Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: The Soft Whisper of The Dead. By Charles L. Grant

Whenever I start to get bored of the horror genre, or start to lose my faith in stories about things that go bump in the night, I go to my bookshelf and pick out a Charles L. Grant title, and lo and behold, I am a believer again. The Soft Whisper of The Dead is no exception.

Grant is a master of atmosphere, smooth yet artful prose, and well-rounded characters. His plots, if not always very sophisticated, get the job done, and his mastery of pacing is a marvel. All of Grant’s strengths are showcased here, in this tight, little story about vampires taking over the small town of Oxrun Station, and the attempts of two lovers, police officer Ned Stockton, and Pamela Squires, of foiling the vampires’ plans. The main villain, Count Brastov, is cleverly kept in the shadows throughout most of the tale, only to come out at the right moments to deliciously unnerve readers.

Even though there’s nothing new here in terms of plot, it is the storytelling that gets you with its freshness and style. Highly recommended.

N.B. Long out of print, the book is now available as an e-book in various stores.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: R. L. Stine's Fear Street Sagas: The Hidden Evil. By Wendy Haley

Remember back in the late 80's - early 90's when the Fear Street books were all the rage among tweens and young teens? I wasn't one of those, I am afraid, as I am a little too young to have been the right age at the right time. But I did discover R. L. Stine and Fear Street about a decade ago (my own novel, Beware The Night, was partly inspired by them), and, I have to admit, I found many of the books enjoyable, light, and occasionally very silly reads. But there's a reason why Stine is one of the most successful authors of all time, and that is his formula for an unputdownable book: Short sentences, short paragraphs, short chapters, cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, and plots that don't tax the  reader's brain. The Fear Street books are brain-candy at its most fun.

Among the many off-shoots and spin-offs of Fear Street published were the "Fear Street Sagas", which recounted the adventures of the original Fear (or Fier) family. Most of these were written by other authors, and The Hidden Evil was written by Wendy Haley.

The Hidden Evil is unlike any other Fear Street book I've read, with the story being a cross between the darker Fear Street books and Henry James' The Turn of The Screw. This is an entertaining Gothic Ghost Story set in 19th century Boston, about a young governess (who has a terrible secret of her own) who takes charge of two young boys, one of which seems to be a homicidal maniac who hears his recently dead mother talking to him at night. What ensues is a slight tale, of murder, ghosts, and secrets, with an effective twist ending.

This isn't literature, folks, but it sure is one entertaining, little book, that is perfect for those nights when you feel like reading something, but don't feel up to reading something heavy. After all, that's what all of R. L. Stine's books are made for. To pass the time.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Film Review: The Possession (2012)

The only reason I watched this movie was the involvement of Sam Raimi and his Ghost House company. That's not to say that Raimi and his production company have a great track record (Boogeyman, anyone?) But any horror film that involves Sam Raimi must have something to offer, right? Well...

As far as demonic possession/exorcist films go, The Possession is nothing very special. The first half is moody and well-paced, with the family drama, about a family going through a divorce, serving as an effective backdrop for the slowly building supernatural shenanigans. But the second half, where all the spooky stuff takes place, is of the been-there-done-that variety. Director Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch) knows how to create stylish visuals and get good performances from his cast, but the plot offers almost nothing new, aside from exploiting the Hasidic side of exorcism rites (instead of the usual Catholic imagery audiences usually associate with this kind of film).

Overall, this is a mildly entertaining horror film, with a couple of memorably scary sequences. But the plot is cliched, the turn of events familiar, and the final scene especially ho-hum. And did anyone else notice that a crucial plot device is lifted from Ruby Jean Jensen's novel, Death Stone, about a young girl getting possessed by wearing a cursed ring? 

Book Review: Space On My Hands. By Frederic Brown

Back in the 1950's and 60's, Frederic Brown was considered a master of suspense and dark fantasy, mainly because many of his stories were made into episodes of Hitchcock Presents, and other popular anthology shows. I've always found him to be a master of the short story, with most of his tales having a nasty bent to them, a brooding atmosphere, as he had a knack for nihilistic, dark endings that made his stories linger in the memory. That's not to say Brown is another H. P. Lovecraft. Not at all. Many of his stories, especially his most well-known ones, are light, snappily-plotted ones, but as many are dark and complex.

The collection Space On My Hands a collection of mainly Sci-Fi tales, is a mixture of both. You have the lighter ones (Pi In The Sky, a brilliantly sarcastic tale about advertising; All Good Bems; Nothing Sirius; Crisis, 1999, a clever sci-fi/detective tale involving hypnosis; and Star Mouse), and the darker-toned ones (Knock; Something Green; and the closing tale, Come And Go Mad, a masterpiece of psychological horror).

So if you are looking for some vintage mystery/Sci-Fi from the Golden Age (this collection was first published in 1951), Space On My Hands is a good choice.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: The Monk. By William H. Hallahan

William H. Hallahan is hardly a prolific author. In the past forty years, since the start of his career as an author, he has written a dozen books (fiction and non-fiction); the most well-known is the supernatural thriller, The Search For Joseph Tully, considered by some to be a minor masterpiece of atmospheric horror.

The Monk, published in 1983, is another of what Hallahan calls his "occult novels", books which feature demons, psychics, astral projection, and epic battles between forces of Good and Evil. The Monk tells the story of a young man with a purple aura, a supremely benevolent human being destined to end the war between Satan and God's angels, led by fallen angel Timothy. Across thousands of years, the battle has raged on, with Satan and his minion, The Black Hawk, managing to kill each and every one of the children born with  purple auras, before Timothy and his familiar, a dog named Repentance, could get to them and complete the ceremony required to win the war against The Devil. What ensues is partly a chase novel, partly a metaphysical/mystical thriller, about a young man trapped between two warring cosmic forces that both want him for their own.

The Monk is a bizarre book. It is a sprawling and somewhat disjointed story, jumping from the creation of Man, to Heaven and Hell, to present day New York, to set-pieces featuring demons, banshees, and devils, to a love story between the book's protagonist and his lover, to a monastery which houses a possible Satan-worshiper! That is not to say that The Monk is a bad book, or even an average one. Far from it. This is an endlessly compelling story, energetically told. But Hallahan's straightforward prose occasionally is too flavorless for its own good, while the novel's first part is so convoluted that I almost gave up on it before getting to the good stuff, about halfway into the book.

But what Hallahan has going for him is the sheer readability of the book. No matter how strange and disjointed the story gets, one just can't stop reading! Which, I guess, is a sure sign of a good book, or, at least, a hell of an entertaining one.

Although flawed, with the climax being especially disappointing, this is one fun ride, with scenes of brilliantly conceived suspense, and a hypnotic, dreamy atmosphere. Recommended.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BEWARE THE NIGHT out now, and why you should buy it...

My new book, Beware The Night, a dark, coming-of-age novel, is out now at the Amazon Kindle Store. I think it's a pretty good book, has heart, can get quite frightening at times, and, like any piece of good writing, features some of my own personal demons within its pages.

I've been working on it for two years, now, and I am damn proud of the way it's turned out. As any writer  of dark fiction will tell you, coming-of-age horror novels are a dime a dozen, and they aren't easy to pull off; if your goal is produce something original, that is.

But why should you, dear reader, buy this book? After all, it's understandable that I, the author of said book, would promote my own work, endlessly, sing its praises, tell you it's the best book in the whole wide world!

But there is another reason why you should give my book a try. And that is the thrill of discovering a new favorite author.

Allow me to explain.

A few years ago, I was stuck in a rut, emotionally and professionally. The things that turned me on, energized me, made my day, had ceased to have that effect on me. Some call that depression, I call it a down period. Anyway, I discovered that I was bored of all the authors I usually depended upon to give me that indescribable feeling of losing yourself in a good story. And, for a person who lives to read and tell stories, that was a disaster of epic proportions.

So, after moping around for a while, waiting for my muse to come back and bite me in that secret place where stories come from, I decided to do the only thing I could do: go down to the nearest bookstore and buy a book. And since I was living in a hell hole in the middle of North Africa at the time, that wasn't going to be easy. But I somewhat knew my way around that city and decided to give it a try.

I headed to one of the few bookstores that offered used books in that country, went in, went straight to the used books section, and took a dive. That day, strangely enough, that little bookstore that pretended to be more than it really was (which was a place that paid more attention to the coffee it served its poseur clientele than to the selection of books it offered), had in stock quite a bizarre array of used titles. That strange evening I was introduced to authors I'd never heard of before, like Ruby Jean Jensen, whose book Victoria (an effective ghost story and one of her best) was among the collection on offer for a buck and a half; Robert W. Walker, whose thriller Cutting Edge I also found among the pile (and which turned out to be one damn fine book); Stuart Woods, whose book Palindrome was on sale for three bucks; and F. Paul Wilson, whose medical thriller The Select, was on sale for a buck fifty.

In a sense, that day, my life as a writer changed, as I discovered two new favorite authors, Robert W. Walker (a versatile, prolific, and highly underrated writer of thrillers) and F. Paul Wilson, whose books so amazed me with their breezy style, their flavor, that I dedicated my last novel, Phantasms, published earlier this year, to him.

Although I had been a frequent buyer of used books prior to that day, I'd never lucked out and discovered so many good books at once, and, for some reason, I discovered, or rather re-discovered, the thrill of finding a new favorite author, that thrill of delving into the mysterious world of books, diving into that musty pile of used paperbacks and grabbing unknown treasures, some of which changed my life, some of which re-kindled my fire, reminded me why I wanted to be a writer in the first place, why, when I was only seven, I used to sit down in front of the TV and jot down the stories I was seeing on screen, trying to reshape them through the wild imagination of a child.

And that's why you should seriously consider buying my new book, Beware The Night, because by reading it, you just might feel that thrill of discovering a new favorite author. Like I did that day.

Beware The Night is now available for sale at the Amazon Kindle Store.

From the back cover: "A New Kid In Town. A Demented Gang of Bullies. An Ancient Evil. The City of Crofton Is About To Face Its Worst Nightmare…

Adam and his father, the enigmatic Dr. Alfred Novello, arrive at the small city of Crofton, looking for a fresh start after the death of Adam’s mother. But soon, Adam meets a troubled kid named Macs (pronounced Max), who drags Adam into a terrible nightmare of ancient evil.

To make matters worse, Adam and his new friend attract the attention of a vicious gang of bullies who call themselves “The Ghosts”, and who want Adam dead!

With his father wallowing in his own grief, Adam and Macs have no one to turn to for help against the evil they are about to face, an evil that has been waiting for centuries to tear Crofton apart…

From the acclaimed author of “Coffin X” and “Phantasms”, comes this dark and thrilling coming-of-age novel. A must-read for fans of Stephen King’s It, Peter Straub’s Shadowland, Robert McCammon’s A Boy’s Life, and the cult classic The Monster Squad.

This is the third book in "The Crofton Cycle", a series of loosely connected books which feature recurring characters and themes.

A. Kale is the author of six books, including the acclaimed collection TOWARD THE 20TH GHOST, and PHANTASMS: A NOVEL.

Praise for A. Kale:

"If you're a fan of the paranormal, you'll want to give this one a look..." - Filmfanaddict!

"Genuinely haunting..." - Bloodtype Online  

"The stories are compelling..." - Rogue Cinema"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Book Coming Soon!

My new book, Beware The Night, a coming-of-age horror novel, is coming out this October on Amazon Kindle, just in time for Halloween.

Reminiscent of Stephen King's It, Peter Straub's Shadowland, Christopher Golden's Straight On 'Til Morning, and Robert McCammon's A Boy's Life, this is a must read for fans of the genre. It is part of my "Crofton Cycle", a series of loosely connected novels, which all involve the city of Crofton and the dark secrets it holds.

Synopsis coming soon. But, for now, check out the cover art.