Showing posts with label Jeremy Bates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeremy Bates. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October Screams - A Halloween Anthology

Kangas Kahn film company have released horror films like Fear of Clowns, Garden of Hedon, and Terrortory over the last 20 years. In 2015, the film company launched Kangas Kahn Publishing, a small publisher that have released titles like With Teeth and Halloween: The Greatest Holiday of All. This Halloween season, the company has published an impressive short-story collection called October Screams: A Halloween Anthology. It is 27 stories authored by some of Paperback Warrior's favorite horror writers. 

Here are some of my favorites from this collection:

Ronald Malfi's “Tate” is a holiday-themed story that centers on a grieving couple on Halloween. It begins with Nick leaving the house to buy some candy for the visiting trick-or-treaters that will surely be arriving. His wife Alice waits patiently for his quick return, but begins to worry when the minutes turn into hours. When Nick returns, he's upset and heads straight to his dead son's bedroom. Alice comforts him, but both are surprised when a boy arrives at their door that resembles their deceased son. As the story unfolds, readers learn more about the boy's death and the finale was a throwback to the old EC Comics horror tales of the mid-20th century. “Tate” was really effective.

In “Perfect Night for a Perfect Murder”, author Jeremy Bates uses the short-story format to present this first-person perspective on how to properly commit premeditated murder. The protagonist is a crime-fiction author that is detailing the advantages of planning the perfect murder to coincide with what he persists is the best day of the year for murder, Halloween. The story is a blend of dark humor and crime-fiction, and it ends with a little twist that I could see coming. Very enjoyable.  

“Masks” is written by Brian Keene and Richard Chizmar and involves some kids pulling a convenience store robbery on Halloween night. There's some social commentary about Covid masks (no doubt Keene's doing) as the kids don costumes to rob the place. As the robbery ensues, one of the kids is forced to shoot a female customer that's wearing a devil mask. When the kids make the getaway, they begin noticing that all of the streets are empty. There is an eerie silence. When the kids are beckoned to the home of a friend, they see more people wearing devil masks. While the story is a bit scrambled and seems incomplete, it nonetheless provided plenty of entertainment. 

I did enjoy man of the other stories, including Kealan Patrick Burke's haunting “afraid of the dark” tale “Let the Dark Do the Rest” as well as the clever, touching doll-perspective short, “Doll”, by Ryan Van Ells. Overall, this collection has some hits and misses, but is sure to please fans of horror stories. If you are a Bates, Keene, Chizmar, and Malfi fan, then these stories alone are worth the price of admission. Recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

World's Scariest Places #05 - Mountain of the Dead

We've covered books by horror author Jeremy Bates, most notably his World's Scariest Places series of stand-alone novels. Each book in this series is based on a particular place that is closely associated with a tragedy, haunting, or unexplained event. Case in point is the Dyatlov Pass Incident, one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the 20th century. Bates uses this incident and location to place his horror-adventure novel Mountain of the Dead, originally published in 2018 via Ghillinnein Books. 

The book is partially presented in first-person narrative by Corey, a bestselling author of non-fiction. He recounts his harrowing expedition to Russia's frosty Northern Ural mountains, one of the most inhabitable regions on Earth. Corey, and his filmmaker buddy “Disco”, journeyed to the region to research the Dyatlov Pass Incident, a 1959 mystery involving nine Russian hikers that experienced gruesome deaths that can't be explained even within the scopes of modern science and forensics. 

In between Corey's portions of the novel, Bates weaves in events from 1959 concerning the actual hikers that were killed in the incident. Bates takes liberties with the incident and victims to create his own version of the murders, complete with Cryptozoology, actual photos, and a rather doomy title for these chapters counting down the amount of days left to live. It's quite fascinating. 

At 420 pages, approximately 15 characters, and two different timelines, Mountain of the Dead may seem intimidating. Oddly enough, it all blends together seamlessly to create one of the better horror novels I've read in some time. Corey's account of what happened to him in Siberia, the underground laboratory, hideous experiments, and ultimate encounter with the horrors of the Dyatlov Pass Incident were simply awe-inspiring. There's a real sense of adventure that envelopes the story as Corey is partnered with a female scientist, a hunter, and a remote guide to explore and locate the history of the events deep in the rural, icy mountain range. Likewise, Bates presents this same snowy adventure with the original nine hikers in 1959's trek through the high-mountain wilderness. 

As if Bates needed any further elements to propel the plot, there is a through-story arc regarding Corey's girlfriend and the tragedy that affected her years ago. Through life fragments and story pieces, readers learn about her life and, by the book's final chapters, her fate. So, there's an embedded mystery within the mystery. It's wildly clever, unique, and entrancing. 

Jeremy Bates is extremely successful and remains one of the bestselling, self-published authors of his genre. Books like Mountain of the Dead are testimonies to his success as an original, believable, and tremendously entertaining author. I love this guy. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

World's Scariest Places #03 - Helltown

After enjoying horror novels like Suicide Forest, The Mosquito Man, and The Sleep Experiment, I was anxious to read another book by Jeremy Bates. The Canadian-Australian author has two unique series titles – World's Scariest Legends and World's Scariest Places. The idea is that Bates uses some sort of urban legend or supposedly haunted place as the main element of these stand-alone novels. His 2015 novel Helltown is set in the abandoned town of Boston Mills, OH. 

The actual urban legends concerning the small town of Boston Mills, OH are pretty darn creepy. The real town, simply called Boston, was closed by the U.S. Forestry Department in 1974. The reasoning was the need to preserve forests in Summit County. The inhabitants were paid to leave and what remains is an abandoned town, complete with old buildings, rural roads, barricaded bridges, and some really wild legends. The white church in town looks to have upside-down crosses on its exterior. There's an abandoned school bus in the forest said to be haunted. Supposedly, a clan of wild cannibals resides in the town and prey on visitors. Toxic gas, disease, and rumors of giant pythons make it sound appealing enough for the occasional tourist to quench their thirst for adventure and mystery. Over the years, Boston is now deemed Helltown.

Bates uses a lot of these myths and legends in his horror narrative. The book is set in 1987 and features Boston Mills as a small community of rednecks that are still living in the town despite the fact that most of the population left 13 years earlier. These rednecks kill rabbits with dynamite, watch a lot of television, drink cases of beer daily, hang out a local bar, and worship Satan. That's right. Satan. 

Like a classic 80s horror flick, a group of kids are heading into Boston Mills on Halloween night, hoping to discover ghosts or chainsaw-wielding maniacs. Their car is run off the road by a hearse and the survivors find themselves on the run from crazed rednecks looking for rape, violence, and satanic sacrifice. The book's main characters are two good hearted girls, an ex-Army vet struggling with PTSD, an urban explorer and the whacked-out doctor that's behind the murder and mayhem. Bates uses the church, school bus, rural location, pythons, and crazy cannibal elements of the town's dark mythology to create his nightmarish horror novel. 

I think Jeremy Bates has a great thing going. These two series titles are just so much fun and have enough sex, violence, and gore to satisfy fans of Edward Lee and Bryan Smith without going full-blown splatterpunk. Bates' writing is provocative and deeply disturbing, but it isn't unreadable. He has a real talent to skirt the boundaries of absolute madness without pushing the reader over the edge. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of the book HERE.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

World's Scariest Places #01 - Suicide Forest

Jeremy Bates is a Toronto horror-fiction author that has won both an Australian Shadows Award and a Canadian Arthur Ellis Award. He's published two very unique series titles – The World's Scariest Places and The World's Scariest Legends. With these books, Bates spins his own original stories based on popular myths and folklore. After reading his 2019 novels Mosquito Man and The Sleep Experiment, both of which are part of The World's Scariest Legends, I was anxious to try one of his World's Scariest Places entries. I borrowed a friend's copy of Suicide Forest, originally published in 2014 and now available in both audio, physical and digital versions.

Suicide Forest is based on the very real “suicide forest” in Aokigahara, Japan (also known as the Sea of Trees). Sadly, under this tranquil, dense canopy of trees, over 100 people take their own life each and every year. Bates uses this bizarre magnetism to construct this survival-horror novel. 

Ethan and his girlfriend Mel are American teachers working temporarily in Japan. After agreeing to hike Mt. Fuji, the couple is joined by Mel's high school friend John, a co-worker named Neil and Ethan's best friend Tomo. When the book begins, the group of friends is near the entrance of Aokigahara debating on a hiking /camping in the forest after heavy rains delay their climb. After meeting two Israelis, Ben and Nina, the whole group embarks on a hiking trip into the “suicide forest”. 

After a few hours, the group finds a corpse hanging from a tree, an old abandoned car, and a thick atmosphere of doom and gloom (obviously!). The group eventually camps and awakens to find Ben dead and hanging from a tree. Thinking he committed suicide, the friends attempt to hike back out of the forest to find the police. Soon they become lost and Neil develops a traumatic case of the runs. Lost, with a corpse and stacks of diarrhea, the friends begin hearing noises in the forest. After Tomo is found dead (another hanging corpse!) and John is nearly killed, Mel and Ethan discover that the “suicide forest” has quickly turned into the hills of homicide.

At 350-pages, Suicide Forest never really feels bloated or overextended. In some ways it reminded me of another tight survival thriller, The Ruins by Scott Smith. Ethan's jealousy of Mel and John's relationship, John's military experiences in Iraq, Tomo's Japanese humor and Nina's sexuality all play important roles in keeping the narrative interesting and propulsive. The forest killers (or supernatural entities) are truly scary and Bates walks the balance beam on revealing just enough to keep readers guessing on what is really happening in these dark woods. 

Like my prior experiences with Bates, his stories continue to have a unique flavor. With over 20 published horror novels, this author still maintains quality over quantity. He's really something special and I can't wait to read more of his work (translation: I'm going to raid more of my friend's Jeremy Bates collection).