"Welcome to Count Gore De Vol's Tomb of Dark Delights. I'm J. L. Comeau, horror writer and resident Tomb Keeper. I have been charged with the daunting task of sorting and cataloging the Count's vast library of horror, science fiction and fantasy. Take a torch from the wall and follow me down the stone stairway into the darkness deep beneath the Dungeon. It's cold and damp down here--perfect for the kind of reading we're going to do. Never mind the shambling figures in the shadows, they're probably just some friends of ours looking for a good book. If you click on the cover, you'll be taken to a wonderful place where you can buy the book.
Now, let's reach into the musty stacks and see what we can find..."
(Clicking on the covers gives you more information and prices from Amazon.com and other outlets.)
This week, TombRats, I’ve got two cool genre novels from established writers of “literary” mainstream fiction, woohoo!
PASSAGE by Justin Cronin
Winner of the coveted Pen/Hemingway Award for fiction (THE SUMMER GUEST), literary author Justin Cronin turns a dark eye to genre fiction, producing a huge, epic-scale vampire novel that was considered an event in horror circles when it first appeared. Taking a page from apocalyptic zombie tropes, Mr. Cronin imagines a terrible virus that overtakes the world, a virus that turns its victims into vampires. The virus, it turns out, is man-made by NOAH scientists experimenting on a dozen incarcerated men in an attempt to create superhuman US soldiers. The experiment works…to a degree. Those exposed to the virus become indestructible and immortal, but the Virals, as they are called, require human blood to survive. When the virus escapes into the general population, the world is overwhelm by Virals before a cure can be formulated. The uninfected survivors must band together to battle the vampire hordes—and these vampires are definitely not sparkly or cuddly; they are bloodthirsty and extremely deadly. The narrative follows multiple survivors who eventually meet up at a FEMA site called The Colony. Although this gigantic novel does sag a bit in places, fans of rousing marathon vampire horror will enjoy this well-written tale. THE PASSAGE is the first of a trilogy.
THE LEFTOVERS by Tom Perrotta
I became interested in reading Tom Perrotta’s fiction after seeing the harrowing film adapted from his novel, LITTLE CHILDREN, a few years ago. Mr. Perrotta writes devastatingly sly and smart tales that peel back the veneer of smug contentment that typifies middle class suburban America. THE LEFTOVERS focuses upon a bucolic suburban enclave called Mapleton, where the grass is green, the children are well-dressed and barbeque grills fire up in unison for backyard picnics on lazy summer afternoons. The entire world is suddenly rocked when millions of people disappear from the face of the earth in the blink of an eye, several hundred of them vanishing from Mapleton. An apocalyptical horror spreads across the planet that engulfs the remaining residents of Mapleton as well. Was it the rapture? Was it the work of space aliens? Is it the precursor to something far worse? THE LEFTOVERS is set three years after “The Sudden Departure”, when everyday happiness and order has been stolen away along with the missing, who are called The Departed. Religion has begun to collide with mysticism and conspiracy theory. Multiple battling sects are forming and everyone is taking sides. Pity poor Kevin Garvey, the new mayor of Mapleton, who has absolutely no idea what to do while he watches his town go bonkers. This is an affecting and often hilarious satire that Stephen King regaled as “The best Twilight Zone episode you’ve never seen.” Agreed.
I have two cool horror novels for you this week, TombRats! Enjoy!
DRACULA: THE BLOODY RED BARON by Kim Newman
I just love alternate history novels, and what could possibly be more fascinating than an alternate history featuring the archetypical monster, Count Dracula? In his brilliant alt-hist series, Kim Newman imagines a world in which Dr. Van Helsing and his companions failed to vanquish the Count and, believe me, the world would have utterly transformed. This is the second novel in the ANNO DRACULA series and, although it can be read as a standalone novel, I wouldn’t want you to miss all the fun of the first book that chronicles Dracula’s complete conquest of Victorian England. THE BLOODY RED BARON is set in the year 1918 and Count Dracula is the Kaiser’s commander-in-chief of the German and Austria-Hungarian armies of World War I. It is the first air war, and The Bloody Red Baron, a.k.a. flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, is the terror of the skies. The Great War is not only between the powers of Europe, but between the living and the undead. Defeating the vampire armies seems a very dim hope indeed, and it is up to British Intelligence’s secret Diogenes Club and the brave airmen of England’s horribly out-gunned army and allies to triumph over the deadly vampire flying fighters. Filled with historical characters of the era (even Edgar Allan Poe!), this Titan Books reissue of a one of the most anticipated genre books of 1995 includes a bonus novella penned by Mr. Newman titled “Vampire Romance” that follows ANNO DRACULA into the year 1923. Jammed with impeccably researched history, sly humor and full-on horror, ANNO DRACULA still stands as a uniquely entertaining alternative history that will please readers of all genres. Bravo! Be sure to visit the author online at http://johnnyalucard.com/.
BOTTLED ABYSS by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Benjamin Kane Ethridge roars back from his Bram Stoker Award™ winning first novel, BLACK & ORANGE, with a devastating tale of grief, loss and terror. Beware the smug happiness of a comfortable family life because it can vanish in an instant, as Herman and Janet Erikson discover when their beautiful toddler Melody is struck dead in the street by a hit-and-run driver. The pain of Melody’s loss has driven the couple to consume massive amounts of whiskey to blunt the razor edges of their pain, and the last desperate thread holding them together is their beloved Border Collie dog, Lester. When Lester goes missing in the Southern California darkness that teems with coyotes and snakes, all hope of surviving their misery seems to have evaporated. But, if Herman can find Lester… If only he can find the dog, perhaps he and his suicidal wife can manage to find some way to go on with their lives. And so Herman goes in search of Lester, their last best chance for escape from the hellish existence that neither can sustain much longer. What Herman finds is the mythical River Styx, borderland between death and life. Although the river dried up long ago and the gods have all died, a single bottle containing the last draught of river water remains. Herman’s encounter with the Ferryman and his subsequent possession of the bottle containing the essence of life and death propel Herman and his wife on a terrible quest to reclaim their daughter and their happy lives. Mr. Ethridge’s elegant reimagining of a timeless myth is never predictable or content to stay within the bounds of legend. Instead, this terrifying story recasts themes of loss and redemption in an entirely modern, edgy narrative which illustrates that death is certainly not the worst that can happen. For more about the author and his fiction, please visit his website at www.bkethridge.com.
To get even more information about these titles, including some of the best prices on the Internet, just click on each of the book covers and you'll be connected to
To visit the individual writer's website, just click on any underlined name.
About the Tomb Keeper (Or, who is this person of mystery)
J. L. (Judy) Comeau is an award winning short story writer whose work has appeared internationally in major horror and dark fantasy anthologies such as the Borderlands series, Best New Horror, The Years' Best Horror, the Hot Blood series, and the Dark Voices series in the UK. She is an active member of the Horror Writer's Association, and she lives in the Washington, DC area where she also teaches short story writing. Click on FIREBIRD to read one of her most anthologized stories.
To learn more about the Horror Writer's Association, just click on their logo!