Southern Haunts: Spirits That Walk Among Us Down South Spooks

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Edited by Alexander S. Brown and  J. L. Mulvihill; illustrated by Robert K and published by Seventh Star Press, this anthology of 16 ghostly tales range from Missouri to Louisiana and use real life locations to start each story off.

While some of the stories are not as entertaining as others, the introduction to new authors is an overall treat.  I also liked the different types of ghost stories on offer. Each is an original take on already infamous buildings, roads, and areas filled with southern  spooks and legends.

You won’t meet any chain rattling spooks or moaning ghouls a la Dickens, but you will find a very disparate group of hauntings in this “Down South” multi-locational collection of short stories.

You’ll be introduced to the soothing, healing bath houses of Hot Springs, Arkansas where you’d be wise to avoid one house in particular. [Bath 10]

There is a job opening for a new ghost hunter on an existing team that you may want to pass on to some other job seeking applicant.[Interview for a Ghost Hunter]

And there’s a certain Civil War hospital you wouldn’t want to check into. [The Top Floor]

Southern Haunts is just one of several anthologies on offer at the moment that give us a view of what lies out there just waiting for us to discover it. It is full of variety and has something in it that should appeal to everyone who loves this genre.

This book is available on Amazon.com and other booksellers.

A 4 out of 5 stars for me based just on the variety and the setting. I am, after all, a southern boy who loves his southern ghosts!

Alexander S Brown
Alexander S Brown
J L Mulvihill
J L Mulvihill

Thirteen for 13 an Introduction to Larry Underwood’s Short Fiction

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I made the acquaintance of Mr Underwood on Facebook via mutual friends (like you do) and I noticed the other day that he’d gotten one of his stories, an excellent piece of Western horror flash-fiction, promoted by Amazon.com as a limited freebie.

I love free anything and I immediately shot over to the Amazon sellers and found that it was not free on the UK site. I sent Larry a quick line to say so. This generous and talented gentleman sent me a personal  copy and on top of that, he sent me copies of two more of his short stories.

All three are part of an ongoing project of his called, Thirteen for 13.

All three of these tales were different and entertaining.

Terror on the Plains deals with an Indian legend.

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Hiccup is a time travel tale with a sense of humour.

The Clothes Make the Man is just brilliant.

There is another story that is part of this project entitled Dreams. I have not read it yet as I wanted to quickly jot down my thoughts on his work thus far.

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The wonderful thing about all Larry’s work is its “visual” texture. I literally felt like I was “reading” episodes from some classic anthology program like The Twilight Zone or Ray Bradbury‘s Theatre. Any one of these stories would make a great adaptation to the small screen and I’ll be very surprised if that doesn’t happen.

The fact that all of the books are horror related should come as no surprise, if you read his Author’s Bio on Amazon. In case you haven’t seen it, I’ll pop it (in its entirety) below:

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Larry Underwood is best known as an award-winning TV horror host in the Middle TN area where he introduced late-night creature features for 13 years as Dr. Gangrene. He has written articles for various magazines including Scary Monsters and Outre. He lives in Hendersonville, TN with his sons and four dogs. He can be found online at drgangrene.com 

All four of these tales are available on Amazon and worth the time spent reading them. 

Check them out!

Author Larry Underwood.
Author Larry Underwood.

 

The Crossings by Jack Ketchum: A Genre Blending Western

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If the name Jack Ketchum sounds familiar, you might have seen one of the three films adapted from his books – Red, The Girl Next Door or The Woman. The award-winning Ketchum (real name Dallas Mayr) has been praised by no less than Stephen King who ranks the man very highly in the world of horror literature.

I had never come across Mr Ketchum or his work before. Then while writing a review about The Woman (directed by Lucky McKee) one of the things I found out during my research was that the film was adapted from Ketchum’s book of the same name.

My interest piqued, I then looked on Amazon.com to see what else he’d written. I know that I probably should have read The Woman, but honestly, the film put me off so much, I didn’t have the stomach for it.

I discovered this book, The Crossings, which is a sort of cross-genre western. Set sometime in Texas after the Texas/Mexican war (a time period that included the Alamo and General Scott’s “invasion” of Mexico) we meet Martin T Bell, the narrator of this tale; John Charles Hunt and “Mother Knuckles.” We also meet the Mexican woman Elena, who wants to save her sister from an occult group run by three old witches and a bunch of Army deserters.

When Bell joins Mother and Hart in the rounding up of wild mustangs to sell to the Army, he has no idea that a half-dead Mexican woman will change his life, destiny and make him into a heroic figure.  In Ketchum’s west, the bad guys are really  bad and some of the good guys only marginally better than his villains.

I was very impressed by Ketchum’s version of the old west and the introduction of an occult/supernatural bent to his tale  was woven into the story seamlessly. The action moved swiftly and never failed to hold my interest. He combined just the right amount of historical fact to make the story feel possible.

All the characters impressed and he did not rely on two-dimensional characters or clichés to round out his story.

At 110 pages the book is not overly long and it reads so smoothly that I had no problem finishing it in a single reading. The book is so entertaining that I now count Jack Ketchum as a new addition to my stable of favourite writers. I will now busy myself in the acquisition of more of his tales.

I’d have to give this a full 5 out of 5 stars for a brilliant blending of the horror/occult and western genres.

Simply a great read.

Author Jack Ketchum.
Author Jack Ketchum.

True Haunting by Edwin F Becker: Hair Raising Experience

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As Author Edwin F Becker points out, there were no Ghost Hunters a la TAPS in 1970. There was also no Amityville horror; at least not until 1977 when Jay Anson put pen to paper and wrote about the “alleged” ghostly problems of the Lutz family in the house where an entire family sans one was murdered.

It would not surprise me to learn that Jay Anson was not already aware of the ghostly events that plagued the Becker family via a NBC newscast that was aired both locally (where Becker and his wife lived) and nationally. Where else could he have gotten the idea? And  where Anson, admittedly, stretched the truth to breaking and beyond in search of a fast buck; Becker did not profit one cent from his haunted house experience until years later when he self-published his story.

I’d bet a pretty penny myself to say that he’s not profiting much from the sales of his story; his e-book is very affordable.

In 1970, Becker and his new wife and baby, wanted to buy a house. Finding a two-story house with two ready-made apartments already under one roof, he thought he’d found a bargain. Sure the house needed work and they needed to get rid of the “crazy” woman who lived in the downstairs apartment, but Edwin was not afraid of hard work and the “crazy tenant” was on her way out.

So what could go wrong?

Apparently, everything.

Becker recounts what happened when he and his young family moved into the house in the suburbs of 1970 Chicago and the traumatic affect the property had on friends and family. He tells of the Church’s refusal to get involved and of seeking help from two (the only two in the Yellow Pages) paranormal investigative societies available.

He tells his story in a straight forward, no-nonsense manner that convinces and disturbs and (for me anyway) made the hair on the back of my neck stand-up which resulted in my deciding  to read the rest of the book in the daylight. What he does not do is embellish the events to “sell” his story. He steadfastly refused to sensationalize any of the occurrences that he and his family experienced. Hence the self publishing.

When he and his family encountered what, at the outset, seemed like odd events: a kitchen door that refused to stay shut, a mixer that refused to hang on the wall, a phone that kept taking itself off the hook and countless other things, that he found  “logical” explanations for. Or so he thought.

As the haunting began to escalate, he and his wife (who to be fair, sensed this a lot earlier than her skeptic husband) realised that the house was haunted by not one, but several ghosts.

It was Mr Becker’s sincere and plain retelling that both convinced me of the truth of his story combined with “strange” experiences that I myself have encountered that sold me on the validity of his tale.

This is a very understated book when compared with Jay Anson’s nefarious tale of the Amityville “hauntings.” You’ll find no oozing black stuff pouring out of the sockets; no overabundance of flies; no voice telling anyone to, “Get Out!” and no pigs floating outside a second story window.

What you will find is a simply written(not in a negative sense)  tale of growing fear and financial difficulties. Your heart will go out to his (then) young family and the fact that they had so few avenues of help. Before the modern “ghost busting” equipment of today and the digital revolution that enables ghost hunters to track down “spirits and demons” you had psychics and clairvoyants and the odd paranormal scientist. Oh and the clergy, if you could get them to acknowledge the problem. This was a time of real “hit and miss” ghost hunting and something that not many of the main populace knew about.

This was a great read and, as I said before, one that literally “creeped” me out. I will warn you, this is not a book for the overly imaginative. I slept with the light on after reading this book.

I’d give this a full 5 out of 5 stars for no-nonsense reporting of one family’s experience with a haunted house. Do not miss reading this book, it is a great story, even if you don’t believe in ghosts.

Author Edwin F Becker.
Author Edwin F Becker.

Lust, Money & Murder by Mike Wells

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I was introduced to this book by the author Mike Wells via Twitter. After presenting me with a link to a free reading of his first of a new series, I eagerly jumped at the chance to meet a new author and his work.

I was not disappointed.

The book’s prologue sets the pace of the entire story. We are privy to the machinations of a suave older man who appears to like younger women and the finer things of life. He also likes counterfeit money and after he uses his young female pigeon to pass the fake money on, he removes her. Permanently.

We then meet the books protagonist Elaine Brogan, as her name implies, she’s of Irish lineage and her doting father does everything in his power to provide for her and her mother. This includes some things that are not “above-board.” When she goes off to a private school her father Patrick pays the schools exorbitant fees. He also works hard at the school to ensure that Elaine is accepted.

When Elaine graduates, she meets someone who entices her to join a modelling agency. It’s a scam and it costs her more money than she can afford. After storming into the agency’s office and demanding her money back, she gets paid in counterfeit bills. When Patrick goes to deposit the money, he is accused and sentenced for passing “funny” money.

Elaine swears that what ever it takes she will avenge her father and ultimately she joins the Secret Service with this goal in mind. While training to become an agent she focusses on the man who caused her father to be imprisoned.

I liked Elaine and her “single-minded” goals. She comes across as an overachiever but one that is personable and real. This first book in the series introduces the reader to an immediate back story and sets the stage for further tales of Elaine in her counterfeiting world. Wells has a knack for making his characters feel real; including the naughty boy Secret Service agent, Nick LaGrange, that Elaine falls for in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is charismatic and personable; it’s easy to see why Elaine falls so hard.

The book moves at a cracking pace and does not lag at any point. I was able to read it in a single sitting and enjoyed every minute. I’m looking forward to reading more of Mr Wells’ work.

A real 5 stars out of 5 for action and pace.

Author Mike Wells.
Author Mike Wells.