15 Mar 2011
by Jeffrey Thomas
2 Comments »
(1) THE ASH ANGELS by Ian Rogers
It looks like I’m doing it again this year. In 2009 I reviewed every book I read here at this blog, but I found it to be a bit time consuming and so I didn’t do the same in 2010 (irregardless of how paltry my reading list was last year). Yet in 2011 I seem to have resumed that practice. Well, except for the first book I read this year — NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN — but that one’s already had a lot of press. This year I’ve been reading a bunch of books by people who are more akin to peers in the weird fiction universe.
Last year I discussed the novella TEMPORARY MONSTERS (Burning Effigy Press), a fast-paced and fun supernatural thriller from Ian Rogers, featuring private eye Felix Renn and his battles with beings from a scary adjoining dimension called the Black Lands. This year, Renn is back in another Burning Effigy Press novella, THE ASH ANGELS. As much as I enjoyed the first Renn outing, I think I enjoyed this one doubly so. Renn’s personality seemed even more to the fore this time, his voice more bitterly humorous. This narrative voice reminded me, in a good way, of Paul Tremblay’s in his weird detective novel THE LITTLE SLEEP. But whereas Tremblay’s sleepy gumshoe doesn’t go up against the paranormal, here Renn is again dealing with malignant otherworldly entities — the threat suspensefully kept mysterious right up to the exciting conclusion. Another aspect of THE ASH ANGELS I very much appreciated was its melancholy tone. It’s Christmas eve in snowy Tornoto, and the chilly isolation of the human soul is felt throughout — not least of all by Renn, who mourns the breakdown of his marriage. For a brief novella, there’s a lot of shading to Renn — the humor, the regrets, the resourcefulness — and a well-formed character will make you want to hang out with him again. Luckily, a new Renn story (“My Body”) is featured in the horror anthology CHILLING TALES edited by Michael Kelly. And Rogers’ bio says he’s writing a full-out Felix Renn novel. Well, of course he must. He must.
(And note: while of course it would be all the better if you’ve read TEMPORARY MONSTERS first, you needn’t have done so in order to enjoy THE ASH ANGELS. But since it’s a given you’re going to want more of Felix Renn, I’d recommend picking them both up anyway!)
Order THE ASH ANGELS here: https://www.horror-mall.com/THE-ASH-ANGELS-by-Ian-Rogers-chapbook-p-21385.html
And do check out Ian Rogers’ extremely cool web site, THE BLACK LANDS, where there is much more to learn about the spooky alternate reality of the Felix Renn series: http://theblacklands.com/reviews/
(2) WHEN THEY CAME by Don Webb
A couple posts back I mentioned how I partook (had partaken?) in a round-robin horror tale that was picked up by FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION magazine, and that the round-robin was set into motion by author Don Webb. At the time of his invitation I was quite familiar with Don Webb’s name, but I had never read him until recently. What the hell was I waiting for?
Webb’s short story collection WHEN THEY CAME (Temporary Culture, 2006) impressively demonstrates the wide range of Webb’s ability, going as it does from contemporary horror, to Lovecraftian tales, to fantasy stories (often quite moving) that read like actual fables and folktales from some land you’ve never heard of before. Webb’s voice is quirky, idiosyncratic, and that means original and compelling. One of the weirdest, and best, stories is the title tale – in which an infestation of griffins is visited upon our world. It’s slipstream perhaps, allegorical perhaps, and it’s wonderful. My two favorite stories, though, especially concentrated Webb’s theme of peeking beyond the curtain into the realms of the unknown. Both involve a group of friends obsessed with just such forbidden knowledge, and both convey a real sense of cosmic horror. They are “It Sounded Angular” and “Souvenirs From a Damnation,” which is just that: a catalog of photos and objects that in themselves relate a frightening collision course with doom. These two stories are not just favorites from this collection, but have to go into my list of favorite short horror fiction, period.
You can order WHEN THEY CAME here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0976466015/?tag=jeffreythomas-20
More good news for people who read, or should be reading, Webb; a new collection of his tales has just unfolded its griffin wings and swooped upon the world. Here’s some info about it taken from the press release:
DO THE WEIRD CRIME, SERVE THE WEIRD TIME
by Don Webb
Lance Olsen says, “Webb’s world makes Julio Cortázar’s look a little predictable, Philip K. Dick’s a drab shade of mimetic.” We live in a weirder and weirder world, no one denies this – spend a few minutes with CNN and you lose sanity points like players in a Call of Cthulhu game. Webb responds to the weird – not just the modern meaning of that word as “Strange or Spooky,” but to the older meaning – “the fate that has spun out.”
A man, who terrifies women for fun, has the entire population of Chicago decide to terrify him. Would-be mystery writers take their revenge on unscrupulous editors with cannibalism. In a moment of grim synecdoche, a bloody severed hand stands for a bad marriage, while an old man fantasizes about the shooting of his neighbor. Britney Spears is seen as guide to the Platonic forms as she revenges her kidnapping, and a wannbe writer kills for his plots. Madness unites painters and critics in a bloodbath-to-be, and a magical ring reveals a hidden killer in a singularly bloody way. The syringes of old junkies are vampires and young communists develop lucid dreaming as a antidote to the class struggle. The stranger the crime, the stranger the punishment from mystery writer Don Webb
Webbs’ three St. Martins mysteries established him as voice in the gonzo mystery. These stories taken from publications spread across continents and decades return the old idea of Wyrd, the fates the Norns spin out to the postmodern America. Here is a happy marriage of crime writing and surrealism, of the basic revenge tale mixed with Dadaism. Heck I would call it slipstream, but that stuff never sells. Just forget I mentioned it. No really forget, I am watching you.
I am outside your home right now . . .
Now tell me THAT collection doesn’t sound original and compelling!