Showing posts with label Jon Bassoff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jon Bassoff. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The Lantern Man

Having read four of Jon Bassoff's nine novels to date, I'm convinced he might be the most talented and thought-provoking author in the business. When writing a blog dedicated to reviewing vintage fiction, of which many of its authors are long dead, it is unusual for me to even refer to a writer as still being alive and relevant. Yes, Bassoff is alive (and well I hope) and continuing to write amazing books that defy any specific genre. He's as much a murder-mystery guy as a horror writer, as much a crime-fiction stalwart as a noir enthusiast. If Bassoff was a filmmaker, nods to David Lynch would certainly be warranted. He's that good.

In The Lantern Man, originally published in 2020 by Down and Out Books, Bassoff once again takes his readers into a dark strip of American Gothic, a Bible Belt of the Devil where small-town killings somehow find a shaded pathway to a not-so-idyllic family. Like his previous novels in Corrosion and Beneath Cruel Waters, The Lantern Man is set in a small community nestled in a rural stretch of Colorado mountains. It is here that mining was once prominent, and like any mining town, there are inevitable childhood rumors of a murderous miner that steals away children in the night to feast on their flesh. This rumor of “The Lantern Man” plays a big part in the murder of a teenage girl. Did a killer miner from days gone by murder her or was it a young man named Stormy Greiner?

The book is presented in a pretty innovative way, with comparisons made to House of Leaves (Mark Danielewski) or Dracula (Bram Stoker). The book is presented as texts, but made up of diary entries that feature footnotes written by a detective. It is a form of ergodic literature where the reader is forced into a sort of game to review all of the book's passages and clues. It isn't a heavy lift and can be read seamlessly from beginning to end. 

Ultimately, the narrative is a pretty twisted venture into some really dark places. The book's protagonist, Lizzie Greiner, is immediately disclosed to the reader as a suicide victim, a young woman who burns herself to death in an old mining shack. Beside her charred body is her journal, left in a fireproof box in a way that spells out all of the events leading up to her death. 

Detective Russ Buchanan is assigned the cumbersome chore of weeding through the journal and interviewing witnesses that may hold the answer to the girl's murder. The real answer lies in the eye of the beholder – none of the evidence or witnesses provide an indisputable explanation. The author's message is purely subjective. 

The Lantern Man is an extremely rewarding reading experience. The text is a great story, saturated in family ties, mystery, and a compelling narrative. But, the presentation is equally satisfying and designed for fans of crime-fiction. No matter what genre you prefer, this novel checks off every box. Highest possible recommendation.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Beneath Cruel Waters

Horror and crime-fiction author Jon Bassoff continues to impress me with his literary work. As a modern writer, he is certainly in the top echelons for innovative, moving storytelling that captures the dark and dreary landscape of rural America. His books produce a poverty-ridden moodiness that reminds me of Joe R. Lansdale or Elmore Leonard, but with the hazy overtones of bleak horror. His newest novel, at the time of this writing, is Beneath Cruel Waters. It was published by Blackstone in 2022 and exists in audio, digital, and physical formats.

The book is presented in rotating timelines that incorporate present day events with those in the past. In the present, Holt Davidson has returned to his small Colorado hometown after discovering his mother took her own life. After rummaging through his mother's belongings, he finds a bizarre photo of a dead man. Why did his mother have this photo? What is the significance?

In the past, the author presents Davidson's childhood, mostly focusing on his mother's life. She is a single mom struggling to make ends meet. After meeting a former felon, she begins a dating routine that escalates into a frightful fatal-attraction scenario. Davidson's uncle arrives and begins to strike up a reunion with the family, catering to Davidson's sister. These past events, as trivial as they may seem, have a large impact on what Davidson is experiencing in present day.

As Davidson journeys into the past, attempting to make sense of his fuzzy memories, he learns a great deal about his tumultuous childhood, his mother's suicide, and horrifying events that forced his sister into a mental hospital. All of these events circumvent the dead man photo, a mysterious love letter, a gun, and an illegal abortionist. How they all tie into each other is the mystery, thrill, and entertainment of Bassoff's riveting novel.

Beneath Cruel Waters was nothing short of amazing. The characters, the plot development, the core mystery, and the presentation was masterfully woven to create the ultimate page-turner. As an intimate glimpse into the lives of small-town America, no one can do it any better than Jon Bassoff. If you love gripping novels that demand to be devoured in one sitting, look no further than Beneath Cruel Waters. Highest recommendation. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Captain Clive's Dreamworld

To date, Jon Bassoff has authored nine novels of dark crime-fiction and nightmarish horror. I read his debut novel, Corrosion, originally published in 2013, and really enjoyed it. The author has popped up on several “best of the year” lists over the last decade, including his novel Captain Clive's Dreamworld. It was published in 2020 by Eraserhead Press and received an audio book treatment by Blackstone Publishing. The book gained high praise on Amazon's reviews, which caught my eye while shopping for the next horror title to read. 

Deputy Sam Hardy works in a low-life, scum-ridden town plagued by violence and poverty. When a dead prostitute is found with her throat cut, Sam becomes a suspect in her murder. In an odd chain of events, Sam is instructed to move out of town to a place called Angels and Hope. The Sheriff sets Sam up to be the lone lawman of this sleepy desert town. Angels and Hope's claim to fame is a giant amusement park built by a zany entrepreneur named Captain Clive. But, the town is wonky and made up of two-faced citizens that seem to be hiding secrets. These characters evolve from the warm welcoming committee to malevolent tormentors over the course of the book.

Captain Clive's Dreamworld is a weird book, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's presented in a dreamlike way that ultimately conveys the book's title. At times it's like the quirky Twilight Zone episode “Stopover in a Quiet Town”, with the protagonist discovering that his small town is just a reproduction. Other times, Bassoff's writing is dark erotica, complete with disturbingly graphic sex scenes that mostly involve rape or incest. In that regard, it isn't a far cry from the likes of Jack Ketchum or Bryan Smith, two authors I mostly stay away from. Perhaps the best comparison is that of Bentley Little – a little of this and a little of that to make an outlandish horror story memorable. 

Bassoff is a terrific writer that can get the most out of his characters through heartache, emotional angst, homicidal thoughts, and guilt. This gauntlet of emotions lies before the reader to enjoy or combat, which makes the reading  a rip-roar, gut-wrenching event. The reader feels something – good, bad, squeamish - which is what every author desires. There was also a great story here worth telling. It's a cyclical narrative with a plot development that offered some horrifying surprises. 

If  perverted horror is really your thing, then you'll love Captain Clive's Dreamworld. Honestly, I was just lukewarm on some of the provocative stuff, but the story as a whole was good enough for me to...thrust onward I suppose. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, October 8, 2021


Jon Bassoff teaches high school in Colorado. He's also a novelist with eight published books, including The Disassembled Man, which is scheduled for a film adaptation starring Emile Hirsch. My first experience with Bassoff is his debut book, Corrosion, originally published in 2013. It now exists in both physical and digital versions through Down & Out Books. 

Corrosion is a powerful crime-fiction novel with comparisons to Cormac McCarth (No Country For Old Men). I can't say I've ever read a book quite like it. The story is set in a rural mountain town amidst disparity, depression, and poverty. The beginning of the book is from the viewpoint of Joseph Downs, a disfigured Iraq war vet who drifts into town and meets a whore named Lilith. Lonely and broke, Joseph finds acceptance in the arms of Lilith and will do anything to keep her. 

The middle of Bassoff's narrative switches the time-period and perspective. This portion is from the viewpoint of Benton Faulk, a young boy living in this small town seven years prior to Downs' arrival. His father is deranged and his mother is dying. Faulk escapes his miserable life by obsessing over a waitress named Constance while also fantasizing about becoming a war hero in Iraq. 

These two characters, and their experiences, eventually cross paths and the end result is a moving piece about loneliness and rejection. It's hard to describe any other portions of the book for fear of spoiling your enjoyment. That would be a terrible disservice to you. I highly recommend Corrosion, it's a solid first effort from an author that you should be reading.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 94

Autumn has arrived and so has Episode 94! On this episode, Eric reviews Philip Ketchum, a prolific author that excelled in the pulps and western genres. Eric reviews Ketchum's "Captain John Murdoch" hard-boiled cop series as well as his short stories, westerns and fantasy offerings. In addition, Eric reviews a 2013 horror novel called Corrosion by Jon Bassoff and his book shopping experience in Port Orange, Florida. Listen on any podcast app, or download directly HERE:

Listen to "Episode 94: Philip Ketchum" on Spreaker.