james carroll

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Smashwords book reviews by james carroll

  • MalContents on Dec. 08, 2011

    This release from independent newcomers Grand Mal Press is a kick ass quartet of novellas by four rising stars of the genre. First up is Howler by Randy Chandler; a ripping tale set in the American South of the 1930s. When a hairy prostitute known as Wolf Girl escapes captivity in a whorehouse, she joins a carnival of sideshow freaks where she falls under the psychic influence of a strange specimen in a jar. Historical horror can be difficult to pull off, especially when writers make the mistake of emulating the slower pace of yesteryear in their quest for a more authentic feel. Their dialogue can often sound stilted for the same reason, so it was great to see Chandler avoid these pitfalls with a contemporary style that was constantly engaging. Next up is The Mushrooms by Gregory L. Norris. When a crazed woman attacks a celebrity chef over claims of plagiarism, the TV host retreats to an isolated cottage in order to recuperate, only to discover it isn’t the safe haven she thought it was. This is a very well written story and Norris does a fine job of creating an atmosphere of claustrophobic terror within the cottage. He also displays considerable skill in handling a bizarre concept that could have easily come off as b-grade in lesser hands. Choose by Ryan C. Thomas is the tale of a computer repairman on the run from a madman who’s threatened to kill the repairman’s wife and daughter unless he kills one of them himself. This is perhaps the darkest of the four novellas, a powerful story that is every bit as bleak and harrowing as it is compelling. Finally we have The Outsider Trio by David T. Wilbanks, where a man in search of the woman he loves gets caught up in supernatural events after discovering she’s been kidnapped by occultists. This is another fine story that ventures even further into the fantastical than the preceding three, and deftly contrasts action with an overall mood of creeping dread. Wilbanks describes himself as a writer of horror, fantasy & adventure, and this is a great example of how he blends all three into his own distinctive style. I really can’t find anything to dislike about MalContents, and look forward to reading more from each of these writers and more from Grand Mal Press.