The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre – Chapter 2

Read chapter 1 here.

Land of the Free, Home of the Weird

thumbnail_originalSergeant Abraham Richards, Alpha Company, 1-107th Infantry, New York Army National Guard, walked down the armory steps into the cool October afternoon, his rucksack weighing heavily on his shoulders, his duffel bag to his side and straining his arm.

“Let me take that, son.” His father took the duffel and hefted it over his good shoulder.

“Careful, Dad.”

“You can’t tell your father to be careful, you know that,” Mom said, grimacing and rolling her eyes. She said it as a joke, but she was afraid it sounded like a nag. Everything was tense. Happy, sure, but tense. No one wanted to say the wrong thing, but silence didn’t seem right, either. But maybe saying nothing at all was the best thing for it. Continue reading “The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre – Chapter 2”

Smells like Teen Sewercide: A review of PSYCHOPOMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE by Adrean Messmer

Pyschopomp and Circumstance
By Adrean Messmer
Published by A Murder of Storytellers

Adrean Messmer’s first novel is a complex and varied story about the interconnected social dynamics of one group of post-high school late-teens-early-twenty-somethings and the malevolent force that stalks them. It feels, in spirit, very much like a late 90s/early 00s novelization of a teen-focused horror film a la Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or Phantoms. Coming from me that is, of course, a compliment. Continue reading “Smells like Teen Sewercide: A review of PSYCHOPOMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE by Adrean Messmer”

Phantom (Limb) Busters – A review of Scott Cole’s SuperGhost

SuperGhost by Scott Cole
Published by Eraserhead Press
Review by Billy Lyons

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Never has such a statement been as true as it is in Scott Cole’s quirky, humorous, and very fun novel, SuperGhost.

Darren Legend, like many amputees, has suffered from phantom limb pain ever since the day he lost his right arm in a tragic accident. The itching and tingling sensations he feels where his arm was once located is an almost constant source of pain and annoyance. His good friend Trina suggests that an amputee support group might help him find a solution to his pain. Darren is doubtful, but agrees to give it a try.

One night, as Darren and Trina are making their way to one of the meetings, they are approached by Doctor Griffin Rains. Dr. Rains claims that he has invented a cure for the phantom limb syndrome and offers to rid Darren of his pain once and for all. Darren accepts Rains’ business card, but only out of politeness. Both Darren and Trina find the good doctor to be more than a little bit odd.

Nevertheless, Dr. Rains shows up at Darren’s apartment a couple of days later and renders him unconscious before Darren can do anything to stop him. Once Darren is knocked out, Rains hooks what is left of Darren’s right arm to a contraption of his own creation that he calls the Phantom Zapper. When Darren comes to, the doctor is gone, and so is his phantom limb.

At first, Darren is pleased to be rid of the pain, but it isn’t long before he begins to experience another sort of discomfort in the form of a vague depression and anxiety. So, with Trina’s help, he tracks down another victim of Dr. Raines’ Phantom Zapper, a former Olympic athlete named Melissa. Melissa is experiencing the same negative side effects from Rains’ treatment as Darren, so she joins Darren and Trina in an investigation of the doctor. They soon discover that Rains has created a massive, extremely destructive spectre from the phantom limbs he has stolen from them and many other amputees. It also becomes clear that Rains intends to use his creation to exact bloody revenge on those he feels has wronged him, along with anyone else that happens to get in his way. Together, the three friends must race to stop the mad doctor before he can release his SuperGhost onto an unsuspecting world.


One of SuperGhosts main strengths is its wry humor, which is ample throughout. The well-written badinage between the main characters provides some very welcome comic relief as the story grows tense and moves into its many scary moments. Combining chills and laughs is often attempted in speculative fiction, but unfortunately, it fails much more often than it succeeds. The humor in SuperGhost is a rare, but very welcome, exception to the rule.

Another strength to be found in SuperGhost is its rich, well-developed characterizations. I sympathized with Darren, Trina, and Melissa very early in the story, so I genuinely cared about how things would turn out for them in the end. At the same time, the story’s villain, Dr. Rains, was delightfully evil and easy for me to hate.

SuperGhost is a fun novel that combines a very original premise with well-developed characters and a fast-moving plot. I read it straight through in one sitting, which is something I almost never do unless the book hooks me from the beginning and doesn’t let go. As a debut novelist, Scott Cole shows a great deal of promise, and I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

A review of The Wanderer by Timothy J. Jarvis

Published by Perfect Edge
Available Here
Review by Tom Breen

In his introduction to the recent New York Review of Books edition of two horror novels by William Sloane, Stephen King writes that the books are “actual works of literature,” in that slightly embarrassed way fans of genre fiction have of explaining themselves to others.

“Actual literature” is code for things like “well-developed characters” and “non-formulaic plots,” and as much as genre fans may bridle at such distinctions, few of them have not experienced the rush of joy that accompanies the discovery of a book that can be safely recommended to one’s non-genre-reading friends. Look – characters! Accomplished prose! Literature!

This is approximately the sensation one feels when reading The Wanderer, Timothy J. Jarvis’ debut novel. A tricky, postmodern work that can function as a collection of short stories as easily as a science fiction novel, and is best received as both at the same time, it’s the sort of weird fiction that you’d give to someone to convert them to weird fiction.

Bracketed by a formidable critical apparatus including foreword, note on the text, afterword, end notes, and two appendices, the bulk of The Wanderer is purportedly a manuscript left behind by the mysteriously vanished British horror writer Simon Peterkin, which may be a final work of fiction or may be something much more terrifying than that.

The Wanderer

The framing device within this framing device is the memoir of an immortal man in the far distant future, but the narrative takes long detours that practically function as standalone tales. The overall effect is something like a modern, weird fiction version of The Decameron or, perhaps more appropriately given the book’s British setting, a horribly inverted Canterbury Tales, with the pilgrims relating experiences that have severed them irrevocably from the possibility of normal life.

One of the distinguishing features of “actual literature” is that it doesn’t rely on its readers to fill in narrative gaps with previously acquired knowledge about genre conventions, and in The Wanderer, Jarvis eschews the familiar tropes of supernatural fiction to craft a series of increasingly bizarre and memorable encounters with the inexplicable.

A (literally) underground society of elderly aficionados of graphic Punch & Judy shows; ordinary Londoners, somehow in the company of medieval knights, chasing dragons on Hampstead Heath; a pedestrian tunnel that leads to a tower containing a gruesome parody of family life; and the terrible secrets of Glasgow’s (quite real) Necropolis are just some of the elements Jarvis deploys in the course of his tale.

Throughout, the book conjures an atmosphere of estrangement: characters in contemporary London have experiences they can’t explain, but which are enough to sever them from the possibility of the kind of normal lives they once lived; the narrator, living far in the future, is isolated not only by his immunity to death, but by a longevity so extreme no one on earth has spoken his native English for millennia. This alienation is at the heart of great weird fiction, from the cosmic horror of Lovecraft to the Freudian torments of Aickman, a revelation that obliterates understanding rather than increasing it. The tree of knowledge is not that of life, as the poet observed, and this is more or less what Jarvis’ characters come to learn. If the purpose of genre fiction is to entertain, this is not genre fiction; it is, as Kafka said stories should be, “an axe for the frozen sea within us.”

Not that The Wanderer is dull. Jarvis can write a fight scene as well as anyone, and his scares are genuinely scary. Even better, a wry humor glints in many places (Peterkin’s career as a mostly obscure horror writer is deftly handled, with story titles like “The Glass Eye of the Stuffed and Mounted Bream that Hangs Over the Mantelpiece in the Old Stainer Place” tossed off casually), and Jarvis has a way with genuinely lovely, beautiful prose, as when one character rides a bus across London Bridge at night, “the lights of waterfront buildings reflected in the river below, gemstones strewn on a jeweller’s blackcloth.”

This is an extraordinarily accomplished first novel, and readers of weird fiction have much cause for celebration at the prospect of a second. In a corner of the literary world where “actual literature” is all too rare, Timothy Jarvis’ The Wanderer is the real thing.

The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre by Jonathan Raab – Trailer and Pre-Order

I’m very excited to announce that my latest novel, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, published by Literati Press Comics & Novels, is now available for pre-order. It’s a horror-weird-science-fiction-action-comedy-conspiracy-thriller.

Here’s the trailer:

All orders made through our online store are signed. The first ten copies sold get a free poster thrown in as well!

The book will also be available at the Literati Press store and Amazon by the end of the week.

From the back cover:

When the arrest of known moonshiner (and possible alien abductee) Larry “Bucky” Green goes south, several cops are left dead and Bucky goes on the run. His latest batch of moonshine is driving the locals mad—literally. Anyone who drinks it falls victim to some terrible form of mind control. They start tearing each other apart and building strange altars to forgotten gods.

Strange lights in the sky, mob violence, militarized police, creatures from beyond time and space, and sinister government agencies descend on the idyllic autumn countryside, sowing chaos and terror in their wake.

Only the paranoid Sheriff Cecil Kotto—who also happens to be the host of a popular conspiracy theory radio show—has any clue about the truth behind it all. He recruits a new deputy and joins forces with an ambitious public access television reporter to track down Bucky and stop the apocalypse from kicking off.

Who’s behind the evil of the age? FEMA? The Illuminati? Reptilians? Aliens? The Red Cross? Secret societies? The DHS? The CIA? The EPA? The Council on Foreign Relations? The Trilateral Commission?

Only Sheriff Kotto and his team can find out. Only they can stop…


Fate, Damnation, and The Secret Electricity: A Review of Revival by Stephen King

Review by Billy Lyons

“Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” is a phrase meant to be taken quite literally in Stephen King’s brilliant, yet disturbing, 2014 novel Revival.  Man or woman, young or old, hero or villain, sinner or saint; we’re all damned.

Revival tells the story of Jamie Morton, and how his life is shaped by an on-again, off-again relationship with the Reverend Charles Jacobs. Jamie first meets Jacobs a few days after his sixth birthday when Jacobs, the new minister of the local Methodist church, stops by to introduce himself. The two quickly become fast friends.

Jamie first learns of the reverend’s fascination with electricity when Jacobs heals Jamie’s deaf brother with a strange electronic contraption of his own creation. He gives God all the glory for the miracle, but the awed tone in his voice as he describes the mystery behind the machine suggests that it’s very likely the good reverend’s devotion has switched to something besides Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Everything changes for both Jamie and Jacobs when a tragic automobile accident takes the life of Jacob’s wife and son. Shortly after their funeral, a bitter Jacob returns to the pulpit and delivers what will forever be known as The Terrible Sermon, in which he renounces his faith and suggests that if his congregation wants to believe in something real they should turn to the infinite power of electricity. He is summarily fired and quietly leaves town for parts unknown.

After The Terrible Sermon, Jamie throws his faith to the wind as well. From here, we follow these characters through a winding path of mystery surrounding the true power behind Jacob’s new faith.

Revival is perhaps King’s most terrifying work to date, mainly due to the insidious nature of the horror found between its covers. At first, readers will find the story similar to much of King’s writing, chock full of themes of redemption, youth’s inherent innocence, and love. This comfortable familiarity only serves to suck the reader into a false sense of security, so much so that when the hammer finally drops, he or she is completely unprepared for the sheer terror that is the last thirty pages of the book.

If there is one criticism of Revival, it is that its protagonist Jamie Morton is achingly similar to those found in other King novels. Once could very easily take Jamie Morton and replace him with Dan Torrance from Doctor Sleep, Edgar Freemantle from Duma Key, or Dale Barbara from Under the Dome and no one would know the difference. The idea of the beleaguered, worn-down, genuinely nice guy who must find redemption by fighting his way out of some supernaturally-fueled existential crisis is starting to wear a little thin.

Even so, the writing is brilliant, the story captivates from beginning to end, and King proves yet again that he can scare the living hell out of his readers any time he takes a notion. Revival is a masterpiece of supernatural fiction, one that further cements King’s reputation as one of the greatest writers of our generation.

Still, there’s a tiny part of me that wishes I’d never read it. This is especially true late at night, when I lay in bed unable to sleep because I can’t stop thinking about those last thirty pages.

When this happens, I often think back to the prayer of my youth, the one that contains the words: If I should die before I wake. And if I should, where would I find myself?  In Heaven, Hell, or, if Revival is to be believed, “the land beyond death, a place full of insane colors, mad geometry, and bottomless chasms where the Great Ones live their endless, alien lives, and think their endless, malevolent thoughts”?

Billy Lyons started reading at age three and fell in love with weird tales soon after. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in psychology from The Citadel and George Mason University, respectively. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, and Stephen King. His story “Black-Eyed Children, Blue-Eyed Child” appears in High Strange HorrorHe is seeking a publisher for his debut novel, The Junkie Vampires, which he loosely describes as True Blood meets Trainspotting. Billy lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia with his brother and their two cats. 

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