October 30, 2012

Rabid Reads: "The Hungry" by Harry Shannon and Steven W. Booth

The Hungry
by Steven W. Booth & Harry Shannon
Genius Publishing (2012)

Zombies, man. Yeah.

A year or so ago I read a short story called "Jailbreak" by Booth and Shannon. It was about a hot female sheriff in a town full of zombies. I wasn't blown away by the book, but I did think the main character, Sheriff Penny Miller, was a treat to read and welcomed the idea of a novel with her in the lead. Well, that novel became a reality and it's called The Hungry.

As far as zombie novels go, this book is not out to reinvent the wheel. There's a horde of zombies and there's pretty lady with an itchy trigger finger--aaand action!

The story starts out with a brief look as to how the outbreak begins, then it jumps right into Penny's shoes as her tiny town of Flat Rock, Nevada is besieged by the undead. She might have an easier time of it, but she has her hands full with a cagey criminal named Scratch. It doesn't take long for her and her deputy to get trapped in the jailhouse along with Scratch and another prisoner. Things turn ugly and they have to band together to fight their way out, only with Penny and Scratch as the only two left in town still standing. Scratch goes his way, Penny begrudgingly goes hers when it's clear she can't keep him in custody while the town goes to Hell. That right there is basically how "Jailbreak" played out, and what ensues is a roller coaster of one insane twist after the other.

If there's any chemistry between the comely sheriff and the biker with bedroom eyes, it doesn't play out very well. Of course, it's kind of difficult for romantic entanglements when the undead are shambling after you from every direction. And Penny's reunion with her ex-husband, Terril Lee, goes from amusing to annoying in no-time flat. In fact, it's kind of amazing these characters can coexist for as long as they do, because they're so incredibly ill-suited for one another, I kept expecting them to turn on each other like feral dogs.

Distracting from the interplay between characters is the onslaught of plot twists. It is a ceaseless deluge of road blocks, both literal and figurative, thrown in front of Penny and whoever is in her company at any one time. Zombie hordes, murderous bikers, maniacal soldiers, covert agents, and even more zombie hordes are flung in Penny's path with such rapidity, it's astonishing to think this all happens in the run of a day and inside a dust bowl of a county.

I've read better zombie novels, but I don't think I've ever read one with such a frenetic pace. If you're a fan of the undead and high-octane action and violence, you'll want to check it out. In the mean time, I just might have to check out the sequel, which could hold some really interesting twists all its own considering the revelations that occur at the end of this novel.

October 29, 2012

I Never Dress for Halloween: a guest post by Lawrence Santoro (Tales to Terrify Blog Tour)

The TALES TO TERRIFY podcast is celebrating their one-year anniversary, and help do that they've come out with a brand new anthology featuring stories by Gene Wolfe, Joe R. Lansdale, Weston Ochse, Margo Lanagan, and more ... As part of a blog tour to promote this anthology, here is a Halloween-themed guest post by one of its editors, Lawrence Santoro. And be sure to check out the contest and the end, too. Enjoy!
Lawrence Santoro
I haven't dressed for it in damn near half a century. I annoy friends, show up at their costume parties as, "what the hell’s he supposed to be?"
"Ah…a depressed writer?
See? To me, Halloween smells like mothballs.
Every year the first whiff of apple cider or the whisk of dry leaves waded-through or wind-drifted against whatever door I live behind at the time starts it. But in deepest October, parties, leaves and cinnamon-cider aside, I catch a scent of phantom camphor in my life and feel a dry wool ghost brush my bare skin. And there I am: in the attic at 831 North Fourth Street, Reading, Pennsylvania, delving for Halloween.
831 was built at the turn of the old century. It’s nothing special. Like most houses in that railroad town, it was red brick with a slate roof. Bigger than most, older than the shotgun row-homes on the half-streets where my friends lived. And 831 had a fake Tudor half-beam attic above the second floor.
It was a scary place in which to be young and invent your world. My best friend, Pete Reinhart lived up the way and across from Charles Evans cemetery. He bragged about guts, living near the dead and all.
Not much to be afraid of. Evans was a rolling green forest, dark mossy trees and brown hills going to seed. It was filled with soot black mausoleums, tall granite memorials and the iron-spiked flags of the war-dead. In summer, Evans was a great place to pack lunch and go read, leaning against cool granite in shaded heat. In winter it had the best sledding hills in the northwest corner of the city.
No, 831 was scarier than Pete’s graveyard neighbor. Our place had a house-long cellar lit by three hanging bulbs with and a wooden coal bin the size of New Jersey at the front. When we moved in, Fall of 1947, 831 had a gas-fired water-heating 'coil'. The thing had to be lit and extinguished manually; turn the cock, listen for the his, strike a spark and hope it didn’t blow.
In the cellar’s near-dark, the coil flickered, hissing just beyond the octopus-arms of the furnace. The damn water heater waited to kill. You never went out–not to a movie, not anywhere—and left the coil on. A constant check went back and forth, mother to daddy, daddy to me, me to Pop-pop, "you turn the coil off?” “Did YOU?” “You turned it off, right?"
The coil--and shining black water bugs, mice, smells of mold and rot and noise s not accounted for, and bad bad darkness, all that was below.
On the living floors, the house whispered constantly. Walking from room to room, boards cracked in places where feet were not. Alone afternoons, distant rooms sighed. Small things chattered in the walls. 
Gas jets, capped and dead, covered softly with decades of paint, poked from the same walls where, from time to time, zillion legged critters coiled forth and oozed down to disappear into the baseboards. Hallway chandeliers shivered and clattered in the stillest air. Several parts of the house had external wires ending in big rotary switches that showed bare copper. Daddy always said these circuits were cut from the mains—he did it himself, damn it.
Mother nevertheless always stopped, perked, listened, entering these rooms, alert to faint crackles of electricity from those dead lines.
Finally, daddy ripped the damn things off the walls and plastered the holes. There!
(Halloween, Larry, get back to Halloween)
Halloween began in the attic. The attic was up the stairway at the end of a dark second-floor side-hall, a place dad never re-electrified and which remained, consequently, always in ambient dark.  At the top of the attic steps, a wide, mullioned window overlooked our yard, the back alley, the yards of my friends Davey Brown -- a Seventh Day Adventist always somewhat depressed because the world was ending soon -- and Terry Hebhardt -- who did shitty things because he was going to get beat up for something he did or didn’t do, anyway. My world. Beyond, lay the rest of Reading, red brick and slate. A mile further, the town tipped upward till it washed like a breaking wave against the green slopes of Mount Penn.
In October, the mountain was red and yellow.
The steps to the attic were always dusty. The walls of the hallway and stairs were runneled and rough, its wallpaper bearing medieval tapist scenes of stag hounds. Huntsmen on rearing horses, their pikes angled in a forest of passionate tangles, worried a deer. Old stuff, dark with blood.
In the attic, everything creaked. The floor boards were splintery soft woods, ages of dust packed between. With even my modest weight the floors sagged. The ancient cabinets and stored furniture nodded or quivered as I passed. Nail heads squeaked slowly up from the wide floor planks like thunderstorm worms that peered up from damp garden earth. No place for bare feet, our attic.
The front windows overlooking Fourth Street were large and mullioned. The branches of the elm canopy reached from the curb to the windows, their fingers tapped them in the wind. There always was wind and the room always was shaded by branches and gathered dust.
The smaller attic room was darker. It looked across the narrow way between our house and Cliffy Mahler’s. Into Cliffy's bedroom.
This room was filled with time. Stacked trophies of my Pop-pop's long run as a national skeet shooting champion. There were piles of books from his, Nanna’s, Pop-pop’s kidhood. There were my mother’s boxes filled with fading, dying pictures of long dead people and the scent of sachet and newsprint. And there were trunks: steamer trunks of wood and leather panels, brass corners and varnished hardwood ribs. Footlockers with more hinges than necessary, multiple straps and a dozen snaps; there were wooden crates, valises, satchels whose leather was flaking into dust from times before I was born, from the time when my parents had been "on the road!"
Their life on the road was piled in the corner, one box, valise, trunk, and case atop another.
You've come this far with me. There's something you should know. My parents were dancers, members of the Catherine Behney Dance Company. Don’t rack your brains, you've never heard of it before now. Behney’s was one of many companies supported by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Federal Arts Administration projects during the Depression. After the New Deal died, the company became part of a traveling carnival. My father, Rocco Vitorio Santoro, was a guy who slipped away from home at 13 to earn his own damn way in the world. He worked a couple years at Mother Hubbard's Candy Company, 60 miles from home, then got a job driving truck and setting up for the Behney troupe. Trainable, he joined the corps. Eventually, when Behney joined the carnival, he earned a few extra bucks as a wing-walker, days, working with a barnstorming pilot who toured with the show. When someone was injured or too drunk to compete, daddy also filled in as a miniature racecar driver. Just as needed, you know. In addition, he met his future wife, Fern Emma Adams on the road.
Mother was the troupe's prima ballerina. She also was a poet who never wrote, a painter who didn't paint, a runaway rich kid, who fled Princeton and West Point weekends and who had given up on her own schooling a couple weeks shy of the end of her senior year in high school. She was a sweet girl who ran to the road from her mom and dad -- the social crème of Reading and Wyomissing, PA . On that road, she fell in improbable, wonderful, madly focused love with this grade-school dropout son of immigrants who, every couple days, wired himself to the top wing of a Steerman biplane and stood out there for inside loops, outside loops, and
Immelmen turns, who danced some and ate bugs and streaming dirt for the crowd's thrills and the few extra bucks it brought. 

On the back-leg of a southern swing into deep Florida, they married in D.C.
The trunks in the attic room at 831 North Fourth were filled with their road years, the parts they brought home when they settled in Reading to become the boring guy, the pleasant housewife they disguised themselves as for me.
Those trunks were Halloween.
Opening each lid sucked the air of their years on the road from the bottoms, from between folds of cloth, from the sleeves, legs and necks of clothes, costumes and apparatus, jackets, boots, leather helmets, furs and goggles, silks and makeup, hats, feathers, powders, greasepaint and stays, elastic and crinoline, crepe hair and dry sponges, from below it all, from through the fibers, the air ran picking up dust and essence. And through tubes of camphor crystals and deliquescing mothballs the air picked up the scent I knew as Halloween.
Everything from those boxes and trucks scratched my skin, smelled of age and other places and times and covered me completely, hid me perfectly in what they had been. The costumes we put together in the days before Halloween created a high standard of disguise. Nobody, anywhere, knew me. Not at school before unmasking, or in the back alley, when Dave Brown, Terry Hebhardt, Cliffy Mahler, Pete Reinhart, saw and didn't know me until I spoke and then, “Holy Jeeze, Santoro, that you? Christ!”
The costumes also became something else. Something that should have been obvious to me, but wasn't. Was not until I wrote this did I realize: Halloween put me into their skins. My parent's skins. The skin they'd discarded to build me. Who was I? Dressed as a Scotsman, a World War I ace? A harlequin? Was I them? Dad, mother? Christ, no. Just me...but... Hell, no! They were—they are—my parents.
Christ, don't you have to kill them off to become you?
Sure you do. Christ.
When I stopped having to dress for school Halloween parties, what was it, in seventh grade? I never did again. I forgot the stuff that was left in the attic, then I left home and, several years later, moved to England.
Mother and Daddy with another couple, people I didn't know, were killed driving back from Florida when a guy coming the other way had a heart attack at his wheel, died instantly and his car jumped the median and dead-ended into them. Five gone. Like.
I returned for a few months, got rid of the remnants of their lives and went back to England.
And, no, I do not dress for Halloween but, still, the season smells of mothballs.

LAWRENCE SANTORO: Award-winning writer and narrator, Lawrence Santoro began writing dark tales at age five.

In 2001 his novella “God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. In 2002, his adaptation and audio production of Gene Wolfe’s “The Tree Is My Hat,” was also Stoker nominated. In 2003, his Stoker-recommended “Catching” received Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s 17th Annual “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” anthology. In 2004, “So Many Tiny Mouths” was cited in the anthology’s 18th edition. In the 20th, his novella, “At Angels Sixteen,” from the anthology A DARK AND DEADLY VALLEY, was similarly honored.

Larry’s first novel, “Just North of Nowhere,” was published in 2007. A collection of his short fiction, DRINK FOR THE THIRST TO COME, was published in 2011. He lives in Chicago and is working on two new novels, “Griffon and the Sky Warriors,” and “A Mississippi Traveler, or Sam Clemens Tries the Water”.

Stop by Larry’s blog, At Home in Bluffton(http://blufftoninthedriftless.blogspot.com/), and his audio website, Santoro Reads (http://www.santororeads.com/Home.html), you can friend him on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/lawrence.santoro).

GAME: You can be one of the lucky 10 people to win a PDF copy of our anthology. All you have to do is find us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TalesToTerrify?ref=hl) or Twitter (@TalestoTerrify) and answer the following question: What scares you most? The most creative responses will receive the coveted PDF copy and will be featured in our second November show.

The game will end on October 31st, the book's official launch date. A like and a follow will be appreciated, but are not a prerequisite to enter the competition.

You can follow the blog tour on the following dates and sites:

October, 22nd: Innsmouth Free Press
October, 23rd: Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews (http://darkwolfsfantasyreviews.blogspot.com/)
October, 24th: Kaaron Warren (http://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com/)
October, 25th: Sci fi & Fantasy Lovin' News and Reviews (http://sqt-fantasy-sci-fi-girl.blogspot.com/)
October, 26th: Fantasy Book Critic (http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/)
October, 29th: Wag the Fox (http://waggingthefox.blogspot.com/)
October, 30th: Angela Slatter (http://www.angelaslatter.com/)
October, 31st: Graeme's Fantasy Book Review (http://www.graemesfantasybookreview.com/)

October 28, 2012

Fear Anthology Blog Tour: An Interview with Anthony Price

As part of the FEAR anthology blog tour that's going on right now, here is an interview with one of the contributing authors, Anthony Price. Enjoy--and be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post!


Q: Without going all spoilery on us, can you tell us a little about your short story, Hunger?

Anthony: Well, basically, it’s about a guy named Wade who’s become a bit of a drifter after losing his wife to something ‘unnatural’. On his travels searching for the thing that killed her, he stumbles across a town, which isn’t as nice as it seems on the outside. Let’s just say, things go terribly wrong.

Q: What was the inspiration behind this story?

Anthony: To be honest, I’m not really sure where the inspiration for this particular story came from. I read a lot of horror and watch a lot of horror films and TV. I guess I was inspired by my love for the genre.

Q: How did you become involved in the FEAR anthology?

Anthony: I was trawling through the hundreds of writers websites on the internet, like you do on a Saturday morning, and I stumbled across a forum post about the anthology. I thought it was a good idea, so being a horror writer, I gave it a shot. And here I am.
Q: Describe your protagonist in three words.
Anthony: Strong, compassionate, unprepared.

Q: What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Anthony: I think my favourite part of the process is the beginning. Getting that first germ of an idea and then creating a whole world of characters to play out a story is something special. It all begins with a blank sheet of paper.
Q: Who is your favourite author? And why?
Anthony: I read quite widely in different genres, so to pick one author as my favourite would be quite hard. As this is horror, I’d have to say Stephen King. He single-handedly revamped the genre and saved it from obscurity. I love the way he creates huge casts of characters and his attention to detail is unprecedented. He’s not afraid to dispatch characters that the reader has become attached to. He’s just awesome.
Q: Did anyone ever tell you not to quit your day job? If so, is there a special message you'd like to send them now that you're a published author?

Anthony: Being disabled, writing has been my only day job and I feel lucky in the sense that, for the most part, everyone around me has been very supportive. But I have had my doubters. To them I would say, I’ll see you when I’m at the top…Waiting to drop something on your head!

Q: If you could have dinner with any one of your characters who would it be? And what on earth would you say?

Anthony: I’m not sure I’d want to have dinner with any of my characters. They’re all a little creepy! But if I had to pick one, it would be Dan Halliday from my unpublished young adult novel. He’s always good for a laugh.
Q: If you could choose just one book to leave for future generations, what would it be?
Anthony: That’s a hard one, as there are so many influential and important books out there. If I could only pick one, it would have to be 1984. I think in today’s world it still resonates with a lot of people. It’s one of the best commentaries we have on society and the whole Big Brother is watching is even more relevant today with social networking and the Internet.
Q: Is FEAR your writing debut? If not, can you tell us a little about your previous work? What can we expect from you in the future?

Anthony: Actually, FEAR is my fourth publication in something that hasn’t been self-published. I’ve previously been published in House of Horror E-zine (now sadly defunct), Static Movement E-zine and as part of the Bad Dollar project. I’ve also published my own horror anthology titled, Tales of Merryville, which is available in e-book format on Amazon. Short stories aside, I’ve just finished writing two young adult novels, one of which I’m currently sending to publishers as we speak. I’m also in talks with a London based production company to have my first feature length horror screenplay turned into a film. I like to keep myself busy.
Q: And finally, the Apocalypse is here. The world has been overrun with Zombies or Vampires or some other freakish thing that wants to chow down on humanity. Before the human race is completely eradicated you get to save two literary legends (don't ask me why you can only save bookish people, I don't make the rules) who do you save?
Anthony: Well, it would have to be Stephen King, as his horror knowledge might come in handy. This one is a little left-field, but I’d have to save Bernard Cornwell. I’m a bit of a history buff and I think he would be interesting to talk to on those long, post-apocalyptic nights. Plus, I’m a big fan of his work.

Anthony Price Author Spotlight

Anthony Price is a twenty-eight year old male residing in the UK, in Canterbury. An avid reader and film fanatic, he was first published at age fifteen and since achieving his MA in Creative Writing, he’s had several short stories published in e-zines. He’s also the author of his own horror anthology titled, Tales of Merryville, which is available to buy in e-book format on Amazon. He’s currently working on several creative projects to look out for in the future, including a series of young adult novels and a feature film.

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October 26, 2012

Blog Tour: An excerpt from Brad C. Hodson's new novel, "Darling"

Announcing the release of Darling by Brad C. Hodson, a new tale of dark horror from Bad Moon Books!

Publisher: Bad Moon Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 386
Release Date: October 26, 2012
Price: $18.95 (paperback)

Plot Description:
Raynham Place has been home to a number of mysterious occurrences. From its start as a battlefield through its time as a tuberculosis hospital and even in its current incarnation as an apartment complex, the grounds here have been awash in blood and instability. When two friends decide to move in to Raynham together, a wound that they share opens wide and threatens their sanity. But they’re not alone. Something is off here at Raynham, something that goes beyond the local legends of ghosts and serial killers and Black Hounds, something that gets inside of everyone who ever lives here. When a sacrifice is made, the first freely given in ages, the truth behind Raynham’s legends finally surfaces and the building fills to bursting with all the dreams of Hell…

Here is a preview of Chapter One from DARLING by Brad C. Hodson

The man in apartment 333 stopped scrubbing. He rinsed the chemicals from his hands and scanned the bathroom. It wasn’t clean enough (it could never be clean enough), but it would do. The cracks separating the tiles were the worst, but the bleach had worked well.
In the kitchen he rooted around on his hands and knees with an old toothbrush. Confident that the hidden dirt had been exposed, he swept and mopped again. He scrubbed every dish to a shine. He rubbed the silverware down with an expensive metal cleaner. He packed his wife’s remains into a large garbage bag. He cleaned the windows.

He stopped long enough to stare at his hands. White spots scattered across patches of reddened skin, a road map of the cleaning fluids he had used. His fingers were raw and bled around the nails. His palms burned from the bleach and the knot of muscle at the base of his thumbs screamed at him. He supposed he was finished with the apartment.

He sat on the couch and pulled the checkbook from his suit. He wrote a check for the next month’s rent and drew a smiley face next to his signature. The check went into an envelope along with his keys.

Leaving his apartment, garbage bag in tow, he climbed into the elevator at the end of the hall and mashed a button with his thumb. The doors rattled shut and the box threatened to break apart as it descended.

The shaking stopped and the doors creaked open. He stepped out, slid the envelope into the superintendent’s mail slot, and left by the back door.

Under the yellow light of the porch he felt disoriented. His head swam. Shadows writhed at the corners of his vision.

It passed and he stared into the night. Ahead of him, past the tacky lawn furniture and broken propane grill, the grass grew wild.

The wind danced through the field and praised him with dry, rustling words. He brushed his hand through the waist high growth. It was damp and cool.

He removed his jacket, folded it, and placed it on a lawn chair. His shirt followed, then his shoes. Socks. Pants. His boxer shorts were last. He rolled them into a ball that he slid inside one of the shoes. He placed the bag next to his clothes, his wife collapsing to one side.

The breeze came to him, took his hand, and led him in its dance. He smiled and walked naked through the field.

The supermarket rising from the grass was a black void absorbing the moonlight. It wasn’t until he was close that he could make out the cracked and vine covered facade, could read the faded nonsense spray-painted onto its side.
Broken pavement bit into his foot. One of the parking lot’s busted lights flickered to life over him. He stood there for a long while, staring into the blackness behind dusty glass doors.

He took a step forward. The doors slid apart along broken mechanical tracks. His view of the shadows was unhindered.

Without looking back, he stepped inside. The doors screeched shut behind him.

The light in the parking lot flickered once and went black.

Across the field, Raynham Place was quiet. His apartment sat, clean and empty, and waited for its next occupant.

About the Author:
Brad C. Hodson is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. He bounces between horror and comedy with a few stops in between. He’s also the Administrator for the Horror Writers Association. Visit him on the web at www.brad-hodson.com.

October 25, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Catch My Killer" by Ed Kurtz

Catch My Killer (The First Sam Truman Mystery)
by Ed Kurtz
85 pages
ASIN: B007QM9N44

When it comes to urban fantasy, I enjoy the grittier styles that emulate or incorporate noir elements into the story. Such is the case with Catch My Killer, though I don't think this series of novellas is marketed as UF.

Sam Truman, the title character, is a down-on-his-luck private eye--so down in fact that he isn't even a P.I. anymore, legally speaking--holed up in a seedy hotel in 60s era New York. Things go from bad to worse when he busts up a robbery at his favorite diner, killing the young perp in the process. Things go worse to royally screwed when the dead guy shows up at his doorstep, apparently not as dead as he'd thought. Oh, the kid's dead all right, just possessed by the spirit of a person looking for help in catching their killer.

The atmosphere is all there. I could practically feel the grime on my Kindle as I read this book. And Sam Truman is the kind of hero I like, with a moral compass and a wonky way of following it. He feels familiar in a lot of ways if you've read your fair share of gumshoe diaries, but avoids feeling like a cliche. And the rabbithole adventure he goes on in tracking down a killer is really fun one, with a great blend of crime and horror.

Where the book faltered for me was in the almost cavalier manner he accepts the fact he's been hired by a ghost inhabiting a corpse. Within minutes, he's shooting the breeze with a zombie like it's another day at the office. I don't recall any mention of him already being initiated to the supernatural, so this strained by suspension of disbelief. In fact, it seemed like his client felt more shocked by these events than Sam.

Still, I managed to look past that niggling detail, and once I did I found a quick, entertaining mystery. It certainly enjoyed it enough to put the second installment, The Last Invasion, on my wish list. Each installment is written by a different author, much like Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin's The Dead Man series, and I've had a blast with those books. This is the Sam Truman Mystery and I'm glad it won't be the last.

October 24, 2012

Blog Tour: Paul Batista's "Extraordinary Rendition"

I received word of this new novel, courtesy of Astor + Blue. Check it out.

Action Pinpoints Issues in Constitutional Controversy

“Batista does it again when international intrigue collides with murder in Extraordinary Rendition! A high -priced Wall Street lawyer gets the shock of a lifetime...  law school never prepared him for this!  It's a fast ride--buckle up!"

--Nancy Grace, Attorney, TV Personality and NY Times Bestselling Author of Death on the D-List

When Ali Hussein—suspected terrorist and alleged banker for Al Qaeda—is finally transported from Gitmo to the US mainland to stand trial, many are stunned when Byron Carlos Johnson, pre-eminent lawyer and the son of a high-profile diplomat, volunteers as counsel.  On principle, Johnson thought he was merely defending a man unjustly captured through Rendition and water-boarded illegally. But Johnson soon learns that there is much more at stake than one man’s civil rights.

Hussein’s intimate knowledge of key financial transactions could lead to the capture of—or the unabated funding of—the world’s most dangerous terror cells. This makes Hussein the target of corrupt US intelligence forces on one side, and ruthless international terrorists on the other.  And, it puts Byron Carlos Johnson squarely in the crosshairs of both.

Pulled irresistibly by forces he can and cannot see, Johnson enters a lethal maze of espionage, manipulation, legal traps and murder. And when his life, his love, and his acclaimed principles are on the line, Johnson may have one gambit left that can save them all; a play that even his confidants could not have anticipated. He must become the hunter among hunters in the deadliest game.

Written by no-holds-barred-attorney Paul Batista, Extraordinary Rendition excels not only as an action thriller, but as a sophisticated legal procedural as well; tearing the curtains away from the nation’s most controversial issues.

Provocative. Smart. Heart-pounding. A legal thriller of the highest order.


Paul Batista, novelist and television personality, is one of the most widely known trial lawyers in the country. As a trial attorney, he specializes in federal criminal litigation. As a media figure, he is known for his regular appearances as guest legal commentator on a variety of television shows including, Court TV, CNN, HLN and WNBC. He’s also appeared in the HBO movie, You Don't Know Jack, starring Al Pacino.

A prolific writer, Batista authored the leading treatise on the primary federal anti-racketeering statute, Civil RICO Practice Manual, which is now in its third edition (Wiley & Sons, 1987; Wolters Kluwer, 2008). He has written articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The National Law Journal.

Batista's debut novel, Death's Witness, was awarded a Silver Medal by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). And his new novel, Extraordinary Rendition, is now being published—along with a special reissue of Death’s Witness—by Astor + Blue Editions.

Batista is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and Cornell Law School. He’s proud to have served in the United States Army. Paul Batista lives in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.

Available via:
B&N: http://bit.ly/R44yAo

October 23, 2012

Wanna Win a Copy of "Blockade Billy" by Stephen King? (Spooktacular Giveaway Hop)

It's time for the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Diary of a Bookworm. From now until Halloween, over 500 blogs (including mine) are hosting book giveaways. So, if you aren't keen on the little prize up for grabs on my blog, you've still got hundreds of blogs to check out.

Anyway, the book I'm giving away is one off my own shelf: Stephen King's Blockade Billy from Cemetery Dance. I read this a couple of years ago when it first came out and really enjoyed it (you can read my review here). Of course, I enjoy most of Stephen King's work. Along with this novella, the book includes a bonus story called "Morality," which might be even more chilling than the title story.

Just used the Rafflecopter form below to enter, and presto! You have until midnight on Halloween night to get your name in the hat, then I'll draw a winner at random on November 1st. Good luck--and be sure to visit the other blogs for more chances to win great books!
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A Halloween Read:"Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes
by Ray Bradbury
304 pages
originally published in 1962
ISBN 0380729407

I have been meaning to read this book for a long time. I had actually intended to read it on Halloween night last year, but it wound up on the backburner again, until this year when it became a group read during the summer with the Literary Horror discussion group on Goodreads.com. There's a slew of classics that I have yet to read, but being such an admirer of Bradbury's short fiction, it's a lowdown dirty shame it took me this long to get round to reading this novel.

In case you've never read it either, here's the gist: Two boys, Will and Jim, get excited and ultimately too curious for their own good when a carnival comes to town in the middle of the night, about a week before Halloween. Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show. Of keen interest to the boys is a mysterious merry-go-round that appears control the aging process. The old can become young again, while the young can hop-skip-jump their way to adulthood by a brief ride atop the carousel. But Will and Jim have garnered the attention of the carnival's Mr. Dark when they discover the carnival's true nature and find themselves up to their necks in trouble.

Now, I am not sure how enamored storytellers were with carnivals and the like prior to Something Wicked, but it's pretty plain to see that Bradbury set a high watermark with anyone from that point forward to wanted to use one as a backdrop.

There's something about midnight that sends the imagination off in all directions, which might be why Bradbury set it up that Jim was born a minute before midnight and Will a minute after--also making him born on Halloween, as it turns out. That dynamic between the two boys plays out incredibly well, as they start out in the story so well in tune with each other. Their friendship solid as granite, but when the nature of the Shadow Show comes to bear bit by bit, and the promise of growing older starts to claw at Jim's desires to escape boyhood, while Will is all too keen to hang onto his and avoid the seemingly debilitating effect of time, as evidenced by his father.

The whole idea of wanting to be older when you're young, and younger when you're old, plays out in a multitude of ways. I've seen both sides of that fence, myself, much in the same way Will did with the shadow of his father looming large. It's a big ol' heartstring, that father/son relationship, which Bradbury plays for all it's worth. But it might play second fiddle to the best friend relationship and how it's tested as the various characters from the carnival try to get at Will and Jim.

The book wasn't without difficulties though, which for me came in the form of the style of prose. Lyrical in spots, but murky in others. It's just the way I'm wired. Bradbury is one of those authors whose imagination and sincerity make up for whatever dated quality the words might have, but there were definitely passages that felt like he let the words run away with themselves. I've become a fan of tight, economical prose, and that's nowhere to be found in this novel. Something Wicked This Way Comes fall short of being my favorite Bradbury tale, but I do feel gratified for having finally read it.

October 22, 2012

Rabid Reads: "What Gets Left Behind" by Mark West

What Gets Left Behind
by Mark West
28 pages

I may not have grown up in England in the 80s, but I very well could have from reading this latest chapbook from Spectral Press. Growing up in rural Nova Scotia during that decade, the last decade really before the information age found its footing, killers and predators were like urban legends: they existed on the six o'clock news and to hear there was one locally was like discovering there was a Sasquatch in the backyard. There is a sense of that in Mark West's What Gets Left Behind, as two young boys revel in the idea of a serial killer lurking in their hometown, yet still venture outside in parks and back lots for their own adventures.

The atmosphere of early 80s, small town Britain is captured about as crisply as one could ask for. Despite a few mentions of local trivia, this Canadian was able to get swept right up in the tale.

While the story begins in present day, its heart lies in 1981, when a serial killer called the Rainy Day Abductor stalked the town of Gaffney. Mike and his best friend, Geoff, are undaunted by this threat, since the killer seems to focus on young women, and only when it rains. Following a downpour, the boys are sent outside to play--a near foreign concept in present day--and run afoul of their schoolyard bully. In a dash for their lives, they hole up in an abandoned building only to discover they are not alone.

The first act of the story took a little bit in getting off the ground, but it did create an immersive backdrop and really took off once the story delved back to the fateful day in Mike's childhood. Perhaps nostalgia was the flypaper to my buzzing imagination, but whatever the case I was hooked by this story, as my memories of gallivanting through the woods with friends flooded back. The boyish mix of naivety and intrepidness came through with remarkable clarity, to the point that it rivals any Stephen King yarn like The Body.

If you can get your hands on this one, I wholly recommend it. As for me, I'll be keeping my eyes open for more Mark West stories.

October 19, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back" edited by Stephen Jones

Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back
edited/created by Stephen Jones
480 pages
Running Press (2012)
ISBN 076244598X

Go into a bookstore and throw a rock. If you don't strike an employee--or a James Patterson novel--chances are pretty good you'll hit a book with zombies in it (triple score if you hit an employee holding James Patterson's new zombie novel). All right, put down the rock. I'm just saying there are a lot of books about zombies, but I highly doubt you'll find one quite like Stephen Jones' Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back. Well, I think this is a sequel of sorts, actually--but that's it.

Presented as a compendium of written accounts from various sources, Fight Back depicts a zombie outbreak that ravages Great Britain and eventually the world. Personally, I'm not a fan of journal-entry style storytelling. Granted, I love Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but that's a rare exception. Most often I find those kinds of stories wearisome. Fight Back goes well beyond a collection of scribblings by people who inexplicably have time to write while trying to avoid having their brain eaten. This pseudo-anthology using a myriad of characters and conveyances to tell a captivating and cohesive narrative.

Entries span from the 1700s and move in chronological order, for the most part, highlighting the previous outbreak, its inception, and its renewal. There are letters written in the early 19th century by a young woman betrothed to a Thomas Moreby, whom she reviles and eventually discovers his cult-like followers, a secret lair, and evidence he may be much older than humanly possible. When it comes to concocting a half-reasonable explanation for zombies, this backstory concerning Moreby is not only unique, but a tad genius in its execution.

The mosaic presented is where the real genius lies, however, as the outbreak and resistance come through in a patchwork pattern of shared e-mails between scientists, tabloid clippings, plus a harrowing transcript of law enforcement units encountering what is ostensibly ground zero for the outbreak. There are even quirky or off-beat pieces like a comic book illustrator's downfall recorded one panel at a time, plus a series of e-mails from a fashion reporter in Paris overwhelmed by the outbreak.

There is so much layered throughout this book that a person could get lost in the minutiae that gives it its verisimilitude. While I found some passages a bit of a chore to read through, particularly the Twitter account of a graffiti artist, which just exemplified the banality of that medium to an excruciating degree, the book as a whole is a stunningly ambitious piece of work. It's definitely something every zombie fan should check out. Plus, the book itself is so visually rich in its presentation, I doubt very much a standard e-book could match the robustness displayed in the physical book. 

October 17, 2012

Wish List Wednesday #122: John Scalzi's "Redshirts"

WLW is a recurring blog segment in which I highlight a book I have on my wish list. Sometimes it's a new release, sometimes a beloved classic, and sometimes it's a hidden gem.

My introduction to science fiction came by way of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. As early as five-years-old, maybe even younger, I stared at the TV goggle-eyed as Captain Kirk swashbuckled his way through the galaxy. I've never been a trekker, but there's always been a special place in my heart for that show. So when I heard that John Scalzi wrote a novel inspired by the show and its preposterous science, I was immediately intrigued.

Redshirts, published by Tor Books, centers around an ensign on board an intergalactic spaceship called the Intrepid (not the Enterprise, but in the ballpark), who notices that all of the low-ranking shipmates called upon to join away missions wind up dead. If you have seen even a couple of Star Trek episodes, you are well aware of this trope. Ensign Jones was the name I've always grown up knowing as those ill-fated extras that got between Captain Kirk and a deathray. Nowadays it seems they're called "redshirts," hence the book's title.

From some of the reviews I've read, the book gets pretty meta, and some critics say it takes itself a little too seriously despite the comedy. I am still very intrigued by this book and would love to check it out sometime to see if it would appeal to that inner child who spent Saturday mornings watching Star Trek reruns.

How about you? Were you a trekkie growing up? Does this sound like the kind of book you'd go for?

October 16, 2012

A Rare Nonfiction Read: "Mark Twain and the Colonel" by Philip McFarland

Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemons, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of the New Century
by Philip McFarland
Rowman & Littlefield (2012)
456 pages
ISBN 1442212268

As a genre hound, I don't tend to read nonfiction all that often. When I do, it needs to be on a topic I find of some particular interest. In the case of this book, it came down to the name Mark Twain. And it was seeing that name on this book's cover that piqued my interest enough to review my first nonfiction book in a good long while.

The book highlights the lives and lessons of both Samuel Clemons (aka Mark Twain) and Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. It's not quite a biography of either man, rather using each man and those closest to them to view the shift from the nineteenth century to the next. While McFarland highlights these two legendary men as they bear witness to the twentieth century, I couldn't help but wonder if a book of this sort could be accomplished for modern times. Unfortunately, the coming of the twenty-first century would have likely been viewed through the lens of President Bill Clinton and some beloved wordsmith of our age--though a suitable counterpart to Mark Twain does not spring to mind.

Another interesting note is that Clemons and Roosevelt rarely had any direct interactions, though each man was imminently aware of the talents--and temerity--of the other. But, in some sense, they wound up being good counter-balances in this book, as aspects of America's maturity was wrought out. What really stood out for me, however, was the accessibility of the book for a dullard like me. While I appreciate history, I find it hard to digest at times thanks to the scarring effects of a high school education, as it relates to history lessons. While Mark Twain and the Colonel can feel a bit textbookish at times, with bone dry passages and some repetition of facts and events, a humanizing effect on both men is well achieved. Considering how much both of these historical figures have been mythologized (deified and vilified in equal strokes, I'm sure), adding the frailties and shortcomings of each man--not to mention the candid ruminations on each other--gives this book the kind of verisimilitude it needs.

I did find myself gravitating more towards the Twain passages more than the Roosevelt, though I came to appreciate just how fascinating a character he really is in the annals of American history. Canadian history, even in politics, seems to lack the kind of bombastic and grandiose figures like these two men. Oh, we've got them, but I wonder if they could provide the kind of fodder that Twain and Roosevelt do.

I'm not sure if this is the kind of book I'd recommend for someone looking for a straight-up biography of either man, but there's an interesting intersection of philosophies from both men relating to America's emergence during such tumultuous times, with the specter of a new century ready to pass them by. For history buffs though, I think there is likely something new, at least in the approach if not in the material. If the book has accomplished anything, it's prompted this twentieth century boy to go look for a copy of "Huck" and "Finn."