Saturday, August 31, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys by Jordan Krall



A nudist colony. A rare film. A donkey-headed woman. A murder. The hummingbird. Explore identity, marriage, madness, and obsession in a phantasmagoric orgy of violence and voyeurism.


a novella by Jordan Krall

Read the book that the Austin Post called "an unbounded work of literature that strongly defies what words can do while simultaneously celebrating what they can accomplish when carefully put together in a maddening dance of symbolism, connotations, denotations and sublime erotic detonations."

Jordan Krall has been praised by such authors as Tom Piccirilli, Edward Lee, and Carlton Mellick III. This work is a new direction in his weird fiction, like a paranoid nightmare from David Lynch and Russ Meyer.


A vivid dream or nightmare that seems to flicker like a light bulb in a room filled with flies. There is something to see and there is something to not see. Words craft illusion and images that may or may not have been taped by David Croenenberg under an alias. If Croenenberg and David Lynch were asked to write a book together that must be their definition of a "Grindhouse-style" story while watching Stanley Kurbick movies, they might have written something like Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys.

The plot is executed as casually as the prose; the book unfolds like a rare VHS tape with bad tracking, something that is part guilty-pleasure and part novelty. It's the one video in a the adult film store that has a plot, the one video that gets rented and never returned. You could read this book in the same amount of time it takes for a pretentious Quentin Tarrantino dialogue sequence to finish, and you'd get more out of it. Even though I compared this book to a porn film that has a plot, it might be more accurate to suggest that most people underestimate the power of a good breakfast.

A nudist colony. A woman wearing a donkey mask. The search for a cult film that would put Salo to shame, or would at least make cable executives think about putting it on Fox to ensure the Donkey film doesn't get aired. Maybe this book has disturbing imagery, and maybe there's a motorcycle thrown in somewhere.  I can't remember. I had more fun "watching" this book than trying to figure it out.

"Figure it out?" I suppose this book should be sitting between Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson on Wal-Mart shelves, but I think this book would be better suited for airport bookstores alongside the likes of Jeffrey Deaver and Nora Roberts. Mystery and romance abound, and maybe there's social commentary on the ramifications of a society that loves casual sex, or maybe there isn't. A nude woman wore a donkey mask in this book, and a bunch of people were killed, or maybe they weren't.

If my review doesn't make sense, that's because you can't look for meaning in a dream or a nightmare that never leaves you. Images and sensations that pop into your brain when you're eating pancakes or watching a movie--this is the subconscious reminding you that you're alive, and that you exist, somewhere. In a couple years, I'll forget I read this book and think that I dreamt it, instead. Such is the power of a good read. I don't recommend this book, because I don't want you to read it. You'll ruin it. This is an all-time personal favorite. Go ahead and try to dissect this book. The donkey apocalypse is coming.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: A Parliament of Crows

A Parliament of Crows is the story of three women in black.  Always in mourning clothes, creepy and secretive, devious and deadly, they might at first blush appear to be long lost members of the Addams Family or characters drawn by Edward Gorey.  But the women in this novel are inspired by three sisters from history who were anything but humorous.  I found the story of their lives and their crimes to be the very definition of Southern Gothic, and the perfect fodder for a historical fiction.

In A Parliament of Crows, the three Mortlow sisters are prominent American educators of the nineteenth century, considered authorities in teaching social graces to young women.  They also pursue a career of fraud and murder.  Their loyalty to one another and their need to keep their secrets is a bond that tightens with each crime, forcing them closer together and isolating them from the outside world.  Their ever tightening triangle suffers from madness, religious zealotry and a sense of duty warped by trauma they experienced as teenagers in Georgia during Sherman's March to the Sea.  As their crimes come back to haunt them and a long history of resentments toward each other boils to the surface, their bond of loyalty begins to fray.  Will duty to family hold or will they turn on each other like ravening crows?



The psychosis of history, women left to the ravages of war; survivors from The War Between the States suffering forever from the terror of an upbringing that forever shattered their souls. Alan M. Clark’s A Parliament of Crows is a page-turner that delves into the personal horror of infamous women who endured the torments of time and may have been… unlucky enough to survive. 

While reading this book, I couldn’t help but turn the pages because I wanted to know WHY and HOW these women became who they are. I wanted to know the truth, but more importantly, and I wanted to feel it and witness it. As someone who has read a lot of books in the literary realm, I believed Clark’s book was a discussion on the metamorphosis from humanity to inhumanity and the loss of innocence in the wake of a struggle that would forever change the world. I kept reading because I felt like Clark wasn’t doing enough to make me realize or understand the unraveling of the Mortlow sisters, but Clark’s understanding of storytelling structure delivered a powerful conclusion. Without spoiling the plot, I will say only that the reader is rewarded after becoming a participant in the sequence of events; there isn’t a twist ending, but the emotion you think lies behind the madness of this terrifying history is delivered with a masterstroke that must be admired.

I feel this book almost needs two reviews. From the perspective of a Civil War researcher, I will say this book incorporates and honors the sentiments that have been ingrained in the consciousness that would have suffered the souls of the Morlow sisters. Indeed; it’s not called the Civil War in this book, a simple fact which displays Clark’s commitment to the story. I trusted his knowledge as the story progressed, and I didn’t feel inclined to challenge him. As a self-professed history nerd, I allowed the story to exist in both time and Clark’s imagination, because he sold me on his talents and knowledge.

This is not “historical fiction”. Such a classification demeans the narrative, as a good many readers feel intimidated by history and refused to open their minds to the possibilities of a different cultural mindset. The Mortlow sisters are hardly sympathetic women; there’s not much to like about them or celebrate, but Clark manages to build just enough empathy into one of the sisters for the reader to become invested. Again, no spoilers in this review. You don’t have to know anything about history to join the world Clark reveals to his readers. 

The book seems to read like a summary at times, as Clark gambles with a reader’s patience and tests their willingness to invest in these characters and the mystery that surrounds them. Again, you don’t have to know anything about the Civil War other than the fact that it occurred; the book proves itself to be a quick read because you’re looking for the very reward that Clark gives, at last, in a moment of triumphant storytelling which reveals craftsmanship and character-investment. 

The Mortlow sisters will be off-putting to some readers who aren’t interested in damnation, victimization, or character development. By analyzing the histories of infamous people who’ve passed into the realm of myth, the writer acknowledges that any reader can simply GOOGLE the characters and find out how the book ends. The strength of the writer lies in the ability to provide a rationale while exploring the inner workings of a generational and personal psychosis. 

A pleasant surprise. Highly recommend. 4.5 stars… rounding up. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Favorite Books...

In no order, my favorite novels, with a note at the bottom after you get pissed. Also, I didn't feel like italicizing the titles.  

This in response to a fun challenge orchestrated by William Cook. You can check out his list here:

1. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
2. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
3. Light in August by William Faulkner
4. Books of Blood Volumes 1-3 by Clive Barker
5. American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
6. Dune by Frank Herbert
7. The Gunslinger (original version) by Stephen King
8. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
9. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Doestoevsky
11. Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins
12. 1984 by George Orwell
13. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
14. Underworld by Don Dellilo
15. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty 
16. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
17. Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman
18. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
19. Neuromancer by William Gibson
20. The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock 

Favorite Shakespearean play: Macbeth

Favorite Poets: T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Charles Baudelaire, Charles Bukowski 

Honorable mentions:
Sex in the Time of Zombies by William Todd Rose
Beyond the Valley of the Donkey Apocalypse by Jordan Krall
Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
Nazis Literature in the Americas by Robert Bolano
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
The Watchmen by Alan Moore
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Any Hellblazer graphic novel by Garth Ennis

Okay, so… I cheated.
First of all, only one fantasy series. Elric could kick the shit out of Gandalf and totally wreck anyone in George Martin’s series. Besides, Elric is just... The Heavy Metal of fantasy lit.The Elric Saga also has the greatest conclusion in all of fantasy lit (before the final battle, when he’s climbing the tower and sees the ghosts of his ancestors). 

So why did I pick the Elric Saga and only one Gaiman book from The Sandman? I only did this because there is so much confusion regarding which books belong in Moorcock’s intended continuum for Elric, and there are so many damn collections of his books. I have one particular sequence that I enjoy. As far Gaiman is concerned.... Brief Lives just stands out. Anyone can read that book without reading the other Sandman stories. 

Yup, there’s a vampire story up there. Ahead of all the classics in the honorable mentions. Dracula’s great and all, but Sunglasses After Dark has stuck with me as the only vampire book I’ll read more than once. 

Jordan Krall’s book is just funky. I love it that much. 

Lots of love for Bolano and McCarthy. In my opinion, very few authors have written so many awesome books. 

Not mentioned at all: Hemingway, and Twain. Screw them both. Overrated jerks. 

Sure, I also cheated with the Hellblazer honorable mention, because I can’t pick one right now. As much as I love The Watchmen, I think I’ve grown sick of it. Maybe in a year or two, I’d put it back in the top twenty. 

One zombie book. So far. 

Keep in mind that I’m still reading books. I haven’t read every damn thing out there. I’m still waiting for that zombie book that blows me out of the water and makes me want to stop writing. Scathe meic Beorh has a poetry collection coming, and as soon as it drops, I’m adding him to my list of poets. Yes. He’s that good. 

So these are my personal favorites. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be yours. In fact, you probably hate most of these. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Tropical storm Faye is raging through and it is bringing more than just thunder and flooding rains. 

The Old One, a sentient god from another world has woken. Will Max Willgood and his neighbors get off of Topsail island in time, or will her abominations of gore consume them all before they can escape? 

North Carolina has never seen anything more atrocious than this. By morning it will never be the same.



The Lovecraftian mythos provides a lot of room for interpretation; H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most influential American authors to have lived, so if we consider the idea of “fan fiction”, we can easily point to any number of monster movies or any author who cites Lovecraft as an influence. “The Old One” by P.A. Douglas is as much of a tribute to monster fiction as it is a nod to Lovecraft’s influence on the horror genre as a whole. 

Douglas brings his characters to life, and in his universe, everyone is mortal. Gore and death splash through the pages in which a small town is subjected to the menace of an ancient power. Douglas applies a level of character detail and back story that would make Lovecraft proud, though the prose is accessible to the casual reader; the book unfolds as a fun experience rather than an artsy tribute. Douglas has displayed the attributes of an excellent storyteller in his stories; as a fan of his work, I expect a thrill that hearkens more to a “throwback” of classic horror movies I grew up watching. It’s what I expect and why I read his work, and he does not disappoint.

Every character in Douglas’s work is given a breath of life; there are no random characters that you won’t care about. Moments of humor and humanity are abound, and there is plenty of reason for readers to cheer on the cast. So much detail is used to describe realizations and back story that it sometimes slows the book down to a crawl when intensity lingers, and sometimes fades. Douglas throws you back into the fray with the force only the Old One could muster; by sweeping you up unexpectedly in a monstrous hand. 

With a variety of creatures (no spoilers) and Douglas’s neat insertion of humor, gore, and subtle social commentary, you’ll want to discover the fate of each character. His ability to understand people who live in a small-town community brings his terrifying vision to life, only for the Old One to show up… 

Amazon Stars: 4/5

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Since my poetry novel (yes, it's a poetry novel, not a collection), "The Horror Show" is dropping this week, I was in the mood to write something that resembles a poem and share it with you. It's actually based on a research project I'm working on, and may or may not involve bananas. 

A species of thighs
and elongated sighs

“your finger

are smooth.” 

You must really like

(use both hands 
I insist).

A collection of limbs
buried in neon
(we look in the mirror
to see ourselves, 
that’s why)

Upside down hair threads
glowing teeth, designs
arcane etched in flesh

(nobody wants to do this)
That’s my real name, too

the baseball game is drunk
while men encircle a stage
for the sake of half-bored

and quivering, 
a war of lips

eyes filled with black
heels that can prop 
up Daddy’s favorite chair. 

Friday, August 9, 2013


And here it is, ladies and gentlemen! Brought to you by Russell Dickerson at Darkstorm Creative! 

Blood runs through the streets of Detroit and into the gutters of nearby cities. Monsters, both human and zombie alike, have brought civil order to its knees. The haunted mercenary, Vega, must confront this apocalypse head-on with survivors who have their own versions of morality; she’s joined by Father Joe, a pious man who will do everything in his power to save a single life, no matter how many others have to die…
Jim Traverse, the sociopath who has decided the apocalypse will be “beautiful,” has nearly completed his genocidal masterpiece. Jim races against Vega’s company to reach Selfridge Air Base, where they’ll fight for control of the woman who has ascended over life and death, a woman whose relationship with an infernal intelligence gives her power over the walking dead. 

One woman can save the world, or destroy it: The Queen of the Dead. 

The back cover...