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New Treasures: The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths edited by Mark Valentine

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Black Veil and Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths-smallI love these Wordsworth Tales of Mystery And The Supernatural volumes. They’ve compact, attractive, and inexpensive — they look great on the shelf, and they make quick reads. Plus, they’re just so darned collectible.

My latest acquisition is already one of my favorites. We’ve paid a lot of attention to Supernatural Sleuths at Black Gate over the years, from William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki The Ghost Finder to Manly Wade Wellman’s John Thunstone and Silver John stories, and Paula Guran’s terrific recent anthology Weird Detectives – and deservedly so. This has been a year of terrible weather and when it’s cold, dark, and blustery outside, the best antidote is to curl up with a cozy blanket and a warm beverage, and share the adventures of an intrepid occult detective.

Our real expert is Josh Reynolds, who over the last few years has covered many of the most famous literary examples in his series on The Nightmare Men – from Sheridan Le Fanu’s Dr. Martin Hesselius to Aylmer Vance, The Ghost-Seeker; from Manly Wade Wellman’s stalwart Judge Keith Hilary Pursuivant to Seabury Quinn’s always resourceful Jules de Grandin.

Looking back over all those articles, you may just find yourself more than a little curious. But where to start? Why not start with Mark Valentine’s generous collection of some of the best short stories featuring some of the greatest  supernatural sleuths in all of literature?

The Gateway of the Monster… The Red Hand… The Ghost Hunter

To Sherlock Holmes the supernatural was a closed book: but other great detectives have always been ready to do battle with the dark instead. This volume brings together sixteen chilling cases of these supernatural sleuths, pitting themselves against the peril of ultimate evil.

Here are encounters from the casebooks of the Victorian haunted house investigators John Bell and Flaxman Low, from Carnacki, the Edwardian battler against the abyss, and from horror master Arthur Machen s Mr Dyson, a man-about-town and meddler in strange things. Connoisseurs will find rare cases such as those of Allen Upward s The Ghost Hunter, Robert Barr s Eugene Valmont (who may have inspired Agatha Christie s Hercule Poirot) and Donald Campbell s young explorer Leslie Vane, the James Bond of the jazz age, who battles against occult enemies of the British Empire. And the collection is completed by some of the best tales from the pens of modern psychic sleuth authors.

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The Dungeon Dozen

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

DDcoverNext copyThe first roleplaying game I owned was the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set edited by J. Eric Holmes, as you’re all probably tired of hearing by now. Among the many memorable features of that boxed set was that some of its printings (including my own) did not include dice. Instead, these sets included a sheet of laminated paper chits printed in groups that mimicked the ranges of polyhedral dice (1–4, 1–6, 1–8, 1–10, 1–12, and 1–20).  The purchaser of the game was instructed to cut them apart and “place each different type in a small container (perhaps a small paper cup), and each time a number generation is called for, draw a chit at random from the appropriate container.”

This I dutifully did, taking several small Dixie Cups from my upstairs bathroom for the purpose. Leaving aside the disbelief-suspending flower print of the cups, this method of random number generation was awkward and decidedly un-fun. Consequently, I set out to find a proper set of dice with which to play D&D, a quest that took me to a local toy store, which had them hidden away behind the counter. I bought that set – made of terrible, low impact plastic – and rushed home to use them. I wanted to be a “real” Dungeons & Dragons player. For all their faults, those dice were, in many ways, what sealed my fate as a lifelong roleplayer. There was something downright magical about those little, weirdly shaped objects that captured my imagination almost as much as the game itself.

I am fascinated not just by dice, but also by randomness. I’ve come to believe that one of the real, perhaps fundamental distinction between “old school” roleplaying games and their latter day descendants is the extent to which randomness informs game play. As a younger person, I went through a period when I intensely disliked randomness and used it as a bludgeon against games, including D&D, that I decided I disliked. Older, if not wiser, I no longer think that way. Indeed, I celebrate randomness as a vital part of what makes a RPG enjoyable for me. Randomness is frequently a godsend, providing me with a steady stream of ideas and inspiration when I find myself at a loss for either (which is often). Randomness also enables me to be surprised, even when I’m the referee, which is no small feat after more than three decades behind the screen. In short, I love randomness.

Therefore, I suppose I’m predisposed to love a book like The Dungeon Dozen by Jason Sholtis. This 222-page book is a compilation of the many “flavor-rich yet detail-free” random tables available on Sholtis’s eponymously named blog, accompanied by a great deal of black and white art provided by Chris Brandt, John Larrey, Stefan Poag, and Sholtis himself.

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New Treasures: Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Santa Olivia-smallJacqueline Carey is a bestselling author known chiefly for her Kushiel novels, erotic fantasies that follow the adventures of a courtesan in a fantasy version of France. I tried the first one, Kushiel’s Dart, over a decade ago, but gave up after about a hundred pages. I couldn’t really get into it.

I didn’t pay much attention to Jacqueline Carey after that, and as a result I almost overlooked her highly regarded Santa Olivia. A significant departure from her previous novels, it has been described as “Jacqueline Carey’s take on comic book superheroes and the classic werewolf myth.”

Set in Outpost 12, a small town in a buffer zone shielding a near-future Texas from plague-devastated Mexico, Santa Olivia follows a group of orphans who decide to strike back against the oppressive military rule. All in all, it sounds like a pretty captivating mix — and well worth checking out.

There is no pity in Santa Olivia. And no escape. In this isolated military buffer zone between Mexico and the U.S., the citizens of Santa Olivia are virtually powerless. Then an unlikely heroine is born. She is the daughter of a man genetically manipulated by the government to be a weapon. A “Wolf-Man,” he was engineered to have superhuman strength, speed, stamina, and senses, as well as a total lack of fear. Named for her vanished father, Loup Garron has inherited his gifts.

Frustrated by the injustices visited upon her friends and neighbors by the military occupiers, Loup is determined to avenge her community. Aided by a handful of her fellow orphans, Loup takes on the guise of their patron saint, Santa Olivia, and sets out to deliver vigilante justice-aware that if she is caught, she could lose her freedom… and possibly her life.

Santa Oliva was published on May 29, 2009 by Grand Central Publishing. It is 341 pages, priced at $13.99 in trade paperback.


The H.P. Source: Why I Chose Mythos and Magic to Launch my Publishing House

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 | Posted by Neil Baker

Dark Rites of CthulhuLet’s get the unpleasantness out of the way. There’s a new book in town called The Dark Rites of Cthulhu and I strongly suggest you buy it, if not in glorious paperback form, then as a Kindle edition. Hell’s teeth, shell out for a special edition and you could have your very own shoggoth beermat, something you never knew you needed until I just mentioned it.

I opened with this subtle sales pitch not just because I have children to feed, nor that I would really like to publish another book, but because I believe that my editor, Brian M. Sammons, and I have tapped into a rich vein that has been somewhat overlooked in this (some might say) Lovecraft-saturated landscape.

It cannot be denied that the cold climes of R’yleh have never been hotter. Mythos-based novels and anthologies have been materializing with the regularity of jellyish monstrosities drawn to a resonator, the well-received TV drama, True Detective, teased elements from The King in Yellow, which was a huge influence on Lovecraft’s own writings, and now rumors abound that HPL himself will pop up in a planned Houdini biopic.

This led me to a couple of conclusions. One, there would be a built-in audience for my planned book, and two, I would have to make my book stand out from the crowd. This is why, when Brian pitched his ‘dark magic’ angle, I leapt at the chance to pursue it.

A great many of the books in the market at the moment deal with the physical conflict between humans and the Elder Gods, and rightly so. The very nature of cosmic horror lends an epic quality to even the shortest of tales and hugely entertaining anthologies abound that place the Mythos in historic, contemporary, and even futuristic settings.

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New Treasures: The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring

Friday, April 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ghost Hunters Neil Spring-smallAh, I love a good spooky story. And I love 1920s British mysteries. So… a 1920s British mystery/ghost story? What’s not to love?

The Ghost Hunters is Neil Spring’s first novel. I stumbled on it while shopping for discount books at Amazon.com; proof that online browsing can be just as effective as bookstore browsing to discover books from unknown authors. For those of us with poor impulse control, anyway.

Welcome to Borley Rectory, the most haunted house in England.

The year is 1926 and Sarah Grey has landed herself an unlikely new job – personal assistant to Harry Price, London’s most infamous ghost hunter. Equal parts brilliant and charming, neurotic and manipulative, Harry has devoted his life to exposing the truth behind England’s many ‘false hauntings’, and never has he left a case unsolved, nor a fraud unexposed.

So when Harry and Sarah are invited to Borley Rectory – a house so haunted objects frequently fly through the air unbidden, and locals avoid the grounds for fear of facing the spectral nun that walks there – they’re sure that this case will be just like any other. But when night falls and still no artifice can be found, the ghost hunters are forced to confront an uncomfortable truth: the ghost of Borley Rectory may be real and, if so, they’re about to make its most intimate acquaintance.

The Ghost Hunters was published in the UK by Quercus in October, 2013. It is 522 pages, priced at £7.99, or £5.99 for the digital edition. There is no American edition planned, far as I know. I bought my copy through a UK book dealer on Amazon.com for $8.90, plus $3.99 shipping.


New Treasures: Blood Riders by Michael Spradlin

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Blood Riders Michael Spradlin-smallOkay, I admit I’ve been on a weird western kick recently. It started with the Bloodlands novels of Christine Cody, Lee Collins’s She Returns From War, and Guy Adams’s The Good The Bad and The Infernal and the sequel Once Upon a Time in Hell; then I moved on to Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill’s Dead Reckoning, and The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher. For those of you keeping up at home — congratulations. We should form a book club.

Michael Spradlin’s Blood Riders is the latest, and it looks like it will fit right in, with plenty of vampires, monsters, and weird goings-on in the post-Civil War Western Territories.

The Western Territories, 1880. For four years, Civil War veteran and former U.S. Cavalry Captain Jonas P. Hollister has been rotting in a prison cell at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His crime: lying about the loss of eleven soldiers under his command… who he claims were slaughtered by a band of nonhuman, blood-drinking demons.

But now a famous visitor, the detective Allan Pinkerton, has arrived with an order for Hollister’s release. The brutal murder of a group of Colorado miners in a fashion frighteningly similar to the deaths of Hollister’s men has leant new credence to his wild tale. And suddenly Jonas Hollister finds himself on a quest both dangerous and dark — joining forces with Pinkerton, the gunsmith Oliver Winchester, an ex-fellow prisoner, a woman of mystery, and a foreigner named Abraham Van Helsing, who knows many things about the monsters of the night — and riding hell for leather toward an epic confrontation… with the undead.

Blood Riders was published September 25, 2012 by Harper Voyager Fantasy. It is 388 pages, priced at $7.99 for the paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.


Tribulations Herculean and Tragic: Beyond Wizardwall by Janet Morris

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Beyond Wizardwall

Woe betide the soul who loves too much, wants too much, dares too much.

I finish my reviews of the 5-star, Author’s Cut editions of Janet Morris’s classic of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy, with the third and final book, Beyond Wizardwall. This was the toughest of the three to review because there is so much that happens and so much ground to cover. This is also the most dramatic, tense and emotionally powerful of the three books. Let me begin with a little recap in Janet’s own words:

Heavy snows had put the war against Mygdonia and its Nisibisi wizards into hiatus. Niko’s commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, had employed magic to bring his mixed cadre of shock troops (Rankan 3rd Commando rangers, Tysian ‘specials,’ hillmen of Free Nisibis, and Niko’s unit of Stepsons) back to Tyse for the winter. Fighting had ended inconclusively, with the Mygdonian warlord Ajami still at large.

They ride into Tyse triumphant and settle in to wait for spring, content with the season’s work. All except Niko. Everything in this excellent novel revolves around Niko (who is also known by his war name, Stealth), for what trials he endures and what tribulations he suffers are Herculean and tragic and form the core of this novel.

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New Treasures: Crack’d Pot Trail by Steven Erikson

Monday, April 7th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Crack'd Pot Trail-smallIt was Jason Waltz, the hard-working mastermind behind Rogue Blades Entertainment, who first introduced me to the twisted and entertaining adventures of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, the famed necromancers from the Malazan Book of the Fallen. With little in the way of redeeming qualities, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach — and their hard-drinking manservant, Emancipor Reese — are the unlikely protagonists in a series of short novels that mix comedy and horror in equal measure. This time they find themselves on the run from a group of skilled hunters determined to bring them to justice for their foul misdeeds.

It is an undeniable truth: give evil a name and everyone’s happy.  Give it two names and… why, they’re even happier.

Intrepid necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, scourges of civilization, raisers of the dead, reapers of the souls of the living, devourers of hope, betrayers of faith, slayers of the innocent, and modest personifications of evil, have a lot to answer for and answer they will. Known as the Nehemoth, they are pursued by countless self-professed defenders of decency, sanity, and civilization. After all, since when does evil thrive unchallenged? Well, often — but not this time.

Hot on their heels are the Nehemothanai, avowed hunters of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. In the company of a gaggle of artists and pilgrims, stalwart Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise, pious Well Knight Arpo Relent, stern Huntsman Steck Marynd, and three of the redoubtable Chanter brothers (and their lone sister) find themselves faced with the cruelest of choices. The legendary Crack’d Pot Trail, a stretch of harsh wasteland between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God, has become a tortured path of deprivation.

Will honor, moral probity, and virtue prove champions in the face of brutal necessity? No, of course not. Don’t be silly.

Bauchelain and Korbal Broach previously appeared in Blood Follows, The Healthy Dead, The Lees of Laughter’s End (all previusly collected in a single volume, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach: Three Short Novels of the Malazan Empire, Volume One), and The Wurms of BlearmouthCrack’d Pot Trail was published September 13, 2011 by Tor Books. It is 204 pages, priced at $12.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. I bought mine remaindered from Amazon.com for just $5.20; a handful of copies are still available at the discounted price.


New Treasures: Dream London by Tony Ballantyne

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dream London Tony Ballantyne-smallI’ve never read anything by this Tony Ballantyne fellow and I’m probably overdue. He’s a British science fiction writer who’s had an impressive career for a decade now, starting with the Recursion trilogy, Recursion (2004), Capacity (2005), and Divergence (2007), all published in the US by Bantam Spectra. He’s also written two volumes of The Robot Wars, Twisted Metal (2009) and Blood and Iron (2010), and I really don’t know how I missed that one — if it’s got battling robots, I’m usually all over it.

But it’s his first fantasy novel that has really piqued my curiosity and it’s getting some serious attention from both sides of the Atlantic. Set in a constantly shifting London that’s gradually getting weirder every night, and apparently throwing off the laws of physics, it’s — as Chris Beckett put it in his excellent Tor.com review —  ”a place you feel you might have visited yourself, if only you’d been able to hold it in your mind when you woke up.”

In Dream London the city changes a little every night and the people change a little every day. Captain Jim Wedderburn has looks, style and courage by the bucketful. He’s adored by women, respected by men and feared by his enemies. He’s the man to find out who has twisted London into this strange new world, and he knows it. But the towers are growing taller, the parks have hidden themselves away and the streets form themselves into strange new patterns. There are people sailing in from new lands down the river, new criminals emerging in the East End and a path spiralling down to another world. Everyone is changing, no one is who they seem to be, and Captain Jim Wedderburn is beginning to understand that he’s not the man he thought he was…

Dream London was published by Solaris Books on October 29, 2013. It is 404 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.


New Treasures: The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Six-Gun Tarot-smallI’ve mentioned my fondness for this new Weird Western genre before. In the right hands, it’s an invigorating mix of mythic adventure and the straight-out gonzo weird. There’s been no shortage of fine examples recently, including Lee Collins’s She Returns From War, Guy Adams’s Once Upon a Time in Hell, Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill’s Dead Reckoning, and the Bloodlands novels of Christine Cody. Heck, even Firefly is a weird western, if you squint at it right.

The latest volume to cross my desk, hot off the presses last week in paperback, is the debut novel by R.S. Belcher. In a starred review, Library Journal called it “an astonishing blend of first-rate steampunk fantasy and Western adventure,” which sounds like just the right mix in my book.

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn… and so will all of Creation.

The Six-Gun Tarot was published on January 22, 2013 by Tor Books. It is 368 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital edition. It was re-issued in paperback on March 25, 2014.


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