Sorry for the length of this section, but I’m making up for lost time. This time around I offer
four three “flash” reviews of books that are quite effective because they inexplicably feel “autobiographical” in some way, despite being entirely, totally, and thankfully made up.
>> Chimeric Machines by Lucy A. Snyder
Snyder is a massively talented writer — the sort who knows how to make you take a gulp when you hit the ending of a story or poem — and this poetry collection made me gulp with awe on virtually every page. Although her poetry/fiction collection Sparks and Shadows remains the best introduction to this writer’s work in print, Chimeric Machines is her best work of poetry to date, because it is the most personal and — as usual for her writing — profound in its observations of the emotional undercurrents and potential for fantastic transformation in everyday life. The title made me thing the collection would be rife with fantastical creatures but this is deep poetry; literary writing, much of it seemingly autobiographical, tinged with a fantastic worldview. In these poems, which often turn whismical — as in the poem where the narrator vomits a squid in an exceptionally visceral moment — even the squid carries weighty ominous meaning. Many are dark, such as “The Monster Between the Sparks” (which is the space you see between the stars), and chill you where you thought you warm. Others explore hopelessness — but with a tiny spark of hope underneath the snuff of the universe. With an introduction by Tom Piccirilli and collaborative contributions from Gary Braunbeck, many horror readers would enjoy the experience of this collection. This is not horror poetry, always, but it is something bigger, something simpler: just great poetry. Snyder’s Chimeric Machines deserves to win a literary award.
Available for about $10 from http://www.creativguypublishing.com
>> Don of the Dead by Nick Cato
I read this novel in advanced form, and it should be out very soon from Coscom Entertainment. Cato is the man who had the audacity to bring my absurd novelette, Licker, into print, mostly because he is simply a huge fan of horror-humor. His upcoming novel (his first?), Don of the Dead, is clearly a labor that reflects that same love of comedy and terror, mashing together the mob story genre with the zombie genre into a concept story that seemed pretty fresh and original to me, despite the dripping saturation of the genre with zombie fiction and film these days. I recently sent him an endorsement for the book, so allow me to simply say “I laughed a lot” and reblurbitate it: “It’s as if George Romero has eaten the brains of Mario Puzo, Martin Scorcese and Dave Barry and spit out fictional gold.” While this story is only likely to appeal to zombie and mob fans, I count myself among them, and recommend it to kindred spirits looking for a good Troma-styled romp. (And if you know what “Troma-styled” means, then you’re one of them). Available shortly from
>> Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott
It’s not often that I read religious-oriented fiction, and I’m going to bet that most readers of The Goreletter haven’t even heard of this book. But Latter-Day Cipher (Moody Publishers, 2009), the first suspense novel from Latayne C. Scott, strikes me as a very bold step into some very challenging and original waters: the shadowy history of the Mormon church. In Latter-Day Cipher, a journalist is assigned to cover a series of bizarre (and I mean bizarre!) and gory murders in Utah, involving strange symbolic carvings discovered in the flesh of the victims and a 19th century document written entirely in code with ties to the Latter-Day Saints. Along the way, the Church of LDS tries to silence the publicity (sound familiar?) while a madman seems to be following archaic LDS religious practices quite literally. Scott uses fiction to explore what would happen if the early rite of “blood atonement” was still carried out today, while also realistically exploring the spiritual crises of her characters.
In the book’s afterword, Scott makes a case for the reality of “blood atonement” rituals, but I felt a little skeptical of >some< of this, given her own status (broadcast very clearly in the book) as a recent convert away from a long-held following of Mormon principles. The book seems to be constructing an argument against Mormonism in favor of Christianity as much as it is trying to tell a story that illustrates it. While Scott isn’t to blame, this undercurrent is why I usually don’t read books like these — because the writer’s agenda or ideology seems so close to the surface of the text that I have problems suspending disbelief. But this book manages to transcend such matters by raising such intriguing and unique questions. I have to say that Latter-Day Cipher is such a compelling and scary story that it stands on its own two feet as a proper psychological suspense novel: Scott’s deft and successful storytelling abilities — and her zeal for telling an original story while simultaneously investigating the historical realities of the Church — on top of all the weirdness that is everywhere apparent in the story — really won me over. I kept forgetting I was wearing my black skeptic’s hat as I read it. So if you’re tired of the usual serial killer fair, or if you want to see what Anne Rice really SHOULD be writing post-conversion, then this is a book you’ll want to read. Take a look at the neat book trailer and other information at the author’s website: http://www.latayne.com/