Showing posts with label Ronald Malfi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ronald Malfi. 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.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Black Mouth

We continue to make our way through horror author Ronald Malfi's bibliography, including his prior publications as well as brand new ones. The Brooklyn native's debut, The Space Between, was published in 2000. His 2011 novel Floating Staircase was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. Collectively, the author has 27 novels and novellas published with his newest, Black Mouth, released in 2022. 

Black Mouth has a familiar horror premise that was popularized by Stephen King in his iconic novel It. The concept is that troubled adults reunite to combat a terror they experienced in their childhood. In this case, Jamie, an alcoholic construction worker, receives a notification that his mother has died. Facing his fears, Jamie returns to West Virginia to reunite with his disabled brother. But, the duo begin to experience the horrors from their childhood regarding a mysterious one-eyed magician. The terror stems from a black pit leading to the town's closed mining shaft.

The supporting characters are Mia and Clay, both of which were Jamie's childhood friends that experienced the trauma as well. Jamie contacts them and soon the foursome are reunited to track down the magician. The author includes a wild card with a hooker-killing lunatic that is also haunted by the magician. The narrative travels from present day events to the 1990s, offering two time periods for readers.

Black Mouth offers a wild emotional ride as these adults, and kids, face small town horrors as well as their own personal traumas. The idea of the evil magician reminded me of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, with an elevated dose of violence and murder. While disturbing, Black Mouth never offered any truly chilling scares, instead focusing on a more visceral level than physical. There were a few surprises, some laughs and cries, and a genuine, heartfelt camaraderie between the characters that helped solidify the story. While not Malfi's best, the talented author is still miles ahead of his contemporaries. Black Mouth is a recommended read. 

Get your copy HERE.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Paperback Warrior Episode 101 - Steve Frazee

It's a new era as Paperback Warrior storms into the next 100 episodes. #101 features a look at western and action-adventure author Steve Frazee's life and career in the pulps and paperbacks. Tom explains to listeners his cash-grab scheme using his local library and Eric discusses his recent western paperback acquisitions. Additionally, horror author Ronald Malfi, crime-fiction author Lionel White, and sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg. Watch the show's video HERE, stream audio and video below, or download the audio directly HERE.

Listen to "Episode 101 - Steve Frazee" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


Horror author Ronald Malfi seems to have made his way into the mainstream. I recently found a copy of his haunted house novel Little Girls sitting on an end cap at Target. I remember singing the author's praises in the 2000s and I'm happy his literary career is beginning to take off. In the early days, Malfi was published by the likes of Dark Fuse and Samhain Publishing. I had been saving Borealis for a rainy day. It's an 80ish page novella originally published in 2009 by Samhain and the weatherman says we are in for a storm. The time has come.

The book begins with a man named Bodine urgently driving a young girl to a rundown Las Vegas motel. Immediately, something is amiss with this bizarre child. She tells Bodine she doesn't have a name and doesn't have any parents. She's giddy, mischievous, and just downright scary. Shockingly, Bodine retrieves a handgun from his waistband with the intention of murdering the girl. The scene then transforms into the morning after with the town's sheriff finding Bodine's brains on the bathroom wall in an apparent suicide. The girl is gone and that was twelve years ago.

Present day, protagonist Charlie Mears is smelling the diesel fumes of a fishing trawler. He's been on board the Borealis for seven days pulling cages of crabs from the seabed. It's a hard blue-collar life made even harder by the harsh landscape. The crew is in the icy Bering Sea, hundreds of miles from the coasts of Alaska. After a long day of trawling, Charlie looks out into the glaciers and spots a young naked woman running on the ice. The crew stops to make the rescue.

On board, fed, warmed, and clothed, the crew provides her the Captain's quarters. But one crew member says something isn't right about her, that he has a bad feeling in her presence. When they ask the woman what her name is, she coldly explains she doesn't have one. She also can't explain where she came from. When one of the crewmen is found dead, the story takes a darker turn. Who is this woman? Or, better yet, what is this thing?

I've always loved cold weather stories that include nautical adventure or survival. That also includes atmospheric horror novels or movies set in frosty locations. As a fan of John Carpenter's film The Thing (based on a movie that was based on a short story), I found that Malfi's storytelling skills possess that same tone – the isolation, cold fear, and survival element. This little girl – young woman -  is just so damn creepy and it gave me chills when she tells Charlie things about his life that she has no way of knowing. The story also reminded me of Stephen King's great screenplay Storm of the Century. Malfi's escalating tension into total panic works on so many levels. It's visceral violence, psychological horror, and haunting suspense all aboard a stationary broken boat. The perfect nightmare.

I wish Borealis was still available for purchase. At the time of this review, the novella remains out of print. Wolfpack Publishing, Brash Books, Stark's your chance! This story deserves an audience.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

After the Fade

Few authors have the uncanny ability to tell stories with a mesmerizing authority. Ronald Malfi has that gift and uses it to show us chilling displays of morbid art. From supernatural works like Floating Staircase and The Narrows to the gritty rural dilemmas presented in Skullbelly, Malfi demands your attention. It demands that you sit still while the madness inject itself into your conscious. Like the parasites in After The Fade that slowly inject their stingers into helpless prey. It is this slow deterioration of Malfi's characters that mirrors our own descent as readers. Malfi provides instantly likeable characters that we can bond with, while bringing their demise in what amounts to as a "must see" of downfall and doom.

In After The Fade, originally published by Delirium in 2012, the author introduces us to a small tavern filled with a Cheers style cast of characters. Who wouldn't drink with old Mr. Peebles, the stereotypical drunk sailor with an eye for forgotten bar tabs? How about flirting with forty something bar keep Tori, cute as a button and tough as nails? Malfi introduces us to main character Tommy, a musician who invites his girlfriend Lauren to the tavern for the big break-up only to find that the world outside has been invaded by hordes of insect-like predators. 

Malfi patiently waits for us to become attached to these characters and then brings on Armageddon quickly and efficiently. This is a valuable trait that Malfi utilizes with remarkable success. It is the bonding before bombing us. We know it's coming... but Malfi makes us watch. 

After The Fade is a novella constructed around the question, "what happens after the music fades?" Is the silence an outro or really an intro? How comfortable are we with the thick silence after the fade?
Malfi presents these questions with an idea that certainly is influenced by the age old concept of taking average people and putting them in extraordinary circumstances. 

The struggles of confined survivors have been presented often in horror culture, yet Malfi still has that unique ability to provide a different perspective on the plight of humanity. That is what transforms a really good horror author into a powerhouse of style and substance. After The Fade proves all of this and indeed provides an uncomfortable and chilling silence after the last sentence is read. Malfi does not disappoint.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Mr. Cables

Mr. Cables is an 82-page novella from 2020 by horror author Ronald Malfi. The story is narrated by a successful horror author named Wilson Paventeau. At a bookstore signing, a fan asks him to sign a 1999 hardcover called “Mr. Cables” by Wilson Paventeau. The problem? Wilson never wrote the book.

He trades the mysterious hardcover for a copy of his new novel and brings the book home. It’s published by an unknown imprint that placed Wilson's photo on the author page with a mostly-accurate bio. Why would anyone go to this much trouble to create a counterfeit book?

Things start getting truly scary once the reader begins to understand the content of the book itself. I won’t spoil it for you here, but Malfi avoids the trap of using the “book inside a book” gambit and instead allows the reader to draw their own conclusion about why the novel scares its readers so much.

Late-book revelations shed satisfying light on what exactly is happening here as Malfi explores the sources of the authors’ ideas and inspiration. I enjoyed Mr. Cables quite a bit and found sections to be genuinely unnerving. As such, I can recommend this book to contemporary horror fans without reservation. This was my first experience with Malfi’s writing, but it won’t be my last. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Come With Me

Come With Me is the latest novel by horror fiction author Ronald Malfi. For this selection, he steps away from supernatural fiction to present the reader with a story of human grief and loss unfolding within a “hunt-the-serial-killer” procedural mystery.

Our narrator is Aaron, a man who discovers that his deceased reporter wife - her name was Allison - was secretly on the trail of a serial killer. For reasons he doesn’t understand, Allison’s amateur gumshoe work was kept a tight secret from Aaron and others in her life. Learning this does little to heal the crushing grief and loneliness Aaron feels for his bride’s death. After all, they had an awesome marriage. Why would she keep this obsession a secret?

Aaron takes up the hunt to learn more about his wife’s hidden infatuation and becomes enmeshed in the maniacal mystery himself. I would compare Come With Me favorably to the work of Harlan Coben or Linwood Barclay in which secrets of the distant past are brought to light by an everyman in the present.

The first half of the book is a slow-burn, but Malfi is an excellent and vivid writer, so the reader is never bored. The second half speeds up quite a bit as our narrator begins putting the pieces together and approaches a solution. At 400 pages, it could have used some trimming and would have been more impactful at a lean 300 pages.

There was a whole sub-genre of serial killer books after Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs, and Come With Me can be counted as a late-entry in that category. Would-be amateur sleuths and fans of the current true crime podcast craze will also find themselves in familiar territory with this novel.

Overall, there’s nothing here not to like. The writing was superb. The protagonist was likable and sympathetic. The mystery’s solution and climactic ending were both very satisfying. It’s an easy recommendation for fans of contemporary suspense and mystery fiction.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 87

On Episode 87 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, we discuss the work of A.S. Fleischman. Also: Ronald Malfi, Barry Malzberg, Thrift Store Outing, Todhunter Ballard, Mountain Man, Eric Corder, and more! Listen on any podcast app, stream below or download directly HERE 

Listen to "Episode 87: A.S. Fleischman" on Spreaker.