Book Review – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow by Carlos Colon

About Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow

The harrowing saga of Nicky Negron’s tortured soul continues as the inner and outer demons shadowing Newark, New Jersey’s undead vigilante have no intention of letting him rest in peace. Knowing his paranormal existence can only lead to complications, Nicky tries not to draw too much attention to himself. This becomes difficult as he learns that he has captured the interest of an unrelenting federal agent. Suspected of being an assassin for a South American drug cartel, Nicky finds himself dealing with the exact kind of scrutiny he’s been trying to avoid since he was turned almost thirty years ago. It complicates matters even more when Nicky is confronted with another undead presence that is threatening to commit atrocities to the children of a friend Nicky had sworn to protect. This pits the foul-mouthed night stalker, Nicky Negron, against the most horrifying monsters – both the human and non-human variety. An absolute rollercoaster of a novel, Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow delivers even more suspense, insight, laughs, and emotional wallop than its predecessor. Nicky is back! See you on the other side…

My Thoughts

After a newspaper clipping relating a spate of beheadings in Brooklyn, including a drug dealer and a domestic abuse suspect – the reporter noting a new trend in gangland murders across the USA – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow opens with a scene on a public bus in New York on a hot August day in the 1960s as a young Nicky Negrón observes his surroundings and reflects on his life. Nicky is off to Alexander’s department store; he’s missing his little sister, Dani, and his relationship with his mother in the protracted aftermath of Dani’s death.

Skip forward to Nicky as he is now, as his genetically resistant undead self, having battled the evil vampire, Simone, in the first Sangre novel (if you have not read Sangre: The Color of Dying do so now because you are missing out on a terrific read. Although Sangre 2 can be read as a standalone) Nicky finds himself having vivid memories that could only belong to Simone, who he believes he had slayed. Apparently not. Terrified she is out to take full possession of him, he seeks the help of Dr Gunder, an epidemiologist turned vampire researcher and investigator, a doctor seeking to avenge the death of her son. What unfolds is so thoroughly entertaining it can be read in one sitting.

The story jumps back from time to time to Nicky’s past, providing a rich insight into the motivations and depth of his character. A deft catch up of Sangre 1 and Colon dives straight into the action. The attention to fine detail and small observances – the sweat, the smells, the settings – while never overplayed evoke in the imagination a gritty, urban vibe of working class life, especially for the Hispanic community: Nicky’s family are from Puerto Rico. The pace is fast in a four-to-the-floor read, slowed only by the reflections of the main character as he wrestles with his one inner nature and attempts to justify his less noble actions. I really enjoyed Colon’s utilitarian take on morality – the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or in this case, the least harm to the least number – as Nicky is compelled to feed on the blood of others. The author’s empathy for Hispanic culture shines through, as does his understanding that good and bad is never clearly defined, that life is filled with compromises, that sometimes a purely good choice is not an option and that forgiveness is possible. The novel is enriched by the theme of mothers and their bond with their offspring. A theme that plays out through the juxtaposition of Nicky’s own mother and her attitude to him, with the other mothers in the story.

In all, a thoroughly pleasurable and intelligent read with broad appeal that reaches beyond the confines of the horror genre. Highly recommended.

Find you copy of Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow on Amazon

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A Time for Violence anthology wows readers

A Time For Violence

A Time For Violence: Stories with an edge is out to rave reviews and little wonder. This anthology contains many top names in the scene including several who have co-written with Stephen King. I am chuffed to have one of my shorts included.

Along with many of the authors, I was interviewed on T. Fox Dunham’s What Are You Afraid Of? podcast, which includes an extract of my contribution, LACQUER, read by David Walton.

Here are some early reviews of A Time for Violence

“I thoroughly enjoyed so many of the short stories featured in here. The contributors include many of my own favorite authors. Exceptional writing from authors like Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, Tom Vater, and Chris Roy. (To name just a few.) And, boy, that last story! ‘Waste Management’. The name says it all.” – Debbi Mack, author of the Sam McRae mysteries

A Time for Violence is a hard-hitting anthology that pushes the envelope on themes of violence. Though a few authors have co-written with the likes of Stephen King, every story is its own superb boundary breaker and draws the reader in with such intensity that every word feels like a heartbeat. This anthology is for those of us who have looked at the monsters created by humanity and not flinched when they returned our gaze. The stories never fail to deliver thought-provoking takes on oft-told tales. From roaring hitmen thrillers to tense, gritty investigations into the very human soul, A Time for Violence will satisfy your every crime-reading need.” – Grace Wilson

And here is a review quote on mine! –

“Lacquer By Isobel Blackthorn.
This is one of my favourites so far in the book, a private investigator ends up finding a Jane doe when his drinking goes too far and he ends up in an alley. The person wasn’t too far from the back entrance to the bar and a friend of his has also seen the deceased. His friend begs him to find out who this person is and he also feels compelled as it is a particularly gruesome crime.” – Haley Belinda Belinda, Goodreads

A Time For Violence Anthology Podcast with T Fox Dunham

A Time For Violence

What Are You Afraid Of? – Podcast with T Fox Dunham and David Walton

NEW EPISODE 115 – CURSE OF THE BLACKTHORN

“Author T. Fox Dunham interviews Australia’s noir and horror writer, Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel answers questions about her writing, the state of women authors in the industry, her thoughts on crafting and shares some insights for new authors. In addition to her interview, she sent the show a haunting tale of an aggressive entity that haunted her in the Cockatoo house, narrated by David Walton. Fox also plays an excerpt from her noir fiction, “Lacquer”, which is featured in the anthology A Time For Violence: Stories with an Edge, available on May 1st from Close to the Bone. It is an anthology of noir and horror stories featuring the best in the industry for 2019.” 

Listen to the Podcast:

What Are You Afraid Of?

What Are You Afraid Of?

Book review: The Unknown by Phil Price

About The Unknown

It happens every year. A select few disappear, never to return.

From The Falkland Islands to the Himalayas, Puerto Rico to England – people are vanishing without trace or explanation. A young man who’s lost everything stumbles across an ancient secret.

Can he unlock the mystery? Will he find those who need him?

…can he escape the Unknown?

My Thoughts

I rarely read fantasy/horror, but when I stumbled on The Unknown I decided to try it out. I was surprisingly entertained and even didn’t mind the vampires, which is a real credit to Price as I would normally stop reading the moment they appear. Writing with exceptional imagination, Price has a knack for luring his readers into his story world.

There can be no doubt Price ticks all the boxes of the genre. Strange and spooky happenings in far flung lands. A preternatural child with glowing yellow eyes. Vampires. Doors into other worlds. A looming sense of dread. And a black cross edged with silver on a black rope chain. The scene is set for a seriously creepy read.

Good characterisation, and Price is at pains to endear his protagonists to his readers. Effective world building is critical in the genre and Price has crafted a realm that is at once enchanting and menacing and convincing. I certainly lost myself in it.

After an engaging set up, The Unknown is filled with dramatic tension, with new plot lines and twists and plenty going on to hold the attention. Very well thought out, The Unknown is a visual feast and a gripping read. I would recommend to all who enjoy dark fantasy.

Book review: The Hangman’s Hitch by Donna Maria McCarthy

I am delighted to share my review of The Hangman’s Hitch by Donna Maria McCarthy, a dark and brooding gothic novel from the mistress of 18th century horror. 

The Hangman's Hitch

About The Hangman’s Hitch

If on some cold dark despairing eve, you found yourself far from hope and far from salvation – would you take the hand of the Devil if he offered it?
Would you know it was his?
Frederick Abbotsby Feltsham has just this quandary, yet the path he chooses is one of depravity, devilment and debauchery
Will he survive the immutable Joseph Black?
Or will he find himself despairing, like so many of his past conquests did ?
One heaven, one Hell – each as judgemental as the other
You must choose…

My thoughts

After reading Biddy Trott I have come to anticipate a certain style and wit from Donna Maria McCarthy and I was not disappointed. The Hangman’s Hitch is as dark and ribald and gruesome a novel there ever was.

Meet Freddy, or Frederick Abbotsby Feltsham, a fool, an ignoramus and a coward through and through, whose verbosity and quite ridiculous idiocy is a source of much of the humour in this novel. The antagonist, Joseph, is as despicable as they come, and enjoys nothing more than to apportion scorn and derision upon the sycophantic Freddy, luring him, tricking him, grooming him. Feeling he has no choice but to side with Joseph after being banished from the word of normalcy for his impropriety and cowardice, Freddy condones Joseph’s incessant jibes.

There is no morality at The Hangman’s Hitch. Patrons of this obscure hostelry hang their scruples on a hook outside. Inside, it is no holds barred as Joseph and his cronies enact one brutal scam after another. Just when you think the depravity cannot get any worse, it does.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s cutting wit, her characters exuding sarcasm in every utterance. The Hangman’s Hitch is written in old-school prose in keeping with the era, prose that is dense and heavy in dialogue, but don’t be put off! A dialogue-driven composition is not easy to pull off, but McCarthy has, and she has done so with aplomb. I thoroughly recommend this read to those after something different, a story that delves into the darkest corners of the human psyche, one that tests the sympathies of even the most hardened reader.

Book review: The Torcian Chronicles: Defiance by P.J. Reed

I very rarely dip into dark fantasy, so it was a treat to read P. J. Reed’s debut.

“Mesham sits dejectedly in a tiny garret above an inn, as the lands of Torcia fall to the magically-enhanced army of the infamous Mivirian Horde. One of the last surviving ancient warlocks of Torcia, Mesham knows he is marked for death.

The Torcian king knocks on Mesham’s door later that evening and offers him the chance of rejuvenation in return for a seemingly impossible mission into the heart of Mivir. Mesham reluctantly agrees, only to realise the evil of Mivir has spread to the very top of the Torcian government.

As Mesham undertakes his quest to complete the mission, he finds himself hunted by his king, by the mighty Torcian warbands, and by the Horde.

But he cannot fail, for the fate of Mesham’s beloved Torcia rests in his hands.”

 

My thoughts:

The novel opens with a battle scene, more a massacre, providing the reader with a good sense of what is to come as a party of Mirivian Outriders descend on Sicam and his men. Realising the danger of complete annihilation, the Torcian king rejuvenates a decrepit warlock and sends him on a mission to save the kingdom. Mesham gathers around him a motley crew who are forced to defend themselves against all manner of monsters. Nowhere is safe. Even the trees are alive and menacing.

Reed writes well, building her world with the minimum of fuss, drawing in her readers with all the elements of a good dark fantasy novel, not least evocative descriptions of decaying cities and carnage, the horror unrelenting. Reed has created characters that are convincing and vividly portrayed, with enough betrayal, treachery and intrigue to hold the attention, and oodles of action and adventure right to the very end. Reed takes her readers on a frenzied ride through a kind of hell, terrifying, disturbing and jaw-dropping by turns. The magic in the story works well. Imaginative and gripping, with strong writing overall, I would recommend this book to appreciators of the dark fantasy genre. I enjoyed finding the spell list at the end.

 

You can grab your copy here.

 

 

 

 

 

In conversation with author Pamela Morris

Here’s an excerpt of an in-depth interview with author Pamela Morris in which I lay myself bare.

“As a female author of Horror, you quickly come to realize the genre is very much dominated by male writers. I find that odd as women have been in the business of writing Gothic Horror since the 18th century and that a woman, Mary Shelley, penned one of the great masterpieces of horror with her novel Frankenstein.

With that in mind, I am always thrilled to land an interview with a fellow female writer of the genre and this month that woman is Isobel Blackthorn!

  1. Setting a mood for a story is one of the most important parts of writing, but what about setting the mood for yourself as you sit down to write? Do you have a special time and place, or maybe some music you like to put on to get your creative juices flowing for a good session? For years I thought I needed to set the mood for myself in order to write. When all I really needed was to have pen and paper, my sofa and solitude. I have to be alone. Living alone means I am always in the mood for writing and I dip in and out all day long from the moment I wake up until I stop to make dinner. I write at a leisurely pace. I try not to care about output and I don’t mind occasional interruptions. I cannot write anywhere other than my home, which means wherever I happen to be living as I move a lot. Two things put me off writing. Music and barking dogs. Silence is king….”  read the whole interview https://pamelamorrisbooks.com/2018/08/18/author-interview-isobel-blackthorn/