Blog Archives

THEM – Horror book review

THEM4

THEM6James Watts is a US/Alabama based horror writer and author.THEM7 In addition to his debut novel, THEM, he has had short stories appear in several horror anthologies while writing for the horror publisher, HellBound Books.

When not writing himself, he is also an Administrator for the highly active and successful horror promotion and discussion group, Realms of The Damned Horror Society, helping to discover and promote new writers, news, and events in the genre. 

Following the success of THEM, James Watts is busy working on his next book, Beast of Sorrows … 

To keep up with and follow the author, see below for his social media:

THEM3

 

Twitter: @James2go34

Author website: www.james2go33.wixsite.com

Facebook page: @Southernhorrorwriter

Goodreads: James Watts

***

THEM

5starssgs (1)

A great debut horror novel that would sit comfortably among the works of Stephen King & James Herbert …

THEM2With ancient malevolent forces occupying human bodies, innocent looking creatures morphing into hungry life-draining parasites, and a history of evil dating back millennia, these ingredients alone are a recipe for an intriguing horror tale. Added to the mix though are family secrets and rivalries, murder, and an emerging horror triggered by the main character’s return to his childhood home and town to attend his mother’s funeral.

I liked the dramatic start to this book i.e. the events and horror that prelude the opening scenes of Ray Sanders’ return and his mother’s funeral as already mentioned. Having said that, once past the dramatic opening, the book adopts a slower pace while it lays the groundwork for the wider story that follows; James Watts does an excellent job of setting the scene, creating the characters and relationships of a small town, and of relating old rivalries, friendships, and family secrets. Even before events start to take a more sinister turn, the author’s impressive descriptive skills have already conjured up the perfect setting and surroundings in which they unfold … one can almost hear the sound of banjos playing on a southern porch while picturing the image of cabins in the woods, and a character out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre lurking behind every corner, though there are horrors here far worse than any human monster

Apart from a well-constructed story and a rich array of characters, the nitty gritty of the writing was also first class, not shying away from explicit and graphic language at times, but not over-doing it either. Although set in the present, in some ways, ‘THEM’ reads much like old-style horror – not in a dated or old-fashioned way, but in the tradition of, say, Dennis Wheatley or H.P. Lovecraft, though with a healthy resemblance to the blood and gore of some classic 70s/80s’ horror too – in terms of more modern writers, ‘THEM’ would sit quite comfortably nestled among the works of Stephen King and James Herbert … a great debut novel and addition to the horror genre, and hints too of more to come …

***

Video trailer for THEM

 

Click HERE for James M. Watts’ Amazon author page:

THEM9

Short Story – A taster from my up-coming anthology, Canine Tales, book2 in The Creature Tales collection …

a7

Still some final edits to go, but a little preview taster story from Canine Tales, book 2 of my Creature Tales collection – Twenty-four ‘canine-themed’ tales, drawing their inspiration from mythology, folklore, and traditional horror: tales of touching loyalty sit alongside those of throat-ripping savagery, from the modern day all the way back to Biblical times.

ct1

***

Cerebus

df1There aren’t words to accurately portray the sheer viciousness of an organised dog-fight. Think of the most brutal boxing or cage fight you ever saw. Now imagine that fight being fought bare-knuckle instead of gloved, and the fighters wearing sharp protruding rings on their hands to rip at their opponents’ face, eyes, and body. There are no rounds between which wounds or injuries can be attended, no referee to ensure fairness or enforce the rules – there are no rules.

Perhaps not since gladiatorial Rome had such barbarism existed for viewing entertainment, and even then, at least those combatants knew why they were fighting, with the remote possibility of freedom or some reward for putting on a good show. Imagine all this multiplied a thousand times, and still it won’t come close to the bloody spectacle of a dog-fight.

Seven such dog-fights had taken place the night Geoff Richards’ life was to change, quite literally forever.

It had been another profitable show, not even marred by two of the combatants having died from their injuries. Geoff had made a lot of money and was proud it was two of his own Staffordshire Bull Terriers that had been the ones to inflict those fatal outcomes. They had been hard fights though. Every dog that had taken part fought with a savagery to match that of any wild born creature. But Geoff’s dogs, they were something entirely different. If it weren’t that every combatant was checked over before a match, the baying spectators and other dog owners, or ‘dogmen’ as they called themselves, would have sworn Geoff’s hounds were either possessed or infected with some maddening rabid disease, making them fight like the devil. Even so, there was no occult or extraordinary secret to Geoff’s dogs’ extreme savagery other than the dogman’s willingness and determination to use every trick in the book to make them so. He gave no thought of the long-term health problems in using the same anabolic steroids he used in his own bodybuilding to increase their muscle mass and aggressiveness. Like most fighting dogs, Geoff’s were devoid of any social skills from having been raised in isolation, mostly at the end of short heavy chains. But even without the drug-induced ‘roid-rage,’ such a life was practically guaranteed to produce brutalised hate-filled creatures or ‘canine killing machines’ as he liked to call them.

In many ways, Geoff Richards was a man born out of his time. He would have been more in his element amid the Victorian London seedy alehouses, when and where all manner of such barbarous blood sports were at their height of popularity, and more shamefully, were as legal and accepted as placing a bet on the horses is today. A century later though, a more civilised society had moved on; the likes of Geoff and his fellow dog fighting enthusiasts had not.

After the usual night’s drinking, settling of bets lost and won and the swapping of fight and other dog-related stories that followed such an event, Geoff made his excuses and left. He faced a long drive home from the remote farm where this latest dog fighting horror had taken place, one of many such venues where fans of the supposed ‘sport’ could indulge their perverse fascination with such heinous cruelty.

Getting into his car was the last thing Geoff remembered from his life as a dogman.

 

Were it not for the immediate danger, Geoff would have given more thought to where he was and how he came to be there, but such trivial concerns were the last thing on his mind at the moment …

They were getting closer. Never had Geoff seen such a ferocious looking pack of dogs, which for a dogman, was quite something. He counted three, but it was difficult to tell given the darkness and remote location. Still, the roar-like bellowing of distant, angry growls and snarls made him think there might be several more just out of sight. He knew it would be a hopeless task attempting to outrun them if they gave chase, but an instinct for survival compelled him to try.

 

Three-headed dog Cerberus.Mention the name Cerebus and most people if they’ve heard it before would likely tell of some mythical three-headed beast of a dog guarding the gates of Hell. Of course, no one believed such myths now despite the test-tube monstrosities presently being created in rogue laboratories across the world. Nor do most still believe in the concept of Hell, except perhaps ones of their own making.

It was quite a shock then when Geoff Richards found himself confronted with both; the sight standing before him was several orders of magnitude more frightening than the horror he had just run from, only to see it leap and land to his front. It was another shock to realise too it had not been three dogs he had seen, but one enormous three-headed monster, the like of which defied even the darkest imagination. The creature’s teeth would have glistened like finely sharpened ivory tusk-sized fangs but for being coated with copious amounts of foul-smelling drool, mixed with the still warm blood of its last meal. Everything Geoff’s father had ever said about never showing fear to a dog, that they were more afraid of you, suddenly seemed absurd. Only an imbecile wouldn’t have trembled before the monstrous sight towering over him. Geoff doubted that even the Devil himself could induce the slightest fear in this particular dog, wondering if this was indeed the Devil himself in canine form. He was not far off the mark in his speculations …

Cerebus was a great favourite of Satan and was confident the Horned one would let him keep this mortal dross for his own savage amusement. Oh yes, Cerebus had grand plans for the quivering frail man creature.

 

Geoff was past any hope he might soon wake up from his starring role in the bloody nightmare unfolding around him. Cerebus had bellowed another mighty growl, the deafening intensity of which had sent Geoff fleeing for all his worth, headlong into the dark of the surrounding woods. It was only the fire and lightning illuminating patches of the ground and sky that made it possible for Geoff not to hurtle face first into some tree trunk or tumble head over heels. But whatever benefit the flames of the fire provided in the way of light, it took back in other ways. Great wafts of smoke drifted and blew all directions, sometimes obscuring his vision, but mostly filling his lungs to the point of choking. Still, it was a relief there seemed no open space where the creature he had just fled might reappear. Sadly, for Geoff, that relief wasn’t to last.

df2A new pack of growling hounds had appeared. They were immeasurably smaller than Cerebus, and yet, they seemed all the more terrifying for their seemingly normal size up close. This time there were no heavy chains to keep the dogs in check or a weapon with which he could defend himself should a dog go rogue on him. At any other time, he would have felt embarrassed by the slow trickle of urine now escaping his bladder, but given the circumstances, it was quite inconsequential. Geoff knew Cerebus could snuff out his life with a single swipe of a paw, or rend his body into a dozen pieces in the blink of an eye if it chose – either would be a quick and merciful death – but these, they were of a size that made it possible for Geoff to perhaps offer some token resistance, enough to drag out his suffering several more agonising minutes.

They were circling him now, making it impossible for Geoff to know from which direction the first bite or clawing would come. Before he knew it, teeth and nails were ripping through his soiled trousers, simultaneously shredding the flesh from his lower legs even as he felt his body falling to the ground. More bites quickly followed, more rending of flesh by sharp claw-clad paws, but now, all about every part of his body.

And then, quite suddenly, the attack stopped, the dogs’ angry growling silenced by a more thunderous one from God knows where. Just as suddenly, the dogs scampered away into the night. Geoff didn’t know whether to be relieved for the however brief respite or further terrified that instead of a quick death, it would be an excruciatingly slow and painful one from the savage mauling he had suffered. Oddly though, the pain was beginning to subside ever so slightly, and looking down and about his bloodied legs and torso, neither was pouring out blood as he expected. His mind returned to the dogs that had just attacked him. Now that he had a moment to think, he was reminded of the many dogs he had trained to fight, and that same look of wretchedness of their opponents. Those minute details started to haunt his mind: the ripped ears and every old wound and battle scar screaming of a violent and savage past. They were clearly fighting dogs, dogs that had taken part in battles to the death, and evidently the victors in such battles. Even with his own steroid fuelled pit bull like physique, he doubted now if he really could have fended them off for any amount of time had they continued their attack. For now, he was simply glad of the chance to rest. Everything started to go black as lay back on the grass …

*

“It’s an unusual case,” Dr Ronald Marsh was telling his attentive audience, students from the sanatorium’s neural studies department. “Despite the patient’s comatose state, he’s prone to violent thrashing about, hence the use of the restraints while we sedate him. He should remain quiet now for several hours.” Geoff was strapped down on a gurney, like some state prisoner about to be administered a lethal injection. Were such an action able to release him from his nightmare state, Geoff would have gladly accepted it.

“And he’s been like this for how long?” asked one of the students.

“Seventeen years now to the day since he was dragged from the burning car he’d crashed. I can’t imagine the traumas running through his mind to invoke such reaction, even under heavy sedation.”

Though loath to admit it, the sanatorium staff thought it might be a mercy to their comatose patient to ‘gently slip away’ in his sleep one quiet night. They weren’t to know that Geoff’s many years of suffering were just a prelude to his eventual arrival in a realm beyond that of his mortal mind and body. However long he had or was destined to suffer his nightmares, it would seem like a fleeting moment in comparison to the eternity that awaited.

*

Geoff wasn’t sure how long he’d slept but he was sure it had been several hours, maybe longer given how much better he felt. His body no longer hurt or ached. As his mind brushed aside the cobweb strands that briefly tie us between that half-way state between sleep and consciousness, memories of his ordeal with the dogs came flooding back. Hell, that was some nightmare, he thought, judging from the drenching of stale sweat he was lying in. Still, it was over, time to get up. He went to pull back the bedclothes he assumed would be covering him. They weren’t there, and he felt cold – much colder than if he were back in his own bed if that was the case? Nor was he lying on some nice comfortable mattress. Whatever it was, it was stone hard and icy too. Perhaps’ he’d fallen to the floor in his sleep? Geoff raised himself up. All he had to do was turn on a light and this nightmare would be done with. He’d barely taken two steps when a sudden and painful jolt to his ankle stopped him in his tracks. He reached down to feel what it was. He was chained by the ankle to what felt like a rock-like wall, the sort of chain he used to tether his dogs before a match. His eyes were adjusting to the dark and he could see he was in some sort of pit, about 20 or so feet square, much like the pits many a dog fight took place. Coincidence? Geoff thought not. He was still in his nightmare, albeit seemingly recovered from the last part of it, but equally dreading what might be coming next? He didn’t have long to wait to see just what.

Fires sprung up to the sides of the pit, while a rapid succession of lightening sparks lit up the sky. Hideous faces started to appear, peeking over the pit wall with an intense look of curiosity. More startling though was the gradual appearance of dozens of rats, emerging from scores of little cracks in the pit walls. Soon there were far too many to count. Was this to be his next ordeal, to be attacked by rats? For the moment they seemed mildly indifferent to him. Directly opposite to where Geoff was standing, part of the pit wall started to crumble before his eyes. Through the rubble of the crumbled wall, several pit bull dogs scampered over the ruins. They were smaller than the last pack, but what they lacked in size they made up for in numbers, six in total. Geoff recalled reading of such spectacles, of monumental rat baiting battles where some rat killing dog would kill scores of the loathsome creatures in quick succession. Is that what this was about, to be made to witness such horror first hand? But no. Something was wrong. Rats and dogs alike seemed totally at ease with the others’ presence. One by one, their eyes focussed on Geoff. The dogs slowly started their approach while the rats darted back and forth about his feet. This time, the ordeal was to last much longer. There was no outright attack, more a slow wearing down as the rats and dogs intermittently nipped away at him, sapping his strength while the life and blood gradually drained from his body. Geoff knew he wouldn’t die though, at least not from any horror in his nightmares. Memories lingered of countless other such encounters. Once again, he recalled hazy images of hospital staff sticking needles into him, of white-coated doctors and nurses during those brief moments when he would occasionally emerge from his comatose state. Those fleeting memories were enough for him to realise everything that was happening was just in his mind, even if the pain was a real as any he remembered from his previous life. It was made worse knowing too that the current terror could and probably would continue till the levels of sedation from the hospital staff were sufficient to plunge his mind into darkness again. As always, Geoff prayed the level might finally be a fatal one.

 

Such nightmares continued through the years, too long for Geoff to know just how many? They no longer shocked him in the same way, not that that diminished the pain each time. Sometimes it was rats, others it was insects crawling about his body, but mostly it was the biting and clawing of the dogs that was to be his ongoing punishment. His only solace lay in the fact that his body would die someday, and with it his mind too, that he’d one day be free of the nightly creature inflicted torments. It suited Cerebus to allow the comfort of that belief to continue till such time as Geoff did indeed die. But there was never to be the eternal peace the dogman craved so desperately. The three-headed canine lord had promised its growling minions as much, and whatever else, Cerebus was a demon of its word.

 

Such was the vileness of Geoff’s ‘business,’ Satan Himself had taken an interest in the comatose man, initially seeing great promise in him. Such evil depravity in the heart of man might make for another fine minion of Hell, Satan had thought. But the dark one had misjudged the mortal creature he had shown interest. Had Geoff truly revelled in the cruelty and torture he made his living by, been the sort of man who took pride in being an offence to all that was good and decent, then indeed he might have been worthy to sit by Satan’s side. But Geoff Richards was none of these things. Looking into his soul, Satan saw him to be everything he loathed in mankind. Unlike a few of his fellow dogman who were both evil in mind and heart as well as deed, despite appearances, Geoff was a coward of the worst kind; he made a pretence of honest respectability, and while he took no pleasure in the suffering of those poor creatures at the sharp end of his activities, neither was he repulsed. Instead, he was utterly indifferent, his sole motivation being money and the luxurious lifestyle it provided. No, he was just another sick greedy bastard – a worthy inhabitant of Hell by any means, but not one to enjoy the prize of Satan’s favour. Cerebus was welcome to him.

The old saying, that the Devil looks after his own, wasn’t just applicable to the Lord of the underworld. Cerebus’s drool dripping tongues swirled around its three jaws, salivating at the prospect of the dog fighting Geoff’s arrival in Hell, the real Hell, where the three-headed demon would be waiting … they may not have had much of a life in Geoff’s world, but every dog he’d ever trained, or those others that had died fighting his ‘trained canine killers’ would be waiting too, as would every other creature ever to suffer at the hands of a cruel master, waiting their turn with the dogman … . In this one dark corner of Hell, it was the creatures that tortured and tormented man, not the other way round … forever.

For many more stories like the one above, stay tuned for the March publication of:

rattales5c

 

Book Review -Deadly Secrets

gordon7

gordon6Gordon Bickerstaff was born and raised in Glasgow, spending his student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, he learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and cut the grass in the Meadows.

*If he ran the lawnmower over your toes, he says … “sorry.” 

He learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before retiring to write fiction. He lives with his wife in Scotland, where in his own words  … “corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.” 

Gordon Bickerstaff writes the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds and Tabula Rasa. They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.

iasdpic1
In addition to the above, Gordon is a valued member and contributor to the IASD writing group and an avid supporter of other authors. 

Gordon’s social media:

TWITTER:  @ADpase – BLOG: https://gordonbickerstaff.blogspot.com/

***

Deadly Secrets

timberwolfamazon

Hints of Michael Crichton with lots of blood and gore … what more could you ask?

Gordon1

Deadly Secrets is the first in an ongoing book series numbering five to date. It’s a fast-paced thriller that blends lots of blood and gory violence with an intriguing story. It kicks off with the central character, Gavin Shawlens, being called to the suspicious death of a dog being housed at some kennels. The case is a mystery to him, and the story quickly takes a different direction before he makes the connection

I won’t give any of the plot away but will say it has all the elements that, say, a Michael Crichton fan would expect in a book: a secret government investigatory organisation, the accidental discovery of a ‘flawed’ process for a revolutionary new food ingredient, various international parties willing to stop at nothing to get their hands on, and political and corporate intrigue. Alongside the main story, there’s also some gruesome nasty side-lines of a corporate mogul’s business that could almost warrant a whole new book in their own right. There’s a fair sprinkling of science and biochemistry littered throughout to give the main story credibility, but not so much as to leave the average reader overwhelmed or baffled by it all, with lots of easy to read analogies to clarify things.

It was good to have a central character/hero type character that wasn’t the stereotypical action man, but one with all the more usual frailties and fears that most of us might feel in the same situation. There were lots of unexpected twists and turns in the characters’ personal lives that fitted the story perfectly but all totally believable.  

The ending is clearly designed to intrigue the reader as to future stories, leaving hints of unfinished business which I’ll be reading up on in the near future. Great book!

***

See here for Gordon Bickerstaff’s Amazon author page and other books …

A Change of Mind … – Flash Fiction short story (No:7)

iasdpic1Flash Fiction story no:7 in the series. I got a bit stuck on this one, going right up to the 1000 word limit with it almost, hence it’s late a1FlashFictionappearance.

Not much humour here I’m afraid, more a little macabre tale of regret and being careful what you wish for. A tad dark, but hey, it makes a nice – or not so nice – change. Enjoy …

justice10

A Change of Mind …

 

justice8I used to be one of those ‘the courts are too soft. They should slice his balls off with rusty wire cutters. Lock the bastards up and throw away the key,’ convinced I had a better understanding of justice than the courts.

Like a lot of people, I was sick of seeing murders and rapists walking free after less than a year or two in jail while their victims suffered the rest of their lives. I was actually pleased at the shock election of a far-right government when it freed us from the judicial restraints of a civil and human rights obsessed Europe.

And then it happened; a little the worse for wear after too much booze, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

justice6If only I’d called a taxi that night, everything that followed might have been avoided. But I didn’t. I’d decided to stumble along the dark back streets to where I lived. I’d hoped against hope the night air might clear my head, maybe just enough to minimise the disapproving reception of a wife who would no doubt not be impressed at my turning up in the early hours of the morning. I can’t help but sigh at the irony of such a trivial concern now.

I was passing a derelict factory when I noticed some bloke walking towards me.justice7

 

“Got a light, mate?” he asked. I should have just muttered I hadn’t and continued walking, but thinking about it, I doubt it would have made a difference.

I fumbled for a lighter among my pockets. In the process, I dropped my wallet to the ground. Fuck it, I silently cursed, cursing the stranger too for interrupting my efforts to walk home. The man immediately reached down for it. I assumed he was picking it up for me, undoubtedly aware I was too drunk to do so myself. I extended my hand for him to pass it back to me. He didn’t. Instead, he opened it, taking out the one remaining twenty-pound note before tossing the wallet among some discarded black trash bags. I could well afford the loss of twenty quid, and it would have been easy enough to cancel the credit cards the next day. I should have just shrugged and continued my walk home and let it go.

I didn’t …

“Oi, what you up to? You’ve taken my fucking money,” I shouted at him. He turned to justice5walk away, so I grabbed his arm to try and stop him. He easily shoved me to the ground among the trash bags where my cashless wallet lay. If I’d any sense, I wouldn’t have got up, allowing the stranger to go on his way in search of another victim.

I rose to one knee and reached out to an empty bottle lying among the adjacent rubbish and threw it in his direction, hitting the back of his head, hard. He turned back towards me, angry and now with a knife in hand.

Having slumped back on my rear end, it was hard for him to lunge at me the same way he might if I were standing. Nonetheless, he tried to strike in a downwards motion. He stumbled in the dark though. After that, it’s mostly an alcohol misted blur. All I know is, when he fell, the knife he was holding ended up piercing one of his lungs. Despite my drunken stupor, I still remember those last frantic gasps for breath while he literally drowned in his own blood.

If only I’d been sober. I would have either made sure I left no clues I was ever there or would have immediately called the police. Instead, I continued on my way home. The police found my wallet, and I was arrested the next day. A month later I was convicted – of murder.

Sentencing was very different now from what it was before the changes promised in The National Sovereignty Patriots’ election manifesto before their unexpected victory. All the medieval penalties I and so many others would often wish for when we saw the social media conveyor belt of monstrous crime reports quickly became a part of the here and now.

justice12The first change had been the reintroduction of the death penalty. But you had to suffer beforehand, the public demanded that. First, they might amputate a foot. A month later it might be a leg, then perhaps an eye or sometimes just a couple of fingers, there was no order or timetable to the surgeries. The Government kept the public onside with lots of happy-ending heart-string pulling social media posts of children being saved by the many more transplant organs available, courtesy of all those scummy criminals who wouldn’t be needing them.

justice1In between the amputations and the organ extractions and healing, the authorities would wheel you out around the schools and young offender institutions as a stark warning that the days of being soft on crime were over. As my anatomy continued to shrink, the looks of those I was paraded before gradually turned from pity to ones of horror and disgust.

We’re forced to write a blog, detailing our experiences as a warning to others. That’s how you come to be reading this. I won’t be writing for a while, I’m due for another surgery tomorrow – another limb removal or perhaps a lung, I don’t really know.

*

justice11Prisoner X252 never did get to write the end of his story. They amputated his hands yesterday. There’s not much of him left now, certainly not enough to parade before all the young offenders. Not surprisingly, he’s changed his mind somewhat about judicial punishments. He misses all those civil liberties and human rights he’d once been so dismissive of … along with most of his body now.

juliaproofreader

Everything you always wanted to know about proofreading but were afraid to ask!

We Are Cult

News, reviews, interviews and events devoted to all things cult!

Slop Jockey on tour

misadventures following a Churchill Fellow

Monsters, Madness and Magic

Exploring weird fiction in search of strange truths

DEADITE PRESS

the very best in cult horror

Red Cape Publishing

Supporting Indie Authors

The Crime Review

a mystery lover's exploration of the best reads in the crime genre.

tonezblog

A topnotch WordPress.com site

Tom Benson - Erotica

A place to visit when you're feeling 'blue'

sjcbookreviews

stay-at-home mama, reading with kiddos and for me-time

Robert Lalonde - Author

Mystery - Suspense - Thrillers

The Works of Craig Robertson

Visit The Ryanverse. You'll Never Want To Leave!

Robbie's inspiration

Ideas on writing and baking

Josh's Worst Nightmare

Author Josh Schlossberg surveys the dark landscape of biological horror fiction.

EUROPEAN Short Film and Screenplay Festival

Showcasing the best of European Films and Scripts at the FEEDBACK Festivals!

Festival for HORROR

Showcasing the BEST OF HORROR FILMS, SCREENPLAYS, AND STORIES

%d bloggers like this: