables and people have been righted, Will finds a phone on the ground. Yellow with heart stickers on it. He figures one of the college kids lost it when their table was knocked over. He doesn’t give it another thought until he has returned to his … [Read more...]

Anatomy of Evil – Book Review

Anatomy of Evil Brian Pinkerton Samhain Publishing April 7, 2015 Reviewed by Tim Potter Brian Pinkerton is a writer whose work screams out for more readers and the bestseller lists. His latest, Anatomy of Evil, is a fantastic foray into the horror genre that could appeal to a very wide audience in and out of the genre. His prose is sharp and clear and it’s never less that entertaining to read. The characters are excellent, unique and realistic, and the story is something familiar turned very original. The story centers on a group of friends from Chicago, successful and happy, who vacation on a remote Pacific island that is seemingly paradise. Things on Kiritimati are not exactly how they seem, and it may have something to do with nuclear tests the United States conducted there in the early 1960s. If the reader expects Godzilla to roar up from the depths or a replay of Them! they are in for a surprise. This is not a traditional nuclear-test-mutated-creature horror novel. The truth of the story is much more interesting, and creepy, than that. Much of the first part of the book utilizes a story structure that shifts the focus of each chapter onto each of the four main … [Read more...]