Archive for Horror

Help! My Uncle’s a Zombie

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , on April 24, 2011 by davehurwitz

So there are a lot of zombie stories out there. I mean the publishing industry is nosediving. Correlation? Who knows. What I like to see is someone who can take a tend and spin it. Not all zombies want to eat you. Heck, dead people don’t even eat, so why should zombies? A real undead story (unless it’s voodoo), should have corpses come back to life. The whole eating the dead thing is more ghoul. Check out how Romero put together Night of the Living Dead. He actually made ghouls, not zombies. But that’s another article all together.

I recently read “Moth and Rust” by Tim Kane. He managed to breathe new life into a dead (pardon the pun) genre. The story begins with Uncle Peter dying. But he didn’t stay dead. He had chores to do, so he kept on moving.

The twist comes from the point of view character. Obviously a kid, probably eleven or twelve. He just wants to hang out with his uncle. He couldn’t care less that Uncle Peter is dead. It’s the chores that are killing him for the second time.

Some readers might find this story actually disturbing. Sure, you’re used to blood and guts. But when a kid’s involved, some people get squeamish. For the record, this story has no gore at all. A smooched lemon. That’s it.

What it does have is creepy. And lots of it. Everything Uncle Peter touches rusts. Moths cluster on his sweater, rambling around. Breath that smells like rotting milk.

This is a good read. Scoot over to NevermetPress and give it a read.

Chris Kalidor

Book Review: The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Posted in Book Review, Rotten with tags , on September 6, 2009 by davehurwitz

Book Review:  The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Red Tree

The Red Tree

Somewhere in the vastness of her internet musings, or perhaps in an preface to short story collection (I cannot now find the find passage, though I have tried), Caitlin Kiernan remonstrates with a reader who complained that he “could not find the story” in her stories.  In a way, I see this unnamed critic’s point.  Kiernan’s writing is notoriously short of both incident and resolution.  For example, her story “Standing Water” consists entirely of two bookstore employees getting freaked out by an especially deep, water filled pothole in the alley behind the shop and deciding, wisely no doubt, not to fuck with it.  It’s a far cry from “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and a bit of a shock if you don’t know what you’re getting into.  Throughout her career, Kiernan has consistently refused to stay within the lanes of genre boundaries, explain the origin or “rules” of supernatural manifestations, or to banish evil with a shotgun and a cross in the final chapter.  (The aborted showdown at the climax of Threshold is a marvelous example.)  It is these carefully fostered ambiguities which draw me to Caitlin Kiernan’s writing, though I see how they might drive more conventional readers crazy.  Such people would not enjoy Kiernan’s latest novel.

The Red Tree purports to be the journal of one Sarah Crowe, an Atlanta novelist who has fled to rural Rhode Island after the suicide of her lover, whom she refers to as “Amanda.”  (Suicide and its aftermath are recurring topics in Kiernan’s work.  Chance Matthews of Threshold has lost both her best friend and the Grandmother who raised her.)  Plagued by guilt and unable to write her next novel, Crowe finds a manuscript left behind by the previous tenant of the aged farmhouse she rents.  The manuscript, written by Charles L. Harvey, a sociologist from the local university, details the grisly folklore surrounding a massive red oak on the farm property.  As Sarah learns, Harvey took his own life by hanging himself from the oak five years previously.  Sarah is soon joined by Constance Hopkins, a local painter recently returned from Los Angeles.  Together, they descend into madness and mutual suspicion as they experience or imagine various spooky goings-on.



Compared to the grandiose shootouts and choreographed mutilations of modern horror films, the major incidents of the book seem small.  Sarah and Constance get lost on their way to visit the red oak, less than a hundred yards from their back door.  Later, Constance explores the cavernous farmhouse basement, only to emerge naked, covered in mud, and speaking in tongues.  (Her first coherent words in English are, to me at least, the most frightening in the book.)  Sarah reaches the oak on her own, only to find a sacrificed rabbit.  Woven in and around these events are Sarah’s guilty dreams of Amanda, tales of mass murder, cannibalism, and lycanthropy from Harvey’s manuscript, and the growing distrust between the two women.  The handling of this last is one of the novel’s great strengths.  Kiernan portrays Hopkins as sympathetic, though increasingly wary.  Nonetheless, there are hints that the artist is not what she seems to be.  Perhaps she is a werewolf, or a suicide’s ghost.  Or maybe just a figment of Crowe’s imagination.

In the end, what the reader gets is not so much a narrative as a bouquet of dark hints, strange moods, and suggestions of the intolerable.  The Red Tree leaves a lingering aftertaste of fear, but that fear has no object, no single definite cause.  We learn in a prologue by her supposed editor that Sarah Crowe dies, that she takes her own life shortly after the book’s final lines.  Not only is the evil in The Red Tree not vanquished, it is never clearly defined.  We are left with more questions than answers.  We are not allowed, as at the end of most horror stories, to shake off the taint of evil and live again.

Dave Hurwitz

Buy The Red Tree from Mysterious Galaxy.
Buy A is for Alien from Subterranean Press.
Visit Kiernan’s Red Tree website.

A is for Alien

A is for Alien