Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road by Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, J. F. Gonzalez, Wrath James White, Nate Southard, Ryan Harding, and Shane McKenzie

Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road
Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road

 This is a good book written for a great cause; to help fund the medical bills of writer Tom Piccirilli. Pic’s colleagues in hardcore horror decided to pitch-in on a round robin novel to help support their friend. For that reason alone the book is worth buying.

Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road is written by, and in collaboration with, Brian KeeneJack KetchumEdward LeeJ.F. GonzalezBryan SmithWrath James WhiteNate SouthardRyan Harding, and Shane McKenzie. All gentlemen are heavy hitters in the world of gore-and-sex horror stories, and they all bring the Grand Guignol goods here.

Things start out fine, with a sex-demon prologue preceding new residents Chuck and Arrianne moving into the titular house, the scene of creepy and kinky crimes. Of course, nothing ever dies (when it should) in horror (or elsewhere), which is bad news for Chuck and Arrianne.

Each chapter of Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road is written by a different author or combination of authors. Through a series of violent and sexual scenes, a story of erotic obsession and possession emerges.

But by the third act everything derails. The authors get caught up in a gross-out contest rather than plot or character development, and a sharp detour into meta-fiction near the novel’s end feels like a convenient way to wrap things up rather a serious literary effort.

The funniest lines are delivered by Nate Southard (as himself), who laments the state of the horror genre while acknowledging the novel’s gratuitous nature.

“I can’t believe I wrote that dog bowl shit. You think Laird Barron would do that? Or Lee Thomas? Or Sarah?”

“Which Sarah? Langan or Pinborough?” asks equally-guilty author J.F. Gonzalez.

“Either,” Southard says, but quickly reconsiders. “Okay, well maybe Pinborough would, but you get my point.”

Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road ends up poking fun at horror in general and splatterpunk in particular. The authors clearly have fun with the material even as the story falls to pieces around them. But that’s not important; pick this one up to help out Tom Piccirilli.

Then do both yourself and Tom Piccirilli a favor, and buy as many Tom Piccirilli books as you can find. My favorites are Pic’s noir-flavored The Midnight Road and November Mourns, along with supernatural mystery, The Night Class. Piccirilli is a master of the written word leaving deep footprints on the landscape of mystery, suspense, and terror, and deep impressions on readers touched by his work.

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The Girl on the Glider by Brian Keene

Brian Keene's The Girl on the Glider, $2.99 ebook.
Brian Keene’s The Girl on the Glider, $2.99 ebook.

The Girl on the Glider introduces us to one of Brian Keene’s most interesting and complex characters—himself.

Keene’s foray into metafiction is a successful one. The Girl on the Glider chronicles Keene’s personal ghost story, as well as his private struggles as a husband, a father, and a cult horror writer with a big fan base but modest bank account.

Keene tips his hat to the authors that have walked this literary road before him; Hunter S. Thompson, Tim Powers, and Stephen King. The Girl On The Glider also shares a thematic bond with Whitley Strieber’s “all-true tales.” Is it easier or more difficult to suspend your disbelief when the storyteller is a known spinner of fantastic tales? Does even matter, so long as the writing is good?

Keene’s ghostly encounter leaves him a changed man — a better man.

The Girl on the Glider has the power to affect readers the same way.

Scratch by Brian Keene

Scratch by Brian Keene
$2.99 ebook

Brian Keene fans have seen these characters and situations before—a blue-collar family struggling to survive in the face of a monstrous supernatural presence. Those elements, combined with Keene’s patented action-packed pacing, and B horror movie thrills, blend pleasantly in Scratch. This is a brief but engaging novella, similar in style and theme to Keene’s The Conqueror Worms. If you have a fear of snakes, Scratch will get ya!
Equally engaging is the included short story, “Halves,” which, if you’ve ever had a pet cat bring you a half-eaten “gift,” you’ll find darkly amusing and eerily familiar.

Alone by Briane Keene

Alone by Brian Keene
$2.99 Ebook

Brian Keene’s novella Alone reads like a long lost Twilight Zone episode. You can almost hear Rod Serling’s narration; “Submitted for your approval, Mr. Dan Miller, who wakes up one day and finds that everyone he knows and loves–in fact, everyone on earth–has disappeared…” Keene gets this strange tale up and running quickly, and continues the weird Zone-vibe throughout (including a requisite “twist” ending). Yeah, the twist is more of a big, loping curveball that’s easy to see coming, and the minimal cast doesn’t leave much room for character development. But the joy of a Keene story is his sugary style and natural skill as a storyteller. Alone is a fast-paced, engaging tale, that jumps up and slaps you in the face before you can notice its shortcomings.

Kill Whitey by Brian Keene

Cemetery Dance Publications
$4.99 Ebook, (both .epub and .mobi formats included).

Brian Keene has been both praised and criticized for writing books that read like the novelizations of yet-to-be-made B-horror movies. Giant bugs, weird aliens, zombies, and action, action, action — a Keene novel is like a raucous night at a ’70s drive-in creature feature. Personally, I like Keene’s style, maybe because I like bad B-horror movies.

Keene has the chops to tackle weightier themes, like the bonds of father/son love in his breakout debut, The Rising, or the desperation of a terminally ill man in Terminal (Keene nails the concept of “breaking bad” years before the popular AMC show coined the phrase).

But Brian Keene’s Kill Whitey is a straight up grindhouse funfest that would make Russ Meyer or Quentin Tarantino proud. Don’t let the race-baiting title fool you: Whitey is a Russian mobster who may just be an immortal version of Rasputin the Mad Monk! Either way, the guy is harder to kill than Michael Myers. Toss in a sexy Russian stripper, and the obligatory “buddies-who-must-die,” and you’ve got Keene rolling full throttle, and the thrills, chills and suspense build to a satisfactory, if implausible, climax.

Kill Whitey won’t win any awards for originality, or literary achievement, or…well, anything really. But it’s a fun, fast ride that will leave you both queasy and exhilarated.

Shades by Brian Keene and Geoff Cooper

Author: Brian Keene & Geoff Cooper
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications, 2011
Price: $2.99 ebook (both Epub & Mobi formats included)

 

Geoff Cooper and Brian Keene know their stuff. Cooper’s Retribution Inc is one of the finest rock-n-roll horror stories I’ve read. And Keene’s The Rising and Terminal are two of the best novels written in years, both within the horror genre and without. Shades is a nice combo effort from Keene and Coop. Coop provides the setting (the fictional upstate New York town of Brackard’s Point is featured in several of Coopers other works) and Keene provides the mythos (courtesy of his “Labyrinth” stories, with a touch of Russian wizardry from his novel Get Whitey mixed in.) The characters aren’t the most original we’ve seen (the adolescent who harbors untapped magical powers, and the two warring wizards) but they are relateable and realistic enough to keep you engaged in the story, which is fast-paced and fun. Overall, a “good read” — you can’t go wrong with Cooper and/or Keene!