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.


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.


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


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.


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.”


“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?


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

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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Interview: Adam Nevill on The House of Small Shadows

To celebrate the American publication of The House of Small Shadows, The Arkham Digest hosts an interview with British author Adam Nevill, one of the rising stars in the genre. In October I reviewed the UK edition of this novel.

First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

Thanks for having me, Justin. Your interest in this book is much appreciated too.

Puppets, taxidermy and dolls are all rather sinister. What served as your inspiration behind this piece? Are these all things that have creeped you out over the years?

HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS is the first novel in which I have made a concerted effort to use my childhood fears, fascinations and imaginings, specifically in the area of the strange secret lives of effigies and imaginary companions. There has always been a certain type of grotesque imagery relating to puppets, dolls and mummified creatures that appears in my fiction, and I may have been unconsciously working my way to devoting an entire book to this in HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS.

Reading the blurb it seems House of Small Shadows is going to be a haunted house/possessed doll story, but in reading it I was very pleasantly surprised to see that it was anything but conventional, and was a great example of weird horror. Are you a reader of weird fiction? When you set out to write this novel did you know from the start it was heading in that direction or did it just take you there?

Thanks, Justin, for the appreciation and open mind. The novel isn’t a Puppet Master slash-and-stalk B Movie, or possessed Chucky doll story, or anything like that really (though Karen Black being pursued through her apartment by a voodoo doll in Trilogy of Terror, that I saw when much younger, was an inspiration for this book). It aimed to be less obvious and more dreadful but also magical. Assumptions can be problematic in horror, I think; there are cinematic triggers for nearly everything now. Maybe horror in film and television even creates expectations for readers. But I think this my most idiosyncratic and strange story, and perhaps the most genuinely weird tale since Apartment 16. This approach was not contrived for the sake of weirdness, but if you dig deep enough and are honest about what disturbed you, and disturbs you, you will most probably hit a seam of the truly weird naturally.
The primary challenge I had with this book was placing the imagery, notions, feelings, ideas, and visual fragments that had been stored in my memory and imagination from my first memories into youth, into a novel-length narrative. I had no real story to hang it all upon, and hadn’t for years as I mulled over things like a tatty hare head with long teeth that terrified me as a pre-schooler, to a small satin slipper from Tudor England that my friend found in the foundations of his house in Hereford. How does so much of this stuff, that I have always found affecting, become a novel about itself?
I’ve thought it before, but in some respects this should have been my first novel. BANQUET FOR THE DAMNED was me trying to master structure and narrative in the novel, while I learned the craft. That first novel involved a more conscious and orchestrated process, but I needed to write that, and the other books, before attempting to put a more noticeable shudder through reality in this story.
I talked about the ideas of HOUSE’ with my editor who allowed me “Plus one Unspecified Novel” in my contract, which is incredibly generous, as I would not have been able to write an outline for the book. Not one that would have resembled what I eventually delivered. As it was, I had a very real fear that when I did deliver H.O.S.S, I’d get a “we can’t publish this” response. But that is a good doubt to have as a writer because it means you are really reaching for something that could be special, and that you are taking risks. I guess what I am trying to say is: the story really came out of the process of writing it. There wasn’t enough of a plot that I could anticipate before I began. Describing things and reading around the subject created the story. Reconciling strangeness with narrative is a battle I will always be engaged in, but the two can complement and change each other once you are in the zone.
At an imaginative level, I mined childhood feelings, dreams, memories that still remained – the enchantment and terror of childhood that Edith mentions in the novel is the theme - and I just let it flow. What helped me find a way into a coherent story through locations, situations and characters, came through research. I read a lot about the history of puppets, and the history and stomach-turning processes of taxidermy, as well as further investigations into my personal horror and fascination with holy relics. The idea of M H Mason, Britain’s greatest preserver of animals in tableau (an art form I discovered in a Reggie Oliver short story called The Children of Monte Rosa), an antique dealer with a 70s British childhood, and the Red House as a character, or catalyst that changed all inside it, emerged out of secondary reading. One subject jumped on to another and pretty soon I had a folk horror story that sustains, at least for me, the sense of a childlike dream that combines terror and enchantment – maybe this was also a striving for wonder and awe with what I have at my disposal. I might be as much a writer of the grotesque as anything else too, and the grotesque “artefacts”, twinned with their traditional roles in history, started to settle into a story the more I learned about them.
At the same time as fashioning a story, I also didn’t want to be too conscious of the process; again, the imagination had to lead the whole thing – this is most apparent at the end. But my greatest fear when writing horror is the trapdoor into silliness, and this novel dealt with subjects that tiptoed around that. Observing the difference between childish and childlike was imperative. The jury is probably out on what the book achieves.
Yes, I am a big reader of weird fiction too, and the strangeness that reveals something almost incommunicable about consciousness, but in all kinds of fiction and art.

The atmosphere of the novel plays a huge part, and The Red House at times seems to transcend being simply a setting, instead becoming a character itself. Was this intentional? Which earlier fiction or films or life experiences lent themselves to shape The Red House and the town of Magbar’s Wood?

Yes to the location as a character, and thank you for noticing. I think I have attempted exactly that in every novel. For me, atmosphere is an essential and vital part of horror, and places and situations that make me feel as if I am close to something enthralling but unbearable, places that can transport me, are the shadows I chase and try and replicate in horror fiction. This may sound “inflated” but just writing a story ain’t enough – I have to feel moved by what surrounds the plot.
For this novel, my influences were nearly all female authors – Shirley Jackson (Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle); Edith Wharton’s short stories; Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Angela Carter’s work that I was mad on in my teens and twenties. I was never sure whether I could depict a troubled and unstable female character, and I was probably most anxious about that, but soon got carried away and created five in the story. But that sense that we, as creatures, are filled with multiple and shifting selves, that are made more animate by the extraordinary and by adversity, is something I’m also attracted to as a writer. The house represents this fluidity.
The Red House itself is key in another way, in a desire to draw the reader into more than just a literal reading of plot events, and character motivations and responses to these events. The house was my attempt at creating a vehicle to produce a more imaginative reading of what actually happened in the Red House’s past, and what is happening to Catherine Howard within the present. It does all make sense, in magical terms, but I’m not going to explain how or why. Creating a sense of occurrences beyond human experience was the aim, but an understanding is still being suggested at the far reaches of the lead character’s mind - the part we rarely use.

What type of horror fiction do you prefer to read? What scares you?

As a reader, I’m almost entirely sold on the more literary end of horror, because I enjoy the way it is written and its ideas, and it makes me want to write – it recharges me. It’s that end of the field that brought me back after a decade away. I read Thomas Ligotti and M John Harrison and Aickman (who I’d come across as a teenager and not really responded to) after a long break reading other things. And there are great riches to be found these days; so many new writers and so much quality out there. Dare I say a new generation of writer exists for whom horror was the passion of their youth, but who have since exposed themselves to all kinds of other writing and brought that into a new generation of horror fiction. As a sub-species of literature, horror is probably more prone to the threat of commercial extinction that any other, beside the western, but new writers have adapted to survive. Being exiled might have enabled so many new voices to flourish in the underground, beyond the strictures of what’s hot right now. And no matter how good the writing is (mostly educated) people will still sneer! You need stones to write horror.
I can’t say I read horror in order to be frightened. I did once when much younger, and it could transfix me with terror, but not now. I read horror for all the same reasons I read darker literary fiction – insights into the inner life, a desire to understand these times and what they do to us, fine writing, enigma, and to be transported by a writer’s imagination, and to be disturbed. I just tend to get those things from more sophisticated pens – an entertaining story is not enough. I don’t ever read to pass the time. I want everything I read to be an intense experience and everything I write to be intense. Otherwise, what is the point?

So far you have five novels under your belt, and a few short stories. Is the short form something you foresee yourself toying with more?

I write about two stories in a good year, but none so far this year. I have no prejudices against short fiction, as a reader, but the novel is my favoured medium as a writer. And that doesn’t leave me much time to write short stories. I think I’ve written seventeen stories in as many years and that paltry sum is purely down to capacity as I dedicate nearly all of my writing time to novels. And I may spend my entire life trying to write a good one.
I don’t favour one form over the other as a reader; the writing is engaging and captivating and transporting to my mind and taste, or I am indifferent to it. Doesn’t matter what form it comes to me in. Commercially, the novel is everything in a publishing sense, but as mediums for horror, I’m beginning to think the endless discussion over which is better, the novel or short story, is pointless. There are good stories and there are the rest, there are good novels and there are the rest. I don’t see medium as an advantage. The short story has a kind of artistic moral high ground in the horror field, and at times, I almost feel that novelists are expected to prove themselves tenfold against the canon of short story writers, as if the novel is a vain attempt at birth to achieve the same effects as the short story. Not something I subscribe to.
One of the hardest things about creating horror successfully over an entire work, any work – short story, novel or film – might be that horror often has no story, and needs no narrative to support it – when we try to make it into a story we can start diluting it. Horror often just is. I think this is why parts of stories, a facet of novels, or a scene from a film can be so memorable, without the sum of the constituent parts necessarily adding up. Horror can be a feeling you have when standing in a certain place, or next to someone you gradually realise is dangerous, it can be a glimpse of a clear night sky, or something that grins out from behind the museum glass it is preserved behind. It just comes upon you and impacts, adrift from any narrative. It’s one reason why I admire Francis Bacon, the expressionist painter, and sometimes wonder if he was the greatest horror artist of all.

What are your thoughts on film adaptations? Is that something you have ever considered? Who would be your dream cast/director for bringing House of Small Shadows to the big screen?

My thoughts are: I’d love to see one of my books adapted into a film. Three novels are currently under option, another one is under negotiation, and the fifth did have an option that has expired, so I am very excited, but with managed expectations, to be on the film production radar. Any film adaptation of one of my books would be another person’s interpretation, and I accept that, if not welcome it. There would be no point in me clinging to my own head-cinema version of how it should be.
I have been assessed in the past, of not being ambitious enough as a writer by not throwing myself at screenplays. I’d disagree with that. In fact my ambition to write a novel that really resonates and might endure is so strong, I don’t have much time or energy left over to write anything else. Why try and master everything? Aspiring to be good at one thing is sufficient for now. The fact that I have stuck to that approach with the novel for nearly twenty years has delivered some dividends, incrementally, but the books have probably been noticed, among the many contributing variables, because of that long process behind their creation. For short term financial gains I could split myself into various strands, but this is a long game.
In the future, if time and energy and opportunity aligned, I would like to try exec’ producing and writing a horror film. That is not really in my hands, but sitting on my ass, on my own, and writing a novel always is.

Is there anything you can tell readers about what can be expected from you in the future?

NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE is my next novel. I have just finished work on the proofs and the book is published in the UK this October and in the US/CAN summer 2015. My first true ghost story, I’d say. Also my longest book to date, certainly the most disturbing for me – the research took my head to places I’d be reluctant to visit again. It may also feature the most loathsome individuals I’ve yet imagined, and continues my folk horror adventure that began with HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS. In some respects it is also a meta-fiction about female victims in horror cinema, and horror media. So there is a connection to LAST DAYS, which was a kind of meta-fiction about true crime, counter-culture, found footage and digital film making. Though I would say NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE has its closest cousin in THE RITUAL. After that comes my first foray into something new with horror – the horror of the future, not the past.
Just counting the books I’d like to write that are filtering through me now, I’ve worked out I’ll be 65 by the time I’ve written them all at the current rate, so God willing I will be around for some time to come …

Thanks for your time!!
And thank you for your time and enthusiasm, Justin.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox” by T.E. Grau

Yesterday was the official release date for The Children of Old Leech, and many of you were able to join us online for our virtual release party and toast to Old Leech. Many a libation was poured in the name of cosmic horror. But a day-long celebration can make the next morning one for sober reflection and deep spiritual contemplation. So let’s go to church, and get a little bit of that old-time religion with T.E. Grau and this excerpt from his “Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox.”

Thousands of people stood patiently in a queue that spiraled around the structure, looking inside the doorway, hoping to get a glimpse of what lay beyond. As they waited to reach the door, men and women, nearly indistinguishable from each other due to the lack of facial and cranial hair, walked up and down the line holding bins labeled “DONATIONS TO THE FATHER” in pink, bouncy letters. As each pilgrim walked past, they dropped in wallets, watches, jewelry. Some even tossed in their clothes, returning to the line in various stages of undress as the shadows of trees and peaks cut slowly across the clearing.

I walked past the line with Doyle, heading toward the entrance. Just like with every joint on the Hill, Doyle never stood in line. VIP all the way, regardless of the geography. “Why are they doing that?” I asked, motioning to the rapidly filling bins, trying to avoid the sporadic nakedness, as my blush would surely out me as a prude.

“You can’t enter the temple burdened by the outside world,” Doyle said. “Cuts down on the transmission, like lead between an X-ray. But aside from all that,” he added, shooting me a mischievous grin, “everything’s better when you’re naked.”

I looked around at the variety of mostly unclothed flesh, noting the variety in shape and size and skin tone and hair density. “I don’t know about that.”

Doyle laughed and threw his arm around my shoulders, kissing me on the side of the head. “You’re a real peach, you know that, Barnacles? If I didn’t like pussy so much I’d marry you tomorrow.”

We walked to the front of the line and passed through the wide doorway. The side of my head where Doyle’s lips touched it throbbed with a liquid warmth. Neither of us had removed any clothing, but I felt more naked than I’d ever felt in my life.

Inside, people were seated on a dirt floor in evenly spaced lines, just inches apart from each other, like a mosaic of humanity. The air was heavy with burning incense that billowed from giant copper braziers hanging from thick chains bolted to the vaulted ceiling of the dome, that wasn’t as naturally sloping as one would expect from the outside, but possessed a hyperboloid geometry that made me dizzy. Or maybe it was the smoke, which smelled just like Doyle’s strange little cigarettes.

The hushed congregation was facing a low stage built at the front of the cavernous space, backed by heavy curtains of a thick and lustrous fabric. Doyle led me to the far end of the room, just in front of the rise, and squeezed my shoulder. “Wait here,” he said into my ear, “and don’t get on stage, no matter what I say.”

The bell chimed again, startling me, mostly because it seemed to be coming from directly underneath the room, somewhere deep under the mountain, and not from a hidden steeple. This is the church, this is the steeple, open the door, and see all the people… I realized after a few fuzzy moments that I was staring down at my waggling, intertwined fingers. Perhaps I was becoming a child again, as well. I looked up to show Doyle, but he was gone. The recessed lights hidden in a gutter circling the high walls dimmed at that moment, and the tolling of the bell abruptly stopped. I could hear the beating of my heart in my ears. It was a slow, syrupy rhythm. The sound of an organ in mid-dream.

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 14, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “Snake Wine” by Jeffrey Thomas

Today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech leaves the familiar–and frightening–confines of the Pacific Northwest for a locale on the other side of the world: Vietnam. Let’s crack open a bottle of “Snake Wine” with author Jeffrey Thomas.

In his flat on the third floor of the narrow building he had bought with all his savings, ill-gotten and otherwise, Hong pulled a bottle out of the plastic shopping bag she had fetched from her Honda’s seat compartment. “My father likes to drink this sometimes,” she told Gorch. Smiling with charming if unconvincing coyness, she further explained, “It’s good for a man’s baby.”


“You know,” she said. She pointed toward his crotch and giggled.

“Ah, I see. Makes baby grow up big and strong, yeah?”


“Let’s have a look.” He held out his hand. “I’ve seen these things a million times here but I’ve never really wanted to try it before.”

“Oh, but you will drink this one, won’t you? Because it is from me?” She passed him the bottle.

“For you, and for my baby, I’ll do it.”

It was a bottle of ruou, or rice wine, and he had drunk that on its own. But this type of ruou, which he’d seen sold at gift shops such as those at the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Saigon National Museum, had conspicuous extras stuffed into the bottle. Usually it was a cobra, preserved in the yellowish wine as if pickled in formaldehyde, maybe with a huge black scorpion or a fistful of smaller snakes and some herbs added for good measure. Hong’s gift did have some blanched-looking herbs at the bottom, but no scorpion, and the snake coiled inside wasn’t a cobra, unless its hood was closed.

Gorch turned the bottle around slowly to see it from all angles, and held it up in front of the fluorescent ceiling light. His brows tightened. Definitely not a cobra. And maybe it was a result of the animal’s saturated tissues being distorted, but he almost questioned whether it was even a snake. He was reminded of the animal called a worm lizard, an amphisbaenian, which possessed a long pinkish body that looked segmented like an earthworm, with only a rudimentary pair of forelegs. It almost seemed this creature had such forelimbs, if withered, unless those were just bits of sloughing skin. Its eyes were bleached dull gray. It was looped in on itself within the glass, coiled around and around in a spiral as if chasing itself unto infinity.

“A dragon fetus, perhaps? Ace.” He handed her back the bottle to open. He took down a shot glass. “Are you going to drink it with me?”

“It’s a drink for men,” she told him. “I don’t have a baby.” Her smile was a mixture of carnality and passable innocence that made his stomach squirm with hunger, as if he had his own dragon fetus coiled inside him.

She filled his shot glass, and he took a tentative sip. He tried not to show his disgust lest he insult her. After all, her father had unknowingly sacrificed this elixir for his benefit. It tasted just as he had expected: crude rice wine mixed with the essence of a reptile terrarium.

“Do you like it?”

Gorch didn’t think he’d be stocking this beverage in his pub anytime soon, but he said, “A fine vintage. Cheers.” He took another sip.

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 11, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “Good Lord, Show Me the Way” by Molly Tanzer

...we love you...

We close this week of excerpts from The Children of Old Leech with Molly Tanzer's epistolary tale of academic horrors, "Good Lord, Show Me the Way."


 Gasoline Fire Burns Olalla Man; Destroys Home 
By Jim Warren 

April 27th, 1992 -- Early Tuesday morning, Burton Wulla Fines was admitted to Tacoma General Hospital with severe burns covering the left side of his face and body, and a mangled left hand, also burned. 

Sally Wallings, a neighbor, called 911 at 1:18 AM when she spotted flames reaching above the trees between their properties, alerting local authorities to "a powerful inferno" on the premises. When firefighters arrived they found Mr. Fines' home ablaze, along with several adjacent trees. Fines himself was discovered wandering around one particularly large spruce, throwing gasoline on it from a can from time to time, and "ranting" according to volunteer firefighter Glenn Woodworth. 

"We tried to get him away from the tree," said Woodworth, "but he wouldn't come along. He kept shaking his fist at it and accusing it of being 'infested' and that he 'wouldn't submit' to the will of its 'agents.' He claimed it had 'whispered to him for the last time,' that he would burn out the Great Satan within, and be done with the business." 

"Brent had always hated that tree," confirmed Wallings. 

Woodworth and the rest of the firefighters entrusted Fines to the paramedics who had arrived on the scene in order to fight the fire consuming his house. Soon after, all present reported hearing an "explosion" and returned to find Fines scorched along the face, body, and hand. With the help of the paramedics, Fines' clothes were extinguished and he was taken to Tacoma General. Sadly, this blast resulted in the burning to the ground of Fines' home. 

When asked why the paramedics had not removed Fines from the site of the burning tree, they replied he became "belligerent and abusive" when they tried. At the time he tossed the can of gasoline onto the tree, causing the explosion that burned him, the paramedics had been discussing methods of restraining or sedating him. 

"He accused us of conspiring with 'vassals of The Great Satan,' whatever that is; that we were there to 'bind him' or something like that. He was pretty incoherent by then," reported Jim Baker, an EMT. Fines remains in critical condition at Tacoma General. 


 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 9, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “Learn to Kill” by Michael Cisco

Today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from Michael Cisco‘s patricidal tale, “Learn to Kill.”

Nodded off! How long was that? Everything looks the same. My boots, bony knees, knuckly hands. My chair. The window. Bare boards.

Lessons from Dad. When I was about eight or nine, I decided, I forget why, to provoke my father. I was very contrary and then, I remember standing stock still shouting


at him. He smiled at me, queerly. Then he went and shut himself up in his room. That was his sanctum. He padlocked it when he wasn’t in it. I wracked my brains for a way to get in, and I never did. With all my ingenuity, my genius for trouble, my intuitive sense of escape routes and infiltrations, when there was no hillside full of dense foliage I couldn’t wriggle inside somehow, to think, I never managed it. I never saw the inside of it, even after I killed him.

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 7, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Excerpt: “Walpurgisnacht,” by Orrin Grey


Our third excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from “Walpurgisnacht,” by Orrin Grey. Traditionally, April 30th marks the feast of Saint Walpurga, an 8th Century German Abbess. But it’s also held to be the night that witches meet and revel on the Brocken, the highest peak in Germany’s Harz Mountains…

On the train, Nicky told me about the Brocken Spectre. “It’s a sort of optical illusion,” he said, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees. Nicky was younger than me, and prettier, and his dark hair fell in front of his face whenever he slouched, which was often. “The sun casts a giant shadow of you on the clouds below, right, and your head gets this prismatic halo. Like an angel.”

“I hear the sun only shines here like sixty days a year,” I said. “Besides, it’s night.” I was only half-listening anyway, my head lolling against the cool glass of the window. I’d had more than a few drinks at the airport bar, and I could feel a headache trying to force its way out past my eyes. Outside, I could see our destination looming up out of the darkness, the two towers of the Sender Brocken, old and new. Like Tolkien’s Minas Morgul and Orthanc. The sun was still going down, and the towers stood out like shadows against the gloaming, their lights already on. Gleaming yellow ones in the windows of the old tower, now the Brocken Hotel, and blinking red ones to warn planes away from the new tower, a candy-cane-striped lance that jutted skyward from the peak.

“It doesn’t look terribly inviting,” Nicky said, noticing my inattentiveness and nodding at the towers.

Now to the Brocken the witches ride.” I intoned, and then, without bothering to glance and see his puzzled expression, explained, “It’s Goethe. From Faust.”

That was why we were going, of course. It was Walpurgisnacht, the night when the witches and devils gathered on the crown of the bald mountain to welcome the spring. Nicky and I, and whoever else was on the train with us, were the witches in this equation, and we were all gathering on the Brocken to kiss the ass of a black goat.

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.