[Review] A Cacophony of Owls: The Nightly Disease

Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing | Published: September 12th 2017 | Pages: 414

The Nightly Disease was an unexpected treat. I love owls and the cover spoke to me, as did a two star review on Goodreads. I’ve never read anything quite like this book. Max Booth III kept this reader off balance and turning the page. Isaac, the night auditor at The God Damn Hotel, isn’t the most reliable of narrators. He’s either slipping into madness or he has a vivid imagination. Either way, he probably needs a mental evaluation, but I’m not sure he has health insurance. Isaac is overworked, underlaid and he pretty much hates everything about his job. When he’s not watching Netflix or doing the five knuckle shuffle on the hotel roof, he’s dealing with rude and ignorant guests. He also likes hanging out with his fellow night auditor, George, from the other hotel.

Max Booth III is at his strongest when Isaac is dealing with the various hotel guests. It’s the inner monologue that truly brings the character to life. You can tell Max drew from his own experiences. Isaac is witty, sarcastic and candid. His appalling thoughts made me laugh. The inner monologue starts bleeding through. He doesn’t know if people can hear him, and he might be having delusions involving owls. He also falls in love with a bulimic woman. Even though Isaac hates his job, he still has to fulfill his duties as the night auditor, unclogging nasty toilets and taking extra towels to guests. Can he catch a break? Nope, uh-uh, no he can’t. Things get even worse for Isaac when two low-life brothers blackmail him into helping with their counterfeiting business.

Bodies start piling up, but Isaac has to be the world’s worst at getting rid of bodies. His apartment scenes are gross. You can smell the stench wafting from the pages. Even though I was grossed out, I had to order a pizza pie and some pasta. The writing is good. It is taut and very-well paced. Max Booth III is not a predictable writer. He throws in several twists throughout the book. The characters were compelling. I was totally invested in Isaac, I needed to see how his story was going to play out. The payoff was worth it. I wasn’t expecting that ending.

I wish there was a soundtrack to this book. I bet it would have at least one Nine Inch Nails song on the track. I’ve never read anything quite like The Nightly Disease, it’s weird and compelling storytelling.

You can buy The Nightly Disease here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sleep is just a myth created by mattress salesmen.

Isaac, a night auditor of a hotel somewhere in the surreal void of Texas, is sick and tired of his guests. When he clocks in at night, he’s hoping for a nice, quiet eight hours of Netflix-bingeing and occasional masturbation. What he doesn’t want to do is fetch anybody extra towels or dive face-first into somebody’s clogged toilet. And he sure as hell doesn’t want to get involved in some trippy owl conspiracy or dispose of any dead bodies. But hey…that’s life in the hotel business.

Welcome to The Nightly Disease. Please enjoy your stay.

Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the co-host of Castle Rock Radio, a Stephen King podcast. He’s the author of many novels and frequently contributes articles to both LitReactor and CrimeReads. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth or visit him at http://www.TalesFromTheBooth.com. He lives in Texas.

[Review] The Creeping Nothingness: The Perfectly Fine House by Stephen Kozeniewski and Wile E. Young

Publisher: Grindhouse Press | Published: March 16th 2020 | Pages: 232

I love haunted house stories. There’s just something about a comfy old house filled with ghosts that makes my horror heart melt. Add in pretty cover art, and I’m hooked for life. What Stephen Kozeniewski and Wile E. Young does so well is transcend the haunted house trope, while creating a beautiful world full of fascinating characters; it’s a truly remarkable feat. Kozeniewski and Young’s writing styles mesh well together, it really is seamless storytelling.

Now, imagine a world where everyone and everything that dies turns into a ghost. Every single place in the world is haunted, save for one house–Jackson Manor. Within the first couple of pages, the reader is left with a burning question: What happened at Jackson Manor? The opening scene chilled me to my core. You can’t ask for a better setup. It pulls you in head first and doesn’t let go until you’ve turned the last page.

Donna Fitzpatrick is a surrogacy agent. She helps ghosts possess volunteers so they can enjoy carnal pleasures. Donna is accompanied by her twin, Kyle, who died in a motorcycle accident fifteen years ago. She’s been working herself to death, but dying isn’t a big deal. After having a panic attack, Kyle insists she take a vacation at the Jackson Manor, an old abandoned mansion. Donna soon realizes something different about the archaic house. And whatever happened at the mansion starts happening in other places. It starts rapidly spreading like a wildfire.

While all of that is going on, you get to know the characters. Poor Kyle. He was treated so badly. I was invested in the twins and their predicament. The authors unfold the story in a timely manner. It doesn’t feel like a 200+ page book. The storyline is taut and unpredictable, making for a compelling read. I had so many emotions reading this book. The authors are not afraid to put their characters in harm’s way. I enjoyed my time in this book, even if it was only for a little while. I didn’t want it to end, so I read it in a couple of sittings.

If you like to feel things when it comes to your horror, then I think you would like The Perfectly Fine House. You can order a copy here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In an alternate reality where ghosts are as commonplace as the weather, the most terrifying thing imaginable is a house not being haunted. 

Donna Fitzpatrick runs a surrogacy agency, where ghosts can briefly possess volunteers in order to enjoy carnal pleasures. She’s also working herself into an early grave. But that’s no big deal because death is no worse than puberty. That’s particularly evident in Donna’s twin, Kyle, a self-absorbed roustabout who spends most of his time high on sage. Kyle’s been in arrested development since his motorcycle accident fifteen years ago.

When Donna has a panic attack, Kyle insists she take a vacation at an abandoned mansion. There’s just one small problem: there isn’t a single ghost in Jackson Manor. And while an unhaunted house seems no worse than an oddity at first, soon ghosts go missing, natural disasters consume entire cities, and every afterlife on earth is threatened by the terrible secret behind . . .


[Review] Killer Clowns Come To Town: Dead White

Publisher: Tor Books | Published: November 11th 1983 | Pages: 320

This is my second Alan Ryan read, my first being The Kill. Both Dead White and The Kill feel like dime store Stephen King books. They both have a unique premise that is hard to ignore; I was tricked both times. The writing is good, it’s not padded or longwinded. It’s just that when you buy a book and spend hours reading it, you expect a good payoff. You have all this tension and build up that ends up being just another convenient ending. The author didn’t take any chances. The storytelling was very formulaic, and it fell bland after a while. I was hoping for more, especially when you combine clowns and snow. I mean come on, it’s a can’t miss story, but somehow it missed.

Dead White is a quiet horror story. There is some good, but it takes a while to get there. It’s all about atmosphere and the foreboding danger of the small upstate New York town of Deacons Kill and its inhabitants. Alan Ryan doesn’t get too fancy with his words, he keeps it economically friendly. The chapters are time stamped, and the story is told with multiple narratives. The author makes you use your imagination, it’s not in your face horror by no means. There are several, probably too many instances of over describing the snow and the landscape. It sounded like Forrest Gump describing the snow. It snowed this way, that way and every which a ways.

Dead White starts off with an old circus train full of evil clowns appearing in Deacons Kill in the midst of a freak blizzard. The residents have to survive the cold and an evil presence that road in on the train. The legendary Stanton Stokely’s Stupendous Circus is led by a ringmaster with a traditional black top hat and cape. The town inhabitants are isolated, making them easy prey for the evil that lurks within the circus train. The small town relies on a callow sheriff and an old doctor. What could go wrong?

Clowns start popping up in different places. They float across the snow. They stare at you through your frozen windows. They even kill. But sadly we don’t get to “see” the deaths because the author holds back. The characters felt cliched and paper thin. I didn’t really connect with any of them. I just wanted to see what the creepy clowns were going to do. You have to wait a while. And remember, all this time, tensions have been building for hundreds of pages, and then the ending comes and goes with a whimper. I was wanting a bang or a boom, but instead, it fizzles out.

I’m going to read Alan Ryan’s other work. I don’t think any of his work has been published on Kindle or Nook. I know Dead White and The Kill is out of print, but you can find used copies for a reasonable price online.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

[Review] Adopting The Devil: Frank Lauria’s The Foundling

Publisher: Pocket Books | Published: March 1, 1984 | Pages: 284

This was my first time reading Frank Lauria. The metal book cover drew me in, so I gave it a read. The whole story caught me off guard. Turns out, the book is nothing like the book cover. I thought The Foundling was going to be about heavy metal, or at the very least, rock and roll. It had inklings of music within, but it was mainly about an orphan named Dani.

The Foundling starts off with some background of a couple, Jeff and Ruth, who adopt Dani. Jeff and Ruth had a tough go of it in the 1960s when Jeff was the lead singer of the band Jeff Austin and the Vigilantes. While Jeff’s band was performing at an outdoor concert, their 3 year old daughter dies suddenly after grabbing an electrical cable on stage. Ruth ends up miscarrying soon after their daughters shocking death.

Now, with their hippy pasts behind them, Jeff and Ruth move to Bridgeport, CT, trying to rekindle their flame. Jeff is a successful jingle producer and Ruth works in a fashionable boutique. They eventually decide to adopt a baby, but there are no babies availabe to adopt. So, they decide to adopt Dani. She’s 12 years old, the same age their daughter would’ve been. I know, creepy right?

If only Jeff and Ruth knew about Dani’s past. Too bad they didn’t read the prologue, or they’d know that Dani’s mom was a hooker who dumped her with nuns. Turns out Dani has a secret third nipple that’s hidden right below her armpit. They also didn’t notice Dani’s effect on the nuns at her Catholic orphanage. Who knew there would be crazy old nuns in this book? Not me. The whole nun thing really creeped me out, especially the nun’s actions.

While hanging around her new house, Dani sings every chance she gets, hoping Jeff would overhear. She records demos in her room, and she accidently plays one of her demos in the recording studio with Jeff and Eric Jordan, a fading rock star. The two men take notice of Dani and her singing voice. But it’s Ruth who noticed something different and sinister. Turns out Dani has psychic powers centered around her harmones. Sound familiar? You betcha. When she gets her first period all the matches in the house explode into flames. A car full of mean guys who saw Dani’s boobs wreck into a gas tanker and explodes into flames. While recording his album, Eric Jordan tried to put the moves on Dani. Things don’t turn out great for him either. A strange wind blows his cocaine out of his penthouse window. As he’s checking things out, the glass patio door explodes, driving a a huge shard of glass into his manhood.

The strange doesn’t stop there. We’re nowhere near the finish line. Frank Lauria turns the weird up to eleven. Dani somehow manipulates Jeff into thinking Ruth has an alcohol problem, so he sends Ruth to therapy with Father Bernucci. Since she can’t convince the Catholic priest she’s not an alcoholic, Ruth becomes an actual alcoholic, which turns out horrible for her. While she mixes pills and alcohol, all the faucets turns on in the house and Ruth drowns in the basement. While she is dying a terrible death, Jeff is being seduced by his studio assistant, Pam, across town.

Jeff learns about Dani’s third nipple and how it drove a nun mad. He finds out Dani inherited her extra nipple from her mother, an old lounge singer living in Vegas named Diane Shelley. She apparently shaved her vagina and got the face of Satan tattooed on it. How crazy is Dani’s biological mother? She lived on the Manson Ranch in the 1960s. To top it off, Charlie Manson was Dani’s babysitter.

The Foundling is all about nipples. Frank Lauria’s writing is pretty good. The story is cheesy and kind of unsettling in that creepy uncle kind of way. I wouldn’t read it again. It doesn’t have any depth. It wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped. The ending fell flat, too.

I say all of this to tell you: two nipples are good, three nipples are evil.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

[Review] Gary A. Braunbeck’s Mr. Hands

Publisher: Leisure Books | Published: July 1st 2007 | Pages: 354

This book is different than any I’ve ever read. Mr. Hands is a tragically magical story of mercy and revenge. The premise alone is enough to peak anyone’s interest. But it’s the characters that made me want to continue reading. I was invested in the characters and what Gary A. Braunbeck put them through. He puts his darlings through the wringer, but in the end, it pays off. Mr. Hands is set in Cedar Hill, Ohio and intertwines three, hauntingly different people with moral ambiguity. I’m an emotional person, and this book made me cry a couple of times.

The first character we get to meet is Ronnie, a mentally stunted boy, with an uncanny gift or curse. You’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself. Ronnie was abused by his father, but he grew up and began using his unique gift to help children. Not only can he detect the children’s innocence and love, he can also see their painful future. Ronnie is compelled to the children from their ghastly fate and kill them out of mercy. Their souls stay with Ronnie, letting him know that he is doing the right thing because they are in a better place. Ronnie is eventually dubbed a child serial killer. But he must continue his mission.

We are then introduced to Lucy, a single mom, and her daughter Sarah. Lucy starts spiraling when her daughter is abducted by a child predator. Sarah leaves behind her beloved doll Mr. Hands, a hideous wooden doll with long arms and monstrous claw hands with no legs. Lucy clings to Mr. Hands for comfort. Lucy and Mr. Hands meet Ronnie and that is when Braunbeck took things to the next level.

Reading Mr. Hands is very much like reading Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. The moral ambiguity is unsettling. The writing is phenomenal. I would love to see Mr. Hands at the box office or as an episode of Creepshow. The characterization is great. I can’t get enough of the characters. The pacing was good. The author with the character building and the world building. The characters have so much depth. The emotions are raw and real throughout this book. You’re going to need a box of tissues to get through this one.

You can find a copy here.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It was an odd doll, carved out of wood, with stubby legs but long arms and huge hands. So little Sarah named it Mr. Hands. She loved that doll. . . until the day she was murdered. Now her mother, Lucy, has discovered something amazing about her daughter’s doll – it allows her to control another Mr. Hands. But this one is no doll. He’s a living, terrifying being with horrendous power.

Mr. Hands’s deadly power is at Lucy’s command. He will do whatever she tells him – even kill. To Lucy this is a rare opportunity, a chance to see that justice is done. Her justice. She decides who will live and who will suffer a horrible death, and Mr. Hands carries out the sentence without mercy. But once Mr. Hands is unleashed, will anyone be able to stop him?

[Review] This Creature Casts No Shadow: The Kill

Publisher: Tor Books | Published: January 28, 1988 | Pages: 320

I’ve been wanting to read The Kill for the longest time. It’s been sitting on my TBR cart for a while. Luckily for me, I had some time on my hands. I finally got around to it earlier this week. It’s a relatively quick read, and being his first horror novel, there are no hiccups in the plot. The Kill is well-written, but you can tell it was Alan Ryan’s inaugural effort with the horror genre.

The cover artist did a great job capturing the atmosphere of the story. It sets the scene in Deacons Kill located in the Catskills. The premise lured me in, but it was the antagonist that kept me intrigued. I wanted to know what was killing all those people. The other characters had enough depth to keep me interested. You could tell Alan Ryan was a fan of horror long before he wrote The Kill.

Alan Ryan kicks things off with the death of a little girl who had gone missing in the woods. Soon after, a lady is killed while wandering off from a party. Luckily for us and the characters in the book, her death was caught on tape. Leaving their busy life behind in New York City, Megan and Jack moved to Deacons Kill. Things started looking up for the couple, but for them, the quiet life was ephemeral. The killer was hungry and ready to test the boundaries of the forest.

I had a few issues with the book. I can’t tell you how many times a tree branch slapped someone in the face. And this one character made me mad. I think that his sole purpose was to piss off the reader. I really wanted to tell him to cunt off. By the time you get to the final third of the book, The Kill accelerates at a very brisk pace. The ending takes about four to six pages. It was rushed and convenient. I felt short-changed because there wasn’t a real payoff.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Kill is Alan Peter Ryan’s second novel and first horror novel, published in 1982. It is the story of Megan Todd and Jack Casey, a young couple who flee the pressures of the city to rural Deacons Kill in the Catskills. Their home becomes the target of an ancient and invisible evil that hides in the nearby deep wood. They must join with their new friends and neighbors to find and confront the monster. This is a fine example by a World Fantasy Award-winning author of a theme explored extensively by Golden Age (70s & 80s) horror writers.

[Review] The Pull Out Method: Richard Laymon’s The Stake

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press | Published: May 1991 | Pages: 441

There’s one thing I’ve learned, Richard Laymon loves talking about breasts. He doesn’t need a reason to talk about them. The female anatomy is talked about randomly. The Stake is a pretty thick novel, a little too bloated. Laymon had already written several well-received books by 1990, most being rather lengthy. He could give Stephen King a run for his money with page counts.

The length of the book hindered the reading experience. The story grew boring at times. But the premise was too good to quit reading. In the end, the payoff was worth it. Two adult couples find a young woman’s corpse with a stake in her chest. Was she a vampire or a victim of a gruesome murder? The novel is based around the mysterious young woman.

So, the two men take the body and store it in the resident author’s garage. The author, Larry Dunbar who is Laymon-esque, uses the corpse for inspiration on his next book. It’s either going to be non-fiction or fiction. An what ensues is a split narrative that slams together, creating a most chilling conclusion. The payoff is worth reading through the fluffy narrative.

Anytime a female moved in the book there was a description of the fabric rubbing their body parts. It wasn’t necessary, nor did it move the narrative along. Richard Laymon’s top notch prose are right up there with Joe R. Lansdale and Stephen King. He also reminds me of Simon Clark and Rick Hautala. But when it comes to boobs, the only author who talks about them more is Edward Lee.

Laymon did a great job with characterization. I like to invest in characters, whether good or bad. But what I liked most about this book is the human conflict, not only between the characters, but the conflict within themselves. I’m always interested in the choices characters make, and Larry Dunbar has to make a very difficult choice.

The Stake is very much a slow-burner, simmering until it’s almost done. The final third of the book moves a touch quicker. It will definitely have you yelling at the characters. But you’re probably going to want to do that from the first third of the book, though. The Stake is written in a way that is both enjoyable and infuriating.

If you haven’t read Laymon, then this is a good place to start. I don’t think The Stake is available on Kindle or iBooks. You might be able to find it secondhand, but prices are pretty high.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In an isolated corner of a deserted hotel, horror writer Larry Dunbar uncovers a grisly relic. It’s naked. It’s female. And it has a wooden stake through its heart.

She was a young, innocent high school senior named Bonnie Saxon…sacrificed on the altar of a madman’s obsession to rid the earth of its most ancient, pitiless evil: The curse of the vampire.

A world of horrors was born the day the stake was driven in.

Now Larry Dunbar wants to pull it out.

[Review] There’s No Gag Reflex In Edward Lee and Wrath James White’s The Teratologist

Publisher: Necro Publications | Published: July 8th 2011 | Pages: 124 pages

I’ve read several books by both Edward Lee and Wrath James White, but I’ve never read a story so vile and disturbing. Just thinking about this book makes me sick to my stomach. Go ahead and think of the most disgusting things ever. Now, times that most disgusting thing by ten and you have The Teratologist. I think the two authors got together and agreed to come up with the most unhinged and terrible horrible story. I have read and watched my fair share of extreme horror, but this story is sick. I would have put the book down immediately if there were trigger warnings. But I couldn’t find any.

The Teratologist contains defecation, rape, and other depraved sexual acts. All those extremely disturbing and perverse sexual acts involve the most grievously deformed “people” imaginable. And for what? So some sick, psycho millionaire can “see God”? I’m not squeamish or easily shaken, but this book is the most disgusting and sickening story I have ever read. I will never read this book again. I don’t even want it near me.

Read The Teratologist at your own risk. This book contains rape and other disturbing things. I recommend reading other works by Edward Lee and Wrath James White. But if you insist on reading this one, you can find it here.

Billionaire John Farrington is obsessed with the idea of offending God to the point that God would want to confront him in person. Farrington has abducted priests and nuns to commit sexual atrocities with the most grievously genetically deformed people he can find. People that he’s also abducted and kept in such a high state of sexual intensity, with a drug his company produces, that they are just ravenous for physical contact. The abductees, with basically no self control, commit some of the most depraved sex acts, over, and over again. Westmore and Bryant, a photographer and journalist, are given the rare opportunity to interview the reclusive Farrington and see inside his mansion and operation. Only to find the horrors within, and who have become pawns in the mysteries they find behind every door. Farmington’s plan may work, and to make sure he’s successful, he will do whatever it takes to have the deity of man face him.

[Review] Midnight Exhibit Vol. 1 by Stephen Graham Jones, Philip Fracassi, and Renee Miller

Publisher: Unnerving | Published: January 23rd 2020 |Pages: 68

The Midnight Exhibit is a solid start to the Rewind or Die series. Within these pages are three sinister tales wrapped in a narrative anthology told much like Tales from the Hood. A wealthy couple are picked up by a tow truck driver after they drunkenly ditch their car. The tow truck driver makes for a creepy narrator. He tells the rich couple three tales, hitting very close to home. The mood is set quite well on a dark country road in the middle of nowhere. The driver gives off weird vibes. If it were me, I would’ve walked, regardless of the shoes I was wearing.

To Little Too Late is written by Stephen Graham Jones. It’s about a switchpicker and missing high school students. This story brought the nostalgia. It just goes to show Stephen Graham Jones can make anything scary. Another Pretty Face is penned by Renee Miller. It’s about revenge. It’s about the #MeToo movement. If I had balls they’d be hurting right now. This story put a smile on my face. My Love, Do Not Wake by Philip Fracassi is an eerie love triangle. I felt terrible for everyone involved. It made me feel uneasy. I squirmed in my reading chair while reading it. I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight.

Whilst reading this anthology, I couldn’t help but think it would make a great movie. The writing is solid in each of the three stories. The authors brought something unique and original to the table. It’s very hard to do these days, but they made it look pretty easy. I’m going to put their other work in my TBR cart. I look forward to reading the next installment in the Rewind or Die series.

You can buy The Midnight Exhibit at Amazon.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Wealthy couple drunkenly ditch their car and a strange tow truck driver regales them with off-putting stories, stories relating strangely to their personal lives. With short fiction by Stephen Graham Jones (Mongrels, Mapping the Interior, The Only Good Indians), Philip Fracassi (Behold the Void, Sacculina), and Renee Miller (Cats Like Cream, The One You Feed).

[Review] There’s No Safe Word In Master of Pain

Publisher: Death’s Head Press LLC |Published: May 1, 2019|Pages: 227

Master of Pain is brutally savage. Sure, I’ve read serial killer horror, but nothing with this much sex and torture. It’s about a serial killer who uses BDSM chatrooms to lure his victims to Kansas City. He’s killed several women by through torture, rape, and other violent acts. There are no safe words when it comes to his domination, after all, John James is SLAVEMASTER. Once the women are in his home and the games begin, it quickly goes awry. He tortures them with sex toys, then rapes, brands, and mutilates their bodies. He doesn’t stop until the women are lifeless. After he kills them, John lives off of their bank accounts and pensions.

Throw in Melanie, a vulnerable single mom, looking for someone to fulfill her BDSM fantasies and you have an interesting story. She eventually connects with John James in Kansas City. This story also contains the occult. I really wanted to see more of the order. To me, that was the best part of the book. I was wanting the best for Melanie. I really was. John James is a terrible human being who sought too much power. A power he couldn’t handle no matter how hard he tried. As for the other characters, they didn’t have very much depth. Their backgrounds weren’t all that fleshed out.

I didn’t connect with the characters. The dialogue was good. The conversations weren’t clunky or choppy. The writing was solid. Some of the scenes were cringeworthy, though. At some points it veered toward the taboo. The one thing that kept me reading is the outcome. I needed to know what was going to ultimately become of the characters. I wasn’t disappointed. I think the ending is the best part of this book. It really is satisfying. It put a smile on my face. I wish the ending lasted longer.

This was my personal reading experience. Master of Pain may work better for others. I’m definitely going to check out Wrath James White and Kristopher Rufty‘s other work.

Trigger Warnings: Rape and Abuse

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Melanie has always been attracted to assertive, dominant, alpha males. She has always been curious about sadism and masochism, bondage, and submission, but when she meets a man on an online BDSM website, who calls himself SLAVEMASTER, she will experience a level of sadomasochism that goes far beyond safe, sane, and consensual. Inspired by the true story of America’s first online serial killer. From the twisted minds of Wrath James White and Kristopher Rufty, comes a story of extreme violence, sex, perversion, and the occult.

You can find Master of Pain at Amazon.