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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street,  East Providence, RI 02914

Last Update 12/25/17

The Legacy by John Coyne, Berkley, 1979   

Six people are invited or lured to Ravenshurst, a remote estate in England. Five of them believe they know that their dying patron plans to split his legacy among them. The sixth is tricked into coming, along with her lover, and has no idea why. Then the guests begin to die in unpleasant ways and we slowly come to understand that there was witchcraft in the family bloodline, that Maggie is descended from the witch, and that she is slated to become the new master of the manner, although not until all of her competitors are eliminated. This is a pretty good novelization of a somewhat mediocre movie and was followed by several well received original horror novels by author, who left the genre when it crashed in the late 1980s. 12/25/17

Demon Knight by Randall Boyll, 1995  

This is the novelization of what was supposed to be the first of three movies tied to the Tales from the Crypt television show. A man carrying an ancient key that prevents demons from taking over the universe is under siege with others in a boarding house. The prose version adds more background for the characters and changes quite a few details in the story, providing less sex and more violence. Unfortunately it was the authorís last horror novel. The sometimes over the top humor fails to translate well to the printed page but the added detail is interesting at times. 12/21/17

Chiller by Randall Boyll, Jove, 1992 

Although this has a great premise and some good opening chapters, it loses steam as it goes along, partly because it turns into cops and robbers with hitmen, a witty thief, and a schizophrenic personality split. The protagonist cannot face the imminent death of his five year old daughter, so he allows an experimental procedure to remove the part of the brain that tells the body it is dead. She ďdiesĒ but remains animate. He steals the body for a cross country drive to a secret clinic, pursued by a hitman and the FBI, robbing banks to raise money for what he hopes will be a life restoring cryogenic treatment. The daughter is kept covered with ice, but circumstances are not always favorable and her deterioration continues. Toward the end, it feels more like a parody than an actual horror story, with plot holes, confused motivations, and a plethora of coincidences.12/19/17

Knuckle Balled by Drew Stepek, Bloodbound, 2017, $13.99, ISBN 978-1940250298

This is the sequel to Knuckle Supper, in which we learned that a good bit of the drug trade is administered by somewhat unconventional vampires. One of those dealers regained a little humanity in that book and now he's off to Texas for a fresh set of adventures. But there is more going on than meets the eye. There are secret organizations and conspiracies, plus doublecrosses and more overt threats. He is accompanied by an ally as well as the younger sister of the prostitute from the first book. But her chances of a normal life are obviously very low and our somewhat conflicted antihero may not be up to the task of keeping her out of trouble. Lots of violence and some unsettling incidents involving child abuse, for those who are easily triggered. Stepek writes well and the story hurtles rather than progresses to its not so obvious conclusion. 12/18/17

Shocker by Randall Boyll, Berkley, 1990 

This is the novelization of the Wes Craven movie about a crazed serial killer who survives being electrocuted thanks to a satanic ritual. He possesses several people, trying to kill the protagonist, and does kill his girlfriend. Her ghost returns to help her boyfriend end the threat, which comes only after they both fall into a television based reality and have a minor epic battle. As is the case with most novelizations, the story feels superficial and rushed.  The book adds nothing in particular to the movie but itís readable. 12/15/17

Mongster by Randall Boyll, Berkley, 1991  

This is a rather unfunny spoof of horror novels in which a young boy who has been abused by his stepfather finds the location of a buried mummy with magical properties. Various parties are trying to find the mummy because of its sold gold sarcophagus, but only the boy has the magic words that bring it to life. Except that the creature Ė itís not human Ė isnít very powerful or scary. The ending is self referential and not particularly satisfying and there is an awful lot of graphic violence directed toward children. 12/14/17

The Vampire Years by Eric Del Carlo, Elder Signs Press, 2017, $14.95, ISBN 978=1-93450-182-5

Vampires and humans went to war and the vampires won. They now rule the earth but thanks to the invention of artificial blood, they no longer prey on humans, who are essentially kept on reservations. But the long and uneasy peace may be coming to an end because a vampire has killed and consumed the blood of a human being, throwing into jeopardy the fragile balance of power.  A human and a vampire get involved with solving what is essentially a murder mystery, and each discovers that his or her attitudes are beginning to change. Could this be the dawn of a new understanding between the two species? I didn't completely buy the romantic subplot but the mystery itself is well handled. 12/10/17

After Sundown by Randall Boyll, Charter, 1989

Boyll's first horror novel appeared just as the genre was about to collapse, which is a shame because he showed considerable promise. Much of his subsequent work would be novelizations of films. This one involves two families, one of whom has recently lost their only child in a freak accident, who decide to spend a weekend in a remote cabin to get away from their mutual gloom. But the cabin is near the sight of another tragedy in which starvation led to the murder of a child. Suddenly the newcomers find themselves beset by a dead coyote that refuses to lie down, trees that spring up from the ground to block their escape route, a mounting snow fall, and the appearance of ghostly figures who are trying to find a release from their posthumous punishment. There are some genuine chills and inventive thrills as the story rushes toward a frightful conclusion. 12/9/17

Last Chance by Gregg Hurwitz, Tor, 2017, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-8269-6 

Although this is technically SF it feels more like horror. This is the second in a series of young adult novels, following The Rains, which mixes a variation of the zombie apocalypse with an alien invasion clearly inspired by The Fifth Wave. I havenít seen the first book, but clearly the aliens used spores to convert large chunks of humanity into more or less mindless killing machines. The protagonists are a group of teens who have turned a school into a kind of fortress. Unfortunately, that was not the only trick the aliens had up their sleeves - assuming they have arms Ė and the pressure is going to be ratcheted up a notch. As usual, some of the teens may hold the key to defeating the invaders, unlikely as that might seem, and in the mean time they are armed and ready to kick ass. I sometimes felt that these were adults rather than teens, but maybe weíre supposed to assume that events have caused them to mature more quickly than usual. Nothing new, but not badly written and generally entertaining. 10/28/17

The Complex by Brian Keene, Deadite, 2016  

As much as I enjoy Brian Keeneís zombie novels, I would not have finished this one if I hadnít been trapped in a waiting room with nothing else to read. Present tense narration just kills suspense for me because Iím constantly noticing that Iím reading a story. I am aware that many people don't get bothered by this, but some of us do and I'll keep saying the same thing. This one involves a mass attack by naked homicidal killers on an apartment complex inhabited by a quite varied group of people. The usual events ensue as the outside world effectively ceases to exist for the protagonists. 10/23/17

Inferno by Angeline Hawkes, Elder Signs, 2017, $14.95, ISBN 978-1934501818

This collection of short stories has a rather unusual structure. The angel Obadiah is taking a tour of Hell and interviewing a couple dozen of its occupants, and their stories are the individual tales within this frame. Obviously each story involves some form of sin, some worse than others, but there are traditional supernatural devices as well including a vampire and a werewolf. The stories are sprinkled through history and quite varied in tone and subject matter, although almost all of them are necessarily quite short. Their effect is more cumulative than individual, although paradoxically I thought the framing material was unnecessary and sometimes distracting. 10/15/17

The Corona Book of Horror Stories edited by Lewis Williams, Corona, 2017, £8.99, ISBN 978-0993247262 

This is a collection of sixteen original short horror stories, almost entirely by British authors, none of whose names were remotely familiar to me. Judging by the biographies in the back, they are predominantly new to writing or work in other fields normally. It's a true unthemed collection in that there is no common element, nor even a similarity of style and approach. Some of the stories are more properly psychological suspense and contain no supernatural or fantastic content. There is a slight tendency toward the more restrained, intellectual school of horror, although there are also stories that are quite overt. One is arguably science fiction. Several of them are very short and some of these rely on a surprise ending. I did not like them all, but I enjoyed at least three quarters of the book, and that's a win. 10/10/17

The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Mrs. Oliphant Vol 3, Leonaur, 2014 

This final volume contains one short story and a longish novel. The novel, The Wizard's Son, is about a spoiled young man who inherits a title and an estate, after which he discovers that his family and the father he never knew are connected to rumors of dark magic and witchcraft. He is tempted to use supernatural devices himself, but ultimately takes a more enlightened path after various rather dull interludes. Very long and very boring.  The short is a vignette that hints about a miracle.10/7/17

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