Occultober Day 1: The Graveyard Shift by D.M. Guay
Welcome to Occultober 2022! Over the course of this month, I’m going to introduce you to 31 books or series that play with the horrific and the supernatural—sometimes straight up and sometimes with dark humor. You know what I mean, these are the books that delve into the darker side of fantasy and fiction and often get downright spooky. So, secure your shutters and light the candles as you prepare yourself for 31 dark and stormy adventures.
And if you like what you see, please feel free to leave a comment, share the review, or even recommend a book you think I might want to feature in next year’s Occultober event. Let’s face it, anyone interested in this event will appreciate a good recommendation.
Now, to launch all of the spookiness for 2022, I have chosen The Graveyard Shift, the opening book of one of my favorite series. In it, author D.M. Guay manages to take the spookiest of settings—a small 7-11-esq market that is in actuality a gateway to hell—and make it a source of some wonderful dark humor.
Now, I should point out that I don’t usually get the comedy in most comedic books. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem in The Graveyard Shift. I was laughing from the first chapters and sharing the jokes with my son who would laugh uproariously at them second hand. Guay has a gift for the absurd and it really works in this first book of her 24/7 Demon Mart series.
The hero (Lloyd) is a loser. It’s not nice to say, but even he recognizes it. His major problem would appear to be pure laziness coupled with a remarkable lack of even a modicum of ambition. He seems essentially happy living in his parents’ house, playing video games, and going every night to a convenience store to sample one of their 100+ varieties of slushies. Oh, and I should also mention, that he is really, really, stupid. I’m not saying he has a low IQ, just that he’s really amazingly dumb—but weirdly enough, in a totally believable way.
So, here’s the set up. Lloyd goes into the convenience store where he has a schoolboy crush on one of the attendants who probably doesn’t know he exists, and while he’s there a demonic snake creature appears and tries to escape the store. Lloyd helps his fantasy crush stop this from happening. In addition to the snake creature, genuine magic is displayed. Keep this in mind for later.
The long and the short of it is that the store owner rewards Lloyd for his help by offering him a job at an extraordinarily good hourly rate. Since Lloyd is in desperate debt, and it will let him be near his crush, he accepts. It is very clear to the reader, and in all fairness, the demon hiring Lloyd tells him this, that this store is not a normal place. There are genuine threats to life and limb here. There are demons involved. But Lloyd immediately zones out on the training video and never does get around to reading his employee handbook which tells him how to survive these dangers. He also has a really hard time accepting that the supernatural is in play in this store. All of which produces hilarious situation after hilarious situation in a setting that is perfect for Halloween. It’s as if Lloyd just can’t process magic and the supernatural even when he keeps seeing it.
Guay also manages to show Lloyd growing as a person without having him overcome the qualities that have made him basically unsuccessful so far in life. So, it’s sweet when his mother’s sheer joy that he has gotten a job keeps him from quitting. And it’s also nice to see him starting to want the things that other adults around him desire. Oh, and I should mention that even though Lloyd thinks he is a coward, he’s actually intensely brave and steps up when he has to. And again, credit to the author, this is done in a very believable way.
The Graveyard Shift is not the spookiest of books, but its firm setting in the supernatural make it the perfect book to launch this year’s Occultober.
If you’re interested in The Graveyard Shift, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 2: Princess of Wands by John Ringo
For the second day of Occultober, I have chosen a book that is firmly in the urban fantasy genre, with an unusual twist. Rather than have paranormal powers, the heroine has only a genuine faith in the lord to protect her—that and a bunch of kicking martial arts and weapons skills.
Princess of Wands is a modern urban fantasy in which a soccer mom, Barb Everette, devout Episcopalian woman, finds herself confronting one of the elder gods from the Cthulhu mythos and after that gets pulled into an organization that helps the government handle Special Circumstances. The book is structured in three major (and one minor) parts and it moves very quickly in three of the four, keeping up a level of excitement while Ringo builds a fascinating world of secret investigations into things pretty much everyone believes the general public of the world is better off not knowing anything about.
Barb is a very interesting and unusual central character. She’s a military brat with extensive martial arts and weapons training, but she’s also a soccer mom with all that that implies. One day she gets fed up with her mundane existence and over her husband’s protests decides to take a weekend off for herself. She gets off her route and ends up broken down in a small town in the bayou which just happens to be the site from which a serial killer has been operating as he attempts to cause the manifestation of one of the elder gods. This is not a coincidence but, we assume, the result of the subtle influence of God getting Barb to the one place the world most needs her to be. The resulting action is well developed.
The second section of the book is much lower key, but just as interesting. Barb is brought into the U.S. organization that deals with Special Circumstances and learns a lot about people that are very different from her. They are a colorful group that don’t all get along with each other, but they are the best line of defense that America has for dealing with supernatural threats, of which there are many.
The third part of the book is the longest and the slowest. Barb is brought in on the investigation of a serial murderer with special circumstances. Her area of investigation is a science fiction convention, and Ringo has way too much fun going into the details of who attends conventions and what happens there. The excuse to do this is to identify suspects who might be the killer, but I’ve read the book four times and I still can’t keep track of the wide host of possible suspects. I would have liked this section to be cut in half. It’s good once all hell (literally) breaks loose, but pretty slow before that.
Finally, there’s a very nice extended epilogue in which Barb has to deal with a small but real problem at home.
As you can tell from the above, I love this novel. If you like supernatural investigations and combat, this is a good book for you to try out.
If you’re interested in Princess of Wands, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 3 A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
For the third day of Occultober I introduce one of my favorite classic tales, A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny. A book I believe was his very last completed work.
I am a huge fan of Zelazny and have read most everything he’s written. My favorite of all of his stories is this novel. I read it every October, sometimes listening to my old audiobook cassette tapes in which Roger Zelazny reads the story himself, and sometimes reading it either in print or electronically. It’s a beautiful story and a tribute both to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and to many great works of literature and film focused on the late nineteenth century.
This is a tale of people who are drawn together to strive to open or to keep closed a gate to the realm of the Elder Gods on a Night in the Lonesome October when the moon is full on Halloween. This time, those gathering are Jack the Ripper, a witch, Dracula, the werewolf, Dr. Frankenstein, a druid, and many more. There preparations attract the attention of law enforcement and the Great Detective. All of this would be wonderful enough, but the genius of the story is that the humans are not the eyes we see through in the relating of this tale. The point of view and all of the interactions are between the animal familiars of those who will contend—a dog, a cat, a snake, an owl, a bat, a rat, and so on.
As the month advances, players start to turn on each other, winnowing the ranks as some position themselves to save the world while others play for power. There are twists, turns, and secrets aplenty here and I enjoy rereading this masterpiece every single year.
If you’re interested in A Night in the Lonesome October, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 4 Blood Ties by Gilbert M. Stack
For the fourth day of this celebration of spookiness, I want to introduce one of my own novels—a book that I originally conceived as a humorous satire of the supernatural adventure, but found myself instead writing a much darker, more traditionally thrilling, novel.
One of the things that made Dracula so effective is that it began by taking an English man out of his normal setting and isolating him in what was effectively another world—Transylvania—home to Vlad the Impaler—a much more medieval than modern setting. In Blood Ties, I’ve tried to capture that sense of helplessness that comes from being dropped into a foreign environment way outside of a person’s comfort zone. Liz Dunn is a lawyer who has never quite recovered from a severe beating she received while protecting a client from a stalker. Now, she has to accompany her new client to the country of Carpathia right on the border of Transylvania so he can meet his only living relative—a reclusive uncle who is (unsurprisingly given the genre) much more than he seems. You see, the uncle wants to meet Ryan just as badly as Ryan wants to meet him—but for a far more nefarious reason.
Blood Ties is my tribute to the classic creators who invented the modern horror field. Vampires, werewolves, zombies—it’s all in here, including a little touch of Cthulhu.
You can find Blood Ties on Amazon and and free on Kindle Unlimited.
If you’re interested in Blood Ties, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 5: On a Winter’s Eve by Chris L. Adams
For the fifth day of Occultober, we turn to the unnerving prose of Chris L. Adams. On a Winter’s Eve is the story of a very troubled man and how a horrific event in his youth continues to affect him in his old age. The trauma was so great that he has had himself institutionalized more than once to stop the nightmares from rearing their heads in his waking hours. So right up front he’s confessing you can’t trust him, even as he insists that he’s sane and what he’s going to report is true… It’s a great beginning to a very creepy tale that would have found a comfortable home in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
The narrator goes on to tell of a long-ago night when the snow fell thick in the deep woods. Peering out a window he found a set of hellish eyes peering back at him. What is even more troubling is that when he screams in fright, his parents don’t seem to think he was having a nightmare. Instead, they prepare for the most desperate kind of war.
I can’t say more of the plot without spoiling the story, but I will make a note on the writing itself. Adams’s prose is particularly vivid and striking, even when he’s describing truly horrific things. It helps confirm the age of the narrator in the reader’s mind, as well as to leave absolutely no doubt about what happened on that Winter’s Eve—whether the narrator is ultimately trustworthy or not.
If you’re interested in On a Winter’s Eve, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 6 A Heart in the Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant
Ah, the werewolf—one of the trinity of creatures that dominate the modern urban fantasy. That’s why they appear in so many of this year’s Occultober stories, but few authors handle them as well as Heide Goody and Ian Grant do in A Heart in the Right Place.
The story purports to be about a young man and his dying father taking a father-son trip into the Scottish Highlands to try and rehabilitate their relationship before dad dies. You quickly get the impression that neither of them really want to do this and that they have only agreed to the trip to make the mother/wife happy. This turns into an absolutely great part of the story after a fairly slow start, but it’s not, in my opinion, the heart of the tale.
That would be Finn. Finn is a totally psycho assassin who in addition to being a sociopath is also a control freak. She is fascinating from moment one to moment last. Her need to control everything never lets her quit and she is really just a delight every time she appears on a page. I feel a little bit bad liking the “bad gal” more than anyone else (and I want to be clear, I really like Nick and his dad by the end of the book), but she is just a delightfully evil creation—not someone you would ever want to meet or even hope exists in the world, but a wonderful villain to fuel the story.
Finn has been given the not-as-simple-as-it-looks task of procuring a heart from a still living man named Oz. Nick, trying to set up his perfect weekend with his dad, has the misfortune of having the bottle of 30-year-old Scotch he purchased for the occasion misdelivered to Oz’s house by the postal service. This small misfortune will lead to some very bad decisions on Nick’s part coupled with incredibly bad luck as Finn mistakenly believes that Nick is Oz and chases him and his father into the Scottish Highlands. None of that is a spoiler, it’s just the basic scene setting for the plot.
Complicating Finn’s life is that she’s been given a minder for this “hit” and she doesn’t play well with others. The minder is a corporate type who is big on planning and is keeping one important surprise away from Finn for much of the tale. They don’t get along well, but it helps to flush out Finn’s character quite a bit.
Finally, there is the werewolf who makes an appearance early enough to inject some seriously high octane into the rest of the story. Everything goes crazy once the werewolf makes an appearance and while I correctly predicted some of the consequences, I didn’t predict all of them. I love the take that Goody and Grant have on werewolves and would love to see them do more on this theme. In fact, I’m going to have to look over their other series to discover if they are as delightful as this book.
If you’re interested in A Heart in the Right Place, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 7 Vampire on the Orient Express by Shane Carrow
To close out our first week of Occultober, we turn to the vampire…
A lot of people have set mysteries on the Orient Express in homage to Agatha Christie’s famous novel, but I’ve never before seen one quite like this. Carrow’s undead are quite frightening and the threat feels very real…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Carrow opens by introducing his two main characters—an American deserter from the French Foreign Legion and an English spy. Both are on the famous train and the early chapters show them meeting members of the supporting cast and settling down for their long trip. Then screams break the peace of the night and they encounter something that their minds don’t want to grapple with—but which they know in their hearts is not human. I want to stress here how well done this first encounter is. They don’t just discover a victim with fang marks on her neck—they metaphorically grapple with something clearly supernatural and being young men of the early twentieth century, that’s not something they easily accept.
From that point forward, things get much worse very quickly. They meet an Eastern European count and countess whose eyes are so sensitive to light that they wear shaded glasses. The reader is quick to think Dracula, but honestly, things are far worse than I thought they would be. Carrow is drawing more on the early Eastern European myths rather than on the modern urban fantasy genre for his source material, and frankly, this makes his undead much spookier.
The pacing also surprised me. Midway through the book, Carrow gives us what I had expected to be the climatic concluding action but it’s really the tip of the iceberg. If you like vampire stories, this is a good one.
If you’re interested in Vampire on the Orient Express, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 8 The Werewolf’s Fifteen Minutes by Jonathan Maberry
From vampires to werewolves for the eighth day of the season, and what a delightful treat you will discover if you read this short is. Rarely do I finish a book and immediately want to restart it again, but that’s what happened with The Werewolf’s Fifteen Minutes. The plot revolves around the consequences of a totally down on his luck young man named Gary posting to YouTube a video of himself transforming into a werewolf. At first, everyone thinks it is just great special effects, but then Gary proves he really can transform, and he is rocketed into stardom. But there’s a reason we talk about “fifteen minutes of fame” and when Gary’s time is up, things get really interesting as anyone with even a smidgeon of empathy will feel for this guy. But the reason the story is so wonderful is what happens next. This is quite possibly the best ending to any werewolf story ever. An utterly disturbing delight!
This was an Audible Originals story and I don’t know if you can read it any other way.
If you’re interested in The Werewolf’s Fifteen Minutes, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 9 Crow Country by Emily V. Sullivan
Crow Country builds an atmosphere that any horror author would be proud to craft, even though I’m not absolutely certain that it’s intended to be a horror novel. An excellent addition to the growing post-apocalyptic western subgenre, Crow Country focuses on the west some thirty years after what the reader guesses was a nuclear war that destroyed civilization. It doesn’t appear that nuclear radiation is a major problem in this particular part of the United States, but it looks like the accompanying EMPs brought the country to its knees and then kept driving the citizenry even lower.
What’s left are a smattering of cult-like communities each dependent for survival on a big personality. The “kindest” of these communities would appear to be Genesis where it’s leader, Law, is determined to save civilization by attracting and keeping only those who can help produce a healthy new generation of human beings. Others are built around a strongman dictator who is either clearly insane or more interested in his personal comfort than the people under his protection.
The problem confronting all of these communities is that nothing they are building is sustainable. While Sullivan doesn’t go into a great deal of detail on this problem, it seems obvious that they are scavenging much of their needs off the old world and are not large enough to produce everything they need for the new one. If that was the only problem, they might have overcome it. But, unfortunately for everyone, there are also the crows to contend with.
The crows are the most fascinating part of the novel, and Sullivan purposely keeps them ambiguous for the first half of the book even as they threaten the community of Genesis. It’s hard not to think of the Hitchcock film, The Birds, every time they appear. They have become vicious flocks (the technical term is “murder” and isn’t that just the perfect name for a group of predatory birds) of human-eating monsters—and they really appear to prefer warm living flesh for their meals. What’s not clear at first is whether or not they are mutating as a result of the nuclear war. I’ll leave it to the readers to make that determination for themselves.
The novel focuses around a very dangerous addition to this completely desolate existence—the introduction of hope. This perilous emotion comes in the form of a train—a modern day myth that promises the return of at least part of the old world to these desperate communities. The story circulating the west is that one of the communities further east has rebuilt one of these relics from the past and is traveling their way—and everyone wants to get and control the train. For Law and Genesis, the train promises an elusive chance of security as it would give Law the power to take his whole community out of their current circumstances in search of something better—wherever that might be. I should point out here that no one interested in the train seems concerned with what the owners of the train (if it exists) might want to do with it. They immediately begin thinking of this mythical mechanism as their own.
Crow Country is the story of that train—or rather the journey across incredibly dangerous territory to find and presumably capture that fabled artifact. It’s told from the perspective not of Law, but of the forty-year-old, Judge, who has a troubled relationship with the founder of Genesis, and whose story is what makes this novel so very wonderful to read. It’s Judge’s job to expel from Genesis anyone who is not able to produce a healthy child. It should not be lost on the reader that Judge himself appears to be childless—a fact that is not directly talked about much but underlies many of his most important relationships in the novel.
Oh, and lest I forget to say it, Judge is also the most dangerous man in Genesis. He’s the person who gets sent out to kill the crows whenever a nest appears near their territory. He’s also the man who has to deal with just about every other nasty problem that arises on their journey. He is far from being a superman, but so far, at least, he has always gotten the job done regardless of the personal cost to him.
This is a beautiful written book filled with flowing passages of extremely vivid prose. Sullivan’s ability to bring this world and Judge’s relationships to life is the greatest strength of the novel. It’s matched only by narrator Will Hahn’s extraordinary reading of the story. Between her words and his voice, the reader is pulled fully into this bleak future where the chance to grasp hold of myth becomes more important than life.
I was very lucky to get to read an advanced copy and am happy to announce that it is published today.
If you’re interested in Crow Country, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 10 Hiding Among Us by Gilbert M. Stack and Marc Hawkins
One third of the way into Occultober and the spookiest things are yet to happen. Case in point, Hiding Among Us, a novel I co-authored with my friend, Marc Hawkins. Marc and I wanted to craft a paranormal adventure that held within it the seeds of all the classic monsters—werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc.—but didn’t actually use any of them. Instead, we created what I believe is a unique paranormal race of creatures and placed them all over the planet fighting their own little wars while humanity goes about its business blissfully unaware of the monsters hiding among them. At least humanity was unaware until Mina Raintree stumbles into a situation that forces her to confront this terrifying reality.
Mina’s entry into the darkness begins when her bad-news sister, Ally, is the victim of a hit-and-run driver and is bleeding out all over the road—saved only by a passing stranger who is too good to be true. As the hit-and-run driver returns again and again, looking for something Ally stole from him, he begins to fixate on Mina with pathological fury. But the stranger who saved her sister is showing up to, turning up in all the wrong places at all the right times. And how do both men do the impossible things they do?
There’s a supernatural community hiding within Philadelphia pretending to be human and Mina, thanks to her younger sister, is about to learn what happens to people who discover there are monsters hiding among us.
Hiding Among Us is on sale on Amazon for 99 cents during the Occultober celebration. It and its sequels, Searching Among Us and Hunting Among Us can also be read for free on Kindle Unlimited.
If you’re interested in Hiding Among Us, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 11 Supermarket by Bobby Hall
Sometimes the spookiest things around us happen in our minds. That’s the question at the heart of the story for Day 11 of this year’s Occultober. Are the events really happening? Or are they figments of the narrator’s imagination?
Supermarket is the story of Flynn, a young man desperately trying to put his life back together by finishing a novel. His girlfriend left him because of his inability to finish things and he has convinced himself that failure here means he’s destined to be a loser all of his life. His novel takes place in a supermarket, so he gets a job as a minimum wage “floater” hoping that working in an actual supermarket will help him complete his book.
Flynn is an untrustworthy narrator, something that the reader immediately begins to suspect when his best friend, Frank, is never around when anyone else is. Frank is a weird guy who is messing with Flynn’s life, but Flynn never really does anything about it. He likes Frank, is fascinated by him, and believes he is critical to finishing his book. But the reader recognizes very quickly that Frank exists only in Flynn’s head, making the reader wonder how many other things exist only in Flynn’s head. Part I ends with a predictable crisis leading to part two in an insane asylum where doctors try to help Flynn and the reader sees more signs that he is continuing to invent reality around him even while in recovery. (Again, keep your eye out for people who no one else ever talks to.)
Flynn has evidently spent two years in the insane asylum without actually ever taking his medications. This really bothered me. People on meds get bloodwork done all the time so that the doctors can analyze whether or not the meds need to be increased or decreased. The doctors would have known almost immediately that Flynn wasn’t taking his medications and done something about it. So this will cause you to wonder if even the insane asylum is a figment of Flynn’s imagination. This playing with reality is really the heart of the whole story and it continues to the last words of the book. It’s clever, but at the end I had to ask myself, was Flynn even writing a book?
If you’re interested in Supermarket, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 12 Ferocious by Jeff Strand
At the heart of the horror genre are people. If you don’t care about the people to whom terrible things are happening, it’s hard to care deeply about the book. When I picked up Ferocious by Jeff Strand, I was a little bit worried about his ability to pull off the characters mentioned in the blurb—a recluse raising his niece off the grid in the middle of the wilderness. It seemed quite likely the author would slip into caricatures as he wrote about a zombie apocalypse in the backwoods. I could not have been more wrong. In the very first chapter he establishes Rusty Moss as both a hard man who hates people and someone that you absolutely have to love. In the next chapter he establishes Rusty’s niece, Mia, just as credibly. And this father-daughter style team will capture your heart as they struggle to survive one of the weirdest twists on the zombie apocalypse that I have ever read.
Strand is a master at building tension—not only with the ever-growing level of danger but with the very credible mistakes that Rusty and Mia make throughout the novel. They never do anything stupid, but many of their plans and reactions go badly awry. This makes them remarkably human as they deal with a horror they can’t quite believe is really happening to them.
One of the best distinguishing features of this novel is the vast array of zombie creatures that threaten Rusty and Mia. Strand has really thought out the strengths and weaknesses of the various undead forest animals so there is never a point in which the action gets routine. Even the smallest animals are dangerous, and this gives the novel a decidedly different flavor from every other zombie story I have read.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the vocal talents of narrator Scott Thomas. It’s not an easy thing for a man to craft a believable voice for a seventeen-year-old girl, but Thomas pulled it off and without his ability to do this, the audio book would not have worked nearly as well. He also catches the humor and affection in the back-and-forth banter of Rusty and Mia. His narration takes an excellent story and gives it that extra touch of magic to finish bringing it to life.
If you’re interested in Ferocious, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 13 Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard
The Cthulhu mythos has become one of the cornerstones of the modern field of horror and as we near the end of the second week of Occultober, we’re going to take a look at Carter & Lovecraft, a fresh new book in the genre. Carter is a police detective whose partner commits suicide minutes after shooting a horrific serial killer of children. Lovecraft is the last living relative of H.P. Lovecraft. The two come together through what certainly appears to be a supernatural intervention and quickly become involved in investigating a sorcerous-style murder in a world that doesn’t think these things are possible.
There’s a lot to like about this book. The first is the concept of the twist or the fold—a way in which the Cthulhu mythos warps reality. Magic is about working with the twist (the serial killer was trying to understand it) but some people can naturally influence it which is the key to the story and a hint at why the original Lovecraft and his friend Carter were so important.
At its heart, this is a great supernatural mystery with a ton of fun interactions (such as a man drowning in his car without any water being present). But it’s also laying the groundwork for a new vision of the Cthulhu mythos which certainly seems worth exploring.
If you’re interested in Carter & Lovecraft, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 14 The Hallowe’en Folk Legend of White Horse Hill by Philip Gegan
I’m going to close out the second week of Occultober with a children’s book, The Hallowe’en Folk Legend of White Horse Hill. It’s an unusual pleasure to encounter a different style of storytelling. In this short work, Philip Gegan uses poetry to sketch the narrative of the origin of Halloween. The overall effect is one of an epic poem, although it is not nearly as long as the great epics of antiquity. I would guess that the author intended the story to be read aloud to children. It’s short enough to be read in a single sitting and it comes with pertinent illustrations that add color to the story. The end result is an enjoyable and creative look at the origins of Halloween.
If you’re interested in The Hallowe’en Folk Legend of White Horse Hill, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 15 Lazarus Key by Gilbert M. Stack
As we start our third week of the Occultober season, we return to the theme of isolation and mix in a little visual deception as we visit the island graveyard called Lazarus Key. Mitch Pembroke is the son of a steel tycoon who, having survived becoming an ace in the Great War, has been struggling to spend a bit of his father’s wealth enjoying himself. Kit Moran is an ex-boxer who saved Mitch’s life during the war and now has a fulltime job keeping Mitch out of trouble. That was pretty easy until Mitch met Lorali Sinclair.
Lorali is the exotically beautiful biracial scion of the old money Sinclair family and Mitch doesn’t think right when she’s around. When things start getting serious between them and she flees to her island home, Mitch drops everything and goes after her. But Mitch isn’t the first man to follow Lorali home and like his predecessors, he may not survive the visit.
Lazarus Key is the first novella in my Pembroke Steel series—books that blur the line between historical fiction and dark fantasy—so you never quite know what you’re going to get—a horror story with a supernatural monster at its core, or one that only looks that way…
The Pembroke Steel stories were a lot of fun to write in a large part because I got to play with reader expectations in each and every tale. You can try them all for free on Kindle Unlimited, or purchase them at the same link on Amazon, starting with Lazarus Key for 99 cents.
If you’re interested in Lazarus Key, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 16 Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton
Laurell K. Hamilton is one of the writers who popularized the urban fantasy genre with her Anita Blake series. Obsidian Butterfly is hands down the best book in the series, so it’s surprising that it is totally separate from the carefully crafted setting in St. Louis with all of Anita’s friends, enemies, and romantic interests. In fact, the only person who has appeared before in this novel is Edward, the assassin who trained Anita to survive being a vampire hunter. Edward, who’s legal name in New Mexico is Ted Forester, is a cold-blooded sociopath who’s only pleasure in life comes from killing things. The tougher the kill, the more he likes it. Or at least that’s what Anita always thought of Edward. Then she meets his flower-child fiancé and her two children and everything she thought she knew is overturned. The problem, she fears, is that she wasn’t wrong in her first assessment. Edward has gotten himself into a social problem he can’t extricate himself from and she’s worried it might end up killing these three innocents.
But that isn’t the problem that brought her to New Mexico. Someone—the feds think it’s a serial killer or two—is murdering people by chopping some of them up and skinning the others. The true horror comes from the fact that the skinned people are all still alive. They can’t talk, but they can move, and sometimes bite, and no one can figure out how this horror was inflicted upon them. This is a fate that is much worse than death and Hamilton does a wonderful job at showing how the possibility of ending like this is unsettling some of the hardest killers in the world. She also does a great job of unfolding the mystery, laying out the clues that show how Anita, with her peculiar background as an animator, can contribute to these major investigations despite tremendous hostility toward her as a woman, a civilian, and a “zombie queen”.
As if all of that wasn’t great enough, Hamilton introduces two more of Edward’s associates: a bounty hunter, and Olaf—a serial killer almost as disturbing as whatever is killing these people—and these two—especially Olaf—really ratchet up the tension as we come to realize that Anita fits this disturbing man’s victim profile.
Yet, even this isn’t enough, because Edward’s pacifist fiancé has gotten herself into some trouble of her own with a biker gang that threatens to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back in this adventure—and I haven’t even mentioned the super spooky master vampire whose name is also the title of the book. She’s a thousand years old and think she’s an Aztec goddess and she brings oodles of additional drama into an already extraordinary tale.
If you’ve ever read an Anita Blake novel and enjoyed it even the tiniest bit, you should make time to read this one. If you’ve never read one, I think you can come into this novel fresh. It does build on what’s happened earlier in the series, but because all of the action is outside of Anita’s usual stomping grounds, I think this one makes a good standalone book for anyone wondering what all the fuss is about.
If you’re interested in Obsidian Butterfly, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 17 Cthulhu Reloaded by David Conyers
Cthulhu is back as Occultober continues with this particularly well thought out modern series of adventures. Conyers has given a lot of thought as to how Cthulhu and the Elder Gods might interact with a modern society. What makes this book so good is that it is comprised of several short novella that follow the same character, an Australian Intelligence Officer, over the course of a couple of decades of his career. We watch him discover the other worldly, and get pulled deeper and deeper into the insanity. Each story is interesting in and of itself, but as they progress and the conspiracies grow and the monsters and their manipulations get revealed, everything becomes so much more troubling. Earth is on a terrible path toward destruction and it’s not clear that anything can divert it from its doom.
If you’re interested in Cthuhu Reloaded, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 18 Trail of the Hana K’ilo by Channing Whitaker
In Occultober 2020 I spotlighted One Night in Drake Mansion, the first book in the Skeptical Detective series in which Whitaker’s hero explores whether or not a famous haunted house is in fact haunted. The second book in the series takes a very different tone heading off into the remote regions of Alaska as Harlan Holt reluctantly agrees to look into the disappearance of a colleague whose “academic” specialty he despises. The missing man was obsessed with proving that cryptids exist and goes missing in Alaska while trying to find a water beast known in legend as the Hana K’ilo. A local blog insists that several disappearances in the region are the result of the Hana K’ilo hunting. Harlan doesn’t want to be involved, but can’t turn away from the mystery. So, he changes his plans to take his girlfriend to Hawaii over the winter break and instead brings her to remote Alaska without telling her why they are really going there.
There are tons of good elements to this story. One of the things Whitaker does best is introduce many legends (all with different names) that could be inspired by the same cryptid—the Hana K’ilo—but could also just be simple “scare kids away from the water” style tales. He also has a group of tourists and staff at this lodge who all make you wonder what’s really going on with them. Finally, he is very convincing in his details of the danger of winter in Alaska, and it is easy to imagine that this rough and freezing terrain is going to be very important to the conclusion of the story.
At the heart of the novel are a series of very complex secrets and relationships that Harlan has to navigate—including the one with his girlfriend. I have to admit that the clues were all there, but I was shocked by how they all fit together. It was a very satisfying—if sometimes slow moving—mystery.
If you’re interested in Trail of the Hana K’ilo, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 19 Make Me No Grave by Hayley Stone
The Wild West is home to a particular style of western in which magic and the unworldly exist. That’s the tone of Make Me No Grave, a powerful western about a rigidly proper lawman and a lady bandit known as the bloodthirsty “Grizzly Queen”. The story opens with the lawman having captured the bandit queen and having troubles with a local sheriff and his mob who want to lynch her rather than bring her to trial. Matters get bloody and the lawman’s life is saved by his prisoner, embarking the reader on a strange journey in which I rarely had any idea where the story was going, but still found it totally compelling.
So, there’s a little magic, a dead president, an assassin, murdered civilians, violent posses, native peoples in need of help, and rival gangs spicing up this story. Through it all, this strange relationship between the lawman and the most notorious woman in the west continues to develop, and moral lines blurs as the reader tries to figure out if this a tale of justice or a tale of redemption or something else entirely. Whatever it ultimately is (and we do find out by the end of the novel) it’s a tremendously interesting book.
If you’re interested in Make Me No Grave, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 20 Masks by Gilbert M. Stack
This morning, on the twentieth day of Occultober, I’d like to introduce my newest novel and the fourth book in my Preternatural series, Masks.
The vast majority of urban fantasies follow women who find themselves enmeshed in the world of the supernatural that forces them to discover or develop special abilities that they possess (often not knowing about them as the opening novel begins). They might be shape changers, witches, vampires, or have the power to raise the dead. I decided to go another route with Preternatural. The stories are told almost completely from the perspective of two individuals without any magical powers. One is Joanna Donovan, a tough as nails, extremely smart, police officer who was kicked out of Chicago for showing bias against vampires when she survived their attempt to murder her by shooting them with blessed ammunition. The other is Sam Winter, a nineteen-year-old girl who’s trying to raise money for college by taking photographs of the all-too-frequent preternatural incidents that happen in her small town. So, unlike most series, the heroines of Preternatural don’t have any special advantages when it comes to surviving the wide array of dangers they face in each book. They have to do it the old-fashioned way with brains and courage and skill.
In the previous novel, Hadrian’s Well survived the zombie apocalypse, but just because the dead are back in their graves doesn’t mean life is getting easier there. Record rainfalls have resulted in widespread flooding and something in the water is killing people. Or is it in the water? Part of the problem in Hadrian’s Well is that the preternatural isn’t always what it seems. Many wear masks that let them move about in human society like they’re normal people. Human threats also abound as politics within and without the town handicap Undersheriff Donovan as she struggles to track the monsters down. As the body count rises, will Donovan and her understrength department be able to look beyond the masks and stem another tide of terror?
If you’re interested in Masks, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 21 Deadman’s Road by Joe R. Lansdale
To close out the third week of Occultober we have an excellent collection of Weird West style stories about a minister who travels about doing God’s will by stamping out supernatural evil. There are five stories in the collection:
Dead in the West: This is the longest and best developed of the tales. It introduces Reverend Mercer, a gunman with demons of his own who is angry at God even as he does the lord’s work by stomping out genuine evil. He’s a likeable character, even while his very harsh view of the world is a bit disturbing. After some introductory material, the story shoots into high gear when the dead start to rise and prey on the townsfolk. It’s just a little bit of damage around the perimeter of the town the first night, but it is obvious things are going to get much worse for the unsuspecting town. Mercer learns that the town he is in was cursed because it murdered a native American medicine man and his African-American wife. The medicine man curses the town and pulls a demon into himself. He kills the guilty, but doesn’t stop there, until only Mercer, a young boy, a doctor and his daughter and the town’s preacher stand in the way of the demon’s vengeance. It’s a very good story.
Deadman’s Road: Mercer runs into another curse—a strange demonic possession with weird black bees. Once again, its’ a good story that went in a slightly different direction than I expected.
The Gentleman’s Hotel: In this story, Mercer fights werewolves in a hotel full of ghosts. The ghosts really give the story a unique feel for a werewolf tale. It’s a good take on a familiar theme.
Crawling Sky: Mercer saves a man from being tortured because a Cthulhu-esq character killed his wife. He then goes to deal with the monster. Like all the stories in this collection, it’s a lot of fun, even if there is a little more exposition than the others.
The Dark Down There: Goblins are in the mines and Mercer has to dig them out. But the best part was actually Mercer dealing with the miners before he reached the technical monster. A fine conclusion to a fine series.
Mercer makes an excellent protagonist for this style of story. He’s got major flaws, is angry at God, and still does what he perceives to be God’s will in seeking out and smiting evil.
If you’re interested in Deadman’s Road (also called Deadman’s Crossing), why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 22 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
As we start the final week of Occultober, I want to spotlight one of the first spooky stories most Americans ever encounter—and one of the earliest written in the United States—The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. My generation probably knows this story best because of the Disney animated cartoon, but the actual tale is better, more sophisticated if not genuinely scary. It’s the tale of Ichabod Crane, a geeky superstitious schoolteacher, who runs afoul of a physically tough local man and his gang of friends when both men decide to woo the daughter of a wealthy farmer. Things do not end well for Ichabod, but was he the victim of his rival or of the legendary headless horseman?
If you’re interested in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 23 The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines
Peter Clines has earned his zombie spurs with his superhero zombie universe series, Ex. Now in the Junkie Quatrain he has created a whole new zombie apocalypse which he introduces in 4 sharp novellas. There’s a lot to love here, so let me take you through them point by point.
First, the zombies are great. They aren’t the walking dead, but the shattered remains of a virus-ridden humanity. They’re fast and they will chase you until they drop from exhaustion. They are ravenous, eating anything that moves. They have a pack mentality—but not every zombie gets to be part of the pack and they turn mercilessly on their own at the first sign of injury or other weakness. And best of all, Clines realizes this is not sustainable. Hunger and the elements will eventually end this zombie threat (or at least greatly reduce it). And because it was caused by a virus it is potentially curable. All of this makes these zombies feel very different from most other series.
Second, civilization hasn’t fully collapsed. The CDC is still working, trying to find a cure. Enclaves have developed. At one point, we learn that the U.S. is looking at 92 million deaths—horrific, but not The Walking Dead. There is still hope that civilization can be saved or at least salvaged.
Third, Clines gives us great characters in each of the novellas. These are people we can sympathize with (and in at least one case that was very surprising). They also have challenges that make sense, and it was easy to imagine myself in their positions in most of the cases.
Best, however, was the way that each of the novellas intersected with the others. This really pushed this collection over the top into a simply great story and shows how thoroughly Clines thought everything out. It also means, however that the story does not advance very far chronologically. Clines better be planning to write volume 2.
If you’re interested in The Junkie Quatrain, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 24 Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest
My next Occultober pick is not spooky, but it is a great example of what can be done with a little paranormal psychic activity. It focuses on a psychic travel agent who gets herself into a little bit of trouble when she changes her client’s flight reservations without telling him. He’s really upset—until the plane crashes. Then she has some explaining to do. And since the client is a cop who has a cold case that could use a good psychic, the rest is history.
The mystery itself is something you can find in any of a thousand books, but it’s the clever use of the psychic talent that makes this story stand out and explains why I picked it for Occultober. After hiding her abilities her whole life, the psychic is starting to come out of her closet by singing at her local bar in an event she calls Clairvoyant Karaoke. It’s a cute idea that helps to advance the story. People in the audience ask her to sing a song and she chooses one that always proves to be meaningful for them. It was both a sweet idea and fun to watch her starting to understand the limits of her ability.
There’s nothing profound in this novel, and that’s a relief. What Cherie Priest gives the reader is an enjoyable quirky mystery with just a touch of romance.
If you’re interested in Grave Reservations, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 25 High Above the Waters by Gilbert M. Stack
Marcus Hunter won’t stay dead; he stalks his bridge all bloody red.
Throws people off on stormy nights; and smiles as they scream in fright.
As a pregnant fifteen-year-old, Autumn Fields learned firsthand that the town ghost was more than a creepy legend. Rejected by her boyfriend and beaten bloody by her father, Autumn climbed out onto the old railroad bridge at the edge of town to kill herself, but a mysterious figure talked her into running away instead. Sixteen years later, she’s come back to Prospect with her daughter to learn if there really is such a thing as a ghost on Hunter’s Bridge…
Ghosts are not a creature you usually find at the center of an urban fantasy novel—which might explain why I chose to put one at the heart of my book, High Above the Waters. The novel is a standalone story that intersects sixty years later with some of the characters and events of my Pembroke Steel series. It was a lot of fun to write, and it continues to haunt me years after I finished it.
High Above the Waters is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.
If you’re interested in High Above the Waters, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 26 Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
There are all kinds of scary, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are masters at building the creepiest kinds of tension.
Relic starts out in the Amazon where a scientific expedition has just gone badly awry. It has split up just as one of the scientists is convinced that critical discoveries are being made. He believes he has discovered a tribe thought to be extinct and discovered a critical relic of their religious beliefs—a strangely horrific idol. In addition, one of his two remaining companions has disappeared, and he decides to send his third companion back to civilization with their discoveries and his notes while he searches for the lost man. We stay with him long enough for him to meet his end.
The novel then follows the crate of discoveries to a warehouse in South America where something kills a man in a rather frightening scene. We then move to NYC and the Museum of Natural History where more murders follow, the police become involved, and FBI Agent Pendergast makes his appearance. The first third of the story is all about establishing that a killer is loose in the area of the museum, quite possibly even living in the unmapped subterranean tunnels beneath the six-block edifice. It’s very well done. The museum leadership only cares about their multi-million-dollar exhibit that is about to occur, and they are doing everything they can to frustrate the investigation out of fear that it will generate bad publicity.
The second third takes the novel in a horror or science fiction direction as evidence begins to pile up that the murderer may not be human. This is really well done and continues to flesh out the cast. We have a grad student, her wheelchair bound professor, a curator in charge of the exhibit, a journalist working on a book on the exhibit, a bunch of side characters whom one suspects might be wearing red shirts, and finally, the easy to hate museum leadership. As more information is uncovered despite the active efforts of the museum leadership, a very dark and scary picture begins to develop that suggests that the opening night of the exhibit will have more in common with ringing the dinner bell for a monster than creating a high society social event.
Finally, in the third section, everything goes to hell as our heroes’ fears prove very correct and disaster strikes the exhibit. All of that groundwork pays dividends here in a very fast paced ending in which death and mayhem are everywhere and you’re really not certain who will live or die. But that’s still not the best part of the novel. That comes in the very last chapter where an alternate, even more horrific explanation of the museum beast is put forth, and that, quite happily, sets up a sequel which is every bit as powerful.
If you’re interested in Relic, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 27 Devil’s Desk by Mark Tufo
If you like action, attitude, and a touch of the paranormal, you’re going to love Devil’s Desk. Mike and his wife, Tracey, join their best friends, BT and Linda, on a camping trip in the Alaskan wilderness. While they are there, a massive earthquake sinks chunks of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska (and presumably parts of Canada too) setting off volcanic eruptions and tsunamis that basically cut the four (and the other campers) off from civilization. That would have been bad enough. There are a lot of bizarre personalities in the campground, including a man who turns out to be a psychopathic murderer. But the group’s problems are only just beginning. Because all of the seismic activity has also drawn a clan of yeti (or maybe sasquatches) down out of the mountains, and they have quickly discovered they like the taste of human flesh.
What follows is a truly exciting adventure in which the humans try to figure out how not to get eaten while fighting continuously among themselves. BT’s wife is initially worried about harming what must be an endangered species. The college kids don’t want anyone telling them what to do. The psychopath similarly can’t play nice. BT (a cop) can’t get it through his head that this isn’t the best time to be telling the psychopath that he’ll be charged with murder when they get back to civilization. And that’s all before the extraordinary tension causes real problems to come out between the friends and their fellow survivors.
Tufo also makes the yeti actions seem highly plausible as they show they are more than animals if less than human. This low-grade intelligence makes them all the more terrifying as they tighten the noose around the humans. Things get so bad that about seventy percent of the way through the book I started wondering what the author could do with the last pages—first few chapters of another novel?—because it seemed impossible for everyone not to be dead in the next few pages. Yet, each time what happened seemed credible, even when one of the group starts lambasting the man who keeps saving them for being a killer and therefore morally inferior to the others.
There are two elements to this story that scream for a sequel without in anyway making the book less than a standalone novel. The first is the prologue. What exactly happened in the mine? Is this the true source of the yeti as I initially suspected, or is something else going on? The second is an almost throw away line which suggests that one of the group isn’t from this timeline. I suspect that Mark Tufo has a lot more instore for us. I can’t wait to read his next novel.
If you’re interested in Devil’s Desk, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 28 Indomitable by Claudia Brooke
As we end the fourth week of Occultober, I want to introduce the first book of a promising new series. It isn’t perfect yet, but there is so much hope that I think it’s worth everyone giving the first book a chance.
Indomitable benefits from some excellent worldbuilding. Vampires exist in a sort of two-tiered fashion—full vampires and half vampires who have not been fully brought over. There are also angels and at least a few other types of supernatural beings such as reapers, who harvest the souls of the dead. Most interesting, there are a few human beings with special souls that come in multiple flavors including the “indomitable” spirit of the title. That “flavor” gives them certain special abilities—not superhero level abilities—but special none the less.
The novel starts with its most interesting character, Gracie, whose controlling family is trying to compel her to go to graduate school. Gracie has other plans. Her great dream in life is to own a cake truck and make her living baking and selling fabulous cakes to whoever has the taste for one. Her family can’t understand this and isn’t interested in doing so. Even her fiancé is unsupportive of her great ambition even though he appears to be a pretty good guy by other measures.
The first few chapters focus on Gracie attempting to raise money to buy the used cake truck of her dreams. In doing so, she agrees to become the dog walker for a very rich woman who is convinced her dog is a vampire who feeds on squirrels. It’s a delightful storyline that I wish had gone on longer. Gracie is a superb character, instantly interesting and sympathetic, and I enjoyed all the chapters from her POV.
Unfortunately, Gracie isn’t really the main character of the novel. That honor goes to Felix and he is not quite up to the responsibility of carrying the book. Felix is (purposely I gather) dislikeable, and that proves to be the biggest weakness in an otherwise wonderful novel. Fortunately, the other POVs are better, including a very interesting reaper, but I think the whole book would have been much stronger if the author had stuck with Gracie throughout. This would have raised a few storytelling challenges, but let’s face it, all of the most interesting things in this plot happen to her and she’s delightful. In addition to discovering the world is not as mundane as she had believed, she has to deal with some tremendously traumatic events including an emotional betrayal that was quite simply expertly constructed by the author.
And so much does happen to Gracie and those around her. The angels appear to be fighting with each other. Death is plotting to do something very selfish with potentially diabolical consequences. Vampires are seeking to elevate their place in the hierarchy of the planet. And I could go on, but you should really read the book and uncover these golden nuggets for yourself. Because you see, despite my frustrations with Felix, I want to learn what happens to Gracie. So, not only will I be reading the sequel, I suggest you read the series yourself.
If you’re interested in Indomitable, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 29 The Last Storm by Sam Sisavath
Here’s a wonderfully creepy horror story about two groups of people who take refuge in an abandoned high rise to escape a hurricane. One group is a criminal team who has just pulled off a robbery. The other is composed of two cops, a prisoner, and a civilian mother and her seven-year-old child. The tension between the two groups is great and could have made a thriller-style tale, but that’s not what Sisavath has in store of the reader. There’s something supernatural happening in the abandoned high rise and he expertly increases the tension as bad things start to happen to the large cast.
One of the cops makes what I think was a major mistake when the trouble starts to heat up. She and her group have been taken prisoner and there is no hint at this time that the criminals intend to do them the ultimate wrong. But she tries to escape anyway with many serious unintended consequences—and that not only ups the tension, it fuels the supernatural storyline.
The novel quickly falls into the “who will survive” type of tale, but Sisavath makes it very interesting. He also does a good job of letting the reader learn a lot about the supernatural threat without actually telling anything about it. If he makes one mistake, I think it is in the ending when I expected the supernatural—I’ll call it a curse even though Sisavath avoids that term—to be passed on to one of the survivors. I don’t want to say more as I don’t want to spoil the story. Even without this “the threat is not really over” problem, it’s a very good tale.
If you’re interested in The Last Storm, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 30 The Jungles of Ekanga by Gilbert M. Stack
As we approach the end of Occultober 2022 I offer the prequel novel to my most successful fantasy series, Legionnaire. Legionnaire follows the exploits of Marcus Venandus as he leads his legion in defense in defense of his homeland in a conventional fantasy environment. The Jungles of Ekanga chronicles Marcus’ adventures at the beginning of his career—long before he commanded thousands of men. And the threat isn’t a conventional fantasy threat, it’s a problem out of the horror genre.
Jungles is packed with enemy shamen and warriors, treacherous senior officers, a mysterious murderer, and a mystery at the heart of it all that I hope will send shivers up and down your spine.
If you’re interested in The Jungles of Ekanga, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/
Occultober Day 31 Tales from the Gas Station by Jack Townsend
As the season of Occultober draws to a close again I offer one of the most interesting paranormal tales I’ve stumbled across in the last year—Tales from the Gas Station by Jack Townsend.
This is an unusually gripping story that pulled me right in from the beginning and didn’t let go until I finished the last page. Jack works the cash register at a 24-hour gas station, basically taking care of the entire facility while he’s on shift. Jack suffers from an unusual medical condition which should lead to an early death and dive him crazy along the way. That makes him the very definition of an untrustworthy narrator as he describes the absolutely extraordinary things that happen at this gas station, mostly after dark. To give you a hint at the sorts of problems he encounters, there’s the ghost of a cowboy in the gas station bathroom. He doesn’t do much and certainly doesn’t harm people, but he’s a ghost and that’s unusual. Then there are the hand plants growing out back. Never heard of a hand plant? You’ll have to read the book to understand, but they are, to say the least, unusual. He’s got crazy raccoons, absolutely bizarre customers, and a heck of a lot of supernatural happenings pretty much from start to finish.
As strange as all of that is, it’s not why you’ll like the book so much. That reason is quite simply Jack. He’s got a wonderfully odd way of looking at the world around him and the truly bizarre things happening never seem to faze him in the way they would you and me. He’s not particularly brave, he’s just…odd. And that totally atypical way of viewing the world adds a tremendous amount of dark humor to the story. Most people do not react calmly when they learn their friend has accidentally run over some one and, not knowing what else to do, stuck the body in the trunk of their car. Jack not only reacts calmly, he’s able to put the whole episode out of his mind and function as if it didn’t happen until it pops up again. It’s just strange enough to make the whole situation extremely fascinating.
Then there’s Jack’s psychiatrist. He isn’t likable. Isn’t supposed to be likable. He’s totally dismissive of the bizarre events Jack relates to him, which is annoying to the reader. But we know Jack is supposed to be going crazy, so isn’t it possible that the psychiatrist is right?
And that’s what ultimately makes this book such an enjoyable read. It seems highly improbable that everything that Jack reports actually happens. It also seems highly improbable that nothing he reports is actually happening. So, if you’re looking for something refreshingly new to read, take your car down to the gas station, fill up the tank, and meet the weird cast of this novel.
If you’re interested in Tales from the Gas Station, why not join the discussion on my author page at Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/GilbertStackAuthor/