Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review Roundup: July


With the summer release of The Children of Old Leech, as well as some traveling and plenty of weddings, I have been neglecting to post reviews of books I have been reading. Therefore I am doing one long post of reviews.

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Wow. Brian Allen Carr's latest from Lazy Fascist Press is my introduction to his work, and what an introduction it is. The novella takes place in aptly named Scrape, Texas, and follows a dysfunctional group of misfits as beings from Chicano folklore (La Llorana, a horde of hairy, black hands, El Abuelo, and the Devil himself) come to their town. It's impressive how much Carr manages to accomplish in such a short piece of work. His stripped down prose style is perfect in conveying the squalor of Scrape and it's inhabitants, which are a mixture of white trash and bored youth. The best analogy I can think of for this book is the film Gummo. The characters in the book are just passing time in a dead-end town, usually self-destructively, just drifting along without a single ambition. Their initial reaction to the supernatural is even muted. After an initial shock it then becomes a diversion, just another thing to pass the time with. Some will read this book and feel disgust towards the characters, and others will instead recognize these characters as people they have known themselves. The book is a volatile mix of humor and horror, cementing itself as one of the best books of 2014.




There was quite a bit excitement when this book was announced by publisher Subterranean Press, as fans of Ligotti didn't think they'd be seeing anymore new fiction. This book is not very long, and consists of only two short pieces of fiction. Both stories portray a murky reality, one where dreams and realities intersect, and are sometimes hard to tell apart. This signature surrealism is one of Ligotti's trademarks, and it is good to see that he can still use it to excellent effect. "Metaphysica Morum" is classic Ligotti. A depressed protagonist who has only one desire (suicide by painless euthanasia) is attempting to trudge through life with the help of a shady therapist/doctor/meditation instructor. His vivid dreams constantly intrude upon his waking world, and the doctor/patient relationship becomes strained. The second story, "The Small People," is the better of the two, and is one of my favorite stories Ligotti has ever written. The narrator has a phobia of small, living, toy-like people who live alongside humans in their own communities. His parents berate him for being a "shameful little bigot" while his fears eat him up inside. Mirroring real life, fear ferments into hate. The ending leaves the story ambiguous, as the narrator is unreliable it could very well all be the fantasies of a madman, or it could all be very true. Either way, the story is horrific, and brilliant. 



 Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg.

The past few years I had been well aware of Glen Hirshberg's excellent short fiction thanks to editors such as Ellen Datlow. While at this year's Readercon I was able to attend several great readings, the last of which was Glen Hirshberg reading from his novel-in-progress, The Good Girls, which is a sequel to Motherless Child. Needless to say, the reading blew myself and many others away. My roommate and I couldn't stop talking about it. I NEEDED to read Motherless Child, but unfortunately the dealer's room was sold out of copies. Thankfully, after my plane landed I stopped for dinner, after which I ran into the next door Barnes and Noble to snag a copy. I am glad I did. Glen Hirshberg's vampire novel is one of the best there is. Is it horrific? It sure is, but even more than that it is a story of friendship, and family. The novel is about two young, single mothers, best friends their whole lives. It's about what happens when they meet the Whistler, are changed by him, and go on the run to protect their babies. Glen's vampires are different than others, some typical vampire legends are thrown out of the window (sunlight hurts, but doesn't destroy) in order to focus on other aspects (the hypnotizing, "glamour" effect vampires have on mortals). The story is beautiful, haunting, touching, funny, heartbreaking, and terrifying.



Far From Streets by Mike Griffin.

One of the meatier novellas from Dunhams Manor Press (imprint of Dynatox Ministries) is Mike Griffin's Far From Streets. The back cover compares the books to Von Trier's Antichrist and Blackwood's The Willows, both of which are apt. The novella focuses on a married couple who inherit a large piece of land rather deep in the wilderness. The wife would rather sell it and move into an even nicer suburban home, but the husband sees the inheritance as an escape, a chance to build a cabin and cut himself off from the 9-5 world. They attempt a compromise, the husband builds a cabin, and reality itself seems to unravel. Griffin excels at writing personal relationships. The joys, the strains, the beauty and the ugliness are all shown in great detail. The book is about obsession and relationships as much as it's about the difference between suburbia and the wilderness, and manages to be far more than just a surreal creep-out fest because of this. Griffin becomes more and more impressive, and this is my favorite work of his to date.



We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory.

I recently received an ARC of this from Tachyon Publications, who has been putting out many great books. Gregory first came to my attention years ago with Pandemonium, an imaginative book about possession (by beings more akin to Jungian archetypes than demons of Christian mythology). Pandemonium was followed by a few other highly praised novels such as The Devil's Alphabet and more recently Raising Stony Mayhall. We Are Completely Fine is a short novel, and one in which I can see echoes of Pandemonium. The story follows a support group of "sole survivors" put together by a therapist. Harrison was a boyhood "Van Helsing" who later inspired a young adult fiction series, Stan was the lone survivor of a backwoods family of cannibals, Barbara has messages carved onto her bones, Greta comes from a matriarchal cult, and Martin's augmented reality-game sunglasses allow him to start seeing the "hidden world" underlying reality. The novel is fast paced, and quite entertaining, as the dysfunctional group tries to come to terms with their individual problems while their paths are quickly drawing together. It's entertaining, but I don't think it's his best work. It's short, and rather lighthearted, and I can't help but feel that it could have been a bit longer and fleshed out. Readers who enjoyed his other novels will find it rather enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing what's next from Gregory.



Pines by Blake Crouch.

I have a thing for "weird town" stories. The ones where the entire town seems to be in a conspiracy of some sort. The idea of being the lone outsider in the situation really creeps me out. There is seemingly nowhere to turn, paranoia and anxiety skyrocket, and the one-against-many feeling is dialed up to ten. Fox recently released a trailer for a new show called Wayward Pines, which caught my attention. A little bit Twin Peaks, a little bit X-Files, with some talented actors and actresses attached. What's not to like? I saw that it was based on the book Pines by Blake Crouch, so I picked it up, and tore through it in two days. I have to say, this book is the perfect summer read. The writing itself is nothing special. It's straightforward and far from dense. Where the book lacks in wording it more than makes up for in plot, which is the main focus, and the twist, which actually works very well, and which I won't spoil here. Pines begins with Secret Service agent waking up outside of the town of Wayward Pines, in a grassy clearing by a river. His amnesia and confusion soon clear some, and he remembers that he was coming to town to search for two fellow agents who went missing while investigating something in town. It soon becomes apparent that there is something very, very weird going on with Wayward Pines. The place seems too good to be true, except that no one will cooperate with his queries and he can't seem to reach the outside world. There's also a giant, electrified fence which encircles the town and the immediate surrounding wilderness. The book was hard to put down, and paid off in the end. It also has two sequels, which I plan to check out at some point.



14 by Peter Clines.

While I tend to stray away from reviewing books that I really didn't like, I'm going to do this one anyway. Last year I read Bad Glass by Richard E. Gropp, and had seen these two books compared quite a bit. Seeing some good things about this one, I thought I would give it a read, but it ended up being a vast disappointment. This is one of those novels which has some good ideas in the plot, but is utterly killed by it's execution. The story is about a mysterious apartment building, and the residents. Nate moves in, and soon realizes there is a lot of weirdness going on. He then teams up with a large group of other residents in order to investigate. It soon becomes a repetitive, feel-good novel that goes like this: Nate and friends have a group meeting to discuss their finds, they investigate a certain aspect of the building, they have a group meeting to discuss their findings, they meet for beers on the roof and plan their next investigation, they investigate a certain aspect, they have a group meeting to discuss their findings, they meet for beers on the roof and plan. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. A better writer would have at least mixed some tension into the group, but it's like reading a friendless child's fantasy: everyone gets along super well, and become a Scooby-Doo, best friend supergroup. It started to become quite nauseating, and I almost put the book down but decided to give it a chance. Also, word of advice to writers out there: if you're going to use Lovecraft's monsters, or monsters that are clearly based on Lovecraft's monsters, you should maybe do it properly. Yes, the idea of Cthulhu is terrifying, but when you cheapen it by making it so his thoughts that can be heard by characters literally consist of "HUNGRY. EAT." then you truly do not understand what makes Lovecraft's monsters scary. A hugely disappointing book.



American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett.

The latest novel from Bennett recently won the Shirley Jackson Award for best novel, and couldn't be more deserving. This large novel is a mixture of weird horror and science fiction, another "weird town" novel that I just had to pick up. The story follows ex-cop Mona Bright, who inherits (in the books I read inheriting is NEVER a good thing) a house in the town of Wink, New Mexico when her father passes away. Seeing the house used to belong to her mother, who she lost to suicide when she was really young, Mona decides to jump on the opportunity to learn more about the woman she called mother. What follows is an outstanding piece of work. The threads all come together neatly, and Bennett paces the book well. Another example of a novel that manages to hit on so many different emotions as it runs its course. At times it is frightening, other times it's funny, and others it is as awe-inspiring as the best science fiction out there. A look at family, and the love/hate relationship between siblings, children and parents. Definitely a must-read.



The Cormorant by Stephen Gregory.

This reprinting of a short, older novel I picked up after seeing author Paul Tremblay mention it with praise. This was one of those books that subverted my expectations, and was one of the more haunting reads I have read all year. The story follows a young couple with a toddler who inherit (it's a curse, I tell ya) a cottage from a recently deceased uncle. The inheritance comes with a stipulation; the couple have to care for their uncle's pet cormorant, and if they neglect it they lose the cottage. What follows is a chilling novel unlike any I've read before. Naming the bird "Archie" begins a strange story of love/hate between a man and his pet. The protagonist starts believing the bird is otherworldly and evil, and also starts thinking a ghost is following him. He bonds with the bird, but their relationship vacillates between love and hate by the page. There are times earlier on that the bird seems to be the antagonist, but as the book goes on I am really not sure what to think, and even feel sorry for the animal many times. The novel plays with the reader in this way. It is unclear who we should be rooting for; the mean disgusting animal or the husband whose feelings for the bird are so back and forth. The book ends on a jaw-dropping note that I didn't see coming, and still haunts my thoughts. Weird fiction readers should check this one out without hesitation.



The Walls of the Castle by Tom Piccirilli.

This novella is the first in the Black Labyrinth imprint from Dark Regions Press, and was my first encounter with Piccirilli's fiction. This surreal story takes place in The Castle, a labyrinthian hospital. A man grieves his son and stays in the hospital for months after his death, until he slowly loses his identity. He doesn't remember his own name, so adopts the name Kasteel, and becomes a "protector" figure. By stealing food from the cafeteria, and mingling with other people who "live" in the Castle, Kasteel becomes a ghost in the machine, haunting the hallways and stairwells, trying to right wrongs. Kasteel is a tough ex-con, and falls back on his fighting skills to battle bullying guards, and abusive fathers. The novella is short, and the ending comes very quickly, but the story serves as an excellent meditation on grief and identity. It is also illustrated by the wonderful Santiago Caruso.





Annihilation and Authority by Jeff Vandermeer.

Vandermeer is a name that should ring all kinds of bells for readers of the fantastic. Jeff and his wife Ann have edited and written all kinds of outstanding works, and Jeff's latest trilogy is receiving all kinds of praise from fans, and rightly so. Annihilation and Authority (soon to be followed by Acceptance) make up "The Southern Reach Trilogy" and focus on a mysterious area known as "Area X" as well as The Southern Reach, the secret government group in charge of researching Area X. Annihilation is an account of the eleventh expedition, as told by the group's biologist. Authority shifts to follow agent John Rodriguez (aka Control) as he takes over as acting director of The Southern Reach. With the first two books alone, Vandermeer has done something special, taking weird fiction to new levels. What may impress me the most, is how different each of the first two books are, and how they manage to work together so well. Narrative style is something Vandermeer likes to play with, and reading these first two books brings to mind his early work Veniss Underground. That early novel consists of three sections, each using a different style of narrative, one for each character it follows. The book opens in the first-person, and switches to the harder to pull off second-person, before finishing in the third-person. These books seem to emulate that approach, each one taking the narrative style that is most suited. Annihilation is a first-person account of the eleventh expedition, as told in the Biologist's journal, which each expedition member is supposed to keep. This was an apt choice, as we get to perceive Area X as the Biologist does, seeing her most intimate thoughts, although it is possible she is not being completely truthful in her account either. Authority abandons this approach, opting for a third-person narrative. This could reflect the change in scenery as well as character, as this novel takes place outside of Area X, and instead in the headquarters of The Southern Reach. Control is a man struggling to keep it together. This job is a last chance, one that he only has because his mother (herself a cold, calculating spy in the agency) pulled strings. It soon becomes apparent that the weirdness isn't just restricted to Area X itself, but permeates the headquarters and it's employees. Some questions are answered in the second book, but obviously much is left for the third book. Both books are chock full of mystery, awe, horror, and weird beauty. They are different enough to avoid repetition, and both stand quite strong on individual merits. It is clear that Vandermeer is doing something very special here, and this reader eagerly awaits Acceptance.



The Black Sun Set by Lee Thomas.

This chapbook novella is small, but packs quite a punch. Published by Canadian outfit Burning Effigy Press, this fine yarn follows a tough guy on a job to guard his boss's wife, with whom he is infatuated. What follows is a two-fisted, weird noir tale that is a must read. Thomas packs quite a bit into this slim chapbook, creating a sympathetic character (I couldn't help but think of Mike from AMC's Breaking Bad as I read) who finds himself in a messy situation. I don't want to give too much away, since it's a short novella, but there's action, a total femme fatale, a tough guy and a cult that's hell-bent on retrieving something the boss has.














Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “The Woman in the Wood” by Daniel Mills




Today’s The Children of Old Leech excerpt comes from Daniel Mills’s epistolary story about a young man who has traveled north, after troubles at home, “The Woman in the Wood.”



From the diary of James Addison Thorndike II (1828-1843?)

15th July. Friday.

I found it in the fields near the pine-wood.

The beast was lying on its side & I thought perhaps it was sick. But I smelled the rot as I drew near & saw its blood splashed through the grass—

This morning it rained, though the skies were clear by noon. The day was hot so I wore my linen shirt & trousers. I ate sparingly of the dinner my Aunt had prepared (mutton roasted & charred) and afterward announced my intention to walk outside on my own as Father would never have permitted in Boston.

I walked the fields for the best part of an hour without seeing man or beast. Then I came over a rise & saw the great herd of them before me. They were grazing at the end of the stony pasture: dumb & grunting & caked in their own filth.

I went eastwards & climbed over a wall to the adjoining field where the land slopes down to the neighbors’ property & the pine-wood, which lies in a depression between so that none know for certain who owns it (or so my Uncle says).

The grass is higher there & that is where I found the ewe.

Uncle Timothy was at work in the pastures to the south. I ran toward him, waving & shouting & he came to meet me at a sprint. I told him what I had found & he sent me back to the house. Then he called to Auguste, one of the hired men.

Come, he said. And bring your gun.

I went back to the house & told Aunt Sarah that I had found a dead sheep. She said it was probably dogs or a wolf, but Uncle Timothy returned to the house at dusk & said it was likely a wildcat, though he hadn’t heard of them coming so far south, especially in the summer.

Supper was strained & silent. Aunt Sarah was quiet where she sat opposite me & I could not meet her eye without thinking of the pasture & what I had found there.

I had no appetite. I asked my Uncle if I might be excused & he nodded.

So I came upstairs, thinking I might read Wieland, which had been Father’s gift to me before leaving. But I could not touch my books & I passed the evening by the window, watching the clouds as they covered the moon & the stars.

***

without thinking of the beast where it lay in the grass with its mouth forced open, the jaws broken & the organs wrenched from out the shattered mouth: its heart & lungs & the ropes of its intestines, spread out on a slick of blood & the stench of shit coming from the mass of them where the sun’s shone down through the day



The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesterdays” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.





Today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from a story about monsters–human and otherwise–and books of magic, and blood and ashes: Joseph S. Pulver’s “The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesterdays.”



To and fro. Rocking. Slow.

Slow.

Measured, not sluggish. Predator readying true for ignorant prey.

To…

and back again. His grip not far from the shotgun.

The old man sipped his sweetened coffee from an old porcelain mug. From his hillside porch he stared into the night-darkened forest toward what was no longer the Hambly property. Old discomforts and slowmotion anger was a butchering quicksand that was bringing on tears. Kellerman put the filtered-tip cigarette to his lips and inhaled. Took the smoke deep. Held it. Exhaled. “Ruined, Zina… Bastards have ruined it.”

“—against the horde of insidious parasites.”

“You are the White… American… Dream. You are the defenders of White European culture and heritage. Your commitment and actions preserve what Our American Fathers—Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Adams—shed blood to establish and protect… our Great White Nation. You are America’s true patriots.”

Pride-roasted cheers and a vigorous round of applause billow through the compound carved-out of the darksome forest of rugged pine.

“WAR DAY.” The voice of the Allfather or a blood-and-fire Jehovah at 110 decibels thunders from the loudspeakers and echoes in the hills. “Is a HOLY DAY!”

Another explosive burst of applause followed by a chain reaction of Nazi salutes expressing their pathological eagerness. Amens dash like snarls. Three semiautomatic handguns bark and send their payloads skyward. Two sisters, paleskinned twins married to paleskinned brothers, rise from their seats and begin singing a bastardization of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” Their enflamed voices are joined by ten and ten and ten and ten. Fifty-strong becomes nearly one hundred.

Once Metzger disciple, before the riff became a chasm, Walter Warren smiles on the crowd. “In a week this compound, the new home of the White Liberation Alliance, will be completed. God is pleased with your work, brothers and sisters. God is pleased.”

Not enough miles away, or countries for that matter, Kellerman caught the amplified words. He’d heard the raised voices sing and the gunfire. Heard them last Saturday night, and too many times in the last months.

“Nazis.”

Zina sat up. Growled.

The old man shivered.

Zina stood, faced the black woods, offered the thunder her teeth and an unsheathed promise steeled with Till-Death-Do-Us-Part loyal.

Twenty years since he’d briefly lived in Olympia, in the distance below. Twenty years since he’d come west to these hills and hollows, hoping to find balm. There were small moments when he could pretend (if the sky was soft summer blue and the sun warm and the blooms gave off sweet scents) the beauty it held helped. Kellerman was an old man now, felt it when the cold ruled muscle and mind mercilessly, saw it sear the tired face the mirror slapped him with. The nightmares and wounds (still a bullet to heart and mind no prayer could moderate) of the small boy he’d been, the boy the Americans liberated from Buchenwald, now fully reawakened by the hate that had invaded his property, were, these last few months, as loud and haunting as the last breath of his cancer-ridden wife.

Kellerman’s right hand stroked Zina between her ears. “Yes, girl, I know.”

He stood and stubbed out his cigarette on the porch boards, picked up his mug, his shotgun, and turned to go inside. “Little good it will do, but we will try the Authorities again tomorrow, girl.”

Zina, ninety pounds of unwavering attentiveness, settled at the foot of his bed. His Mossberg rested against the nightstand. Kellerman’s hands were trembling fists as he fell asleep.



The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “The Golden Stars at Night” by Allyson Bird




For today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech, we travel to New Zealand in order to bring you a taste of Allyson Bird's “The Golden Stars at Night,” a story that explores the fragility–and uncertainty–of life within a carnivorous cosmos, where horrors unknown wait beyond the safety of firelight.



Her name was Rawlie. She chose the name, obviously not at her birth but later—not gender specific and that empowered her for a good reason. She’d need to be strong. Rawlie had seen the world change. Sitting on the stile near the stream bank amongst the manuka trees she tied her brown hair back and shielded her grey eyes from the winter sun. It was still strong. All year round they had to be wary of it in New Zealand. It wasn’t uncommon for many newcomers to fold with the heat and humidity. She was the first to rise too—just a quarter hour before the others but with enough time to grab a mug of coffee and wrap up warm against the cold. The mountains were visible today, still tipped with snow and rosy in the dawn light. Some days were better than others. The worst days started with her father sending a couple of ranch hands down to the main gate. They would wave a rifle in the air. Nobody set a foot on Campbell land without prior permission.

The day on the station would be a long one and she was always the first to go to bed each evening—exhausted from trying to be as good as or rather better than others. That was what she wanted. What she needed was to stay alive, eat, sleep and fuck. Her mind nowadays was closed off pretty much—kept apart from most others in some cosmic shadow of itself. She wondered what lay in—within the darkness whilst she tried to sleep. Not really of this world perhaps? Or a forgotten part of it? They seemed ever closer now.



The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “Firedancing,” by Michael Griffin




Today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from Michael Griffin‘s “Firedancing,” a tale of haunted people, haunted places, and haunting actions. So pour yourself a dram of the good stuff, sit back, and enjoy…



“Thoughtful of you.” Bay tips back the Jim Beam fifth. The bottle knocks the ceiling inside Petersson’s posh gentleman’s pickup. “I was gone just a few hours. She managed to empty the place. Must’ve hired—”

“I said, don’t talk about that. Don’t think about that.” Petersson’s driving, I5 South. Three hours to Roseburg. “Lesson I learned after Minerva skipped. Obsessively sifting back, through everything, that ain’t what you need.”

“What do I need?”

“Mental reboot.” He grins. “Puke your troubles away at a two-day party.”

“So this Mallard Hill place, it’s where Erik and Minerva grew up?”

“Mmm. Fifteen miles outside Roseburg.”

“Speaking of Minerva.”

Petersson’s grip flexes on the wheel.

Bay tries again. “The worst thing about Annie leaving, I finally did what she wanted. Took a commission, murals for Cinema 21, that’s an art theater in Northwest.”

“I know, dummy. Film major, remember? You took us there.” He exhales. “Seven Samurai. Me and Minerva.”

“Lumber baron with a film degree, that’s funny. Most of us liberal arts guys…” Bay stops. Another swig. “Annie set it up, knew the owner. They kept showing up, checking on me. Arrive together, leave together.”

“We weren’t going to talk about that.”

Bay thinks, What else? “So Erik grew up on this hill, but won’t attend the big drunk-fest?”

“Nah, he stopped that recovery shit. After he withdrew from us, his sponsor tried to make him cut off Minerva.” Petersson shrugs. “Erik only drinks beer now. Lives on the edge of the Mallard tract, a cabin overlooking the South Umpqua. Started some river guide thing. Fishing, rafting.” His face clouds. “Minerva’s in the main house. Stopover from the endless touring.”

“So much land, Erik gets his own corner.” Bay resists redirecting toward Minerva. Petersson’s breakup makes him feel less awful.

“Might be the most impressive parcel in Douglas County. Everyone thinks Old Mallard got rich in lumber, but Minerva let slip he returned from the Merchant Marines, World War II, a millionaire at nineteen.”

“Merchant Marines, is that still a thing? Maybe they’d let me—”

“He climbs aboard the post-war lumber boom, builds Mallard Hill. Meets a woman up in Washington, on business near Olympic Forest. This first wife starts him jetting around, blowing millions in Mexico. Spends the sixties and seventies financing films, legendary stuff by Buñuel and Jodorowsky.”

“Lest I forget that film degree.”

Petersson makes an undignified snort. “Always trekking the wilds of Mexico, South America, Antarctica, returning rejuvenated, trailing new wives to replace ones who die of typhus or malaria. Finally disappears, the Chilean Andes. Erik and Minerva, living under Old Mallard’s tutors and housekeepers, assume they’re orphaned a second time. Everyone gives up hope.”

“But…”

“He reappears, head shaved, silent as a mystic. No explanation where he’s been ten months, what happened to wife number six, seven, whatever. Thereafter, no more film production or travel. Grabs another wife to replace the one rumored frozen to death. Further expands the house. His only indulgences are these parties, and the visiting artists, visionaries and occult weirdos. Some remain months, years at a time. Old Mallard, he’s like fucking Tom Bombadil. Erik grew up thinking the man’s his grandfather, later learns, no, it’s great-grandfather.”

Bay stifles envy at such a life. “One part Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, one part Kwai Chang Caine.”



The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “Notes for ‘The Barn in the Wild,’” by Paul Tremblay





Today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from Paul Tremblay‘s “Notes for ‘The Barn in the Wild.’” Paul initially submitted his story as both typewritten text and as a hand-written manuscript. The typeset text appears in the final book; the facsimile pages became the basis of our sold-out chapbook, Notes for “The Barn in the Wild.” This is the first time anyone who doesn’t have the chapbook has seen these pages. But no matter how you read it, Paul’s story is sure to elicit a chill.





Tommy’s body was found by Antoine and Brandon LaForge (father and son snowmobilers) on March 24th. Stephens presented me a photo of the body. Tommy’s all curled up in a tight ball, lost inside his puffy anorak. Adjacent to him are the dead coals and black ash of a spent fire pit. Tommy likely died of starvation sometime during the previous fall. Five fingers on his right hand were missing. The coroner was unable to determine if fingers were removed by critters post-mortem because of the advanced state of decay of the body.

Were any other body parts missing?

“No.”

Isn’t it odd that animals didn’t take anything else?

“Who knows why animals do anything they do?”

Tommy’s hands look to be hidden tight into that ball of rigor mortis. Stephens agreed. There was evidence of frostbite in Tommy’s toes and Stephens suggested (admitted it wasn’t likely), that perhaps Tommy cut his fingers off himself after suffering from severe frostbite(7). Next an itemized list of the meager supplies found in Tommy’s possession, including a camera. They were only able to produce a handful of pictures from the film in his pack and in his camera, the rest were washouts: one photo of a woman in a small apartment kitchen, hiding her face behind a dish towel(8); three photos of woods, the hiking trails nearly indecipherable in the brush; an open field with the barn as a dot in the far background; the last picture is a self-portrait of Tommy sitting up against the barn, his hair wild, baby face tufted with facial hair, gaunt and emaciated, facial fat and muscles melting away, replaced by the hard angles of what lies beneath(9), but he doesn’t look like he’s suffering or in pain, but with the content, wild, ecstatic look of a zealot. He sits with his back up against the side of the barn but toward the front. Above his head, and in the upper right hand corner protruding out from the front of the barn, is an ornamental structure, like a deer’s head in profile, and I do think it’s some sort of animalistic avatar or totem, only the neck is elongated, but the head has no antlers, or ears, or much of a snout, it’s oval, tapers to a rounded point at the bottom, human?

7) I’ve had frostbite, and I’ve had it at 20,000 feet, but didn’t cut off my fingers. I’m partial to them. Do people do that? Apparently yes: see, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
8) Nadia?
9) Unfortunately, I’ve seen that face before. You will see it again.









The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “The Old Pageant,” by Richard Gavin




Today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes to us courtesy of Richard Gavin, an author who knows a thing or two about the carnivorous nature of the cosmos. So let’s head out to the woods with this sample of “The Old Pageant.”



He didn’t want her to know how physically taxing he’d found the long drive to the woods, how tedious the prospect of unpacking seemed, or how repugnantly primitive he found their accommodations to be upon their arrival. The holiday had the potential to be far too special an occasion for him to sour it by sulking.

The cabin had been in her family for decades, though the moment he spied it—an oblong box slumped between leprous-looking birch trees—he wondered why she didn’t regard the cabin as a skeleton from her family’s closet instead of a prideful heirloom.

After an anxious struggle to fit the copper key inside the ancient lock, the door gave, allowing the pair of them to be assaulted by the stench of long-trapped air. The dark had evidently grown so accustomed to the cabin’s interior that it stubbornly refused to part for the sunbeams that the man and woman ushered in.

Shutters were peeled back, windows were pried ajar. She stripped the ancient white sheets from the beds and took them outside and hung them from the birch limbs so that the breezes might push out their mustiness.

They cleaned and unpacked and traded off-colour wisecracks. The supper they cooked together was hearty and its aroma managed to mask a bit of the cabin’s cloying staleness.

After eating he delighted her by finding the detached footboard that had once braced the lower bunk bed she’d slept on as a girl. It had been wound in a shower drape of translucent plastic and stored behind her grandmother’s dormant sewing desk.

Her grandfather had carved (with visible skill and obvious love) an inscription into the footboard:

Here lies Donna Hammill
Each and every summer
Dreaming…



The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.